Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hooray for us! as we lose the battle

Followers of this blog are aware that I firmly believe traditional over-the-air/tower-on-the-mountain radio broadcasters have long since given up in the battle against all the other newer-technology competitors for the ears of listeners.  Oh, they don't admit they have given up, but they most certainly have.

At a time when they should have been gearing up, innovating, creating vivid and dynamic content, and doing all they could to keep a share of the public's attention, traditional broadcasters did just the opposite.  They pulled in their horns, cut everything they could cut, streamed music and political or sports talk from syndicators, and, in effect, stuck their heads in the sand.

Example: one of the industry trade pubs consistently looks for tidbits of good news to make subscribers believe things are not so bad and all will turn out fine, just as it did when radio was threatened by TV in the early '50s.  Here is a blurb from today's email issue of that publication:

Radio still top pick for many Millennials.

The investment bank Piper Jaffray just released its semi-annual “Taking Stock With Teens” report. Survey takers asked 7,500 teenagers which platform they spend the most time listening to music on. One in five (21%) reported local broadcast radio captures the biggest segment of their music listening time.

Well, thank goodness!  All is fine!  Teens--the very demo radio feared was going to web streaming, satellite, smart phones and anything else but their grandparents' old FM radio--still pick that ancient technology and dull, boring programming over all the other choices.  The future of tower-on-the-mountain radio is secure!

Horse hockey!  How could radio be anything but scared to death when they see that only 21% of their future still listens to "local" radio for music?  (Don't get me started on "local.")

That means almost 80% of the very people radio needs to become loyal fans are getting their music somewhere else.  80%!  Even ten years ago, I suspect that number was less than ten percent...and they listened to tapes and CDs of songs they had originally heard on the radio.

Oh, and no minor point: what do advertisers think when they want to reach teens and see that 80% of them no longer spend most of their time with good old Superhits 107?

So, INSIDE RADIO, explain to me why this is good news.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Goodbye 60- and 30-second commercials...and good riddance

Written by Don Keith N4KC

I’ve been preaching for a while that the traditional electronic media mainstays—the 60- and 30-second commercial spot announcements—are going to soon fade into the ether.  They have to.  Blame the DVR, the proliferation of programming choice, satellite radio and Pandora, the short attention spans of Gen X and Y, or the simple inability to easily tie results to investment, but the spot announcement will soon join the newspaper classified ad, the Yellow Pages, and the ad-supported wall calendar in the pages of advertising history textbooks.  Assuming the textbook itself still exists much longer, which I doubt.

Word of disclosure: this is the same Relativity Media that still holds the film option on my novel FIRING POINT and still says they are going to get it made this year.  I assume our
submarine will float in a sea of Evian water!

Agencies who think they can still skate along, dazzling their clients with their skill buying CPM or cost-per-point or Tapscan rankers, will see less and less return for the people who keep the company juice bar stocked and a charge on the agency CEO’s Tesla battery.
Advertisers who rely on “social media consultants” (read: “charlatans”) to help develop strategy will end up prolonging the life of MySpace, Yahoo, and others who have long since outlived any ability they might have once had to deliver brand loyalty or eager customers for a company, product or service.  (I’m not quite ready to throw Facebook into that pile of drying bones, but the time is coming unless some of these seemingly goofy investments they are making turn out to be just what they need to actually give some value to all those eyeballs they have assembled.) 

Media—and especially traditional radio and TV—who don’t realize that they must be what Relativity calls itself—a “content engine,” and one with myriad ways to reach and engage potential customers for advertisers—will soon have nothing left to sell. 

Nothing except air. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I'll show you my dashboard if you'll show me yours

By Don Keith

A couple of companies you may have heard of--Apple and Google--want a stake in the dashboard of your automobile.  A big stake.  They are busy developing apps for your iPhone and Android device that will pretty much allow you to interact with the video monitor that will soon be as ubiquitous in auto dashboards as that old-fashioned device, the AM/FM broadcast radio.

And there is the rub for radio, a service that was once one of the three legs of the media stool: radio, TV, newspapers.  The day is coming in which everyone--many can already--will be able to very easily and seamlessly hook up your wireless device to your car, giving you not only all sorts of navigation tools (say goodbye to Garmin, TomTom, etc.), video conferencing with everyone from your spouse to the weekly call with the home office, and weather radar for your route ahead, but also an endless number of entertainment choices.

Hear that?  Endless.  From Pandora and Rdio to some kid in his basement streaming eclectic Albanian folk music.  From the complete replay of last night's Letterman show to all the cute kitty videos you ever wanted to watch while you sit there stalled in morning rush hour traffic.  Your entertainment and information choices will be literally without end, amen.

Not just a million choices.  Add some more zeroes. Some will be bad.  Much will be boring.  Some will be absolutely delightful.

Now, you can imagine what that means for traditional, tower-on-the-mountain radio stations, who have historically owned that dashboard.  Every person watching cute kitties will be one more person NOT listening to radio.  And if that one person happens to be carrying one of the little meters or keeping a listening diary for Nielsen, the folks who measure radio listening these days, he or she will count for several thousand listeners.  Ratings go down.   Response to advertisers' messages diminishes.  Revenue declines.

One of my favorite broadcast researchers/consultants has some interesting thoughts on the subject.   Mark Ramsey has long warned broadcasters that they are asking all the wrong questions about rapidly changing media usage and what their (former) listeners want.

Meanwhile, on the same day as Mark's blog post linked above, one of the radio broadcasting news sites is touting how wonderful it is that some phone manufacturers are building in an FM chip for their users.  In the process, the news site is doing a wonderful job of proving Mark Ramsey's point.

Radio stations--the old-fashioned over-the-air kind--do not need to worry about whether or not they have their own chip inside people's phones/mobile devices.  Even without those chips, they will still be just as available to potential listeners as that kid in his basement streaming Albanian folk music!  And even if they do offer another route to becoming a user of traditional radio, they will still be just another one of those millions and millions of entertainment and information choices resting there between the steering wheel and the glove box.

Every radio station on the air will be available in dash boards anywhere in the world.

Instead, radio should be concentrating on how they can stand out from among all that buzz and whir.  What can they put on their air that would cause someone to turn off the cute kitties to listen to their station's offerings instead?  What kind of compelling content can they be developing to make sure they are part of the mix?  What can they do to establish a brand strong enough to pull somebody back from the endless horizon that will soon be the auto dashboard?

(Ratings will soon be meaningless.  How traditional broadcasters will be able to sell advertising in the future, to make enough money to keep the transmitter on, is a subject for another post.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wait. I think I'm turning Libertarian!

By Don Keith

(With your kind indulgence, I am going to stray a bit from the usual rapid-technological-change thing for this post.  And I warn you: I'm venturing into politics on this one.)

I have always had something of a jaded view of Libertarians.  Yes, I agree with much of what they have to offer, but they seemed to be out there on some kind of wild-eyed island, bent on legalizing everything, removing all regulation, and just short of being anarchists.  And the epitome of libertarianism has recently been Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Sorry, but to me, he had that slightly askew look and a tendency to give speeches in which he seemed to say he had all the answers and the rest of us were too dumb (or liberal) to realize just how wrong we were.

Oh, and out there with them on the lunatic fringe were the Tea Party members, a group that I assumed wanted to take us all the way back to the 1700s in more ways than one.  Sure, some of what I heard from them made pretty good sense, but still, I was leery.  They just seemed too clear-eyed and evangelical for them to be up to any good at all.

And as a human rights radical, an individual freedom liberal, and an economic conservative, I just could not see how many of their ideas were anywhere compatible with mine, though I admit that I took little time to really hear what they were saying.  That was simply because I was put off by the labels they wore.

Well, lately, I have become more and more willing to listen to what Paul and the Tea Partiers have to say.  Amazingly, I find very little with which I disagree any more.

Last night, President Barack Obama gave his fifth State of the Union address.  I truly hoped he would propose sensible actions to change what I believe is a stagnating economy and what Jimmy Carter would term a general malaise in our country.  What I heard was a rousing stump speech that was powerfully and expertly delivered...but one that had not an ounce of practical content and absolutely no new ideas.  Anyone who heard some are welcome to point them out to me.  The "My RA?"  C'mon!  Don't we have the IRA and a confusing melange of 401 savings programs already?

Okay, so maybe the Republican response would be a chance for the GOP to show what their solutions were, what they would propose instead.  Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rogers delivered a powerful, emotional speech that told a wonderful personal story...but one that had not an ounce of practical content and absolutely no new ideas.

Then, today, I watched a video response to the president's state of the union by Senator Paul and another by Senator Mike Lee, representing the Tea Party point of view.  Frankly, I was astonished by what I heard.  Both these men were singing a welcome song!

Are they sincere?  Is it more "tell 'em what they want to hear" rhetoric that politicians use to get elected?  Can't say.  But the ideas they expressed made about as much sense to me as anything I have heard articulated in a long, long time.


Here is what I'd like to issue to you as a challenge.  Watch the two responses mentioned above by clicking on the links below.  It will take you a total of about 20 minutes.

Then comment here or drop me an email and tell me anything they say with which you disagree and why.  Tell me anything at all you think they have wrong.  What do they say that is incendiary, destructive, or a bad idea?  Which of their proposals simply will not work?

Senator Paul's 9-minute response is HERE

Senator Lee's 12-minute response is HERE

Maybe I am turning Libertarian!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Is that a silver screen in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?

By Don Keith

So, been to the movies lately?  I mean TO the movies, to a cineplex down at the mall?  The motion picture industry is yet another medium that is changing at the speed of...well...flickering light, and that is due to rapid technological change.  I could even defend the claim that it is changing faster than any other of the media that are undergoing such rapid evolution, and that it is a prime example of a medium in which most within its realm are having a tough time accepting such change.

Think about it.  Yes, you can still go to a theater, breathe in the smell of popcorn, buy a $4 cup of soda, sit in a broken seat, and watch a movie spool out on the screen.  But odds are, you are not seeing that aforementioned flickering light at all.  You are seeing a digital image projected on a screen.  Studios fought such a thing for years.  Digitizing images and distributing them on a disc increased the chance of piracy exponentially.  It was hard as heck to swipe a huge case of 35mm film.  

Flash forward to auditoriums full of cell phones, most of which contain enough memory to capture a movie, albeit in terrible quality.  It is still the case that studios, theaters, and distributors have considerable heartburn over the chances of folks swiping their precious content and selling it dark alleys.

Those are actually the least of what should be their concerns nowadays.  The whole economic model of the moving picture racket has turned upside down. The media consumer has awakened and he is hungry.  Hungry and spoiled.  He wants his "content" anywhere he can get it.  He is not nearly as willing to drive, park, pay, and sit in a broken seat to consume it.  Thanks to technology, "movies" and "TV" and "video" have all become "content."  If it is moving pictures, it is content and consumers want it now, cheap, and on a dizzying array of devices.

They don't care about definitions or labels.  If they want to see it, they probably still want it available on their TVs and down at the cineplex but they also want it on their smart phones, tablets, computers, e-readers, car dashboards, and anyplace else they can get it.  And they want it right damn now!  Whenever "now" is.

What do studios think about all this?  They are cross-eyed apoplectic!  When you have made so much money and had so much control for so long a time, it is hard to accept change, no matter how much sense it makes or how many customers demand it.

Well, enter the new breed.  For example, there is a gentleman named Ryan Kavanaugh who runs a comparatively small studio called Relativity Media.  They actually started by being the go-between that put those very same big studios in touch with Wall Street hedge fund money and got some big and important pictures made.  But Kavanaugh has developed some strong opinions about how those moguls must change if they are to be the content providers that succeed in today's world of content-when-and-how-I want-it.

Kavanaugh was the keynote speaker at the Variety Magazine Entertainment Summit at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  Here is a video of that presentation.

Will the big studio heads listen to Kavanaugh and others who predict even more sea change in the movie biz?  They dang well better!

(In the interest of full disclosure, Ryan Kavanaugh and his studio hold the option on a book I co-wrote with George Wallace, FIRING POINT.  It is in pre-production and will someday (I hope) be released under the title HUNTER KILLER.  Kavanaugh is also listed as one of the film's producers.  Even if we weren't technically in business together--although we have never met or spoken--I would still be of the opinion that the guy knows what he is talking about, and people with the ability to produce and distribute content should listen to him.)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Tech point to ponder during the yuletide credit-card-swiping season

by Don Keith N4KC

So word comes that there has been a security breach and anyone who scanned a debit or credit card at Target over several months could well find their info being used by scurrilous bastards.  Count me among the millions whose accounts are now laid bare and naked and available for use by these hackers.

My first thought was, "Oh, my!"  And to run and check to see if a new Mercedes might have gotten charged to my AmEx card.  Then two bits of common sense hit me.  If millions of card numbers and passwords were lifted, the odds of mine being used were pretty low.  And nowadays, thanks to technology, I can easily see each day anything that might get charged without my knowledge.  I'm even prone to get a call from the card folks asking me if I am attempting to purchase a $60,000 diamond necklace...something decidedly different from the spending profile they have on me.

Once upon a time thieves took money.  Or checkbooks.  Or even better, your entire wallet or purse.  Then, using your ID (which only has had a picture on it in recent times), they could use up your checks and spend your cash all over town.  And it might be the end of the month, when you finally got your bank statement in the mail, before you realized you had financed some jerk's spending spree.

There is also a third bit of common sense here, too.  The credit card companies are on the hook for these ill-gotten gains, should my card come up in the swiped-to-get-swiped lotto.  I just need to log onto my account--as I do regularly anyway--and look for the charge for a pair of tickets to Tahiti or for that 60-inch TV.

So, even though it is now possible for one cad to steal millions of people's credit card info, it is also easier for us to keep an eye out and see if they actually use ours.  And for the credit card companies to manage their losses.  And, I suspect, for law-enforcement to track down and catch whoever did the deed.

Technology triumphs again!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Is this good news for traditional broadcast radio?

By Don Keith N4KC

Mark Twain popularized the expression: "There are three kinds of lies.  Lies, damned lies, and statistics."  The meaning is obvious.  People often use stats and research to bolster otherwise weak arguments.  The radio trade publication INSIDE RADIO is, in my opinion, one of the biggest offenders at this sort of thing.

In today's online edition, they crow in a big headline:  "Dashboard’s hottest device remains the radio."  

And therein they boast that 88% of respondents in a survey indicate that they use the radio while they are in their cars.  88%?  Is that really good news for broadcasters?

 Especially if the survey question was asked as it is quoted in the article...did these folks "use" their radios while in their cars?  Ever?

If that same question had been asked ten years ago, would it not have approached 100%?  I firmly believe it would have.  And is that 12% who NEVER use the radio in their cars growing each day?  I also firmly believe that is the case.

And if the question had been, "Do you use the radio in your car less now than you once did?" would it not have given a truly startling result?

But that would only have been a statistic.