Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bouncin' around

The press of the day job and several book projects are my excuse for not having posted here in a while, so let me catch up on a couple of things.
First, for you media types, here is a LINK to a very interesting--if not downright profane--presentation by a very smart guy. His name is Bob Garfield, host of NPR's "On the Media," author of "The Chaos Scenario," and former media critic for Ad Age. This is a speech he gave to the British Columbia Broadcasters Association in which he tells a bunch of TV and radio guys exactly what they don't want to hear. The key point to me--just in case you don't want to or can't stand to watch the whole thing--is that radio and TV stations must compete with more than video and audio. They must be a full-bore media provider, using every means that the audience uses to consume media.
And the truly frightening part is that, if you are, say, a radio cluster, you must compete with not only every other radio station in the market, but also with every TV station, newspaper, and other media in the market, plus limitless other sources around the world, including Internet, iPod, cell phone, etc.
Forget "local." Forget the other radio signals if you are a radio station. Your competition is multi-pronged, it's worldwide, and it is, in many cases, far better and more relevant than and almost as easy to get as what you have on your air right now.
Second quick subject, and it is for my ham radio brethren. The continual evolution of the amateur radio equipment market continues to fascinate me, because it is a study in marketing to a decidedly vertical market. The big guys--Icom and Yaesu--continue to introduce scads of new model radios with only slightly different feature sets. I assume they know what they are doing, but one has to wonder. Unless they re developing the different models that are for potential markets other than amateur radio and slightly modifying them and putting a different face on them for us hams, I don't see where the profit is. Still, it is a wonderful thing for us. We get plenty of choices in feature-rich gear. We gripe about prices, but if you look at the quality and technology we are able to purchase, even the most frugal among you (as if hams are a frugal lot!) have to admit these radios are bargains. Of course, these guys have much new competition for this very limited market from people like Elecraft, who is producing really innovative and wonderfully performing radios, and Flex, who developed the first practical software-defined radio and pushed technology to a new level. Maybe having a dozen HF transceivers in your catalog is one way to fight back. I just don't know.
And then, there is Kenwood. They announced in a cryptic press release on Friday that they would be debuting a new HF radio at Dayton Hamvention. It has long been rumored that Kenwood (once the third leg on the big amateur radio manufacturing stool but now almost an after-thought) was developing something new and exciting. The "new" part is now confirmed. The "exciting" part is yet to be.
Their TS-2000 has been a big seller for almost ten years now and is a marvel of technology with so much packed into such a small box. I know. I own one and love it. But what could they possibly do with a new rig to compete with all those choices from Yaesu and Icom, not to mention Flex and Elecraft and TenTec, and even low-end guys like Alinco and the new gear emerging from China?
Here's one to watch. And I wish them all the luck. If it turns out to be a good product with some distinguishing features or technology, it can only mean more competition, more choice, more pressure on pricing...and that is all good for us, even if it causes ulcers down there at the manufacturers' plants.

Don Keith N4KC

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