Can radio compete in the car? From Sunday’s RAIN Summit West.
“It’s important for radio to stay engaged with the car,” for two critical reasons. First, to calm any latent hysteria. Carl Rohling of TuneIn says “people are going to continue to consume radio in the car...radio will remain in the car.” And as moderator Roger Lanctot ad-libs about the morning’s opening panel, “This is not a wake” for AM/FM radio. Now, about those “two critical reasons.” Paul Jacobs, of the Jacobs Media consultancy and JacAPPs, says that the car is radio’s #1 place of listening, and that automakers remain radio’s #1 advertiser. Jacobs says that from personal experience with Ford and others, “car companies love radio.” But he delivers an observation that his brother and partner Fred Jacobs has previously made – “when you talk to car companies, it’s through the filter of HD Radio.” Does that surprise you? It's largely due to sound quality. Paul says for carmakers, the primary appeal is not about the HD-2/HD-3 multicast subchannels, “but the high-quality audio experience” of the primary signal. Jacobs firmly believes that “our broadcast companies need to be in communication” with carmakers - instead of simply worrying that someday they’ll be zoned out of the dashboard.
The car companies want radio. But the dirty little secret is, they don’t all want the same solution.
As first-session moderator Roger Lanctot of Strategy Analytics puts it – the carmakers are suspicious of “scalability,” of technologies that can be spread across unrelated vehicle families. It’s not even a case of “Not Invented Here” – it’s about how Detroit, Tokyo, Munich, etc. can squeeze additional revenue out of the near-craze to bring the digital audio experience to the car. Automakers want proprietary things they control and profit from. Without knowing it, the carbuyer’s interests are diametrically opposed to those of the folks who build those rolling audio rooms. As Chia-Lin Simmons (pictured) of Tier 1 automaker vendor Harman says, people want to be able to go from home to car, and car to car, without having to learn a different system, change interfaces, or lose content. Simmons’ four-year-old daughter doesn’t understand why the story she was listening to in the house isn’t immediately continued in the car. There’s a basic misalignment of interests that helps explain why this process is taking so long, and why it’s so messy. As one RAIN Summit attendee put it to NOW, “this is all greenfields” - tech speak for “very early.”
“This is a critical period for radio,” says RAB chief Erica Farber.
It’s not that broadcast radio – she dislikes the term “terrestrial” – is so threatened that it’s crumbling. The President/CEO of the RAB says “for the first time…we can be any place our listeners want us to be.” She admits “there has been a lot of confusion about the radio industry” and that “we have to do a better job of communicating” radio’s strengths – and how it views its opportunities. One of those is that for all the growth in online radio, “streaming is still only 7% of total listening…and it’s not a substitute, it’s mostly incremental to broadcast listening.” She also finds good news in how radio is monetizing its digital activities. She says “radio stations are now diversifying beyond banner ads,” which now comprise a smaller percentage of the total digital pie. And a big question – “Where and how is radio going to gain share?” Farber’s answer is to “recognize that [other] radio stations are not the competition.” Newspapers, TV and other media are.
“1 in 10 people follow the station they listen to on Facebook.”
Is that number good, or bad? Arbitron’s Bill Rose presents that factoid and some others from the new Arbitron-Edison “Infinite Dial 2013” series – and reports significant differences by format. Last year the figure for following-on-Facebook was 8%, and this year (from research fielded January-February) it’s 9%. Should radio be doing better? Here are the highlights by format – 20% of listeners to rock formats follow their favorite station on Facebook. 18% of listeners to religious stations do. And 15% of public radio listeners do. But just 6% of news/talk listeners are in that habit. The study also tracked Twitter, and found much smaller numbers than for Facebook, though Rose says those can be deceptive. On average, 3% of listeners follow their favorite station on Twitter, up from 2% last year. But Rose says Twitter’s importance is actually magnified beyond those tiny-looking numbers, because it’s an “influencer.” Final thought on this particular topic – 20 million people are signed up to get email from their P1 stations, and the study finds that “those listeners are much more tech-savvy” than average. That makes them “extremely valuable” to advertisers, for stations that work their databases.
New at NAB 2013 in Las Vegas –
• Clip Interactive lets listeners clip not just music, but also commercials, station contests... – anything that can be encoded. Clip is starting to show its capabilities here in Las Vegas, and also its recent hires. Michael Fischer joins from Triton Digital as Clip’s VP of Affiliate and User Acquisition. Bill Freund also joins, several months after he ended six-year stint at Triton Digital. Mike Henry of Paragon Media Strategies is contributing his experience as in-house counsel.
• StreamOn announces “the arrival of Listen Later 2.0,” so you can “share radio content from the new StreamOn player on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media...you can also go back and listen to and share previously aired programs anytime in the past 30 days on your station.” That feature’s integrated with others, such as Adswizz Audiometrix service, Limelight Networks backend, one-click listening and “built-in Omnia Audio signal processing.” StreamOn says they support the product with consulting services to help clients “generate meaningful revenue on social media.” Roger Charest - in attendance at yesterday's RAIN Summit - is StreamOn's founder/CEO.
• Emmis’ TagStation unveils two new features connected to its proprietary NextRadio hybrid radio app. One lets “non-music stations push visual content and metadata to anticipated FM-enabled smartphones,” as Emmis and others push wireless carriers to equip (and activate) their smartphones with FM chips. The other feature is “Free Logo Service,” helping stations “upload a branding image that will display as default artwork in the NextRadio app,” along with call letters, format, station name and slogan.
• Radio One picks WideOrbit’s WO Traffic for its 55 stations, across 16 markets. That transitions Radio One from various existing “legacy” system to a single platform, says its CFO Peter Thompson. Radio One stations are also using Wide Orbit radio automation platforms. At the vast NAB Exhibit Hall, Wide Orbit’s banner flies over North Hall booths N5129 and N5829.
• Cheaper power bills for AM stations and new guidelines for RDS listings come from engineering meetings of the National Radio Systems Committee (NRSC), in Las Vegas. The engineering standards group adopts standards related to “Modulation-dependent carrier level” technologies (MDCL) that can significantly reduce power consumption for AM transmitters. The idea’s not new, but the committee says “when used carefully, the technologies have little or no impact on the audio quality of AM transmissions.” The second item voted on centered on “creation and distribution practices for audio program metadata,” which could help broadcasters who use RDS (sometimes called Radio Broadcasting Data Systems), as well as syndicators and “other program sources outside the broadcast station.” In plain English, the RDS display on your car radio can be used more effectively to reach out to listeners. More imaginatively, too.
• “Multi-language text crawling and audio” for ALERT FM’s warning system. Global Security Systems says it’s “implemented through the Sage Digital ENDEC, and is compliant with the Common Alerting Protocol Emergency Alert System” for broadcasters. And – one more acronym to throw out, one that will be popular on the NAB Show exhibit floor that opens today – the multi-language alerting “meets IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert and Warning System) open infrastructure requirements.” Robert Adams is President/CEO of Global Security Systems, which will be demonstrating something a bit exotic at the NAB – “server-side conversion for Thai text-to speech.” Sage is showing that off at its Central Hall Booth C2546 in Las Vegas. Tomorrow, more from the NAB Show - where the brokers report a solid stream of visitors and the vendors on the floor hope for strong traffic.
Casey Kasem’s lavish L.A. home is for sale – at $42 million.
You’d get a hair salon, heart-shaped pool, tennis court, seven bedrooms and three whirlpool baths, for that price. Oh, a guest house, too, and a “service wing” for the help, with laundry facilities. Huffington Post picks up the Redfin real-estate listing about a house that legendary Countdown King Casey Kasem bought in 1989 for $1,725,000. The address is 148 North Mapleton Drive, and it’s in the Holmby Hills section of Bel Air. The “gated Classic Revival”-style house sits on 2.4 acres. L.A. radio personality Casey Kasem and partners Don Bustany and Ron Jacobs started the original American Top 40 in 1970. His radio work lives on in the many archived AT40 shows are still syndicated, and of course his daughter Kerri works with Nikki Sixx on the syndicated “Sixx Sense” evening show for Premiere. Casey Kasem, who inspired a lot of kids to think about radio as a career – or just a way to have fun – turns 81 on April 27.
Does the FCC “clearly have the authority to investigate” whether radio can say “Washington Redskins?”
That’s the claim of Clinton-era Chairman Reed Hundt, who’s willing the push the linguistic and cultural battle over a team name that some find derogatory to Native Americans over to the Commission. Hundt’s main beef, in a Washington Post op-ed piece, is with Skins owner Dan Snyder. He says Snyder puts broadcasters in the position of having to use an offensive team name “they would never use in any other context,” and reveals that last Wednesday, “former FCC officials and concerned parties asked Snyder to change the name of our beloved football team.” Hundt’s not claiming that “Redskins” is indecent or obscene, which are the only standards where the courts have held the FCC can get involved with broadcast content. And his examples don’t really match up with the current situation. He mentions his own pursuit of Howard Stern in the 1990s, where the question turned on alleged indecency (not the names of sports teams). Then he cites Howard Cosell “using a racially derogatory description” of an African-American player in 1983 and CBS firing Jimmy the Greek. But those were situations where companies (and the marketplace) moved without the FCC getting involved. However you feel about the name “Redskins,” Hundt’s suggestion would turn the Commission into the language police.
Salem stock closes at its highest level since September 2007.
“SALM” traveled quite a distance on Friday, from an intraday low of $8.55 a share to $9.09. It settled at an even $9 – and that’s the best it’s done in 5-1/2 years, since before the Great Recession. The stock was up 31 cents on the day, or about 3.5%, and there was no obvious news driving the gain. The Dow and the NASDAQ were both fractionally down on worries about the unemployment report. But Salem, a broadcast company that’s staked a growing part of its future on digital, was up – on quadruple its usual volume.
Dial Global’s last full programming day in Valencia – April 21.
More details about the shutdown of a content production factory that’s fed thousands of stations over the years with 24/7 programming, first from Unistar, then Westwood and then Dial Global. The facility won’t be emptied out until late June, when most of the space will be sub-let. But DG’s President of Programming Kirk Stirland, responding to a NOW reader question about the satellite uplink facility, says “we found a way to isolate a small head-end, which will remain as a backup for our affiliates.” So they’re sub-letting the office space around the satellite facility. As for the changes that affect humans – six full-timers are out, along with a larger number of part-timers and on-call personalities. Those duties will be shifted, as you read Friday, to Denver and Dallas. Longtime Dial Global personality Verna McKay tells the local SCVNews that she’s been offered the chance to keep her gig, if she moves to Denver, and she’s thinking about it. Many of the dayparts that have been originating from Valencia are going to be supplied from Denver or Dallas.
How about “the union question” at Dial Global?
Another NOW reader asks about the status of the SAG-AFTRA members at Valencia – which include both air personalities and engineers. Kirk Stirland says “we worked with the union leadership” on the changes Dial Global needed to make as part of its re-structuring. And no, the Denver and Dallas facilities aren’t union. One change from Friday’s story – Dial Global is also closing its Brentwood office, which houses ad sales and traffic (more than 20 people). Those folks, like the surviving ones from Valencia, will be shifting to the Culver City office. DG is re-working the space there, both at the main building and across the street at the onetime Metro facility. So what had been three offices in southern California – Valencia, Brentwood and Culver City – will be combined into one. Culver City already produces some specialty programming, and it’s the home of the new NBC Sports Radio network operation.
Tampa’s all-sports “ESPN Deportes 1550” is “silencioso.”
It’s been replaced by regional Mexican music and is now dubbed “La Ley.” The station is ZGS Communications-owned WAMA (1550), and the Tampa-St. Pete Board says the change “came out of nowhere.” This appears to have been the second home for ESPN Deportes in Tampa – it was previously heard at WLCC/760.
Latest Florida pirate fine is against “Joker Boy.”
Though sometimes Romayne Davis in Oakland Park is sometimes called his unlicensed station at 89.5 “Jungle Boy E-N-T.” FCC agents from the Miami office tracked the signal three different times last June and July, and found “an FM transmitter connected to the externally mounted antenna via coaxial cable.” Other things linked Mr. Davis to the operation, such as the email address listed on his commercial property lease application – “JokerBoyEntertainment.” He’s also registered with the state of Florida as “Joker Boy Entertainment” – so apparently the radio station was just one part of his business interests, as evidenced by his Facebook page. So even though the agents never caught Davis in the act of broadcasting, they’re confident they’ve got their pirate, and they want a $10,000 payment – no joke.
The ratings are in from the land of Hobbit movies – New Zealand.
Two major markets in this country measured by Nielsen’s diary technology – Auckland, on the North Island, and Christchurch, on the South island. In Auckland, TRN’s national “Newstalk ZB” retains its lead among all stations with persons age 10+, while rhythmic/hip-hop MAI-FM grows 4.3-5.7, for its best showing since Fall 2009. Pop/CHR “ZM” slips 6.5-5.7, to its lowest share in five years. Does “George FM” sound like a dance music station to you? It does to a lot of folks in Auckland, where George FM grows to a 3.4, and the best share in its 12-year history. Down in Christchurch, the national “Newstalk ZB” service is #1 for the fourth straight book. Pop ZM improves 5.9-7.1, for its best number in since 2006, and “The Rock” loses a little height, down 9.7-8.5, to its lowest altitude in over a decade. See the age 10+ and also demo breakouts for New Zealand radio here.
A $1.25 million deal gets EMF’s Christian rock “Air1” service into Corpus Christi - in an interesting deal with Tejas Broadcasting, led by Jim Anderson. Educational Media Foundation wants country KOUL (103.7) enough to pay all-cash for the Class C1 facility licensed to Refugio, Texas. According to the FCC filing, it’s also willing to loan Tejas $500,000 “to be used for the exclusive purpose of conducting deferred maintenance and repairs on the tower and tower site, and to fund the relocation and construction of seller’s two [other] stations at the tower site.” The half-million dollar loan is payable back to EMF at closing, and will “constitute a credit against the purchase price." Tejas retains three FMs in Corpus Christi – Hot AC “Beach 96.5” KLTG Corpus Christi, regional Mexican KLHB, Portland (105.5) and regional Mexican “La Mejor 98.3” KMJR, Odem. One other piece of business here – a $7,500 per month LMA by EMF, until the deal closes. EMF already has a Corpus Christi station for its contemporary Christian “K-Love” network, and that’s KKLM at 88.7. Broker on KOUL – John Pierce.
A third former Legacy Communications station, from the group assembled by Morgan Skinner, is sold by court-appointed receiver Wayne Klein. The station is currently-silent KPTO, Pocatello, Idaho. It’s licensed for 2,500 watts daytime and 350 watts at night at 1440. Legacy originally acquired it in 2005 for $300,000. In 2009, the court appointed Klein to his receivership. The next owner will be Ted Austin-led Main Street Broadcasting, in a deal brokered by court-appointed broker Greg Merrill of Media Services Group. Merrill previously sold former Legacy properties KOGN, Ogden, Utah (1490) and KENT, Parowan, Utah (1400).
The Seventh Day Adventist Church will gain a radio voice in the Medford-Klamath Falls DMA, courtesy of the donation of a construction permit by Donna Griffith. She obtained the CP for a new 5,000 watt daytime/1,000 watt nighttime AM facility at 830 from the FCC, and has closed on its donation to the local Better Life Television, run by Ron and Marta Davis. KBLN’s digital Channel 30 signal will overlap with the 830 AM signal licensed to Grants Pass, but that’s permissible under the FCC rules. Better Life airs Christian programming on its full-power TV signal plus a flock of repeater and low power TV signals in the northwest.
Take 2 on Friday’s story about a translator sale in the Lubbock market. Ramar Chief Revenue Officer Chris Fleming is one of several readers to point out that the cities of license are different between Ramar’s existing “Double T 104.3” KTTU (licensed to Littlefield) and the just-acquired translator (Brownfield). Chris observes that Littlefield – “the birthplace of Waylon Jennings” - is “north and west of Lubbock.” Brownfield “is south and west” of the city.
Here’s what twice-laid-off KDGE, Dallas PD Josh Venable’s been doing, since last Fall’s Clear Channel personnel cuts. He sings in a Morrissey tribute band named “Panic.” He posts his “Adventure Club”-like thoughts about rock music and the culture on a website named A Wide Open Space. And he’s working on a film about autograph collecting with a former “Edge” intern. But mostly, says the Dallas Observer, he’s watching too much television and pondering how to get back into radio. Speaking for many other radio pros, Josh says this - “I’ve never done anything else…all my other friends went on and learned all these things in the business world that I probably should have. But I was too busy interviewing 3 Doors Down.”
An idea for April Fool’s Day 2014 – let the local search and rescue squad take over the station. That’s what happened, says the Utah Board of Radio Discussions.com, at Doug Barton’s country KMTI, Manti (650). They call it “Jeep Posse Day,” and they’ve done it for 35 years now. KSL.com says the search-and-rescue squad members read the spots, the news, the weather, and “there are moments when listening is downright painful” – but it works.
Trading out the Hereafter - Johnny Randolph at Louisville's WAKY says "Many years ago, before FM became a factor, there was a spot running at noon everyday on WLAP-FM in Lexington, Kentucky for a local funeral home. A new GM was curious and couldn't find any supporting paperwork/billing info as to why this spot was on the air. He found out it had been running for years, and after he drilled down through a few owners of the funeral home - it was discovered that a former general manager of the station had traded out his mother's funeral."
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