content strategy

WiMax, radios, portables, and wireless-ness

[Photo courtesy of mattlogelin / flickr]

Much ado has been made about the Sprint announcement this week regarding a several billion dollar investment in a 4G [fourth generation] wireless broadband network.

Blogma at CNET News points out that Microsoft’s new portable iPod-killer Zune will have a WiFi connection, but that connection will not allow purchasing of music from Microsoft’s online store. There are no clear indications of how the device will handle podcasts or streaming audio in relation to the built-in WiFi connection. [Good to know that HD radio is not alone when it comes to being at least one step behind for the entirety of the race.]

There has been a great deal of speculation in many circles about what this means for broadcasters. Huge broadband connections without wires, devices with built-in connections in first generation, etc. Where will radio fit in all of this?

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The Long Tail in other places

[Photo courtesy of BasiliskSam]

Fast Company has an interesting blog post about the Long Tail, and how it exists beyond the Amazons of the internet. Part of the discussion seems to indicate that the hits of the world will still be hits. Some folks at the Wall Street Journal missed that point in a couple of recent columns. [I would post them, but that would violate certain terms, and I cannot link to it as they are a subscription site.] This post references them.

What this blog post gets right on the money is that the small niche companies that don’t have hits on the major scale [like Amazon] can survive as well.

I came across a record label online, Kning Disk, the other day that does that very thing. This material is able to make it out of the door and into enough people’s hands to sell out. Granted, the unusually small quantities may be an extreme example [their editions number from 465 discs down to single disc editions.] However, that may serve to reinforce the point.

If this little company from Goteborg, Sweden can garner the attention of enough people to routinely sell out their entire pressing of artists as obscure as German acoustic guitar player Steffen Basho-Jungens, they are in a much different place than they would have been in 1986.

Link to the Fast Company blog post.

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NPR and Wi-Fi radios

Whilst listening to KUNI-FM in Iowa this weekend, I was surprised to hear an underwriting spot for Acoustic Energy’s Wi-Fi radios. They are quite interesting little units, with the capability of providing access to online radio stations without a PC.

Why am I surprised? NPR is wasting time doing frivolous studies while offering devices online [and promoting them via underwrinting spots] that serve to fraction TSL on local stations.

Yet, NPR is taking underwriting dollars for the advertising of Acoustic Energy’s WiFi radios, and offering them for sale in their online shop. Just as the products I referenced last week, this item does not contain an FM tuner. Essentially, a radio without a radio in it. Sure, you can get internet radio stations from all over the globe, but you can’t tune into your local station’s free, over-the-air signal?

I suppose that listeners could tune into the web stream of their local radio station [if it is in a format supported by the Acoustic Energy device]. Doing so creates a potential fiscal draw on stations, as many acknowledge that it is the most expensive way to get the audio to the listeners. Not to mention that the audio quality is often a fraction of what it is in a standard FM radio.

There are some in the system that are adamently opposed to satellite radio, as it is seen as direct competition for their listeners ears. How do they feel when NPR is selling radios that give those listeners 10,000 options in lieu of their local station?

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Portable devices feature-rich, but FM radio absent.

XM Satellite Radio has a couple of new portable units available. The Samsung Helix, pictured above, and the Pioneer Inno. The features on these new units show that the company is trying to offer more to the portable audio consumer than is out on the market currently.

Business Week did a fine reveiw of these; you can peep it here.

With some of the features here, we are getting close to something other than radio. There is a certain level of interactivity, enhanced displays, and recording capabilities that will make the more sophisticated users curators on their own. If this thing had the ability to get podcasts, they would be set.

One feature, curiously absent, is FM radio.

The above image is an iPod with the $50 attachment that adds FM radio capacity to the iPod. Neat. But $50 extra. The iPods, too, are bereft of FM Radio as a standard feature.

A new Ipsos poll indicates that the number one thing that users wish to have on their portable device is FM radio. MacNewsDaily cites this poll: 46% of users aged 12-24 and 37% of users aged 25-54 want FM tuners.

It may be a bit of a surprise that the younger generation, having grown up with all of this technology, want those FM tuners more than the older generation. By almost 10%!

In hindsight, Apple circumvented the number one request, and went with numbers 4 & 5 on the list as standard features first: photos and video.

Bad for Apple, but a good sign for radio. The kids are alright. And they want to listen to the radio.

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Newspapers are keeping up with new media

[photo courtesy of scribeoflight]

“The Use of the Internet by America’s Newspapers,” a report released by the Bivings Report, shows that newspapers are “keeping up with the Joneses” of new media, to some degree. Things as foreign as podcasts and video content are commonplace on the top ten newspapers [as could be expected] as well as present to some degree on the bottom ten [a bit of a surprise.]

Newspapers, traditionally, are profitable in their decline. Printing presses have a long depreciation, and things can return a diminishing profit with a large enough margin to satisfy all involved. Despite what could be a comfortable exit, these newspapers have taken charge and adopted some of the more expensive / labor intensive outlets

to stay current with the consumption habits of the public.

It should be noted that this study only shows the presence of these things, not that they are particularly utilized or well-executed.

I would be interested to see a similar survey of public broadcasting stations, perhaps with that utilization / execution variable intact. Transmitters have a long life. Audience 2010 shows that public radio is in decline. A similar situation appears to exist for the public radio stations. Are stations doing as much as newspapers to engage listeners in other ways?

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Uncle Milty and HD Radio

The local public TV station aired a documentary this week titled “Pioneers of Primetime.” There was an interesting point made by one of the talking heads: Milton Berle sold TVs. He even joked that he had sold more TVs than RCA. People bought TVs not because they wanted a huge tube-powered fire hazard in their living rooms. They bought them because they wanted access to good old Uncle Milty. Before 1948 there were fewer than 500 sets — the same year Berle went on the air. By 1954, there were 26 million.

On his Hear 2.0 blog, Mark Ramsey points out what is wrong with the new HD Radio campaign. As Ruth Seymour, General Manager at KCRW in Santa Monica recently pointed out, “Content is king.” There is little in the new HD Radio campaign that points to this fact, and Ramsey rightly laments it. The claim of “Hey, we’ve got some stuff!” is not going to cut it for most folks.

We’ve got neither Milton Berle nor the luxury of that brand-new post-WWII media landscape. But we do have the lessons learned of things like AM Stereo and Quadraphonic LPs. The focus needs to be on what listeners can hear, the content — not on the specifics of the equipment. Leave that up to the electronics retailers.