Monday, August 07, 2006

I-PODS ARE KILLING RADIO !?

Last week there was the announcement that I-pod would be in cars. Great.

I have three I-pods. Great devices. Other than the fact that I erased all 3,000 songs accidentally when I got a new lap top, they are a wonderful technology....

Then all of a sudden I got quite a few emails about this announcement as well as seeing a few blogs that spelled the death of radio both satellite and terrestrial due to I-Pods coming into cars.

Putting the denial radar on full, I have to think that the "death" comments are similar to the proclamation that North Korean ICBM's are poised to hit Los Angeles...soon.

In my opinion, it's a changing world in terms of how you receive audio entertainment. Not a brilliant revelation, but how you process that reality is the key. The new choices are GOOD! Bring it on. I can't wait to have an I-pod wired into my car. Put it right next Next to XM, next to terrestrial. More choice. Will I listen to my I-pod in the car? Hell yes. Will I listen to XM...of course...and I might even pop over to terrestrial too. I think it can EXPAND the time-spent-listening to audio entertainment. One day maybe Internet radio will be in the car too....great! I think ya gotta accept that this is all coming and embrace the competition and the new playing field. XM and I assume Sirius are going to continue to be aggressive in bringing satellite into as many ears as possible. It'll drive companies to become more inventive and re-think things. If you look at I-Pod, they too have challenges, namely attacking the upper-end who was born and raised on vinyl, cassettes and CD's and is confused by things they perceive as complex.

Of course ANY blanket statement is pretty useless today, especially when referencing music. 18 year olds are wired into the My Space world; 40+ luddites are clueless about downloading; Music freaks of any age will go ANYwhere the music is offered and there are traditionalists who continue to hear music on radio and buy CD's at the big box stores. And THAT's an over generalization with the point being that there are 300 million+ North Americans and any blanket statements are, in my opinion, far too general in 2006.

...and then there's radio. It's a different experience. The key to radio has been in evolving what comes out of the speakers as much as technology. In 1970, FM was a superior technology sound wise, but what made FM happen is the programming. FM had been around since 1940 but in the 70's FM attacked the vulnerabilities of AM which was still paying by the rules of 1956. Same thing now, FM is vulnerable because it's playing by the rules of 1980. When radio gets in sync with the era, it's an experience that I believe will always be a significant part of the listening pie.

Years ago, there was similar talk about when 8 Track, cassette and later CD players were integrated into cars. that same "radio is dead" talk. Radio is resilient. It was given it's last rites in 1955 when TV became mainstream. The emergence of these technologies certainly creates a challenge, but media ain't no cake walk.....I can't think of any business that changes as fast as media these days. IF we were to stay stuck in 1988 thinking or fail to address our shortcomings--THAT is a problem, but if we attack the areas we need to attack and actually deliver (AFDI) on what we promise, things will prosper. I can say that about ANY of the competing technologies, not just XM. The technology is sound, the challenge is to maximize it through the speakers and to the public. To say the idea of satellite radio is "dead" because of another excellent technology strikes me as absurd.

We're in an evolutionary world where music listening changing and expanding...not dying.

...and then we gotta realize that as much as music is key to audio entertainment, News/Talk is the #1 most listened to format in North America. Throw in Sports and it further illustrates the vastness of entertainment for the ears. As passionate about music as we are...that isn't the whole picture.

It's easy to get into denial and think we are invulnerable, and it's just as easy to take the sensationalist course and think it's all over. I'm in the middle. Gotta think realistically---put everything on the table--the good, bad and ugly and think reality. I believe we're in the 2nd Inning of a long "war for ears" game. There's a lot at XM we need to do to stay in sync with the battle. It changes almost daily. It would be nice if this were 1955 and we just had to fight TV by playing the hit parade of songs. A bit more complex now. Not only for XM--for everyone. Terrestrial has to worry about satellite...Apple is probably a bit concerned about Microsoft...Then there's Motorola and the phone companies...Satellite worries about marketing...the point being---It's a changing world and a time for EVERYONE to focus on the realities of their business and not "freaking out" or buying into the sensationalism.

It's also important to separate the intellectual from the mass market. For example, intellectually FM is dead. In the mass market, FM is very much alive. Practically everyone listens to FM. That doesn't make it good or intellectually stimulating. The goal of course is to have both the mass market and the intellectual stimulation going.

A major challenge, but a critical one. It's all part of the success equation, at least from the creative side.

The age of AM vs. FM is over...even Satellite vs. Terrestrial is over. It's infinitely more complex. It's an audio version of the political state of the World. It ain't the US vs. the USSR anymore. Simple statements about the state of affairs are too...simple. Be it World Order......or music. It's all too complex to throw around "____is dead" when discussing something that is vibrant and ever-changing.

Radio is a unique experience...a joyful one when done right....I-Pod is equally cool....Internet is a player....It's ALL good. at the end of the day, assuming you can receive everything with the same clarity, the best content will prevail. I am as confident now as in 1998. And for the music and sports fan: Let the games begin.

14 Comments:

At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Bob Olhsson said...

Radio is NOT records like Wall street always wants to think it is. (It also isn't television or ANYTHING else!)

The fact that they and other "broadcast experts" write this stuff is evidence of the remarkable degree to which they don't "get" what radio can be.

A few of us in the record biz. are old enough to realize that all "free" downloads and a return to selling singles REALLY means is that the bar of what's good enough to expect people to buy as an album has been raised a lot higher.

Likewise the pods raise the bar for radio. I-Pods will only kill mediocre radio and that's a good thing for all of us!

 
At 11:26 AM, Blogger Ken said...

Very nicely put. Having an iPod in your car is no different than having a cassette or CD player in your car. I think it was in this blog that Marshall McLuhan (sp?) was turned around and it was stated "The Message is the Medium." Different mediums for different purposes.

There are reasons for listening to each. While I listen to XM predominantly, I listen to NPR on terrestrial radio when I do drive at Rush Hour because it gives me news and local traffic. I also listen to CDs and, when I get the adapter, my Ipod in the car because some times that's what I want to do.

 
At 1:40 PM, Blogger Steve Klopp said...

Having An I-pod is no different then 8 track,cassette,or cd it's your music your way.Radio is about new music, new songs,albums,concerts artist interviews Or as Lee say's the buzz and excitement.I've lived through Am,Fm and now Xm, and this is cool.Xm in my car,in my house,In my computer, in my Tv. Coast to coast my channels my way to listen to them. For an audio buff it doesn't get much better.None of these other content holders have killed radio and the I-pod won't either!!

 
At 6:27 PM, Blogger Richard said...

Hi Lee

After reading the news about GM Motors and Mazda the other day, I had to comment about this on my own blog.

I find it interesting that you and I are tackling this in vastly different radio environments, with very similar findings on the issue.

I set to think that any form of media (FM/XM/iPod) is part of our media pie. The slice that radio has traditionaly taken is getting smaller, but not disappearing. If iPods get built in tuners one day, then radio could claw back up.

Lemme know your thoughts: http://richardphelps.blogspot.com/2006/08/future-of-amfm-radio.html

 
At 7:09 PM, Blogger Billy Roberts said...

I agree with what you said. Technology is changing at a very fast pace and having i-pods installed in cars is just another way for people to enjoy the way they listen to music, news, comedy, etc.

I don't believe satellite radio is dying. There are many people who love to do multitasking - as you mentioned, this is just another choice for people.

Personally, I would love to have a radio that easily allows you to listen to many different Internet radio stations (I know about radios such as Soundbridge but you need broadband connection in order to use it - I'm fairly confident it will be easier to listen to Internet radio on a radio in the years to come). That way, I could listen to stuff that XM radio is not currently broadcasting. It would just be more choices for me, and that's a good thing!

 
At 9:08 AM, Anonymous Bob Olhsson said...

I think the pods win when it comes to making choices. It's just that there can be a joy in not needing to make choices.

The difference is one of being limited by your own concepts as opposed to having somebody take you far beyond your concepts. This is what makes Bob Dylan's show great radio.

 
At 10:12 AM, Anonymous John Navin said...

Lee:
I took over the programming of WKQQ in Lexington in 1978, after the owners had thrown you out.
They'd been doing their own thing -- some kind of AOR format loosely based on what you'd been doing, but off the mark.
I found your old instruction book for the format and instituted it along with music research I'd picked up from Steve Casey who'd been working with Doubleday.
I took the station from 13th to 1st, 18 to 34, over the next year. Ah, I'll never forget it. It felt good.
Lots of Bob Seger got played.
My best regards,
John Navin
jnavin@gmail.com

 
At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Dick Hungate said...

JOHN FRIGGIN NAVIN !!
How are you?*! Tom Taylor
and I recently ran through a long
and impressive roster of Village
Communications talent such as Ken Pruitt and you...Associated Press
writer Warren Levinson...Gary Dickson who does all nights on KDKA, Pittsburgh (told me he puts in like 4 hours of prep per show, etc...every day). Man, some of my
very earliest memories at WCHL have
you involved. I remember driving
in from Greensboro, where I was from...home visiting the mom and dad...and here comes "Roundabout"
by Yes on a Sunday night extremely late. FIRST TIME I'd heard it! MAN!
It proceeded to CRANK all the way
down the Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd.
Those were great days, when you'd have any of the Taylor family clan stop by to play (Livingston, Kate, Alex...they ALL were musical and
rebelled against pressure from their father, "Dean of the UNC
Medical School", to go straight. Carly Simon was dating James and my wife and I were in Carmichael Auditorium in '72 as she sat there
and enjoyed the show, un-noticed!
The only big song she'd had to that
point was "That's the Way I've
Always Heard it Should Be".
Hey...let's reminisce, Ken. Just
drop me a line or two. That radio
station taught me sooooo much!
DITTO Carl McNeill, Rick Dees, Jim
Lampley, Bob Holliday, et. al.
Would love to catch up soon, man!

 
At 8:51 PM, Blogger Ronald Felton said...

XM radio (we have 3 subscriptions) allows me to hear new artists and decide what new music to buy for our IPods (we have 3). Same as when terrestrial radio used to help me decide what albums (records, cassettes, CD's) to buy.

 
At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too many commercials and inane, loudmouthed disc jockeys are killing radio.

 
At 4:09 PM, Blogger Derek E said...

iPod adapters are already in 70 percent of automobile manufacturers' vehicles, which is astounding considering you can't get anyone in the automotive industry to agree on much. Also iTunes holds 80 percent of the market share among online music stores, and is listed at 7th in total music sales among online or brick and mortar stores.

If the rumors hold true, and Bluetooth and WiFi are added, as well as true Video capabilities, well, I'll stop short of saying it's going to kill any other competitiors like XM or Sirius, but it will make it very interesting (and very hard) for anyone looking to gain any momentum against it.

I am an XM subscriber, and the XM technology is head and shoulders above Sirius (one of the reasons I chose XM, other than they don't have Stern but that's another post), but where XM lacks is in the marketing department. It's a great product without the buzz. iPod is a tremendous product, but it's got the buzz. Not just through Apple's Marketing (although that's been a significiant portion of it), but through the fanboys (like myself) who sing the iPod's praises. Now everytime Apple releases a new product, or puts a band/artist on iTunes that wasn't there previously it makes the news.

I thought about what would make me want to cancel a service like XM, that would be with the Bluetooth and wireless capabilities mentioned previously, and the ability to receive Internet radio at a WiFi hotspot and time-shift it (careful not to say record :-) ) to listen to later if I so choose.

Also, there was a mention on one of the boards about content that is available on XM, now becoming available on the iTunes Radio feature inside the software itself. Radio Disney is one, Air America is another, plus numerous NPR, PRI, and other public content. If all the major players wind up on iTunes radio, that could prove worrisome especially since you don't need an iPod to download iTunes. And you could listen to that content for free.

 
At 4:32 PM, Blogger An80sNut said...

The iPod will hardly kill off radio. An iPod needs content while radio streams content. I can hardly see myself getting rid of AM radio due to the variety. So it comes down to having the best of all options at your fingertips. Sure, I think it's a good idea making iPods fit better in the car (mine is hardwired to the radio and sits in the glovebox.) Someone was just overzealous.

 
At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I-Pods are killing hi fidelity. What ever happened to oh I don't know that compressed music sucks?
As a kid growing up in Southern California I'd check out all the high end stuff at a La Jolla stereo store back in the early 70's. What is really funny is people listen to radio and music in general on absolute shit gear today. I'm no snob, but if you scan the LA FM dial, the best FM Stereo is not coming from The Wave or KLOS or certainly not KIIS-FM, its KJAZZ a little dinky non-commercial jazz station in Long Beach. XM would be a lot more interesting if it was true high quality audio. Radio audio is terrible,they killed AM radio when they narrowed receivers ability to reproduce anything decent,FM has been destroyed by digital processing and the need to be the loudest station. My 17 year old B&O CD player feed into a vintage B&O amp sounds a lot sweeter than anything I hear that people typically purchase at Best Buy, Good Guys, Circut City, etc. MP3 is a joke, from an audiophile stand point, this is another reason listening to the radio is no longer special. Digital audio has been the death of high fidelity. It's not even debatable.

 
At 3:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some people want to hear the same music over and over for free. Those people choose FM.

Others want to hear the same music over and over, without comercials. Those people choose Ipod.

Some people LOVE music and appreciate the varried and wide playlists 200 channels can afford. Those people will choose XM.

I have over 30,000 CDs in my collection and have been DJing for more than 25 years. Even at that, I get bored with the same old stuff and want to hear what else is out there.

From a great techno mix, to a jazz show from George Washington University, hosted by EXPERTS...I love what XM has to offer.

You keep your Ipod and all the music YOU KNOW ABOUT. I will choose XM, and all the music I know about AND dont know about.

 

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