Radio and Today’s New Technology

I know, I know…he’s blogging about radio again. “Just when I think I’m out…” but today’s post in RAIN: Radio and Internet Newsletter from Kurt Hanson about “Hints in iPhone Firmware..” got me thinking back to a comment I made to a post by another blogger some time ago. It seemed relevant in light what iPhoneology  had to say so I thought I’d repost it here (with some updates).

Clearly, streaming represents a pivotal point for radio.
More and more of the business model relies on the internet and its related technology each day. The
improvement of radio streaming capabilities is imperative. It only makes sense…if
you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. I caution, and think about this; your streaming station will
join the multitude of “online stations”, stores and sites offering
entertainment. Not to mention the hundreds of other
broadcast stations that stream. Sheesh! And you thought competing with the
other sticks in town was a bitch?

Here’s a thought; beat ‘em and join ‘em?

While broadcast radio continues to find and improve those relatively new
ways to deliver product (streaming, etc.) it should also remember to make
the current delivery outlet (a receiver) more appealing. It’s scary to think
that, based on recent research, consumers feel that radio isn’t portable. Yikes, that was once one of it’s
strongest selling points. Remember ads for “portable” radios.

We can talk about the content of
radio for Days? Weeks? Months? Please, I’m aging as we speak. For purposes
of this piece let’s approach this simply from the hardware side. Sadly, much of
the blame lies with us as an industry. As technology has moved forward allowing
for once unimaginable devices for providing entertainment to be introduced, the
way we have integrated radio with those devices has stalled. When the
“Walkman” appeared in the US in 1980 it was only a matter of
what seemed like seconds that those “cassette players” had AM/FM

[Read more…]

Google gives a little “push” to make more “pull”.

If you noticed the bit of activity late in the week around
the FCC 700 MHz auction, you noticed Google being big, strong, and, it appears,
not “evil”. In a nutshell, the FCC has some spare bandwidth to sell off now
that TV broadcasters are going digital. Google said it would participate in the
FCC’s auction of the frequencies in the 700 MHz “wireless spectrum” (with its
4.6 billion dollar buy-in) if the Fed made it mandatory that the band remain
open once sold. Fcclogowords_3That means the consumer could use any type of equipment to
access the band. According to Google Chief Exec, and guy with the really fat
wallet, Eric Schmidt, “When Americans can use the software and handsets of
their choice, over open and competitive networks, they win.” He also
stated Google’s desire to see another provision which would require other
companies to be allowed to interconnect “at any technically feasible
point” with the winning bidder’s network.

Hey, anytime somebody speaks out in the best interest of the
public (read, “Me.”) I say great! Let the big guys put some pressure on to make
sure that I get more control over what I want. You go Google! It also really
gets the big wireless companies’ undies in a bunch. That’s just a little bonus.

It’s perfectly logical for Google to get into the wireless
space. They already offer many services in that world. In addition, odds would
be that now is the time to take a shot at it. In fact, consensus by many is
that this auction of such prime “radio” real estate could be the last chance
for a new company to get into wireless against the established players
(AT&T, etc). It also makes sense
that they would want to keep the source open. It’s what they do and they’ve
made some decent scratch doing it.

So let’s say the FCC goes along with the suggestions and
Google goes after the available bandwidth, is this really all bad? Perhaps it’s
time for a new way of doing things. I spent many years dealing with and
watching the aftermath of the auctioning of “move in” frequencies to small
operators. It didn’t turn out well. In fact, it led to a bunch of operators
losing a lot of money trying to compete and ultimately resulted in the Telecom
act of 1996 and the consolidation of radio. And didn’t that turn out well?

Plus, even if Google isn’t the winning bidder maybe a more
open platform would drive the wireless companies to improve they way they do
business. (Hey, maybe I could actually modify my plan without waiting on hold
for 50 minutes listening to that insipid drum progression…Naaaah…that would be
too good to be true.) One thing for sure is, open source and open platforms
have always led to increased innovation in shorter time. C’mon, how long do you
have to get your wireless butt kicked by Luxembourg
before you realize that
some other parts of the world might be on to something?


Look, I’m like you. Anytime one of the big guys steps up and
throws down the glove to the Fed I immediately think, “Hey, what are these guys
up to?” Even when it’s a company that has the phrase “don’t be evil” chiseled
into their foundation. But I also don’t think it will result in anything worse
than what’s happened in the past…and the upside is soooo much better.

Update:Senator Dick Durbin, (D) Illinois hops on the open source train as he looks for input on the nation’s broadband policy. Check out his post and the Legislation 2.0: National Broadband Project. More open source in action.

The iPhone…An Answer to World Peace?

Yep, add this to the already billions of posts about the iPhone. Though this might be a just a bit different from what you’ve grown use to seeing after the release of Apple’s latest gizmo “that will change the way we____.” Forget that it is exactly what was promised, that it really works the way all of the ads and podcasts said it would. Forget that it still needs some additions like text and a card slot. By the way, the real reason the iPhone is so huge is, like the iPod, it’s dead freakin’ sexy! Which is one of the reasons I think it may be a secret to world peace.

Let me set the stage here. I was working the below mentioned Conclave on the weekend of the iPhone’s release. (More on ‘clave in another post.) One of our attendees, Tom Webster of Edison Media Research and  blogger at The Infinite Dial, decided he would hop in line and pick up an iPhone. Now, Tom is a well respected and insightful thought leader in the world of research and communications. Some of the studies put forth by him and Edison have literally changed the face of radio broadcasting. He’s also a great guy. So when he walks into a room there should be no shortage of people talking to him. However, put an iPhone in this guy’s hand and you’d think he was walking into a dog show wearing a meat sport coat. All of us were crowded around his phone oohing and aahing, laughing and talking. It was like we were this great big group of long-time friends.

So here’s my idea. We secure a couple thousand iPhones and start doling them out to select leaders of the gazillion of warring factions in the middle east. Think of it…hundreds of people from all cultures and religions crowded around touching the screen. Christian and Muslim, Shi’ite and Sunni happily flipping the pages of the music on iTunes, e-mailing their friends and zooming in and out on photos. The next thing you know suicide bombings cease, troops go home, cities are rebuilt, peace breaks out, and the price of gas sinks to a buck. C’mon, it could work…

Okay, probably not. But my point is this, the iPhone is about buzz and the way it makes people react. It’s another one of those things that creates such interest that gadget freaks and non-techies alike join in. This is just plain old fashioned good marketing. The topic of interest is made so compelling it brings people together. So if we can create a well thought out plan that unifies us around something that is just popular perhaps we should do the same thing for something that is important.