Radio…Still Not Just For AM/FM Anymore

I had the chance to sit in on the Infinite Dial presentation by Arbitron and Edison Research. (Check out my post on last year’s presentation.) Of course I encourage you to take a peek at the presentation. In the meantime…the highlights!

First and foremost, a bit of perspective. Sponsored by Arbitron, who serves the broadcast industry, this webinar was designed to target terrestrial broadcasters, you know, AM/FM. So keep that in mind as you read this and as you look at the actual presentation. Hopefully it will continue to push them to adopt and take advantage of the online opportunities that are present today.

Second, the term “online radio” for the sake of this research, references the 11% who listen to the online stream of an AM/FM station plus the 9% that listen to an online only, or “pure-play” product (Pandora, Slacker, etc.)

Continuing to dispel the myth that only the “young” audience listens to radio online, of the now 42 million who listened to online radio in the past week, this years research noted strong use balanced nicely across all age demographics. In addition, the listener tended to be more “upscale” as it applies to income and education.

What is attracting listeners to online? The answer is really of no surprise to regular readers of this blog. It’s all about control and it’s step-sister choice. Note the nod to “variety” which I think really means choice. (Of course, to many of my colleagues in radio, will see this as justification to continue to totally overuse the word in station imaging and branding. Ick.)

Arbitron took the time to remind us that, as it applies to the PPM (Personal People Meter), internet only radio or podcasts are not encoded and are not reported. I think it’s kind of cool to point out the lack of efficacy of the Arbitron product in a world that is rapidly using other platforms to hear radio. To be fair, in answer to my question, “Will Arbitron be seeking to encode and track said online delivery?” they did answer yes! (Though, no timeline was given.)

The study did note that 27% of Americans have purchased digital audio online. BTW, online radio listeners who buy jumps that number to 43%. No numbers on pirated music was noted.

In the world of downloadable content, of particular interest to me and my involvement in the Association for Downloadable Media, the term Podcast (love it or hate it) has taken hold with 43% of Americans being aware of podcasts. Always the master of the understatement my friend Tom Webster of Edison pointed out that “podcasting is now mainstream!” Hey, 27 million Americans who have listened to a podcast in the last month can’t be wrong!  One last podcast tidbit…podcast  use already eclipses satellite radio. There’s that “control” thing again!

Speaking of other content sources, here are some quick hits…

  • Satellite radio use…leveled off.
  • HD Radio…though 32% are interested in HD the presentation didn’t make mention of usage, which can’t be good. “HD Radio…Hello, is this thing on?”
  • Cell phone…has the biggest impact on on listener’s lives. Prompting Tom’s comment that the cell phone is the transistor radio of today. (For those of you who are saying “Transistor Radio? It’s what Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa carried before the boombox or iPod…groovy.)
  • Video…just plain blowing up online! (“America is literally looking outside the box.”)

So here’s the upshot, the big kahuna of take-aways, from this presentation for radio and any content producers: Consumers expect to find their desired content online and that includes them wanting expanded media options while in their cars. Can you say Wimax? That’s not to say the current mediums are dead. Clearly they still reach ears. However, if you can’t give it to them on multiple platforms through multiple channels, your chance of them hearing you is diminishing everyday.

Podcasting from SXSWi

While here at SXSWi to build interest in Localtone Systems, I’ve had the opportunity to do a little podcasting.

Saturday’s podcast with Albert Maruggi and the Marketing Edge gave me the chance to enjoy a cold beer at the UK Trade and Investment booth. (Only UK compatible plugs  so I couldn’t plug in my laptop. Charming and a pain in the ass at the same time.) Albert and I talked alot about the SXSW experience and what is going on. Sounds like I have a co-pilot for next year.

Sunday was the day we had chosen for the Minnov8 Gang podcast. The Pepsico Podcast Playground allowed me to have some privacy inside a tent/booth that made me feel like I was on the set of Sleeper. We spent the hour talking and laughing about the trip, the setting, and what some of our Minnesota companies are up to. 

With one podcast to go (with CC Chapman for the ADM) I’m looking forward to meeting more folks and bring crowdsourced music to the world via Localtone Systems! Afterall, there is plenty of action and more to do than look for power and solid wifi connection.

Attention Media Buyers: Brace Yourself for Verbiage

On April 16th the Association of Downloadable Media released two documents relating to Unit Standards and Download Measurement Guidelines. This is the main thrust of what the ADM was put together for…being able to bring some semblance of standardization to a medium that thrives on not having any.

My point to applying metrics to podcasting, etc has always been to provide a way of proving that the media is reaching users and it actually works for those who choose to advertise through that media. These new standards and guidelines move to do this, but still have a way to go.

The first document outlining unit standards is quite straight forward. Not much need to dwell on this one, though the phrase “Sponsored Interstitials” sounds more like invasive surgery than an advertising vehicle. Point of fact; interstitial, according to Webster, relates to interstices meaning a space that intervenes between things. Actually one of the definitions for interstitial itself is; situated within but not restricted to or characteristic of a particular organ or tissue. Ouch. I’d rethink this one.

The second document outlining measurement guidelines will scare the living crap out of any media buyer. This will take some serious education. Look, I pride myself on being able to translate new media speak to traditional media speak…and this one took me a few brain cells to get. (I also won’t swear to the fact I completely get all of it.) But I do get that the bottom line on these guidelines is to make sure your metrics are based on reality, not fantasy. Depending on their source, all downloads or IP requests are not created equal. What the ADM is trying to get to is what counts and what doesn’t as a download and the advertising therein. Buyers want to know they are spending money on reaching people not web robots, spiders, and crawlers (All together now, eeeeewwwww!).

Though this is a start, one that is necessary and one that you can freely comment on, it’s still all based on quantity not quality. Perhaps that’s something that can never really be standardized. Yes, we need to provide real numbers of real users but we, as online media providers, need to prove that we are impacting them as well. Moving them to act, giving the advertiser real return on investment.

Provide a consistent language and standard of measurement? Yes. Educate the buyer on those standards? Oh yeah!  But look to move past just this “quantity of audience”. Traditional media has based their livelihood on it and it is really starting to kick their butts.

I Want Better Sound…and That’s Vinyl(?)

I mentioned in my New Media Resolutions post at the first of the year that I want to do whatever I can to improve the quality of audio on line and in downloadable media. I was reminded of that “cause” this past Sunday morning by the folks at, well, Sunday Morning. The CBS show presented a piece on how vinyl records are becoming “cutting edge.”

Just as I pointed out in January, the sound of what is being sent into the cloud needs to improve, if for no other reason than to avoid trying to figure out how to cram a “record” into your iPod. Seriously, for those that are my age, it’s unfair for us let those brought up on listening to audio in the mp3 format think that’s the best music can sound. For those that have never heard the sound of a vinyl LP you owe it to yourself to hear all of what the artist labored to put into the music, especially the parts the mp3 format has had to discard.

I know, I know, you’re going to say that the human ear can’t detect the difference between a vinyl album, a CD, MP3, WAV, etc. I’m sorry, I disagree. I hear a difference. And it’s especially noticeable in the MP3 format, the most popular format for portable devices and online streaming. The reason it is the most popular, if you didn’t already know, is that it is the smallest file size. An MP3 file is a fraction of the size of, say, a WAV file. File size is directly related to download time.

So what do we do about better sound quality on “the net?” First, don’t settle. If you can find a way to make that audio sound better then do it. Start with a Variable Bit Rate setting if you can. VBR allows the music to be compressed in places where the full audio spectrum will most likely not be missed, a fade in or out for example. Another option would be, with such advances in bandwidth and more and more access to higher speed connectivity, offer your audio in the WAV format. I’ll take a WAV over MP3 any day.

Whatever the case, I refuse to settle for what we now accept for high-quality audio. I don’t believe going back to vinyl is the answer. Memories of the cracks and pops of an over-played album and the need for the pennies on a tone-arm are enough to keep me away from climbing on that bandwagon.

If, as Eliot Van Buskirk of Wired commented, vinyl is the nail in the CD’s coffin in his article back in December, and is the best we can do then I would have to be very disappointed in technology. And, to date, I’m not.

Look I have great memories of opening that new album (I still distinctly remember taking the shrink wrap off that debut Boston album…sigh.), but beyond the romance of it all, I don’t want to go back. Hey, I liked the show Happy Days…it doesn’t mean I wanted to slick my hair back and do the stroll. Let’s move forward.

Have you got some tips? Let’s have em.

Revisiting RemainComm

I want to take an opportunity to follow-up on some of the
posts you’ve seen here…

ADM-About Da Money-Things are rolling along with the
formation of the Association for Downloadable Media, most importantly the announcement of its
first open meeting. If you’re into the whole new media thing and your headed
for the Podcast and New Media Expo coming up September 28-30 in Ontario, CA,
the meeting will happen at 7:30am on the 28th. Learn more by
clicking here. I also want to encourage you to join, especially if you’re about
making money with podcasting or any downloadable media.

A Note For the Teacher-I heard back from my son’s
communications teacher and she is anxious to dedicate a unit to communicating
in the world of new media. I love that! She has also asked for my help. So I’d love
to hear from you. If you have ideas on what to include in teaching middle school kids about
text, e-mail, blogging and more. Feel free to e-mail me here.

Google gives a
little “push” to make more “pull”
-Some activity in the FCC auction of the 700mHz band. Though the FCC didn’t completely go along with Google’s requests
for a completely open platform, they did set aside some of the best real estate
in the spectrum to be used by a carrier “as a network that is open to any
devices and services.” Google still hasn’t committed to be part of the
bidding but Steve Jobs and Apple have started to express some interest. Apple
vs. Google, Apple vs. AT&T, “dogs sleeping with cats”…This auction, set for
January 16th, 2008, could be fun to watch, to say the least.

ADM-About Da Money

I had the pleasure of sitting in on the first ever conference call of the membership of the newly created Association of Downloadable Media (ADM). I’m happy to say it’s well on it’s way to being the organization it should be, one that focuses on the monetization of podcasting and other downloadable media.

I also plan to participate in the beginnings of another organization, the Association of Podcasters & Online Media Producers (A working title) should that happen because of differences of opinion with the ADM. They have completed a survey which clearly indicates a need and desire for such an organization but, as of yet, have not posted any follow-up steps on their website. Though I am sure that will be forthcoming.

On the ADM call I was happy to hear absolutely no discussion of standardizing podcasts only the standardizing and measurement of the ways in which they generate revenue…if that is the goal of the podcast.

You’ve seen me talk about the need to measure the reach and effectiveness of new media here before. There will come a time we’ll need to show the return on investment to buyers of the medium.  You also know that as a long-time radio guy I am keenly aware of the danger of homogenizing the content and execution of new media. ADM seeks to address those issues in all the right ways.

If you’re a podcaster and want to make money doing it, ADM is well on the way to being the organization for you. Of course,
it’s brand new and there will be some growing and learning to do. But
if the call is any indication there is a great future for new media

[Read more…]

This one time…at Podcamp….

I’m headed to camp! I don’t know about you but that brings
back allot of memories, both good and bad. A chance to be “on my own” and
campfires on the good side and the smell of mildewed canvas (Kids, ask your
parents what tents used to be made of.) and the late night pranks played on the
skinny kid. (Though, I wasn’t completely innocent of pulling a few on others.)

This time, thanks to a heads up from Garrick Van Buren, I’m
off to Po
dCamp. PodCampMN to be exact, on August 25th. The smell
should be one of brewing beer since its being held at Flat Earth Brewing in St. Paul, MN.

Easy access to beer…this alone should provide for some lively conversation. In reality, the conversation will be driven by many of the
Podcasters that are driving the growth of the medium her in Minnesota and beyond. Even if you’ve never
been a part of an “unconference” you should be there as well. This type of open
source gathering allows for an incredible amount of learning without the “Bueller,
Bueller. Anyone? Bueller.-like” presentation you’ll find elsewhere. My first
unconference experience was at Minnebar and I was pleasantly surprised at how
un-geeky it was. (Of course, this could mean I’m geekier than I think? Nah!)


Though being around for 5+ years or so, podcasting is still
very much in its infancy. The big issues I feel it still faces are; maintaining
it’s ability to be unique and non-conformist, the ability to measure it’s reach
to better monetize it for business where appropriate, and improving the quality
of production and presentation.

I’m excited about the prospect of discussing these topics
and hearing from those that are knee-deep in producing and distributing podcasts.
I want to encourage anyone who has an interest in where media and
communications are going to check one of these podcamps near you. You’re
staring down the barrel of the future…find out all you can so you know when to
hold your ground or when to duck.

Representation Association Conversation

If you’re like me, it’s pretty easy to find yourself
bouncing all over cyberspace trying to digest information. It’s something that
can consume vast amounts of time. Not to mention the wasted minutes (and brain
cells) when you stop to see what rehab center that whacky Lindsay Lohan is
headed to…C’mon, admit it, you look. Such is the case with news of the
formation of the ADM (Association for Downloadable Media). So, when I did catch
wind of it, I scurried on over to the ADM site to see what was up.

I’m a big believer in the viability of building successful
business around blogging, podcasting, videocasting, etc. as a marketing and
advertising medium. My concern has always been the measurement of its
effectiveness. In my opinion there is a certain amount of “cool factor” driving
ad dollars to the web right now. It’s only a matter of time before ad agencies start
demanding gobs of proof that the money they spend on that part of their
marketing is working, ultimately looking for ways to get a better price. So
it’s important that we provide them with the facts and figures to justify the
current rates, and higher rates in the future.

Anyway, according to their website, a big part of what the
ADM is all about is just that. Note the Mission Statement: To provide leadership in and organization of advertising and audience
measurement standards, research, education and advocacy to all those involved
in portable media (Podcasts/ATOM/RSS media enclosures) across the Internet,
iPods, MP3 players, mobile devices, P2P and other upcoming platforms.
So, this
being a brand new organization that is focused on something I believe in, I
ponied up the dough to become a member (a bit spendy, but I’ve belonged to
other organizations with significantly higher dues).

No sooner had I done that than I came across this post from
Scott Bourne at

[Read more…]

Ravin’ to be Conclavin’

I should make it clear here that, I’m a "recovering" broadcaster! That means I love radio and enjoy working in the business. So, though I’m spending more and more time in marketing and new media, you’ll probably see lots of posts about radio. In the words of Popeye, "I yam what I yam!"  I enjoy the heck out of "doing" radio.

With that said this weekend I’ll be spending all my time at the annual Conclave Learning Conference being held on Minneapolis this weekend. This is a conference put on for broadcasters from around the country and it is one of the few gatherings where it’s not all schmoozing. There’s actual learning going on. Yes, it’s true, radio people getting together to learn how to communicate better, not only on the radio but through new media as well.

Anyway, for the past 3 months I’ve had the distinct pleasure of doing some project work with Tom Kay and the others at the Conclave office and on the Board of Directors as another great event has been put together. I should point out that I’ve been going to, working with, and presenting at the Conclave for years but, this is the first time I’ve  been part of th nuts and bolts

Over the course of the weekend I’ll do my best to post some pictures and comments here so check back if you want to see what’s happening with radio in the Land of 10,000 Lakes (Actually there’s many more but they can’t keep updating the license plates.)