Monday, May 01, 2006

mayday, mayday

Technology continues to improve our media consuming experience. TiVo has made it easier to watch television. Satellite and digital cable have given us more channels to watch. Similarly there are more choices in radio via satellite and the Internet. Regular old terrestrial radio is changing with the times too. FM stations all over the country are installing new HD Digital Radio transmitters which allow multiple channels of audio to fit in the same amount of bandwidth formerly occupied by just the one stereo signal. You won't notice a difference until you buy a new HD receiver (or buy a car with one) that can pick up the new audio channels.

Perry Michael Simon went to the NAB convention where a major radio company unveiled plans to sell pre-packaged formats to stations needing something to fill their extra subchannels of audio. Please take a moment to read his blog entry about a flaw in the big company's plan. Perry also touched on the topic in his weekly newsletter that goes to registered users of the News/Talk/Sports section of Here's an excerpt from the newsletter:
Our industry has taken a look at the new media landscape and satellite and streaming competition, and the grand plan appears to be this: more music channels. Yes, with the bonus afforded by HD Radio subchannels, the radio industry plans to offer, um, more music. Never mind that of all the stuff radio has to offer, music is the most easily duplicated. One company unveiled seventy five -- seventy five! -- new formats this week for those HD channels and seventy four of them are music channels. (The other's comedy, but just recorded bits)

It reminded me that radio still doesn't treat talk radio as part of its future. You'd think that since talk hosts and morning show talents are among the most obvious things radio can offer that can't be duplicated by anyone with iTunes, they'd be embraced by the industry as one of its greatest assets. There's only one you. (Let's leave cloning out of this for now) Nobody can create your show without you. A dozen stations in your market can play the same song, but they can't all get you. I know that there are exceptions among the HD formats -- I saw one HD-2 station's planning an all-morning show format, and another's going to do female-targeted talk -- but it's mostly seeming like a missed opportunity. Let's hope that when people start to actually buy receivers and listen to HD Radio channels, there'll be more talk offerings.

Maybe the problem is that you're not a computer. If you're planning a new format and you have to sell the bosses on it, you COULD go in and pitch a talk format, and they'll ask you about salaries and producers and call screeners. Or you could pitch Active Rock Plus Amish Folk Tunes ("Abner-FM: We Play What You Can't Listen To Because You Don't Own A Radio") and that it'll cost practically nothing and take just the time to load it into the AudioVAULT. Guess which wins?
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