Sunday, February 21, 2021

The More Things Change...

When I was away at college in the late '70's and early 80's, my mother would send clippings from the newspaper which she thought I would enjoy, or from which I would benefit. Had she lived during the advent of the internet I am sure she would have sent me links to similar stories, or forward those multiply-already-forwarded emails that I used to receive from other older relatives. Sure, as a young man at the time I rolled my eyes on occasion; still, I have found recently that I have kept some of those clippings...and they were really, really good.

I came across the passage below while reading Malcolm Muggeridge's autobiography (part 2) this morning and thought it was something I would like to pass along to someone. If you've stumbled upon this post, I guess that's you. So, in some ways, I truly have become like my parents.
Watch out kids.

Anyway, I hope you'll find this at least partially as interesting as I did. Keep in mind, this was published back in 1974.

After returning to London in 1934 after 18 months working in Geneva at The League of Nations:

“Everything looked differently to me; especially the assumption on which I had lived from my earliest years, that such and such changes, brought about peacefully through the ballot-box, or drastically through some sort of revolutionary process, would transform human life; making it brotherly, prosperous and just, instead of, as it had always been, and still was for most people, full of poverty, exploitation and conflict. I no longer believed this, nor ever would again. The essential quality of our lives, as I now understood, was a factor, not so much of how we lived, but of why we lived. It was our values, not our production processes, or our laws, or our social relationships, that governed our existence.” ~Malcolm Muggeridge in The Infernal Grove
 [Edited on 2/25 to add]

He also made the following statement which reminded me particularly of this last year:

"This was to be increasingly an age of polarized loyalties."

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Broadcast Radio's Product Life Cycle

The normal product life cycle looks something like: 

Development > Introduction > Growth > Maturity > Decline

So, where does broadcast radio fit within this cycle today?

The 1996 Telecommunications Act eliminated the cap on nationwide broadcast radio station ownership resulting in a move from mostly locally (or regional) to mostly national ownership. As a result, in my opinion, programming became more and more homogenized, and less and less local. 

When I started doing doing product support for radio automation software back in the early 90's, the industry focus was on setting stations up to run satellite delivered programming with the intent to make it sound as local as possible. As the cost of computer data storage dropped and technology advanced to where audio data could be shared via the internet, stations started running their own music and could allow their DJ's to do voice tracking (where the jocks pre-record their segments) in the studio or remotely. This allowed a smaller number of DJ's to be on the air and allow them to track for numerous radio stations in different markets across the country. When the pandemic hit calling for stay-at-home orders fell into place, we started getting calls from some of the rare stations that still had live, local DJ's, asking to set them up so they could voice track from home. This showed radio groups that voice tracking can be reliable and effective, and resulted in reductions in force for radio station employees (and radio automation software employees...). 

So, radio has become less and less local and more and more like a streaming service, except that it still runs long blocks of 60 and 30 second commercials in the second and fourth quarters of the hour. 

I like this quote from Tim Wu's book The Attention Merchants; "Knowing how to keep the pot simmering without boiling over in public protest, [William S.] Paley proactively set limits on CBS's [radio] advertising; among them, he cut its share of airtime to 10 percent and banned commercials considered offensive. At the risk of giving him too much credit, one could say that such policies not only kept critics at bay but also showed a shrewd awareness of the attention merchant's eternal dilemma: too little advertising and the business can't grow; too much and the listener grows resentful and tunes out."

It may be worth mentioning that monitoring some random stations from across the country recently indicated that their normal commercial airtime at times fell within the 20 to 27 percent range.

If broadcast radio is to continue in, or perhaps get back to, the Maturity phase of the product life cycle, it should take this to heart. #buticouldbewrong