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Chriss Scherer Scherer has been the editor of Radio magazine since 1997. His experience in radio includes work as chief engineer at stations in Cleveland (WMMS-FM, WHK-AM, WZJM-FM, WJMO-AM...more

Archive for January, 2009

Lunch with someone new

I went to lunch today (nothing new there, I know), and when I got to my table I saw another coworker eating his lunch. He is the publisher in a different group than Radio magazine. I see him in the office regularly, and we have chatted on occasion, but I had not talked to him at any length in some time. I asked if I could join him, and he said yes.

He and I share a similar background in that we both now work in publishing even though our backgrounds are in technical fields. He started his career as an electrical engineer.

After the pleasantries the conversation turned to inquiries about each other’s responsibilities. He asked about Radio magazine and I asked about the electrical power industry publications he covers. We talked about current projects. We talked about our industries. We talked about some of the successes each of us had with our markets.

It was a good lunch, and we exchanged some ideas. I hope to see how I can apply his ideas to Radio magazine. While I don’t think I would just drop by his office and ask him to join me for lunch (I have nothing against him, we just work in different areas), I’m glad I had the opportunity to talk to him. The chance made me think.

When is the last time you had lunch with a different coworker? You probably have a regular set you go with. Why not ask the account executive or the sale manager? Why not ask the music director or news director? Maybe even ask the engineer at your competitor if you don’t already talk to him or see him at SBE meetings? You work on the same goals and projects as these people. Share some ideas. Even if it’s your competitor, you can share ideas without giving away any secrets.

I’m sure you’re being asked to do more with less. You’re probably being asked to think of new ideas and ways to cope with a hard financial time. Talk to someone new and plant the seed for some new ideas.

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The sound of sat radio

I was in Atlanta recently to attend the Executive Committee meeting of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. The car I rented had a Sirius radio installed. It’s been some time since I listened to satellite radio, so this was a good chance to catch up, although when I travel I like to sample the local radio offerings.

When I left the rental lot, the radio was already playing a Sirius station. I scanned up and down a few channels and heard some 80s new wave, the heavy metal offering and few others. I liked the song on the 80s station (ahh, the sounds of being in college and college radio), so I left it there to listen. When the song ended, I switched to terrestrial radio and scanned a while.

I found a station I thought I would like, but the next song didn’t hold my attention. I scanned again to find another station. As I scanned, I wondered what was playing on the 80s station I left earlier.

I abandoned my search on FM and went back to satellite. The 80s station (called First Wave) was playing another familiar song. Familiar that I knew it, but not so familiar that I had just heard it 20 times. It was like comfort food. I stayed and listened.

Yes, I succumbed to satellite radio during the trip. It was a good chance to sample the stations that were available in the car. I heard songs that I had not heard on the radio for time. I heard a few new things that caught my interest for a while. I liked having the instant display on every channel to tell me what being played.

What I did not like was the audio coding of Sirius. The average listener probably doesn’t notice the swishy highs and splattered cymbals, but I did on every song. I could overlook it some of the time, but it wouldn’t take long for me to hear it again and again.

While I don’t like the audio quality, I liked the variety. I liked the choices. Would I pay a monthly fee for it? I don’t know for sure, I like the price of terrestrial radio. Would I tire of the service once the newness wore off? Possibly, but I had it for three days and always found something to listen to.

All that said, I can tie this back to terrestrial radio. Sirius promotes its service by having it available in rental cars. Why aren’t we doing the same with HD Radio? Get HD Radio in rental cars and tout the multicast channels. Tout the data. All the listening and data options are not available in every market, but pick and choose a few to start.

Net Congestion

Did you try to watch any of the inauguration events from Jan. 20 online? All the news channels carried coverage throughout the day. The problem is that so many people tried to access feeds that the Internet was just overloaded with traffic. My coworkers tried to watch at the desks. Some had good feeds. Many had jerky video at best.

Meanwhile, broadcast signals carried on without interruption. I know we’re heading to a packet-switched delivery for everything we do, but there’s still something to be said for the unlimited receiver capability of a broadcast signal.

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Times are tough, we all know

The word that Clear Channel and Ibiqutiy have thinned their ranks with layoffs certainly makes everyone catch his breath. Who is next?

We all know that times are tough. We’re all being asked to do more with less. We’re all tired of being asked to do that, too. While we want to rebel, the reality of “if you don’t do it your replacement will” usually keeps us quiet. Just keep things rolling.

While this isn’t the best time to apply a risky idea, it’s a good time to consider new ideas. Present something new, especially if it has revenue potential. The wild idea formulated today might become a realistic plan one day. Be ready for that day.

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The weakest link

You’ve heard the news that Steve Jobs is taking a leave of absence from Apple for health reasons. Naturally, we hope he’ll be ok. When the announcement was made, I saw several financial analysts say that Apple will be in big trouble if Jobs leaves.

Apple can’t survive without Jobs at the helm?

It’s obvious Apple has its act together. It’s also obvious that the company got there because of its corporate leadership. If Jobs’ absence becomes permanent I expect that the company will go on. But if everything rests on the efforts of one person, there’s a problem.

Let’s take this analysis to something you might be involved in: a volunteer organization. In this case, I mean your local SBE chapter. I have visited chapters that appear to be successful, and their efforts show it, only to see that it’s all because of one person’s effort.

Any effort needs a champion. That leader inspires others and shows the way. That leader also has to be setting the stage to be replaced at some point. It’s easy to get trapped in the thinking that if you don’t do it no one else will. Likewise, it’s easy to just do it something yourself instead of teaching someone else. Either way, you’re promoting a limitation on the long-term success.

Sometimes the system has to fail to show the weakness.

If Jobs leaves Apple, the company may stumble while it finds its new stride, but Apple will go on because of the team already in place.

Build your team and be prepared when a change is necessary.

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Not so loud

I saw a movie in the theater this weekend. I don’t see movies in the theater much anymore, mainly because most movie goers have lost all sense of courtesy. It’s not just the feet on the seats or leaving trash everywhere. It’s talking. Chewing. Slurping. Opening the loudest plastic snack food packaging on the planet.

Now I have a new reason for not going. Volume. I’m sure you have noticed how people who work in different sectors of professional audio have different standards of audio levels. Our brethren in TV don’t even call it audio. They call it sound. And even then it’s that component that rides along with the pretty video. Is the sound meter moving? Must be ok.

I’ve always felt that people in cinema push audio levels too high. During a movie there has to be some compromise between whispered dialog and the end of the world explosion, but there’s not need to keep it at 120dB the entire time. The worst part was during the endless pre-show commercials. Those audio levels are all over the place.

I have taken ear plugs to concerts for years. I would like to enjoy the show in its full spectrum glory, but I don’t want to suffer from the constant excess of sound levels. Now I’m going to take ear plugs to the movies (whenever that might be).

Of course in radio we have levels well under control. In some cases, too much control. Is the audio meter still moving on the modulation monitor? Better turn up the processor. Seriously, even though some stations over process, at least the levels are consistent. That makes it easier for the listener to set the final playback level at a reasonable and comfortable level.

Or do they?

We live in a world full of sound now. I see people wearing ear buds everywhere. Some of my coworkers wear them in the office all day. (Some say it’s to mask the other loud coworkers. Gee, more added background noise.) I even see people driving while wearing closed-back, over-the-ear headphones. I sure hope the real world doesn’t interfere with that driver’s touring experience.

I play in several bands, from rock, to concert band and once in a while some small combos. I do my best to keep the stage level to a respectable level. I’m still proud of my hearing. I’m sure I have lost a little high end as the decades go by, and one of these days I actually have it checked just to be sure, although I’m confident I’ll do well.

Hopefully, your hearing is still good. I also hope you’re being careful to keep it that way.

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Time flies by

I just noticed that it’s been some time since I last posted. That’s what the holidays will do. I meant to post right after the new year, but of course I was dealing with the work pile that developed during the time off.

I think I’m caught up now. Posting to Talkback was even on of those items in the work pile.

Back to work.

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