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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 August, 2009

Digital Music Downloads Continue to Increase

No surprise, huh? And while the number of digital music downloads continue to increase each year, physical media sales are still the king in the US. But that could change next year according to data from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). In 2010, the IFPI predicts that revenue from digital downloads will equal revenue from physical media sales. The IFPI predicts this will be true around the world in 2016.

It’s no surprise, really. Download digital music keeps getting easier. And with portable devices — whether it’s an Ipod or a smart phone — being carried as an item as essential as keys and a wallet, consumers are using their downloads more often as well.

And that’s a concern for radio.

While there is some effort to include terrestrial receivers in portable devices, it’s not ubiquitous. Some cell phones have receivers. The soon-to-be-released Zune HD will have an FM HD Radio receiver built in. That’s a good start, but it doesn’t look like it will be enough.

The NAB has been trying to promote radio to the masses. The Radio Heard Here campaign, with its offshoots, are a noble effort. But the campaign relies on radio to convey the radio message. I’m not seeing radio promoted outside our own domain.

The music industry is staying current and meeting the needs of listeners. Can radio say the same thing?

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Multitasking in the Car

We’re engineers. We like technology. We like technology that makes our lives easier or safer. That said, we also know technology can get in the way, too.

Here’s something that is still making me shake my head. Think about how many times you have seen someone driving and eating, smoking, talking on the phone, reading something, putting on makeup, etc. Now think about how many recent accidents can be blamed on someone texting while driving. It’s obvious that multitasking while driving is a terrible idea.

But rather than reinforce common sense, I see a company called ATX wants to make texting while driving safer.

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No More Radio Shack, Just The Shack

As radio listening continues to erode, a familiar retail outlet jumps off the radio band wagon. Radio Shack is changing its identity on Aug. 6, 2009, to become simply The Shack. According to the press release, the rebranding will be “supported by an integrated television, print and digital media schedule, as well as a high-profile, three-day launch event taking place in New York City and San Francisco.”

I don’t see that radio is even a part of the rebranding campaign.

Radio Shack was at one time a regular stop for many radio engineers. The more seasoned engineers remember when Radio Shack stocked electronic components and the sales associates were former radio and TV repairmen. I laughed when I read this in the press release: “The Shack…reinforces Radio Shack’s…knowledgeable, helpful associates.”

Today, the common joke is a play on the Radio Shack tagline “You have questions, we have answers” to be “You have questions, we have batteries.” The press release says that customers have long referred to the store as the Shack, so the change just follwed suit. I never call it the Shack. Do you? Rat Shack is the most common nickname, and many variations on that exist.

Radio Shack is evolving with the times. Good for The Shack.

But radio seems to be fading from everything. Ads don’t show people waking up to a clock radio anymore, they show them waking up to a docked Ipod.

Radio Shack recognized that a change was needed to stay relevant. Will radio broadcasting do the same?

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Reaching out to a New Audience

I hope you saw the news that the SBE will offer a certification exam opportunity at the upcoming AES convention. This is a new outlet for the SBE. Exams have been offered at the NAB Show and regional SBE and state broadcast conventions for years. The AES asked the SBE to provide the exam opportunity.

For the AES, this is a way to attract a broader audience. The AES has been pushing a broadcast session plan for several years. Personally, I don’t think it has really caught on. Pro audio and broadcast have some common issues, but I’m not seeing broadcasters flocking to the AES conventions. It’s still a good effort.

For the SBE, there’s a potentially new audience to reach with the Certification Program. I’m interested to see how many people take advantage of the added exam location. (I will be at the convention, and will be one of the people administering the exams.)

Cross-association partnerships such as this can help both groups, so I was happy to help arrange this opportunity.

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Portable HD Radio Popularity

The Insignia portable HD Radio receiver was a popular item when it hit the shelves. Reports I read say that Best Buy stores were selling out of them quickly. The Best Buy website still lists the item as being back ordered. Ibiquity released a statement that demand exceeded expectations.

The acceptance of the unit shows a positive boost for HD Radio. That’s a good thing for the technology rollout that seems to have slowed.

Meanwhile, the availability of the receivers is still elusive. I don’t have a number on the number of units that were initially produced. I also have not heard when additional units would be available to fill the back orders. It was released with strong momentum, but will that momentum carry?

There are obviously people interested in a portable, FM-only HD Radio receiver. While I won’t get one for myself, I like seeing the proof of concept: portable HD Radio with a respectable battery life.

Now, if we can just get the technology into other portable devices.

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