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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 by Chriss Scherer

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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Debunking the Prometheus Top 10 Problems with HD Radio

The Prometheus Radio Project tries to further its case against HD Radio, but does so with misinformation. An article has been posted on RadioMagOnline.com to address the statements:

Debunking the Prometheus Top 10 Problems with HD Radio

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Do you ‘get it’?

I know you have heard someone’s business or technical application skills being complimented by saying that the person “gets it.” That’s an easy way to vaguely describe a feeling that can’t really be put into quantifiable terms. I’m fine with this approach. Typically, the people discussing the person who gets it already understand and agree on the other person’s abilities.

Technology innovators, business gurus, and especially people who have found a way to make money through an online effort are often said to get it.

To say that someone gets it is high praise. But what about the people who don’t get it?

I had a discussion with someone the other day about an online app. I have thoroughly researched the app, and it was suggested that I should implement this app for a project. The person pushing the app believes in it fully. I did not. (The app was one way to accomplish a task. I already use another method, which works just as well — actually, I think mine works better. The discussion came down to a difference of opinion.)

It was obvious I wasn’t going to budge, nor was my counterpart. The final suggestion to me was that I should talk to another person “who gets it.” Oh, I see; this third person agrees with the person I’m talking to, so the third person gets it. In other words, I don’t get it.

The situation seemed strange. I’m so used to hearing that someone gets it as a compliment to that person. In this case, it was a slam on me. The use of “getting it” was being used to justify using the app in the first place. Instead of comparing the two methods on their own merits, a summary “he gets it” was applied to justify one method.

I don’t get it.

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What’s your status?

You know that I am active in the Society of Broadcast Engineers. This year I am serving as the chairman of the national Nominations Committee for the elections to be held later this summer. To run in the election, a candidate’s name can be submitted by the Nominations Committee, or a person can be nominated from the general membership. The general nominations are not handled through the Nominations Committee, but rather through the national secretary and the national office.

To serve as a director or officer, an individual must be an SBE member (regular, senior or fellow) and hold an SBE engineering-level certification. To be nominated by the general membership, the SBE member must have the support of at least 10 SBE members in good standing. It’s this last requirement that proved to be difficult for some candidates this year.

Because I chaired the Nominations Committee and I wanted to run for a director seat, I chose to nominate myself through a floor nomination rather than the Nominations Committee. I did this to avoid any potential claim of abuse of power or coercing the committee. I submitted 13 signatures to support my nomination. I asked each one before he signed, and all 13 said he was a member. It turned out that 12 of my signatories were SBE members.

Other candidates who submitted floor nominations had similar experiences with non-member endorsements, and while I only had one bad signature, some of them had to submit many additional names to reach the required 10.

What baffles me is how someone cannot know if he is or is not a current member. In some cases, the membership just lapsed. Ok, that’s not too difficult. In some cases, the membership lapsed five years ago. In one or two cases, the supporter was never a member.

It was suggested to me that there is confusion between membership status and certification status. Membership is renewed every year, while SBE certification is valid for five years. The two are obviously separate to me, but perhaps there is a blur to some. Still, how can someone not be aware of his membership status? If you have any insight, please share it with me.

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Portable HD Radio — finally

You saw the news that Insignia has released the HD Radio Portable Player this week. It’s about time, right? I saw a prototype at the 2009 NAB Show, and it looked good. I didn’t get to hear it (besides I didn’t want to put a set of public-use ear buds in my ears), but I scrolled through the display. I have heard that it sounds good and works well.

Radio is portable, and having a portable option for HD Radio is natural and necessary. We listen to radio on the go.

Now the downside: It’s just a radio. Listeners already carry personal devices for audio information and entertainment. Even at the modest $50 price, will the market be flooded with these portable radios? I doubt it. I don’t expect most listeners to add another device to the arm bands or pockets just for a radio.

Still, it’s a good step for the technology. Adding HD Radio to media players and smart phones should be high on the agenda. And once again, it shouldn’t be an option for the consumer, it should just be in the device.

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Really listening to the radio

I had some time on the road driving a route from Kansas City to Joplin, MO, to Indianapolis, to Cincinnati and back to Kansas City. While the 1,400 miles can be fatiguing, there is one aspect I look forward to: Listening to the radio.

When I drive through St. Louis, Indianapolis and Cincinnati (my hometown), I of course seek out the big heritage stations I know. But these aren’t the highlight of the trip. It’s what I hear in the smaller towns that reminds me of what radio is all about.

A few times in Missouri and Illinois I heard a news break that covered commodities and farm reports. Anticipated yields from the sales of crops and livestock don’t figure into my daily life, but those station listeners certainly listened for the details. I heard about several county fairs, weekend swap meets, upcoming holiday activities (this trip was a few weeks before Independence Day), and church or school functions. I heard a few classic remotes from the local appliance store and car dealer. I heard a few contests with a grand prize provided by a local merchant.

It was real radio. Radio for the public. As I zipped down the Interstate, the local community was moving at its regular pace and listening to the radio. Those local stations are an integral part of their communities. Sure, any radio station has an important role in the local community, but that role is amplified in these smaller towns.

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During an emergency, turn to Twitter?

I received a press release from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Region VII saying that the agency is now using Twitter. Why not? Everyone is using some form of social site to post information. Region VII administers FEMA programs and coordinates disaster response in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska, by the way.

According to the release: “The Web-based, social-media tool will allow FEMA to instantly communicate with emergency responders, citizens, and members of the media to gather and disseminate important disaster-related information.”

More from the release: “Regional staff will post on Twitter details about FEMA’s disaster-response, the progress of recovery efforts, and links to press releases or other documents that explain our mission and current efforts. When logged into a Twitter account, users can also make statements or ask questions. Some examples of how Region VII plans on using Twitter include:

  • Tweeting messages regarding situation reports in an active disaster (in coordination with appropriate state agencies).
  • Retweeting official announcements from local, state, and other federal agencies.
  • Notifying users when press releases or officials statements are issued.
  • Providing links and information on recently released video and photos.

    Want to follow it? www.twitter.com/femaregion7.

    I suppose there’s some value to this. If it’s easy to create the fed, why not, right? The more info that can be sent the better. I’m not sure who is going to turn to Twitter when a crisis occurs, but apparently Region VII thinks it’s a good idea.

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    Mr. Grammarman

    This relates to with radio, but bear with me.

    We all have pet peeves. Some of my peeves deal with English. I’m not perfect, but I think I’m pretty good.

    This time it’s about “you.” Or as I keep hearing more and more, “you guys” and “you all” (or “y’all”).

    I find it funny that so many people try so hard to make “you” an obvious plural. “You” is singular and plural in modern English, and except in rare cases, it’s obvious when “you” is meant to be singular or plural. So why do so many feel the need to use “you guys” so often?

    What’s ironic about the forced plural is that historically, “you” was only plural. (“Ye” was also used.) The singular was “thou” or “thee.” Over time, “you” become a formal singular usage and then finally replaced thee/thou for familar usage.

    Back to the present, the most absurd use of “you guys” is when it is made possessive. “Is this your guys’ store?” where it sounds like “Is this your guises store?” Just today i saw someone write “What is your all’s preference?”

    The connection to broadcasting? Listeners hear language misused on the air and tend to repeat it. While colloquialisms and regional speech are part of localism, broadcasting should set an example. It’s almost to the point where non-native English speakers speak English better than the native speakers.

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    What to do with multicasts

    HD Radio has taken hold in many markets. That’s not to say that everyone can hear the digital signals, but they are there. I’m looking forward to getting a portable HD Radio so I can listen to HD Radio signals when I travel. For now, I scan the stations in Kansas City where I live.

    The FM multicast capability is still one of the highlights of HD Radio. As a straight replacement technology (digital for analog), HD Radio has a challenge. Adding additional program streams adds new revenue streams, which I would think any station would welcome.

    But maybe not.

    I talked to a radio colleague the other day about his station. He works on air, and while his FM station transmits an HD Radio signal, the station does not have any multicast streams. I asked why. He told me the program director does not want to erode the primary listening audience on the main signal.

    I can appreciate not wanting to harm the prime revenue source, but this kind of short-sighted thinking does nothing to help HD Radio acceptance, let alone grow a new listening audience or create a new revenue stream for the station owner.

    With a little creative thinking, that program director could create a specialized format that would complement the main channel rather that erode it.

    Multicast streams often do this quite well. If the main channel is a classic rock format, make the HD2 a deep cuts format and the HD3 a live cuts format. The multicast streams can reinforce the main channel rather than detract from it.

    And when a listener doesn’t want to hear what’s on the HD1, instead of forcing him to the competition, let him turn to the HD2 or HD3.

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    Sales Pitch or Education?

    You know I’m active with the Society of Broadcast Engineers. I’m the newsletter editor for the Kansas City chapter 59. I also often help arrange meeting programs for my chapter. I have helped arrange chapter programs for nearly 20 years, and I’m still surprised that engineers and manufacturers too often mismanage the symbiotic relationship. Many manufacturers still want to provide a straight-out sales pitch. Many engineers accept these programs or give away even more excusive access to the qualified audience than they should. By working together, the needs of the manufacturer and the chapter can be accommodated with better results for both.

    Recently, I had to prepare a chapter meeting announcement. I worked with the chapter member assigned to arrange the program. After multiple requests for information about the meeting, I was finally given a program topic and nothing more. I asked for a description of the topic and the name of the presenter. I received a definition of the key term in the topic, and name that included a job title a “bio” that read: “[Name] has 35 years of broadcast industry experience.”

    Obviously I pushed for more information, and I tempered that request with some of the points I list below. The next item I received was a flyer about the company’s touring road show. The flyer basically said that this company was the leader in several aspects of broadcast technology, and all its products would be on display.

    Again, I told the coordinator that this was worthless for a meeting announcement. The coordinator went back to the company one more time, and the manufacturer replied that he would like us to promote the company’s road show, which is why he was in town in the first place.

    How nice. The manufacturer expected the chapter to do his PR work for him. He never provided any additional information about the original program topic. The end result: the meeting announcement was weak, few members attended, and the manufacturer was dissatisfied with the turn out.

    What could have changed? Plenty, but mainly, an educational topic with a clear description would have attracted more attendees. I have my own method of arranging chapter programs, and there are a few regular steps I take. While I don’t expect to arrange all the programs myself, I am working with this coordinator to improve the methods he uses.

    Here are my tips on getting the maximum effect for both manufacturers and chapters.

    Manufacturers:
    Teach us first.
    A chapter meeting provides a captive audience. This audience knows when the program is pure pitch and when it’s is truly educational. If you start with a pitch, you lose them from the start.

    Avoid the sales pitch.
    If possible, eliminate the sales pitch. Like I said before, teach us first. Now we also know that there is a cost involved in this process. Companies exist to make money, and they make money by selling equipment and services. Save the sales element for the end. Better yet, once you have taught the audience something, tie it into your product to show a real-world example.

    Put yourself in the audience’s place and consider the program.
    Would you sit through the presentation on why you should buy the condominium? Even if it’s the best condominium in the world? Unless you really wanted a condo, probably not, and even then, if the presentation only covered how great that condo is, you probably would not want to hear it. Chapter meetings are the same way.

    Provide a detailed program description that encourages people to attend.
    Write the description so engineers will feel they are missing out if they are not there. Include why the topic is important. Don’t assume the potential attendee knows the topic in-depth.

    Chapters:
    A chapter meeting delivers a prime, targeted audience that has value to the presenter.
    Don’t give it away. I hear lots of chapters rejoice that they have a program, yet the program itself may have no real value to the chapter. Chapter members can read a product sell sheet online. Don’t waste time by bringing a group together only to be told how great a product is.

    Define the chapter’s expectations.
    Be careful not to demand too much, or the presenter will either decline or expect just as much in return.

    Suggest providing a meal, but don’t require it.
    It’s no secret that feeding an engineer increses the chances of him attending. If the chapter requires the presenter to pay for a meal, it makes the presentation a sales effort from the start. The presenter is there to promote his company and product. If he has a mandatory cost involved, he wants something in return.

    Beware of claims that a program is purely educational.
    Just because the presenter says it’s not a sales pitch doesn’t mean it’s not. I know of one presenter who says he doesn’t know the price of the equipment, so it can’t be a sales pitch. Not true. It’s still a sales pitch, but it also makes that presenter a bad sales person. And honestly, if it’s the greatest technology in the world, it’s still useless to a station if it costs $100 billion.

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