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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 of the Industry Category

Testing the Zune HD

I have a Zune HD. I’ll be honest and tell you that I did not buy it; it was a given to me for trial and review.

The box is attractive. It’s all black with some bright lettering. It’s almost the opposite of an Ipod package, which is mostly white with some gray.

The packaging is fine. Everything came out of the package without a hitch.

Before using it, I supposed to download the Zune setup software online. I went to the URL and selected install. It downlaods. It starts. Then I get an error. I am told I have to update my Windows installer before the Zune software can install.

I follow the instructions on how to install the update. Windows Vista says my system is up to date as of a few hours ago. No updates are needed. The Zune installer disagrees.

In Windows Update I select “check for updates.” Oh look, there is an update for Windows Update. How confusing is that? I install the updated updater for the Update. (Huh?) WIndows now says everything is up to date. I try to run the Zune setup again. This time it starts.

The installer uses the same flourescent colors on a dark background as the box. It’s attractive, I’ll admit.

The software loaded, I plug in the Zune device. It syncs fine. Now it’s charging and beckoning me to explore the device.

More later as I dive in.

WhAt’S tHe DeAl wItH MiXeD cApS?

I’m really tired of the mixed caps being used everywhere. I received a press today that has every company and product mention listed with all sorts of wacky upper and lower case letters.

I may as well join in: I’Ll jUsT wRiTe EvErYtHiNg iN mIxEd CaPs AlL ThE TiMe.

Yeah, that looks so much better.

The style we use at Radio magazine is to normalize all company and product names. Many respected national publications include this practice as well. It may seem trivial that we print Ibiquity instead of iBiquity, and Ipod instead of iPod, but it serves two purposes: It puts everything on equal footing, and it makes it easier for us to edit and post material.

I admit the second reason is purely personal, but having to remember that a product has a capital U in the middle and capital Z at the end is tedious. I would rather focus on the content, not the ridiculous marketing decision. The first reason is the most important. No one gets special treatment. We owe that to you, the reader. We’re being fair and unbiased.

Some companies insist that their name is to be published in all capital letters. Why? Is the company that insecure it feels its name must be shouted at all times? PERHAPS I SHOULD JUST USE ALL CAPS WHEN I TYPE.

Some companies have told me they use the caps to make it easier to read the name of the product. Here’s an idea: Give it a better name and don’t rely on gratuitous capitalization to differentiate it. And put some spaces in there, too, instead of running it all together.

If you’re interested, you can find the style guidelines we follow on the Radio magazine website. Read that and you’ll see how we rationalize the irrational uses. By normalizing all the names we maintain an unbiased position with all companies. That’s only fair to you.

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FM Comes to the Ipod Nano

Ipod Nano with FM radioThe Microsoft Zune HD made a recent splash by announcing it will include an FM HD Radio tuner. Microsoft included an analog FM tuner with RBDS in the previous version of the Zune. An FM radio receiver was one point that separate the Zune from the Ipod family.

Until now.

The latest Apple Ipod Nano includes an FM radio receiver. The radio also supports Itunes tagging and a feature called Live Pause, which allows the user to effectively pause the radio stream by buffering it for up to 15 minutes. (It even includes a camera, too.)

The good news is that there is now an FM receiver in the most popular portable media player brand. I recently remarked that radio was missing the mark in this area, but this covers some new ground. Now I wonder how long it will take until an HD Radio receiver is built in to the Ipod.

You call that a sig?

I get a lot of e-mail. I mean a lot. Perhaps you do, too. There are three e-mail boxes I check regularly, with a handful of others that I access on occasion. Personally, I still prefer basic text e-mail messages most of the time. The colors, backgrounds and images look fancy, but e-mail is a communication tool for me. I don’t really care what it looks like, I just want the message.

Some e-mail users go to extremes in decorating their messages. Forget the unnecessary window treatments, however, and look at the end. The last item in a message is often the sig (signature) line. Ideally, this provides the necessary contact information for the sender. My office sig line has my name, SBE Certifications, phone, fax, Radio magazine URL and Facebook and Twitter URLs. I think it’s a little long, but it includes the info that I am most often asked for. Mine also include a reference for the Radio magazine general e-mail address. There are no graphics in my sig line. The text says it best.

Some people’s sig lines are out of control. Some look like a Nascar vehicle there are so many logos. Some look like the cover for an inspirational book with flowery graphics. The worst is when someone places logos that link to something unrelated. (I know of one person’s sig line that has a logo that links to a larger version of that same logo. That’s really helpful. This same person has all the logos so large it detracts from his messages, and makes it confusing to know where he works or what he represents.)

Other sig lines include some supposedly thought-provoking sentence. I can accept a company tagline in a business message, but I don’t really need the inspirational thought or cute quip.

I also don’t see the need to include a sign line on every reply. In a back-and-forth exchange, I often see the same sig line repeated over and over. Enough already, I know who you are and how to contact you.

Let’s apply the same e-mail etiquette to the sig lines. Make them short and simple. Take out the fluff.

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“There’s just not enough time…”

How often do you hear that? I was talking to someone today about attending training courses and SBE Certification, and he said he wanted to attend more and add another certification, but there just isn’t enough time.

It’s easy to think that. I know I do sometimes. It really comes down to deciding what’s most important. When 5 o’clock rolls around, you probably just want to go home — if you can. Getting outside the regular or irregular routine isn’t easy. Setting aside an hour or two to attend even on online webinar seems like a loss of a large chunk of time.

But what’s the return for the time? With SBE Certification, if the formal exam windows aren’t convenient, ask for private proctoring. That can be scheduled at any time. As far as the webinar, can you eat lunch during the presentation? You have to eat anyway. I don’t recommend you try to check logs during the webinar; that takes the focus away from the lesson.

I’m as guilty as you are about making the excuse. Why not find one item to attend and make it a point to complete it. Put it on your schedule. If someone requests a meeting, ask for a different time. (Obviously if you’re off the air, take care of that.)

Do one thing to improve yourself and not only will you benefit, but so will your employer.

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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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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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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