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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

He looks like. . .

By now I know you’ve seen some of the look-alike comparisons of famous people to other famous people, or people to animals or objects. Some of them are dead on. Some are really frightening.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, one site is totallylookslike.com. One famous comparison puts Bono against Robin Williams. Here are some other good examples I found:

example 1         example 2         example 3         example 4         example 5

You get the idea.

I have one of my own. You’ve seen pictures of David K. Rehr, the president of the NAB. Who does he remind you of?

Here’s Rehr:

Any guesses?
How about Buster Poindexter?

Enjoy April Fool’s Day.

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How to hype nothing

I get lots of press releases every day. There’s an ebb and flow of course, and as the NAB convention approaches, the number of these releases swells. There are two types of press releases that really annoy me.

The first type comes from a company that is promoting something that has absolutely nothing to with radio. I mean absolutely. There’s a book publisher that is spamming me to promote the novels it publishes. That’s completely irrelevant.

I also get lots of releases that are related to radio by a thin line. They usually come from companies working in pro audio, high-end consumer electronics, TV/video and industrial tools. These aren’t too bad, and at least sometimes there is something that applies to radio. Sometimes they also introduce me to companies with other products that are relevant.

The stinger on the sort-of-related releases is when the PR person something like, “This is a perfect fit for your pet-loving readers,” or some similar boilerplate claim. Thanks for doing your homework.

The other type of annoying release can be called the fact-free press release. These releases have two common forms. The first is so full of fluff that once all the endless quotes about how excited a company is or how the information shows how forward-looking views of the company are exemplified there is nothing left but a single sentence. It’s hard-hitting stuff when it comes down a “story” like this: “[Company] has done business today.”

Yippee.

The other form of the fact-free press release is not even a press release. It’s usually marketing information that really should be in an advertisement or in a sale person’s pitch. Sometimes it’s not even marketing information. It’s not even fluff. It can’t be boiled down to [Company] has done business today, but it usually comes down to [Company] exists.

Granted, any press release has some marketing element to it (why else would a company tout anything), but I think we’re pretty diligent at Radio magazine at screening the fluff from the meat.

So if you wonder why you see some information in another radio trade publication or radio trade website but don’t see it on RadioMagOnline.com or in Radio magazine, see if it really relates to radio or if it’s really useful information.

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My schedule at the 2009 NAB Show

The convention is about three weeks away, and I’m starting to get full-court press for appointments at the convention. This will be my 21st NAB convention. I have attended every convention since 1989. I know many people have attended many more than that, but I think 21 qualifies for seasoned status.

My typical plan at the convention is to visit as many exhibitors’ booths as I can. I gather information about new products and get ideas for future articles. The exhibitors want to be sure to see me, so many of them call and ask to set a formal appointment.

In the past, I would make as many appointments as I could. I would also try to set the appointments based on booth geography. I hate wasting time by running from one of the hall to the other — or worse, from the South Hall to the North to the Central. I also get some help to visit these booths from Radio magazine associate editor Erin Shipps. In previous years, I have also gotten help from Chris Wygal, Doug Irwin and a few other contributors.

But this year is different. Erin and I will cover the floor alone. I’ll get some assistance from a few people, but Erin and I get the main load. To maximize my time, I’m also not making any booth appointments. The marketing directors for the exhibitors don’t like hearing this, but they are accepting it. Everyone knows that time is money, and money is tight. I’m just going to navigate the floor in a linear path. I’ll stop at each booth and make my rounds without losing time to run between halls.

This means you might not see me as often during the convention. At least I won’t be running back and forth. Still if you see me, say hello. Tell me what you have found of interest at the show. I’ll tell you what I have found. We can help each other make the most of our time this year.

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A plea to attend the NAB Show

Speculation abounds about the 2009 NAB Show and the anticipated attendance. I’ve heard predictions on attendance ranging from 80,000 to 100,000. All the predictions say that the state of the economy will affect attendance in some way.

Today, I received the following message from the NAB:

Dear friends:
As a leader in the radio business, your presence at the 2009 NAB Show – and that of your colleagues and your organization – is important to the overall success of the event and the association as a whole. The financial success of the show directly impacts NAB’s ability to advocate on behalf of America’s broadcasters in Congress, at the FCC and in the courts; provide educational and professional development programs that help stations grow their businesses and broadcasters enhance their careers; educate policymakers about the many ways broadcasters serve their communities; and invest in future technologies to enhance revenue for the broadcasting business.
The organization is able to provide great value to its members, and has not increased member dues rates, in large part due to the revenue generated by the NAB Show. It is up to all of us to be sure this event continues to be successful.
The NAB Show is also an economic engine for the industry, displaying the most exciting technologies in the business, such as HD Radio, Itunes tagging and radio data system (RDS) services, Internet streaming and incorporating radio on all mobile and handheld devices. The capital spending that occurs at the show fuels future industry growth. It is a positive economic catalyst during a time when our country sorely needs it. Thus, your presence at the show not only ensures that you stay at the forefront of a constantly evolving industry like ours, but also demonstrates the unity of the business in moving forward and doing its part in helping to spur economic growth.
The show is also an important time to celebrate the men and women who have made lasting contributions to radio and television. We hope you join us as we honor renowned comedienne and actress Mary Tyler Moore with the Distinguished Service Award during the Opening Keynote session and induct legendary sportscaster Vin Scully into NAB’s Broadcasting Hall of Fame during the Radio Luncheon. In addition to these events, the show features many other notable speakers and experts in media, entertainment and communications.
Now more than ever, your leadership is needed. It’s time for us to step up and lead by example. By engaging in the NAB Show and working together, we are proving our commitment to building a strong future for radio.
We urge you to maintain this commitment to our business by participating, attending and experiencing the NAB Show. Please visit www.nabshow.com for details on this year’s show.
We look forward to seeing you in April.
Best regards,
Jack Sander; Joint Board Chair; Senior Advisor, Belo Corporation

Steve Newberry; Radio Board Chair; President and CEO, Commonwealth Broadcasting

I won’t call it a desperate call from the NAB, but you know the show organizers are concerned. Last year’s attendance was 105,259. I think this year’s will be closer to 95,000, but the big difference will not be in raw attendance, but in time spent at the show.

I’m talking to people who in years past have spent a week in Las Vegas. This year, they are only spending 3 or 4 days. That person will still count as an attendee in the raw total, so the number will be high, but there won’t be as many people on the floor at any given time.

What’s your attendance prediction for the 2009 NAB Show?

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Miami follow-up

This doesn’t really apply to radio in general, but I thought it was interesting nonetheless.

I told you about my recent visit to Miami. There were two items that fit the trip very well. They seemed rather kismet at the time.

I told you that my visit to Miami was to talk to the students in the Music Engineering Technology program at the University of Miami. I studied through this program (so many years ago), and I like to return to talk to the current students about radio broadcasting. (As far as I know there is only one other graduate of this program who also went into radio engineering: William Blum, who works for Clear Channel in San Francisco.)

Both items that fit the trip occurred in my hotel. While I was there I stayed at the Hampton Inn in Coconut Grove. Hampton Inns have a decorated style that uses black and white photos throughout the hotel. Each room has a plaque with the room number and a small picture. The pictures are usually nostalgic in some way: a rusty mailbox, a wheel barrow, a child in a pond, an old road sign. What was the picture on my room? A close up of an AM radio dial from an Oldsmobile. How appropriate is that?

The other item? My room number. This one take a little longer to explain.

While in school, the curriculum included a series of specialized audio classes that brought together the electronics, acoustics, physics, business, music and other aspects of music engineering. These four classes were numbered 501, 502, 503 and 504. It was one of these classes that led to me coming to work for Radio magazine.

The 503 class had a final project assigned in the class. The project was to do something that can be put on a resume. At the time, this seemed like an obtuse assignment, but we all charged ahead and thought about what to do.

One suggestion was to write an article for a trade publication. A popular magazine among my fellow students was Mix magazine (another Penton Media title). Some students started thinking of topics to submit to the editor. I liked this idea, but I wanted to do something different.

My interest in radio was strong then, so I turned to the broadcast magazine that I liked to read: Broadcast Engineering. In 1986, Broadcast Engineering still covered radio and TV. (In 1994, the radio content was pulled out and Radio magazine was begun.) I considered some topics and decided to try my hand at a Field Report. I arranged to receive a piece of equipment as a demo, and then I called the radio editor or Broadcast Engineering, Brad Dick (who is now editorial director of the magazine), and offered him the Field Report. He accepted the idea, so I got to work writing.

The piece of equipment? The Pacific Recorders and Engineering Micromax cart machine. The article ran in the Sept. 1987 issue.

That first article led to other Field Reports and then short features. For the next 10 years, I continued writing for Broadcast Engineering and then Radio magazine when it was launched. Then one day in 1997 I was asked if I would like to work for the magazine full time as the editor. I took the job.

But back to the second item from my trip. The 503 class is what started my career in publishing. My room number at the Hampton Inn? 503.

It seems that trip was just meant to be.

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Robert Gibbs Will Watch What He Says Now

When White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs dismisses Rush Limaugh’s comments about President Obama by saying he (Gibbs) does not have a radio, you know he was asking for it. It didn’t take long for Washington-area station WTOP (Bonneville), the Washington-area Clear Channel stations, and the HD Digital Radio Alliance to remedy the problem. They all delivered radios to the spokesman so he won’t be disadvantaged.

All kidding aside, the “I don’t have a radio” comment was not a wise thing to say. He’s the press secretary. He’s the spokesman for the White House. He’s not paying attention to the various media? That’s part of his job.

Broadcasters were rather friendly about the matter, although it could have really blown up in Gibbs’ face.

I doubt Gibbs will repeat a mistake like this again.

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The Youth of radio

When I attended the University of Miami, I spent a great deal of time at the campus radio station, WVUM. In the 80s, the station ran a whopping 365W ERP. A few years ago, the station increased its power to 1.3kW.

I visited the station on my campus visit, and I was warmly greeted by some of the students who work there. They gladly showed me their station. They are proud of what they are doing, and it shows in their attitude.

The facilities are modest but functional. Like many college radio stations, it’s a good training ground for the students. They can learn about radio without the pressure of fulfilling ratings goals or sales figures. Is it polished and perfect? No. I can’t say I like some of the music they play. But they are learning about radio, and they’re getting hooked on it, just like you and I are hooked on it.

Keep up the good work, WVUM.

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Goin’ Back to Miami

I’m reminded of the song the Blues Brothers played while on my current trip. I am taking a couple of days to visit Miami, FL, and my alma mater, the University of Miami. I graduated from there in 1987 with a degree in Music Engineering Technology. Ken Pohlman was the program director when I was in school, and he held that post until 2006, which is the last time I visited the campus.

I’ve been back here a few times since the 80s, and I usually plan the trip to talk to the students in the Music Engineering program during the Friday morning Audio Forum. I’m always impressed by the projects the students are working on, and I enjoy the chance to talk about a side of audio that many of them don’t think about at all: radio.

While my goal in presenting is to offer some insight into another technical career where their study of electronics, acoustics, digital technology and audio can be applied, I also share some advice in establishing and pursuing a career in general.

In return, I see some young minds taking in information and getting new ideas of their own. I get a glimpse into new thoughts being formulated.

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Earned recognition

By now you’ve heard that the NAB announced the recipients of the 2009 Engineering Achievement Award. Congratulations to Jack Sellmeyer and Sterling Davis. They join a distinguished list of broadcasters who have made their mark on broadcast engineering.

I am lucky enough to know many of the radio recipients. Hopefully some of their experience and knowledge will rub off on me.

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Put your transmitter site on Twitter

By now you’ve seen that Radio magazine has pages on Facebook and Twitter. Sites such as these are continue to gain in popularity. For some people, it’s easy to spend an entire day just surfing other people’s listings (I’m not one of them, by the way).

It seems there’s more to these sites than just posting that you are going to take a shower or post the pics of a recent drunken outing. Some companies are offering applications to alert the users about things happening at home, such as a plant needing water or that the washing machine has finished.

Personally, I take an active part in my life to know that my plant needs water. I also know that I’m doing laundry at a given time, so it’s not a problem to remember that I have to do something with the wet mass of fabric.

Regardless, an article in Wired discusses some of these uses. Post a message to Twitter and turn off the house lights. Why not set it so a posted message will switch to the backup STL?

There are some security issues obviously, but I suppose there could be a practical use in there somewhere.

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