The Decline of the Radio Station


Auckland got a new radio station yesterday Big FM. I was interested to see how they will position themselves as unique, because in my humble opinion there is not much difference from one radio station to the next. My first impression was a cross between classic hits and classic rock, but I’ll have to let them grow for a while to find out what their identity actually is. The problem for me and for them is that I no longer listen to much radio.

In New Zealand we really struggle for variety. Pretty much everything is mainstream and the reason for that is that we have a small population, only a little over 3 million people over the age of 18 and a total of only 4 million. There is no venue for special interest music such as jazz, blues, country, world and alt on our airways. Cool Blue Radio was around fora while which had a mix of jazz, blues and country and no DJ’s, but this now only exists on the net, where it competes with every other radio station around.

Radio in some ways mirrors the ails of the recording industry. It does very little that is new and doesn’t even use much of today’s modern technology. Everything is mainstream, there are no thought leaders, visionaries or radicals any more. Back in the day we had pirate radio stations like Hauraki, Veronica and Radio North Sea which captured the rebel in us, played great music but also challenged the norms of society. The problem is that today everyone is PC, the challengers of the past are the conservatives of today.

There are lots of things that radio stations could do. Yes, some are showing webcams of the studio, most have streaming radio on the net and some go further with things like background or in depth coverage of news stories, but that is about as far as it goes.

In New Zealand there are less than a handful of radio stations that effectively use the RDS band. RDS is the text area on your radio, especially in your call that provides information such as the station identifier. In Auckland only Radio ZM uses this to tell you the artist and name of the song. Some stations like George FM have info about the DJ’s, a song or text in promotion, but that’s about it. I was dissapointed to see that the new Big FM doesn’t do anything more than the station identifier. There is so much that they could be doing to be more modern and in tune with the world.

A while ago I wrote about new technologies coming to your car including Satellite and HD Radio. Recent news is that there are (as usual) battles over which sort of satellite radio system to use and as to HD Radio, which is being test broadcast at the moment, and the concensus in the industry is that it will be a long time before these technologies become commonplace. I also wrote about the fact that record companies have been ripping us off for years and not giving us value for money which started as a post about Ringo Starr’s innovation with the Live 8 Flash Card.

A few weeks ago I was approached to do a radio diary. You know the survey diaries they use to show marketshare of the radio stations by demographics and total listeners. I couldn’t do it because these days I hardly ever listen to the radio. I listen to podcasts all the time. Some of them do come from radio stations, but not local ones. I listen to Digital Planet from the BBC, The Music Show from ABC National Radio in Australia, Radio Free Amsterdam and the list goes on. As well as feeling like I have a relationship with the DJ, they use new technology, they are almost advertising free. On my Ipod I see images, have links to artist information and other enhanced services to go with these programs as well as in some cases also video.

A key thing with podcasting is that I can listen to pretty much anything I want. Every kind of music is available for free. Many people don’t realise the range of podcasts that are available and think they have to buy music if they want to use iTunes, but the reality is that if you have an eclectic taste, or just feel like listening to a particular genre right now, that you can do it. In the past I would have the radio on all day when I was at home. Today I rarely even listen to my CD’s, even though I keep buying them:).

We have lots of great artists coming to New Zealand for concerts this summer and I am trying to work out which ones I will stretch my budget to see. In the past I would listen to their promotions on the radio. Now I can go to YouTube and listen to dozens of tracks from all of these artists, including lots of live show clips so I can see if they actually put on a show which is worth spending hundreds of dollars on.

Even if I don’t watch the video clips I can effectively listen to anything I like and I have struggled to come up with any songs or artists I can’t find on Youtube, including myself. If I want to explore a theme, like Christmas, or pretty much anything, or listen to artists similar to a band I like, I can go to Ilike and have my very own personalised radio show, where I can rate the songs I listen to and it becomes more and more the station that plays ecactly what I want to listen to. If you want to hear other artists that sound like me you can go to Ilike and key in Luigi Cappel and you will hear at least one of my songs and then other artists of a similar ilk.

So if you are program director for a radio station, what are you going to do to compete with the Internet? How are you going to get me back to listening to the radio, so that you can sell advertising and put bread on the table? I have to tell you, you are doing a pretty poor job right now, The way you do things right now might do ok for breakfast radio, maybe drivetime (with real time traffic) and talkback, but beyond that, you are competing with products that are far better targetted and if you don’tdo something about it, you may have to look for a new job. If we do get Satellite Radio sorted (and the shelves of retailers in the USA are littered with receivers) consumers are going to have an international choice. They can find the stations that they relate to and I suspect that the percentage of people listening to local radio will rapidly diminish unless you wake up now. Don’t be like the record companies, hide your head in the sand and wake up one day wondering what happened!

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Mobile Marketing and LBS


So a couple of night’s ago I was at the NZ Wireless and Broadband’s Forum’s Wireless Wednesday. I was there to pre announce a Location Based Services application development competition. If you have read my Bio, you will be aware that I was a founding member of this organisation in New Zealand and the first elected President. I still remember the day we were working on a name for our monthly get togethers and I came up with Wireless Wednesday. Well the name has stuck and Steve Simms, the current president said that there have now been around 163 of them!

I haven’t been to the Forum for a while because it wasn’t relevant to my current activities, but with this upcoming competition and a new focus on bringing LBS into the real world, things are going to change.

What was really cool for me is that it is around 10 years since the Wireless Data Forum (as we were called then) launched it’s first developers competition for wireless and mobile applications. Even more so was the coincidence that this week’s excellent presentation was made by Ghanum Taylor of The Hyperfactory. The Hyperfactory won that first competition all those years ago. At the time they were an enthusiastic family group, Derek and Geoffrey Handley and a few other people who were equally passionate about the potential of mobile cellular technology.

These guys never wavered from their passion and commitment and I think it is worth a mention that passion imho is the single most important factor in their rise to success. They worked tirelessly and dragged the advertising and direct marketing industries, kicking and screaming into the future.

Just like many other technologies I enjoy, the market has slipped into the mass adopter phase without anyone noticing. If you saw a txt to win coupon on a product, you would simply txt the coupon number to a short code today and think nothing of it. LBS marketing is coming big time.

I’m not going to talk about their campaigns, because they can do it far better than I. Just go to their website and it is full of video’s and campaign success stories.

I didn’t start this blog as a kudos story for The Hyperfactory, but I do think that they can take some credit for helping to change the face of tomorrow’s advertising world. Check out a few of these names and I’ll wager (their first application concept was designed to allow people to bet against each other at sporting events via their mobiles) that you have seen or participated in one of their mobile campaigns:

  • Coca Cola
  • Nivea
  • Adidas
  • Vodafone
  • Motorola
  • Tylenol
  • Kellogs
  • Jim Beam, and the list goes on.

I’m not big on advertising. Most of the time I don’t pay attention to TVC’s at all, with rare exceptions like the Vodafone commercial where the guy folds up his life and puts it in his pocket (I really like the song and the dobro guitar) or the new Ford adverstisement where all the instruments in the orchestra are made of car parts.

In general, I hardly ever read print ads. I read a book during the TV commercials and these days rarely listen to broadcast radio as I am educating and updating myself in podcasts. Advertising is creeping surrepticiously into podcasts, in fact there are companies specialising in ads for podcats, but they tend to be well targetted which means that I am probably interested in the products, or I can fast forward my iPod anyway.

Anyway, watch this space for news about an exciting new competition in New Zealand for LBS Applications.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support

What sort of radio do you want in your car, HD or Satellite?


In the US, the debate is on as to whether the new in car entertainment systems should include both HD and Satellite radio. The main thing that HD Radio will bring is greater quality in the signal and potentially more information about what you are listening to. Of course the quality does require that you have a good signal and in a country made up of volcanic rock in many places, the signal may not be great, so it may be that dropout still occurs in places.

I’m all for quality and given that you are sitting between the speakers, track separation and stereo effects are often more enjoyable than listening to the stereo at home. On the other side we already have RDS and certainly in New Zealand until recently most stations have only broadcast their station ID on RDS. ZM is one of the few that have given us some service. On the odd occassion that I do listen to the radio, it is my favourite so I can find out what the track or band is that I am listening to. With distraction laws coming, it could be that the driver will not be permitted to see more than that anyway.

They mention being able to view Real Time Traffic information on HD Radio. This is really just hype. You can already get LED displays for RDS TMC, but the reality is that the messages about traffic come from 1590 different categories and the sheer volume, without it being disseminated for car navigation relevance would make it just one more distraction. You don’t need to know that there are 63 sets of road works on the other side of the city do you?

They have been testing HD radio in New Zealand for quite some time, so I guess it will be here commercially before to long, and just like HD TV which is being pushed aggressively right now, it will generate more business for appliance stores. Of course many cars these days come with custom dash setups and there are no DIN Slots (the traditional cavity in your dash where you can mount the car stereo of your choice, rather than the cheap and nasty one the car manufacturer installed to keep costs down. So for many of us there is really no choice.

I hardly ever listen to the radio at all any more. I use my car stereo to receive podcasts from my iPod so that I can choose what to listen to, rather than 47 versions of the same stations of Classic Hits, Talk-back and Hip Hop / R&B.

Satellite Radio is a different story entirely and I would expect local stations to be very worried about this, because it really gives people serious choice as to what they want to listen to. When I was in Florida last year, the shelves in the appliance stores where full of digital radio receivers.

Satellite gives you choice and in fact some of the podcasts I listen to are US shows that I have downloaded. Channels such as Sirius and XM offer listeners the ability to listen to what they want to, when they want to. These 2 stations on their own offer 300 channels to choose from. Want to listen to some BeBop, go for it, now you want some Lounge, there it is on your dial. Just like with podcasts, very soon you will be able to catch up with your lectures or pretty much anything you can think of. This will be a serious threat to local stations who will have to come up with some great ideas to keep people tuning in so that the advertisers will keep paying.

Just like cable TV, many people will be very happy to pay a subscription for advertising free radio. If ever there was a threat to the music store, this is the next one. But it is radio and royalties will be paid to the artists, so ultimately it is only the radio stations that have in many cases taken us for granted that will suffer.

If consumers have their way, once they understand the options, your new car entertainment system will feature both HD and Satellite. It will be interesting to see what the radio stations will do to keep you listening to them. Maybe they will listen to what you want instead of resting on their laurels. Now that would be interesting wouldn’t it.