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 https://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.

The future of Personal Computing Part Two


This is a follow on from my blog last week about a day in my life of personal computing in 2013.

So I’ve had breakfast and I go to my PC to check email and messages. My wireless network at home now consists of a variety of devices and networks linked together. These include my Entertainment Server which links to various TV’s around the house, the Sky Dish, cable TV, media audio players and recorders, HD radio tuner as well as the Toshiba Fenininity Server which allows us to control and monitor the stove, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, climate control, breadmaker and a host of other appliances not to mention the HVS climate control.

I also have the latest Kindle which lets all of us read our personalised news. It aggregates the top stories from mother Herald as well as other papers and magazines of interest so we all get the version we want. Scared the hell out of me the other day when I opened my wife’s logon by accident and all I saw was stories about TV and filmstars and their failed marriages and getting their 23rd adopted child out of Afghanistan which is the new Darfur. But then that is the beauty of it that we all get MeNews and not what someone else wants us to read.

I’m still into social networking in a big way, but have a number of portals that manage and aggregate each of my networks. I check my Music Portal which manages all the sites where I showcase my music. Now I can load my new songs, video’s, blogs and gig calendar onto one site and it updates the 127 sites I feature on in one hit, according to each sites unique specification.

So it’s time to go. I leave the house and activate the alarm which sends a signal to my iPhone to say the system is now armed and hop in the car. I drop the iPhone onto the little tray beside my seat and as I put the key into the ignition and my seat and steering wheel adjust itself to my preferred positions, my phone announces itself to the Wireless CANBUS so that it has access to the entertainment system.

I tell my integrated GPS navigation unit to take me to ‘the office’ select the podcast I want to listen to from those that are just audio as I don’t want to get pinged by the distraction laws and get on the road. As I near the top of Chartwell Drive, my podcast pauses (I used to hate missing stuff when the old system just muted the sound) and the nav tells me that there is a serious traffic incident on High Rd that it has picked up on TMC and would I like to route around it. I say yes, and it seemlessly takes me on down Diana drive and I arrive at work right on time.

As I wait at a set of lights I check the Buddy feature on my GPS and see an image of my wife’s car crawling along Bush Rd on her way to work. Her unit beeps to alert her that I have checked her location and she sends me a smart message back by tapping on the SMS keyboard on her nav unit which uses Bluetooth to send the message via her phone. Her car and system is a bit older than mine. 2009.

When I get to work my phone opens the carpark grill and after I have parked the car, it unlocks the door into the building and then into my office. I fire up my  Touchbook which has just been upgraded to Vista (“WE” like to be cautious about our computer network and go to the machine in the kitchen for a perfectly fluffy flat white.

As I have done forever, I start my day with email. My touchscreen notebook is now running Windows Vista Touch and although Microsoft has announced their new OS I will be using this one for another couple of years until our IT Department is comfortable that it is reasonably robust, especially given that it took 3 years to get most of the kinks out of Vista and for a while they went back to offering Windows XP again as an option in the 2nd half of 2009.

One thing that we have now universally adopted is Unified Communications. All my voicemail whether it comes from my landline, mobile or email is now waiting for me in my Inbox and with my iPhone or my notebook.

My days haven’t changed much. Probably the only major difference is that I do now use video on a lot of my phone calls so I can see the person I am talking to. This has saved me a lot of wasted travel time given the disaster that is Auckland’s roads today. They have started building the Auckland Harbour Tunnel, but it will be a couple more years before it opens for buses and T3 (cars with at least 3 peple in them) let alone ordinary traffic. So many meetings have been replaced by necessity with vidphone calls. Of course I can also do this on my iPhone 6, but unless I’m doing it over the Wireless LAN (and we still don’t have one in the office) the costs are prohibitive.

At lunch time I quite often walk to the Subway for some exercise and of course their food has the Heart Tick. On my way, I check out their menu on my iPhone and wonder if the food will look as good as the picture. I specify exactly what time I will get there. On the way back I get the phone to play me some Utterz messages from friends while I’m walking.

On the way home I drive past a bar and get a Speights Mates message saying there is a Happy Hour Running and sending me an eCoupon to get 2 for one in the next half hour and prompting me to hit the forward button to send the same coupon to any of my personal Speight’s Mates who are within a 2km vicinity to come and join me for an after work beer. I love location based marketing and decide it is only right to support people who have invested in this technology given that I helped to develop it. Isn’t that called the fruits of your labour? Yes. I know hops aren’t strictly fruit.

Before dinner, I go to my home studio and record a lead track on my Gibson LP Guitar onto my 8 track TASCAM for my latest song, nothing has changed there really, call me old fashioned. I still have my music on loads of web sites and while I’ve sold some songs, I haven’t scored a number one hit yet.

I bought the new Internet TV Aggregation Server last year and replaced my MySky. Now that I have cable for internet as well as TV, I can cherry pick and watch exactly what I want when I want and am no longer subject to the whims of SKy TV. Yes, I still subscribe to Sky Sports Channel because they have exclusive rights for many events that NZ teams compete in such as All Blacks Rugby and do support NZ sport better than anything else, especially the biased commentators, although I wuldn’t have a problem if Murray Mexted got some new material, but the rest is pretty much free. I don’t have to watch ads although many programs have very overt displays of product i the story.

I finally got an 80″ TV, the largest my wife would let me buy, and that wasn’t easy. Sometimes we have multple screens running so that we can watch different things at once and have adapted to that. We tried the VR glasses from the new Nintendo, but they are very antisocial. Awesome for 3D movies tough! Home entertainment is now awesome. No more channels full of reruns of programs we have already seen umpteen times, I never have to sit through another show of Friends again! Now I can see exactly what I want when I want, subject to agreement in the house of course and we all have to compromise sometimes,

Along with cable came free international calling to anywhere in the world for a modest flat fee, so I don’t use Skype much anymore. Finally a little music from iLike at the end of the day. I kept my CD’s and vinyl as souvenirs, but for a flat fee of $10 a month to our ISP, the house can access and download unlimited music from almost all record companies in MPEG 9 which is great quality at 960kbit/s.

Not a lot has changed in 5 years, but life is certtainly a little easier than it used to be.

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 https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)