Clear Channel: iPhone "Not a Competitive Threat"

I never considered the trade publication Inside Radio a choking hazard -- until yesterday morning.

That's when Inside Radio's very capable editor Frank Saxe reported a story about Clear Channel Executive Vice President Jeff Littlejohn who he quotes as saying that "the radio industry shouldn't worry about the high-profile launch of the iPhone" adding "it's not a competitive threat".

Well, I'm certainly not going to shoot the messenger.

Coffee and Inside Radio in the morning usually go down just fine with me. But it's misleading statements like Littlejohn's that take my breath away. At first I thought of a conspiracy theory -- maybe Clear Channel is trying to kill me by choking on my beloved morning Inside Radio. They now own it, after all. What a weapon!


I'm not going to take this personally and I hope you won't either because the largest owner of radio stations in the biggest markets with the most money and the most power is misleading the radio industry through statements like these that scream "nothing is a threat unless we say it is".

I hate to take you back to the college campus again, but...

Some of my readers really get irked when I put so much faith in the whims and needs of the next generation. Still, forgive me for doing this but Clear Channel needs to hear this.

Turnabout is fair play so maybe when they read this post today they will choke on my words.

It's over.

You're finished.

There's a reason Steve Jobs didn't put a radio in the iPhone. Radio is to the next generation -- what a typewriter is to all of us today. Or a console Philco radio. It's so yesterday.

And for those of you who think -- no problem -- we'll someday offer up our terrestrial streams for mobile use, check with the next generation first.

The entire concept of 24-hour radio is over with the next generation, too.

Look, baby boomers and Generation Xers will still listen, but if you were raised on the Internet, live every minute with your cell phone (hint, hint) and conduct your relationships online, you have little need for 24 hour broadcasting. Hell, Clear Channel backed out of its subscription radio experiment with Sprint earlier this year. Maybe the next generation knows what it wants when media moguls don't.

And let's pause here to do the usual disclaimer. I know. Students are not typical of every young person and my students are all rich, beautiful and handsome -- okay, I'm getting carried away here. But still, this is not brain surgery. Radio is not in their lives the way it was in ours. If it was, Steve Jobs would have made iPhone or at least iPod radio capable.

Inside Radio reported that Clear Channel is now focusing on advanced text messaging as non-traditional revenue. Nice that they are looking somewhere other than the terrestrial signal. Bad that they think text messaging is a sub-business.

How can I say this delicately?

Not only is iPhone a competitive threat to radio. It is the killer app. We've reached the tipping point.

No doubt this first iPhone will be seen as primitive in years to come, but today it represents a form of new age consolidation in its own right -- consolidating an iPod music player, with a mini-computer, the Internet, photos, calendars and even a telephone.

I love radio. Loved it then and really respect a lot of people who are toiling away in it now while their bosses are showing the world their ignorance. But I don't like when the honchos who run radio bury their heads in the sand. Clear Channel determining that the iPhone is not a competitive threat is ill-informed, misleading and dangerous to an industry that so desperately needs to find its future.

There is a future for radio people, but it's not on terrestrial radio. It's in the content business with the delivery system that the marketplace chooses. That delivery system is not likely to be a radio. And you can see how ridiculous an HD radio looks right now as well.

Partisan statements by companies like Clear Channel are designed to make everyone who shares this view be seen as disloyal to our beloved radio industry. I feel like a Democrat who opposes the war in Iraq.

Radio consolidators are getting to the point where they feel that a final surge is going to save it from the weapons of "mass distraction" that threaten it -- iPods, iPhones, cell phones, the Internet. And if you oppose radio's surge, you're disloyal.

I say it's the exact opposite. Speak up and wake up if you love the radio industry. You do it no service by minimizing the competitive effect of the iPhone.

If you live in a fantasy world and continue to deny the reality of a new generation with their Internet-mobile devices, you are being disloyal to a proud industry.

What else do you expect from the world's biggest radio consolidator which has been wrong about the future of radio since 1996.

Clear Channel has been wrong about the benefits of radio consolidation.

Wrong about the viability of virtual voice tracking.

Wrong about "Less is More".

Wrong about the need for electronic ratings (until just last week).

Wrong about the value of its stock price.

With leaders like this, how can you expect to move an entire industry from the golden age of radio to the promise of the mobile Internet?

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