My Virtual NAB Convention

It was only last week when the NAB Radio Convention was happening in Charlotte. Since then I have heard from a lot of people who were not too happy about the state of the radio industry.

In fact, if you read the trade accounts of the radio show, you might agree with me that the NAB was held the in the state of denial.

Nothing earth shattering.

No future blueprint.

Pretty depressing -- unless, of course, you are one of those radio people who think we've got everything under control. You know the type -- obsessed with an industry that isn't really a competitor (satellite). Unimpressed with the gravity of losing the next generation. And all too willing to rely on traditional thinking when unconventional ideas are needed right away.

So, with that in mind, I thought I would hold my own Virtual NAB Convention right here about the kinds of issues that were bandied about in Charlotte -- with the caveat that we're going to tell it like it is.

1. Avoid Google AdSense -- it's radio on the cheap.

At the real NAB everyone should have listened to the warning of Saga CEO Ed Christian who said, "My goal in life is not being president of a dollar store". (By the way, quotes for the My Virtual NAB Convention courtesy of Inside Radio). In Charlotte, Google's Jim Woods said they were growing hundreds of new clients for the 1,800 stations -- most of them Clear Channel's, which Inside Radio speculated is donating 3% of its inventory to AdNonsense for the low, low price of $100-200 million a year.

I'd invite Greater Media's Peter Smyth to reiterate what he said in Charlotte: "it means we didn't maximize the inventory" if there is something left for Google to sell. At My Virtual NAB Convention I'd accuse broadcasters of not developing the sales teams they need to sell radio and someone would get up and accuse me of hating Clear Channel.

So, let's look in on another virtual radio session in the next room...

2. HD is DOA -- unplug it and start investing in content.

What is it with the radio industry? We all need to go to rehab at Promises in Mailbu. We're addicted to HD radio -- whatever that is. You remember HD radio. Yesterday's technology today. The sound that doesn't make a damn bit of difference to your listeners.

I'd get up and congratulate Citadel for unplugging its AM stations which have had "disappointing" results since switching to HD. And even with that Citadel wants to fix the problems -- lots of luck -- and turn HD on again. AM listeners are complaining to Citadel and others. There has been a loss of coverage. Could it be that listeners actually like skywave because they want to hear content from far away places?

Radio has had 20 years to work out the bugs and HD still doesn't work. Your engineers warned you! I'd invite iBiquity to speak at My Virtual NAB Convention and have them name ten plausible, realistic ways HD is going to attract radio listeners from the next generation. Okay, how about one?

I can't take any more of this HD discussion. I'm going to walk down the virtual hallway and stick my head in on whatever gratuitous session is being held on Internet issues. But at My Virtual NAB Convention, I'd try and wake a few people up...

3. The Mobile Internet Is Your Future -- Your Only Future

I'd invite Westwood One's Gary Krantz who told the actual Charlotte convention "Radio is the ultimate social networking device" (It isn't). And Entercom's Sandy Smallens who said, "Streaming is the most important thing terrestrial radio does" (NOT!).

Then I'd invite some of my students from the next generation and have a smackdown. Okay, maybe not a smackdown, but a come to Jesus understanding that while terrestrial radio continues to focus on its old business, new income possibilities are getting further out of their reach.

Hell, give me the money Citadel spent to buy ABC's stations and I'll set up a network of mobile Internet broadcasting services that will rival any terrestrial radio station. And I'd use radio people to do it -- they are the best qualified. Just try getting that kind of financial commitment from a terrestrial broadcaster.

Hey, there's Dan Mason's virtual session, let's stick our head in...

4. Program to the available audience -- radio's only workable strategy.

Who wouldn't like to hear a real programmer, CBS Radio President Dan Mason, tell us what we ought to know. Gen X and baby boomers are the only two generations to which radio can hope to program. Let's listen to all the stories about successfully reconstituting WCBS-FM in New York and wonder how so many of us -- including former president Joel Hollander -- could be so off base that we forget that programming to the next generation doesn't work unless you can do it on an iPod.

Oh, here's a job seminar -- about time. Let's walk in...

5. Google is a growth business -- radio is not.

Google invests in its business. Radio cuts back.

Google share prices go up. Radio share prices go down.

Google is the mega media predator that clearly sees the future. Radio is the constipated -- I mean, consolidated industry that clearly sees the past.

Google sees mobile. Radio sees HD.

Google sees social networking. Radio thinks its whole existence is based on social networking.

Google is targeted advertising. Radio is broadcasting to the masses.

Google knows it can sell radio ads by making them a commodity. Radio apparently doesn't know that if it gives up its so-called unsold inventory, radio becomes another Google commodity.

Hey, they're hiring. Let's apply. Google is smart enough to know radio people are the best source for producing programming content in real time.

I can hardly find a seat in the virtual Arbitron People Meter session. Let's see why. Why, it's Bob Neil taking them apart limb by limb...

6. Repeat after me -- "it's 2007, electronic trumps paper".

My God, even if the Portable People Meter (PPM) isn't all that, it sure as hell isn't an antiquated paper diary system. In my virtual world (as in the real world), I can hear Cox's Bob Neil getting up and artfully sticking it to the Arbitron brass. PPM is flawed. You'd better get it right or I'll come after you.

I know Arbitron isn't Santa Claus but advertisers want PPM. Let's all act like radio is heading into the future together. Hold your noses if you must and get behind the PPM. Work to develop it.

Hey, there's former NAB Chairman Eddie Fritts, the man who helped pass consolidation legislation -- hire him. Maybe he can take on another client besides CBS. You never know, maybe he can even get us out of consolidation now -- for the right fee...

7. The Fairness Doctrine is not an issue you need to worry about

Those windbag politicians are not going to make it impossible for them to be interviewed on Fox or CNN by requiring equal time to an opposing view. Move on to something more important like -- why is John Hogan not here?

It's been a long day at My Virtual NAB Convention. Let's see if we can find who is having free drinks. Yes, iBiquity. The only way HD radio can look good to me is after a few cold ones.

Well, My Virtual NAB Convention is over. It was probably worth what you paid for it. Unless, of course, you heed the advice and use your considerable skills to confront radio's problems instead of whine, whimper and deny them.

See you next year on Second Life. Now that's exactly what the radio industry needs.

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