The FM-Free iPhone

The NAB Board meeting in Washington this week has FM on cellphones as a big agenda item.

Too bad the NAB and most radio CEOs do not understand Apple CEO Steve Jobs' thinking in continuing to exclude FM radio from the increasingly popular iPhone.

Radio people think that if you build it, they will listen.

As I frequently point out, you have to take a closer look at the next generation and why they will reject radio -- even on an iPhone.

The radio industry fails to grasp that this new generation does not listen to its entertainment the way older folks did. You may see a young person with an iPod glued to his or her person but they are not listening to continuous programming.

In fact, they are the "program director" of their own devices and start, stop, advance or skip content as they please -- when they please.

In the past few years young university students have been telling me that increasingly they don't even allow all their iPod songs to play to completion. And, they say, their younger brothers and sisters are worse. In other words, they're not even listening to their favorite tunes all the way through.

Of course there are technological issues that keep Apple from readily including FM on iPhones not the least of which is the fact that U.S. FM is not compatible in parts of Asia and Europe where different standards exist.

But there is a bigger issue and radio broadcasters bridle at this obstacle.

People -- especially young people -- do not want to listen to continuous programming on their cellphones. That's not how they grew up with their phones. Not how they use them now. And there is nothing about radio content that makes them want to alter these habits.

There are other sociological issues such as the ever decreasing attention spans of the next generation. There are plenty of reasons to leave FM off the iPhone.

If I am right -- and I could be misreading it -- radio as we know it has seen its better day. While a minority of listeners might want to use their Blackberries or other smart phones as radio receivers, it is in fact -- a minority.

Of course, radio's "leaders" -- and I use this term very loosely -- continue to moan about being excluded from the coolness of Apple products. They are fighting a losing battle in more ways than one.

Remember when the HD advocates ballyhooed the HD docking capability to use iTunes for music purchases. Hold that image. No one else can picture it -- especially the marketplace. Tagging got tagged out at home plate.

What radio doesn't get -- and apparently isn't in the mood to see -- is that you can't cram a radio into a smart phone and expect an entire generation to use it like a Walkman.

So, what does it all mean if radio as we know it cannot get access to the growing product line of Apple portable devices?

It means its leaders must invent radio as we don't know it.

A morning show delivered in podcast form for download to mobile devices.

Or ten morning shows.

Just 45 minutes in length.

And, the morning show is not the one you air on your terrestrial signal -- it's far different, far cooler. But make no mistake about it -- the business I envision was made for the skills of radio programmers, talent and marketers.

I am going to touch on this and other strategies as to how radio can reach young people when I "teach" a session at the Conclave. I've also accepted an invitation to speak at the R&R in Austin this September to address in a more thorough fashion on this dilemma. I hope to see many of you there.

One more thing.

Unfortunately, radio's "leaders" are burying their heads in the sand.

They want to return to yesterday so much that they refuse to look up and see the future for an industry with all the skills to dominate mobile content.

It's just that mobile content for radio is not ever going to be continuous live stations -- not now, not ever.

Apple knows it.

The sooner radio does, the future will be accessible on a mobile device.

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