Great Apple Apps for Radio

Yesterday I was talking about how important it will be for the radio industry to do more than port their terrestrial signals over to new media.

There are so many options beginning to open up and yet the radio industry continues to ignore them.

I understand that most radio CEOs have enough trouble just surviving until tomorrow because of all the debt they accumulated in good times.

They refused to look ahead to the future.

Refused to budget for the future.

At no point did any public group assign even as little as 5% of their annual operating budget to new media. No wonder as traditional terrestrial broadcasting falls from popularity, the radio industry fails to embrace the future.

One very critical strategy will be to wind up on Apple’s iTunes network – in the applications store (app store). And before this piece is over I will leave you some great Apple app ideas to get the creative juices flowing. Believe me, Apple apps were made for radio people even if radio CEOs don’t get it.

But first, some context.

Just as we all need to bone up on generational media, let’s take a look at some recent information you may find useful about the growing world of Apple apps.

Keep in mind, as I’ve said before, consumers are proving they will pay for these applications. Many take them free but a huge market commonly pays 99 cents or as much as $9.99.

Selling the icon is not the business. Building your brand, aggregating a meaningful audience and ancillary ways to monetize your app business is.

Here’s the down low on Apple iPhone apps:

• Weather-related apps are the most popular. Remember when radio listeners used to (and still do) turn to us for weather? Now, they can turn to us on their smart phones. The online market research firm Complete says 39% of iPhone users say weather is the most frequently frequented application.

• Next most popular is Facebook where 25% of all users say they accessed the social network the most (there’s no getting around that monster).

• Game apps ranked third (20%) although I suspect many people would have expected game apps to rank first.

• No other category scores more than 2% and that includes radio listening applications. I don't know about you but I have all the radio apps and I don't listen to them on my phone.

• A recent Pinch Media study revealed that only about 20% of iPhone users ever use the app after downloading it. That number drops drastically after a month. And I’m speaking about free apps here. Paid apps are even worse for some reason.

• Interestingly enough, the type of iPhone apps that get the most downloads are not always the ones that are used most often – according to the Complete study.

• When you take into account all smart phone users and not just Apple apps, according to the study, games was the top category (37%), music (28%) and entertainment (26%). This could be because the simpler and less expensive smart phones may be owned by younger consumers. Nevertheless, weather was still a big attraction and ranked fourth at 24%.

• There is a sociological change developing whereby consumers are relying more and more on their own judgment to find apps and less on what other folks think. For whatever it means this is contrary to the way music is passed around through social networks and file sharing. Nonetheless, it appears to be significant. (I know I love to find apps and ask others if they know about them. I tried this the other day with my friend Bruce St. James, the outstanding KKFR program director in Phoenix, when I told him I am obsessed with Flight Plan – the app that lets your finger do the landing of planes at LAX. Bruce said he already had it and played it 50 times a day. Damn!).

• If consumers are discovering their own apps, this is a great opportunity for niche products that radio content providers could offer. No gatekeeper here in the world of Apple apps.

• An amazing 93% of all iPhone users have downloaded at least one app. That’s staggering and while other smart phone devices and even Blackberry users download fewer apps, the market is significant. (CD sales are down, music downloads are not making record labels rich -- just as a comparison).

So there’s a market there.

A movement for the music-related media business.

You hardly ever see a young person walking around with a radio playing. In fact, you hardly ever see an older person listening to radio except in the car. And that’s where RAB CEO Jeff Haley comes up with his 234 million Radar radio listeners.

If it weren’t for cars…

But, what happens in cars is no longer staying in cars.

Autos don’t just have radios. They now have entertainment systems that include but are not limited to satellite radio capability, hard drives for dumping music, iPhone and iPod capability and increasingly WiFi capability.

So if you’re with me so far, radio should be brainstorming ways to get on these apps.

Here are a few idea starters:
Talk Radio

The average age of a talk radio listener is in their early 60's (Fox News Channel, late 60's). The talk radio that has worked best over the past few decades leans right. Rush Limbaugh's substantial audience is large and getting older. Applying my rule of thumb, offer the best product you can on the right, left or down the middle but talk radio's future will not be on a radio.

In fact, it may be very different than what talk radio is today.

If I own a talk station, I'm going to put up a talk app -- but I'm not going to even mention the terrestrial radio station I own and operate.

I'm going to develop an app that allows people who, for example, care about top issues to click in and see videos, discussions and interact with a new talk leader (not on my terrestrial air).

Replays, video, information, links are all available. I monetize through limited advertising but I make my big money from using ancillary forms of revenue tied in to the numbers I am going to accrue from this venture.

All News & Sports

If you're KNX or KYW and have a long time news brand, then move away from the idea of carrying the stream on the iPhone. Instead, I'd be working on a "911 All News" icon that only works when there is an earthquake, big news story, wildfire, national or local crisis, weather emergency, etc.

Or, “Buffalo News” or whatever communicates local and immediate (remember, we used to do that in radio?).

I'd be at work on another app icon for "Live & Local" (or you name it) that links me to every city in my local listening area.

So, if I want the news for just Scottsdale or Hoboken or say, Cherry Hill, NJ on my phone -- I go to "Live & Local" (see, no mention of a radio brand) and I click on it. I get the latest news for that city, videos if available and local social networking links that I'm going to build – all right there on the one device I cannot live without -- my iPhone.

"Hi School Reunion" -- a local (see, I'm local again) rundown in my listening area of high school reunions up and coming plus links for students of these schools to go for free access to each other. We'll monetize in ancillary ways but who wouldn't be hooked on this? Can also do colleges. Again, do not mention the terrestrial station. You may be the owner of the app and the most qualified to supply the content, but brand extension with radio is a no-no on a smart phone.

Don't forget in-venue apps -- when I am watching the Flyers play the Pens in the first round of the NHL playoffs and I'm sitting there at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, don't make me bring a radio to the rink. (Hardly anyone does).

Give me an app so I can know if my favorite player who was taken off the ice injured is alright and will be back. Tell me the best of the broadcast that is going on while I'm watching the game at the arena or for that matter in front of DirecTV. Own this franchise.

By the way, you may have to get used to the idea of offering an app for a specific period of time and then shutting it down. Say, the playoffs or an earthquake. Barack Obama had an Apple app that raised a lot of money and then turned if off after the election.

Music Discovery

An app for the ten just-released songs to watch by genre.

If I'm doing it and I run a hip-hop station, I'll get the talent to find ten songs every day that are new and worth hearing across all genres. No one will ever hear a promo for my terrestrial station -- see what self control that takes? Instead, this app is the station.

Monetized by?

You guessed it – ancillary forms of income.

One of my favorites is an app for the local music scene -- artists that have their roots in your market and may or may not have been discovered. I don't care if you are an adult contemporary station -- do this by genre and it shouldn't have anything to do with what you do on the air.


Because there is no meaningful relationship between radio programming 24/7 and your ability to provide mobile content. The only connection is -- you have the talent already in the house to do it better than most.

There are so many music discovery possibilities -- you can only imagine.

Fun & Games

An app for civil war buffs in your area who like to reenact famous battles.

Victorian bed and breakfasts.

Car apps by brand -- Miata mavens could listen to my former Inside Radio associate Steve Butler (now at KYW, Philadelphia) a real Miata man. Think of the types of apps you could do. Harleys! I smell money.

High school sports -- with video, audio, play by play if it exists with local school announcers. You need to own this area.

An app for Christmas -- "Desert Christmas" for Arizona or "Macy's Christmas" in New York and sell the whole thing to them for six figures or more.
I haven't even gotten to podcasts yet.

Not just recycled former radio personalities but people who still have a connection with an audience. Podcasting is fast becoming a wasteland for radio cast offs. But radio people must redefine their entertainment DNA and build a new act for podcasting (another topic for another day).

Nor did I get to the video potential that you'll have to tap to be involved in the digital future. Video and audio go together.

It’s no longer just radio for audio.

TV for visual.

Print for text.

To be clear, I'm saying make your on-air broadcasting the best you can and stop with the cutbacks and compromises. You're killing it off faster than it needs to die.

But radio's days on a terrestrial signal alone are numbered.

Research shows listening to Internet stations has increased – a new American Media Service survey shows 27% of all radio listeners listened to Internet-only radio on an Internet site. This includes 47% 18-24 and 34% under 50.

The survey also says 75% are listening to the same or more radio than they did five years ago.

And that’s a distinction I’d like to make – listening but not necessarily hearing.

If you're comfortable with statistics like these and other contemporary research findings, ignore the previous information and proceed with radio as usual.

If you read this as I do that Internet radio could become a potent competitor of terrestrial radio in a place where listeners have migrated -- some research shows the average American spends ten hours a day in front of some kind of screen -- then take it as a challenge.

It's not all black or all white.

Radio's not all good and new media all bad (or vice versa).

We're at the dawn of a new revolution -- one that radio CEOs don't understand and that favors the music industry should it want to participate.

This is exciting and potentially very profitable -- and the best qualified content providers are the ones who are running radio stations that in many cases are holding on to only the past and running the risk of missing another media revolution.

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