Trends for Radio & Records To Watch

1. No sooner than Twitter takes the world by storm, Google (the Clear Channel of the Internet) tries to buy it.

The speculation is that Twitter's founders sell for about $250 million and move on. After all, the same group sold Blogger to Google five years ago.

Action Step: Outsource for creativity. Big companies are woefully insufficient in coming up with big ideas. Clear Channel and major record labels, this means you!

Google spent $1.6 billion to buy YouTube -- a venture it could have never dreamed up on its own.

Only a couple of kids working in a garage could have been so unafraid of lawsuits and attorneys that they invented a video service that in effect rips off content providers' rights. Of course, that's not YouTube's only function. It has become the go-to place for all of us -- including me -- to post our mugs in action.

Google didn't invent Blogger, the service upon which this site resides and the biggest blogging platform in cyberspace -- but they own it now.

So, at least Google knows it has to outsource creativity and if it walks away with Twitter for only $250 million -- call it a bargain.

Yet, Google doesn't have a great record for developing the assets it buys.

Action Step: Don't buy the asset without the talent.

Warren Buffett knows this but, hey -- why listen to a gazillionaire from Omaha. We're so much more impressed with the blue suede shoe operators in radio. That is the wrong direction.

2. Voice mail is on its way out.

It's too slow -- too burdensome -- so non-gratifying. A recent article in The New York Times focused on a new generation out of love with their predecessors indispensable tool. Listen:

"By contrast, 91 percent of people under 30 respond to text messages within an hour, and they are four times more likely to respond to texts than to voice messages within minutes, according to a 2008 study for Sprint conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation. Even adults 30 and older are twice as likely to respond within minutes to a text than to a voice message, the study found".

There are phone tagging companies that convert voice messages into text -- and that, of course, cooperates with the inevitability that text messaging is the new standard for everything. Again, I refer you to the next young person you know, married, gave birth to or bumped into in a car accident -- they are texting!

Even visual voice mail -- the kind that Apple and Blackberry offer -- may not be enough to save it.

Action Step: If you talk for a living, you'd better get to it and for God's sake, keep it brief. This next generation isn't waiting for promos, hype, priming-the-pump or small talk. Disregard this at your own risk.

3. Consumers will pay for iPhone apps (and reasonable facsimiles) but they increasingly will not pay for music.

What's up with that?

Well, don't ask a record exec -- they don't know and don't care. All they want to do is find a way to sell CDs to a market that doesn't want them. Or, at least sell consumers everything they ever recorded for a monthly fee.

If you think beyond the enabling technology for a moment, you can begin to focus on the more important social engineering that drives this trend.

On the surface, it looks as if consumers will pay for reasonably priced applications that they want to own for their mobile devices. But I contend what they really want and what feeds the Apple apps phenomenon is that consumers crave a sense of discovery. (Notice I chose the word crave not want or need).

For any of you who have Blackberry Storm or iPhone app capability, tell me you don't love to go searching for new apps.

I bought and sold and re-bought and resold some Apple stock in my USC pension fund recently and I used a real-time iPhone app I found at called "iOwn APPL". I don't think I'm smart enough to time the buy-sell cycle, but now that I sold it, I miss the fun of checking the price all day long on my iPhone.

Back to the record industry.

A computer company (Apple) is always going to out innovate you as long as you're stuck on the CD. Strategize on something the consumer wants -- and will become addicted to -- and you've got a growth business.

No, not 45's -- that was a growth business decades ago.

4. Playlists are out -- discovery is in.

Listeners have been complaining about radio repetition for the last few decades. Researchers have warned their radio clients. But people like me (until five years ago) -- and possibly you -- figured playing the hits still works for everyone.

And, it does -- except with the next generation.

They found all the music they could ever want on the Internet. They've been raised on lots of variety. No need to hear radio's short playlists over and over as previous generations were forced to do.

Action Step: Hitchhike on the need for music discovery that is the ticket to wealth with the next generation.

There is more and more evidence that during the recession consumers are turning to free sites like Pandora for their music. Of course, Pandora is addictive and compelling. You live for the next suggested song.

Terrestrial radio stations can heed this trend if they want to be innovative.

• How about all weekend, no repeats -- plus local artists with or without record label contracts. Call it Discovery Weekend and we'll call it your idea. Let's just do it.

• Okay, how about at least from 9pm to midnight Sunday nights -- all new, all the time. And please, no sweepers, over produced introductions or other things that music lovers hate about radio.

• How about making your own albums -- "three, four, five or six songs" put together by radio station people and done in a very eclectic fashion and then play them on-air. Make them perishable. You can't buy them anywhere. You'll never hear them again in this mix. The radio station as the "album" producer. Now, that's got lots of possibilities.

So, there are a few trends for you to noodle around.

Or, you could forget these trends -- kidnap your best talent -- lock them in a room with you and some pizzas and have at it. (That picture up top shows you what it takes to get an Italian to brainstorm).

The radio and record business is second to no one when their people get in an innovative mood.

How about it?

Do one thing different in the next week. See what happens. And let me know how it works one way or the other.

Don't worry about hitting a home run.

Don't worry about striking out.

Innovation is how we can get our groove back.

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