Radio's iPad Wake-up Call

President Obama may not have attracted as much interest in his State of the Union speech as Steve Jobs did in his State of Innovation presentation yesterday.

Jobs delivered the new Apple tablet -- iPad -- with almost everything we expected and more.

And he's offering iPads for as low as $499 for the basic model starting in March with tweaked out models coming in April.

As you probably already know, the 9.7-inch LED screen delivers the web, videos, photos, 140,000 apps compatible with your other Apple devices and a book store. The new iPad may kill the Kindle which by comparison is black and white in more ways than one.

Calendars, a new iWork program that uses a pop up disappearing keyboard like the iPhone, textbooks, games in spectacular brilliance -- the perfect size for gaming.

Apple has deals with all the major book publishers and many newspapers. The question Steve Jobs did not answer was about the ability of publishers to run paid publications.

I'll answer it: it is absolutely on the way.

It plays your music library from the iTunes store and will allow you to access Pandora and local radio stations, but you'll have to use an app to do it.

Inside Radio put a happy face on the new Apple product that does not include a radio:

"'A great way to enjoy your entire music collection,' Apple CEO Steve Jobs says of their decision to integrate the company's existing music technology into the much-anticipated tablet computer unveiled today in San Francisco. 'It has a built-in iPod,' Jobs says. The iPad will run existing iPhone applications, such as Clear Channel's iheartradio".

That's it.

No HD radio, but then again no one wants an HD radio not even broadcasters.

No FM radio (yet). And if and when one is added, it will get the same lackluster results as the one on iPod Touch.

At my Media Solutions Lab today, we will be having at this powerful new device and the infrastructure that Apple brings with it. Because what iPad is is the opposite of radio.

It is content and applications on-demand.

And the birth of the iPad should be a loud wake-up call to the handful of CEOs who run the radio industry that more distance has been placed between the radio they want to do and the content that consumers seem to crave.

No one would ever invent 24/7 broadcasting today if it hadn't already been invented. When radio came on the scene, technology only allowed audio transmission on the AM band for consumer use. And consumers adapted by staying home and sitting around their radios to be entertained by audio.

When television came along, these same folks sat around a TV screen -- a little one with grainy lines and sketchy reception -- and watched. You can bet it was appointment viewing in the era that preceded video recorders and DVRs.

Radio adapted by changing its focus to music formats, news, talk and succeeded with a local focus.

But when the world changed two things happened.

The Internet came along and so did consolidators. And consolidators danced to the tunes of Wall Street while just about sitting the Internet revolution out (no major broadcast company spends even 3% of their operating budget on things digital).

Now the mobile Internet is here and will use the next decade to set a new standard of delivery and content.

On-demand has arrived.


Radio is not going to survive in the bubble consolidators are presently living in. Radio must be local. Not cut-down versions of its former self.

Radio people will survive and in fact, thrive as they migrate into new media. Because consolidators have been foolish enough to let their talent go, they are now free to move about the country pursing new media.

So now that the radio industry downplays the fact that the iPad, too, has passed them by, I'd like to suggest a few things radio owners (or radio people) can do to be part of this revolution:
  1. Conceive, produce and market podcasts using video, audio and text for the mass market. The localer the better (localer isn't a word, is it? It should be in radio). With the paid Internet on the way, charge $1.99 for a podcast or a set amount for a subscription. I am sure Apple will eventually be able to handle this seamlessly.
  2. Hybrid websites/streaming content that will be built for the iPad. If you're morning talent looking for a place to put your show, design it for the iPad and that website will be available online. Fans can access it and enjoy you on that 9.7-inch device as easily as they would have listened to you on the radio. But adjustments will have to be made. Digital content is not necessarily radio or video.
  3. Local businesses -- I like zip code specific content sites that have video, audio and text and that can be accessed on mobile phones and devices like the iPad. Anyone with meaningful content can eventually access the platform.
  4. Newspapers and periodicals -- the handheld tablet in living color will be home to the next evolution of print. But trying to push a newspaper into a website and then onto an iPad is a mistake. That, too, needs to be reinvented for the available technology and how consumers want to enjoy the periodicals of the future. Apple reinvented many programs it included on the iPad and content suppliers will have to do the same.
  5. Market e-books. Ricky Gervais has bestseller after bestseller on the Apple store and his e-books are routinely purchased by fans. Ricky's thing is comedy but the e-book concept just got brighter and better with the iPad. Gervais sells most of his e-books for $1.95 (a few for $3.95) and they fly off the digital shelf.
  6. On-demand radio. That is, the personalities and music authorities that radio has been dismissing can return to their fans in this new genre. While the radio industry thinks that people will want to hear radio online, what listeners really will want is to hear knowledgeable authorities and personalities presenting music.
Keep in mind that if you're thinking the car is still a place for audio, you may want to think again. The car is an entertainment center that costs $15,000 or more (and they throw in the tires). Consumers will be texting, watching, talking, viewing and listening in automobiles.

The bad news is that the radio industry has locked out its talent from the very things it could produce so well.

The good news is that payback is a bitch and radio people have just seen their new careers and their former employers as the endangered species.

Now, it's time to learn more about technology and the sociology of entertainment. Steve Jobs said Apple makes such compelling products because they understand a blend of technology and liberal arts.

Radio owners understand how to drive a good business down.

Radio people know how to entertain and inform and I'm telling you the future just got brighter today.

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