The Apple Tablet’s Effect on Radio

Today, Steve Jobs will finally tell us what the much anticipated Apple tablet is all about.

A lesson for the advertising community: appreciate the value of silence.

Steve Jobs has gotten millions of dollars worth of free publicity from a product that consumers have imagined. Apple has had help from the media but not since the introduction of the iPhone have consumers been so spellbound.

I have seen some estimate that Jobs has already garnered $40 million worth of free publicity.


Of course the radio industry should be taking this product introduction very seriously because what Apple does from now on will absolutely either drive a nail through terrestrial radio or give it new life after an extensive reinvention.

One of my readers and attendees at my Media Solutions Lab sent me a great piece from Popular Mechanics about “Six Industries Apple's Tablet Could Shake Up”

They are: comic books, magazine publishing, newspaper publishing, mobile gaming, netbooks and PC parts. The article is excellent and I’ll let you see for yourself their take on the next Apple device.

But I want to focus on radio and music.

If the new tablet is anywhere near what intelligence reports (and speculation) has hinted, this mobile handheld device will feature a colorful screen, a virtual keyboard and the mobile Internet. I’m also expecting Jobs to have a few manufacturing marvels for us and I say this with little fear because this product is his baby.

Fortunately, the day after the Jobs announcement, my Media Solutions Lab will convene in Scottsdale and we’ll have an opportunity to put the technology into a business as well as a sociological perspective.

The effect of the tablet will in the long rang be devastating to terrestrial radio as it has evolved today.

Nevermind that any mobile Internet device can pick up streaming media. That will not be enough. Heck, only 3% of all terrestrial radio listening comes from the online stream now thanks to laptops and desktop computers and smart phones. Could that number double or triple?

It just doesn’t matter because the mobile device that made radio what it is was a portable or car radio. Now, everything changes.

Time for innovation in the radio and music businesses.

Consumers get to read, hear and see video on-demand using these new devices so there are lots of new choices and the tablet will likely have a nice sized color screen.

I feel badly for the gaming industry because like radio it was once flying high and unlike radio its prosperity did not last many, many decades. The gaming industry is toast once Apple gets these tablets into consumers’ hands.

Newspapers should be counting the seconds until this device comes along because they have a second bite at the apple (small “a”) so to speak.

But, newspaper publishers can’t take crowded websites with inferior reporting and push them to consumer tablets. They’ve got to come up something worth paying for because I believe the tablet, utilizing the iTunes store, will make it possible for publishers to charge micropayments.

That’s why I say it is worth the effort to not only study the device but how consumers enjoy that device.

The TV industry is already in real trouble without the tablet.

While consumers like to watch video entertainment, the networks must compete with so many non-traditional sources that TV time is reduced almost as much as attention spans. TV networks and a whole new category of content producers could make what I call “Hulu television” – shorter programs, designed for mobile and with a new form of monetization.

Again, Jobs is likely to offer existing cable channels such as ESPN for a monthly subscription fee and because the tablet will be so cool and consumers trust Apple to be the aggregator of such content, the monthly fee concept will likely work where it has failed before.

The music industry shoots itself in the foot every year. Jobs is going to help them out (and help himself first and foremost). He will offer LaLa-type streaming music that consumers can also add on to their monthly bills. If the Apple platform gets big enough, it could generate nice profits for labels, artists, publishers and Apple.

The missing link to the Internet revolution has been the mobile Internet. Don’t get me wrong. It was always there. Now it will be cool, intuitive, interactive and portable.

Apple is going to do for the mobile Internet what it did for mobile devices (iPods) and phones (iPhone) – putting cool devices into the hands of consumers.

That brings me to radio.

Radio could do the same thing, but ...

The geniuses running radio into the ground these days have pissed away almost all of their original content. You see, these guys think it's cheaper to be everyone’s iPod. And the People Meter has turned out to be the radio industry’s bitch – that is, their excuse for dumping air talent in favor of constant cheap music programming.

In other words, critical mistakes were made to dilute local radio -- news, talk, music – and do repeater radio. So now that there is a device that consumers will likely buy (estimates are between 1-10 million the first year for the tablet), the elements radio listeners would like to have accessed on this thing are gone.

Let me be clear – I am not saying a traditional morning show will work five years from now on an Apple tablet, but traditional morning talent using new formatics, social networking, the connectivity of the mobile platform and new means of monetization will work and succeed if new entrepreneurs want to come along and get into that space.

Radio has shut itself out.

For everyone else, there’s my Media Solutions Lab tomorrow morning.

Radio may be deader than a doornail on the burgeoning mobile Internet but radio talent is alive and kicking. Mobile Internet is the future. The mobile Internet is radio people’s next career.

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