iPad Radio

The new Apple iPad is a product almost everybody seems to want but they don't always exactly know how they are going to use it.

Friday’s Wall Street Journal did a splash by Walter Mossberg wondering whether the iPad was a bird, a plane or Superman (more here). That is, is it a replacement for a laptop or something entirely different?

Stop for a minute and think.

Imagine what Steve Jobs has done this time by creating an entirely new product category and people started lining up Saturday to buy it first and ask questions later.

I was among them.

I returned some of the money my Apple stock has made me over the past year to Jobs.

In other words, iPaid.

Two 3G iPads put on order that I will probably receive by the end of the month. Then, I will run down to the Apple store and take a little spin around the device. I can hardly wait for a product that has been much anticipated for years. I’ve been writing about it because I saw unique opportunities coming for traditional media industries such as music, radio, television and publishing.

Opportunities to merge together and become one.

Chances to go directly to the consumer and bypass Clear Channel or Universal Music or Gannett.

Many of my readers have asked me to review the iPad, but I’d like to review its potential to the traditional and new media business instead.

Rule #1: Start with Apple creating the dream -- something you know you have to have but don’t know why.

My guess is we still won’t know what an iPad is 30 days after we own it. One teenage boy, his braces beaming from one side of his mouth to the other, stood next to me at an iPad firmly bolted to the table. He was selling it to the young salesperson. He wanted his iPad so badly.

In radio, TV and music, we’ve forgotten how to create magic.

Start with that.

There has been little new in radio in over 20 years.

What was the next big radical format after all-news?

Why are almost all talk shows the same and aimed at the same age group?

Why do music stations sound absolutely the same as they did two or more decades ago -- minus the personalities?

Why are we still playing the same tight playlists in a world where listeners can click and find new music online at will and then share it for free with others?

The iPad presents new opportunities, but I’m predicting here and now that most traditional media companies will make the same mistake they always make.

Rule #2: Don’t cram the same old thing into an entirely different medium.

Putting The New York Times on iPad’s impressive screen is, well -- just making the iPad a mini-Internet device. Without a new look, new voice, new pictures, new video and new way for readers to talk to each other, a newspaper is still an imitation of its printed edition.

Not good enough.

Rule #3: Study the user not your own business.

Radio execs (at least the ones not trying to turn bankruptcy into a profit center) are used to doing radio the way they like it, not the way a changing audience might want it.

There is absolutely no innovation going on in the radio industry today, I am sorry to say.

The sociology of the listener would tell radio companies what they are doing wrong and that would be a long list.

Listeners want music discovery.

Information on-demand not broadcast 24/7.

Pictures, video and connectivity at a glance.

They want all of this on their phones or mobile devices. And no, they don’t even listen to their beloved Pandora the way previous generations listened to the Walkman.

In other words, ten years into the Internet revolution and radio companies still want to do radio their way instead of adapting. Still married to the idea that what they do must go through a transmitter and then a tower to a radio.

About the only concession they are willing to make is to put this product onto an alien device like a cell phone, iPod or now iPad. They think HD radio is still viable. Really! HD was a dud from the beginning.

It’s not that consumers don’t want the content radio stations could give them. They just don’t want it the way operators insist on doing it.

Talk radio is dead with anyone under 50. Maybe even under 60. But the concept reinvented could work on a mobile device or iPad. And if you make it polarizing, Gen Y is likely not going to tune in. Make it civic-minded and environmentally charged, then you're appealing to a new generation.

News radio could be a better source for news and information than newspapers in the iPad world because I’m saying news in the digital space must now have as a requirement video, audio and social networking way beyond links to Twitter and Facebook.

Tell that to all-news stations who spend 95% of their budgets on traditional radio while their franchise is being eroded among the young.

Music stations that think they can get listeners to listen on a telephone or iPad have another thing coming. The iPad audience that could be 20 million strong in two years wants content providers to play in their playground not the old school.

If radio and record execs continue to ignore the methodical study of a changing consumer base, whatever they come up with will not be part of the coming mobile Internet revolution.

Apple’s iPad will not revolutionize the book industry or the music business or the movies or television.

No, it will revolutionize the consumer.

Apple wrote the book on programming to the consumer. Radio, TV and newspapers have long lost that skill.

Apple studies, learns and designs products and services (don’t forget the iTunes store) for the youth market and what do you think promptly happens?

The older consumer begins to adopt the products of the young early adopters. Not the other way around.

Newspapers will fall flat on their printing presses if they don’t revolutionize the newspaper reader -- iPad or not.

Same for book publishers if they think reading the same print on an electronic device will be a boom to them. It won’t -- unless they add lots of inter-connectivity.

And radio?

When Lew Dickey, John Hogan and Fagreed Suleman run the biggest and baddest radio groups, are you expecting new content or old ideas?

Well, they’re all firing talent (on-air, off-air, sales, management). That’s not wise.

Radio on an iPad will be another dud.

Unless ...

Unless some radio group leads the way and properly funds and executes inventing an entirely new business that no longer relies on towers and transmitters.

Fail to do that and radio won’t become a growth industry ever again. I think the analysts and financial gurus are telling us that now with their unremarkable revenue projections.

Stuff radio formats into new media devices and you’ll get some new media money but -- still -- no growth industry is possible.

Think like Apple -- differently -- and build content, products and services in entertainment and information for their world and their devices -- totally new approaches that don’t look or sound like traditional radio -- and you’ve got it.

But when radio consolidators are left to their devices, the future is a commodity and the only thing that is creative is how to get more for less.

The iPad will revolutionize the next generation.

Not the media business.

Better look in the right place.

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