“Pre-Order of 600,000 Radios Suspended”

Could you imagine a headline like that?

But Tuesday, the most unpopular cellular carrier in the world and the most popular electronic device manufacturer in the world got so many pre-orders for the new iPhone 4 that it was forced to suspend sales.

That’s right – they were selling pre-orders and had to stop writing business.

True, they ticked off a lot of potential customers who tried to pre-order the phone with resulting computer crashes and site malfunctions but nonetheless, AT&T and Apple emerged with even more customers.

And those customers – the ones who couldn’t be the first on the block to get the new iPhone -- were promised a delivery date of after June 24th – sometime, anytime after – before they could receive their coveted iPhone.

Consumers are moved by innovation and good marketing. They will even put up with bad service and a faulty cell carrier.

How is this possible?

Back to my mythical headline “Pre-Order of 600,000 Radios Suspended”.

In the history of radio or television, were 600,000 sets ever sold in one day? I understand televisions cost much more than an iPhone but radios do not.

Even the recent history of HD radio – did they sell 600,000 HD radios in all?

Or satellite radio – without the car radio install – how many satellite radios would capture the imagination and wallets of entertainment consumers?

That’s how big the portable Internet is becoming because I’m sure you’ll agree these phones are not flying off the shelves because they only make phone calls on the AT&T network.

There is no reason for radio, television or the record industry to be discouraged – this is a time of great opportunity for them – and for publishers.

But the company that owns the delivery system will get to charge a toll.

It is no different than the Jersey Turnpike. Want to go from Mt. Laurel (exit 4) north to the George Washington Bridge (exit 18) – you’re going to pay the state to use the road.

Increasingly, Apple is the state.

You’re going to pay them to carry your content. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (this is an Apple shareholder speaking, by the way). It depends on the price of the toll.

True, Department of Justice investigations are being rumored for Apple’s alleged monopolistic practices but America seems to like monopolies. The less competition the better.

That’s how you got radio consolidation.

I see it all differently.

A new day ahead for traditional media – a new day built around someone elses delivery systems. No longer can radio expect automakers to provide the radio while they provide the terrestrial signal. Those days are gone as well.

If I’m a radio owner, I’m falling all over myself to hire talent and young people (the kind Apple is hiring) to build me content.

I’m going to build on whatever valuable terrestrial radio brands I now own.

Try to get into digital print with an eye toward the iPad.

Looking beyond Twitter and Facebook for real social networking that begins and ends with me at my radio-based content.

I’m adding video and text capability because I realize that in 2010 no one would develop just an aural medium. Yes, radio was desirable in the early 1920’s because TV had not arrived, the Internet was a gleam in Al Gore’s eyes and social networking hadn’t been born with Mark Zuckerberg.

No problem.

If radio could only get over its delivery baggage, it would be hard to stop.

If the radio industry wants to ever meet or exceed its industry output before the current recession, it is going to have to do so with new media content that it owns and controls.

Someday there will be another Apple.

Once there was a Sony and they made Walkman devices.

To adapt to the future, radio, print, television and record industry companies are going to have to live in the present not the past.

Picture this – as I often do.

A big room – a control center, if you will.

No walls.

Everyone interacts.

At the head of the room is the Chief Inspirer because the days of hiring geniuses to make content decisions is also over.

This Chief Inspirer looks to her left and sees someone managing the terrestrial signal.

To the right, someone else handles social networking.

Down the center a podcasting, then video center.

Way in the back of the room, digital publishing.

Somewhere in between, mobile content.

Marketing people work arm and arm with content types.

If this Chief Inspirer is working at 1010 WINS, she gets word that a plane has crashed at LaGuardia (God forbid).

The terrestrial manager then stands up and says, “we’re breaking in and going live”.

The social networking chief says, we’re live with two-way talk and eyewitness accounts.

A chief anchor initiates a podcast that is updated every half hour.

Video podcast is added within the first hour including footage from WCBS-TV and eyewitnesses.

The Chief Inspirer looks to the back of the room and shouts to the digital publishing people to file reports on all aspects of the tragedy including links and video.

And the marketing people?

They are selling sponsorships of all types using pre-determined rates as well as on-demand for the duration of the event.

All in one command center.

And that’s just one example of a story.

And one example of a radio format that could grow legs into the future. It also applies to music, talk, and specialty formats.

There are many more.

To get these results, you can’t let the audience change and the technology change without the content providers changing their skill sets as well.

On a day when we see 600,000 iPhone 4 units sold until they can’t sell another one – when demand is so great for the digital future – will someone in radio please stand up and acknowledge what the digital future will be without – content?

That’s radio’s business and the sooner we commit budgets, talent and new thinking to it, it will pay off for us the way it is paying off for the bumbling AT&T which by happenstance is in the cellular provider for all things Apple.

Well, radio can be the content provider for all things Apple.

Think Different.


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