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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

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Follow Yogi Berra's Advice in New Year

Nobody has to spell out the differences between generations. "The World's Greatest," "Baby Boomers," "X," "Y," "Millennial," and whatever else falls into this all hold something special. Each generation's own way of embracing new media is just one differentiator.

"You can observe a lot by just watching" is one of several profound phrases attributed to Yogi Berra. It's applicable to the above, to what follows, and really everything in life.
"It's December, a time when you'll start reading about recaps of radio in 2014 and the forecasts for 2015. Most is forgotten as quickly as it hits print."

Maybe it's time that we try following a few more Berra Babbles. Life has changed just enough to warrant reassessment of our approach to business, and what Yogi had to say makes a lot of sense.

It's December, a time when you'll start reading about recaps of radio in 2014 and the forecasts for 2015. Most is forgotten as quickly as it hits print.

Since I started writing in 1997 about ways the internet affects the radio industry, I've noticed radio's bravado of what's ahead has always been far from reality. Examples: The days when Gary Fries was telling RAB convention attendees things like "The Radio industry is very actively and aggressively pursuing new technologies, formats, and platforms which will drive the business as we move forward into the second half of 2005 and into 2006," to Jeff Haley, RAB's past Chief, continuing the saga with multiple items that went nowhere. Remember "Buy from FM"?

Read more of Mr. Haley's comments from his 2011 address at NAB Radio Show. See if RAB's current CEO doesn't echo the same style remarks.

To watch iHeartRadio-owned Inside Radio report items like NextRadio is no different than ways that digital progress for radio have been reported since the beginning. Grab numbers that appear to show growth. Offer no substantive reasons. And imply radio is doing fine. Here's the formula: Words of wonder. Little follow-through. Stop talking about it. (Can you say "SweetJack" or "Less is More"?)

Inside Radio ran a story this morning that led to a link with impressive numbers based on... actually, I can't figure out what it's based on. For an industry that bashes Pandora for self-reporting, this chart appears straight out of someone's fantasy.

We have Sprint loading NextRadio into a few of its smartphones, and Motorola into two of its own. This is not deep market penetration by any standard. Yet look at the graph found at NextRadio's and its inference for growth. (TagStation is a wholly owned subsidiary of Emmis Operating Company.)

Does this graph hold any resemblance to your experience in watching radio do anything? For me, it's like nothing I've seen and written about over the past 19 years - especially since smartphones were introduced.

1) July 2014 - (approx.) 3.5 million Sprint NextRadio Preloaded phones
4 million total phones, when combined with non-Sprint
2) Dec. 2014 - (approx.) 8.5 million Sprint NextRadio Preloaded phones
18.5 millions total phones, when combined with non-Sprint

Now see if you can imagine realistically this predicted growth:
3) March 2015 - (approx.) 12 million Sprint NextRadio Preloaded phones
24 million total phones, when combined with non-Sprint

(Added Plus: View copy points and hear promos that stations are being asked to air.)

Which brings us to another relative quip by Yogi: "If people don't want to come out to the ball park, nobody's gonna stop 'em."

I retired in June and am doing what any other person who lived and loved the radio industry for decades can do - watch it squander the future by trying to pretend it's in this game called digital. It didn't have to be this way.

The fight for the dashboard was first predicted in 2004, the movement of youth to alternative audio forms was pointed to when radio first stopped serving the under-24 crowd in the mid-1990s, and warnings of drops in radio revenue came in 2002. They all are glossed over by publications beholding to the industry. The data doesn't stand up to scrutiny, so those in the radio C-suites do their best not to scrutinize.

2015 is just ahead. It's going to be far more rough for radio than past years, as each group discovers their lack of preparation has placed them far behind what consumers and advertisers demand.

Here's the last Yogi Berra quote, one that should have been the mantra for radio over the past decade of transition: "If you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Looking back over 19 years of reporting how radio has responded to new media, I'd say that every time radio came to a fork it paused, trying to figure out how the industry could mold the internet to its liking - instead of changing radio to fit the digital promise.

From Yogi, this is apropos: "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there."

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Today's indie introduction is to...
Country artist Moses Tucker
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All Roads Lead Home

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When an artist has the power to please they should be given a chance to be heard.

Give Moses Tucker's "All Roads Lead Home" a listen.

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