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We Must Push That Radio is Portable


Emmis Chairman/CEO Jeff Smulyan addressed a favorite topic at Convergence on day two, dedicating most of his keynote to FM chips in smartphones, the NextRadio app, and the TagStation platform. NextRadio, he pointed out, "builds the system around the FM chip that is in every cell phone." As he pointed out, every smartphone made today already includes an FM chip, but very few U.S. carriers have it activated. The reason? Because, according to Smulyan, they'd rather charge customers for listening over the data networks.

Radio is also facing a perhaps unanticipated problem, he said: to persuade a generation that grew up after the Walkman that terrestrial radio is portable: "We've raised a generation of people who don't know we're portable. We've lost the portability battle, and now we have a chance to get it back." Where the average listener looks at their phone 120 times a day, he said, "There's no reason radio can't be built into that ecosystem."

He also said listening over data is not a sustainable model in a world where data is increasingly metered. An FM chip uses no data, of course, so it is free to use and uses up battery life at only one-third the rate of streaming. Additionally 100 percent of radio's profit still comes from broadcasting over the air. "Every major company in this industry is supporting the FM chip initiative," he said, even while acknowledging that stations must stream.

He gave some stats on consumer adoption of NextRadio on the 15 models of Sprint phones that now offer it, saying it's been activated by 450,000 users, with 9,200 FM stations available, and 2,500 Fms tuned in per day. "We can capitalize on our signal, and on our relationship with this audience."

He also said the idea in NextRadio is for a station to provide a visual element for every part of its on-air presentation, noting that a retained listener who chooses stations with album art and interactivity listens longer and more often: "When there's interaction in the system, engagement is a lot greater."

Additionally, the FM chip is a safety issue. NPR and public media are working with NexgtRadio to urge listeners to ask carriers to activate the chips for safety in times of emergency. Regulators are also looking at the issue of activating the chips, and an on-air campaign is on the way, created with the NAB.

Smulyan said that if streaming is the future, "We're in a very interesting hobby. It's not a business anymore." But he believes that, in part because of the issue of data costs, "Radio is about to become more vibrant than ever."

(6/9/2014 11:51:07 AM) is owned by iTunes Radio! So is is owned by Audio Graphics, Inc.,,,,, and even, the mother of all radio industry names, are still not owned by the radio industry.

Who in radio is speaking to the advertiser or audience online?

- Ken Dardis
(6/7/2014 8:28:53 AM)
How's that HD Radio scam going?

- monsieur le dickhead

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