November 25, 2015

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First Mediaworks

10/22/07 Local Radio Goes International?

The Way It Was
It was the middle of the night and the lights were off. I was a radio-crazed kid in Fort Wayne, Indiana, hiding under the covers with an AM radio listening to Wolfman Jack on WNBC in New York. I had strung wire across the trees outside my window as an antenna to grab distant signals, but the static-filled audio was just barely listenable. Beyond the whistle in the signal I could hardly make out any sound.

Fortunately, it wasn't long before I got my hands on a giant Zenith radio that would pull in shortwave signals from around the globe — a great thrill for a radio geek like me. Today my shortwave radio is smaller than a pack of Camels and I can still receive signals from around the world — and it still thrills me.

The Way It Is
Each morning after dropping the kids at school I spend an hour at the gym listening to my iPod. I'm an avowed fan of the Harvard Business Review podcast and the Stanford University Entrepreneurial series, but my favorite podcast — Daily Source Code — has all of the elements of a great radio morning show: outstanding production values, some music, lots of talk, interviews, and loads of information about technology, the Internet, podcasting, music, books, and other random subjects. Produced by former MTV host Adam Curry, Daily Source Code has all of the production values of a radio show, even though it’s created variously from an attic office at a home outside of London, from Curry's home in San Francisco, or sometimes from a hotel room. It is highly entertaining, fun, and — as my former PD Bill Tanner used to say — has “predictable unpredictability.” Curry has brilliantly built an entire podcasting network with Hollywood-quality production values. He and others like him will be the Bill Paleys of the future by building media networks, only with broadband instead of broadcast distribution.

I used to be dismissive of podcasting, but my tune has changed. For those of us who can listen to our iPods regularly — whether in traffic (yes, my car has an iPod jack, and I jump between radio, satellite radio, and my iPod), on the train, at the gym — there are options. This morning I listened to a downloaded rebroadcast of a Premiere Radio Networks tech show with Leo Laporte, a podcast by wellness guru Dr. Weil, and the Curry show.

The Way Of The Future
As a station owner, I used to imagine the impact a station could have with a worldwide shortwave audience — and the money that could be made. Podcasting can deliver that kind of reach, only better. You’d be surprised by the massive numbers of available listeners, and the responses you could get from around the world.

Right now, many radio podcasts are rebroadcasts of existing shows. However, podcasting offers the ideal place for brand extension, reinvention, and experimentation. Personalities can extend their ideas and views beyond the constraints of their radio shows.

Importantly, podcasting is already being embraced by national advertisers whose messages I'm hearing on some very obscure podcasts. So there is money to be made.

Radio will hopefully remain viable in the future. But that doesn't mean you should stick your head in the sand and ignore this technology because you’re not part of the user base, or just because you don't understand because. This is a powerful opportunity for radio — locally, nationally, and internationally.

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