News Archive: February 2009
2/23/09 - iBiquity Twists Its Tubes [link to this story]
While working on dissertation research this weekend, I poked around iBiquity's web site. Not quite prominently featured (i.e., off the main page), the company hypes its HD standard and, quite repeatedly, refers interested parties to HDRadio.com for more information.
But clicking that link is not so easy. You are presented with a verbose (and poorly-written) "legal disclaimer" dialog-box:
I call bullsh*t, and it's an easy one. Any simple WHOIS domain-name search turns up the obvious: iBiquity owns HDRadio.com. Administrative and technical contacts point straight back to the corporate HQ.
My question is, why all the disclaimage? And are you really that clueless, iBiquity? Are you effectively denying the validity/credibility of your consumer-marketing claims? (After all, HDRadio.com is the company's consumer-marketing portal.) What's so different about what how you'll "perform or interact" with my computer, or your "security and privacy policies" vis-a-vis iBiquity.com and HDRadio.com? Are you so desperate to generate consumer interest in your dying product that you're stretching online data-collection regulations? Hiding behind a trademark-disclaimer - that HDRadio.com is "managed" by the HD Radio Alliance - which is, for all intents and purposes, iBiquity (though that particular domain is registered to Clear Channel) - does not cut the mustard.
I've been around iBiquity's site before, and this is, apparently, an "upgrade" of its "functionality." Much like the HD Radio technology itself, it's a questionable development.
2/17/09 - Sirius-XM: Wall Street, We Have A Problem [link to this story]
So last year's merger of Sirius and XM Satellite radio was supposed to save that particular segment of the broadcast industry. Ain't happening: Sirius-XM CEO Mel Karmazin sounds positively desperate to avoid bankruptcy, but nevertheless the company's drawing up the papers to go the Chapter 11 route.
What happened? Lots of things: launching not one, but two, satellite radio networks is hella-expensive. That initial capital outlay has never been recouped. Secondly, Sirius itself bet the farm on talent - the only person that's made money out of satellite radio is Howard Stern, and he's been laughing all the way to the bank.
Then, when the merger happened, Sirius-XM stupidly adopted the terrestrial-radio model in order to balance the books: consolidate channels (reducing the choice that, for satellite radio, was the initial attraction for many potential listeners) and add advertising to many (another selling-point that satcasters have now utterly abandoned).
Couple that with the fact that most Sirius-XM listeners get their initial subscriptions for free (usually when they buy a new car with satellite radio installed), the changes the company has made has not compelled listeners to part with their own cash once their subsidized subscription runs out.
Now, the only thing that may save Sirius-XM is a capital infusion from somewhere. And ironically, the company's looking at satellite television broadcasters for that cash. Some already hold shares in Sirius-XM, so on that front it would seem like asking a fellow shareholder to invest more deeply in the company.
But if that ownership crosses a certain level, there's the distinct possibility that we might see a de facto monopoly on satellite broadcasting. That can't make anyone happy - most notably the new FCC - and their plate is full with things like trying to manage the rocky DTV transition.
The outcome of this is not going to be pretty. I am certainly glad that I never did bite on satcasting.
2/8/09 - Radio Dying? Depends On Your Perspective [link to this story]
The blog's author, Jerry Del Colliano, is a consummate radio professional. I remember reading his Inside Radio newsletter back when I worked in the business. That publication infuriated Clear Channel so much - in large part because Jerry was so good at decoding the company's predatory consolidation plans - that Clear Channel actually began a slander publication to drag Jerry's good name through the mud. He didn't take that lightly, filing a $100+ million suit against the radio titan.
An out-of-court settlement and collegiate teaching gig later, Jerry's far from cowed by his experience. And his post of February 6 caught my eye. In a nutshell, he predicts a wholesale restructuring of the industry - or else:
Jerry then goes on to lay out a six-point forecast for the future of the radio industry; the last point ("no innovation") may be the most salient. And, he adds, "Without a digital footprint, terrestrial radio will die on the vine no matter who owns the stations and a digital footprint is not -- I repeat not -- streaming the terrestrial signal or using text messaging for contests." Nor is it HD Radio.
In fact, his teaching experience has convinced Jerry that the next vector for "radio" as we will know it in the future is through the mobile phone - and it won't come with a built-in AM/FM receiver. Adapting to this potential sea-change in the method and mode of transmission isn't even on the "old-school" radio manager's radar.
That being said, perhaps the industry could take some cues from artists, who are pushing the boundary that Jerry's talking about in quite an impressive way. Take this creative Japanese, for example, who's combined stencil-art with cellular telephony in order to uniquely publicize London's pirate radio scene. This sort of thinking is light-years beyond where U.S. radio "professionals" are at. And, at some level, that gives me hope for the medium.