Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Pay Radio. Are You Sirius?

It‘s just a matter of hours now before Howard Stern ends his incredible run on NY radio. Starting early next year K-Rock will assume a new format called free radio, kind of like NJ 101.5 - talk during the week, and music on the weekends. So are people going to pay to listen to Howard once he ascends to his new radio throne in the non FCC monitored world of satellite radio?

I'm no maven on the psyche of the Howard Stern listener. I know that they are incredibly loyal and have been flocking in droves to purchase their satellite radio receivers so they are ready and at attention once the king of all media launches his new program in January. It will be like Ralphie getting his decoder ready for the Little Orphan Annie show in A Christmas Story only to find out it was just an ad for Ovaltine. (More on that topic next week!)

I have been listening to Howard in the mornings for the last 2 years after not listening to his show for awhile, but before that I listened to him all the way back to his days on WNBC when they had N Copter traffic reports with Roz Frank, and later Donna Fiducia (now on that hideous Fox News Channel, ugh!). Those were the days when they used to do endless commercials for the Beanstalk restaurant in Rockefeller Center and Poe de Swa. Howard hit the New York AM Radio scene at just the right time. Prior to his arrival WABC musicradio was what all the cool kids listened to. I was a goofball however and listened to talk radio shows such as Mark Simone on WMCA. But once WABC dropped music and went to talk, AM music listeners had to find another station to flock to.

In the early days of WABC as a talk station, it hadn't yet filled its niche as being the right wing craziness that it is today. In the pre-Rush pre- Hannity era, morning drive was hosted by Ross and Wilson and afternoon drive was held down by call in shrink Dr. Toni Grant. A number of WABC listeners moved over to WNBC where music and personality radio filled the airwaves with Imus, Captain Frank and the All Request Radio Show, and the new "shock jock" Howard Stern in the afternoon. WNBC seemed to remain THE hip AM station until its demise in the late 80's when you could take your pick of WFAN with the newly reinvented Imus in the Morning and Pete Franklin in the afternoon, or the right emerging WABC which had Bob Grant, (recently dropped by WOR) hammering away on your eardrums every afternoon. (Your influence counts...use it. Get Khaddaffi). AM music is long gone, along with the WABC djs who hooked up on the much missed CBS-FM, but now after years of format changes, it all ends up going back to square one. WABC has dropped talk on Sat night for an oldies show hosted by.. Mark Simone!

Over the last year of so, I have set the alarm to Howard, I listen for about a half hour between smacks on the snooze bar and that is pretty much it. During my 15 minute drive to the office, I listen to the end of Imus which usually consists of a Chris Carlin sports report and the usual fat jokes, and then a call from Fred. (Does Chris have enough to do there? Morning sports, Giants pre and post game and Rutgers football! Take a day off and give someone else a chance).

Personally, I don't plan to jump on the Sirius or XM radio bandwagons just yet. I might get XM in the future for the baseball package but the reason I am waiting is exactly my forecast of radio listening for the future. Y'see radio isn't what it used to be and LISTENING HABITS CHANGE. Nowadays radio sponsors come up with all kinds of gimmicks to throw ads my way. (The 15th batter of the game is up.. Don't forget it takes just 15 minutes to save 15% with a car insurance quote from Geico)

Viewing habits change too. Back in the good ol’ days, TV Guide was a national small magazine with regional listings and articles about TV. But TV Guide realized that TV wasn't just used to watch shows. That's why they expanded their articles to include movies and video games. I collect TV Guides and I was just looking at the issue for the day my parents got married. Back in '64, they had an editorial about the new concept of paying to watch TV… a hybrid cable/video on demand that was called pay TV. The editorial was lukewarm at best about the prospects of the new concept and as you can see it took many years for it to catch on.. but it did.

By the way my parents got married the same time as a World Series game between St. Louis and the Yankees. Just in case you didn’t catch the results of 10-11-64, 66,312 people packed the Stadium and even though the Yankees scored 3 runs in the 1st inning to knock out Ray Sadecki, the Cards bounced back with 4 in the 6th to win the game 4-3 and even the Series at 2-2. Ron Taylor threw 4 hitless innings in that game.. He had 4 2/3 hitless innings during the series, but Bob Gibson won the MVP with 2 victories. The Cardinals won the Series in 7 games.

Listening habits change like viewing habits. As a kid, you liked the song. you bought the record. or the cassette tape. Along came the early 80s and presto. the arrival of the Sony Walkman. Now you could listen to tapes on the road in beautiful hi fi stereo. And. wasn't that around the time when cassette tape players became standard fare for new cars and not a luxurious extra.

After tapes came cds in the mid to late 80s. Remember those big cases they used to come in? Now our listening habits have changed yet again with ipods and mp3 players. No more records or tapes. And how have listening habits changed? A goofball like myself is able to post audio files on-line that can be downloaded into an mp3 player and listened to at any time. Amazingly Bill Gates is right about his prediction that computers will be integrated into every aspect of daily life. I'm waiting for the powerpoint projector that will beam reading material on the bathroom wall,. the length to be determined by a bowel scanner to that shows how long the person will need to read... Mexican restaurants might want to look into posting lengthy New York Times Magazine articles on their stalls should there ever be such an invention!

Ok.. So all these audio and video files are now posted on websites. Video on Demand on the web took off in 2005 on the all news websites such as CNN and MSNBC. (I don't know about Fox News. Not my type of network) As demonstrated on this very blog, cable modems and the more powerful pcs enable the viewer to hit a play button on an embedded video player and watch whatever he wants right on his comp. ABC recently announced that their nightly newscast co-anchors would also anchor a daily web cast along with their regular evening broadcasts AND with live feeds at 9:30 eastern time for the west coast. I’m sure that Elizabeth Vargas will skip out on that late newscast the first warm Friday in March!

Take Paul Harvey for example. Or any other radio commentator, Every day he has his commentary.. Oops.. I missed it today.. Lets check out his website. and in a Gates-ian prophecy there on the site is that day's commentary right there for your downloading convenience. But wait. won't it take away from the listeners who the advertisers (like Prune-ola) pay big money for? Not to worry.. there are sponsors on the websites too.

Getting back to baseball on XM. would I pay to hear every game? Not just yet. I can do it on the web for free. I don't hear the actual game.. but I can watch every play of every game every night and for now.. I can do without hearing the hometown announcer telling me that the 15 year old girls are chasing after Derek Jeter.. speaking of 15.. at Geico it takes just 15 minutes to save 15% on your car insurance!

No satellite radio for me just yet. Check back in six months or so. In the meanwhile let’s see what’s happening in Morning Drive in New York radio since Howard went to mornings in 1986. Is the Scott on PLJ the same Scott Shannon from the Z Morning Zoo?


Anonymous said...

Nice post, Nate! The entire text should be beamed into a bathroom stall in Westfield's "Qdoba". Anyways, I predict (and you'll know my predictions are accurate when you're watching BOTH the World Cup AND the Olympics in 2006!) that internet surfing habits will also change, in line with viewing and listening habits. Sometime in the foreseeable future, in response to your own audio blogs, I and other random websurfers will be able to leave audio comments that you can download and link together and play back at your leisure. Then you can leave even more audio blogs, and we can respond in kind. Sounds like the AM talk radio of the 21st century! My, how we've come full circle.... - The Amazing Pumpstradamus

Nate said...

I also think that podcasting may be the wave, which makes The King of All Media's move to satellite even more of a gamble.

By the way, speaking of podcasting, an interview with the Amazing Pumpsterdamus consisting of his psychic predictions will be posted next week on this very blog for your listening enjoyment!

Jeffifer said...

Hey Nate,

I agree about free radio being the "wave" of the past, present, and future...we have to get stronger signals or more acceptance/popularity of internet radio, so that we can hear up here in Connecticut what you guys are listening to in NJ...

Nate said...

Actually we get some slim pickings here in the NYC metro area when it comes to radio. My listening has dropped drastically over the last few years and it's basically 15 minutes of Imus in the car, Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon on the FAN, and that's pretty much about it.

I used to listen to CBS-FM before they changed formats; and now I try to catch NJ 101.5 on the weekends when they play oldies. I also used to listen to Batchelor and Alexander on WABC until they split up... what a wild show!

I've been trying to catch Mark Simone's oldies show on WABC on Sat nights, and occasionally I will listen to Matt Drudge, but that is pretty much about it.

I'm no pumpsterdamus, but Im thinking we are going to be listening to a lot of podcasts starting in the summer of '06 as the quality starts to improve.