It was another Radio Show, and another speech by the NAB’s CEO Gordon Smith about the necessity for an FM chip in cell phones. As he told the assembled masses at the Anatole:
And in this corner, it’s Gary Shapiro, the head honcho of the Consumer Electronics Association who recently wrote this in an op/ed piece:
Both CEOs are smart, passionate leaders who believe very strongly in their positions, and protecting and growing their constituencies. I have shared meals with both of them, and I can tell you they are tenacious, passionate, and focused men.
This is a contentious issue, and while I firmly believe that radio would benefit from those elusive chips in cell phones (or activating the ones that are hibernating inside the digital circuitry), my prediction is that radio shouldn’t expect a breakthrough on this issue anytime soon.
But if radio is feeling like it’s getting screwed by the mobile phone industry, I would suggest that we actually got our Christmas present back in July of 2008. That was the month when Steve Jobs green-lighted the opening of the Apple App Store, changing the world of mobile as we knew it. By allowing third party developers to create apps that ranged from fart noises to the ability to recognize songs, artists, and titles to letting us play time-killing games while in doctors’ offices, smartphones have altered our lives.
And they enabled the broadcasting industry access to the greatest technological revolution since all of us got into radio. The possibility for any radio brand – from Z100 in New York City to a station in the smallest market you can imagine to have prime beachfront access on the desktop of an iPhone has been a game changer for thousands of AM and FM stations.
While broadcasters were unable to truly participate in satellite radio or iPods (save for podcasts), the Apps Store, and later the Android Market (or Google Play) are incredible gifts – if we figure out how to use and monetize them.
The good news is that many broadcasters saw that potential and today have provided their audiences with the portability radio lost with the demise in popularity of the once awesome Walkman.
While CEOs from major companies like Entercom and Greater Media have widely taken advantage of the opportunity, so have hundreds of other small broadcasters who have made the connection to mobile.
The fact that bigger broadcasters – notably Clear Channel and CBS Radio – have gone the aggregated route with iHeartRadio and Radio.com speaks to the reality that there are many ways to pursue a viable mobile strategy.
But to truly take advantage of Steve Jobs’ vision and opportunity, broadcasters, station owners, and managers have decisions to make about pursuing a mobile strategy.
The market is moving at Mach 5. As I told a panel at “The Radio Show” last week, no one is standing in line to buy radios. But they are rabid for the iPhone 5 – “radio included” – if we’re proactive enough to connect the app dots.
If you buy into “The Hacker’s Way” philosophy put forth by Mark Zuckerberg, you accept the reality that your first attempts at doing anything in the mobile space may not end up being your best or final efforts. But in the words of Seth Godin, media leaders have an obligation to initiate and ship.
Put something out there. Get an app in the key app stores. Study your audience to determine their mobile platforms of choice – today and in the future. Assess their acquisition of tablets.
Study HTML5 and other new development and technologies, but if your company has not taken a dip into the mobile pool yet, jump in – the water’s fine.
The audience respects brands that understand where they live and the gadgets they enjoy. Apps that meet their needs and provide them with the services and features that enhance radio station brands can be wildly popular – and even profitable.
But if you’re waiting on the sidelines for trade organizations and the U.S Congress to decide radio’s mobile future, I think you know how that story may end up.
Mobile will be a big part of the radio story in the future. We just don’t know exactly how it’s going to play out. That’s the thrill of being in the middle of a tech and cultural revolution.
Radio should celebrate the fact that it has a role in this exciting game. If the FM chip comes along at some point, kudos to those who have fought the good fight. But in the meantime, that wonderful present we all got back in the summer of 2008 has not expired and continues to provide AM and FM stations with incredible possibilities and potentials.
Broadcasters have an obligation to their shareholders, their staffs, and their listeners to use the gift and go mobile. And there’s no need to send Apple and Android a thank-you note.