Radio Evangelist

Thoughts of a Evangelist for Radio in all its forms

Archive for the ‘ipod’ Category

HD Radio and the iPhone – Not Quite There Yet

Posted by Steve on November 10, 2009

Ibiquity and a company called Gigaware yesterday announced an accessory for the iPhone/iPod Touch that brings HD radio to the device. You can pick up this little add-on at your local Radio Shack store (whatever happened to their plan to just call themselves “The Shack?) for about $80.

Here’s a link to The Wall Street Journal’s Lauren Goode article and her interview with Bob Struble, CEO of Ibiquity.

This accessory has generated a fair amount of buzz around the internets. Many people are saying that one of the major selling points of the new Zune is the HD radio inside. Before today, I can’t remember anyone saying that.
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This accessory is very similar to the analog FM radio accessory that has been available for iPods for years. It plugs into the accessory connector on the device. There’s a tuning control that you can use to navigate the radio’s presets which connects to the device through a wire. There’s also an app that you install from the iTunes store – free, but necessary for the HD Radio to function. The HD Radio dongle has an iTunes tagging feature so that you can identify songs you wish to purchase later by clicking a button on the tuning control.

I own the standard iPod FM radio; it is useful on trips when I want to monitor local radio and I am not in a rental car. It has an RDS display right on the iPod – which highlights to me how poorly stations are at implementing this potentially extremely valuable tool.

So – the questions are, will people pay $80 for a radio in their iPhone when they can purchase a portable HD radio for $50? And – do people really care about having a broadcast radio receiver in their iPhone/Touch when there are so many other options available to them via iPhone/Touch apps?

My guess is that until the software that drives the HD radio is integrated with a streaming radio application in such a way that I can choose my over-the-air HD radio station or my streaming audio channel with the click of a pre-set, this won’t be a very strong offering. There’s a lot of potential power in this app that resides on the iPhone’s desktop. Smart folks will figure out how to tap into it.

The physical clunkiness of the connection to the phone may also deter people from using it. The connection of the original iPod FM radio is almost exactly the same and I find that it’s annoying. The wires get in the way.

However, it’s a start. Let’s see how this goes – maybe we’ll be able to pick these up cheaply on eBay after Christmas!

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Are Podcasts Dead?

Posted by Steve on October 3, 2009

On Friday, Leo Laporte, founder of the This Week in Tech network of programs, spoke at the Online News Association conference in San Francisco. His comments and the questions from the audience afterwards can be seen here.

The speech is very interesting and it exposes Laporte as a true renaissance man. One of his more controversial comments is a statement that “Podcasting is dead.” This is quite jarring, since it comes from the guy who many of us think as “Mr. Podcast” (OK, Leo, “Mr. Netcast”). He has built a very nice business by delivering 20+ podcasts weekly to an audience now in the millions worldwide. Leo goes on to say that he began to feel that podcasting was “dead” about a year ago and began building a streaming platform so that his network was prepared for the transition. Today, the TWIT Network delivers all its programming both through audio podcasts and via live streams. When there are no live programs to stream, they replay recently recorded programming on the stream.

Of course, he didn’t mean that podcasting was history and that no one is listening anymore. Podcasting has reached a plateau in its growth. Leo noted that for most veteran podcasters, growth began to flatten out about a year ago. To grow audience beyond the people who are willing to put up with podcasting’s current rather chunky user experience, a new archetype needs to emerge. Leo feels that this new archetype is a combination of live and on-demand streaming… different than podcasting’s “store and forward” approach. New dedicated devices like the Roku will provide this kind of service to consumers. In fact, Leo said that he was teaming with Mediafly to provide his network’s offerings on the Roku device.

Many people listen to podcasts right at their PC – either not realizing that they can go portable with their iPod or just not caring too. Many others take their content with them – to the gym, on the road, to work. I have found that loading up my iPod with programming that I want to listen to allows me – with minimal effort – to listen both at home and on the road. My TSL for broadcast radio dropped precipitously when I began doing this and it has not recovered. One of the reasons for this is content; however, the main one is convenience. I can listen to what I want, when I want. The broadcast radio over-the-air streaming model doesn’t allow for that, yet, although the new iPod Nano is providing a baby step in that direction with the “pause listening” feature. On-demand streaming might, but only when the technology reaches mobile platforms.

On-demand streaming is coming – Flycast and other similar services provide a rich portable mobile experience, mixing live broadcasts with some “on demand.” Until ubiquitous wireless broadband is available – and at a price that can be absorbed by the masses – this will remain a platform suffering from similar restrictions to growth that technologies like podcasting are experiencing. Some sort of local storage of content will be needed for some time to come. Many technical folks feel strongly that the wireless IP network is not yet up to the demands of delivering streaming content to portable devices. Today, with relatively few people (some subset of iPhone, Android and Blackberry users) accessing audio streams while mobile, it’s not an issue. Globally, the iPhone has sold about 20 million units. That’s just the population of New York. Imagine all 300 million Americans trying to stream audio at the same time! It’s not a scalable model yet.

So – to answer my rhetorical question – no, podcasts aren’t dead. Podcasts are just going through the same rapid evolutionary process as other delivery vehicles. Smart people, like Leo, are finding ways to augment the audience that the podcast delivery mechanism provides. Others are building alternative distribution channels to iTunes. The concept of podcasts will be with us for a while – until the practical application of technology provides a better solution.

Posted in Advertising, ipod, Podcasts, Radio, Social Media, streaming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

iPod Shuffle – VoiceOver feature is a great promo vehicle for radio!

Posted by Steve on March 13, 2009

Apple this week released their latest iteration of the iPod Shuffle, a diminutive digital audio player that has no graphical user interface. In fact, until this version, the only user interface it has had is the navigation button.
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With the new iPod Shuffle, Apple has added voice navigation, allowing the listener to press the navigation button and hear the title and artist of the song that is currently playing.

The title and artist information comes from the ID3 tag in the audio file metadata. This could make for an interesting promotional opportunity for creative radio station. Here’s one way it could be used:

Let’s say the I101 is an indy rock station that promotes local, unsigned talent. These acts distribute tracks via the station’s website (free). In return for promoting their act, the station edits the ID3 tag in the track (with the artist’s permission, of course) to include a station promo. For example:

Title: “Drivin'” Artist: “Rich Hannon, brought to you by 103 RNR where music matters”

Listener downloads, listens, presses button to hear the title/artist and also hears the station promo!

So – let me know if you use this idea and how it works. There’s definitely a lot of potential here.

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