Sunday, November 14, 2010

Radio Listening 2.0

It occurred to me the other morning driving to work while listening to my customized playlist of audio news & podcasts stream from my iPhone, that my move from terrestrial radio to the Internet has just about come full circle.

When I bought my first iPod in December 2004- 30gb iPod Photo, I almost immediately began listening to podcasts that I would download through a 3rd party "podcatcher" and import into iPod (later automatically synced through iTunes and then to my iPod each morning).  The iPod would go with me in the car to work and I would listen through an audio jack to my Auxiliary input in my Infinity M35. The audio input was really for DVD players but served the purpose for me just to get the audio.   Apple even included the cable with the 3rd Generation iPods.   

I had started listening to one of the early pioneers of podcasts, Adam Curry, and his Daily Source Code.   This was initially fascinating to me as he was living outside of London, would record basically a monologue into his computer from his house, take the file and apply the appropriate geeky RSS tags to it and upload it for "podcatching" software to find.  Adam's show was very self serving, but that didn't bother me as I enjoyed the podcast industry-centric nature of the content and he turned me on to other podcasts that eventually became part of his Podshow podcast network.  Here's some Wikipedia history, if you care.

I was hungry for more programming and became an early subscriber to a handful of other early adopter podcasts.

One of the first I found was WTOP Radio in Washington DC, a 24/7 news station in the Nation's Capital that would take their on-air short segment features and interviews and package them up into a podcast generally lasting less than 5 minutes.   Their access to Washington-insiders was fascinating and something I couldn't get on local radio in bite-sized segments.  Since then, most other talk terrestrial radio stations and personality-formatted music stations have done the same.  Digitally record normal programming, edit (sometimes), package, tag, and upload. 

The challenge I had with iTunes podcast functionality was and still is that unless you wanted all the shows to automatically be deleted upon listening, you had to go in manually and delete the file once you had listened to it to free up space on your iPod.   This became a weekly chore for me as some of the files I would want to save and perhaps listen to again later.

So for several years I maintained this library of content and listen to it in the car to and from work, around the yard, walking the dog, and whenever I wanted to multi task on the move.  It became habitual for me, but I never could see the general public making this same effort despite the fact that the iTunes Podcast inventory increased to thousands of different titles and it could be automatically downloaded.

Then came along Stitcher Radio at   Note:  I have nothing to do with this company.  Stitcher basically has become my default 'radio station."  They aggregate content from thousands of content providers and organize the content into "stations" that listeners can browse and listen to. Audio content is delivered from thousands of large and small podcasters as well as national media providers such as CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, BBC, NPR, and the Associated Press.  The content is kept continually up to date so there is always fresh content available.  

While I still allow the podcasts to automatically download to my (now) iPhone, I find myself just launching the Stitcher iPhone app and plugging it into the iPhone jack in my car and listening to my personalized content via Stitcher and the iPhone's AT&T 3G or Edge connectivity.  The content updates automatically so I don't have to manage it and I have put the podcasts in the order I want to listen to them.   So on my 35-minute commute to work in the morning I listen to:

1.  New York Times Front Page  (5 Min)
2.  Wall Street Journal Morning Tech News (5 Min)
3.  TechCrunch Headlines (5 Min)
4.  Tech 5 (5 Min)
5.  Tech News Today (30 Min).

I don't even have to take my eyes off the road as the content plays automatically and in order.  If I did want to bypass a particular show, a simple tap on the right arrow and I'm on to the next program.  If I've already listened to the show, Stitcher moves on to the next new program effortlessly. 

The full circle is I feel like I am just listening to the radio everyday without the hassle of managing the content.  Like traditional radio, that's been taken care of for me AND  it's customized to my interests!

I usually don't finish the 30 minute Tech News Today from Leo Laporte's TWIT Network, but I just launch Stitcher on my desktop, fast forward to where I left off, and hear the remainder as I'm working.  I always have the latest release of the podcasts I like to listen to and they are always available on any device with connectivity.  I find myself rarely syncing to iTunes anymore except when I plug in the iPhone to juice up or if I'm going to fly.  Stitcher has thousands of different podcasts as well as live streaming terrestrial and internet talk and music stations available.

It's the best of all worlds -- streaming "radio" in the car, customized for my tastes, and automatically fed. This..... I can see the general public, non-techies, non-early adopters gravitating to.  As a former radio guy, this is almost as magical as radio was when I first got into it in high school and continues to support my belief that audio and the spoken word will reign supreme within the disruption of digital technology.

Addendum:  General Motors & Ford have announced a partnership with Stitcher that will bring it into vehicles directly.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Blues Highway in Mississippi & Memphis, TN August 2008


Sunday, August 1, 2010

My Personal Disruption

At the risk of restating the obvious to some, I was sitting in an airport recently with my iPhone thinking about how it (and the original iPod Touch) have impacted my life, made it more interesting and positive and disrupted so many of my previous habits & processes.

I think back to late 2007 when I bought my first iPod Touch (I did not buy the original iPhone which debuted late June of that year).  Immediately I had the Internet in my pocket (whenever I had a wifi connection- which besides home & work, I sought out).  That was a huge deal as I now had mobility to access everything the Internet provides without a laptop, netbook, or tethered desktop.  The portability was huge!

I would read my email, news sites, blogs, listen to my music, podcasts, and recorded audio presentations.  My daily routine of walking our dogs now became a much more productive 20 minutes as I hopped from unprotected wifi connection to another accessed my neighbors' homes (interestingly, now they are all secured).    

I remember right after buying the device, being at the Virgin Megastore in Orlando looking at music and books and checking on Amazon if it had the same products at a lower price (it did!).  I read a couple of reviews of a book I was considering buying and ordered a Christmas gift for my mother-in-law from Amazon while in the store using their wifi connection.  

Isn't that absurd!?

That might have been my first realization of the disruption this device had the potential to create.  Today there are apps such as ShopSavvy which help me comparison shop by scanning the bar code of an item, in-store, with the built-in camera on the iPhone.  This either verifies I'm getting a good price or suggests I look elsewhere (both at a local bricks & mortar stores or online).

I waited until the iPhone 3GS came out to switch from a combination of my Blackberry & iPod Touch to one device that had what the two offered and more.  The phone & email capabilities of the Blackberry are legendary, but the AT&T 3G mobile broadband connectivity & the iPhone's features were another game changer for me.  Always-on broadband changed the PC and always-on mobility is probably several factors more powerful to me.

The disruption of this device makes what I thought the iPod Touch created look puny in comparison.  Here's a list of what the iPhone and its apps allow me to do that formerly I used another way, service or tool:

Service Formerly Now
RadioTerrestrial & SatellitePandora, Stitcher, Slacker, AOL Radio
TrafficRadio or TVReal time traffic on Google Maps &
PhotosMy small Canon cameraBuilt-in still camera
VideoFlip camera or larger JVCBuilt-in video camera
News InformationNewspaper, Radio, TV, OnlineBlogs, Twitter, Google Reader, Apps
WeatherTV, RadioLive local radar feed apps
TVBe in front of TV at the appointed time or remember to set DVRRemote scheduling of my TIVO
LocalLook it up in a directory (Yellow Pages)Yelp, Google, myriad of apps with maps, reviews, coupons
My timeStanding in lineRemote ordering such as Chipotle's app
TravelCall airline to get flight arrival informationAirline push notifications and FlightAware flight tracking app
ExerciseGuess at calories burned & progressApps such as Runkeeper keep track
MoviesReviews & showtimes in newspaper, online, MoviephoneApps such as RunPee (even tells you when you can leave the movie & what you missed if nature calls)
InvestingPhone, Desktop or LaptopVarious Investing apps & personal finance such as Mint

These are just a few of mine, but there are a myriad of other disruptive applications that each of us have found.  What are yours?

Some more important uses of the iPhone for me:

It has given me the capability to go to a trade show, take photos for the company e-newsletter and website that get published later in the day, record audio testimonials from customers, and demonstrate our web/mobile apps.

I was a late adopter to the iPhone Kindle app but have found myself unable to consider going on a trip without using it as my book reading app. Besides my music library, I have my bookshelf in my pocket available at a moment's notice.  

Speaking of moment's notice, I find myself accessing Google from my iPhone whenever a question comes up that we are looking for an answer. This has ranged from trivia questions sitting at a baseball game to using the Shazam app to get the name of a song playing in a restaurant.

Twitter use on the iPhone has been the subject of hundreds of thousands of blog posts, but suffice to say the real time nature of the service allows me to get news & information long before even radio, TV, or the traditional web can provide. Case in point is this past Saturday's Major League Baseball trading deadline.   Here in Tampa Bay, we were very interested in whether the Rays would trade for a player(s) that would help us make a run to the World Series.  By following the St. Petersburg Times baseball beat writer, I knew what had happened (or not) as soon as he shared it, which was pretty close to real time. By following the hashtag #Rays, I read other updated information on our trade progress.   Didn't need to watch the news or read the paper to get this information.

Did I need to know this in real time?   Well, the group I was with was interested and it was the subject of the conversation.  Why wonder?

I'll close this post with my favorite distruptive activity I use my iPhone for.  It disrupts the tradition of taking notes on a legal pad or notebook and more importantly, the human nature of forgetting things you want to remember or misplacing items you want to find later.   This disruption is called "Evernote".   
I keep all my notes in Evernote.  What was formerly scribbled on a legal pad that eventually got stored away in my credenza, rarely to see the light of day again, is no more. Even more amazing is the ability to capture visuals and text with the iPhone camera and have the Evernote technology pull out the text that is then completely searchable.   My thoughts and ideas also end up in Evernote through the iPhone microphone.  

And, all of these notes & recordings sync to the Evernote servers, which I can then access from any Internet connected device.  

My important thoughts, notes, photos, & information are always in my pocket.  

Truly amazing.  Truly disruptive.

The icing on this cake is the new 4G multi-tasking, subject of plenty of blog posts.  This newest game changer takes just about everything described above to a new non-linear level.  For me, the simple ability to listen to streaming audio while reading (email, news, Kindle  books etc) or using any other app, may be the most disruptive application yet.

What do you think?


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Goodbye (Traditional) Radio!

I left the radio industry professionally over 10 years ago, but never left the audio medium from a professional observer and consumption standpoint.   I still maintain that audio is the most powerful communication medium of them all and regardless of the morphing of consumer habits to consume, it will continue to be, if not the winner, one of the most effective channels of communication - attention marketers!


Simply it's the only non-linear medium that you can fully concentrate on while you're doing something else!

You can certainly add in the other benefits such as theater of the mind, the number of people who are primarily auditory in nature, the personal nature of listening alone through earbuds or headphones and the like.  But, without distraction, can you read or watch TV as well as you can listen to audio while driving your car, jogging, answering email, reading a book, magazine, newspaper, blog post, etc?

I argue NO!

Now, the purpose of this post.....on June 21st, the new Apple iOS4 will be released allowing latest generation iPhone and iPod Touch users to update their software.   There are a myriad of enhancements to the hardware in the new iPhone 4.0, but the real game changer is the software that will allow you to multitask on your device.  The talk is the ability to switch between (selected) apps instantly with all apps remembering where you were the last time you used them.

But the real game changer for me is the ability to use your device while the (selected) Internet radio application of your choice continues to play.  The example shown in April was Pandora's ability to stream while you are using other apps.  Previously, you could only listen to music you had stored on the device while using any of your other apps.  If not later this month, soon the other "radio" apps will have this capability, whether it be Stitcher, iHeart Radio, AOL Radio, NPR or the hundreds of general and specific options you'll find in the App Store.

This changes everything for me, a veracious consumer of audio content on both my iPhone and iPod.

Yes, the Android platform has featured multitasking and this capability all along, but come on, admit that the masses use iPhones and heretofore Android deployment has been mostly the early adopter and geek community.  Count the white earbuds next time you're on any form of mass transit.

But that's not all, the next blow is later this year when the Ford SYNC system brings Internet radio to the car, the last safe haven for terrestrial and satellite radio.  Read this!

While I don't drive a Ford, already my subscription to XM ends at the anniversary date because I am already using the 3G on my iPhone to listen to many of the apps above in my car today.  A bit geeky I'll admit and requiring an audio input (which my car has), but when Internet radio shows up on the dashboard for the masses, it's all over.

Ah but Todd, what about the local traffic, news and weather (together) that local terrestrial radio provides?   Good point!

Anyone who has worked in radio knows that the traffic is spotty and rarely relevant to enough of the audience.  I get my traffic on my Google Maps app on the iPhone which measures the speed of the other iPhone users on the road and is amazingly accurate.  Throw in alerts I get from for my commute and I don't need the faux-helicopter traffic reports.   Local news comes in the form of tweets and RSS feeds from the local newspapers and TV stations that I subscribe to.  A quick glance at Tweetie and/or Google Reader and I'm all set in the morning.  That's my new "morning newspaper".   Weather is similar.   My iPhone shows me the forecast and current radar (wherever I am).

And I'm a baby boomer.  Imagine how the millennials are NOT using traditional radio.  iPod, torrents, streaming  (I'm listening to a live streaming concert from Bonnaroo 2010 as I create this post), etc.

I love radio.  I love audio.  I listen to more "radio" today than ever, it's just none of it comes from that tall tower on the horizon.  Sorry.  Figure it out boys.  The audio medium is stronger than ever.  As I heard Om Malik say the other day on an audio podcast, as I was doing yard work outside, anyone dealing with this real digital disruption, should be looking forward, not backward or you're going to run into something and have a serious accident.

Or maybe you already have.


Friday, April 30, 2010

An Exercise in Change

Last week I participated in an Executive Summit at the H.Wayne Huizenga School of Business & Entrepreneurship at NOVA Southeastern University.  Besides a day of discussion and round-tables, we were addressed by Bo Bullington, Editor-At-Large for Inc Magazine and author of "Small Giants: Companies that Choose to be Great Instead of Big".  Bo discussed the traits of some of the companies in his book and lessons we can learn.

We also heard from Dr. Barry Barnes, Professor of Leadership at NOVA and Grateful Dead Scholar on "The Process of Creating the Future".  In his presentation, Dr. Barnes included an exercise on change and why it's so hard.  I found it to be a terrific demonstration on why we all find this so challenging.  Here's how it went:

We were paired off and instructed to stand up and look at our partner and study them.  Then we were each instructed to turn around so we could not see our partner.   Then we were told to change 5 things on ourselves and see if our partner could determine what changed.

Changing 5 things wasn't as easy as I thought.  I took off my glasses, rolled up my sleeves, took off my watch, took off one shoe, and removed my belt.   My partner put on glasses, put a pen behind her ear, removed a necklace, took off a shoe and untucked her blouse.

We both were able to determine what each had changed.

Then as we proceeded to put things back the way they were, Dr. Barnes told us not to do so and instead turn around again and change 10 more things.  That became very difficult.  Both my partner and I fell well short of 10 items and without resorting to totally disrobing were only able to find a few more things to change.  Around the room, the other participants were finding it just as challenging.

Some of the lessons learned from this exercise are common sense, but there were other lessons we had not contemplated:

  1. The simple changes are easy
  2. The more things you need to change the more difficult it is
  3. There are some things you're not willing to give up for the sake of change
  4. Sometimes you have lack of resources or items to change (e.g after we changed the initial 5 items in the exercise)
  5. It doesn't have to be a solo performance (none of us used the participant in the next twosome to help us with our change effort)
  6. Human nature is the quick desire to return to the way it was (after the initial exercise of changing 5 items, we were all in the process of returning to how we were when Dr. Barnes told us to change 10 more things)
As we went through what would seem like a simple exercise, we all suffered various amounts of stress, uncomfortability, and even panic as we had to figure out what we could change based on how we were dressed and situated.

Dr. Barnes also pointed out how even with a simple instruction (to change 5 and then 10 things), leadership's direction to change typically isn't that clear.   Lack of clarity can also be an inhibitor to a successful change strategy.

Additionally, it occurred to me that all we did was change items on our outside that were visible but nothing changed at our core.  How many times have companies made superficial changes (for the sake of an exercise) that would give the appearance of difference, but in reality, nothing fundamental changed?

So as technology & the new norm developing from our current economy force change, this simple exercise gave us valuable perspective that continued as part of the discussion through the remainder of the Summit.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Franchising & Socializing

I spent last weekend at the International Franchise Association's 50th Annual Convention.  This terrific gathering of the leaders within the franchising world is always an opportunity to have meaningful conversations about the industry and gather feedback on how the mashup of small and large business is progressing. 

As their franchisees go, so go the franchisor and its apparent that while some sectors are beginning to stabalize, others are still very much struggling.   Franchises with less immediately essential products, such as home improvement, are still struggling, looking for a stimulus to break the reduced spending status quo many homeowners have taken.  Others are using a variety of marketing & promotional tactics to maintain manageable sales levels.   This ranges from more aggressive retention efforts to more strategic use of coupons and discounts.

Being in the coupon business, the former, certainly is in our sweet spot and it's well documented that coupon usage, both traditional in direct mail, newspapers, and circulars as well as online & mobile, are growing at paces to levels that haven't been seen in years.   It's also becoming fairly well documented that this is the new norm.

As a mater of fact, we sponsored the opening luncheon and showed this short promotional video that calls out some interesting factoids.   The one that received the most response is that the term "coupons" is searched on Google more than "Britney Spears".

Besides the fact that all the attendees are very willing to share experiences & help one another within the franchising "brotherhood", The IFA Convention is very education focused.  Attending several of the technology tracks & round tables, it was interesting to note that there were NO sessions dedicated to "Search"  SEO and SEM were not present and accounted for.  Instead the focus was on "Social".  Social Networking, Social Media, Social Marketing, Social Social Social.  I would characterize the pulse of the attendees as is with most marketers: "We know social media is important, we're struggling to understand it, we don't know how to measure it, we're watching our competitors and we're trying to figure it out."

What adds a twist to this is that in many cases, the franchisee may be ahead of the franchisor is establishing an online footprint (and thus reputation).   Since it's so easy to create a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account, or any other online listing, there are many franchisees who are attempting to brand themselves outside of the franchisor's social & online media strategy, which may ave not completely established it.

While many franchisors are working on establishing their social media policy for their franchisees, the jeannie is out of the bottle in some cases and in others, the legal agreement between franchisor and franchisee was written before all of this became common place, so there are no established rules outside of use of brand or trademark restrictions.

That said, there are shining examples of franchised brands that "get it" and are effectively using social media (and online marketing in general).  Case in point is the relatively small and regional frozen dessert franchise, Tasti D-Lite.  Besides becoming a cultural icon, gaining free product placement or mentions in popular television shows such as "30 Rock" and a favorite among celebs, they are utilzing online media to support their loyalty card program as well as virally grow sampling opportunities to build new customers.   One of their most innovative tactics is tying their loyalty card into Twitter and location-based service & game, Foursquare.

Based on what saw last week, I believe we'll see incredible growth and investment in social media by the franchise community over the next year.   But will we see anything really innovative like Tasti D-Lite?

The other takeaway I want to share is the impact that support from the federal goverment would have on the economy if only they would open up credit to small businesses (franchise or not).   It's estimated that for every Billion dollars in small business loans, 34,100 sustainable jobs would be created and generate $3.6 billion in economic output.   It would only take $434 billion dollars to create enough jobs to hire all the unemployed people in the United States.

Now how much did we loan Wall Street and the Auto industry?

At the Conference, IFA President, Matt Shay said franchise businesses have been severely impacted by the lack of access to credit, which was down 40 percent in 2009 causing the industry to lose over 400,000 jobs last year.  While slow growth in 2010 is expected, the demand for lending to franchised businesses will not be met.   A $3.4 billion shortfall in lending to franchise businesses in 2010 will result in 134,000 jobs not created and $13.9 billion in economic output lost, according to data released by the International Franchise Association Educational Foundation.

“IFA appreciates the efforts to date by the President and Congress to support many of our recommendations to improve credit access,” Shay said.  “But, now is the time to put that support into action.  For example, immediately raising the SBA 7(a) loan program limit from $2 million to $5 million will help to create between 450,000 and 650,000 new jobs.”

If you're in the franchising business or even thinking about it, you should get involved in the IFA and mark your calendar for their 2011 Convention in Las Vegas next February.

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