Everywhere you went at the 2015 NAB Show you were hard pressed to not come across a platform. No, not something to stand on, but the technical term of building infrastructure. From web systems to podcasting to the connected car it was all about the platform. Here are some of the takeaways I got from the convention.
NextRadio & The Connected Car
I’ve been quite skeptical of Emmis’ NextRadio coalition and their push to get FM chips activated on mobile phones. Without full carrier and software support, NextRadio will remain a niche product on certain Android devices and not a way to bring FM reception to the masses.
That said, in listening to NextRadio/TagStation President Paul Brenner speak during his panel and in a private conversation, I do believe there is a solid need for the NextRadio platform. The company is working on systems to integrate FM and HDRadio into other devices including car dashboards. With every automaker building their own dashboard entertainment system as well as Apple and Google, NextRadio does have the ability to standardize the FM interface from one system to the next and bring their data-oriented services along for the ride. From cars to televisions to any other device to come along the NextRadio platform makes sense. Just not focusing on cell phones.
From the lack of utilization in NextRadio to all the words and lack of actions from the FCC, if there’s one platform to continue to worry about it is the AM band. We do know that there will not be an FM translator filing window exclusively for AM stations, but information on whatever improvement plans are on the way for the band continue to be elusive.
The podcasting representation at the convention’s New Media Expo had to be among the largest increase from last year. Many panels were dedicated to how to bring radio audiences to podcasts and growing the on-demand platform.
One thing we noticed was the lack of services dedicated to program consulting. Everyone wants your show on their platform, whether it be for hosting or sales, but there was nobody there peddling their wares as a programming consultant or coaching. If there is a growing industry for those looking to bridge radio and podcasting, this is it. Those podcasters or podcast networks seeking to improve their talent and seek out others would be well served by bringing on someone in those roles and it would behoove radio programmers to learn the podcasting industry.
Many of the employees in the radio industry are on an island. On-Air/Programming does their thing. Sales is in another corner. Nobody wants to deal with engineering unless there’s an emergency. Which is why it was so enlightening to see a few emerging trends at our community meetup.
An on-air talent and an engineer peddling a product they worked together to create to solve a common need. A computer programmer who works part time in radio promotions for the fun of it. A radio programmer who came to learn engineering basics. All working to expand their personal platforms.
He Who Shall Not Be Named
It’s not quite Voldemort, but 25-Seven Systems’ Voltair was the word on everyone’s lips at the convention. The processor is a “watermark monitoring and enhancement” device that enhances Nielsen’s PPM signature to be more audible by those carrying the receivers. Very few employed by any of the 300-350 stations in possession of it are willing to talk to anyone on the record about the Voltair, but one did state to us, “It works, especially for TSL.”
Formats with periods of silence, such as Public News/Talk have seen peaks and valleys from one month to the next in their ratings. Smooth Jazz has been virtually killed off since the launch of PPM. Was the format not being listened to as much as in the diary era or was it a victim of the PPM receiver not picking up the encoding properly? The answer is likely in between, but the word Voltair is going to have an immense impact on the radio industry going forward as Nielsen Audio figures out how to handle the mess it inherited from Arbitron. The processing platform is now on the front lines.
Meanwhile, I’ll soon have more news on my personal platform here with RadioInsight coming soon thanks to what else I took away from my week in Las Vegas.