Driving while Sirius…

The thought occurred to me the other day – several states (Connecticut is one) have made it illegal to operate a motor vehicle while talking on a hand held cell phone.   What if I have a device that is capable of making a phone call (think iPhone), but I’m “using” it to listen to Sirius/XM radio in the car?

A police officer of course would have no real way of knowing what I’m using the iPhone for unless I have the phone to my ear.

The answer turns out to be – in Connecticut it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while listening to Sirius/XM on the iPhone.   If the radio is built into the car, or if the electronic device is not capable of two way communications between “persons” (portable Sirius radio), that’s not a problem.   [Is a web server a “person”]? 

What a curious set of rules we create when lawyers try to regulate evolving technology.

Posted in Streaming Radio Guide | 10 Comments

iheartradio – first impressions

Since it appears to be the only way currently to get Clear Channel’s streams on the iPhone, I can’t ignore it, but they have a lot of opportunity to make this much better

  • Local means LOCAL – when I select Local Stations, I don’t want to see 30 channels of syndicated non-local crap
  • Standardize the format of the station description – it is very hard to find a specific news/talk stations – many entries don’t show a call sign, and few indicate the city where the station is located
  • Provide a way to sort the list or search for a specific station
  • Change the Cities list to be sorted by State, City…  an alpha list by cities is pretty useless – and again when you select a specific city, you get the 30 channels of non-radio crap
  • Streaming needs to work in the background

On my wish list is a way for a hyperlink in Safari to directly launch the iheartradio app and start the stream for that station.

Posted in Streaming Radio Guide | 2 Comments

iPhone and Streaming

If you’re thinking about buying an iPhone to listen to radio stations, you might want to think twice.   The reason is that Apple appears to think it can deprive web users of Flash applications and Windows Media Player streams.   Since most stations at this point are using Flash or WMP, that’s a large problem, and why I won’t be writing an App for now.   This closed architecture forces programming aggregators to create standalone apps like iheartradio to listen to stations.   You have to collect different apps, and then know which App to start to find the station or stream you want to hear.

The big winner of the iPhone is Google.   The tight integration of Google Mail, Google Maps and Google Search makes the iPhone an incredibly powerful tool.   Google has been pushing Android, it’s open cell phone operating system.   If Apple doesn’t open up to programs like Flash and a WMP player, Google will eventaully clean their clock.

Posted in Radio Business | 14 Comments

All is becoming clear…

The KNEW/Savage development is just one dot along the path.  It’s becoming clearer and clearer where radio is headed.  3G and 4G wireless are going to change all the rules, not just for radio.   Here is what I see in the future:

– Today’s syndicated programming is going to migrate to direct to consumer via wireless streaming and podcasting.   As more and more people catch on to the power of internet streaming over wireless, the attractiveness of programming  “local” radio stations using syndicated programming fades away

– Sirius /XM will drop satellite from their brand.  The niche of Sirius/XM is to be an aggregator of programming with a nationwide audience.  How the signal gets to you is not important.  As the quality and capacity of wireless internet improves, the infrastructure costs and quality problems with satellite delivery will push Sirius/XM more toward non-satellite delivery

– iheartradio is Clear Channel’s attempt to compete with Sirius/XM in the same role as programming aggregator.  Clear Channel has been signaling for some time that they view programming as their business, not running radio stations

– AM is really going to go away this time.   AM may live on as a vehicle for niche audiences like non-English programming and religious programming, but the migration of news/talk to FM is going to pick up speed.   Once you listen to radio on the internet, you won’t tolerate the noisy erratic quality of AM signals, especially at night

– WiMax isn’t necessary.  Even 3G networks have no problem maintaining a stream in a car at highway speeds.   While WiMax may become the world standard, AT&T and Verizon will make LTE the defacto US standard for 4g.  Sprint is missing some of the key things necessary to make Clearwire a success.

– Radio will return to being “local” if it is to have a future at all.  With the nationalization of brands (Office Depot, Wal*Mart, Lowe’s, Friday’s), it’s a question if there is enough local business to generate the revenue to support local radio.   Small operators not burdened by large amounts of debt will be the most successful.

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iPhone, do you?

The deal is done.   I broke down and purchased an iPhone (won’t be here for a few days – seems Apple/AT&T are selling a lot of them lately).

Once it arrives, look to see changes to the web site to make it look less hostile to cell phone/PDA users.   From what I gather, flash players don’t work on the iPhone, and that makes a large part of the stations not streamable. 

One feature some people have requested is that the lists be filterable by cell Phone type.   That seems like a reasonable request once I can figure out what that requires and how I can do it reasonably.  There is little doubt in my mind that cell phone streaming is more than just a fad.

If things go well, I might go forward writing a native mode iPhone app.   If you happen to have experience at doing that (show me your app!), now would be the time to propose some kind of revenue sharing deal.   The Apple iPhone API is new to me – I think I might enjoy learning that, but it also might be a huge waste of my time and I would create an inferior product.  I’m a database guy, not a user interface expert

Posted in Streaming Radio Guide | Tagged , | 21 Comments

Sirius/XM how to

Thinking about maybe getting Sirius/XM?

If you aren’t familiar with Sirius/XM, there is an easy free way to try it out.   First a few of the basics.

Sirius and XM used to be separate companies and had incompatible technologies, so at least for now you have to choose Sirius or XM.  Each service added the “best of” the other side’s programming for an extra charge.

To try it out for free, try out Sirius Internet Only streaming.  They offer a 7 day free trial here.   XM also has an internet streaming offer, but you can only use it if you already own an XM radio.

The Sirius News/Talk shows are already integrated into the SRGuide, and they are similar to radio stations other than you’ll constantly be pestered to enter your account password and type in a 4 character string of random characters to make sure you are a human and not a computer program. [Is that really necessary?]

A few of the channels you can get with a real Sirius/XM radio are not available for streaming – the most significant is the one that Quinn and Rose are on.   You’ll find that many of your familiar hosts area already on Sirius.  The main exception are most of those syndicated by Premiere (Rush, Beck) and Neal Boortz.   There is a Fox News Talk channel that carries Tom Sullivan and John Gibson, as well as Glenn Beck’s TV show (audio) on tape delay and a number of Sirius/XM only hosts like Andrew Wilkow.  A show with 9 minutes of news/commercials feels a lot different than one with 27 minutes.

If you see enough value in what they offer, you can later buy a radio for your car or to carry around.

I’ve long believed that the Beck/Limbaugh crowd are a much bigger market for subscription radio market than the the 30 years old living at home people with drug problems that seem to be the core of the Howard Stern audience.   If 5 or 10 million people signed up for Sirius/XM, that subscription revenue goes a long way to make advertiser boycotts futile.

If you do already have Sirius, tune it to channel 100 next week at 9 AM eastern.  See if Glenn Beck being there was a mistake (or Stern playing a clip of Beck’s show) or if something is “up”.

Posted in Radio Business, Streaming Radio Guide | 1 Comment

Clear Channel Website Syndrome

Okay, maybe this isn’t fair.  Maybe it is me, and not Clear Channel.

But since I (and now some of you) spend so much time looking at Clear Channel web sites, I was beginning to develop a pretty negative opinion about people in general from a constant diet of Clear Channel web sites – especially those for “Rock” music.   The “news” on the web sites is invariably “Obama is great” or some really exploitative celecbrity gossip or people doing really stupid things for attention.  Many of the sites and stations pretty overtly encourage drug use, view women as mindless sex toys, promote body mutilation (tatoos, piercings), etc….

Is it just that I’m not young and really “square”, or is there something here to my feelings about these web sites and what this type of “culture” is doing to screw up the country?

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CBS turning right?

This could be BIG.

CBS radio tried out “hot talk” with Free FM which was a dismal failure.   If you run down the CBS owned & operated stations, CBS has been allergic to any kind of  “right wing” talk radio.  KXNT in Vegas is about the only station that carries “hate talk”, and that’s just due to it being a former Infinity station they would probably rather sell off.

Well, down in Charlotte, North Carolina starting on September 14th, CBS is going to challenge WBT by converting a sleepy simulcast station to Conservative News Talk – including Beck, Hannity and Jason Lewis (who used to do local talk on WBT).

CBS crossing that psychic divide to entertain the possibility of giving listeners what they want to hear is a RBG  (really big deal).  I don’t doubt for a second that this lineup will succeed in Charlotte (I used to live there).  Charlotte is home to two of the country’s largest banks and very Conservative (or at least moderate).  

If Conservative Talk works in Charlotte, CBS owns a number of high power AM stations in major markets who might do the same.    KFWB in Los Angeles is changing Monday from All News to News/Talk (Dr Laura, Laura Ingraham, Smerconish).    I could easily see WINS or WCBS in New York flipped to News/Talk.   Citadel/ABC is VERY vulnerable right now to a frontal attack.

Maybe CBS also sees that the GE/NBC/Obama connections and someone remembers the history of radio in the 1920s.

Posted in Programming Updates, Radio Business, Radio Ownership | 4 Comments

The End of “Radio as we know it”

There is a news item today in Tom Taylor’s daily radio newsletter that is very important and will sooner or later determine if this web site becomes really important or have no purpose.

Since the first days, I’ve had the vision that “Internet Radios” are the future of radio.   They are a device you can buy today (C. Crane offers several versions) that lets you listen to streaming radio without needing a computer and in ways that are more familiar – like being integrated into a bedside unit that behaves like a conventional clock radio.   The radio connects to the internet using your existing wireless WiFi (802.11) router, but I would expect that to evolve into working with 3G and 4G wireless used now for cell phone internet access.  Down the road, your car “radio” will probably work based on this technology too, so you can listen to any radio station in the world on your way to work (including internet-only radio)

The big flaw to Internet Radios is that there is no standard way to tell them how to connect in order to stream (the basic focus of this directory).    The manufacturer of the radio maintains their own proprietary list of “supported” radio stations, usually limited by the technical capability of the radio (is it mp3 only?  WMP?).   Since you are not using a computer, any player that requires you to have Flash or javascript or a web browser won’t work.  And radio stations constantly change the URLS…. and what is the business model for a radio station to stream to a non-computer that can’t show ads?

So today’s news is that a group over in Europe is starting to work on developing a standard for internet radio, so that your radio would not be dependent on a list from the manufacturer and radio stations could publish their connection information so that changes are picked up automatically.

This has definitely got my attention :)

Posted in Opinions, Radio Business, Streaming Radio Guide, Syndication | 2 Comments