Not Dead…But Maybe on Life Support

I recently spoke to the Interact club at Washington High School.  Interact is the high school extension of Rotary, and it’s been my pleasure to have visited this club several times as a member of Cedar Rapids Rotary West.  On this day, however, I was there to talk about my day job.

A lot of us are worried about the radio business, particularly stations like KCCK that specialize in music.  The consolidation and homogenization of radio formats by big corporate owners happened just as technology gave consumers (particularly young, early adopters) the means to bypass the traditional radio and records arbiters of taste and discover music on their own.
Just when new media offered creative people new audio and video platforms to re-invent and re-imagine how to entertaintheir local audiences, companies like Clear Channel and Cumulus started cutting back on staff and relying on syndicated voices from out of town, figuring listeners either didn’t care or couldn’t tell the difference.
So, it’s with no small amount of trepidation that I take a speaking engagement with any group whose members are under 40.  Is radio still relevant?  Is there room in their busy, online lives for any station, let alone our little jazz outfit?
Well, I took a deep breath and toward the end of my talk, asked them about radio.  The results were a mixed bag.  What I observed during my decidedly unscientific poll?
  • About 3/4 of them said they listened to the radio frequently, but none indicated they used it to discover new music.  Recommendations from friends and Pandora were the methods identified to find new favorites.
  • What’s wrong with the radio?  Too many commercials, no new music, play the same things over and over again.  Too much talk.
  • What could radio do better?  More variety in music, take some chances.
Ironically, these are the EXACT SAME COMPLAINTS people have had about radio for years.  The only difference is that before, the audience was more captive.  If you wanted to hear music, you either had to carry a case of cassettes or CDs with you everywhere.  Or, you found a station that tended to play types of music that you liked, knowing that you’d have to sit through talk, commercials and songs that didn’t appeal to you on the way to your favorite.  That was just the way it was.
Today, your entire music collections resides in a little box smaller than the little box that controls your TV.  Looking for new music?  Go to Pandora and if the “station” the site creates for you plays a song you don’t like, you can banish it forever, along with anything that sounds like it.
So yeah, I was a little surprised when 3/4 of my teenage audience reported they listened to the radio.  What I said was, “Hey, that’s great!”
What I was thinking was, “in Heaven’s name, Why?”
Now, this sounds like I’m pretty down on my business, and in a way that’s true.  I think radio has totally missed the boat with the post-Boomer audience, and station Facebook pages and contests that can be entered via text message are too little, too late.
I’d like to think we’re doing a little better at KCCK.  As a true local station, we can be responsive to our audience in ways most stations can’t.  And there’s no consultant telling us what to play.  Our producers have the freedom to play what they think is cool.  But no station can provide the customization and instant gratification a Pandora or Ipod can.
So, is radio dead?  Not yet, but we certainly need a flu shot.

I Got Your らどうぞ Right Here…

So, over on the Jazz 88.3 Blog, a post I made several weeks ago has been the subject of dozens of comments, way more then usual for any conversations about KCCK.
All in Japanese.
All nonsense in both Japanese and English.
The original posting dealt with the installation of our new 106.9 translator, which improves our signal coverage in Iowa City, and also extends our new HD Radio service. So, imagine my surprise when I open my email a few days later and read…
素人 has left a new comment on your post “The New 106.9 – Dennis“:


Now, because of our webcast, we do actually have a few listeners in Japan, (one contacted us just today. Hi, Erin!) but most of them communicate with us in English, and it’s difficult to believe they would have anything substantive to say about a transmitter in Iowa City.

So, ever the curious type, I pasted the characters into Babelfish and not surprisingly, discovered the posting had nothing to do with us. It was vaguely pornographic, but mostly nonsense. So, I deleted it moved on to more important work.

But, they kept coming. One or two every few days, till deleting become a daily task.

In case you’re curious, here is a translation of one of the cleaner ones:
The man with the amateur host of the leading part, just healing the body of the woman can receive large amount reward. The frustration human wife and the man the woman who does not have the coming out meeting seeks the man with this site and others the [tsu] plain gauze is. The one which has interest please from the TOP page.

Well, I’m glad we cleared that up.

So, I’m tired of cleaning them up, so they are probably just going to keep coming. I still have no idea what their purpose is, whether this is a live person generating the text or a robot of some kind.

Maybe it’s code. Perhaps even now foreign agents are logging on to our Blogger account to receive the secret instructions for their nefarious missions. Homeland Security, are you listening?