KUT Deejay Larry Monroe

KUT jock Larry Monroe, one of three deejays downsized into near oblivion by the peabrained maneuver of management in Austin last year, is soon retiring entirely from the airwaves. But you can catch some of the magic he brought to the airwaves on his website, here, where he’s posting “Video Sets” for your enjoyment. They show what made Phil Music a much-loved tradition. You can also friend up with the man at his Facebook page, here, if you’re in to socializing, and join the thousands who already have. The link to Larry’s site is now on the right.

One interesting development at KUT: One of the AAA deejays (the lower-priced spread) brought in when the veterans’ hours were slashed to preclude paying health benefits, is seeing his hours cut back now. An hour-long canned show is cutting into his time slot, as management takes baby steps towards its perceived ultimate goal: canned music, playin’ on the radio. After creating such a massive furor last summer with its ham-handed moves, KUT management has to carefully, slowly make its moves else the “community-supported” station lose all listener support. The bean counters had to extend the spring fund drive to meet goals — an unheard-of development — and had to lean heavily on the largesse of its elite “Leadership Circle” members. Noblesse oblige, indeed.


The Same Old Song

Finally a little sanity. The Infinite Blog site here is a little more circumspect in its analysis of Apple’s “move” into HD radio. As this post leads off:

First of all, don’t get too excited about the press reports that Apple has applied for a patent to include HD radio technology in future iPods and iPhones. As iN3 Partners’ Robert Unmacht points out, “This in no way means they will do it. Tech companies file for many things to protect themselves and never use it. There are power issues (the chip is a bit of a hog), space issues, and always cost issues.”

As usual, this is just another run of the Struble Follies, struttin’ the swag they’ve become so famous for here and on sites like hdradiofarce.com and others. And on DIYmedia.net, John Anderson writes about a new wrinkle to HD radio: the use of translators. Without going all technical on it, John gives a thumbnail description:

In the case of FM translators being used to replicate AM broadcasters, HD is at fault partly because of the interference it generates on the AM band. But simulcasting FM-HD content on an analog FM transmitter is a case of circuitous idiocy.

Here goes the apparent business model: first, launch a technology capable of multicasting, but prone to listening problems. When listeners don’t adopt said technology in droves, take the content you made for that platform and put it on the old analog medium to maximize your investment in the technology.

Note the end result is not a net benefit for the proliferation of HD Radio. Instead, it’s more stress put on the FM spectrum through everybody’s favorite pet loophole, the translator. Translators, as a class of radio station, were never designed to be a primary broadcast provider, but more and more the industry seems to be treating them like they are.

In a technical working paper on a completely different policy issue (the recycling of spectrum for wireless broadband), the FCC somberly described the the task it faced with these words: “Spectrum policy is not easy. Technology changes. Consumer preferences and habits change. Business models change. Allocation priorities change. And this change can be daunting.”

It is amazing that, in the case of spectrum-regulation work being done in a different division or bureau within the same agency, that the FCC can talk with such apparent seriousness and then, in the case of broadcast radio, act with such carelessness. And the fact that a growing number of radio stations (both AM and FM) appear to be flocking to the use of FM translators as a form of refuge (although their practices are legal) should be ringing some bells in the heads of FCC staff tasked to monitor HD Radio’s vitality.

Premium Pay Meter

Tom Taylor, writing in his blog Taylor on Radio-Info (TRI), interviewed Cox Radio’s Bob Neil about Arbitron’s new, improved people powered meter (PPM). Bob says “This brings the technology from the late ’80s to about 1993.” Says he:

I asked Bob “Is the new PPM 360 better?” and he says “The hype exceeds the substance. What you have is a new-shaped device that calls the data in, instead of using a docking station. So what?” Neil says “The real issues haven’t been dealt with — sample size, that it’s another device that people have to remember to carry everywhere, the fact that studies done by RAJAR [in the UK] showed the device only captured station code about 70% of the time, and costs that don’t add up for stations.” On the question of costs, Neil says “I think people forget that radio stations have had their revenues reset to 1999 levels in many markets, yet this service costs 65% more than what was already often the largest operational expense for a station. With this methodology decreasing ratings by 30% out of the gate, the cost versus the benefit does not add up for the industry.” He also recalls suggestions “as early as 2000 that Arbitron consider cell phones to wed the software to, so that’s 10 years and nothing has happened.” Bob Neil’s been a hardcore (and outspoken) skeptic about PPM for years. Arbitron believes it’s taking a pretty major step forward with PPM 360 — so what do you think?

The Din of iNiquity

More about the “pseudo news” of Apple glomming onto HD technology, this time on Mark Ramsey’s Hear 2.0 in a piece entitled “The dark secret iBiquity doesn’t want you to know.” His remarks in themselves mirror what’s been said on the alter blogs (those not buying slavishly into the IBOC swag):

Hot in the news is a new patent application from Apple for what has been portrayed as HD Radio capability in iPods or possibly even iPhones.What’s left out of the news is one important point: We’re talking about an accessory here — not a core functional piece of the iPod hardware. That’s abundantly clear from the title of Apple’s application and completely missed by most of the radio industry trades: “Digital Radio Tagging Using an RF Tuner Accessory.”

An accessory is what you call shoes and a purse. It’s not part of the dress itself.

The significance, of course, is that an accessory is optional. It doesn’t piggyback on the product and thus isn’t sold when the product is sold, isn’t bought when the product is bought, and isn’t used when the product is used….

It doesn’t matter how many — or which — devices contain HD radio. What matters is how many consumers use HD radio.

Repeat that and make it your new mantra. Because the makers of HD radio are bent on proving the viability of their product by emphasizing the number of devices that are designed to contain it rather than the number of consumers that care to use it.

A website reaches, by definition, billions of consumers. And if none of those consumers access the website, it’s value is zero.

It’s in the comments where the heavy artillery is brought to bear, with Florida’s Paul Zecchino leading off:

Isn’t this vintage iNiquity? Isn’t this precisely how this Hah-vud smart cabal pulls its tricks, by means of a whole lotta noise?

Everywhere one turns, when it comes to iNiquity, isn’t it all about noise? Here again, aren’t we hearing noise and more noise with respect to this iPod announcment? Isn’t the metaphor about shoes and purse perfectly fitting?

When you turn your radio dial to cruise formerly pristine AM and FM bands, don’t you hear increasing, vomitose, toxic, sour chunks of iNiquity’s obnoxious “iBLOC jamming” noise? On AM isn’t that rattlesnake-hissing sound that drowns your favorite AM station courtesy of iBLOC’s failed, serially superseded, hammered-to-fit “technology,” to use the term loosely?

And when you slide around FM, isn’t that irksome buzzing noise which obliterates your favorite FM stations in fact what many broadcast engineers refer to as “IBUZZ,” the noxious and illegal result of the FCC’s ill con$idered deci$ion to allow this foolish, self-serving jamming system to commit what amounts to state-sponsored jamming of you, the citizen’s, airwaves?

How much longer will this charade be allowed to continue? Likely a while, as iNiquity has a knack for keeping the wheels greased, doesn’t it?

On the other hand, your influence counts — use it.

Next up is Greg, with this:

“It doesn’t matter how many — or which — devices contain HD radio. What matters is how many consumers use HD radio.”

Ultimately, that is true, but iBiquity does profit also through royalties paid to include HD Radio on devices. Thank you for calling out this one, as this was really hyped, first through AppleInsider, then through the radio trades and other press releases.

As with the failed Zune HD, which couldn’t be marketed outside the U.S., due to directly including HD Radio, I can’t imagine Apple ever including it directly. Adding analog FM-tuners to the iPod Nano probably did not boost sales, either. Analog FM-tuners in cell phones are to become the global standard, so directly adding HD Radio makes no sense. HD Radio chipsets are still power-hogs, run hot, and reception is still generally problematic. Analog FM-tuners with tagging are probably dirt cheap.

Then it’s “Industry Insider,” with this to add:

Greg touched on it, but the fact is — it doesn’t matter in the long scheme of things how many broadcasters broadcast HD Radio technology. The main business model of iBiquity is royalties from the sales of millions upon millions of HD Radio radio receivers and HD Radio decoding chipsets which also have royalties to iBiquity. Once these receivers are sold, it matters not whether the listener tunes in HD Radio broadcasts. But at some point, if there isn’t something (good content) to compel the listener to purchase the receiver, wouldn’t this ultimately stymie receiver sales?

Sure, iBiquity receives royalties from broadcasters (as well as equipment manufacturers) on each broadcast system sold. But the end game is receiver sales.

To which Mark Ramsey replies:

True enough.

But if receiver sales matter to them you’d never know it by their strategies.

So continues the saga of Bob Struble and his snake-oil sales. In a post on Radio Ink, Greg from hdradiofarce.com adds this bit of information:

The Internet is full of half-truths that people don’t bother to check out. The patent application under discussion was filed February 19, 2009. It clearly describes an accessory to a media player. This disclosure relates generally to radio transmissions, and more specifically to RF tuner accessories that communicate with a media player such as a portable media device. It is a follow-on patent application to HD Tagging in an RF Tuner Accessory, by the same inventors, filed December 14, 2008. That’s iTunes tagging — the radio receiver accessory and the iPhone/iPod PMD. iTunes tagging in actual hardware was introduced in January 2008 at MacWorld, and you have a year to file the patent after the first public enabling disclosure. What the later patent concerns is enhanced modes of interaction between the accessory and the PMD. It’s already on the shelf. It’s iTunes tagging.

HD and Arbitron: A Match Made in Hell

They’re at it again in the engineering discussion group. This is a continuation of a previous post, but the newer comments contain some good information, and this string delves into Arbitron numbers, as well as HD radio. One tidbit for Austin listeners: The June Arbitron book will be based on the portable people meter (PPM), the new set of questionable numbers churned out by the company. (As Lowell Kiesow says: “Don’t count on PPM numbers being any more useful than diaries. The numbers are only as good as the quality of the sample distribution, and that appears to be horrible.”)

In other comments, Jon Cyphers launches into HD, in comparison with iPhones, the latest in content on the go:

The iPhone apps are free to anyone who spent at least $100 on a phone and pays at least $70 a month for usage. So it’s not as if someone went with an iPhone app because it was free in comparison to buying an HD Radio. Right? These were probably even bigger spenders than the ones who bought HD Radios.

As far as the 2.5 million HD Radios sold (I saw that quote today too), how many of those are Zune HDs that have a really good chance of not being used even 10% of the time as HD Receivers? How many were bought in clearance sales? How many were Sony’s to get a hold of the superior analog tuner?

Dan mentioned the C Crane catalog with the Sony HD receiver in it. Problem is two C Crane catalogs back, there were 6 HD radios in the catalog. With the car manufacturers, there have been so many different press releases about Ford alone, and they never come true. It will take a car that sells for <$25,000 to come with HD Radio standard to even get close to surviving.

You can bet wifi will take off and HD will never make it as standard equipment. People will use their music collection or analog radio if streaming audio doesn’t work in the cars. Every time someone brings up the AT&T problems it drives me nuts. AT&T is investing billions to improve things and iphones will be on Verizon soon, spreading the load across more networks. HD has problems with transmission, marketing, and sale/distribution of the receivers, compared with mobile broadband having problems with just transmission in just a few key major markets (where HD has problems, too, BTW), and some rural coverage.

The Arbitron study that compared HD, streaming, XM, and other things is a wakeup call to anyone who still thinks HD has a chance. I can’t imagine a GM reading this study and then turning around and investing more money in HD. HD Radio ranked last in impact of people’s lives at <1%, even below e-readers. Only 7% were very interested in HD Radio, and only 3% owned and used it. Only 31% have heard of or read about HD recently. Then you look at the numbers for online radio listening and they are huge compared to HD and growing dramatically.

What’s the percentage of HD stations with ERPs over 25kW that are increasing power to -14 or -10?  I only know of one in our market even considering it. So that hail mary of power raising is not going to save it. It’s dead, we gave it a good chance (and blew a lot of money) for several years, and it didn’t happen (actually it was an abysmal failure). Now it’s time to stop the bleeding of resources that could be used for creating content for analog and streaming transports.

Novel thought, but so many big-name companies — including Ford motor company — have bought into the swindle that it’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Michael Leclair chimes in directly, with a cautionary note about the internet and its lack of a real revenue stream:

Gee Jon, you are on a roll again today, aren’t you? The same Edison study showed that internet usage has stalled and that the trend of little to no growth in broadband delivery continued in 2010. The overall trend seems to indicate that until and unless there is a build out of Marshall Plan proportions in wireless access networks (a la 4G or WiMax) that internet usage is stalled. Thus the “great spectrum grab” of 2010 has begun in order to get more services out there.

I’m the first to agree that content is going be where we as radio producers and news organizations can preserve our role in the media and importance in our listeners lives. Hey, I work for a news station and we have our content going out over just about anything we can think of internet related. But it remains true that the overwhelming majority of our revenue is radio related. IMHO this is due to the exclusive use of the radio platform. In contrast, with all of our web investments we still can’t cover our costs — it’s a loss leader. Sadly, the more that it succeeds in reaching people the more it goes underwater — you can’t “make it up on volume” when you lose a penny every time someone uses your site.

As a group we need to manage our transition to the web very carefully because we don’t want to go where the newspapers went. For news organizations if you jump with both feet into the internet exclusively it means standing everyone up in a line saying goodbye to 2 out of 3 in your staff… So I find it hard to embrace with the same passion what you are advocating, which is turning off the transmitter and leasing an OC-3.

By all means I would encourage public radio stations to invest appropriately in staff and resources to become news and information sources for their community. News stations develop powerful bonds with their audiences who will then follow them to new platforms. But the costs of building a news department make the cost of investing in HD look like a blip (note that electricity for high power HD might run another $800 per month . . . staff costs for a city-size news department run about $500,000 per month and up).

And Michael Leclair chips back in about Arbitron: “Yes, PPM has been a big step backwards in accuracy due to the lack of adequate sample sizes. Basically it’s a crap shoot that penalizes stations that don’t play music continuously.” He adds:

There is a lot of smoke and mirrors going on with PPM. My take on the somewhat “random” increases or decreases that happened after the conversion is that there is a slight amount of sample bias that isn’t being filtered out because the sample sizes are still quite small (for statistical averaging to work you have to get a representative sample of the population . . . this can be pretty hard since people can be so different in the ways they use media and if you don’t get enough samples the bias will come through). Arbitron has said they are working on larger samples and that should help get better measurements.

In general, though, the trend for voice/talk stations to lose audience relative to music is so well known that program directors across the country are telling their DJ’s to cut back on their mic time because it kills their PPMs. That’s not a good sign.

But as another pointed out, sometimes it’s just a matter of what a store is playing in the background that can alter ratings:

In NYC the number one station has seen a further increase in ratings with PPM. No one I know across a number of demographics actually listens to that station but it is played in many shops and delis. Since PPM measures exposure; anyone who walks into that establishment wearing a PPM device will be counted. In my neighborhood one deli that serves a lot of people from the hospital across the street is picking off listeners that otherwise would be listening to drastically different formats and at the expense of those other stations. This is reflected in a drop in ratings on the other stations. I think the only correlation with talk is that most businesses do not play it in the background.


This post on YouTube on HD radio is hilarious in the comments that follow. The guy doing the testing ultimately decides that internet radio would be the way to go (as mentioned by new NPR boss Vivian Schiller):

HD Radio is shit in homes AND cars (I made the mistake of desecrating my ’78 vette by putting a JVC HDR-1 in the dash (already was setup for a 1-DIN)). HD and anything else digital sounds like shit… major waste of cash, mate, MAJOR waste… oh, on the GOOD side, some HD radios do Stereo AM…
Digital radio in general just sounds like crap unless it’s a pretty good quality internet radio station which is still a little “kbps-y,” lol. AM radio is pretty useless in my area. we have no stations i can get reception from around here, none. So i rely on FM, internet radio stations, and Pandora sometimes.
They’ve been “improving” HD Radio since it was introduced in 2002, and it has a bleak future, to say the least. Most stations simulcast their “HD” channels on the Internet anyway, so an Internet radio definitely is a more useful investment.

The tinny sound/distortion in the upper frequencies of the sound is what did it in for me. Internet radio has it beat by far I think. AM in my area is nonexistent.

Maybe you bought the one I returned! The FM reception is acceptable, but the tuner purposefully dulls down the analog FM treble response in order to make the digital sound better; compare it to a good quality analog-only tuner and you’ll hear the difference. The AM tuner is a complete joke — hissy, crackly, and horrible sensitivity. And HD reception in a car is even worse; the digital signal is constantly cutting out and dropping back to analog, causing an annoying phasing effect.

HD’s New, Improved Snake Oil

Interesting post here from John Gorman on his GormanMedia blog way back when, which seems all too apropos given the latest from Bob Struble. The new “swag,” or unvarnished hooplah, from iBiquity hints that Apple may be hopping on the HD radio “train” (which one wag on the info-com discussion board redefines as “jumping on board the HD lawn tractor”). This appears to be the latest in a long line of carny-shill ploys by the IBOC crowd. As John noted back in 2008:

The HD Digital Radio Alliance capo Peter “Sgt. Bilk-o” Ferrara proclaimed his planted tale to be a sign that Steve Jobs was essentially endorsing HD Radio. In reality, he wanted his latest fabrication to spread to the mainstream press.

It didn’t.

Considering the Alliance’s track record, you have to wonder if everyone associated with the HD Radio scam feels like the Snidely Whiplash cartoon character. Curses, foiled again!

The swag then — the media plants — had everybody jumping on board pursuant to a hyped poll. (“Which of the following next-gen add-on features most interests you?” Harmless enough — until you read the following line: “Currently, HD Radio is leading the poll with 29% of the vote.”)

But Google Trends, which measures site traffic, showed the HD Radio Alliance’s claims to be false. Did the Alliance believe that no one would probe their implausible claims? The best one comes at the expense of consultant and paid iBiquity HD Radio shill Fred Jacobs. This isn’t a new story, as such, but it makes one wonder what the ulterior motive was. Here’s a tale of two research studies, one of which was supposed to vanish into thin air — but didn’t….

You see, it started when a new (click here) 41-question survey about HD Radio from Jacobs for iBiquity was mentioned in a Radio-info.com forum on October 31. Almost immediately, the original survey vanished and was replaced by this sanitized 16-question version. We have soooo many questions to ask of this ethical titan.

So who pulled your original HD Radio survey — and why? Was the original survey a plot to kick Bilk-o replacement Lyin’ Diane Warren to the curb? One would think that any research expert — even a self-proclaimed one — would never put a survey into into the field unless it was a finished product. Or was it a finished product that iBiquity CEO Bob “Booble” Struble and the HD Digital Radio Alliance had to unfinish at your expense? Here’s the facts, Fred. The economy’s so bad even Dollar Stores are being robbed.

Come 2009, fewer radio groups will be able to justify and afford to renew licensing deals with iBiquity and more than a few HD Radio stations could go dark. The radio industry has to concentrate on the main product — the stations that can be listened to — not the ones that can’t.

Yes, Fred. It’s dead.

And here’s some free advice for iBiquity. Do what you know best. The only way you’ll ever make real money is to invent a pay-per-lie service.

Cue rimshot. Now the new swag has Apple and Steve Jobs all gaga over HD, but the info-com commenters aren’t buying it outa the box. Some of the comments:

As it turns out, Apple files a LOT of patents for a LOT of things that it never produces.

It would be an excellent match with the iPhone. After all, it’s on a network that doesn’t work too. HD would be in great company!

I can’t see anyone jumping on this train unless there’s a real financial incentive. Surely the technical limitations (modulation efficiency, outdated codec, and interference) are apparent to any potential partner who does their research.

The real question is, if HD rolled out in their phones and mp3 players, what would win out — the turtleneck-sweatered groupies who fawn over anything Apple does as genius, or the horrible technical deficiencies of the HD digital chipset?

In other words, could Apple make HD “cool”?  Cheesy

Well, as it turns out, it isn’t even new swag:

The Internet is full of half-truths that people don’t bother to check out. The patent application under discussion (20100150276 A1) was filed February 19, 2009.

It clearly describes an “accessory” to a media player. “This disclosure relates generally to radio transmissions, and more specifically to RF tuner accessories that communicate with a media player such as a portable media device (‘PMD’)”

It is a follow-on patent application to “HD Tagging in an RF Tuner Accessory,” by the same inventors, filed December 14, 2008. That’s iTunes tagging — the radio receiver “accessory” and the iPhone/iPod PMD.  iTunes tagging in actual hardware was introduced in January 2008 at MacWorld, and you have a year to file the patent after the first public “enabling disclosure.”

What the later patent concerns is enhanced modes of interaction between the “accessory” and the PMD.

It’s already “on the shelf.”  It’s iTunes tagging.

Furthermore, patents are also used for defensive purposes, e.g., against prospective features for the Zune.

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