August 13, 2001-- Newsletter #143

By Joe Burns

Goodies to Go (tm)
August 13, 2001--Newsletter #143

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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,

Did you hear...

In Australia, Soprano Design and Wilson Equipment Services have installed 404 wireless-enabled parking meters in the town of Leichardt. You can still use coins if you'd like but to be really hip, you can use voice commands over a wireless device. Just ask for an hour and it magically shows up on the meter. Then it shows up on your bill. I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that there's a fee to use the voice messaging system. That fee most likely would have paid for another half hour.

Those of you who are searching the Web to download a pirated copy of the film, "American Pie 2" may get a little more than you bargained for. A French porn film has been given the same name and is being downloaded by unsuspecting surfers. I don't know that a lot of young men will be overly upset that they were duped with this one.

The Red Worm virus was not much more than a small brush fire, but that darn Sircam will not go away. Its latest big-name victim is Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Press releases from his offices say that his staffers are being bombarded with the attachments.

As a side note, Message Labs is reporting that the Sircam virus is still the number one detected virus on the Web.

Dell has stopped offering Linux operating systems as an option on its desktop and notebook PCs. The reason is simple lack of consumer interest. The company's Web site was a little behind the corporate decision team though. The discontinuation never got to the Webmaster and when people attempted to choose the Linux operating system as an option, the browser threw an error page.

Now onto today's topic...

Oh, come on. Give me a break. Really?

Radio stations need to pay more for broadcasting their signals over the Internet?

Come on. Really? You want to do this?

It seems that a federal judge has stepped up to the plate and once again ruled in favor of copyright and, in a round about way, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Last Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Berle M. Schiller agreed with a ruling by the U.S. Copyright office stating that even though technology has grown, and that it would make sense for Congress to "treat Internet broadcasts in the same manner as traditional broadcasts," he agreed with pre-existing laws and stated that the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) must pay to cyber- play.

Now, here's the rub before you all start bringing NAPSTER into the argument. Radio already pays royalties. In fact, last year it was estimated that radio paid out over $300 million in fees. Those fees go to pay licensing costs to ASCAP and BMI songwriters and music publishers.

Notice who's missing in that short list? The record companies.

Oh yes. Radio has always had a nice little deal with record companies. Radio plays the music. The music radio plays is perceived as popular and people in turn buy the music. It's a well documented although not causal effect. There have been research studies on the effects of radio airplay throughout the history of music radio. My entire doctoral dissertation dealt with radio's effect on the ability to create perceived music popularity through repeated airplay.

So now the RIAA wants to throw a wrench into the works by requiring that radio stations pay and extra fee to broadcast over the Web.

So I ask, why? Why would you want to do this? I say that to...

...the radio stations.

You got it. I say that to the radio stations. If this is the thanks you'll get, then why do it? Since I was in radio before becoming a professor, you might think I would be all for Internet broadcasting. I was once approached my university dean regarding broadcasting the school's radio signal. I told him I didn't think it was such a great idea.

Here's my thinking. Radio is now, and will always be, predominantly a local signal. It serves a local audience. Taking a signal to the Internet will not broaden an audience and even if it did, the ratings, on which we base our commercial rate cards are local and won't pick up the increased listeners.

Then there is the cost. The server system and the upkeep will need to be offset somehow. How will we do that? Will we sell banner ads? Those aren't being seen as such a great value anymore. Will we approach current advertisers and ask them to pay more since the signal is being broadcast on the Web? I'd like to be in the meeting with some of those car dealers when you pitch that.

My guess is that putting a signal on the Web will be purely an out-of-pocket expense. If you feel the status of having a signal on the Web is enough, then pay it. I wouldn't. My radio stations weren't in the business of losing money.

Now, someone is immediately going to say that putting a signal on the Web will help the local listening audience. Who? Those who cannot get the signal? Those who have moved away and still want to hear a morning show? OK. I'll give you that. The thing is that that slice of the audience pie is so small that I would ask if it is worth it.

The RIAA is fighting radio signals going on the Web for profit. I say, don't give it to them. Use the Web as your local medium. Play contests over the Web. Take requests. Post your playlists. Interact, but interact with a local audience.

Hey, you want to pay? Pay. Put your radio signal up and on the Web. Radio General Managers are strange people. They'll fight a DJ all day long over the cost of repairing a piece of equipment but then spend a bucket load of cash on Web broadcasting. I could never understand some of the logic I ran into.

If I were your Program Director, I would say forget the Web broadcasting. It'll cost too much and benefit too few for the return it'll bring.

Furthermore, I would suggest that the nice cozy relationship radio has with the RIAA should become suspect. Now that we know who our friends are, maybe it's time for radio to start programming away from the wants and views of the record industry. I for one would certainly like to hear some throwback to 1970s FM radio before record companies and consultants homogenized broadcast signals into RIAA-approved playlists of 40 top singles.

That's the problem with setting up an ultimatum. Sometimes the deal is not too good to refuse.


That's that. Thanks for reading.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

And Remember: College football is going to get underway soon and already people are talking about who will win the Heisman Trophy. I can't comment on that but I can tell you that the model for the trophy was Warren Mulrey of Fordham University. Frank Eliscu sculpted the face. Trouble was, the first sculpture showed a smile on the stature's face. Eliscu changed the face to a snarl because he felt football players were fighters. The uniform Eliscu used for the sculpture was taken from a photo of Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago. Those of you who know football trivia might find that last fact rather interesting past the historical. Jay Berwanger was the first player to win the Heisman. Go figure.

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