Dot-coms and delivery
I recently returned from the West Coast after attending both the NAB Radio Show and the 109th AES Convention. Apart from the one-day show-floor overlap, both events were very good from my perspective. The NAB Radio Show has a history of catering to the interests of station managers, sales managers and program directors. This trend continues, but the focus on engineering interests is growing in session topics and exhibits. For example, I moderated a panel that covered the role of computers and networks in radio as part of the Digital Facilities Certification Workshop. Other technical sessions covered similar forward-looking topics including IBOC. There were also sessions that covered more traditional radio themes. The NAB has made a good effort at including radio technology in the sessions. The show floor also covers technology, but many other interests are represented as well.
This year's NAB Radio Show brought equipment manufacturers, service providers, syndicated-program originators and Internet-focused companies. This year, there seemed to be even more dot-com companies than last year, which is not really surprising. While the Internet is still a hot topic for every aspect of radio, it is interesting to compare the list of dot-com exhibitors from last year to this year. True to the Internet trend that we have seen so many times before, many of last year's dot-com exhibitors were nowhere to be found. Some have been bought by other companies. Many have simply run out of venture capital. Regardless of their fates or futures, the dot-coms were the stars of the show.
The influx of all the dot-com interests has necessitated new terminology for these radio delivery methods. The S-DARS companies are already known as satellite radio. At BE Radio we have adopted two terms to describe the conventional over-the-air delivery and the online delivery of radio broadcast: terrestrial radio and Internet radio.
Satellite radio had no real presence at the show. With both companies nearing service launch dates, most of their industry alliances have been formed. Their efforts are now being aimed at the consumer. Terrestrial radio continues to have strong roots at the radio show with IBOC still glimmering as a new hope. The recent creation of iBiquity Digital gave IBOC a new luster, but it was not the star of the show like it was last year or at NAB2000. Internet radio was making the biggest waves.
Previously, Internet radio interests only covered streaming audio. Simply putting an audio stream online is not enough anymore. Site-hosting and design services are only the beginning. Many dot-com exhibitors are offering methods of generating online revenue either by audio ad insertion, visual ad insertion, additional advertiser services and browser/player branding. Still, there were several dot-coms I visited that did not have a clear product or service. These companies are offering promises right now. These are the same companies that will likely become a statistic at next year's convention.
With all the focus on Internet radio - both delivery and revenue generation - it is obvious that radio broadcast is ready for an evolutionary change. Online listening presents new opportunities for both the broadcaster and the listener. These new opportunities create very different listening habits. Add to this the wireless application being developed with WAP-capable phones.
It is possible that radio's future will emphasize the creation of content and not the delivery mechanism. IBOC DAB provides a renewed opportunity for the content creator to control the delivery mechanism. Just as important will be the alternate delivery methods where the content creator passes the final product to an outside transmission provider such as an ISP or a wireless provider.
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