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Now at its peak, the fall convention cycle brings learning opportunities closer to you through many regional conventions and expos. I am invited to many of these events and make every effort to go to as many as I can, but attending all of them is nearly impossible.
Preceding the regional convention wave, one national convention, the NAB Radio Show, was held last month in Seattle. For me, every convention carries a set of standard questions that I hear after the show. The first is usually, “how was the show?”
I have to say that that it was a good show. There were some new product introductions, and I had a chance to begin developing some upcoming articles that will become Field Reports and Facility Showcases.
The big discussion on the show floor and in many sessions was IBOC. Exhibitors that are not directly involved with IBOC development are showing an interest. Attendees who have not been following the subject closely for the past several years were trying to catch up with the technology. For many, this knowledge of what is on the horizon does not help them do their daily jobs. Many take the approach of “I'll wait until it's a standard and I have to implement it, instead of learning and unlearning information and details now.” The time is now. If you need to get the basics, read How it Works in the August 2002 issue. Ibiquity even distributed copies of our August issue in their booth because of that article.
I also looked at the latest information about the Arbitron Portable People Meter (PPM) project. Data comparing the paper diaries and the PPM results were distributed to show that the new method is viable and accurate.
Streaming as a topic was almost non-existent this year. Thanks to the rulings and royalties imposed over the last year, most attendees considered it a dead issue. Two notable items were that netcasting pioneer KPIG has adopted a subscription service for its webcast and WRAL is working with a system (that is actually rather low-tech when examined) to permission listeners only within the station's coverage contour. Neither of these items is ground-breaking.
For an exhibitor, a successful show is gauged by the amount of traffic and how this traffic yields sales leads. It's strange that many exhibitors seemed to feel that the attendance was higher than it was last year. In reality, the show floor was smaller, and the NAB reported attendance at 3,983. Compare this to 5,227 at the Radio Show in New Orleans last year. Many exhibitors had low attendance expectations going into the show, so any reasonable showing was a good thing.
For an attendee, the sessions provided several great learning opportunities. While the show floor was not bursting with new products, there was plenty of technology being shown. Because of the lower attendance, attendees had a better chance of spending quality time with an exhibitor without interruption or without having to fight a crowd.
What's the future of the NAB Radio Show? Following the end of the World Media Expo, the Radio Show had promise of being an ongoing success. This success only lasted the first two years (1997 and 1998) and has since faltered.
Some suggested that the Radio Show should be terminated and completely rolled into the spring convention. I disagree. Radio needs its own convention. The spring convention covers so many elements that traditional broadcasting itself, let alone radio, is only a small part. The fall makes sense for timing to separate it from the spring show, but it is proving to be a hard task for the NAB to pull off. Many exhibitors are not able to financially justify exhibiting. Increasing costs for exhibit space and drayage cannot be offset by resulting sales. Consolidation and station budget cuts result in fewer attendees.
I'm looking forward to Philadelphia next year. I think the location offers several advantages for both attendees and exhibitors. Unfortunately, if next year's show continues its downward trend, we may be left with nothing but the regional choices in the fall.
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