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The NAB convention has come and gone. What was different about this year's show was typified by how many people I did not see. While I prepared for the convention, calling the group of reporters to cover the show, I was surprised at how many people said they would not be attending. This is the largest broadcasting convention (and a few non-broadcast-things convention), and it has shown the smallest attendance figures in several years.

As it is, registered attendance at the Spring extravaganza has been dropping, but this year's figure — which was never announced at the show — has been estimated at 95,000; a 16 percent drop from last year's 113,000. The NAB cites the events of Sept. 11 as being the main reason for the decline, and it was announced that the organization anticipated a reduced turnout. In the end, the NAB has stated that it is pleased with the figures. This is understandable. Why would the NAB admit that the convention is showing signs of decay?

Imagine if your station lost 16 percent of its listeners. Despite the economy or terrorist events, I think some serious fact-finding would follow.

In previous years, the registered convention attendance figures have been announced on Wednesday or Thursday during the show. Not so this year. As it is, I never saw a formal announcement of the attendance during the show. When I asked about attendance figures in the NAB pressroom, I was told that the NAB had not finished counting. I don't believe the number that is being reported anyway.

I have never liked the NAB's counting method of reporting registered attendance. This year I held three badges — as an exhibitor, member of the press and a full conference registrant. I may have also had a speaker registration for the session I moderated, but I never picked it up. I was counted three times this year. In previous years I have been counted as many as six times. Once you take out the duplicate badges and exhibitor badges, the actual number probably drops to 80,000.

In a down economy, budgets are cut and expenses trimmed. I hope that this was the case for the convention this year. The events of Sept. 11 have contributed to this, but they are not the sole cause. Stations that do not send key personnel to conventions deprive themselves of a way to develop their employees and deprive their employees of valuable opportunities to learn and interact with others. There is some play time in the evening, but it's all business during the day. I don't agree with everything the NAB does, but the experiences provided by the NAB convention are valuable.

What was the overall feeling about the convention? The general comment I heard from exhibitors is that there was a quality and not quantity attendance. Those present were not kicking tires; they were evaluating products and services for purchase.

The sessions provided good and timely information and covered a wide range of topics. The session I moderated, called Why Buying Now Will Save You Later, touched on issues of security and IBOC; two points indicative of what is currently happening in our industry.

The hot topic on the show floor was IBOC. Ibiquity made quite a splash with its announcements, coupled with the NRSC's decision on AM IBOC. While some of the headlines were misleading, stating that IBOC has been launched even without a final say from the FCC, the conversations were lively from supporters and opponents.

The AM IBOC demonstrations were less than stellar because they were showing a new installation with PAC encoding instead of ACC, which is what we have all heard so many times in the past. The new demos were not quite ready, but the show went on. If a technology is being officially launched, it should be complete, not half-baked.

Broadcast Electronics, Harris and Nautel showed IBOC exciters; Continental showed a variation with a Digital Radio Mondiale demo. In the end, IBOC was the star of the show.

The complete BE Radio wrap-up of NAB2002 is being assembled and will appear next month, including the results of the Pick Hit awards. Until then, I'll be resting my feet, sore from walking the show floor and resting my shoulders, sore from carrying the reams of new product information.

Send comments to: E-mail: beradio@primediabusiness.com
Fax: 913-967-1905




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