Before magnetic recording tape

I’m not sure I’ve shared this photo of my old man. I’m blessed with a lot of great pics. It’s clear from this one how much he enjoys what he’s doing. Note the disc on the turntable in the foreground: just one track cut into the center of the disc. Probably a commercial. You can see more of these to the right of the control board. This is before magnetic tape and they “cut” these discs in the adjacent studio. If you fucked up while cutting, you put a piece of cellophane tape over that track and cut another one. I can’t even imagine trying find and cue these while doing a live shift. But the alternative was reading everything live. That would get old fast, for the announcer and the listener. Must have been an exciting time.

“Texas Ed” Pinner (WSLM)

I have a lot of photos of radio folk but this might be my favorite. “Texas Ed” Pinner, WSLM, Salem, IN. There’s all this ancient tech jammed into every corner. Reel-to-reel deck; Fidelipac carts; CD players (alas, I don’t see any turntables) and propped up in front of the controls… almost too small to see… an early iPod. Texas Slip is playing the hits from his iPod. Sigh. (Photo by Mike Cady)

Radio: There will be no more new music formats

Mark Ramsey says the last successful new radio format was the Variety Hits format, “Jack.” I barely remember that format (now 15 years old). Mr. Ramsey says there as been no new youth-based format on the radio fail in generations… and there never will be “but because the tastes are so fractured among millennials that there is no popular thread of music that isn’t already absorbed sufficiently well by an existing format.”

I’m not sure who would care about this theory besides someone who programs a radio station. He offers some insight into who listens to which formats and why but it all seems a bit… academic to me. Like reflecting on Mayan culture.

People still listening to radio. Even for news.

“91% of Americans ages 12 and older had listened to traditional AM/FM radio in the week before they were surveyed in 2015, according to Nielsen Media Research. […] In research asking about how people are learning about the U.S. presidential election, 44% of adults said they learned about it from radio in the past week. Radio outpaced both national (23%) and local (29%) print newspapers, although it trailed local TV news (57%) and cable TV news (54%).”

Pew Research State of the News Media 2016

A finite amount of attention

“Perceptual Load Theory states that we have a finite amount of attention and that once that capacity is maxed out, we cannot process anything else. To test whether paying attention to radio traffic reports can be bad for our driving, Gillian Murphy asked 36 people to drive a route in a full-sized driving simulator while listening to a traffic update on the radio.”

Listening to the radio could impair drivers’ concentration

Will radio find a home in your next car?

This article says yes (I think). Everyone seems to agree younger listeners are turning to their phones for audio but there are still lots of folks listening to the radio.

Ninety-three percent of U.S. adults listen to radio weekly, according to Nielsen. 96 percent of U.S. adults (and 94 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds) owned a radio in 2008; today, 79 percent of adults do, and just 68 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds do.

The big radio companies are apparently in the shit but that might be the result of some bad business decisions as much as changing listening habits.

iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel), the largest radio company in the U.S. with 850 stations, currently trades for just around a dollar a share, down from around $6 last April. The company is loaded down with debt, and restructuring or bankruptcy could be in its future. Cumulus Media, which owns 454 stations, trades at just $0.54 a share, and NASDAQ has warned that its share price is so low it could be delisted. Emmis Communications stock trades under a dollar. And CBS announced last month that it is planning to sell off its radio stations.

I could certainly have done without the CD player in my MINI. And probably the radio but I don’t think that was even an option.