Happy New Year – Sirius-ly

January 2, 2007

I hope you had a great holiday and new year. I played it pretty casual.

Since the lease on my car was up I thought I’d use my time off at the end of the year to hunt down a new car.

I did get one. Mitsubishi’s performance sedan – the Galant Ralliart. It comes with 6 months of free Sirius Radio.

I already subscribe to XM and have been curious about the differences – now I can find out.

First – the call to activate the radio had me on hold for about 10 minutes.

The recording kept talking about “increased holiday call volume”.

At least they acknowledged the wait was long and offered a reason. They get points for that.

Getting the radio activated was a breeze – took 2 minutes.

Now – the radio itself is actually built into the 8 inch touch screen display in the vehicle dash.

It’s Incorporated into a digital menu along with regular AM/FM radio, the Navigation system, & all the controls/settings for the car.

When pushing the audio selector button you go AM-1 bank of 6 presets -FM -2 banks of 6 presets – Sirius – 4 banks of 6 presets and then on to the CD/MP3 section.

This set up makes Siruis an integrated part of the car – not an ADD on.

Having Sirius Radio integrated into my car in this way makes it as much a part of my car as the climate control and nav systems.

I didn’t activate the radio at the dealership – but the next day at home.

Having Sirius on the display, unactivated was kind of annoying.

And here’s the thing – it will ALWAYS be there.

Even if I let the subscription lapse after the trial – the 4 banks of Sirius presets remain and I’ll forever have to page thru them to navigate around the radio. It’s simply another band on my radio – like AM. It was like seeing the listings for all the pay channels you don’t subscribe to on the TiVo guide.

Now – onto content. I didn’t have a lot of time to listen yet – so these are very preliminary first impressions.

Also, I don’t listen to sat radio for the same stuff I can hear on terrestrial radio. So I don’t care about Top 40, Modern AC, Rock “hits” channels. If I want that stuff regular radio pumps it out like mad for free.

I subscribe to XM to hear music in my car that terrestrial radio doesn’t play – mostly jazz and jazz influenced musics, electronic music and talk programming like BBC. Also – commercial free.

First impression – Sirius’s Jazz channels suck compared to XM.

The “Planet Jazz” channel claims to feature artists like “Pat Metheny, Miles Davis, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Herbie Hancock, Soulive, Weather Report, John Scofield…” instead I heard Sting and Steely Dan. Get a clue guys – Geeze.

The “Chill Channel” is ok- too many vocals for my taste. The XM version is much hipper.

I also listened to a few other music channels but nothing about them jumped out as being remarkable. I still need to spend more time with it.

Of course, not having heard Howard in almost a year I had to tune in.

It was Howard like he’s always been – with a fairly regular peppering of 4 letter words. BUT – they are not used in a provocative way – rather – as conversational as many of the people I know use them. It’s not a big deal. Anyway – he’s still funny. I laughed.

In regards to sound quality. In my car, Sirius does sound better than regular FM radio. FM radio sounds fuzzy and distant. Sirius sounds clear and focused. The drop outs weren’t bad – its happens. It happened with my XM unit also.

Somehow I’m not getting the digital “artifact-ness” I used to get on my XM aftermarket unit in my other car – perhaps it’s the Rockford Fosgate sound system in the new car.

So, I’ll hang with Sirius for the 6 month trial – and see if it’s worth keeping – ie – paying for.

Who knows – by then it could be 1 single company.


Stern Mistake

September 13, 2006

OrbitCast has ALL the nitty gritty analysis of the recent contention that Stern’s Star (as measured by search queries) is fading fast.

My observation is more with the opportunity lost.  I think Stern/Sirius have done a poor job of reminding me (a listener) what I’m missing now that Stern is gone from traditional radio.

Sirius got the first part right – they got Stern.  Now they need his listeners – and the only way to do that is a steady disciplined multi-faceted campaign to remind former Stern listeners what they’re missing.

Where’s the Howard hype machine?

Sirius offers Interweb only streams

August 28, 2006

According to Sirius Backstage

Sirius will offer

online only subscription called “Sirius Internet Radio Plus”.  The service will offer CD-quality sound on the music channels and select talk channels including Howard 100/101 at 48kbps.

Hate to be a stickler – but 48kbps is not CD quality.
Cost – $12.99 per month for newbies – and and extra $2.99 per month for existing subscribers.

Not sure what the point of this is.   The extra boost in stream quality doesn’t out-weight the fact the content is still tethered to a computer device with an internet connection.

What the satcasters really need to be doing online is –
A.) Offer tiered programming packages for reduced costs.

All the rock channels for $6.99 per month.

All the “hits” channels for $6.99 a month.

Mix and match package of 10 channels of your choice for $4.99- $6.99 per month.

Let the Howard Channels become a premium channels for $5.99 per month all by itself.

B.) Offer internet only channels.

I know for a fact the satcasters have ideas and even fully produced concept channels that they simply don’t have enough bandwidth on the satellite to run.  Put’em online.

But hey, I’m just a terrestrial radio guy – what do I know.  ,-)

Ramsey gets Godin on Radio

August 23, 2006

Mark Ramsey has one of my favorite blogs Hear 2.0– let alone “radio blogs” and today is an excellent example why –  he interviews Seth Godin about radio.

Solid Mark.

Satellite Smack-down

August 16, 2006

Roars of joy and glee are ringing out in terrestrial radio quarters nation-wide today as the Sat-casters finally get a long overdue reality check from the mainstream press.

The Wall Street Journal covers the SatCasting business (it’s behind a subscription wall) and it isn’t pretty. Basically – they’re bleeding cash, overpaying for content, inflating subscriber numbers, loosing subscribers, and not getting enough new ones. Looks like a sinking ship.

Yeah!!! Let’s CELEBRATE!!! Let’s bump commercial loads up again!

Let’s cut active music libraries down another 30%!

And let’s voice track even more major day-parts!  From out of town!!

Let’s centralize more programming! Yeah!!!

What . . . . ?

Isn’t that EXACTLY what our mind set was when there were NO competitive sources for audio entertainment?

Satellite radio’s greatest gift is to terrestrial radio. It helped wake up the industry that was running on AUTO-PILOT and screwing listeners in the process.

Here’s something you won’t hear radio people cheering about – EVERY single one of Sat Radio’s initial criticisms about terrestrial radio were true.

And the proof that WE know they were true is shown in how there isn’t a single one of those complaints that terrestrial radio hasn’t tried to improve.

I think it’s also safe to say that terrestrial radio has a bit of Sat-caster envy.

How else can you explain our current HD effort which seeks to litter the radio dial with dozens of totally canned – un-passionately “programmed” juke-boxes of Satellite like “music channels” in EVERY market?  The sat-casters put at LEAST 1 person PASSIONATE about the music in charge of each channel.

HD Radio isn’t the best thing to happen to radio since FM – Satellite Radio is.

It forced a lot of lazy people to up their game. Competition tends to do that.  Radio desperately needs competition.

Sirius Internet

August 9, 2006

Via OrbitCast comes this report:

SIRIUS Satellite Radio has filed for a series of trademarks all revolving around the accronym “SIR” for Sirius Internet Radio.

Also on Orbit – 2 stories below,  one speculates on reports that XM and MicroSoft’s new media effort Zune will work together.

Wi-Fi.  The great equalizer.  Sat Radio, terrestrial radio, little kid in his bedroom radio – it’s all the same on-line.
Not only should radio be getting content online (streaming) we should begin developing INTERNET ONLY content.
Great radio stations will have broadcast content, and distinct content that floats – freely  – to ANY device people are using to enjoy audio & video.

Internet – learn it – love it – live it.  ,-)

MTV’s “everywhere” philosophy

August 1, 2006

Contemporary Radio copied a lot from MTV early on – mostly in terms of style – quick cut production – goofy, hip, irreverent “imaging” and packaging of music. But it seems radio pretty much stopped with those early lessons even as MTV continued to evolve.

During a recent keynote address at the CTAM Summit as reported by MultiChannel News, MTV Networks chairman and CEO Judy McGrath said something that I’ve been trying to communicate for a while now –

“New technology has inspired new consumer behavior, unleashing pent-up demand. … You have to evolve or die. Those are the stakes,”

That’s the thing we often loose sight of.

We can relish that Satellite Radio isn’t attracting a MASS audience – or that no single player is even close to dislodging Radio as the MAIN MASS channel for receiving audio content – but that assumes everyone is playing the same game we’re playing. And they are not.

The point were missing is that collectively those OTHER channels are CONDITIONING (or inspiring) the market as a whole to demand an experience from media that radio currently isn’t providing.

More from McGrath’s keynote:

McGrath spoke about the “everywhere” world philosophy enveloping Viacom Inc.’s MTVN, which has been reorganized to place digital content alongside linear TV production.

The impetus: Consumers are seeking media on an array of platforms and will follow good content across different platforms.

This is another lesson Radio would do well to copy from MTV.

We may think Radio is an EVERYWHERE medium – and to the 35+ crowd clearly it is. But increasingly Gen Y and younger don’t think radio is EVERYWHERE. If it’s not on their devices (ipod,psp,laptop, phone etc) it’s not “everywhere.”

HD Radio is PART of everywhere. But AM/FM/HD is no longer EVERWHERE. It doesn’t get your morning show – or my favorite music program from your station into my life when I want it – on MY device.

HD Radio  – while an important digital upgrade – shouldn’t be the SOLE effort to modernize the radio medium.