Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Backing into a CNR

I was working at Plan 9 in Albemarle Square this past Saturday and on two separate occasions, customers came in looking for Rodrigo y Gabriella. They wanted the disc because they heard it on the radio. Nothing unusually there – Charlottesville's blessed with a number of stations that play more than the usual Top 40.

In addition to WVTF and WMRA, the two public radio stations that deliver NPR news, classical music and some jazz, there's also the more eclectic WTJU and WNRN.

Usually, when folks come in asking for a classical piece, it's something they've heard on WVTF. If they're asking for anything else out of the ordinary, it's usually a track they've heard on WNRN – most often, the "Acoustic Sunrise" program.

This time, however, both customers heard the tune on WCNR – a new commercial radio station in town.

I have a lot of respect for Mike Friend, the founder of WNRN. When he was a volunteer at WTJU he offered up a number of ways for the station to grow, all of which were enthusiastically ignored. He took those ideas and started WNRN, which has become a real success story for this area (and several other areas as their coverage continues to grow). WNRN thrived while WTJU continues to just survive.

Mike recognized that no one was programming music for college students. 3WV used to before their album rock playlists became frozen in time. WTJU used to as well until DJs ranged further and further afield – some to distance themselves from "popular" music – and left their audience behind.

WNRN's programming served the twenty-something audience and serves it well. Eventually, someone took notice and WCNR arrived. Make no mistake about it – WCNR is out to eat WNRN's lunch.

And they have a slight advantage – they're a commercial station. WNRN is non-commercial, which means their underwriting is limited by the rules laid down by the FCC.

1) No calls to action – you can't say "come on down," "call now" or other phrases that prompt action.
2) No reference to prices – you can't say "on sale" or "only $5.99" or "free" or anything like that.
3) No superlatives – you can't say "best ribs in town" or "lowest prices on air conditioners," "widest selection" or any other similar descriptors like you can in an ad.
4) No inducements to buy – you can't talk about special sales happening this weekend, or how every Thursday's ladies night.

So for local business (especially restaurants and bars), commercial radio can potentially be more attractive than non-commercial radio from an ad standpoint.

But this isn't a one-sided struggle. WNRN has been around for some time and has built a large and loyal audience. Plus, they already enjoy good relationships with many of the businesses WCNR is trying to woo.

So were the two customers that came into Plan 9 the first crack in the dam, or just two blips on the radar that mean nothing?

I don't have an answer, but it was something that got my attention.

- Ralph

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Living a Netflix Life in a Blockbuster Home

I was reading an interesting post yesterday by of the "Top Ten Lies Blockbuster Video Tells Their Customers." written by an ex-employee. In the midst of this behind-the-scenes polemic was an observation about the typical Blockbuster customer.

"the vast majority of those who frequent the shelves of Blockbuster Video... harbor no true love for cinema, no desire to probe deep questions about life, and no ability to enjoy something that might require the slightest bit of effort. In one respect, I can understand this: these people have worked hard during their day jobs – why shouldn’t be allowed to relax and escape with some harmless Hollywood entertainment?
The problem arises in what they watch. Relax and escape, yeah, but at the very least adopt some goddamned standards. If you’re looking for a comedy, don’t rent Phat Girlz. If you want a drama, don’t get anything with Ben Affleck. And for the love of God, do not rent something just because it is new.
I literally cannot tell you how many people come to Blockbuster on a daily basis, just so they can rent the new releases. Not because they’re interested in them. Not because they look good. Simply because they are new.
And while they spend their time and money on dreck like Behind Enemy Lines II and The Break-Up, these people literally refuse to anything that:
-Was made before 1995
-Comes from a different country, even an English-speaking one
-Might be mentally or emotionally disturbing
-Has subtitles
-Has voice-over narration.
Then it hit me. I live in a Blockbuster house. I've written before about my family's disinterest in silent films, but I have to say the rest of this list applies, too. Before we got Netflix I had to endure the latest blockbuster that was rented simply because it was new. Once at the beach one of our college-age children rented "Kill Bill." Everyone was surprised that I was actually looking forward to watching a movie someone else had brought home, but as it turned out, I was the only one who had even the faintest idea of what it was about (or even who Quentin Tarantino is). They only watched the first seven minutes before they took it out the player and returned it.
So why did they rent a movie they knew nothing about? Because it was new.

Now to be fair, my wife and I want very different things in a film. She wants something to entertain her while she quilts. So naturally films that require any kind of reading are counter-productive, such as silent movies and foreign films with sub-titles. She also wants a movie we can watch together.

And so I've seen "Runaway Bride," "Mona Lisa Smile," and other such fare. And so, yes -- one might consider her a Blockbuster customer.

As for me, I want everything a film has to offer. The story, the way its told, the music, the sound, the sets --everything. I want to figure out the context of the film -- how it stacks up with other films of its time, other films in the genre, the history of cinema, and so on.

And don't think I only watch the classics. I have a fine appreciation for cult films and, well, bad cinema in general. Some movies are so awful they're great fun to watch.

So I'm glad there's Netflix where I can roam far and wide through the ouvre of cinema and explore to my heart's content.

Is there hope for us?

Oh yes. My wife usually leaves when I'm watching one of the "those" movies (an episode of "Mystery Science Theatre" seems especially effective room-clearer). Recently, though, she stayed for a Harold Lloyd film -- and laughed. We've also enjoyed a "Thin Man" movie together as well.

Does the Blockbuster employee's description fit someone you know? Just keep watching -- it can get better.

- Ralph

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

...and who's going to listen?

Last post I offered up some ways podcasters are trying to monetize their work. There's lots of ways to do it (be sure to check the comments for that post, Sean Tubbs of the Charlottesville Podcasting Network shares his strategies).

Most of the ways discussed are scalable: the more traffic a site has, the more income it generates. So how do you generate traffic and raise your site's profile?

The best way is to have really compelling content. That's what happened with Mignon Fogerty, better known as "Grammar Girl." She combined a down-to-earth approach to grammar with a well-written concise script and a sense of fun. Within six months, her podcast had been downloaded over 1.3 million times. Fogerty's grown her podcast into a franchise, and it's become her full-time job.

Grammar Girl grew primarily by word-of-mouth. The program answered a real need, and the rest is history.

Regardless of content, the growth of any website pretty much relies on kindness of strangers. There are several ways to get the word out, but its up to the folks who come to your site (and are excited by the content) to share their discovery with others and build critical mass.

If you're already a celebrity (even in a highly specialized field), then you have an advantage. Leo Laporte was already a recognized tech authority, as well as a radio and television personality when he started "This Week in Tech" podcast. He continues to be heard on the radio, and appears on television as well. This, plus his appearances on panels at tech conferences and other events keeps his profile high, and helps bring traffic to his site.

Of course, if TWIT wasn't such a great program, no one would stay subscribed, but it -- along with the other programs built around it -- sustain a healthly audience. And LaPorte now enjoys advertising from major corporations.

Another really effective way to spread the word is to be sociable. That's what Web 2.0 is all about.

The more you link to other sites, the more sites link to you, sending potential readers back and forth across the web. Social media sites can also help. It's almost a requirement for an up-and-coming band that they have a MySpace page (that's why I'm working on one for DCDRecords). And there's FaceBook, Twittr, Flickr, and many, many more. All designed to share who you are and what you're about, and all designed to help like-minded individuals find each other. Or in this case, linking niche businesses with potential customers/audiences.

Most of these resources are free, but they do come at a cost -- time. Right now, in addition to this blog, I maintain a corporate blog for DCD Records, produce a twice-monthly podcast for the label, and manage two websites (one for DCD, the other for its parent company). While none of it takes a great deal of time, it can represent a significant part of a 40-hour workweek if I let it.

There are still many social networking sites I haven't even signed onto yet -- but I won't. It's possible to spend all my time blogging, and posting, and never get a lick of work done.

Even with just the little bit I have done, though, I've seen a significant growth in webtraffic, and in our business' income as well. Where possible, I've provided readers opportunities to share my posts on Digg.com and other social news sites.

Finally, going offline can help traffic online. Just as a radio station promotes itself with billboards, bumper stickers and print ads, generating news and taking out ads in other forms of media can help a website. It works, because you get your message before folks who otherwise wouldn't be aware of you.

Many newspapers ran the story of Grammar Girl's success -- which helped further fuel that success. Leo Laporte regularly appears on radio and TV -- which helps attract people to his site. Cross-promotion in other media can be very effective, if you have the resources and connections to take advantage of it.

Any other suggestions? I'd love to know how everyone else manages this trick!

- Ralph

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Who's paying for this stuff, anyway?

In case you missed it, there's been a side conversation at "CE Conversations" between Sean Tubbs of the Charlottesville Podcasting Network and myself. Sean's most recent response raised an interesting question, and one I felt worth examining in a post. Recently, Sean said:

Right now, you can get listen to commercial-free podcasts of at least one of WINA's shows on the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. WNRN podcasts the Sunday Morning WakeUp Call. Charlottesville Tomorrow posts full-length audio and features from City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. I'm working with someone else from WTJU to put their podcast up on my site. I work with Live Arts to produce in-depth interviews with the director of each of their plays. With Leadership Charlottesville, I produced a series of podcasts on poverty.

... you don't have to have a transmitter to create content. The question is, how can you pay for the talent, and how can you build the audience?

Great questions. The easier to consider is how to pay for the talent (we'll talk about audience-building in the next post).

IMHO, the primary difference between Internet content and traditional media is that its completely customizable. And that difference dictates different strategies.

Least successful (and therefore least common) seems to be the subscription model -- making the listener pay for content. Rush Limbaugh and Ricky Gervais are notable exceptions, but both built up a huge loyal audience first before launching their respective subscription services.

Banner ads are a tried and true method of generating revenue. As Google's AdSense and similar services gather more data and display ads more closely associated with the interests of the website's visitor, revenue-generating actions such as clicking through and purchasing will increase.

Some podcasters embed ads in their programs. Leo Laporte weaves the sponsor's ad copy into the conversation on "This Week in Tech" in a way that harkens back to older radio hosts of the 1960s. "Rocketboom" rolls a mention at the end of their podcast, with a link to the advertiser's site.

"Ask a Ninja" saves the end of their podcast for an ad for their own online store. Right before it, though, there's a spot for Ask.com. Go to Ask.com, type in the special word on the screen, and get more "Ask a Ninja" video.

I've experimented with a number of these with varying degrees of success. The AdSense ads you see at the top of this page have had very modest success -- as time goes on, though, I expect the ads to be more relevant to the topics of this blog, and hopefully generate a little more traffic.

The Scuffletown ad on the sidebar links to my own site, DCDRecords.com, and has done a good job in driving sales for this local band. For the online playlist postings for my radio program "Gamut" (heard every Wednesday morning on WTJU), I've become an affiliate of Arkivmusic.com. If they have a release I've aired for sale, I'll provide a link to it from the playlist.

This has proved the most lucrative of all, primarily (I believe) because the Gamut playlist is of interest to such a small group -- but that group is extremely interested in the classical music they've heard on the radio (or over the Internet at WTJU.net), and therefore have generated a significant number of click throughs and actual sales at Arkivmusic.com.

Now I haven't quit my day job yet, but I can say that all of these revenue models do work. The issue is simply one of scale.

So how to build an audience? I've some ideas, but unlike setting up revenue streams, its almost entirely dependent on other people -- as I'll explain next post.

- Ralph

Right after I posted this, an article about a concerted effort to make podcast ads effective landed in my [virtual] inbox. You can read it here.



Sunday, July 22, 2007

The RIAA and the Sam's Club Weenie


When the RIAA trots out figures showing how much money they've lost to illegal downloads, there's an unspoken assumption folded into those figures that make them far bigger than they should be.

It's the driving force behind the RIAA's war on consumers that's hauling computer-ignorant grandmas and even dead people into court as vicious intellectual pirates. It's behind Universal's one dollar tariff on every Zune player Microsoft sells, and the current efforts of the SoundExchange to hobble webcasters. It's the reason why record companies continue to force copy protection on consumers that do little more than punish legitimate customers.

And it's an assumption Sam's Club never makes.

The assumption: Every free sample represents another lost sale.

Go to the food section of any Sam's Club and you're likely to find one or two employees offering free samples. Usually, the freebies are some kind of impulse item, such as cocktail weenies.

Sam's Club, and its parent company WalMart, are famous for being ruthless about the bottom line. They operate on very thin margins, so if something's not working -- and working well -- then out it goes.

Free food samples at Sam's Club have been a fixture for years, so obviously they work well. And why not? Take one bag of 100 cocktail weenies out of stock (wholesale price, $4.50) and cook 'em up. One hundred shoppers receive one sample each. If just one in five people picked up a bag, that's $179.80 in sales (at $8.99 a bag).

And those 100 weenies generate other sales as well. The smell of cooking weenies will make some shoppers hungry, and cause them to purchase some food items when they were just planning on picking up some toilet paper in bulk. Further, of those who sampled a weenie but didn't purchase at that time, some will go back to Sam's Club at a later time for a bag or two when they're hosting a party (I have).

From Sam's Club viewpoint, giving out 100 cocktail weenies generates more than enough revenue to justify the loss. After all, giving up $4.50 to net 40 times that amount is a good deal just about anywhere.

But that's not how the RIAA would see it. If 100 people each ate a free weenie and only 20 bags were sold, then 80 people didn't purchase bags and therefore the RIAA suffered $719.20 in lost revenue.
As Sam's Club knows, not everyone who accepts a free weenie will purchase. If they charged a nickel a weenie, there would be fewer takers. If it's something that's not important to you, you might be willing to try it no risk (that is, for free) but certainly not if there's any money or effort involved.

If the RIAA would recognize that free samples are an important part of their business, we'd all be a lot better off. A good portion of the stuff being downloaded for free is only of interest because it is free. I'm willing to bet a lot of Top 40 MP3's wind up deleted once the novelty wears off.

Sam's Club uses free samples effectively to generate sales. The RIAA's maniac drive to lock down every possible usage of its material only hurts itself. Free weenies are good for business.

The RIAA should realize that -- and quit being such a weenie.

- Ralph

Internet Radio Under the Sword


The deadline has come and gone, and Intenet radio is still available. So is the crises over? Can we all breathe easy? Look up. Hanging over netcasters is the sword of Damocles.

Audiographic does a good job going into the details of what happened last Monday, but I'll give you the short version. Congress didn't act, and the new ruinous rates went into effect. The SoundExchange magnanimously said they wouldn't collect the rates as long as netcasters continued to negotiate with them.

OK, so all's well that ends well, right?

Look up.

The SoundExchange reserves the right to demand payment at any time with interest. And they're now demanding that netcasters put digital rights management in place (DRM) to combat "streamripping."

Readers of a certain age may be familiar with the concept of stream ripping -- it's like holding a cassette deck up to the radio to tape your favorite song. Yes, the SoundExchange (run primarily by members of the RIAA) is concern people might be recording streaming audio onto their computers and not paying for songs!

Now even record industry reps have admitted this is not really a problem -- but it could be! As with the last century audio taping off the radio, its an amazingly labor-intensive process that yields very poor results. Netcasters already can't publish program guides, so you don't know when the songs you want will come up -- you'll just have to keep filling up your hard drive until the song comes along. Then you have to edit your recorded stream. And most netcasting is done at 64kbps -- about half the bit rate of most MP3s, so the difference in sound quality is similar to a 45 rpm vs. a cassette tape recording of a radio broadcast with a hand-held mic.

Why do that when there are plenty of other sources for songs that take less than five minutes to snag the tune you want from some P2P site?

The practicality of this request isn't open for discussion, however. If a netcaster protests, it could be intepreted as a sign that they're not "seriously negotiating," and the royalty bill comes due.

What does that mean for you? Expect a return to clunky, buggy media players that don't work very well. If the RIAA can't kill Internet radio, at least they can severely cripple it.

Look up.

In a previous post I tried to put the demands of the SoundExchange into perspective by positing what would happen if the government did the same thing to your withholding. To continue that analogy, imagine the federal government coming to you last Monday and saying, "You now owe us 30% more in withholding from each paycheck you've received since January 1st. If you cooperate with us and agree to spy on your neighbor, we won't collect this money. If you choose to resist, or at any future time do not do this duty to our satisfaction, you must pay this tax bill immediately, with interest."

Look up.

Then contact your senators and representatives. It's past time for legislative action.

- Ralph

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A New Hope

Well, I'm back from the Public Radio Development and Marketing Conference, and in a different frame of mind than when I left. Yes, I did run into the Dunning-Krueger Syndrome on occasion, but not as frequently as I imagined.

While there were many nuts-and-bolts sessions about the technique of fund-raising, the overarching theme of the conference was how to move with the audience.

Now it may seem like a simple thing, but compared to commercial radio's reaction to change, it's a very big deal. Commercial radio's answer to the shift to MP3 players was the introduction of the Jack/Bob/Single syllable man's name format. No DJ's and a mix of music that was supposed to simulate shuffle play on an iPod -- if your iPod only had the top 40 tunes from two or three different radio formats, that is.

Commercial radio answer to satellite radio was their version of HD Radio, which I've discussed elsewhere.

In neither instance did content enter into the equation. It's the same old bland focus-group-tested tunes, just slightly repackaged.

At the PRDMC it was an entirely different story. The emphasis was not just on the different media people now use, but how to not just repackage but to create new content for the appropriate media.

People listening to iPods? Supply more downloadable clips and podcasts.

People using the Internet more than the radio? Expand the website with content that's user-friendly and not just recycled from what's on-air.

People subscribing to satellite radio? Be there with exclusive content they can't get anywhere else.

Cellphone feeds, expanded RDS -- they're even testing new services to take advantage of the digital broadcast capabilities of HD Radio. Yep, it may be moribund for commercial radio (who wants to hear a 10-minute commercial block in pure digital sound?), but public radio is looking at text-based services and new programming channels that make HD Radio a valuable addition to the public's media options.

So what's the difference? Simply this. Public broadcasters believe they're providing an important service. Whether its news, entertainment or music, their main concern is the quality of their programming, and how to best serve their audience however they listen.

Change is difficult -- but on the whole, public broadcasters aren't shirking the challange. So while commercial radio blathers on about the "stations between the stations," pubcasters are evolving along with their audiences.

I'm looking forward to what's going to happen next down at the lower end of the dial.

- Ralph

Friday, July 13, 2007

Last Call for Internet Radio

Have you contacted your congresscritter yet? Are you mad as hell about the SoundExchange’s efforts – either through ignorance or deliberate malice – to kill the goose that lays its golden eggs?

Enough people have made their voices heard to make SoundExchange agree temporarily not enforce the new rates that kick in Monday. That could change at any time – and probably will once the public spotlight has moved away. The only real solution is legislation, and that means Congressional action.

I live and breath this stuff so the numbers make sense to me, although I concede they probably don’t mean much to the average person. Let me put these rate increases into a context most people can relate to.

Assume that about 7% of your paycheck is withheld for FICA and other taxes. If the government handed down rates like the SoundExchange is demanding from Internet radio, then you would receive a notice saying that for 2007 the rate had been increased to 21%. And that the rate was retroactive to January 1, 2007, so you also owed the difference between what was already taken out and what would have been collected had the new rate been in effect for the past six months.

Further, you will be charged a $50 yearly processing fee to cover the costs of collecting this money, and you will be charged an additional $50 for every dependent you have.

The rates will be increased every year for the next five years, ending potentially with a figure as high as 120%. And when you protest that the rates are higher than your income, you’re told that you should get a better job – it's not the government’s fault you don’t make enough money.

Mad yet?

Go to Savenetradio.org, get the facts, and then call or write your congressman today. Without legislation the ax could fall at any time.

- Ralph

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Triumph of the Wheel

This past Saturday was our wedding anniversary, and I surprised my wife by driving up in a bright red Triumph TR3. No, it wasn't a midlife crises, I just happened to know about Sports Car Rentals in Batesville, Virginia.

Saturday was sunny and warm, and we drove up through Madison to Luray, then on to Route 11 in the Shenadoah Valley, passing through Harrisonburg, Waysnesborough and Staunton. We followed Route 250 through Rockfish Gap, and down to Route 29. And then we took backroads from Charlottesville back to Orange.

It was a great day. We stopped when we wanted to, but mostly it was a day of driving -- and seeing things with new perspective. Even familiar roads seemed different from that low-slung vehicle (while seated in the car I could touch the pavement without effort). We could feel a real temperature difference when we drove through shaded patches of road, and we even noticed the air was cooler when we paralleled a river.

There was no radio in the Triumph which was just as well. Between the rushing air and throaty roar of the engine, any music would have just been lost. Still, it was possible to converse, and so we did. For our long trip Saturday and our shorter trip to return the car Sunday, we talked, and rode, and laughed.

It wasn't a significant anniversary as far as numbers go (like the tenth, or twenty-fifth), but I think it will rank as one of our favorites.

- Ralph

Friday, July 06, 2007

Dealing with Dunning-Kruger

Just a quick clarification about yesterday's post (man, did that feel good). As the original researchers were careful to point out, the Dunning-Kruger effect lessens with education. While those who are most ignorant of a particular subject tend to wildly over-estimate their understanding of it, Dunning and Kruger showed that as people learn more about a field of expertise, their evaluation of their "expertise" becomes more realistic.

Besides the obviously cathartic motivations for yesterday's post, I wanted to call attention to effect, as it affects us all.

I finally understood just how much I didn't know about house painting, for example when we hired professionals to redo our house and watched the work. I now have an appreciation for the craft of house painting (and can now sometimes spot amateur work).

Some simple home repairs I'll do myself, but if it involves installing a new socket, I'll opt for a licensed electrician every time. As somebody once said, "It'll cost you fifty dollars. Ten dollars for the part, and forty dollars for knowing how."

So next week at the conference I'll be keeping that thought in mind, too. Perhaps the person I'm talking to doesn't understand the complexity of my area of expertise, but its more than even odds that I'd be completely at sea trying to do their job.

And your job as well.

- Ralph

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Syndrome City

I'm gearing up for a trade show next week. We shipped out our booth today, and I'm making my final preparations before I fly out -- and stealing myself for four days of dealing with people suffering from Dunning-Kruger Syndrome.

Don't get me wrong. My business partner and I always enjoy these professional conferences. They're a chance to catch up with friends and colleagues face-t0-face, make and renew connections, and help get the word out about our services (in this case creating custom CD compilations for public radio stations). And I'll spend a lot of time dealing with Dunning-Kruger.

In case you didn't click on the link, the study by Dunning and Kruger demonstrated that the less a person knew about a subject, the more they thought they knew.

So even though I've been developed relationships with record labels, drafted licensing agreements, and worked on over 100 successful CD projects over the past 15 years, someone will stand in front of our booth and say "Why should we hire you instead of doing it ourselves?"

And naturally, the person asking the question will have no experience at all.

Even when we work with a station, we often have to deal with Dunning-Kruger. The program director who ignores our guidelines for selecting music (my recommendations are strictly limited to availablity and affordability) and stops the project dead by insisting on unobtainable tracks. The designer who doesn't understand the diffence between print and web requirements, ignores our print specs (based on my partner's twenty years of CD print work) and causes major delays when every file has to be reworked.

All professions have to endure Dunning-Krugerites, I think. Why hire a lawyer when I download a fill-in-the-blank will? Why get a real estate agent when I can just stick a "for sale" sign in the yard? Why hire a professional painter when any fool can slap a brush around?

Whatever your profession, I think having your knowledge, experience and skill regarded as valueless is insulting, to say the least.

So when a D-K sufferer asks me, "Why do we need you? Can't I do this myself?" I have a simple response.

I smile, and say as nicely as possible:

"Yes. Yes, you can. And you can also cut your own hair."

Sometimes they get it.

- Ralph

Monday, July 02, 2007

Local, but not necessarily Yokel


I was looking through the comments fields, and ran across one that I thought needed some clarification.

In my post "Television's White Lies," I expressed the hope that Sarah Honenberger's inteview on WTVR in Richmond would be posted on YouTube. The author left a comment about the post.

YouTube has copyright issues for most television stations, so the video can't be posted there. Should be on the readwhitelies.com website in a week or so. Media coverage for a book is absolutely crucial to spread the word, no matter the size of the publisher. Increasingly authors are having to do their own promotion.

Amen to that -- increasingly creative artists have to do their own promotion, and fortunately the Internet makes it easier to connect with their core audiences, but it's still a labor-intensive process. We'll explore that concept later.

But the comment kind of misses my point. The WTVR program "Virginia This Morning" was locally produced, so the content was under copyright to the station. If it had been a national program, then it would have been the network's call to post it or not. But since the interview was material owned by WTVR, they had the right to post it (or not) as they chose.

And they missed an opportunity by not doing so. As it was, a few thousand saw the interview when it was aired, and that was the end of it. If WTVR had posted the segment to YouTube, then Sarah Honenberger could have linked to it from her site -- and visitors across the country would have seen it, and become aware of WTVR. Fans of Honenberger would have something to link to on their respective blogs and/or sites, and so on.

This raises the profile of the station nationally. Artists, actors, writers and others with a national reputation on publicity tours become interested in the station, as an interview will not only help them locally, but gain them a wider audience through YouTube.

As the stature of the guests rise, so does the audience for "Virginia This Morning." And bigger audience means heftier ad rates.

Now not every segment of "Virginia This Morning" should be posted. The person talking about the local 5k run, for example, wouldn't be a good post. But interviews that would be of interest to people outside the Richmond area would be. And I don't think it would be that difficult to each day look over the scheduled guests for that edition of the show and decide which segments should be posted. An intern could handle the edits, convert the video files and upload the segments. There could even be credits attached that could drive traffic to the WTVR website. And higher web traffic can also mean higher ad revenues.

There are some WTVR posts on YouTube, but it looks like few actually come from the station. Artists aren't the only ones who need to do a little self-promotion. WTVR missed a chance to reach a wider audience. And perhaps a chance to monetize that opportunity.

- Ralph

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Retiring the 1812 for the Fourth


I'll be doing my WTJU radio program "Gamut" on the 4th of July. This past Sunday in the Washington Post Tim Page offered up some thoughts about music for the Fourth of July. Personally, I like his idea of playing Hans Pfizner, Elliott Carter and Anton Bruckner instead of the usual fare, but both he and I concede that won't work for everyone.

Still, there's plenty of great American classical music that would be appropriate for the Fourth, and I'm not just talking about Sousa either.

Personally, I think it's past time to give the "1812 Overture" a rest. OK, it's got canons, but has anyone listened to this work? Tchaikovsky wrote it to commemorate the Battle of Borodino, where Russian forces turned back Napoleon. The work contains the Russian and the French national anthems, and uses those two tunes to represent the ebb and flow of the two armies.

Is blasting out the "God Save the Tsar" really the best way to celebrate Independence Day? And what about "La Marsailles"? Perhaps an apologist could construe it as an acknowledgement of Lafayette's contributions, but it wasn't that long ago we insisted those potato strings be called "freedom fries."

So let's forget the Russian overture written by a Russian honoring the victory of a Russian monarch over a French military dictator and trot out some red-blooded Amercian classical music written by real Americans.

In past years I've played some of these works on "Gamut" for the Fourth of July, and I might air some of this for this upcoming program.

Charles Ives: Variations on "America"
- No composer sums up the American spirit of independence of thought than Ives. His variations on this distinctively American tune are original and inspired, and makes more traditional arrangements just sound tired.

Alan Hovhaness: Symphony No. 66, "Hymn to Glacier Park"
- Hovhaness was another American original, placidly making his own music without getting sucked into the academic fashions of the day. Hovhaness drew inspiration from mountains, and his symphony to Glaciar Park captures the grandeur and spaciousness of this national treasure.

Howard Hanson:
"Merry Mount" Suite
- Harris had a distinctly American voice, and his opera "Merry Mount" is a distinctively American story. Based on the short story "The May-Pole of Merry Mount" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, it dramatises the conflict between the fun-loving colonists of Mount Wollaston, Massachussetts and their more serious Puritan neighbors.

Louis Moreau Gottschalk: Union Paraphrase en Concert
- Gottschalk was an internationally renowned piano virtuoso. In many ways, he was the American Franz Liszt, performing and composing. The "Union Paraphrase" is an excellent example of Gottschalk's technique and a rousing piece of musical Americana.

Many celebrations will features some Aaron Copland (usually "Fanfare for the Common Man"), or some Leonard Bernstein -- good choices, but there are so many more. We have a rich classical music tradition stretching back over 200 years -- music written by Americans that have a distinctively American voice that speaks to us today.

This Fourth of July, I'm declaring independence from unimaginative programming. Who's with me?

- Ralph

Saying It In (Virtual) Spades


My commentary on astroturf sites generated an interesting comment itself. PocketRadio left a message about HD Radio, and what he (or she) thinks of it.

In a way, it also helps illustrate my basic point. While there's no question about the opinion of HD Radio (check PocketRadio's blog), it's backed up with a goodly number of citations.

It's one thing to say "Hybrid Digital Radio stinks" (that's what HD stands for, btw). It's something else to add opinions and reports from industry experts, professional reporters and impartial surveys to support your claim.

And you don't have to take my word for it -- or PocketRadio's either. Just follow his/her provided links and read the source material yourself. And that's a concept I've also talked about before.

- Ralph