Bad and dead air

That was yesterday. Hard to tell from just looking at it, but that’s a 180° shot, panning from east to west across California’s South Coast, most of which is masked by smoke from the Thomas Fire.

We weren’t in the smoke then, but we are now, so there’s not much to shoot. Just something more to wear: a dust mask. Yesterday I picked up two of the few left at the nearest hardware store, and now I’m wearing one around the house. Since wildfire smoke is bad news for lungs, that seems like a good idea.

I’m also noticing dead air coming from radio stations whose transmitters have likely burned up. Here’s a list that I’m pretty sure is off the air right now, because they’re within the Thomas Fire perimeter:

Still no serious coverage of pirate radio

Here’s what I wrote about pirate radio in New York, back in 2013 . I hoped to bait major media attention with that. Got zip.

Then I wrote this in 2015 (when I also took the screen shot, above, of a local pirate’s ID on my kitchen radio). I got a couple people interested, including one college student, but we couldn’t coordinate our schedules and the moments were lost.

Now comes news of pirate radio crackdowns by the FCC*, yet little of that news concerns the demand these stations supply. The default story is about FCC vs. Pirates, not how pirates address the inadequacies of FCC-licensed broadcast radio. (One good exception: this story in the Miami Herald about an FCC-fined pirate that programs for a population licensed radio doesn’t serve.)

To sample the situation, drive your car up Broadway north of 181st Street in Manhattan (above which Continue reading "Still no serious coverage of pirate radio"

Boston is the Top Radio Market for Sports

So I did some research, and Boston wins, big:

Boston 11.0
Philadelphia 8.7
Minneapolis 6.9
Detroit 6.4
Middlesex-Somerset-Union, NJ 6.4
Oklahoma City 6.2
Baltimore 6.1
Nashville 5.9
New York 5.8
Pittsburgh 5.8
Kansas City 5.8
Dallas-Fort Worth 5.7
Nassau-Suffolk, NY 5.5
Chicago 5.4
San Francisco 5.4
Columbus 5.4
Atlanta 4.9
Denver 4.7
Washington DC 4.3
Buffalo 4.2
Seattle 4.0
Portland 4.0
San Jose 4.0
Cleveland 3.9
Raleigh-Durham 3.9
Indianapolis 3.8
St. Louis 3.5
Green Bay 3.5
Houston-Galveston 3.4
Phoenix 3.2
Sacramento 3.1
Memphis 2.8
Los Angeles 2.5
Tampa-St.Petersburg 2.3
San Diego 2.2
Miami 1.9
Cincinatti 1.7
Las Vegas 1.6
Orlando 1.4
Milwaukee-Racine 1.3
Charlotte 1.2
Salt Lake City Continue reading "Boston is the Top Radio Market for Sports"

Let’s get some things straight about publishing and advertising

symbiosis

Synopsis—Advertising supported publishing in the offline world by sponsoring it. In the online world, advertising has been body-snatched by adtech, which tracks eyeballs via files injected into apps and browsers, then shoots those eyeballs with “relevant” ads wherever the eyeballs show up. Adtech has with little or no interest in sponsoring a pub for the pub’s own worth. Worse, it encourages fake news (which is easier to produce than the real kind) and flooding the world with “content” rather than old-fashioned (and infinitely more worthwhile) editorial. When publishers agreed to funding by adtech, they sold their souls and their readers down a river full of fraud and malware, as well as indefensible manners. Fortunately, readers can bring both publishers and advertisers back into a soulful reunion. Helpfully, the GDPR makes it illegal not to, and that will be a huge issue as the deadline for compliance (next May 25th) approaches.


Yesterday 

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Where the nickname came from

docdaveMy given name is David. Family members still call me that. Everybody else calls me Doc. Since people often ask me where that nickname came from, and since apparently I haven’t answered it anywhere I can now find online, here’s the story. Thousands of years ago, in the mid-1970s, I worked at a little radio station owned by Duke University called WDBS. (A nice history of the station survives, in instant-loading 1st generation html, here. I also give big hat tip to Bob Chapman for talking Duke into buying the station in 1971, when he was still a student there.) As signals went, WDBS was a shrub in grove of redwoods: strong in Duke’s corner of Durham, a bit weak in Chapel Hill, and barely audible in Raleigh—the three corners of North Carolina’s Research Triangle. (One of those redwoods, WRAL, was audible, their slogan bragged, “from Hatteras to Hickory,” which is about 320 Continue reading "Where the nickname came from"

Defibrillating a dead horse

esb-antenae Before we start, let me explain that ATSC 1.0 is the HDTV standard, and defines what you get from HDTV stations over the air and cable. It dates from the last millennium. Resolution currently maxes out at 1080i, which fails to take advantage even the lowest-end HDTVs sold today, which are 1080p (which is better than 1080i). Your new 4K (4x the resolution of 1080) TV or computer screen “upscales” the picture it gets over the air or cable. But actual 4k video looks better. Sources for that include satellite TV providers (DirectTV and Dish), and streaming services (Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, etc.). In other words, the TV broadcast industry is to video what AM radio is to FM. (Or what both are to streaming.) This is why our new FCC chairman is stepping up for broadcasters. In FCC’s Pai Proposes ATSC 3.0 Rollout, John Eggerton Continue reading "Defibrillating a dead horse"

Exploring the business behind digital media’s invisibility cloaks

  amsterdam-streetImagine you’re on a busy city street where everybody who disagrees with you disappears. We have that city now. It’s called media—especially the social kind. You can see how this works on Wall Street Journal‘s Blue Feed, Red Feed page. Here’s a screen shot of the feed for “Hillary Clinton” (one among eight polarized topics): blue-red-wsj Both invisible to the other. We didn’t have that in the old print and broadcast worlds, and still don’t, where they persist. (For example, on news stands, or when you hit SCAN on a car radio.) But we have it in digital media. Here’s another difference: a lot of the stuff that gets shared is outright fake. There’s a lot of concern about that right now: fakenews Why? Well, there’s a business in it. More eyeballs, more advertising, more money, for more eyeballs for more advertising. And so on. Those ads are aimed
Continue reading "Exploring the business behind digital media’s invisibility cloaks"

Consumers can’t help health care. Customers can.

stethoasclepiusEconomically speaking, the American health care system is not built for patients, because patients aren’t the ones paying for it directly. Insurance companies are. See, health care in the U.S. is mostly a B2B business. It is only B2C where insurance doesn’t cover expenses to the patient. And even then, insurance still often pays for it when patients can’t, don’t or both. Over the decades, the U.S. health care industry has matured, so to speak, into an interlocked cabal of insurance companies, kieretsus of hardware, software and service providers, and captive regulators of both. And because the system is mostly disconnected from the controlling effects of direct accountability to patients, costs and inefficiencies within the system have grown out of control. To say the least of it. It is therefore a mistake to assume that patient involvement in the system is “consumerism” in either of its common meanings: Continue reading "Consumers can’t help health care. Customers can."

Nobody else owns our experiences

shackles Who Owns the Mobile Experience? is a report by Unlockd on mobile advertising in the U.K. To clarify the way toward an answer, the report adds, “mobile operators or advertisers?” The correct answer is neither. Nobody’s experience is “owned” by another party. True, another party may cause a person’s experience to happen. But that doesn’t mean that party owns that personal experience. We own our selves. That includes our experiences. This is an essential distinction. For lack of it, both mobile operators and advertisers are delusional about their customers and consumers. (That’s an other important distinction. Operators have customers. Advertisers have consumers. Customers pay, consumers may or may not. That the former also qualifies as the latter does not mean the distinction should not be made. Sellers are far more accountable to customers than advertisers are to consumers.) It’s interesting that Unlockd’s survey shows almost identically high Continue reading "Nobody else owns our experiences"

TV Viewers to Madison Avenue: Please quit driving drunk on digital

drunk-driving Today AdAge gives us Clinton and Sanders Using Addressable Advertising in New York Market: Precision Targeting Is Especially Relevant in NYC, Say Political Media Observers, by @LowBrowKate. Here’s how it works:
In order to aim addressable TV spots to those voters, the campaigns provide a list of the individual voters they want to target to Cablevision or satellite providers DirecTV and Dish. That list is matched against each provider’s customer database and ads are served to the matching households. Because voter data includes actual names and addresses, the same information the TV providers have for billing purposes, they readily can match up the lists.
Speaking as a Dish Network customer—and as a sovereign human being—I don’t want to be an “addressable target” of any advertising—and I already feel betrayed. I don’t care what measurable results “addressable” or “precision” targeting gets for those who practice it. The result that matters Continue reading "TV Viewers to Madison Avenue: Please quit driving drunk on digital"

Thought: mobile apps are just hors d’oeuvres

horsdoeuvres Yesterday morning, while I was making curtados in the kitchen, I was also trying to listen to the radio. The station was WNYC, New York’s main public radio station. The program at the time was This American Life. Since the espresso machine is noisy when extracting coffee or steaming milk, I kept looking for the pause button on the radio—out of habit. That’s because pausing is a feature present on the radio and podcasting apps on my phone and other mobile devices scattered around the house, all of which I tend to use for radio listening more than I use an actual radio. So I decided to open TuneIn on my phone. TuneIn has been around for almost as long as we’ve had iPhones and Androids. It which started as a way to play radio stations from all over the world, but has since broadened into “100,000+ live radio Continue reading "Thought: mobile apps are just hors d’oeuvres"

The Giant Zero

The Giant Zero

The world of distance

Fort Lee is the New Jersey town where my father grew up. It’s at the west end of the George Washington Bridge, which he also helped build. At the other end is Manhattan.

Even though Fort Lee and Manhattan are only a mile apart, it has always been a toll call between the two over a landline. Even today. (Here, look it up.) That’s why, when I was growing up not far away, with the Manhattan skyline looming across the Hudson, we almost never called over there. It was “long distance,” and that cost money.

There were no area codes back then, so if you wanted to call long distance, you dialed 0 (“Oh”) for an operator. She (it was always a she) would then call the number you wanted and patch it through, often by plugging a cable between two holes in a

Continue reading "The Giant Zero"

The slow sidelining of over-the-air radio

chevyradio You won’t find an AM radio in a Tesla Model X or in other electric cars, such as the BMW i3. One reason is that AM reception is wrecked by electrical noise — especially the kind computing things radiate. Another is that the best AM reception requires a whip antenna outside the car, which no car maker offers any more. Another is that car makers have been cheaping out on the chips used in their AM radios for years, and the ones in home radios are even worse. But demand for AM has been on the wane for decades anyway. It doesn’t sound as good as FM or digital streams on laptops and mobile things. (Well, it can sound good with HD Radio, but almost nobody broadcasts or listens with that.) About the only things left on AM that get ratings in the U.S. are sports and Continue reading "The slow sidelining of over-the-air radio"

WMAL/630am 2.0

wmal-sites A few months back I wrote a post with a headline in the form of a question: How will WMAL-AM survive losing its transmitter? Here was my best guess at the time:
To stay on the air, WMAL will need to find replacement acreage, somewhere that allows the signals … to cross as much of the Metro area as possible, meaning it will have to be northwest of town. For that Cumulus will need to either buy land out that way, or co-site with some other station already operating there. The only two stations with transmitters out there are WTEM (“ESPN 980″) and WSPZ, both sports stations (on 980 and 570 respectively) and owned by Red Zebra Broadcasting (in which the main stakeholders are also those of the Washington Redskins)… Of those, WSPZ’s site looks like it has more room. It’s in Germantown, about 22 miles from downtown Washington, more than twice the distance from downtown Washington as WMAL’s
wmalday
wmalnight
Continue reading "WMAL/630am 2.0"

Three new low power FM stations coming to Santa Barbara

I can’t help but notice — since I follow these things — that the FCC has issued construction permits for three low power FM (LPFM) stations in Santa Barbara:
  • KGSB/92.3, with a 100-watt signal radiating from one of KZER-AM/1250’s two towers east of the airport, and licensed to ST. RAPHAEL SCHOOL, 160 St Joseph Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93111-2367
  • KZAA/96.5, with a 100-watt signal radiating from roughly the corner of Calle Cesar Chavez and Montecito Streets, and licensed to LA CASA DE LA RAZA, 601 E. Montecito St., Santa Barbara, CA 93103
  • KVSB/96.9, with a 100-watt signal radiating from a corner of Salinas and Lou Dillon Lane on the east side of town, and licensed to:SOUTH COAST COMMUNITY MEDIA ACCESS CENTER, 329 South Salinas Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
That’s a lot for a town this size. I’ll be interested to Continue reading "Three new low power FM stations coming to Santa Barbara"

Remembering Bob Kauffman

bob-kauffmanWhen the Los Angeles Clippers open their first game at home this season, I want them to pause and celebrate their first franchise player: Bob Kauffman, the team’s all-star center for its first three seasons, when they were the Buffalo Braves. Bob died on July 27 at age 69. Bob was an amazing player to watch, a privilege I enjoyed often as fellow student at Guilford College. Guilford was nowhere before Bob arrived and a powerhouse by the time he left. Same went for the Braves. At 6-8 and 240, Bob was a big guy, but he played bigger. Here’s what Guilford wrote about him a couple days ago:
Kauffman scored 2,570 points on 64 percent field-goal shooting and collected 1,801 rebounds in his 113-game career, all current school standards. He also holds Guilford marks for career scoring average (22.7 ppg.), single-game rebounds (32), single-season rebounds (698, 1967-68), career rebounding average (15.9), Continue reading "Remembering Bob Kauffman"

Fun with tropo

Right now every FM and TV station in Santa Barbara and San Diego can be heard in both places. Between them lays more than 200 miles of ocean across a curved earth. I’m not there right now, but I see what’s happening remotely over my TV set top box. (Thank you, SlingBox.) But, more importantly, John Harder‘s tropo map tells me so: sb-sd-tropo Tropo is tropospheric refraction of radio waves across a distance. Atmosphere has refractive properties that don’t matter most of the time. But we can see changes, for example, with mirages ahead of us above a hot road, which causes the air above to refract light at a low angle, essentially reflecting the sky, other cars and landscapes on the horizon. Something like this also happens over land and water. I see by the map above that tropo is happening in other parts of California, Nevada, Utah and
nc-sc-tropo
wholecountry-tropo
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The untold pirate radio story in New York

The radio dial here IMG_8116in “upstate” Manhattan and the Bronx is packed with pirate radio signals. Many are smack next to New York’s licensed landmarks. Here’s what I’m getting right now on our kitchen radio…
  • 88.1 “Romantica New York” Spanish announcers, music in English and Spanish. Right next to WBGO (@wbgo), New York’s jazz station (licensed to Newark).
  • 89.3 Spanish. Right next to WFDU and WNYU (@wnyu), the Fairleigh Dickenson and NYU stations that share time on 89.1.
  • 89.7 Spanish. Talk. Call-ins. Right next to WKCR (@wkcrfm), the Columbia University station on 89.9.
  • 91.3 Spanish, as I recall. It just popped off the air. Right next to WNYE on 91.5.
  • 92.1 Spanish, currently playing traditional Mexican (e.g. Mariachi) music and talking up a Mexican restaurant. Right next to 92.3 WBMP “Amp radio” (@923amp)
    Continue reading "The untold pirate radio story in New York"

We can all make TV. Now what?

meerkatLook where Meerkat andperiscopeapp Periscope point. I mean, historically. They vector toward a future where anybody anywhere can send live video out to the glowing rectangles of the world. If you’ve looked at the output of either, several things become clear about their inevitable evolutionary path:
  1. Mobile phone/data systems will get their gears stripped, in both directions. And it will get worse before it gets better.
  2. Stereo sound recording is coming. Binaural recording too. Next…
  3. 3D. Mobile devices in a generation or two will include two microphones and two cameras pointed toward the subject being broadcast. Next…
  4. VR, or virtual reality.
Since walking around like a dork holding a mobile in front of you shouldn’t be the only way to produce these videos, glasses like these are inevitable:

srlzglasses

(That’s a placeholder design in the public domain, so it has no IP drag, other than whatever submarine patents already exist, and I am Continue reading "We can all make TV. Now what?"

Will WMAL survive losing its transmitter?

Back in radio’s golden age — when AM ruled the waves — the stations battling for the top of Washington, DC’s ratings heap were WTOP and WMAL. WTOP peaked when it went all-news in the 1960s, and plateau’d at the top ever since. It did that by becoming a DC institution, and moving to FM a few years back, taking over the channel (103.5) long occupied by classical WGMS. (WTOP’s 50,000 watt signal at 1500am is now WFED, or Federal News Radio.) WMAL did less well, but remains a DC institution, now listened to mostly on 105.9fm (it’s #9 in Nielsen’s latest figures, while WTOP is #1). But considering that only two AMs show in the ratings at all, it’s a good guess that WMAL-AM isn’t worth very much. So it’s no surprise to read news (via The Sentinel) that Cumulus Media, which owns WMAL, has put the land under its Bethesda AM transmitter up for sale. Simply put, the land is worth more than the station. Says the report, “Local real estate experts estimate the property could be worth hundreds of millions.” I don’t know what WMAL is worth, but I’m guessing it would be a few million, tops. (WOR in New York, a bigger station with actual ratings in the #1 market, just sold for $30 million.) Unless a way can be found for the station to co-locate WMAL’s transmitter with another AM station, it will go dark after the land is sold. This is a bit of a long-shot, though it can be done. KHJ in Los Angeles recently moved to another station’s towers after the land under its own was sold. The signal isn’t as good (the new towers are less efficient), but at least the station stayed on the air.
towerimage
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