Is the iPod Nano the Radio Jesus?


Forget the Jesus Phone, the Radio Industry is Gushing Over the Jesus iPod.

It’s as if the sky opened and the light of divinity was shining down on the pundits and soothsayers of the radio business when Steve Jobs introduced the new iPod Nano at the Apple music event. Forget about the iPod Nano’s shiny, who cares if it records video, never mind if the Nano dropped a few bucks, it’s got an FM Radio.

I’ll be honest, I took the announcement with a grain of salt. Let’s face it, video recording  is really the feature that the geeks and mortal humans are gonna’ get  juiced about. An FM Radio? Ah, it’s an also-ran. But watching a video of the FM tuner capabilities, I must say I’m quite impressed. The FM radio is incorporated in true Apple fashion. The features and usage of the iPod Nano FM tuner look very impressive and exceptionally user-friendly.

The iPod Nano FM Tuner Operation is Drop-Dead Simple and Impressive

The reports from the usual radio suspects and pundits have been likening the incorporation of the FM tuner in the iPod Nano as if the device will become the salvation of the radio business (first, I assume, you have to agree with the assertion that the radio business needs “saving”). It is very cool that the darling of the tech and new media industry has “rubber stamped” or whatever you want to call it, the inclusion of a radio tuner in the iPod Nano. Either way you look at it, it’s a good thing. But let’s be clear on one key issue… The iPod Nano is a device.

Without Content Any Tech Device is Just a Brick

Let’s look at this inductively. In tech circles it’s called the “Killer App.” The Killer App of the early Internet, and some would still argue that it is still today, was email. The advent of the home computer in its infancy saw other killer apps drive usage of hardware. There was VisiCalc on the Apple II and Lotus 1-2-3 on the early IBM PC’s. Arguably, the driving force behind the iPhone is the Apple App Store, the iPhone Killer App. The success of the App Store has been the driving force behind the wild success of the iPhone. So what does all this have to do with radio?

Content is the Killer App of Radio

It seems like a pretty obvious assumption that without content, a radio is just a brick. The iPod or iPhone or iWhatever, without the applications to drive their adoption, are just another “dongle.” It’s no real surprise to learn that the Apple App Store has over 65,000 third-party applications. The number of applications for the Palm WebOS, Nokia’s Ovi, Windows Mobile and Google Android combined don’t add up to Apple’s 65k mark. But I digress… It’s absolutely mind-numbingly a-farking-mazing that Apple has included an FM receiver in the iPod Nano, but if radio doesn’t deliver a product, it’s killer app, it’s just another application sitting on the iPod begging to be used.

its_the_radio_content_stoopidDo not assume tech will cure all and lead radio, or any business, into the promised land. You have to give the user of that tech a compelling reason to actually use it. Radio’s compelling “killer app” is unfortunately its most discarded, flogged and wasted resource… it’s programming. We sold off our birthright, fired the innovators and talent that drove the listeners because we had a corner on the audio content marketplace. For too long managers and mergers offhandedly served up also-ran content and overlooked the importance of the product because there was no where else our radio consumers could go. Those days are gone. Over. Exit stage Left.

So now the mad scramble begins. The radio business, finally realizing that they’ve been caught with their pants down as the flurry of new media is taking the wind out of their add dollar monopoly sales, is running to tech to save the day. Again, the radio industry is missing the forest for the trees. It’s not tech! Tech is just a brick. It’s the killer app! Instead of scrambling for the safe-harbor of silicon valley to bring radio back to the promised land, use your head. It’s the content, stoopid.

*John Ford is a Broadcast programming professional with nearly three decades of experience in local and network major market radio Programming and Consulting. Including stints as a VP of New Media Sabo Media, Network Programming and Imaging at ABC Radio Networks, Greenstone Media. Programming, Imaging and Morning/Talk positions at WIOD/Miami, WLLZ/Detroit, KZPS/Dallas, The Edge/Dallas, Zeta 4/Miami, WSHE/Miami and others. John’s also an uber-geek who holds numerous Apple Technical Certifications and enjoys breaking and fixing code and kit. Reach him at his website johnford.net.