Media Guru Spouts Off At Non-Comm

Today's free at noon concert with Norah Jones, Willie Nelson and Brandi Carlisle (broadcast on 88.5 FM) is the most visible event of this week's "Non-Comm" non-commercial radio conference. But for Gizmo Guy, there was lots more to take away from media guru Pal Marszalek's "Digital State of the Union" address yesterday.

Formerly music programmer for VH1 and high profile radio stations WXRT and KFOG, Marszalek is now managing partner of Media Mechanics, which works with brands like Starbucks/Sirius XM, the Sierra Club and the non-partisan, globe hopping Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. He counseled the non-commercial broadcasters to embrace the new media, even (facetiously) those stupid pet tricks videos which garner (by far) the most views on YouTube. Here's some of the other points he made.

Facebook: Has 900 million users, but only 13 percent trust it. And as the membership ranks and posts soar, the number of friends who actually see your posts drops to 3 to 7.5 percent." With GM pulling its advertising from Facebook, "but continuing to spend $40 million on Facebook content" Marszalek wonders about Facebook's long term chances as a money maker and stock.

Twitter: 500 million accounts, 175 million Tweets a day, "but only 36 percent of Tweets are worth reading," found a study by MIT. "Don't those researchers have something better to do?" Marszalek ponders.

YouTube: Video viewers are down 28 percent since March, in large part because the service is no longer recommending 30 second clips and poorly shot fan videos in favor of longer, more professional finished work. "They're going for quality over quantity, with their new 100 channel plan. It could work."

Mobile DTV: With a dongle connected to a PC or smart phone, you can now get a few digital television channels broadcast in the ATSC-Mobile/H format. While there isn't much there, as yet, the format could fly as "a bandwidth reliever," said the media guru, since it doesn't use the data from your internet service or mobile phone provider.

HD Radio: Slow out of the gate, this free, digital broadcast alternative could also serve as a bandwidth reliever and lower cost option to internet radio, which costs a station money to stream. But the number of radios that can tune in HD is low - "maybe tens of thousands in Philadelphia now. The backers like to say there's a new car sold with HD Radio reception every ten seconds, but if you do the math, that works out to 2 million radios a year. We've got a way to go."

One shining light here: Some broadcasters are re-transmitting their second, alternative HD stream via low power, conventional FM repeaters, "creating a legal duopoly."

Spotify: While claiming almost 20 million users worldwide, the Spotify streaming music service is losing money hand over fist - more than $60 million this year, That's because 90 percent of listeners "are satisfied listening to the free version with commercials, rather than paying for the $10 ad-free version, said Marszalek. "And the money Spotify can charge advertisers - the cost per thousand rate - is less than what they pay SoundExchange in royalties for the music."

Too Much Distribution and Not Enough Standout Content: While the major networks continue to do well - "taking in $70 to $80 billion in advertising this week at their upfronts," the smaller cable players are having a harder time getting noticed. "On a Saturday, Fox Business Network has a cume (cumulative) audience of just 2,500 to 3,000. And the Opray Winfrey Network is an unmitigated disaster, with an average prime time audience of 247,000. They assumed her audience would just follow her. They should have treated the channel as a startup."