“Where does radio fit in?” asked New York Times technology critic David Pogue as he entertained the audience with his take on technology and its never-ending advance at Wednesday’s State of the Industry and Keynote Address.
Animated and energetic, Pogue discussed topics such as VOIP phones, Wi-Fi, on-demand media and Web 2.0. He linked them together and emphasized how each technology reinforces the others; in often initially unseen and unexpected ways.
“The next generation expects on-demand,” he said noting that technology was rapidly advancing and was essentially unstoppable.
“Universal wireless would help this industry a lot,” he added as he pointed out numerous wireless Internet gadgets, some of which could be implanted with a radio chip.
Seeking to soothe those who fear technological obsolescence, he said: “Things never wholly replace things. That never happens. Things just add on.”
He was particularly critical of the RIAA for slowing further advances by bringing up “rights,” “waivers” and other, what he called, “legalisms.”
“It’s in everybody’s interest to get this done, if you are willing to overcome the little obstacles in the way…” he said.
Ironically his synthesizer crashed just as he broke into a song about the RIAA, to the tune of the Village People’s “Y-M-C-A.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” he grinned and then carried on with the song, a capella.
NAB President and CEO David K. Rehr opened with a charged delivery of his State of the Industry Address.
Rehr touched on “the negativity that’s pervading the radio business and threatens to paralyze us.” He referred to predictions of technological doom and audience desertion.
He played a segment from the video, “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
“But this song was released almost 30 years ago, and radio is still strong,” he said.
“There is an exciting world of opportunity before us. It is the beginning of a new era for radio. And many of you have already started to embrace the possibilities.”
Rehr pointed out that the radio audience grew by three million listeners last year and noted other positive statistics. He elucidated a number of areas where radio is marching forward, especially on the technology front.
“There has been more innovation in radio in the past five years than in the past 50,” he said, addressing HD Radio’s advances, the Radio 2020 initiatives, and upcoming opportunities such as interfacing the Apple iPhone and Microsoft Zune player with radio stations.
In conclusion Rehr said, “Ladies and gentlemen, now is the time for us to embrace technology and seize all the amazing opportunities it presents.”
Opening the session was Tom Spencer, CEO of the Austin Interfaith Group. Foregoing a prayer, he related a story about how he had just visited his parents in hurricane-ravaged Houston to deliver some supplies. When he arrived he said that his parents were listening to the only source of information working at the time, radio.
“What you do matters,” he told the radio broadcasters in attendance.