Radio without Radio

Jeff Jarvis at Buzzmachine has written much about the explosion of TV and how newspapers need to re-think their role in the changing media landscape. Today I came across another example of how the media landscape is changing, as Desiring God Ministries is taking its daily half-hour radio program featuring Dr. John Piper off the 160 local radio stations that have carried it, and is moving to internet-only distribution (with a CD subscription option for the technologically challenged.)

Here’s how Executive Director Jon Bloom describes the rationale:

Why is this? Well, there are a number of reasons. But one simple fact is that radio is changing. Just a few years ago traditional radio was still the best way for a ministry like ours to make our message accessible to the largest number of people. But we are finding that this is no longer the case. A rapid technological evolution is occurring. Five years ago most adults in the U.S. did not have access to the internet. Today most use the internet regularly and most have broadband access. Five years ago few regularly used portable MP3 players. Today the popularity of these portable devices is skyrocketing. 59 million iPods have been purchased since October 2001—30 million of those so far this year! What’s happening is that more and more listeners are choosing these new technologies over radio so that they may listen to teaching programs whenever and wherever they wish. This is especially true of those under 50 years old, who comprise the great majority of our listeners.

Bloom highlights the criteria the Desiring God Board used for evaluating the most effective ways to invest its ministry resources: they are looking for means that are accessible, portable, transferable and economical. On the last point, spending $500,000 per year for air time on 160 local radio stations when 25 times as many people respond and contact the ministry through the internet delivery doesn’t seem like a wise use of resources.

If you listen to last Friday’s program, the radio finale, Dr. Piper discusses in more detail the reasoning behind the switch, and his philosophy of wanting to make the message accessible as broadly as possible (it is a world wide web) and without cost to the listener.

In The Long Tail, Chris Anderson describes how inventory costs and delivery costs approaching zero, combined with search, make many ventures economically feasible that would not work in the bricks-and-mortar world. This is another example of how that principle works, so that even a ministry that gives away its “product” for free, and makes it a point to not ask for contributions during the program, can thrive in the exploded world of radio.

Think about it. With 160 local radio stations the audience is limited to those markets. On the web, anyone, anywhere can hear. To paraphrase the words of Jesus, “Search, and you will find.”

Even better, in being freed from the format constraints of a 30-minute over-the-air broadcast, programs like Desiring God Radio, which are created from Sunday morning sermons that may average 40-45 minutes, can carry the entire message instead of splitting it into two overlapping segments.

As Robert Scoble pointed out, Leo LaPorte surveyed 20,000 podcast users and found that for podcasts, more is more.

That’s the Long Tail beauty of not having to aggregate a huge audience. The message doesn’t have to be dumbed down and reduced to the lowest common denominator to get ratings points. People who want to hear want more detail and depth, whether it’s the technical audience Leo surveyed or the spiritually interested group Dr. Piper reaches.

Testing a Medical Edge podcast on YouTube

One concern I have about YouTube is whether the quality of the movies remains good when they are converted into Flash files. To test it I used a Mayo Clinic Medical Edge video podcast file, so I can see what the quality of YouTube is like, knowing that the starting file was of high quality. Let’s take a look:


What do you think?

No Mega Children’s Hospital in Twin Cities

The Star Tribune (registration required) reports today that the merger of Twin Cities children’s hospitals announced with much fanfare in May has been scuttled.

Some in the health care industry thought that finally, after 10 years of off-and-on merger talks, the metro area would have one world-class pediatric hospital instead of two competing institutions each with its own medical specialists and high-tech equipment.

But after four months of intensive negotiations, the latest effort to merge Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota with the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital came to an unsuccessful end Friday.

“We just couldn’t make it work,” said Dr. Frank Cerra, senior vice president for health sciences at the University of Minnesota. “We worked to take all of the pieces and pull them together in a way that makes financial sense, but found it was just not possible.”

The merger talks seem to be off permanently this time, as one executive was quoted as saying, “I don’t anticipate that this is going to reemerge.”

ESPN Mobile Venture Shutting Down

The Wall Street Journal reported today that

Mobile ESPN, a start-up cellphone company backed by Walt Disney Co., will announce as soon as today that it is closing down operations, hoping to reinvent itself as a content partner of bigger wireless carriers, people familiar with the matter say.

The company, which launched earlier this year at the Super Bowl, has developed cellphones that feature a variety of sports-centric content and features.

But it has struggled to build a customer base in a fiercely competitive cellular industry with much bigger players.

Mobile ESPN operates through an agreement with Sprint Nextel Corp., paying for wholesale access to the carrier’s network and then reselling service to its own subscribers.

If any company would have the brand and the content to develop its own branded cell phone system, it would seem to be ESPN. The problem here seems to be that people may be interested in getting the video content and sports scores on their wireless devices, but they make the decision on their cell phone company based on other factors. By trying to own both the content and the distribution channel, ESPN apparently dreamed a little too big. It seems more likely that licensing content to a variety of carriers would find a bigger audience.

Dr. Ronald Petersen on TODAY


Originally uploaded by LeeAase.

Dr. Ronald Petersen, a Mayo Clinic neurologist, was on NBC’s TODAY show this morning discussing prospects for a cure of Alzheimer’s Disease. This is part of a TODAY series on how far medical science is from cures for various diseases. Research from several other institutions was featured in the set-up piece, and Dr. Petersen, who was President Ronald Reagan’s physician, provided the overall perspective as the in-studio guest with Matt Lauer.

Dr. Petersen leads the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Mayo Clinic and has extensive on-camera experience, both live in-studio and satellite interviews with broadcast networks as well as taped interviews for produced segments.