Radio TSL, Spotify Daily Drive, Remembering Flash, & more

Radio takes the lead in today’s newsletter, but also note the second story about Spotify (also radio-related). Then my takes on two fascinating culture-tech articles: the first about Flash’s creative history on the web, and the second a look at the future of book publishing.

What You Need To Know 👀

  1. The radio industry’s ongoing quest for longer TSL 📻

Edison Research VP Megan Lazovick made a presentation at The Radio Show in Dallas recently. She opened with this:

“This is not just about your station, this is about all of Radio. Because TSL is falling.  Everyone’s TSL is falling.  Even if your station’s share is strong, even if that share is actually growing, I can almost guarantee that your station has less aggregate TSL than it did one year ago, and I can fully guarantee this if we compare to five years ago.”

My take: Firstly, the use of the undefined acronym “TSL” had me scratching my head. I was reminded of this…

Of course I googled it and it turns out TSL stands for “Time Spent Listening.” Lazovick puts the decline in TSL down to “the proliferation of options […] principally streaming, satellite radio, and podcasts or digital audiobooks.” Even so, radio’s “share of ear” now is still respectable according to Edison Research:

  1. Spotify launches Daily Drive personalized news and music playlist in Germany 🎹

Music Business Worldwide reports on a new Spotify feature that is directly aimed at the radio industry:

“Spotify’s personalized driver-targeted playlist featuring a mix of music and news podcasts is now available in a second market following its launch in the US earlier this year.”

My take: Spotify began testing inserting podcasts into personalized playlists earlier this year, and Germany is the second country to trial the feature. Spotify has made no secret of its desire to take as much of the radio industry’s audience as it can – it’s one of the primary reasons the company has spent around $500 million acquiring podcast companies this year. In other words, Spotify sees podcasts as an alternative to radio for its users. And if you insert bits of news podcasts into a stream of music, what does that remind you of? A: a typical hour on a commercial radio station.

  1. Flash Is Responsible for the Internet’s Most Creative Era 🕸️

Ernie Smith writes on Motherboard about a new book entitled Web Design: The Evolution of the Digital World 1990-Today, which makes the case that the web has actually gotten less creative over time, not more.

The 640-page book, full of pictures of interactive websites from prior eras, benefits from taking a wide view of the visual culture of the past: Starting at the embryonic stages of the World Wide Web, it follows the art of web design through periods of extreme experimentation on the way to the convention-driven scaffolding we have today. The book makes a compelling case through its general structure that the sweet spot of creative web design came during the late 1990s through the mid-2000s—periods in which major brands were willing to invest a whole lot of money in a website intended for show, not just tell.

My take: Besides the malware that Smith references, Flash was notorious for circumventing all manner of web standards. But it’s hard to disagree with the notion that websites were much more creative back in the late 90s and early aughts. That’s mainly because mobile has overtaken desktop as the primary interface for internet content, but also because of the design blandness that Facebook and other social media companies ushered into the web landscape from around 2006-07 on. However, all is not lost for web design. One of the book’s authors, Rob Ford, told Smith that “while the modern web has largely eschewed the creative risks of the Flash era, it can be found [today] in physical mediums and augmented reality.”

  1. 7 ways book publishing will change over the next few years 📚

Mike Shatzkin from The Idea Logical Company lists seven predictions for the future of book publishing. This one stood out most for me:

“Entity self-publishing” will increase dramatically, presenting more challenges to commercial non-fiction publishing. The pieces are all in place for “publishing books” to become part of any big entity’s marketing strategy. You don’t need to own a book publisher to issue them any more than you need to own a newspaper or magazine to get a story out. […] Over the next few years, we will see a tsunami of non-fiction publishing from capable entities much like the tsunami we have seen of genre fiction publishing direct from authors. They will have one very similar characteristic: reaching readers will be more important to them than making money. That suggests that the price competition we’ve seen in genre fiction may be about to be replicated much more broadly.”

My take: This is particularly interesting for the cultural industries. Imagine, for example, Netflix releasing a series of books based on their catalog of original TV shows. I currently have a book on my shelf entitled ‘House and Philosophy: Everybody Lies’, a pop culture book published in 2008 to cash in on the popularity of the tv series ‘House’ (I’m pretty sure I got this book as a birthday present around then). Anyway, I can see this type of complementary book publishing becoming a trend in the cultural sectors. And as Shatzkin notes, there’s no real reason to use the ‘big publishers’ to produce or distribute these titles – they can be sold online, direct-to-consumer.

Data Points 📊

  • Edison Research: The number of people listening to online audio, and their time spent listening to online audio continues to grow. 👂
  • NPD Group: 73% of Americans play video games, an increase of 6% over the year prior. 🎮
  • Pew Research Center: only 29% of Americans correctly named Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp as owned by Facebook. 📱
  • Cumulus / Westwood One: 75% of the agencies and advertisers surveyed say they have discussed podcast advertising with their colleagues. 🎧
  • Music Ally: Shazam reached 478 million annual active users in 2018, 78 million more than in the previous year. 🎸

Tweet of the day 🐦

What a Friends episode would look like today:

That’s the latest subscriber update, hope you found it useful. Thanks for your support of Cybercultural. 🙏