Monday Memo: CES 2019 | TALKERS magazine : TALKERS magazine – “The bible of talk media.”

Monday Memo: CES 2019

| January 14, 2019

By Holland Cooke


LAS VEGAS — This week, Sin City recovers from its biggest crowd of the year, last week’s massive, mind-boggling Consumer Electronics Show.

OOPS.  Don’t quote me.  180,000 of us attending were under strict instructions NOT to call it the “Consumer Electronics Show.”  Call it “CES,” we were asked by the Consumer Technology Association, formerly known as “The Consumer Electronics Association.”  Why so sensitive about the re-branding?

 “We are fast approaching a new era in consumer technology.”

CTA VP/Market Research Steve Koenig defined three eras:

  • 2000: “The Digital Age,” when devices evolved.
  • 2010: “The Connected Age,” of-which he says we’re now approaching the end. “Most of us take the Internet for granted.  We’re online all the time.”
  • 2020: “The Data Age of Consumer Tech,” in which decisions are informed by data, “kinda like ‘The Matrix,’” he grinned. Consumer choices are one great big data mash, which looming 5G will rev-up.

What this means to radio?

  • During the Digital Age – post-Consolidation – automation continued to thin station staffs. Just as iPod led a parade of new devices offering listeners an alternative to AM/FM, broadcast radio cut-back-on the local programming that differentiated us from content these new devices delivered.
  • In the Connected Age, stations invited streaming use, which enabled Dittoheads to hear Rush at work, where AM radio didn’t come in well. And beyond simply streaming, smart stations used the Internet to cultivate deeper relationships with listeners.  Why that was smart?
  • The Data Age of Consumer Tech will reward stations which – during the Connected Age – built databases of listeners they engaged via events and Social Media and other touchpoints.  Information about our listeners – whom advertisers want as customers – is gold.

Artificial Intelligence?

You’ve heard about it, but what does it mean?  Ask Alexa.  She is artificially intelligent.

“A.I.” (if you want to sound nonchalant-nerdy) finds patterns in data and can predict outcomes.  Ask Siri “Starbucks near me?” and she’ll give you turn-by-turn directions. Eventually, A.I. will drive the self-driving car.  Meantime, voice control and A.I. will spare us fumbling with settings on our various devices, as our devices learn us.

“We are on the cusp of a major shift in human behavior” in Koenig’s view.  Voice control is now table stakes, be-there-or-be-square.  “The Church of England now has an Alexa app.  So you can order a pizza AND get spiritual advice” he quipped.

“Alexa: Play six commercials in a row.”

A sentence likely never spoken.

CTA research demonstrates that users are “not just doing a few things” with digital assistants.  “And the things they’re doing are things we used to do with apps.” And, for radio broadcasters, THAT should hit a nerve; since – on a good day – we now play defense against apps that deliver what were previously radio staples: music, news, weather, traffic, conversation.

Every one of these dazzling connected car dashboards I see at CES makes me fear for radio’s in-car franchise.  Where’s AM/FM?  Yes, voice control will make it easier for a P1 to tune-in while driving. But have you given her a reason to?

Smart speakers bring stations (streaming) back in-home, along with a gazillion other on-demand audio options.  So there too we will need listeners to perceive that what we deliver is something they can’t get elsewhere.

Local, Local, Local.

And if pieces of our product (i.e., Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) are commodities they can get elsewhere, our curation and presentation – and the relationship we’ve earned — have to warrant them asking Alexa for us, rather than simply asking her “Play Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.”

Thus the way your consultant nags…er, “emphasizes” The Fundamentals.

For more on CES2019, listen to the daily radio reports I sent my client stations last week at

Holland Cooke is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet; and he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show on RT America. Read HC’s Monday Memo each week at, and follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Advice