It's A Blog, No It's A Radio Station, Wait It's Something Altogther New

CBS Radio re-launched their legendary NY rock radio station WNEW recently. It’s a group blog about music, it’s a group (built by the combined scrobbling history of all of the group members), it’s an internet radio station, and it’s available over the air on HD2 at 102.7 (you need an HD radio to get it).

Let’s start with the music. I’ve been listening for the past 20 minutes and this is what I’ve heard so far.

Cowboy Junkies covering Sweet Jane
Van Morrison live at the Bottom Line in 1970
Jack Johnson – Upside Down
B52s – Love Shack
Led Zepplin – Kashmir
more live Van Morrison
John Mayer
Talking Heads – Naive Melody (i love that song)

One cool thing is this station is going to play lots of their live archives:

Perhaps the most
unique aspect of is our incredible
audio archives, featuring historic
concerts and live performances from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, as well as
timeless interviews with a remarkable roster of rock immortals. We’ve
gathered and digitized hundreds of
amazing moments from the airwaves of some of America’s great rock radio
stations, most notably our namesake WNEW-FM, which ruled the airwaves
in New York City for four decades. On-air visits were
commonplace by members of the Beatles, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, the
Who, the
Dead and virtually every superstar you could imagine.

I’ve talked at length about radio on this blog over the years and I always get comments from readers who think that radio is clueless and will never get it’s magic back. Maybe the golden years of the 70s and 80s are long over, due to the iPod and other forms of portable music and the changing dynamics of the music industry. But I think radio does understand what it has to do in order to hang onto its audience and bring new listeners (younger more technologically inclined) into the fold.

Full disclosure, I know the team at CBS Radio who launched the new WNEW and I am big fans of them. I am also an investor in iBiquity, the company that makes the underlying technology for HD Radio. I am also an investor in Targetspot, the company that will sell a lot of the audio spots that run on WNEW. So I am vested in the radio industry and it’s future. And stuff like this new WNEW makes me quite bullish on it.

#My Music#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. aweissman

    Fred – will they play archives from the Professor Scott Muni? I grew up on the Firecracker 500

  2. Deepak Das

    Well, I would be a listener if they just played Scott Muni’s archives. Since he left the airwaves, I dont think that I have heard any other radio host with such a distinctive voice.

  3. kenjimori

    Ratio used to be a local thing. Now no boundaries.

  4. ppearlman

    v nice

  5. flummox

    Do you mean Targetspot?

    1. fredwilson

      Oops. Just fixed. Thanks

  6. deadcat

    dead cat bounce for radio?

  7. graubart

    Unfortunately, both Scott Muni and the Nightbird, Allison Steele, have passed away. But, great to hear they’ll be digging out the archives. Between this and Wolfgang’s vault, I can re-live my misspent youth.

  8. jackson

    I don’t think I’ll be getting a new radio until I get a new car, and that is a long way off. The playlist sounds alot like the new 101.9 which I like very much.

    1. fredwilson

      you are exactly right about HD radio. until the HD radios start coming standard in cars (soon), most people won’t be able to hear these new HD stations

  9. Ryan Catbird

    This actually sounds like something that Lefsetz would really get behind, you should ping him about this. Certainly couldn’t hurt a project to have Lefsetz sling some ALL-CAPS superlatives in favor of it.

  10. Deepak Das

    This is getting nostalgic. Billy Joel just said “floppy disk” in his talk with Scott.

  11. chartreuse

    I’ll probably not listen to WNEW but I am VERY impressed with how they engage their audience. They are doing exactly the right things. And all these tiny little revenue streams will probably add up to a sizable profit.

  12. ErikSchwartz

    We’ve been working very closely with the radio industry for about the last year (we’re out at NAB this week, C452 if you want to stop by). They FINALLY realize they have a problem (with the possible exception of David Rehr at NAB who thinks every thing is fine). What radio seems to have figured out in the last 6-12 months is that they’re no longer in the broadcasting business, they’re in the audio business, and that the current channel they have to their audience is changing.Radio has a window right now where they can leverage their marketing mechanism (still quite effective) to migrate users to new channels and platforms. That window won’t stay open too long.CBS gets it. There are elements at ABC who get it (John Rosso for example). Many of the syndicaters get it (Jones in particular).Their incredibly leveraged FCC licenses are no longer a depreciating asset, their appreciating asset is their people who are very skilled at using audio to entertain, educate, enlighten and inform.I think the “radio” business will still be vibrant in 5 years, but it will be smaller and not look like it did 5 years ago.

    1. ErikSchwartz

      Oops”Their incredibly leveraged FCC licenses are no longer an appreciating asset”Not”Their incredibly leveraged FCC licenses are no longer a depreciating asset”

  13. saliment

    What is the URL one would paste into the Sonos add new station window to pick up WNEW-FM? This sounds like a great step forward for radio. I understand KEXP is also affiliated with NY station WNYE-FM.

  14. brandon

    Fred,The new technology being adopted by radio is exciting. I am interested in your feelings about the conglomerates that own radio stations like Clear Channel will they get there magic back.

  15. GeorgeT6

    This is might be a positive proactive step forward except that playlist is just an narrow and repetitive as when WNEW was on the Air-(Okay I have just started listening but if it walks like a duck…). Just how many times do I need to hear the same limited cuts from the same limited albums? Zzzz, I have yet to find an HD radio station that can properly give me the fine line between free form radio -(WFMU) and ready access to old favorites and exposure to new artist, albums, rare cuts _(XM Ethel or what Jack FM started out as). Yes, everyone has playlists of some sort but for me to subscribe, listen to or actively seek out a live broadcast | Stream it damn well should give me what I cannot create myself.For me radio is just about dead. I only listen to NPR live in the morning, for the listening to other shows I subscribe to the podcasts (big fan of time and place shifting). I do listen to sports live but this is a one off event and only when I am in my car or cannot otherwise get a live stream or cable.

  16. josef

    just saw your twit – weird, was just at bar jamon for a birthday thing, and b&s were on the sound system.not sure if you’ve ever checked out will oldham/bonny prince billy/palace – but I know you would like.

    1. fredwilson

      I love bar jamonI’ll check outThanksfred

  17. A3Munier

    changed the header of this post on Twitter…

  18. Sam

    Hi Fred,I am comfortable admitting I used to be in the radio is dead or will never get it’s magic back camp. This was largely the result of a knee jerk reaction to the adoption mp3 devices and the wider competition for attention.Upon further reflection and reading some of Umair’s thoughts on the scarce attention resource I have revised my initial thoughts. I think radio as a delivery mechanism for audio has a material advantage over text and video communication in a world of scarce attention. Audio is the one medium that facilitates multi-tasking, I can consume audio while reading, working, cooking, socialising etc.I think the future success of radio lies in discovery. Although mp3 downloads and personal playlists are fantastic they are relatively inefficient. Creating my playlist requires knowledge of the existence of the track so my playlist is automatically constrained to the subset of tracks that i am aware of. Sure I can be a member of a social network that identifies tracks of interest but this requires participating in the network, sourcing and downloading the recommended track.The latest innovations in radio address these issues by using recommendation functionality and streaming. I see the innovation in mobile devices such as the iphone as potential future receivers for “radio” as a further opportunity.So in short I share your bullish outlook on radio.Sam

    1. fredwilson

      I totally agreeThe iPod doesn’t have a DJ or even a social network that plays music like in itfred

  19. Michael

    I applaud CBS for doing something different but using HD2 to proliferate its efforts, but it’s like building a great radio station in ‘captivity’.I grew up listening to WNEW FM and had the privilege of syndicating a radio show with the late allison steele. Those years at NEW were ‘lightening in a bottle’ that was captured on the heels of great nyc radio like WABC AM and WMCA-AM.I appreciate your investment in iBiquity and am very familiar with their efforts. The new growth of WiMax will effect HD’s rollout and more importantly HD programming needs to be ‘supersized” if it’s going to become relevant. Radio stations are just not equipped to have programmers run multiple channels of meaningful programming.HD and satellite are about installs, working past early adoptors and trying to make a piece of non-essential hardware meaningful. Your previous posts on internet streaming are more of note and the platform is more robust to build out new communities via social networking and widgets.I love radio, I love the ability to create but that industry has unfortunately let ‘technology’ eclipse it’s thinking much like the record business and now everyone is playing ‘catch up’.Local radio will always be relevant but listening levels may drop slightly and advertising revenue will be shifted away because of new media platforms.

    1. fredwilson

      I agree with all of thisUntil HD gets into cars, its going to be “in captivity”Streaming audio is different. It’s here today.When we can get the same stations streaming at home and via HD in cars, then we’ll have something interestingfred

  20. J.D. Falk

    Is it available in iTunes yet, or a direct mp3 stream URL? I hate being forced to keep a browser tab open just to listen to music; browsing and listening are entirely distinct activities.

  21. michael

    All good points Fred. Just to clarify…in car WiMax is here…and is being featured in the new chevy tahoe and being embraced by Chrysler in Q4. What this platform does it allow for an in-car pc to interactive with your GPS and communicate with a ton of wireless devices and laptops. In essence, it is bringing everything from your tethered world mobile.

  22. GeorgeT6

    While the desire to remain bullish on radio, especially terrestrial radio, is commendable it is still just that – a desire.What is radio’s purpose? We can break this down to three basic categories:Information EntertainmentTo sell productIt is, of course, the last item which supersedes the rest. It is the last item for which the prior two serve as a draw for.Much of the success of satellite radio – (if only in rabid dedication from subscribers, profits are another story) – is based on the offering of a wide variety of content genres in a ‘single location’ It is content which is not made available anywhere on terrestrial radio. HD radio is suffering from the same myopic programming as the standard channels, mostly because they are owned by the same short sighted conglomerates. Yes, HD radio provides more programming channels but for the most part it is the off air equivalent to CD reissues, just how many can you have? Want more proof the content is king, even at the expense of quality? Look at the emails to’s Garry Krakow. Mr. Krakow wrote an article bemoaning the less then CD quality of Satellite radio, in return he received a tsunami of emails blasting him with the argument that it was variety of content which made the service valuable audio quality was third or fourth.The promise of WiMax – a subject near and dear to my heart – is great but the infrastructure is not ready. WiMax rollouts, both residential and commercial, have been delayed time and again. There are a few product due out for summer 08 release – just in time for the new commercial network rollouts – and a few products | and cable TV partnerships have been announced- it remains to be seen what impact this will have. In pinning hopes of a truly live off air mobile content network it is best to recall the multitude of MuniFi failures. WiMax, 700MHz analog channels, white space devices are a mix of mature infrastructures but infantile content methodologies; it is yet to be seen if these systems can fulfill their potential or even comfortably co-exist.

    1. michael

      I couldn’t agree more with the comments George. Not only do I have satellite in my car (only because it came with it!), but I listen to 1000’s of radio stations and streams through my smartphone and bluetooth stereo headset. The phone also has full song/artist ID and a record function for playback.The infrastructure for WiMax is really WiFi 2.0…basically it uses the same mobile tower structure but antennas need to be upgraded. Most metros have just gotten use to WiFi…but I do believe in the next 5 years WiMax has a significant shot of growing especially if car manufacturers install in car PC’s. From my friends at Intel I understand that WiMax is a standard. It’s just a matter of time before towers are upgraded.

  23. GeorgeT6

    There is a bit of debate over whether WiMax is the standard for 4G or a part of the next generation considerations. And there in lies the rub. The debate between WiMax supporters and standards committees as to what defines 4G goes back to the initial announcements of WiMax.”Although WiMax supporters claim that 4G is WiMax, we believe this is a wrongful assertion. Future versions of WiMax may become potential 4G candidates, and OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) modulation will be a key component of 4G, but 4G is definitely not WiMax. WiMax has served as a catalyst for 3GPP (Third Generation Partnership Project) and 3GPP2 to accelerate their next round of innovation, adopting OFDM modulation and implementing MIMO and other smart antenna technologies. Both camps have clearly defined their paths toward 4G.”source: Tech News World –

    1. michael

      great article george..thanks it’s full a great info…if you have a blog please send the addy to [email protected]

      1. GeorgeT6

        This may only be Michael and I at this point but, an interesting article I came across shows some forward thinking by the HD broadcasters. And, are you sitting down?, by none other then the devil itself- Clear Channel.Clear Channel adds HD radio tagging for iTunes…\ lights up a Mephisto Cigar, revels in the fact that I look a like like Anton LeVay

        1. fredwilson

          I think itunes tagging is the first but clearly not the only value addeddigital service you will see in the age of digital radio. Think about whathappened when mobile voice went digitalfred

          1. GeorgeT6

            XM had something like this on their portable units -where you could ‘tag’ a song while it played for storage and provided a way to review tagged items for purchase. ASCAP and RIAA howled bloody murder, I *think* this is still making its way through the courts.My feeling is that the song tagging and potential other recurring income models Fred alludes to here are the only things which will make any of the ‘off air’ radio formats remain profit centers. It will be something to watch as content providers jockey for position to be the conduit via which these purchases flow. Will it be iTUnes, individual content companies or some other intermediary?Some of us who have been following the Video HD transition will recall that early broadcast standards included the ability to receive ‘side channels’ which could be used for alternate video, ISP connections or on demand commerce -(much like Tivo brings up during certain commercials). This was all kyboshed when all parties agreed to use the ‘extra’ bandwidth to send not 720p1080i signal but 1080p and a five year plan to get 1440p. I wonder if the HD radio broadcasters will eventually go for the additional revenue or abandon the model for SACD | DVD-Audio quality and a straight advertising methodology. The former provides a road to all manner of innovative business models, but forces maintaining status quo model have proven difficult to move.

  24. GeorgeT6

    Indeed I do have a blog http://tuckerstuesday.typep…(I post here in the hopes of luring others) -email is on its way.

  25. Mike

    The first sound I heard when I pulled up and clicked listen live was Scott Muni, I was transported back to my childhood room on Long Island circa 1978. Damn, the chills run down my spine.

    1. fredwilson

      Apparently you can bring back the dead!

  26. Charlene

    I love radio and am alway looking for stations that do more than the standard mainstream playlist… hard to of yet – I haven’t managed to tune in on the internet.But will keep trying in desperation…