Is College Radio the Only Saving Grace for the Industry?

I wouldn’t blame you one bit if you didn’t know that UNI had a student radio station. The station a glorified closet jammed with equipment, music, and a DJ or two in the basement of Maucker Union. It is in a location that is pretty easy to miss unless you’re doing a lap around the labyrinth of this campus’ top hangout spot. Not to mention, its coverage only reaches a 0.9 mile radius of the beercan-shaped tower on top of Schindler Education Center.

However, if you are a music aficionado, or a person who takes pride in keeping up with rich culture and hot topics that are delivered by students who truly know what they are talking about, then I do blame you. UNI’s radio station (94.5 KULT-LPFM), along with countless others in the United States, cater to multiple audiences that would be considered “indie” or “hipster” in this decade’s vernacular. It is a common myth to most students of public universities and colleges (and regular citizens as well) that college radio is a dying antiquity—but that statement couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Bradford Cox, member of the bands Deerhunter and Atlas Sound, grew up on the local college radio stations in Atlanta. He was strongly influenced by what he listened to, and he eventually started spinning on the campus radio station. He connects music education to college radio, as something that has been around for an entire generation, and informs people about the music they’re missing, and not discovering and loving.

KULTUNI’s KULT, although very small in size and reach, is expanding in ways that provide awareness and listenership for the station. The number of social media fans, on both Facebook and Twitter, has tripled since March. The growth in student participation is staggering—six months ago 22 DJs had their own show, but this Fall that number has jumped to 48! Spinning music at live events on and off campus, a new concept adopted by the director team at the end of last school year, has caught on very well. Around a dozen events have been emceed, with another dozen on the way before Thanksgiving break.

There is a myth floating around, that the number of stations in the country are decreasing. But according to radiosurvivor.com, nearly 50 LPFM stations (like KULT) have been granted licenses at college and universities recently, and dozens more are awaiting word about their applications.

I had the chance to briefly chat with John Michael-Secor, General Manager of WTBU radio of Boston University. The general idea is that when college stations and markets help each other out and expand on ideas, the listenership and interest increases exponentially. It also doesn’t matter how big the market is, there are always loyal listeners. The College Hill crowd in Cedar Falls contains many loyal listeners that are always interested in indie music and programming, as well as getting involved in the station with their ideas or the bands they play with. Most importantly, however, if you have online streaming capability, the listenership can be endless. It doesn’t matter whether your campus station is located in Cedar Falls, New York or the northern tip of Alaska: people around the world are always listening.

CMJWhile these ideas and findings stew in your mind, it is important to think about the missing impact of radio in your life. With professional rock and country stations in the Cedar Valley, are you expanding your mind as much to the possibility of music and news, as opposed to hearing the same songs every hour? Then start thinking nationally. Tools like iHeartRadio, College Music Journal and many other indie music and news sites can really open up your mind to what’s out there. It’s the fact that these tools are falling by the wayside that rub people the wrong way about radio.
Going forward KULT staff will conduct a broad search of listeners in the Cedar Valley. Surveys are the perfect tool for this, as it’s easy to gain information from students where they gather the most: right above our walls. I will be searching for the true following of KULT by reaching out to past participants of the station, and those who have been following the progress of the literal radio cult happening at UNI.

The next time you claim you haven’t heard about student-run radio on your campus, you will be the one to blame.

- Brendan Wood

You Might Want to Get Bigger Pockets-Are Phablets the Phuture?

Millions of people recently flocked to their local Apple store to purchase the new iPhone 6 Plus. The new iPhone 6 Plus as well as the Samsung Galaxy Note have been given the name of “Phablet,” combining the words phone and tablet, due to their large size. The concept of the Phablet is not a new one in the digital world; it was first brought up in 2011 when the Samsung Galaxy Note was originally launched.

iphonesAlthough I’m sure many of the purchasers were informed about the new Phablet and what it had to offer, there are many people who don’t know the pros and cons of purchasing a Phablet. While many are overwhelmed by the size of the Phablet, others love it for that exact reason as well the technical specs that come with it when compared to a regular phone.

After searching the web I found a few of the main reasons why people love Phablets. A few of these reasons include the large screen size, the immersive user experience, and the multitasking capabilities. To find out more about the pros of owning a Phablet check out the article 5 Reasons Why Phablets are the Best Mobile Device on Inspirationfeed.com.

As with any product there are also a few cons that I found. A few of the negative aspects of the Phablet include the limitations of portability due to their large size and poor battery life. Some negative aspects of the size are further discussed In the article What’s the Hype Behind Phablets? Won’t a Smartphone or Tablet Do? At Phonearea.com.

The technical aspects of the Phablet are astounding when compared to a regular smartphone. The technology along with the screen size of the Phablet allows for photo and video editing and note taking, along with a higher megapixel camera, as well as faster processors and higher storage space. To see a full technical comparison of the top Phablet brand phones check out cnet.com.

phabletWith well known brands like Samsung and Apple leading the way for Phablets and their growing popularity this new concept will soon become the norm in society. Personally, I believe that the advancement of other portable technologies like smart watches and Bluetooth will help propel the success of the Phablet by diminishing the idea that the large size is a problem.

I also believe that the Phablets increase in screen size will be cost effective for many people because it will eliminate the need to buy a phone and a tablet. For some it could even eliminate the need for a laptop. The Phablet is already capable of completing just about anything a computer can and with the ongoing advancement of technology it will soon be able to do much more.

phabletsAlthough many people are still uninformed about the Phablet and all of its capabilities I still believe this gadget is the future of mobile devices. From a technical aspect the Phablet hugely outweighs the smartphone, and it is also a cost effective choice for many individuals and families. The size may be big negative point for many, but with the help of Bluetooth and a growth in popularity this “bad” aspect will soon be forgotten. Ultimately the choice of whether or not to purchase a Phablet is up to you, but I think I’ll need bigger pockets.

- Tanner Heinrichs

Mobile Evolution: Smartphone Advancements and the Media Industry

There is a very good chance you are reading this on your smartphone.  More likely you are one of the 1.75 billion persons who are in reachable distance of their smart phone. Or at the very least you fall in the category of being one of the 6 billion people who have a mobile device. Whichever category you belong to, it is clear that smartphones are continually changing our lives and the world around us.

ManSmartphone manufacturers design their products to eventually fail; screens break, CPUs slow down and fail. In the worlds of Robert Frost, “nothing gold can stay.”

The average life expectancy of a smartphone is 21 months (significantly lower than their former three-year average lifespan). This should not be seen as a bad thing. If smartphones were designed to last well past a two-year contract, manufactures would hesitate to unveil new models of phones with the latest advancements, and consumers would hesitate to purchase them if they had a phone that continued to “get them by.”

MChartSmartphones have a faster replacement time than any other electronic device on the market, which allows more users to have new and cheaper phones while simultaneously allowing the media industry as a whole to advance faster than ever. Consumers around the world are closer to becoming technological equals with each other now more than ever thanks to smartphones.

In the past year the penetration of smartphones have reached more than 72% of the entire mobile market and estimates show the U.S. growing significantly this year. This increase in market penetration is not limited to only the US and other developed countries; of the world’s six billion mobile-phone subscriptions, 73% are now in the developing world, even though those countries account for just 20% of the world’s GDP. This equality is helping move content faster than ever, media producers are no longer held back by fears they once had of alienating audiences.

Last month the FCC held a roundtable discussion to address these changes and revisit the current exemption of the mobile broadband market from Net Neutrality regulations saying, “The growth of smartphones and LTE — and the constant change in our ecosystem — is the clearest evidence we should retain a mobile-specific approach, because it has worked so well for consumers.”

After the round table several key organizations and corporations had their own response. The Writers Guild of America West released a statement saying:

If the Commission does not apply the full complement of Net Neutrality rules to mobile broadband, wireless carriers will be able to pick winners and losers. They will have the power to decide what applications and services are available to consumers and on what terms. Data caps and current pricing models have not yet made mobile Internet service a viable substitute for all video consumption, but the failure to apply rules equally dooms the platform.

Google and Microsoft responded with similar claims, stating that Net Neutrality should apply regardless of whether you’re accessing the Internet using a cable connection, a wireless service or any other technology.

mChart2Technology in mobile broadband is changing rapidly and with it, we are seeing new trends in media consumption. In a recent Nielsen report the average time adults viewed media on their smartphones as gone up 77% since last year. To put this into perspective, TV viewing has gone down 4%, and Internet access via computer has gone up just 2%. Even as an increase in mobile broadband use is advancing our world into the digital age, it is clear that mobile technologies that were once a luxury are now necessities.

We are fortunate to live in an age where we are able to reach technological saturation in the mobile market at unparallel speeds. Because of this the FCC must recognize this growth and proactively adopt regulations for ISPs to promote Net Neutrality on the mobile broadband level. Only then will we see continued progression in mobile technologies that will benefit all consumers and media producers well into the heart of the 21st century.

- Aaron Sprengeler

Future or Folly: Oculus Rift Virtual Reality, Facebook and Gender

Palmer Luckey has every reason to be as excited as he has been lately. His brainchild, the Oculus Rift VR headset, has been bought by Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg for $2 billion. Luckey, who is just 21 years old, originally conceived the device as a dream headset for gamers and now has begun to take on the fervent zeal of a multi-media visionary. “Virtual reality is going to revolutionize life,” he says. “As the content library grows and the price diminishes, it is going to be a very attractive technology for consumers in all walks. Virtual reality provides more freedom for content creators than any other form, and allows us to simulate other art forms like movies, books, or traditional games. In that sense, it is the ultimate medium.”

OculusSo, why would Facebook buy a virtual reality video game headset? Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, always at the forefront of social technology, are not interested in falling behind, or even being at the same place as any other company. They want to be the leaders. Zuckerberg says, “Strategically we want to start building the next major computing platform that will come after mobile,” he said on a conference call. “There are not many things that are candidates to be the next major computing platform,” he said. “[This is a] long-term bet on the future of computing.” He has enough faith in virtual reality to have invested the tidy sum of $2 billion, which is partially in cash and partially in Facebook stock.

oculus2Luckey himself has been surprised at all the applications his “toy” is being used for. “What’s surprised me is that it’s not just people interested in technology and video games that are excited,” he says. “The Rift is being used for all manner of non-gaming applications like telepresence, architecture, CAD, emergency response training, phobia therapy, and many more.”

Does the Oculus Rift may seem too good to be true? Well, maybe it is. Danah Boyd, a principal reasearcher at Microsoft, a professor at New York University and author, has studied gender and virtual reality for over a decade. She recently published an article on Quartz that is titled, “Is the Oculus Rift sexist?” (What?! Thegamingindustrysexist?! No! Yes!) In her piece she discusses two different types of depth perception, motion parallax and shape-from-shading.

Motion parallax is the type that biological men use more prominently, and can be easily witnessed when a something moves closer or farther away from you becoming larger or smaller. Shape-from-shading is the type of depth perception that biological females tend to favor. Shape-from-shading is used to determine the position of something when the lighting on an object changes. Which type of depth perception does the Oculus Rift use? Well, motion parallax, of course! Some women when using virtual reality become nauseous or even vomit because their eyes cannot pick up on the movement signals from the screens. Did the developers mean for this to happen when they designed the device? Almost certainly not. However, more effort needs to be made to improve shape-from-shading graphics to make virtual reality a reality for everyone, regardless of their gender.

The technological world is very excited about the Oculus Rift and the promise of a virtual future that is more real than ever. Their acquisition by Facebook puts them on the map with the most widely-used website in the world. The hope for the wide-spread application of the device, outside of the video game world, and indeed outside the media world entirely, is one that is exciting for any technophile. Will everyone be able to adopt this new, virtual world, or will some of us be left feeling queasy? Only time will tell.

- Sommer M. Darland

Cutting Gone Girl: Will Hollywood Switch to Adobe Premiere?

For editor Kirk Baxter, Gone Girl marks his fifth collaboration with visionary director David Fincher. The duo have had a very successful partnership in the past, with such films as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Social Network, which both won Baxter an Oscar for Best Editing. This director and editor are committed to consistently pushing the envelope on every technical level for their films. For their new film, Gone Girl, Baxter edited exclusively in Adobe Premiere Pro CC— an all-time first for a major Hollywood production.

Gone Girl

The industry has experienced its share of technical shifts. On the giant laundry list of trends and issues, the one brought up the most today is the transition from film stock to digital (Fincher embraces the latter). But if you turn the clock back to the early 1990’s, you’ll notice the issue was all about editing. Non-linear editing (digital editing software) was just becoming more popular in Hollywood, and many studios/directors/editors were flocking to one particular program.

Avid was developed in 1989, and has since become a staple in digital editing. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, virtually every major Hollywood production used Avid to cut their picture. Many recent films, like Star Trek: Intro Darkness or Gravity, have still used Avid as their editing system of choice. Now, however, with digital photography consumer based editing software becoming cheaper, there have been many other software giants competing with Avid.

Apple’s editing software, Final Cut Pro, has had its ups and downs through the years. Kirk Baxter was one of the many devoted Final Cut Pro 7 users. Baxter used FCP7 for all of his previous films with David Fincher (including the ones that won him Academy Awards).

Unfortunately for Apple, their success is currently at a standstill. In 2011, Apple released an update called Final Cut Pro X, which was met with a lukewarm response—or what others would argue, a backlash—due to a lack of features. At that time, Kirk Baxter said, “I assume I’m going to be working on Final Cut 7 until they upgrade the new model to professional standards, and if they don’t do it, then I imagine all of us will end up aborting and finding a new platform to work on.”

And that’s exactly what Baxter has done. With Final Cut collapsing as an industry option, Baxter chose Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC to cut Gone Girl. Not only was he looking for something that is equipped with professional features, but also something that is convenient and fluid in its workflow:

“The decision was made because it was the best tool for us to use to bring a lot of the effects in-house, to be doing a lot of After Effects work and for that to be seamlessly integrated into the process of editing. If somebody updated a visual effects shot in the building it just went straight through into my timeline.”

Despite Apple’s fallout with the major studios, it hasn’t completely lost all traction. Warner Bros. recently announced production of Focus, a $100-million-dollar film starring Will Smith—and it will be the first major Hollywood production edited in Final Cut Pro X.

As a media creator I use Final Cut Pro 7 because it is on my computer and it is what I am used to. What editing software do you use? What about it makes you gravitate towards it rather than other software? Also, I’d love to know what you think of Final Cut Pro X?

- Alex Miller

We Need More Fiber in Our (Internet) Diet!

There is a change coming to America and all Americans that use the Internet. The change FiberI’m referring to is the movement from cable Internet to fiber optic, and it has already begun. If you’re familiar with the term then you may know that this mean an upgrade in speed, but I believe fiber optic Internet will change more than the rate at which users stream media.

For everyone that is unfamiliar with fiber optic Internet I’ll give you a brief overview but you may also check out the full technological explanation here How Fiber Optics Work.

Fiber optic Internet is simply the Internet being brought to users by an advanced type of cable that will allow for much faster speeds. These new cables can provide gigabit internet service which is on average 100 times faster than most internet providers today.

I think that everyone would agree that faster Internet would make them happy but there are some sceptics out there that view 100 times faster as over the top. Farhad Manjoofrom Slate.com voices one such position. While Manjoo is not wrong in pointing out that most user’s current sessions on the internet would hardly use much of the gigabit transfer rate provided by fiber optics, I think it would be silly to suggest that we shouldn’t invest in the technology because most people won’t use it to its full potential.

Whether you want to increase your speed by 10 times or 100 times your current speed you will need something other than the current infrastructure. As we overhaul public utilities it makes sense to invest in something that will meet our needs for a long time.

Google fiberWhen looking at the move to fiber optic most people write of the change as a simple issue of speed but I believe this switch will be further reaching. Do to the fact that the change to fiber optic requires a new network of cables there is an opportunity for new Internet providers, (IPs), to move in.

Google is one company that is cashing in on the fiber optic demand. Google has always been an internet giant but they have always stuck to internet content. With their new service Google fiber they have crossed over into the IP business and so far they are leading the charge.

Google fiber2

There are also a number of small local utilities that are stepping up to fill in the fiber optic gap that the larger media providers are failing to acknowledge. Verizon is the first major provider to react to the new gigabit option and is offering an interesting package of their own.

With all these new Internet Service Providers creating their own networks I believe the major providers will start to lose the oligopoly they have held over the Internet. My hope is that the major providers will lose some of the sway they have over the Internet, allowing for a freer Internet for all.

Fiber optic Internet is just starting to hit the market and it may be years before there is a fiber provider in your area. As the battle between Internet Service Providers heats up I will keep an eye out for more responses from some of the other major ISPs.

Would you switch to gigabit Internet if it were in your area? If you could choose any Internet Service Provider who would you back in the fiber war?

- Kyle Kaiser

Is It Smartwatch Time Yet?

During the last couple of years we have seen numerous smartwatches produced in the market. Many thought 2013 was going to be the year for the smartwatch. However, smartwatches have not mesmerized consumers yet. Let’s take a look at current smartwatch features, and talk about how they might become more successful in the future.

smartwatch

As you can see above, there are more than a few smartwatches in the market right now. These smartwatches have some obvious differences in screen, size, and shape. Some have circular screens, while others have rectangular screens. Nonetheless, these watches all share similar features. One of the main features of the smartwatch is the ability to tell time. Some other common features with smartwatches are: turn-by-turn directions, fitness tracking, notifications from social networks, and fingerprint scanning. A newer feature that some of the watches offer is the ability to make and receive calls. This is a feature in smartwatches that will likely increase within the next few years.

With many big time brands displayed above, an obvious company is still missing from the mix. Apple has not yet released their smartwatch, and many believe they are falling behind the race. The iWatch is scheduled to be released in early 2015. Once Apple releases their smartwatch, CNN Money predicts another war between Samsung and Apple.

The future of smartwatches could be very successful or could fail miserably. A Digital Trends article describes six smartwatches that are ready to shatter the struggling stigma of the smartwatch and its market. The article reveals that the Asus ZenWatch, Sony SmartWatch 3, Samsung Gear S, Sony SmartBand Talk, LG G Watch R, and the Apple iWatch could end up kickstarting the smartwatch revolution, but only time will tell.

With all of these smartwatches awaiting launch, how are companies changing their products and marketing campaigns to gain more interest in the smartwatch? More importantly, The New Yorker poses a crucial question: Does anyone even want a smartwatch? In a survey published in August, just 3% of respondents in the U.S. and U.K. reported owning a smartwatch, and only 16% of men and women plan to buy one by the end of 2014.

Many consumers do not find the smartwatch useful. This is due to all of the other screens we look at on a given day. We have smartphones, tablets, laptops, TV’s, etc. Is the smartwatch really necessary in today’s society when we already spend so much of our time staring at screens? The chart below reveals how much time we spend staring at screens on a daily basis.

ChartI find the concept of the smartwatch very intriguing. However, I do not see them succeeding in the market if they cannot offer more functions than other devices.

Do you think sales of smartwatches will increase in 2015? What will attract more consumer interest in smartwatches? What does the future for smartwatches look like?

- Tommy Zittergruen

4K TV and Consumer Adoption — NAB Follow-up

4K-Logo4K technology was featured throughout the 2014 National Association of Broadcaster’s Show in Las Vegas in exhibits, product features, and panel discussions with those developing and adapting 4K. Based upon my blog regarding 4K and consumers, the following video encompasses viewpoints and facts on 4K from locals in Iowa and displays 4K products and insights found at the NAB Show.

- Olivia Hottle