First Radio Commercial Hit Airwaves 90 Years Ago
Reporter John McDonough reports how AT T ran the first-ever radio commercial on its station WEAF in New York 90 years ago this week. It changed the way broadcast was economically structured.
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Ninety years ago this week, back in 1922, America’s airwaves changed forever. New York radio station WEAF broadcast the first paid radio commercial for the Hawthorne Court Apartments in Jackson Heights. Producer John McDonough tells us that behind that ad and the birth of commercial radio was the Bell Telephone Company.
JOHN MCDONOUGH, BYLINE: You don’t have to go back 90 years to imagine what radio was like in the summer of 1922, just recall the state of the Internet about a dozen years ago, a modern miracle of technology with one problem: Nobody knew how to make it pay. Well, that was radio in 1922. How do you finance an endless stream of programming and still make money? One possibility, the profits from radio receivers, which may explain why so many department stores built their own broadcast stations that year.
But eventually, everyone has a radio set at home. What then? Broadcasting’s problem was that it had much to give but nothing to sell. But there was one company that was thinking very much about sales and money in 1922, and that brings us to WEAF and the business model behind it. So obvious, it was invisible in plain sight.
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