Monday, December 31, 2007

Resolutions for 2008

As we look back at 2007 it was a rough year for terrestrial radio in nearly every direction. From the sales picture, to the ratings/PPM/sample problems, on to new media competition, the woes of the record industry, royalty increases, sinking station values, the failure of HD Radio, lots of stations for sale living in limbo, and the lack of investment in the product in many places paints a pretty bleak picture.

Looking ahead to 2008 we have a lot on our plate. Hopefully we can set a few goals and priorities that we can all work on.

The first is making our products exciting again. That goes back to the basics of ENTERTAINING THE AUDIENCE. We are not going to do much entertaining with another list 0f 400 songs to spin and a big voiced announcer hyping it up between every song over and over till we pound it into their heads. We need to get close to the community and the target audience in the streets and in their computers.

We also have to work as an industry to get a ratings system that at least has some accuracy in the way the data is collected and with an representative sample. It's obvious that Arbitron's Diary system and land line based sample is falling way behind in credibility.

The first area is one we can start on in every market on any station. Yes, it takes a big effort and some budget to improve our efforts to be more entertaining, but it's one that we can all accomplish in any station in any market. If we can start keeping our focus on this core task I bet the list will look a lot better at the end of 2008.

Happy New Year - after we celebrate tonight let's get to work - there's a lot to accomplish, but it all starts with the basic core mission to entertain the audience.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

PIC&N??? Plus Cell Phone Only Numbers

A couple of News highlights from this week:

Re-Regulation: The FCC is proposing new regulations on broadcasters that would force more localism, round the clock staffing, a return to citizen advisory boards and more coverage of news/politics. Some of the trades are claiming that the de-regulation pendulum is swinging back to more regulation. We've been in this de-regulation mode for over 20 years now in radio and many have forgotten the old days of the FCC.

They used to have a policy at the FCC where broadcasters had to operate in the Public Interest Convenience and Necessity - PIC&N. It looks like we are heading towards a return to those standards. In reality it's a good move for broadcasters. We need to get back in the business of being local champions if we are going to navigate through the new media and multi-platform fog. I suspect we'll see a lot of industry wide moves to push back on this change, but perhaps we should embrace it instead. It sort of reminds me of the U.S. auto industry fighting MPG standards only to watch imports move in and win a lot of market share with higher MPG cars. We are seeing industry after industry embracing 'green' and working harder on community image.

In programming we'd better start preparing to serve our communities better, even if the FCC doesn't push forward. But, in an election year and with lots of congress behind the movement for their own election sake we'd better start preparing now.

Cell Phones: We also got some other news from the govt. This time from the Center for Disease Control with a new study on cell phone only individuals. Yes, the CDC did the study because they collect data and just like our ratings systems they are struggling with polling the cell phone only individuals. You can read the USA Today report on the study here. The cliff notes version:

  • Cell Only Households - 14%
  • Cell and Land Lines - 59%
  • Land Line Only - 24%
  • 18-30s Cell Only - 30% and growing every day.

These numbers were compiled in the first 6 months of 07 so the cell only numbers will only be bigger when we get another report in 6 months.

Also in the news Arbitron has announced that they will FINALLY be trying to develop a plan to get to the cell phone only households. They are going to try and use an 'address based' sample and match up the addresses with the phone data then try and use the mail to reach out to the cell only folks and get permission to call them on their cell. The grand experiment starts in 08 and may be used in some markets in 09. By then we could see over 40% of the 18-30s being excluded from the sample and maybe 23% or more from the 12 plus population.

All of this doesn't take into account the people who don't pay attention to their land lines at all. They have one out of habit, but they have really converted to the cell phone for most of their communication. The land line is hooked up to an answering machine and call ID and unless they know who you are - it's off to voice mail land. We are not moving fast enough here - relying on the snail mail to help is going to be a slow process. We could pick up the pace if we could work on texting, emailing, and even reaching out more in the web world to gather more sample.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas List For Programmers

It's that time of the year when we make our list and check it twice - hopefully we've been nice and Santa will deliver. What's on the list for radio programmers? Here's a few suggestions:

  1. Better Ratings: The old diary/ballot system with land line telephone recruited samples is our worst enemy. It's not fair, accurate or trustworthy and we have the technology to make it better. PPM now seems a long ways off and for most of the markets beyond market 40 in the U.S. and outside the top 10 in Canada we might as well put 'world peace' on our list. Perhaps our wish here should be for a competitor for Arbitron and BBM - maybe that would speed up the process.
  2. HD Radio: This is looking like that toy that you wanted as a kid and when it arrived you had big plans to play with it all the time. By January it was sitting at the bottom of the toy box. No budget to make the new channels happen, no radios in the field to broadcast to, and lots of other toys for the audience to play with.
  3. Music: Wouldn't it be great if we had a steady supply of great music for our formats? One that we could rely on to bring the best to us in an organized manner without the mess around royalty issues.
  4. The Web: We could all use a lot more presence on the web. Some of it takes money, but lots of it takes dedication, awareness, and discipline to actually make it happen. While we might have lots of little 'stocking stuffers' for Santa to bring here a lot of this is up to us to dive in and stake a claim in the new frontier.
  5. More Talent: Everyone has gone through a lot of downsizing and we all operate with a lot fewer bodies and less talent in the building than we did 10 years ago. Just building more formatic jukeboxes is not a road radio can win on anymore. We need the magic personalities, creative imagers, and the people to build those all important local ties/images bring to great stations. It takes money, but how well are we using the resources we have?
  6. Better Team Management: We all have to make the most of what we have. Over the years I've seen lots of stations turn in great progress and ratings not because they spend the most, but because the team is inspired by the leadership. Santa can't put leadership in his sack and get it down the chimney - we have to learn how to do it.
  7. A Big Promotion Budget: Yes we'd all like to give away big prizes in contests, have billboards all over town, and maybe a new TV spot running all the time, but again we have to ask - are we using the resources we have? Is your imaging organized to make the most of the huge cume you already have (PPM has proven we have TONS of cume). Are you taking advantage of building a full presence at community events? Do you have a strong calendar of on air events and promotions to keep the audience entertained all the time? Are you using all the tools and toys of the web to interact with the audience and build more loyalty with them?

As I look down this list the presents are either ones that Santa can't make with the Elves (like the Music, HD and Ratings issues) or ones that we really need to 'make ourselves' (Promotions, Talent, team management and the Web). So now it's your turn on Santa's Lap and the list is down to ------ Guitar Hero 3. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Canadian Ratings System - BBM

The ratings for the Fall are out in Canada this week and going over the markets it's interesting to note some of the differences in the Canadian BBM system and Arbitron in the states.

The larger markets have 4 reports a year based on a diary system (they call them ballots) and sample procedures similar to the diary systems in Arbitron. There are no monthly reports and the surveys periods are shorter - they actually have some months where you can give the staff a vacation.

There are plans for the People Meter (PPM) technology to start being used later in 08 in the bigger markets and phase it's way to the top markets.

They also release ALL the markets on the same day at the same time. You just download the whole country. The Fall (or S4) results came out last Monday so it was number crunching time on the trusty laptop in my office as we work with a number of Canadian stations. Overall a good book worth popping a Molson over at the end of the day.

Looking over the trends in sample return in nearly every market I tapped into the news was disturbing at best. The sample returns are suffering the same problems we see with Arbitron. The under 44 year olds are falling apart. BBM doesn't contact the panel on cell phones and with the growth of the cell only households or people just ignoring their land lines it's getting harder to turn in a sample in almost any of the 18-44 cells. In the last year you can see the samples fall to 1/2 of what they were just 18 months ago. It's almost like a plague has gone across Canada. The numbers are starting to wobble a lot and we are seeing the same wild swings and 'what the hell' results in the demos.

I can remember going to my first Auditorium Music Test in Canada. It was snowing in January, the roads were bad, yet the place was packed. We had to worry about too many people showing up as they over recruited and we hit the ATM for a few more bills to cover the overage. Most other tests I'd worked with for the last 18 years in the states always needed a few make-goods and we nervously counted the heads in the room always coming up short. Here in Canada they were eager to contribute their opinions.

Well it looks like those days may be in the past when you look at the BBM sample returns.

BBM needs to act soon. Just take a look south at the rather sudden awakening on sample/panel returns at Arbitron. Now forced to delay the PPM roll out and watch the stock and perhaps their credibility suffer. Just moving away from the ballots/diaries to a better data collection system will not be enough to compete with all the new media. We (the buyers and sellers) have to have faith in the currency (the ratings) and that MEANS A RELIABLE SAMPLE.

Hopefully BBM and the broadcasters throughout Canada will stand up and nip this before it gets to a damaging stage. In fact it may already be there.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Great Programmer and Person

Got some sad news late on Tuesday that Jim Steel has passed away.

Jim was the Operations Director for the Clear Channel stations in Lincoln and Omaha when I worked with the markets. Jim was just working with Lincoln at first, but the management team couldn't get enough of Jim so he ran between the 2 markets taking on all kinds of exciting and challenging programming experiences. He handled all of them with exceptional leadership, creativity and a deep love for the art of programming.

Jim had the love of music, the love of people around him and one-ness with the audience. All the ingredients of great programmers. Both markets grew from his efforts. He also deeply served his community - helping with any project he could find time for.

Jim called one day and explained that he had ALS - Lou Gehrigs disease. It was a sad moment for his family, the teams in both markets and all Jim's friends throughout our industry. He fought ALS for the last 5 years or so. Even though his condition became worse the stations fought to keep Jim on-board and did so with e-mail communication and stopping by to help him through the day at his home. Clear Channel owned Lincoln till last last year and still owns the Omaha stations and kept Jim on board through this awful disease.

No doubt it was a long battle with a terrible disease. Jim - we'll miss you and remember your leadership, creativity, and love of radio, but most of all we'll miss a great person.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sample Sizes and PPM

Arbitron continues to face a lot of challenges in rolling out PPM. On one side we have the reality that some ethnic formats are seeing less listening in the PPM system, on the other side the weak samples, especially in the younger 18-34 demos, are also a big concern. It sort of came to a head this past week as the news hit that Clear Channel, Cox, Radio One and Cumulus crafted a letter that calls for a full review from Arbitron. It's also spread to the media with NYC newspapers sounding some alarm bells.

Sample sizes are really at the heart of the issue. With the big increases in cost for each participant in PPM Arbitron is looking for ways to keep the sample as tight as realistically possible. In the diary samples in the medium and smaller markets 18-34 returns have been a disaster for nearly 20 years. Arbitron has tried to pay more and recruit harder but we still end up with a lot of books out there where 18-24 and 25-34 males (and even females) are doubling the value of the diaries to make the demo samples match the population proportions.

The reality in PPM is that the samples are a lot bigger than the 30 response minimum Arbitron requires to print a demo in the big PPM markets. There is no planned PPM market where there is a danger of living with as few as 10 people as rumored. You have to keep in mind that with the PPM meter keepers holding the device for every day of every week for up to 18 months you get a lot more data than in a diary system.

Look at it on a monthly basis. Let's say in a big market you have 1000 diaries in an average month. In any given week you have an average of 250 people with a diary to fill out. Now let's say you have 500 people holding the meters, bet remember in any given week you have all those 500 meters gathering data. In the diary system you only had 250 people so the data collected is really on twice the sample and a lot more reliable.

The big issue here is the 18-34 sample. As long as we are using land line phones to reach them it's a losing battle. This group is mobile and ignoring land lines for cell phones at a rapid rate. Till Arbitron finds a way to reach them via Text, IM, Email or maybe even in person they will be challenged in these demos and have to weight them up a lot.

The other issue is costs. They are paying more to PPM households and in some cases paying a lot more to hold them in the sample. Arbitron hasn't really spelled out the compensation, but off the record comments from some insiders claim it's a lot more to insure a successful roll out. PPM is a different system than the diaries and comparing the two in sample is misleading.

We all know we need PPM to compete with the stronger metrics advertisers get from other media. No question PPM is a lot better and more accurate than the old recall diary system. Both sides (Arbitron and the stations) need to work together and listen to each other carefully.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Surely CNBC will have bigger ratings as economic issues are clearly taking the spotlight. Rising Oil, the mortgage lending mess, the weaker dollar and the high cost of the war are starting to all combine and head us close to or into a recession. Retailers are already expecting a weaker holiday spending session and we've already seen the auto industry struggle for most of the past year. It's also affecting radio as the results from 3rd quarter in radio are disappointing and in some groups it's more about 'just getting 07 over with' at this point.

So let's say we go into an official recession which would probably be declared after more than a few months of a significant decline of economic activity, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. According to the NBER we've been chugging along for the last 7 years without a recession - look at the history of 'official' recessions for the last 60 years:

July 1953-May 1954 10 months
Aug. 1957-April 1958 8 months
April 1960-Feb. 1961 10 months
Dec. 1969-Nov. 1970 11 months
Nov. 1973-March 1975 16 months
Jan. 1980-July 1980 6 months
July 1981-Nov. 1982 16 months
July 1990-March 1991 8 months
March 2001-Nov. 2001 8 months

They are usually not that long and over the last 20 years we've only 2 of them lasting a total of 16 months.

I bring this up not out of a desire to give up radio programming for economics, but perhaps to help your team as you plan for 08 just ahead. We shouldn't let the 'R' word worry us even though there will be lots of 'hype' around it. We also shouldn't let the 'R' word spook our advertisers and the teams inside the stations.

Remember we sell advertising and there are always products and services looking to brand themselves regardless of the economic conditions. Actually a recession is the perfect time to build a brand. You will likely see less competition, less clutter around your message, and remember the audience is STILL THERE. Just because they may be holding their wallets a little tighter they are still looking for entertainment and we offer it for free every day.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Promoting With Sales - Good? or Bad?

We all know the scenario here. Programming doesn't have any big money for a book promotion and puts together an idea to give away a big prize. For this example let's say it's a motorcycle. So the sales team goes out and tries to cut a deal for a bike. Often we see the dealer, who was going to spend 15K over the Spring months on the station, decides 'let's just give them a bike and I've got tons of exposure' (probably more than 15K) and since the dealer only paid 10K for the bike he's got a real deal. So he cancels the 15K order and shines up the bike for the promotion.

Meanwhile the station loses the 15K he would have spent in spots and probably the sales team loses a pile of the commission on the deal. From the sales and revenue picture this doesn't look like a good deal at all and the Sales Manager, who wants to help the station, has to draw the line when he misses the budget and watches his sales people working on this deal instead of spending time on 'real revenue' potentials.

There is a way to make this a deal for the motorcycle shop, the sales team, the revenue line and the programming side, but you have to look at all sides and build a promotion that has bigger potential and can involve more than just the motorcycle shop. Every market and sales scenario will be different here, but look at this example of a promotion outline and the revenue potential:

1. Motorcycle - Walk in 4K from the promotion budget and INVEST it in the prize. Put together a package for 12K with the bike dealer and you will pay him 4K for the bike as well as do the promotion with at least 10K of advertising exposure for him from sweepers, remotes, liners etc. Now sales gets 12K in revenue, still 3K less than they hoped for but at least they get 80% of the deal and there's commission for the team.

2. Remote Package - Put together a remote package with a big send off for the bike at a big bar and then sell packages with lots of promos, a schedule and a remote. You can price it over the usual remote since you have lots of extra excitement in the promotion. If you have a launch promotion for 2K and 8 smaller remotes at bars, retail stores, etc priced at 1.5K now you have 14K in revenue over the month.

Sales gains by having extra value added incentives to pass on without giving away inventory from the spot logs. Sales also gains by having a potential of 14K more in revenue for the month. The Sales manager is now looking at the potential of taking that 15K order from the bike shop and turning it into 24K of revenue even after we pay 4k for the bike in cash. Programming can have an exciting promotion that's all over the community and still have that book promotion.

It takes more planning and advance thought and it's not as simple as filling out the order, but both sides (sales and programming) end up with revenue potential and on-air excitement that hopefully will drive some ratings boost.

I know that every deal may not work like the example in your market, but I think you see the concept. Also many of you already do this, but you've learned that advance planning, organization, and being careful with the details. I've also seen examples that reflect more of the beginning of this story - where everyone has just tossed in the towel.

It works best when the programming team and the sales team commit to working together and laying out a solid plan WELL IN ADVANCE. Now is the time to start thinking for Spring 08. You probably know the budgets at the station level and if you lay the foundation before the holidays you have just enough time to pull it off by April.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Every Market Is Unique!!!

As consultants we often get tagged as a big part of the cause in the sameness of radio programming, along with the consolidated larger radio groups. Many see us as the pioneers with cookie cutter formats that ended up sounding the same in many markets. The same tricks, imaging, promotions, and music lists standardized.

While I can see the reason for the accusation with some I'm not a believer in the sameness of markets. Every market IS unique. I've worked in over 100 markets as a programmer, VP of Programming or consultant and there are obvious and clear differences in each one of them. Some of the differences come from the economic base of the market, the levels of education, housing situation, terrain, climate, heritage of the population, and their growth situation. Others come from the competition and the heritage of the station we are working with. And some just come from the style of the people in the area.

Some cities are friendlier, others more guarded. Some are more active and hustling, others more quiet and low key. Some are growing quickly, while others are watching their population and growth fade.

All of these are factors in helping a station reach it's full potential. If you don't take a careful and long look at all the factors in the 'market environment' you are going to leave audience, images, and dollars on the table that if wasted will limit your growth. It's also important to look at the competition and see who has impacted the audience and for what reason. For the real successful stations in always goes beyond 'the music position or mix.'

It does take an extra effort going beyond looking at perceptual research and ratings history. You have to 'get a feel' for the market and look at as much data as you can. Pouring over the Prizim data which defines the population into 15 social groups based on income, living conditions, occupation, age, and overall lifestyle. We used to get Prizim data in the front of the 'printed' Arbitron reports. But, it's not there in the E-Books and we also don't see it in Maximizer. I wonder why Arbitron took this page out? Perhaps no one was reading it, but it's packed with useful data on the real 'core' of the market and gives you a measurable system to look for key elements that make each market unique.

If you don't look at the unique moments in each market you are leaving A LOT ON THE TABLE. The key is getting as much data and also a real 'feel' for what makes a market unique.

One of the things I started to do as a PD was to take the first 90 days I was in a market and keep a log of the unique and different things I saw. I still do this in my notes on the first 2 market visits. The first impressions are always very important as you're eyes and ears are wide open to see the unique and different ingredients which are often the most valuable to key on. After you've been there a year as the PD I bet you don't see as many differences and unique moments as you did in the first 3-6 months.

If we want to really 'be local' and really connect with a community it doesn't happen because 'the community is just like someplace else.' It happens because 'this market is unique.' Cue on those moments in your strategy and tactics and you will make a much bigger impression with the audience.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Role Development

The 'key ingredient' for any jock/personality is to develop a 'role' with the audience. To visualize it take a look at sit coms where we have actors usually playing characters. Sinefeld was the 'observer with a unique angle' and used that platform to build a character that took funny views of the things in everyday life. Ray Romano built his show around a husband/wife/family relationship where he was mostly the 'unfortunate' one that couldn't quite get it while being lovable. Charlie Sheen plays the hip playboy in Two and Half Men living with an opposite nerdy brother and a little kid who gets more of his playboy lifestyle than we expect.

All of these people are actors and do a great job of playing their roles and developing their characters. How many of your air staff members approach their daily shows with an eye/ear on role development and realize that they are creating a character? I bet most of them would tell you they are seeking to 'be themselves' on the air.

So who wants to listen to a guy who lives in a sound proof room? We have to create and develop roles that the audience can understand in the time they have to listen. When Ray Romano creates his character he only has 20 minutes to develop the story and build his character. So we don't get a ton of insight - mostly that he's into having sex with his wife but she's a bit cool on it, his parents live across the street and are a pain in a rear, and his brother is mostly a loser. It's pretty simple stuff to build a show on and with only 20 minutes that's about all we can expect.

In Morning shows you have a whole different game to play with multiple personalities and a lot more time to develop them as we typically talk more. But, for years we've focused a lot on that daypart - it's time to work on the rest of the day and I bet most stations haven't spent the time and effort to coach and develop roles the rest of the day.

The lesson here is keep it pretty simple and basic and make sure to develop it well enough to cut through. Here's some roles that we often hear somewhat developed in our non-morning show air staffs that you might consider:

In Touch Jock: They know what's going on in the world on a general platform. They follow TV, Movies, Sports, Music, Personality, and the Community and work in the headlines almost every day.

Music Expert: Focused on the music and they know it inside and out. They offer some critiques, inside info on tours and new releases. Great on the concert scene also.

Everyday Joes: Almost as if you plucked someone out of the audience and put them on the air. They follow everything the audience does and relate to it in a way that sounds natural. This is usually not the deep voiced or formal sounding jock.

Wild Ones: It seems like they party all the time and are everywhere there's something happening in the market. Every event they hit is an adventure with drama, zany moments, and edgy actions.

Cool Ones: Rather laid back with a 'just the facts' attitude. This one is pretty hard to pull off and make an impression with. You can do it on screen with looks a lot easier than on the radio where we can't use those tools.

Rule Book: We hear this character a lot, but it usually doesn't make any impression on the audience. They execute the backsell, liner, billboard deal well with a smooth delivery and everything is well positioned, but it's usually about as entertaining as listening to auto phone answer systems.

The Mayor: Sooo plugged into the community. If there's 3 people at an event they are one of them. They have touched so many people personally they get known. How many times have you seen a jock who doesn't sound that great on the air, but seems to have huge numbers and a big following. Chances are they are The Mayor - they ran for the office and never quit once they got the job.

There are a lot more roles out there. If you're on the air or if you're coaching the air staff make sure to take some time and look closely at Role Development in every coaching session. If you want to build real personalities instead of just some taking heads this is THE KEY to doing it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Personalities and Tune Out

In Mark Ramsey's excellent NAB presentation on Seducing PPM one of his conclusions focuses on tune out around the 'open mic' vs tune out during music. Of course the data is not favorable for the jocks. For most stations it's at least twice as likely that the audience will tune out.

While some of this may be jocks that have nothing to say, are un-prepared, or really don't know anything about the audience and can't relate to them. We all know there are personalities that have huge followings and DO connect with the audience. But, there could also be another factor at work here - OUR FORMATICS.

When do you hear from the jocks? In most clocks you hear from them 4-5 times an hour. 2-3 of those exposures are just BEFORE THE SPOTS. So what has your personality become? A SET UP MAN/WOMAN FOR THE SPOTS. The jocks clue in the audience that - COMMERCIALS IN 20 SECONDS. So what do they do? Start hunting for more entertainment and avoid the spots.

If we somehow re-worked the clocks so the personalities were doing more between the songs and perhaps we started going from a sweeper into spots perhaps our personality assets wouldn't end up in the audience trash bag as much.

Mark's presentation is great reading and he also has a video on it on his web site check it out here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Rock Music for 25-54s

While Classic Rock is no doubt a great format and we've seen a whole bunch of winners playing the 'music that's stood the test of time' it's a tough format to keep alive in the long run. The problem is New Music. Yes there are so many great songs that seem to never completely burn out in the library, but it's still a challenge to make Freebird sound exciting enough to hang out for a spot break to hear it for the millionth time.

There are new songs out there that could be played. Just look at the new Springsteen E Street Band reunion. It debut at #1 in sales and hung in there for 2 weeks. The song is a very well done Springsteen tune that in the 80s would have been zipping up the charts. There's a ton more of the vintage artists that have tried to keep putting out new music and there's also a bunch of artists that really are compatible with rock. Why couldn't we play Coldplay if we play U2 or perhaps even taken on John Mayer or Dave Matthews if we played the Eagles? We play old Ozzy all over the place, but little happened with the new Ozzy outside of all the active rock airplay which is really not directed fully at the boomer 40 plus audience that Classic Rock targets.

This same audience is paying thousands to see the classic artists perform in concerts and they are really the last ones buying CDs today. Part of the problem lies in the positioning of Classic Rock. Just like we saw in the name 'oldies,' which meant only songs from the 50s and 60s to the audience - Classic Rock means only songs from the 70s and 80s. It's been sold to the audience that we only deliver those decades and new music, even from these artists, is not in the package. So when we play it the audience rates it low on the scale. We could build a station that blends the classics and new music from compatible artists but it will take a whole new platform. Someone has to try.

A while back we revamped the Fox in Grand Rapids to include currents and still focus on a Classic Rock base. It took a whole revamp of the positioning and imaging, but in the end we were never able to make it fully work. The station gained a lot at first then fell behind as the marketing dried up just as we needed it and internal changes pushed the station off target. Had they stayed the course it was likely it could have been a breakthrough station. It's an approach that needs some research, fresh marketing, and you have to be very careful with finding truly compatible newer music.

If you look at other 25-54 formats like AC or Country they have NO PROBLEM playing current songs and getting compatible new artists in the mix. Why can't rock?

If you want to get some other views visit Lee Abrams' blog here. While Lee is seeing it from the XM perspective the reality is still there. BTW his views are a bit buried in his blog entry this week - you'll have to wander through Lee's airplane tales (always entertaining to those of us who fly and wish we could just take off in our own rig) and a few sales pitches for the XM channels, but it's always a worthwhile read.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fall TV Shows - Change and Fantasy

Remember 5 years ago on TV when reality shows lead by Survivor and Idol were all the rage? The fad that started on MTV and TV from other countries was taking over. Every network was in search of reality shows while we saw comedies nearly disappear from the line up of the 5 broadcast networks.

As the new season debuts it looks like our programming friends in TV land are sensing a trend away from reality. There are only 3 new shows that qualify as reality out of 27 new shows set to debut this fall. You can see the full line up here.

One of the trends emerging is what I call supernatural drama. Heroes and perhaps Lost started the trend and now we have the Bionic Woman, Supernatural, and Journeyman that seem to be the opposite of reality. The plots, like Heroes, are built on people with super/extra powers - the opposite of a reality thread. There are even comedy shows in this vein like Chuck and Aliens in America.

One of rules when you track trends for popular entertainment from movies, TV or music is that once a fad or trend starts to become huge a balancing will follow with the next trend often coming from the opposite pole. Looks like the TV programmers with there test audiences, research and guts are betting on the decline of the reality era and into a fantasy land of drama and comedy.

If you look back at the early 80s we had a similar trend. From the sitcoms of the 70s like Happy Days or 3s Company to a shift lead by space movies like Star Wars and ET. We even ended up with cars that talked.

Remember the old sayings.

-Change is good
-When your through changing - you're through.
-Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.John F. Kennedy:
-Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.

Keep that in mind as you listen to new music, craft your imaging, plan your promotions and coach your talent. What worked today or yesterday is likely to be inadequate in the future.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Building Your Air Talent Team

No doubt the last 10 years of content management in Radio has not helped develop much on the talent side of the ledger. As an industry we've learned to operate on a tight budget, multi-task with many PDs and talent team players handling multiple roles and many of the having very little to do with serving the audience.

We've also seen PDs crawl behind the computer screens dealing with the 'machine' that seems to run the programming. Listening in hotel rooms and on-line you can see it all the time - talent just rolling along on the air, talking to themselves (or about themselves), not paying attention to the audience and really not listening to their shows. I've even seen studios where there is no aircheck system - digital or even a boombox cassette.

As you think about coaching the talent in your halls here's a couple of tips I've found useful:

  • Avoid the Critique - Looking back at all the mistakes or blown breaks and ranting while the talent squirms in the chair won't improve their game. It already went over the transmitter. Look ahead at show prep, their comfort level in the studio, their understanding of the audience and how confident they are behind the mic. If you can take a positive approach to finding ways to improve those areas you will end up with better shows. Just preaching - DON'T - only gets them uncomfortable, under confident and un-entertaining.

  • Listen - Not just to their shows, but also to them. What are their struggles? You have to make things work in the studio and even though the engineering list with the bad pots, faulty phone system or software issues may seem like nit-picking it does make the job harder.

  • Don't scare them - The more they dread the 'meeting' with you the less productive it will be. You can show your leadership and authority with the time sheets, showing up on time, and other 'hallway' areas. But when it comes to working on their show if they fear you your effectiveness in coaching will go down a ton. What you really want is their trust and respect - not their fear.

Lastly make sure you have a plan for each of the people you work with. For some it's role development, others it's getting comfortable on the air, some need to prep better, others may be challenged in understanding the target audience. Know what you need to work on before you open the tool box.

It takes time to work with the talent and the learning curve can be a tough one. It might even be an area where you want or need a coach to coach the coach.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Fig Man Hits It On The Head

If you haven't read Bill Figenshu's comments after the NAB on the never ending question of the state of radio and where it's heading - click here.

Fig sums it up completely in just over a page. The goals are simple and the observations are keen.

Also congrats to Fig on taking on the leadership role in Peak Broadcasting. Glad he has a position to make some of the dreams from his vision into reality. WE NEED IT.

The key to our future lies in THE PRODUCT and we all see the need to get away from all the money concerns and the 20 year philosophy that sales and money solves all problems.

It sort of reminds me of the Diet Crazes. We all know that a balanced diet, patience and some exercise will do the trick, but we continue to jump on any new diet craze. Let's get back to the product and stick with it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Does the Audience HATE Advertising/Marketing?

We often ask this question in various forms as we do perceptual research and it usually comes up - THEY HATE IT. It's also a big point as we compete with Satellite and Internet stations that have no commercials or very few in the mix. But, marketing and commercials are everywhere. You can't even walk through supermarket and stare at the floor without seeing billboards for all kinds of products. Signage is everywhere, commercials pop up all the time on you computer, they are tucked into movies, and of course they are on our radio stations. Hopefully enough of them to pay the bills and make a decent buck in the end.

I recently ran across a local article on a couple of Notre Dame professors who have been tracking the public's sentiments towards marketing for around 25 years - since the late 80s. They devised a questionnaire and have been polling around 1,500 consumers by mail and tracking their sentiments towards all the marketing. The report is called the Index of Consumer Sentiment of Marketing - ICSM. Professors John Gaski and Michael Etzel have published the survey every year. It's sort of like the University of Michigan's Economic Consumer Index which is watched closely by Wall Street and the Government to track how positive or negative we feel about the economy - only this survey tracks only marketing.

Over the years the survey actually points to a 20% improvement in positive sentiments towards marketing. There have been some ups and downs. In the late 80s as Regan cut taxes the sentiment improved, but fell in the famous Black Friday in 88. Over the 1st Gulf War the sentiments declined a little, but as we got into the dot com boom the feelings towards marketing improved. The fear after 9/11 pulled up the negative side, but as we recovered it's been slowly growing more positive over the last few years. When we feel secure with our wallets marketing takes less of a negative spin.

What really pushes the negative button in their surveys are false claims, too many disclaimers, bad service whey you buy the product, and truly annoying content. While we are receiving more marketing messages from every direction the negatives come more from the content and delivery on the promises made than it does on the frequency.

In the end what really drives negatives in marketing is bad commercials.

You can read more about the ICSM here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Streaming and At Work Listening

Surely you've caught that the audience for streams from terrestrial radio stations is growing at a very healthy pace. Some studies suggest a 20% growth and that terrestrial stations are outpacing many of the Internet only streams. A lot of this growth is no doubt coming from At Work listening. Now every computer on every desk and in every shop can become a radio and tune in stations without any concerns for steel beams, other equipment and weak signals that just didn't penetrate lots of offices with our broadcast signals. Now you can tune in anyone you want on-line.

We also know the importance of at work listening. The quarter hours recorded here are 2nd only the large in-car listening levels we have for radio. It doesn't matter if you look at PPM or Diary data, at work listening is huge. It's also not just an 'AC' thing, built on having 1 radio over a group of people or in a setting where clients would stop in and where we wanted that 'soothing' AC safe music. Anyone can pop on some headphones or just keep the level comfortable and listen at their desk or shop to whatever they want. We've seen Classic Rock take huge advantage here, Country is also making in-roads, and even the Urban ACs are showing growth here. Oldies and the Jack/Adult stations also have exploited at work listening.

ONE PROBLEM. Now Arbitron has declared that the streams on the Internet are NOT SIMULCASTS. The reason lies in the AFTRA union which wants extra royalties and payments for commercials using their talent and we now block those spots from the Internet streams. Arbitron makes a case that if you were to use the data with Internet streams included to place your buy the estimates would be mis-leading as the Internet audience would not be hearing your commercial.

The REALITY IS THE CLIENT DOES have a very clear option to getting their commercial heard on both the broadcast and the stream - DON'T USE AFTRA TALENT. We have many very professional options for you to make your commercial with talent that will show up on both sides of the simulcast.

Arbitron gets most of it's revenue from the Radio Stations. Why not take our side on this? It would really help our industry stake a clear claim on the new media of Internet streaming that is getting ready to explode as wifi becomes stronger.

While I do respect AFTRA and feel that we need to do everything possible to build talent into our products and that AFTRA has clearly helped that cause - we also have to survive to employ AFTRA talent. Arbitron doen't get any revenue from AFTRA - why satisfy a customer that isn't yours. Just treat the web cast as a simulcast and give broadcasters full credit. Simple enough isn't it?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Arbitron National Numbers - Rock is UP!!!

For the first time in around 18 months we are seeing Rock's shares improving in the national format breakouts from Arbitron. These are the numbers from the continuous markets (up to roughly #100) and the shares have improved from the all time lows of 7.3 (Fall 06) and 7.2 (Winter 07) to a 7.9 in the Spring 07 analysis. Active Rock was flat at a 1.9, AOR was up to a 1.9 (from a 1.6) and Classic Rock went 3.9 to 4.1 (Winter 07 to Spring 07.

For some reason Alternative has it's own format group with AAA and it was down 3.6 to 3.4 Winter to Spring. Actually we should lobby to have alternative join in on the rock subgroup here. Hispanic has a summary of all hispanic formats even though there are 11 varations. And HC has 5 different formats.

Hopefully we can expect to see these shares improve as more markets come on-line for PPM. Realize that only Philly was into PPM for these shares and we will have Houston to add in Summer and Fall. Next Winter and Spring will also showcase opportunities from New York and other markets rolling into PPM numbers and we should see rock shares improving. What would really push up the shares would be a decent return from the 18-44 Male population - it keep declining more and more with every month. Soon there will be NO ONE.

When you look at the growth of the new Clear Channel Rock station in Philly WRFF which has risen to nearly a million cume in just 3 months. With PPM we clearly see the results of a format flip RIGHT AWAY. Now Philly will likely be over 3 million combined cume for the rocks stations as WYSP converts from talk to Rock.

From 2 Rock stations to 4 in 1 summer in Philly.
Will this trend continue in PPM markets? Bet on it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

PPM or Diary - It's Time to Charge Up The Audience

#5 in our series on the realities of PPM and the diary wraps up the week with an overview that applies to both data collection systems.

No matter which system you are facing there is one constant that stands out - Charge up your audience. To get them to pay attention to your station and either recall it in the diary or to tune in more with the trusty PPM attached to their belts, or in their purse, you have to motivate them.

While the little nuances of the music mix, contests, positioning, clock placement and all the other little rules we've applied to programming may be important you have to 'move the meter.' In a world with new media innovations popping up nearly every week radio still has the resources to win by a mile. No media is more convenient, omni present and universally used as radio. PPM shows it's reach is a lot wider and stronger than we had thought from decades of diary studies. In some cases it's triple when we look at PPM cume.

The audience also listens to more stations to more stations - around 50% more than we saw in diary data. The reality of these numbers is they don't listen to all these stations as much as the one on the top of their list which drives down the TSL. Imagine you grew up an only child, mom and dad had all the time just for you - move over to a family with 5 kids and obviously mon and dad can't be at every ball game.

The way to win in either environment is to charge up your audience. We need to start making an impact with them and just lining up the most obvious good testing songs over and over, hard drived with a few cute sweepers in between making unbelievable claims probably isn't going to do it. They can do that, without the cute sweepers, on an Ipod.

Charging up your personalities, creating a real community social network with your P1 and P2 audience, looking for music that's exciting, fresh and surprising to your target audience, and being completely plugged in with the lifestyle of your target audience are the keys to winning. It takes a plan, imagination, a big effort, and talent. It also takes people to make it happen, most of the assets mentioned here don't come from a keyboard and an Internet connection.

As you get rolling into the Fall book step back for a few minutes and take a look - have you charged up your audience? We are leaning a lot from PPM that is telling us what actually happens on the other side of the speakers, not just what the audience recalls in a diary world. It is showing us that some of the realities from the diaries we thought were true about the audience are false.

PPM is also showing us that the diary is missing a lot of what is going on with the listener. While those in the diary world will have to live with the shortfalls. The hassle of changing the sample every week in a world where the database we use for building the sample is shrinking quickly from cell phones and non-participation. The audience is also hassled by the diary, writing things down in today's world in a log seams like commuting in a horse and buggy.

In the end it comes back to THE PRODUCT. Be compelling, exciting and entertaining - charge it up and it doesn't matter if it's meters or diaries you are a lot more likely to WIN. Get out from behind the computer and tweaking selector and focus on what really charges up the audience.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Are Our Clocks Kookie??

#4 - In our realities that apply to both PPM and Diary markets let's take a look at our clocks.

Back in the late 70s clocks began to evolve into a pattern that was supposed to extend TSL. A very skilled programmer of the day (Buzz Bennet I'm pretty sure) studied the whole Arbitron system of recording the listening and determined that because of the organization of the diary pages and the way they granted you a quarter hour by rounding up the listening that if you waited till :17 or :20 and that was properly recorded in the diary you would get credit for 2 quarter hours. Ever since in most hours outside of morning drive we typically sweep music from :55 all the way to :17 or :20. We also take the next break (if we have 3) around :37 to insure we get a full quarter hour in the 3rd segment of the hour and the last break is usually closer to :52 or :53 ideally to cover the last segment.

While the rule is right as you look at the diary layout and the rules for crediting that grants you a full 1/4 hour after 7 minutes 2 realities stand out:
  • Not everyone is walking around with an atomic clock in front of them while entering the data. Do they really know the 'exact time' when they scribble it down?
  • Most diaries are not filled out while actually listening - but are often filled out at the end of the day or maybe on Thursday morning for the whole week.

But, we sort of pushed those realities aside and nearly everyone adapted the formula. It probably did work to a certain extent as nearly everyone still breaks pretty close to this formula and we all may have extended TSL as you punched away you often find commercials on many stations in unison. The listeners probably think it's a govt. plot.

With PPM we have real data coming in and it's all controlled by an internal clock that's probably pretty accurate. When Arbitron breaks out he PPM data the listening is nearly equal in each of the quarter hours. From :53-:08 26% - :08-:23 24% - :23-38 25% and :38-:53 25%.

Did we gain anything from all these years of setting the clocks on the Buzz standard? I bet not. I bet some brave programmer will start breaking around :10 and be able to sweep either :20 or :55 and be the only station on the planet playing music there. Don't know that anyone in a PPM market has tried - but it could happen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

#3 - TSL Realities for PPM and Diaries

In part 3 of the PPM realities we can all learn from we take a look at TSL.

#3 – Extending TSL: While the TSL is lower in PPM and higher in the diary the challenge is always the same – get more! The longer they listen the higher the ratings go. The difference in PPM and Diary TSL mostly comes from the higher number of stations the sample is listening to in the PPM world. The average diary in Houston had 2.6 stations listed while the average PPM device recorded 4.4. In Philly diaries came in with 3.6 and PPMs recorded 6.6.

Capturing more stations on the PPM will lower the average for the number of quarter hours (or TSL) spent with each one. You also lose a lot of those super heavy diaries – you know the ones with 75 or more quarter hours. In fact the decay starts with PPM at around 25 quarter hours. PPM meters don’t rely on recall and don’t get lazy and they don’t wait till Thursday morning to jot down a few stations.

If you live in the diary world you will still have to live with those super heavy listening diaries and with sample weighting they can cause the number to bounce a lot. We’ve all seen a young male who logged tons of listening to a soft AC station push their numbers way up with weighting. The next book the numbers fall apart for the AC as they ‘didn’t win the statistical sample lottery again.’

What we can really learn here is that ‘real gains’ in TSL are what we need to focus on. They come from:

Not getting off track musically. You can call it ‘playing the hits’ but a boring turnover of the same 20 high testing songs can be very damaging to TSL. It’s more about living up to the expectations that the audience has and also leading them to new worlds within their musical expectations.

It’s more about a few minutes. How many times do we launch a big campaign for 20 in a row and think they will listen for the whole 90 minutes? No problem I’ll just sit here in the driveway for another ½ hour till you’re done with song 20. Or we set up a contest with a magic song they have to hear and expect them to listen all day and be the 55th caller. Setting realistic expectations is the better way. How about a billboard within a sweep of music that sets up a big song coming in a few minutes? Building more music campaigns more on ‘overall images’ (hour after hour WACD delivers the most Classic Rock in the valley – listen and prove it to your self) – instead of 10 in a row.

Talent really matters. Compelling personalities and creative imaging between the songs no only attracts cume it also holds them. But, watch how much you use the talent and imaging. We’ve made the mistakes of too much talk from the DJs in the past and we’ve also made the mistake of pounding the audience down with sweeper after sweeper which soon becomes seen as hype. Entertain them and don’t waste their time.

The measurement systems may be different, but the tools are the same. Like a great meal – don’t under cook it and don’t over cook it. Assemble with care.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

At Work Listening - Even More Important!!!

In part 2 of our look at the realities from PPM that apply to everyone (PPM or Diary). In a recent FMQB article from Arbitron's Gary Marince he observes:

"In PPM, employed male listening is higher than female listening . . . employed males appear to have the most listening to radio. This helps explain why great Rock stations enjoy healthy ratings in PPM."

Even in the diary books we usually see the Classic Rock is #2 in At Work listening and all forms of rock do better than many expect at work. With the PPM Meter automatically recording listening, instead of relying on recall Gary feels we are seeing even more TSL from at work in PPM than we see in the diary- and he has all the data at his finger tips.

If you've ever looked at the diaries it's easy to see At Work listening with that entry at the top of the page and a squiggly line all the way down to 5p racking up 25-30 quarter hours in 1 day. It isn't quite as dramatic in the PPM as we all know that few sit by the radio all day. But, the reality is that Men work and they do listen to radio on the job. You can hassle with your MP3 or hunt for off beat Internet stations or fiddle with the satellite receiver at your desk - or just tune in the rock station we all know in the market and keep it on in the background. In the end terrestrial radio is still easier to use and more familiar.

How much effort are you putting into at work listening? 20 years ago when we began to really focus on at work there were telemarketing programs, big contests, donut remotes, and a fair amount of imaging spent on at work. Monitoring around as I travel - you don't hear as much of an effort anymore. In some markets mid-days is a daypart where we most often 'hard drive' it with the PD, VT talent or a production person doing the shift. There are some contests, but is that really the big draw? Is it more likely that the un-employed person, or very un-busy person at work - is hanging around waiting for the code word of the day?

The wiser choice might be to focus the show on the at work listener. Make sure the mid-day talent is live and interacting with the at work listener. Take a few calls, have a few features that stand out musically, but most of all make sure the talent has a vision of listener in an at work environment. The imaging should also take on an at work lean - look for drops that lean on the at work experience, copy that relates to at work moments and make sure to brand yourself as the at work station.

AC is really the last format that really works at getting at work listening. But, even there we see less effort than we saw 10-15 years ago when it was at its peak. In both the diary world (where you have that squiggly line) and in the PPM reality where you are more likely to have a longer TSL than the average 2:50 hours per week from at work listening and boost your TSL.

Monday, September 10, 2007

5 Realities From PPM That Apply to EVERYONE

We are learning more and more about PPM and the audience's actual behavior, rather than their recall of what they did, with the early data from Houston and Philly. While PPM may be a long ways from impacting your market, or it may never come, but there are some 'real world' lessons to learn. This week I'll take a look at 5 Realities From PPM - covering 1 each day.

#1 - You Reach A lot More Than You Thought: We've see nearly everyone's cume jump a lot in comparing the diary numbers to the PPM realities in both Houston and Philly. Cume numbers are twice as big in PPM and in some cases nearly 3 times the size. Your station reaches a lot more of the market's audience then we ever thought. Holding on to that listening and turning that cume into P1s is the ultimate challenge for programmers.

One thought for everyone - PPM market or stuck with Diaries forever: You're on air marketing, imaging, and promotions reaches a lot more of the market than you thought. How many times have we all felt that we didn't have enough outside marketing to grow the station? No billboards, TV or direct marketing for long stretches.

Do you really need to use other media to grow your audience? Looking at the high cume numbers we see in the PPM data suggest that you probably already reach a lot more than you thought. Look at the cume for The Buzz or Arrow (the Alternative and Classic Rock in Houston) - the Buzz is over 1 million and Arrow is close to 900,000 in most montly reports. This is in a market of just under 5 million. These stations already reach 20% of the whole market. When you consider that they are targeted stations that are not designed to reach everyone they already reach a lot more 'real potential target listeners' for their music mix and stationality than you could probably get from a billboard on the interstate. How many people will 'cume' the billboard that are very unlikely to become P1 or P2 listeners? Probably not a lot and when you consider how much the board costs!!!

The answer for programmers here is to MARKET TO YOUR CUME ON YOUR AIR. Use your imaging, personalities, and promotions to keep the excitement up. Stay top of mind more often with your cume and more may become P1s or P2s. Crank it up on the air and make it memorable or actionable with the audience. Don't just go for 'small ball' all the time - hit it out of the park and do it as much as possible. "If we only had some marketing dollars" - shouldn't be the issue. Did we capitalize on the potential between the music and with our personalities? You probably don't need to spend lots of money to reach an audience you are already talking to, unless you are a brand new product or have made improvements that are so dramatic that a whole new audience needs to tune in and hear them.

Yes exposing the product all over the place can help - but the first steps to gaining more audience is to charge up the audience you have. Entertain them and keep them excited and entertained every quarter hour.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Land Lines vs Cell Phones

Since I live by Notre Dame we get lots of local news on things going on at the campus. Let's not talk about the painful football situation, but something almost as painful. Of the 7000 students that live in the dorms they just released the figure for the number of students that requested to have their land line telephone jacks in the rooms turned on. THE NUMBER - 18!!!!!!!! We don't even need too translate that into a percentage - it's so small why bother. Of course the students use their cell phones and have no need for land lines.

How will Arbitron contact them to fill out a diary? How will we research their music tastes? How will Hillary do any polling on them for the election? They won't. Will these people get a land line when they leave school - why? And if they did why answer it?

We need a new way to gather samples. Gathering them in the mail, via email, social networks, IM them, or maybe we can text them. Up until now Arbitron and most researchers are reluctant to bring in another sample base to the mix. When you have 2-3 different ways of gathering sample it does change the universe you are working with and all the probability and stat formulas we work with suddenly become very confusing and complex. But, we need to find a way. Running around with data that only talks to the last people left with a land line - the baby boomers and seniors is not telling us the real picture. It's going to be up to us to keep the pressure on the people doing our research to seek out new ways of building the sample.

We need to talk to the audience.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Movie Industry A Model for Radio?

Now that Labor Day has passed the movie industry can tally up the numbers on a record summer and get ready to announce a record year. Over 4 Billion dollars were earned this year by an industry that has been facing even more challenges than radio or records. Think about it. For Movie theatres we've been able to watch the movies at home for over 25 years on tape, DVD, cable, On-demand and very soon we'll be able to download them. Normally you'd bet that this would KILL the old fashioned theatre. But it clearly hasn't.

The secret - great content. Instead of cutting back on the quality of movies for the most part they have invested a lot more into the quality of the films, the stories, and the performances. Instead of running away from new technology they have tried to embrace it with constant innovations in sound, digital effects, new forms of animation, and now are setting on total digital projection/distribution systems. They have embraced new distribution systems on every level even though it may cost the theatres it doesn't seem to matter. The key is great product.

They still face lots of problems. Piracy is huge and with the internet you can often find copies of films as they open. Theatres have huge competition with bigger TVs, sharper DVDs, and digital delivery is very close which will soon expand that 50 inch plasma's reach. We even have a big trend to setting up home theatres complete with popcorn machines in our homes.

Yet the magic of the movie theatre seems to live on. Just remember the KEY to all this success is CONTENT. While developing in movie product placement, selling DVDs, and protecting the rights has all helped - the investment in the products is what fuels the success.

Check out this You Tube video on the steps Movies have taken to greet the future -

Thursday, August 16, 2007

14-24s Radio's Lost Generation - Under 14s Radio's New Frontier

Remember when you got that long awaited new toy back in your pre-teen days? That extra cool electronic device, maybe a guitar, an Atari game system or a fancy new bike that you just had to have. You shed other interests or gave up other desires for that magic 'thing' that you thought would be the ultimate. Then after you played with it for a week or maybe a few months or maybe even a year somehow the magic just wore off. It sat in the corner or maybe it broke and it just faded into the pile of junk we seem to gather in life. Suddenly something else came along that looked a lot more interesting or perhaps it didn't live up to all your expectations and you moved on.

As we look at all the new media toys like IPods, Internet radio stations like Slacker or Pandora, Satellite Radio, I Phones, the latest Cell phones, social networking, IM, text messaging, video sites and whatever is next on the web that challenges radio for entertainment you can bet that a lot of them could end up just being the new toys for the 14-24s or Millennial generation.

Remember that the Millennial generation (born from the early 80s to 2000) are the first generation that largely grew up in the personal computer age. When they hit elementary school in the mid-late 80s the Apple computer was already in nearly every classroom. Most in the U.S. saw a computer enter the home and have some Internet access in their teens and the younger ones have never lived in a home without a computer, over 50 cable channels, VCRs, DVDs, complex gaming systems, hand held games, cell phones and the web with high speed access at their finger tips. They have embraced all the new technology and shunned the old much like the boomers jumped on TV, instant world communication, and jet travel.

Radio's role with the Millennial generation was clearly diminished because Radio didn't pay much attention to this new emerging generation. Spending it's merger and Wall Street diminished programming resources on the older 25-54 generation deemed more instantly rewarding by the forces in command, radio began to fade. But, so did broadcast TV, the record industry, and land line telephones. The Millennial generation had NEW TOYS to play with and try out.

But, how long will the new toys last? Look at the cell phone in your hand. If it's more than 2 years old chances are it's starting to look like a relic. Even if you are a tech savvy person you probably never even figured out all it's toys or uses. Even my daughter's phone has lots of features that she rarely uses or doesn't want to bother with.

Remember all this new media technology is new. While logging on the Slacker Radio looks like an ultimate personalized web radio station programming it to play your favorite songs takes hours and hours of sorting through thousands of selections. Building and maintaining your IPod that holds thousands of songs is a daunting task ripping CDs into I Tunes and spending time every couple of weeks downloading new songs. Then you have to rate them, build playlists, and keep the database up to date so you can find that favorite within the thousands of titles. Building that cool Face Book or My Space site may be fun at first, but maintaining it and keeping up with all the friends, adding new pics, adding video clips and communicating with all these friends that may live on the other side of the country. It could be so complex and time consuming that sooner or later the new toy starts to sit in the corner.

You also have a new generation on the way that's younger than the Millennial generation. Right now they are under 10 years old. Will they be as excited about all this new media as the older generation above them? Or will they more likely establish their own turf starting 5 years from now as the first of them enters high school?

If radio starts thinking and planning now latching on to this new generation could be the 'turnaround wave.' Will they rebel against all the pitfalls of lives on the web and seek more personal and imaginative communication and entertainment options? Could radio's simplicity of use and low cost coupled with links to the new media world be an attraction to younger audiences again? As we look at some of the research done on the younger side and the early PPM results we see radio having an impact in the younger side.

It's a possibility but we'll need some help from the top levels in our industry, music, ratings services actually doing a representative job measuring the new generation, and a realization that this audience has marketing value from the agencies and sales forces. Arbitron is already moving to younger demo measurement in the PPM system moving below 12 year olds. We will likely have more stable samples as we move away from the 1 week diary measurement to longer term behavior data. We will also have new bands (if HD ever happens) and at least opportunities to provide stronger products in the Internet broadcasting field. Hopefully our hunger and need to reinvent ourselves will lead us to entertain and program to have an impact in this emerging generation.

Radio could be HIP again! But, we need to start planning now.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Local Community - What is it?

Anytime you talk within most radio stations about being local and getting involved with the 'community' instantly you get back a long list of fund raisers and marathons to raise awareness for some cause. You might also get a lot of local organizations station personnel have been involved in off the air. In some cases you also might have a story to tell about helping the community through a disaster.

Aside from the disaster help most of these examples of being involved in the local community are not a big headline with the audience. We all know getting involved in some big fund raiser where we are begging the audience to contribute never builds much audience, in face it's almost always a BIG tune out. The marathons are only longer BIG tune outs. The long winded remotes we do from the local art fairs or music festivals are rarely entertaining enough on the air to help build audience. The off air meetings and organizations are probably better at getting us introduced to other local business people and community leaders than it is helping us build audience.

Yet, most of our market advantage in the new world of new media will probably come from how well we become ingrained into our communities. You can see it clearly in so many successful stations that seem to have audience all the time. Look at WCCO, WGN, WLW, and so many of the big AM talk stations. WGN eats, breathes, and sleeps Chicago. You also see it in music stations like WDVE, KQRS, WMMR and WFBQ in the rock world.

While it may be important to try and cure diseases and help the less fortunate in the community to really win the community involvement hill you have to really embrace the REAL community. That means relating to and including the listeners and community into the fiber of the programming and making it entertaining. Here are some tips and examples:

  • Know the Area - We often think of show prep as hitting a bunch of news/gossip sites for the top pop stories of the day and hunting for a few angles or jokes on them. Perhaps we should be prepping by taking a close look at the local maps, newspapers, landmarks, hangouts, and special culture. Knowing that Topside is the hip area where all the cool young clubs are and that Northside is the blue collar/sports bar area may be more important than where Paris slept last night. You might want to have 'experts' in various areas on the staff. Have them report to everyone where the people who live on the east side hang out. Exchanging info here can help the whole team know the area.

  • Be Visible - You don't need to do remotes from every local festival or high school event but you should try to be there somehow. How many nights did your van just stay at the station? I bet more nights than it went out and it could have been at the high school football game, the arts fair, the opening of the civic players show, or just parked at the mall in a obvious place. Could you have put up some banners or even just helped them with some need and get mentions in their programs or signage. It takes coordination, some staffers, and probably some gas and all that adds up but being visible in the community is key to being perceived as a big part of the area.

  • Remotes - While they can be a tune out source you can also make them good for exposure, entertaining on site, and if you are careful they won't be any more of an intrusion than most commercial breaks. The key is planning ahead and making sure you have something entertaining going on at the event.

  • Phones - Getting the audience on the phone and taking the few seconds to introduce them in a friendly and quick way is a great way to tap into the community. The key is using the phones the RIGHT way. If all you're getting is the quick answer to some trivia question there's little local or community involved but if you take a few seconds to pre answer the calls in spots and get everyone's name and community then fire through the calls the whole bit changes.

  • News - Sports: What's more important - A Rod hits homer 502 or your Little League team goes to the LL World Series? Unless you are in NYC I'd go with the Little League team. What's more important - Florida's drought or local county board bans fireworks? Unless you live in Florida the fireworks is more important. Keeping the news tuned in to what is really effecting the local world is crucial.

  • On Air: Take the time to talk about the local events, community, places and people. Sometimes you can't do it in 10 seconds. But, if you plan it out and work to make it entertaining you can get the audience to hang with your for 20 or even 40 seconds. But, you will need to prep and the whole stations needs to jump into the community.

This is not about begging or fundraising - it's about realizing from top to bottom that THE STATION is a cornerstone of the community and needs to constantly integrate that foundation into the on-air product and the off air image. When it works it's a NEVER ENDING commitment and after years and years it becomes a huge deal breaker for audience loyalty.

When I was at WDVE (over 20 years ago) we keyed in on the community in every way we could think of. Actually the effort was going on for 4-5 years already when I arrived and the PDs that followed kept it going. Now it's unstoppable - almost like a good habit you can't give up. At the time KDKA was the station DVE was chasing and they were the community in Pittsburgh, much like WGN is in Chicago. Little by little, event by event, DVE clawed away at the community image with a rock angle to it. Now the station on top for most of the last 4-5 years is usually DVE. Is their music any better than other rock stations? Probably not, but in the community they are legend and it's an advantage NO ONE ELSE can take away built on decades of effort. The same could be said for many stations - FBQ, KQRS, WMMR, and WRIF.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

15 Months of Fame Lifecycles on the Web

Doesn't it seem like in the WWW world big things only last around 15 months or so? It seems to take 15 months to watch a new application or web thing develop, then it spends 15 months as the big thing, and another 15 months winding down. Myspace is a great example starting in late 2003 and building till the sale to Murdoch in mid 2005. As 2007 began we started to see a migration of the innovators and early adaptors to Facebook. By the middle of 2008 Facebook will probably blow by Myspace.

Look at YouTube which started in 2005 and was sold in 4th quarter 2006 to Google. By the early months of 2008 we'll probably see YouTube start winding down on the 'cool meter'. Something else will replace YouTube as the next cool thing.

While not everything seems to follow the 15 Month stages brought out in these examples there is clearly a very fast moving and volatile life cycle on the web. Look at it from an advertisers side. First you went with simple banner ads on big web sites only to find that your consumer wasn't there, then to pop-ups which we all blocked completely, into email boxes where you became spam, now to Google Adwords in a complex mess of bidding and placement. Advertisers seem to be constantly running to the next big thing on the web only to find a confusing mess when they spend the dollars. Things are changing fast and will probably even change much faster.

Recently Mark Cuban was discussing the slowness of the INTERNET and suggesting that we will probably see more INTRANETS that are more limited so we can actually navigate at the speeds our computers are capable of, instead of the slow, messy, way overcrowded, constantly crashing, WWW world - read it here I bet Mark is right that we will soon out grow the old Internet and find it just too slow to handle all the video, high end audio, animation, gaming, and interactivity we will likely demand from interacting with our computers. What happens when we try to download movies in high def formats? How far can we compress audio and when do we realize how much better things can sound? Mark's speculation on the answer to the ever increasing demand on throughput to get more and more complex aplications and content on to your screens and speakers is to close down the scope of the network. Go from an INTERNET to a more smaller and more controlled INTRANET - perhaps one that is all interactive through your cable provider with it's own You Tube like sharing site and a smaller personal network that can be monitored and controlled. Take off some of the 'freedom' and open to anyone side of the web and suddenly the experience might be the next logical evolution.

How does this relate to radio? Are advertisers, marketers and clients accomplishing anything towards building their brands and business growth in an environment where things are moving so fast your message disappears in front of you. Is this like the elusive task of trying to catch a chipmunk as it darts around your garage or yard with just your hands? It's so fast and so small and has so many holes to dive into.

It seems like everywhere we go radio gets the 'old fashioned' tag on it. While it may be tempting to be betting your marketing dollars on the latest web craze and find yourself chasing that chipmunk all over the garage. Meanwhile Radio still reaches 90% of the population or more, can be bought for lifestyle and specific demographics, and still delivers a very healthy TSL compared to other media. While it may be old fashioned it's also reliable, fairly easy to craft a quality message on (you don't need hours of HTML code or complex bidding systems), local to your community and still pretty affordable.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Influentials and the Diffusion of Innovation

Dave Van Dyke and his Bridge Ratings service have just released a new study that digs in on a group of listeners Dave has branded as New Influentials. You can read the whole study report here. Dave's study found that 10.2% of radio's audience fit into this group of Influentials that are heavy users and very likely to 'spread the word' and lead others towards various formats, stations or personalities. The level of New Influentials is a little higher for Satellite Radio and Internet Radio.

Looking over the data brought back some marketing memories studying The Normal Curve and a study from the 50's called The Diffusion of Innovation.

The Normal Curve (or bell curve) is a theory based on the occurrence of any trait or behavior and is the basis for all research. The probability of something occurring within our behavior and our reliability in predicting or detecting that trait are all demonstrated and calculated in the model of the curve. All 'things' happen under the curve and the middle of the curve is where you see the highest occurrence of a trait or behavior which trails off in either direction. The middle also represents a place where we are most likely to find the trait or behavior. There are tons of formulas that are the basis of Statistics and Probability theories and figure the reliability of any study, sample variance and a host of other measurement facets.

Back in the 50s and early 60s a professor at Iowa State Evertt Rogers was trying to see how we could spread all the science and innovations going on in the 50s for farming to other countries where they were struggling to feed their populations. His books on the Diffusion of Innovation are based on the Normal Curve, breaking the populations into 5 distinct groups based on how they adapt new innovations, technology or products:
  • Innovators - 2.5% - the first to pick up on an innovation or product.

  • Early Adaptors - 13.5% - this group spreads the news on the product.

  • Early Majority- 34% - With this group you are at 50% of the population.

  • Late Majority - 34% - As you cross the center line of the Normal Curve note that curve goes down!!

  • Laggards - 16% - The last to jump on

Dave's study really shows us the importance of the Innovators and crossing to a majority of the Early Adaptors. With that 10-12% you are poised to influence the Early Majority and get your station, personality or format (your brand) to that point where you can reach 1/2 of the market and beyond. This is what is also called - The Tipping Point in Malcolm Gladwell's works.

How many times have we seen strategies and tactics in programming that leave out the Innovators and the Early Adaptors? Taking out some of the features or key elements that made the station unique, tightening the music so much that we leave this influential group searching for a new innovation. Trying to smooth over a strong personality to be more adaptable to the Late Majority.

You also have to keep in mind that the audience under this Normal Curve is in a constant state of change as innovations and products in every sector and our own sector are launching. Each is gathering it's own series of innovators, early adaptors and spreading to the majorities. To stay ahead you have to identify who your Innovators and Early Adaptors are and keep them high on the station.

As you market the station and develop the content make sure you are balancing both the Innovators and Early Adaptors with the Early and Late Majorities. Perhaps one of the big reasons we see the new media building so much momentum is that Radio has left the Innovators and Early Adaptors behind and while we still enjoy the acceptance and usage of the large Majorities and the Laggards how much longer till the Majorities adapt the new technologies?

In the early 90s more studies and theories focused on crossing the line between the Early Adaptors and the Early Majority as we began to see many innovations struggle to reach beyond a small group of fanatic followers. Crossing the Chasm by Geffeory Moore is probably the best book.

The keys to using these theories and ideas in your marketing plan is making sure you are balancing your efforts. Remember that you are also marketing your product on your product - the imaging, on-air promotion, music mix, and personality all support the innovation of your product. Making sure that you have a balance in all areas for both the Innovators and Early Adaptors as well as the Majorities is the key to long term success for any station and really for our media as a whole.

Thanks to Dave and the Bridge Ratings folks for bringing these basics back into the spotlight.