Monday, April 23, 2007

Launching A Station

Spent some time with the new KZPS 92.5 in Dallas this Monday Morning. It's day one for their new format which is Texas Rock. A blend of Classic Rock (ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Skynyrd, Allmans, Seger, Mellencamp) Country (with a classic country lean - Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Charlie Daniels) and some of the world of Alt-Country and Americana (Old 97s, Wilco, Drive-By Truckers). This mix, for the most part, was on the HD side channel for KZPS and was getting enough attention to move over to the prime analog channel while the old Classic Rock KZPS blend has been moved over to the HD side channel with no jocks.

Monitoring the mix is interesting on-line. There's surprises at every seg or around every sweeper musically. It's clearly a mix that probably won't work outside of Texas and maybe Oklahoma. But, in those markets you can feel that this could be a breakthrough. Take a listen yourself it's interesting and bold

They have also launched with a new 'business model.' Sponsors are woven into each hour with short sweepers instead of long spots. There are only a few each hour so it nearly sounds commercial free. How long will that last? I bet there will be 'normal' spot breaks in a few weeks.

Much of the KZPS air staff with Bo and Jim (strong long standing local morning show) and Redbeard who comes out of retirement to join the new mix were announced in the press releases. The imaging is also unique with Willie Nelson sort of serving as the voice of the station with others jumping in. It's not a big voice guy and lots of production sound - just some catchy down home writing and hardly any production packaging.

The station is launching with just music and imaging for the first day and from monitoring it sounds likely that it will be a few days or maybe a week till the personalities show up. How many times have we watched stations launch with 10,000 in a row and then add the air personalities and take flack from the listeners because the 'evil DJs' are talking? This could have been a 'golden opportunity' for the guys like Bo and Jim and Redbeard to really get into the art of interacting with the music again. With a music mix this unique and personal they could have made it their own, or at least 'sold' it as their own to the audience. Imagine the extra branding they could have picked up by using the power of Bo/Jim/Redbeard and the other personalities to interact here. There is a lot of music that is surprising and could use a little identification, but the jukebox provides no ID or info on the music. Launching with Bo/Jim hanging with Willie on the phone and Redbeard having Wilco by for an unplugged set on opening day would have put this over the fence. Instead we have another jukebox and the personalities will again be labeled as interruptions instead of integrations into the brand. The 'jukebox -showcase the music only' launch has become sort of a standard rule of radio. Lone Star has refreshingly broken a number of old radio rules - why not break this one also and let the personalities be a part of the creation?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Radio's Relevance, Potential and Pitfalls

Over the past 2 weeks a number of stories have developed that are relevant to radio and also showcase our potential and pitfalls:
  • VT: The tragic VT ordeal was clearly a crisis for the community. While the debate will go on over why the University Police did not realize the importance of the early morning shooting at the dorm and do more to secure the rest of the University it was also a time of crisis where radio could have helped communicate across the campus. As the debate on how to deal with crisis situations moves on everyone seems to be talking about Internet, email, cell phone, and text alerts. What about broadcast media? What could TV and Radio have done? The AM News Talk in the market was running a repeat Rush show and didn't break in till after 3p from the report posted on the TV seemed to be covering the event from the video we saw all day, but it didn't seem to be connected to any 'network' or EAS system to communicate with the market. Could Radio have been used here to help secure the campus? Or is this really an audience that doesn't listen to us any way and going to all the web/phone systems would be a better option? We also have to wonder about all the cuts we've made in staff over the years - in a smaller market like Blacksburg who was left to turn off the Rush Rerun and start covering a story or crisis this big?
  • Imus - Of course what he did was dumb. But, he probably could have avoided the outcome on his network and NY Show if he'd just been humble in his apology. Instead he picked fights with Matt on the Today Show, Sharpton on his show and continued to try and defend the un-defensible (based on the avalanche of media coverage). This is a lesson for all on how to handle a personality crisis - apologize and be humble. In cases like this you are up against a an avalanche of negative media and the only way to survive is to crawl into a snow cave and wait it out. Imus should have said I'm sorry and went into some kind of social rehab (like every other personality does when this happens). On the other hand we did see how much coverage and attention radio can still command - even though it was not in a positive light.
  • For You in the Radio Programming Chair: Be ready for crisis in your market it can happen at any time and you need to have a plan and be ready to take quick action. Also make sure your personalities on the air know the risks. Doing live radio and trying to entertain can be risky business. Would Imus' comments have created such a stir if Chris Rock said them as a guest? It's a very subjective world when you look at public morals and standards. It's possible for anyone (even the most careful and conservative) to slip up and cross a standard that suddenly grows into a big issue. Being prepared helps and so does having a well thought out and humble reaction if it does happen to you.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

New Ideas For Your Web Site

Every day your web site becomes more important to interacting with the audience. One of the BIG differences in the web and the new media competition it represents is that the audience can interact with it. They can customize it, broadcast themselves on it, custom search it, and with all the video, audio, text and animation toys all connected to the whole world. It's become both competition for us and also a huge opportunity for us to interact and build stronger P1 relationships with the audience.

Maybe its because we are trained in broadcasting - where we have the transmitter and send out the entertainment. In the web world the audience can become their own entertainment and can broadcast their signals and receive signals from nearly anyone else on the web. We have to get used to this new world and start to use it wisely.

There are so many opportunities to take our brands and the entertainment we already produce and use it to stand out in the new web world. Here's some new ideas you should be considering built around WIDGETS. Look to you left and you will see a widget with the 'Star Trek Cube' which you can control by clicking on it and moving it around. It's a little html code that was just pasted into the blog and you can get tons of them on or . There are plenty of ideas in the widgets you could use on your site:

  • Music Players - Many of the widgets are linked to music players which you could load up with songs - perhaps your top 10 at 10 every night. Maybe you could also set up a social network type page where the listeners could post their top 5 songs and allow anyone to hear all the songs streamed on the player. Maybe you could also cue up the top morning show bits and play them. The list is endless.
  • Games - From Asteroids to Sudoku puzzles they have tons already to download.
  • Video Players - Some link to You Tube and other sites and you have to post the videos there or pick from what they have but they also have ones that automatically pick the top viewed videos.
  • RSS Feeds - Want to get the latest music news, gossip, or sports in a unique display with cool graphics - widgets have them.
  • Countdown Clocks - Only 15 days, 12 hours and 45 minutes till the A-Z weekend starts on Rock 101.
  • Pick Slide shows - There are widgets that could display recent picks from the morning show stunts or the recent 'big concert.'

I'm sure you can find a lot more uses for widgets and it might also be fun to find out how to make one of these just for the station. For example create a spinning logo with some graphics that people could insert on their myspace pages that links back to the station's site to build traffic. Or make up a really cool looking video or audio player branded with your station that they could steal for their site.

Hopefully you do have control of your site. In my visits I often run into sites where most of the layout and access is either handled by an outside party working on trade or there's one IT person at the station and unless they are 'into' doing it the site just sits there. It's not that hard to do lots of stuff yourself. Look at the creativity on the myspace sites with all the special skins, layout templates, widgets and tricks. The pages are so filled with content, but most of the time people are adding feeds, widgets, and layout templates that do a lot of the work automatically. You can do the same with your site.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Remotes - Dead?

The sales team at Emmis' in Indy just launched a web site - which announces the 'death' of the radio remote. They go on to launch other vehicles for clients to gather more value added and be more 'woven' into the station's programming both on line and on air. While we've all heard the bad remote with long winded sales pitches from the jocks who have lost complete track of time or even worse having the whole sales team from a used car lot come on one by one to proclaim the advantages of zero down.

At the same time in many smaller markets the radio remote is a great vehicle to interact with the community and a pretty big source of revenue. It's also the ultimate gamble. Sitting there with little traffic as the client paces and proclaims that radio doesn't work is no way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
We've all seen remotes that work for both the station and the client, but it takes a lot more than a nice truck, a few banners and a logo display tent with a few bumper stickers and CDs to pass out. You have to have time to plan and the client has to understand that they have to have something that will draw the audience.
I can remember when I just started running board at an AM station on the weekends while in college. Every Sunday afternoon they would haul out the little brown trailer to a local furniture store and do a 4 hour remote. I got to run the board and make some cash and the jock got a remote fee, but the audience and the client got nothing. Most Sunday's there was little traffic for the store and the jock just hung out in the little trailer - once in a while the audience driving by would honk to get on the air during a break.
Imagine if that weekly client had saved his exposure to just 1 remote a month and really had something going on at the remote. Maybe a noteworthy local interior designer or free art work for the walls, or a real 'event' during the remote. Then he would have had something to say and could make it worthwhile for everyone. The client and the sales team needs to understand that you should either be promoting an event (where a remote can help if it's really and event) or building your brand where you will be better off with a normal spot that is done well enough to stick in the audience's head. Speak when you have something to say and you will get results.