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.