Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Comedians and Morning Shows

It would seem obvious to go looking at the local comedy clubs for talent when you are on the hunt for a morning show member or even to build a show around, but it rarely works. We've seen some pretty talented people like Whoppi, Adam Corolla, and others jump in and end up struggling in radio.

I've fallen into this challenge a few times and it's always tough. The stand up comedian has build their world around a live audience, maybe a 10 minute routine that they can repeat night after night, they can use pretty much any language they want, and there's also the opportunity to put physical and visual bits into their work. Of course radio is way different. You will need a lot more that 10 minutes of material and you have to make it fresh every day. Watch the language, no feedback from the audience while you're performing most of the time, and you have to work in an audio only platform. The biggest difference is most comedians are really addicted to laughter and in most settings on the radio they don't get any except from the others on the morning show team in the studio. It's almost like a band that can't hear their performance.

The masters of using stand up folks have to be Bob and Tom. They have a long list of regulars and Tom does a great job of setting them up. But, notice how they have avoided hiring on a 'regular' that becomes a real player everyday in the show.

It's tempting to hang out at a local club, watch some great talent entertain the audience and take the plunge and put them on your morning show. But, beware that club is a very different world than your studio.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

BA Goes to Online Music Research

Allen Kepler (Pres of BA Research) announced a big move for BA with the launch of his PMM (Personal Mix Master) on line music research this week. While Allen sells the new product as part of Earth week since his staff will no longer be polluting the planet zipping from market to market in planes, trains and automobiles the real advantage here is lower cost, more convenience for the participants and better research. You can read the release on the BA site.

Some of the highlights include random placement of the songs. The order is no longer fixed for the songs in the online testing world. We all seen the first 25 or so songs in an auditorium test come back with nice scores then the fatigue starts to set in and little by little the scores fall off.

The other is careful panel management. We've mostly relied on using panels recruited from the station's database or pleas on air and on line to sign up. While we usually ended up with a big panel there really wasn't much screening and you would rarely see P1 listeners from competitors in the sample. BA feels they have the screener down to be able to fine tune the panel and represent the target.

The panel can take the test on their schedule and pause the test when they get fatigued or distracted. They can also slow down the pace of the hooks to their liking and re-listen to songs if they want a little more time to make up their minds.

With all the data collected on line it's a lot easier to build a quality panel with people from any market. In fact given the short comings of phone listings and the burden of random number generating to even get close to a sample the is open to the market it's a lot better. You also have a world with cell phones, VOIP lines and other systems where you can live in a market and have numbers from area codes thousands of miles away.

All of these are great advantages in music testing.

A lot of researchers have been a little skeptical of on-line research. Not being able to 'see' the sample in a room, lack of screening, and the concern that you are using a different recruit than the telephone based sample we see from Arbitron are all concerns. But, the paper and pencil days are ending for the top Arbitron markets and really doing paper and pencil research with almost anyone under 40 is so yesterday.

I'm a fan of going on line, as you may have read in past blogs. Working with Solutions Research in Canada we've done on-line perceptual and music tests for over 2 years and the results are great. The costs are also lower and the results come back quicker.

Having also worked with BA on a number of projects over the years and watching their innovation years ago with the Mix Master dials system they do good work. We can expect to see quality data.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Heard Here, New Ratings System?, and Bob

3 pieces of news stood out for broadcasters this week:

1. Cumulus decides to give Arbitron notice that their stations in markets outside of the top 100 will be looking for a new ratings service. They open the floor for bids that would provide a service that seems mostly concerned with getting sample sizes that would be a lot more reliable than the Arbitron model.

While it's a great idea and I looking over their request for ratings proposals its filled with lavish 'dreams' of what medium and smaller market reports could look like. Plenty of qualitative data, healthy sample sizes and the potential of avoiding recall methods (like telephone surveys and diaries use).

We saw the same show 4 years ago when Clear Channel put out a similar request and what happened. Nothing. In fact if just faded away with a few inches of coverage in the trades.

What will happen here? Unless someone steps up with a cheaper version of PPM and can somehow find a way to build a panel that includes the cell phone only world probably nothing.

There are potential systems and vendors out there that could make a run here. But, can a system be developed for the smaller markets that is profitable? It's going to take more investment to build a data collection system and healthy panels. Will medium and smaller market broadcasters be willing to pay the freight?

When you look at the way most stations use the ratings data outside of the top 100 markets I wonder if most would say - who cares. These markets are out pacing the bigger cities in revenue growth because they are built on local direct advertising and don't live in the agency driven, cost per point, and try anything on the Internet world in the bigger markets.

Still, I hope we end up with something here. At least some pressure on Arbitron to do something. The world where we have PPM in the top 50 markets and a system of diaries and weak samples in the rest of the world will only make ratings worthless outside of the PPM markets will end up hurting in the long run. More and more we are seeing national chains moving their boxes and restaurants into the smaller markets and to get them you will need some proof of your audience.
2. The Spring NAB in Vegas launches RADIO HEARD HERE. It's great to see the NAB doing something positive to unite radio. Don't know if this creative will cut through with the rather retro looking logo and the viral video pieces are rather long, boring and don't talk to the audience. We do need to communicate our real value with our huge reach, ease to develop a message and our power to build your brand in a controlled market and this campaign will help. Frankly I think we'd be better off shelving all the HD spots and spend our resources here for now.

3. Bob Pittman speaks at NAB. Look at these highlights from his address:

Radio is mobile, it’s easy to use, it has a lot of choice,” Pittman said.
Repeating comments we’d heard him use previously when talking about new
media, he said what makes a great consumer business is convenience and brand
– and “radio wins on both counts.” The one-time radio programmer noted, “I
think there are probably no better brand builders in the world than radio
programmers.” Despite all of the hype about the Internet replacing
broadcasting, Pittman, who is currently an investor in radio and TV groups
as well as new media, insisted “the Internet is not television or radio.”
People still turn to broadcasting for entertainment, while they use the
Internet to manage their lives.

Bob's always made a lot of sense when he speaks and it sounds like his address in Vegas was true to form. Thanks Bob.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Build a Social Netwok This Afternoon!!

We've all watched My Space and Facebook build a whole society on the web. I know we've also wished we could build this kind of link within our audience. We all know we could turn our normal P1s into super-P1s and also get our P1s to mingle and make our brand and station a lot more engaging.

But, how do you build this kind of network? It looks like a lot of work and we can hardly keep up the web site as it stands at most stations. Well it's not as hard as it looks - in fact it can be as easy has setting up a simple blog like this one. Ning has set up a FREE ONLINE SERVICE that you can sign up with just like you sign up for a blog. They have all the tools to start a social network.

Right now there are only a few non-commercial and college stations in the mix, but you can see the potential. There are sites for tons of universities, hobbies, and just about anything that interests the world.

Here's an example of a Big Brother Social Network for fans of the TV Show. So far I couldn't find much from commercial and terrestrial stations on Ning's thousands of social networks. The recent launch of the The Sound in Los Angles used Ning to set up a site for their 'Bruce' stunt where they went all Springsteen in honor of his concert, but now that site is down. A few other college station use the site, but they require you to join their 'club' to even see the site. I did find the Chicago Classical station using the site WFMT.

Take a look at these and also look at the Ning site and perhaps you can start building your social network with your audience.

Ning is basically Free, but they do charge if you want to have or sell Ads on your site ($20 a month) and if you need more storage space, want to use another domain name and other features, but it's not a big charge.

Good Luck and I'd love to hear of any networks you set up.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Election and The Summer

Hopefully you are all set for the Spring promotion season with a great campaign to build your brand, TSL or market awareness. Now is the time to be looking ahead to the Summer and this Summer presents a lot of different opportunities. The biggest one is the election in November.

We have already seen huge voter turnout in the primaries, high ratings for news outlets, lots of web hits on election related sites, and big turnout at campaign rallies. The younger audience looks to be more active in this election than EVER before.

In many ways this echos a period in the late 60s when we also had a questionable war, lots of voter interest on the younger side, and a ton of issues that the audience was interested in. This time it may even be more critical as there are more people in the country, more issues on more fronts, and a lot more voices in the coverage. Elections are also a local event. While some of the issues are national in scope the voters mostly vote with their local heart in their hand. Ask any candidate and they will tell you that as they travel from state to state the issues change - you can see it in their messages and commercials. Radio has such a unique advantage because our coverage area is the local scene.

The general feeling in the country is that this is the most important election in decades and right now it looks like the audience is ready to vote and participate in record numbers. Are your promotions plans for the summer ready to take advantage?

Have you looked into setting up 'register to vote' systems at your remotes, community events (the State Fair, Taste of, Summer Celebrations), and at concerts?

Is your web site ready with a map of the area so people know where to go to vote?

Do you have links to the candidates web sites and also sites that cover local issues?

Are you ready to go to any big campaign rallies that may happen in your market?

Is your morning show thinking of bits, stunts and unique ways to cover the campaign and election that will entertain and inform your audience?

Have you brainstormed other ways to use your web site for election chats, polls, and other options to cover the election in a way that's relevant to your target audience?

The election is not just for News/Talk stations. Yes, Rush will have a good audience this Summer and Fall, but what about the 90% of the audience that isn't in the Ditto Head club? You have a great opportunity to bond with your target audience as they make a big decision in their eyes. This is more than just playing their favorite song or giving them some concert tickets. If you make the most of it you could end up with more P1s and a wider reach.

Rarely do we get this kind of opportunity where we know that such a large share of our audience is focused on a specific topic.

To make the most of it you have to have a plan and now is the time to get the plan in motion.