Thursday, April 30, 2009

Are You Ready For Summer?

After a tough winter on many levels we are finally seeing the signs of Summer in the Northern Half of the Country and it's time to get your station ready.   Often we seem to push Summer off in radio programming.  The Summer book (if you have one) is usually not that important for business and the staff is usually taking vacations and laying back.  

But, Summer is one of the most important times for the audience and entertainment.  Radio has a real chance to shine as TV largely shuts down and our mobile medium has the advantage of being able to move with the audience.  As they spend more time outside radio goes with them to the patio, the car, out in the community and even to the beach/pool.  This is a time to hustle if you want to build your audience for the Fall.  

Here's a quick checklist of areas you can focus on to make your station shine in the Summer:   

  • Festivals and Community Events: Every area has their events of Summer and your station needs to be center stage at as many of them as possible.  Don't just show up with the vehicle - make it an on air event somehow.  If you look into any event surly there is something you can really get behind.  It could be as simple as a dunk tank with local celebs at the local fair, or maybe a raft race at a water fest, setting the fireworks to music, or a rib cook off at the food fair.  Twist it and make it unique and you can be the star of the event, but you have to plan ahead to win.   
  • Concerts: There are a lot more of them in Summer and it's time to look at your presence and involvement with the bigger shows.  
  • Music: There is more new music available throughout Summer.  Are you clocks and systems up to to the task of introducing more new songs - this can be exciting if the artists are big.  You also usually have a few new artists pop up every Summer - are your systems ready to see them bloom?   If you are more library driven (and even if you are not look at your library) consider that Summer means FRESH to the audience.  The Heat brings a different tempo to them also.  Is your music up and hot?  Or dull and boring?  
  • Think Mobile:  The audience moves around more in the Summer.  They spend more time in their cars, get out on the weekends, and get outdoors a lot more.  Is your team working this reality into their content, is the energy of the station matching the energy in the audience, and are you working in your imaging and presence to be with them as the get out?   
  • Services:  Weather and Traffic take on a whole new world in Summer.  It's more likely that the real issues in both shift from Mornings to Afternoon.   In the Winter we get snows and school closings and many of the issues revolve around Morning Drive.  In the Summer it's thunderstorms and a bit lower traffic in Mornings.  For a lot of the service info this changes the whole game - are you ready.   Also do you have a full plan for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and other disasters.  They are different in Summer - storms can pop up anywhere in Summer, for big snows we usually have some idea what's coming a day or more ahead.   
  • Sports:  It's moved outside and now the audience is more likely to be playing more sports also.  
  • Brighten the Station:  Enjoy the Sun and have more Fun with the audience.  Make the station sound bright and hot every day.  
Summer is special - make sure your station is special this Summer.  It will pay off in the Fall. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The State Of Classic Rock

Classic Rock started around 25 years ago as one of the first sub folders of the origional AOR/Rock formats of the 70s.  When you go back to the 80s most rock outlets had pretty much the same approach of 40% currents and 60% older songs dating back to the late 60s.  

As Classic Rock began to spread many AOR/Rock outlets became pretty defensive on the library side of their music mix.  It was a period when AOR was moving from it's dominance of 18-24s to having enough 25-40 year old listeners to start winning the all important 25-54 demo.   Of course a format that targeted just the 25-40s at the time was not just a threat to the 12 plus braging rights - this was danger to the bottom line in the sales department.  Many a GM and Owner issued the command to either join the format now or be prepared to win when it comes.  

By the time we hit the 90s rock radio had undergone a complete transition.  Now there were 4 emerging formats (Alternative, Active Rock, Classic Rock and the AOR/Rock as well as a few scattered Adult Alternatives).  In many ways the Classic Rock format was the golden one with strong 25-54 shares and the easiest for the sales deparment to work with for clients.   

But, where does it stand now?  When you look at the music mix most Classic Rock stations focus on rock titles from 1967 to 1988.  The average year is 1978 to maybe 1980 - 30 years ago.  If you were in High School in 1979 you are now 45 to 48 years old in the last phase of the 25-54 demo.  This group made up 2/3rds or more of the 25-54 demo in the 90s and now it's around a 1/3rd.   

A decade ago we saw the same situation with the Oldies stations.  While many had consistent strong 12+ ranks they had fallen too far down in 25-54s as their audience aged.  The format moved from being mostly a 50s and 60s world to a whole new era balance.   

The make over for Oldies in most cases forced a whole new position and often a name change.  The word 'oldies' meant Elvis to the late 60s to the audience and had to completely evolve.  Still the former oldies stations are still challenged in 25-54 and their audience is still aging out of the key demo.   They have put a finger in the dike, but the dam is still cracking. 

Classic Rock faces the same challenges.   For most of the audience the format IS the 70s and 80s.  When you try to move beyond Guns and Roses in the late 80s it's tough to convince the P1 audience that this is also Classic Rock.  

While there are still good 25-40 shares for many Classic Rockers and we even see good 18-24s once in a while when you get a few in the sample that like to play in mom and dad's record collection the days are numbered.   As you break out 25-34s and 35-44s you can see the down trends although they are often offset by the strength of 45-54s.  

How will Classic Rock evolve it's music mix to maintain it's 25-54 strength?  It's a big question and D-Day is fast approaching.    

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Local Local Local

We hear it over and over that the key to success for the radio industry will come from it's local advantage.  Local is clearly our trump card as most of the new media is rather national or worldly in scope.   

One of the big parts of my travels is monitoring the market. For the 3 or so days the visit lasts the biggest task is absorbing as much of the market as possible.  Yet, when boiling down the monitor notes it's surprising that so many stations seem to ignore the local opportunity.  

The music list is often the 'national norm', the sweepers/imaging are a collection of stuff stolen from other stations, and jocks all seem to follow the standard patterns in their breaks.  The promotions are often copies of contests done elsewhere and even the logo or station brand can be found in many other markets (Jack, the X, Rock 102, Q92, The Fox, etc).   

When you do find a station that's embraced the local angle it's usually a long term success.  Just look at DVE, RIF, KSHE, and a host of others.  These stations are woven into their communities. If you look at the music mix on each of them you'll see some big differences.  DVE insists on playing The Clarks, RIF's list is often loaded with Michigan rockers, and if you do any music research in St. Louis you better be prepared to test some classics you've never thought of.  

These stations also hit the streets all the time.  They don't just show up at a festival in the summer with a booth - they create events that often make the festival a much bigger hit.  They don't miss a concert or a hot local sports team.  Their jocks talk about the community, know the streets, and are in touch with what the local audience is thinking about.  

It's not just covering a few local stories in the news or in the weather and traffic, it's a beat that's underneath the whole station.  Every market has a 'personality.'  You go to Springfield IL and you eat horseshoe sandwiches,  Milwaukee it's brats and cheese.  Every city has a street culture that's unique, even in the smaller cities.  

In some cases the great local stations have MADE events and traditions in the city.  The EBN Fireworks, the Philly MMR Cardboard Classic, and The Bear's Howler Halloween party in Edmonton.  

Some blame the corporate radio conglomerates, but DVE is Clear Channel, KQRS is Citadel, and FBQ is also Clear Channel.  

It also doesn't take a ton of money to become woven into your community.  It does take careful planning, creativity, and a huge effort from the whole staff.  Even if you are running with a syndicated morning show and just 2 jocks you can still build a huge local presence.  After all you have a big tower that talks to the whole community. 

All you have to do is use it.   

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Getting the Staff Prepared Every Day

Formatic radio often ends up being very robotic.  We follow the same clocks day after day with the same 300 (or less) songs rotating around and read the same liners over and over.  

So what's to prepare for?  

Everyday is not the same for our audience and also every day is not the same for the station.  

These 2 points need to be at the center of every show every day.   

  • What's important to the audience:  It might be the economy, Cramer was on The Daily Show, baseball started, the final 4, hockey playoffs or maybe the news that Metallica is coming to town.  It could also be that construction has started on the big freeway or any number of local issues that affect their lives.  

  • What's important to the station: It could be very different from what's important to the audience.  The station may be having a big night to cap off the final 4 promotion at a local club.  You might be announcing that Harley giveaway for the Spring book.  The morning show may have pranked George Clooney.  
As you can see the 2 points are very different, but just as important when the air team hits the studio for their shows.  

Make sure they all know the 2 priorities and learn to build them into their shows.  It can make the difference from a station that just spinning the hits to one that is woven into their audience.