Thursday, January 29, 2009

Making a Syndicated Show Local

I think it's pretty obvious that the key to Radio's success and future lies in being Local and having strong ties to your local audience and community.   It's our BIG ADVANTAGE in the whole new media world that is very 'national and international' in its scope.  

We also see some big advantages in using Syndicated shows.  When you look at the debate in using a show like Bob and Tom in mornings the advantages usually outweigh everything.  Say it costs you 110K in market 120 to have the show.  If you tried to build a local show for 120K you would have to be very lucky to find 2 or 3 people who could even mount a very basic show for that price.  You wouldn't have the parade of comedians, stars, and the well timed humor of a veteran crew like Bob and Tom.  In many cases Bob and Tom outperform the rest of the station and add 20% or more to the overall shares and usually win (or come close) in 25-54s.  It takes a big local show to beat them.  

But, they can be beat with a local show.  A show that hits the streets, covers the local scene and preps with a vengeance can zip right past them.   Having worked on both sides of this street we've learned a few 'tricks':
  • Working With A Syndicated Show:  No matter if it's B/T or Alice Cooper or any one of the other shows the key is making it a real part of the the station.  Don't just aim the satellite dish, program the digital studio and sit back.  Make the show as local as possible with tons of recycling, custom inserts in the show, special imaging (including lots cut by the show''s stars) in the breaks and make sure to use the show in as may promotions as you can.   Don't just give away a Harley - make it the Bob and Tom Harley and tie them in someway on the air.  Weave the show into the WHOLE day and on the flip side weave your station into their show as much as you possibly can.  
  • Beating a Syndicated Show:  Make your show as local as possible and make it as great as possible.  Remember you are going up against great talent - average talent doesn't get syndicated.  Your team has to know the audience inside and out, know the community, and be super prepared every morning.  It takes lots of coaching, good talent in the room and a non stop effort in the streets.  You also need to package the show well, build a strong web interactive presence and make every show noteworthy/special.   
Yes they are simple steps, but so many times when look at the stations who don't win in either scenario they either thought that B/T would save the day all by themselves.   Or on the other side that just having a bit of local flavor would put their weak show on top.  

In the end it takes dedication and tons of hard work to make a show work today.  Especially in Mornings the field is often crowded.   And in today's tight belted world finding the resources to make a show into a winner is a challenge.   But, it can be done.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Views on the New Year In Radio

Of course we face many challenges as 09 starts off with a deep freeze here in the North.  It seems as if the whole world is frozen with an economy that seems so confusing and desperate that everyone and everything has come to a stand still.  No doubt it will thaw out, but we are the only ones who can warm the climate here.  

On to some notes from the first few weeks of events and news in Radio: 

The mass layoffs at Clear Channel and other groups is tough to watch.  Having worked for CC they gave up some very talented people from the programming side and no doubt also left some productive sales people on the street.  But, did they do much trimming in their corporate accounting and legal teams?   I bet not.  

Even though these jobs don't really produce the product or make revenue from it I bet there are still people counting every penny 3 times and lawyers reviewing every contract and dragging things out.   I remember when CC took over the AM/FM world and most of the business managers were rather stunned at the corporate oversight.  Nothing happened without a long list of approvals and seemed out of control on the local level.  OK, so times are tough and cuts were needed.  Was it the best move to cut programming even further (it was already past the bone) and now to cut out sales people?  Could a few productive people have been spared by only counting the pennies 2 times? 

While we can question the cuts the reality is - it's time to remake our business.  It's time to get hungry again and re-invent our programming and our sales systems for a new world that is already here and passing us by.  

PPM has now spread it's wings to Canada with the first release of the Fall ratings in Montreal.  The rest of the bigger markets in Canada will adopt the system over the next 2 years. There are some differences as they have set the meters to measure it minute by minute and they print out the Cume by both the Average Daily Cume and the Cume for the whole survey.   It was interesting to see that Cumulative Cume number - the top 3 stations reached over 3 million people in a market of 3.3 million, 4 more stations reached over 2.5 million!!!  Wow you could reach nearly the whole market by just buying 1 station if you ran the message for 13 weeks.   Don't know any other media where you can accomplish that.  

PBS - Make Em Laugh should be must see TV for your air staff.  This is a complete history of comedy from all angles.  Billy Crystal and Amy Sedaris host the show and gives your air staff a big picture look at what makes comedy work.   All the styles from shocking to physical prat falls are showcased with a complete history of all the greats in each style.  If you're going to entertain an audience you need to study the craft and this is a great resource.   

Music Thoughts for 09:  In 08 we had a good year in rock with veterans like AC/DC, Metallica, Guns n' Roses, and Motley Crue adding to an already strong line up of more current bands like 3 Days Grace, Theory of a Deadman, and many more.  The year starts off with U2 returning and perhaps a Pearl Jam and STP CD later in the year.   It doesn't look as promising as 09 did, but you never know. 

A Programming Thought For the New Year:  Radio has been all about the format for a very long time.  I don't mean being Rock or CHR or AC - I mean our programming structure on the air hour after hour.   It's the same clocks and rotations nearly every day.  10 in a Row every hour with breaks :40 and :50 or some other robotic plan.   The same rotation system day after day to the point where we have to trick the software so everyone doesn't know what A is next in the stack.  Why can't every day be unique, surprising and a little different?  It's time to get creative - anyone with a computer can duplicate robotic-formatic radio.  In any research we do the biggest audience complaint is repetition and while they often cite the music a little probing also shows they mean the formatics that rule every hour over and over.  For your brand to stand out and be a leader you have to lead them somewhere.  Let's quit being robots and start being outgoing - creative humans again.