Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Learning Way More About Facebook

The number of Facebook users world wide approaches 600 million as we enter 2011.  It's spanning nearly all demographics and audiences no doubt it is becoming a more important tool for radio stations than the web itself.  When you look at it you can do a lot more with just a few key strokes on a Facebook page than any web site from both the user and the host standpoint.

But as you take a big tour of the Facebook presence for many stations and personalities it's pretty obvious that we are just swinging away at any pitch here.  We don't know much about what the audience does with our Facebook pages, what draws them? what entertains them? what makes them interact with the product?

There is a starting place that every programmer, station IT person, the sales manager and general manager should spend some time with to get at least a grasp of the usage patterns for Facebook.  Take a look at Inside Facebook and you will find a lot of pretty interesting data.  Head to the Page Data and you can see what Facebook pages are gaining and losing views/fans everyday.  You can also look at nearly any page in the system to see the metrics.  You can also look at the games and apps pages for the same kind of data.  There are also blogs on the data, marketing conversations and a bunch of other topics also covered.  While the site is looking to market their data and also their Facebook Bible at least we have a starting point to sort of see the ratings here.

Scanning the rankings for the top Facebook pages radio is way down the list on 'Likes.'  Rush has the biggest site with nearly 700,000 but that ranks around 1,600.  Hot FM in Singapore has around 650,000 as the first music station.  In the U.S. guess who has the most - Z100 NYC - 108,000? or maybe Kiss in LA with only 28.600!! likes? - Kiss Chicago has nearly 3 times the numbers from LA with nearly 75,000.  But none of these big cuming CHRs come close to the U.S. Winner - K Love out of Santa Clara, CA - they have nearly 600,000 likes!! with a Christian format.

Really when you look down the ranks a lot of stations from all over the world in countries like Italy, Germany, Argentina, England, Philippines and even an Arabic station that is signing on this month all have way more likes than any music outlet from the U.S.  It looks like we have a lot to learn here.  Next time we'll look at some research ideas for Facebook after some more digging in the data.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Radio's Mantra for 2011

We're only a month away from welcoming 2011.  A new year always brings forward new hopes and dreams for a better year than the one we just finished.  While 2010 looks like it was better than 2009 or 2008 but we all know that our radio stations have a long ways to grow. While the list piles up with tons of needed progress on:

  • Growing in social media
  • Moving distribution channels into mobile media and the web
  • Remaking our rules to the reality of PPM 
  • Developing and adjusting products for the new Millennial Generation that will become the bigger than the boomers we've entertained for years.
  • Keeping our strong cume penetration and TSL in a sea of new competition. 
  • Building an even stronger local presence in the community.
  • Becoming Cool/Hip again.
  • Doing all of it with budgets that are probably smaller than we need to really do the job.
It's a daunting challenge.  It may seem like a simple thought but there is a thread that weaves through all of these challenges and if we can keep our focus on 3 linked mantras I bet we can make 2011 a huge year:  
  • EMBRACE YOUR AUDIENCE
  • EMBRACE THE MUSIC
  • EMBRACE  YOUR COMMUNITY
You may say 'hey we already do that.'  But, do you really? Or have you just been letting the music spin around in your music scheduling system where the computer just spits it out in the digital studio?  Have you just been ignoring much of the audience's needs and realities?  Have you taken the excuse of tight budgets and slim staffs to push community involvement to the side?  The great stations that gave radio it's strong position in the 80s and 90s completely embraced all of these key elements.  If we can do it again we can make a ton of progress on all those challenges on the checklist.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

TheLast 8 Years in Rock Radio Listening Trends

Last week we took a look at the last 8 years of 12+ listening trends from Arbitron's 2010 Radio Today summary which runs through 2009.  Early next year we'll see the report that includes 2010 and the story for Rock formats will likely be trending down.

Over the 90s rock formats splintered into 5 groups - more than any other broad format group (AC, Country, Oldies, N/T, CHR, and Urban).  When we look at each individual group the graph takes some interesting turns:

The total shares for all of rock were fairly strong in 2003 and 2004 at just over a 13 share.  2005 to 2007 you can see a 10% dip down to the mid 11 share range and a recovery to the 2009 12.5 share in 2009.  Looking at the individual styles of rock:

Classic Rock - The leader with a pretty steady run ranging from a low of 4.5 in 2007 to the current high of 5.0.

Active Rock has also seen a pretty steady run with some pretty low shares hovering just below a 2 share in 2003 and 2004 and mounting a steady gain with peak years in 2008 and 2009.  

Alternative has been the losing format starting out with a 3 share and sinking to the 2 share range for the last 3 years.

AOR is still listed here but many of these stations play mostly Classic Rock and many have classified themselves as CR for sales purposes

AAA has a limited penetration in many markets hanging at the .9 share range till 2007 when it began to climb to it's current 1.2 share.  

In many ways this graph is looking more at history than current reality.

Classic Rock has enjoyed many gains from the bigger markets adopting PPM as well as an aging overall terrestrial audience during this period.  CR is a solid performer in the PPM system with familiar music, good at work penetration and many stations have a long standing brand.

Active Rock rose up in the last 3 years mostly on the back of a solid group of middle ground newer rock artists.  Nickleback, 3 Days Grace, Theory of a Deadman, Shinedown, and others built a sound that was aggressive, but still had the hooks to break over to CHR (in many casts), become big concert draws, and we even saw pop worlds like American Idol begin to look a bit more at performers with Rock backgrounds.

For the most part Active Rock held it's line and did not work with the more pop world rock from American Idol and as the newness of the middle ground bands began to wain it has moved more into a world that is clearly harder and more aggressive.   Godsmack, Disturbed, and other harder edge bands now lead the way in the format  This is music that will only show up on Active Rock and maybe some Alternative stations.  Over 2009 and 2010 this harder edge has taken over.  

In Alternative the spotlight on the Active Rock bands drew much of their attention or if they held back it cost them 18-40 male shares.  But, as the 2010 and 2011 shares emerge look for Alternative to start to really shine.  Alternative has started to sort out the indie rock world and we've seen a lot of artists emerge to gain the national spotlight.   Neon Trees, Phoenix, White Stripes, Kings of Leon, Black Keys, Mumford and Sons and more are starting out exclusively on Alternative and now crossing over to CHR and the national attention that will bring in more Alternative fans.  

Clearly we hit a fork in the road for Active Rock and Alternative in 2009 and 2010.  Active retreated into a much harder rock arena while Alternative seemed to go the other way.   If you look at the charts for both formats there was a lot more crossover from 2007 to 2008 than there is today.

The challenge in some markets where there really isn't an Alternative station on the dial is rather obvious.  There are also cases where the Active Rock or more current leaning AOR station could embrace some of the Alternative music?  If you are an uncontested Active Rock or AOR that does play currents -- do you bend and take on the bigger Alt titles?  It's a very tough call.  The harder rockers are very vocal and will broadcast their attitude clearly if you step out too far.  Will these formats and programmers end up being trapped by their core audience into a route that keeps them away from the spotlight music in rock?

While we may not see these trends in the graphs from the rock format listening trends they are there in all the other music popularity measures we have (sales, downloads, concerts, street buzz and crossover).  This will be a big challenge for 2011.  We already see a lot more new music activity in the Alternative camps than we see in Active Rock.  And there are lots of Alternative titles that many Active Rock programmers have hardly heard of rising in the charts.

There is also changes that will come about as the Millennials (currently 15-30 years old) evolve and become the biggest generation of potential radio listeners in the next couple of years.  You can read more about that in the Millennial series we did a few weeks back - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5.  Big questions to ponder in Rock as we head into 2011.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Format Shares from Arbitron's Radio Today 2010 Report

When you take a look at the overall 12 plus shares for Rock formats over the last 7 years (2003-2009) and compare it to the major format groups (not including religious or Hispanic) it's a pretty interesting story.  Overall it's fairly consistent with a dip in 2005-2007 and a pretty decent recovery in 2008 and 2009.  
Of course we can see News formats ramping up for the 2008 election and holding a lot of that share into 2009.   Country has been pretty steady around a 13 share and rising recently with the younger country artists shining.  AC has surged recently and the rise of Hot AC (which may include Adult/Pop CHR) as well as the surge from the PPM stations and Christmas music has impacted this format over the last 7 years.  Rock is pretty steady with a dip from 2005 to 2007, we will dive into these numbers next week with more details

CHR is starting to show the spike we all know will grow in 2010 with all the big pop acts dominating the charts and sales right now.   Oldies is also growing, but much of this is a shift from the old oldies formats to Classic Hits and Adult Hits.  Urban shows pretty steady numbers here - note that the Rhy/CHR shares are included in the CHR graph.

I suspect we will see some changes as the 2010 national format shares come out.  CHR will likely be hotter, Country could also gain, and News will grow with the mid-term election causing a stir.  Rock will probably see a downtrend and we'll explore some of the reasons in the next blog.

Monday, November 01, 2010

When Do They Listen?

This question pops up a lot for scheduling features, laying out contests, and for show prep (when to run that great bit or content).  Arbitron has resumed their Radio Today report and this graph shows clearly where the 12 plus audience is listening.  

Now this data is based on both diary and PPM data and only includes the markets that had PPM for the Fall 09 report.  We've had a number of PPM markets added over 2010 and there are differences in the listening patterns when we compare PPM and Diary results, but this graph does give you a good picture of where the important hours and dayparts are.    

Later in the week we'll take a deeper look at the Radio Today report from 2009 and dive into the individual formats.  So check back!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cell Phones - Research and the Elections

As we wade through the endless stream of political spots on every media with all their accusations there is another story behind this fall election in the U.S. that could be a major factor.  The telephone based polls that candidates and the media has used to track the public since the 40s could end up being very mis-leading.

Nearly every analysis of the polls shows a Republican leaning wave moving the House and maybe even the Senate to a Republican lean.  But, those polls are mostly done on by calling land line households since reaching out to cell phone users for research is costly and difficult. The national polls are more likely to use cell phone households, but on the local and state level it's still pretty costly and not used that much.  Much of the polling data being analyzed for this mid-term election could be off the mark.

In radio we know the cell phone only households and their effect on research.  For years we've struggled with incomplete data in the under 40 age cells and watched our samples decay.  Arbitron and Nielsen have both retooled their sample systems and now do a better job including cell phone households.  Still, we struggle with not enough cell phone sample, but at least we have a little more accuracy.

The Pew Center has reviewed the cell phone only households for the political polls and released the following data:


You can see that the Cell Phone only households are more likely to lean Democratic changing the pools by around 2 percent.   When you factor in that most research has a 3-5% variance and then add the 2% Democratic lean many of the Republican margins could suddenly be a lot closer than expected.

Could we see an election here where polling is suddenly in question?  Much like the famous Dewey - Truman election in the late 40s where polling predicted Dewey would win.  Back then phones were not in all households and when the non-phone households voted the polls were suddenly skewed.

We have relied on phone based research for nearly all our data on the audience over the years.  This fall we may see in a big way that the phone is flawed.  Cell phones, VOIP, Skype and so many other ways of personal communication have made the land line a thing of the past.  We - and the politicians - can't rely on it anymore for data on the audience.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Summary on Millennials

In our series in Millennials (or Generation Y) we have to realize the impact this generation will have over the next 10-20 years as they all hit the 25-54 demo.  This generation is larger than the Boomers and look at the impact that generation had from the late 60s through the mid-90s.  The Boomers were a lot bigger than the 'silent generation' or the World War II babies so their impact was magnified.  But, the Millennials are still a bigger group and they also have a revolutionary quality like the Boomers.


Boomers saw mass communication and world travel become common place.   Television, Radio, Telephones, Interstate roadways and jet travel made the whole world accessible.  Boomers also went to college more and had higher levels of education.

When you look at the Millennials they have a huge revolution in communication that dwarfs the old analog media.  They can  travel the world on their laptops, communicate with anyone they want in a variety of ways from email to text to voice to video to chats to social media.  The combination of their population size and the huge leap in communication technology is already pushing us into a revolution moving at the speed of Moore's Law (the speed of computer processing doubles every 2 years). They are also well educated with high levels of post High School activity.

Radio can't keep brushing this generation aside.  If you worked on FM radio in the late 70s and early 80s you probably got a preview of the times we are in now.   In the mid 70s the peak of the Boomer generation was in their early 20s and just starting to fill up the 25-34 demo.  Most marketers considered this generation long hair youth at the time and really not much of a market outside of fashion, music, beer, electronic equip and maybe cheap cars.

Through the 80s the Boomers completely overtook the 25-54 demo and turned marketing upside down.  I can remember being at a rock station and watching agency after agency turn us down even though we were starting to climb up the top 3 in 25-54 adults.  We knew it was only a matter of time till they would have to look at our audience - no matter how different they may have been.

Right now the oldest Mellinnials are turning 30 - in 5 years they will enter the 35-44 demo and completely take over 18 to 34s.  And they will be the biggest generation we've seen yet in the U.S.  The challenge we face is getting them to dial into our media and brands.  We all can see the vehicles, but getting them started seems to elude us.  It can't anymore.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tips For Reaching Millennials

Since we are on a roll with celebrating the news that the Millennial Generation or Gen Y will pass the Boomers in  population figures when the Census is published in the U.S. in a few months I ran across an article by Thomas Pardee in Ad Age.   Mr. Pardee is one of Ad Age's regular writers and you can read his analysis of the generation here

The real key to the article is his wrap up


5 tips for marketing to millennials

Be fast
For millennials, there's nothing worth saying that can't be said in 140 characters or less. It's not that they can't handle long-form pitches, they just know you can do better. So do better.
Be clever
As Nick Shore, head of research for MTV, said, "Smart and funny is the new rock 'n' roll." Millennials are set to be the most-educated generation on record, with the largest social-media platform (Facebook) having been famously born on a college campus. "With their roots in college culture, it's no wonder eloquence and timing are more prized than ever for this generation. Err on the side of overestimating the millennial -- as the Old Spice campaign shows -- and sometimes they'll surprise you.
Be transparent
Millennials may be arrogant and entitled, but they're not stupid, and they know media exists to sell them things. So rather than pretending your branded beverage isn't conspicuously placed in a TV character's hand to entice them, look for new ways to make it funny. It will ring true with them, and they'll appreciate the honesty. (Need a cue? Look no further than the deliciously self-referential "30 Rock.")
Don't "technologize" everything
By their own definition, millennials are in part defined by their use of and reliance on technology. But marketers should resist the urge to attempt to "speak their language" -- Gen Yers can smell those ploys a mile away. Remember, millennials are digital natives -- they don't use technology; they live it, and they do so subconsciously.
Give them a reason to talk about you
Millennials don't like ads, but they don't mind marketing that's non-invasive, non-interruptive and that adds something to their experience, either online or off. Whether it's a fun and timely iPhone app, a targeted high-profile event or a personalized viral-video campaign, if you want your message to resonate with millennials, give them something to talk about. And if we know the first thing about millennials, talk they will.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Gen Y/Millennials - A Few Key Facts

 The last few blogs (below) have noted the size of the Gen Y/Millennials, which are now a bigger generation than the Boomers, and Radio Programmings struggle to reach this emerging force.   If we want to reach them we probably need to learn a lot more about them.  While there are plenty of articles in Ad Age and other sites on their consumer behavior one of the more in depth pieces on them came from the Pew Research Center in February 2010. Read the Pew Study here.

The Pew Study covers a lot of interesting traits for this generation in comparison to Gen X, Boomers, and the Silent Generation but a lot of the facts track their religious, political and family values sides.  While they are important traits they probably don't help us programmers get a handle on their entertainment desires.   

I pulled a few of charts that bring out some broad areas we may learn from: 
  • They are more diverse:  

  • They are less likely to be Married than the other generations in the 20s:

  • What do THEY think makes them unique?:
This is a very interesting comparison.  While we would expect that they would have Technology Use at the top and in greater numbers than Gen X the #2 unique trait is Music Pop Culture.  None of the other generations cite this trait.  Radio could play a HUGE role if we chose to dive in with them.   

  • And Just For FUN - How many of them have Tattoos:





There is a lot more to learn from the study.  For the most part they are more liberal and actually more family oriented in their values than their marriage stats would indicate - guess they are just being fussy with partners and that's probably due many of them coming from split households.

They are an interesting group that is clearly plugged into the new media and technology as a full fabric of their lives.  Their ability to communicate is very strong in their technology usage.  Communication is key to nearly all generations.   For the Boomers the 4 big communication factors were - Television, Telephones becoming commonplace in the 50s, the advent of world air travel, and radio providing a fairly common music backdrop.

Obviously radio will need to weave itself into their tech world and the new tools of communication.  But, we also have to learn who are are communicating with.    We have a ways to go here.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Edison Research's Youth Study 2010

The crack team at Edison Research just released a great study of 12-24s at the NAB and online (read it here).

The study showcases the differences from 2000 to 2010 in the younger audience on a number of fronts.  We can see that they still have an interest in radio, but the wealth of new media and the smart phone world are more and more appealing to our potential future audience every day.  It's killing a lot of TSL for terrestrial radio and you can also see that the lack of interest our industry seems to have for this younger audience is damaging the future.

In the last post on this blog we broke down the population numbers that will likely become fact when the census hits in a few months.  The 15-30 year old age group will be bigger than the boomers we've relied on for audience and revenue for 30 years will be a fading demo.

While the study points out a number of great suggestions on addressing the 12-24 side of the younger demo we also need to look at the 22-34s that were also included in the Edison study.  Perhaps Edison will release more data on this group but the 1 chart they included on the types of stations they listened to back in 2000 and what they claim to listen to now:


The growth of Top 40/Hits is pretty obvious given the strength of the format and the music for the last 18 months.  Country is also on the rise with the youth movement in the format.  Other gainers include Christian, Classic Rock and even Classical.  The big losers are all forms of Rock, Rap/Hip Hop and R&B.   Also note that there are 9 shares missing in the 2010 data - that is probably due to the lower listening numbers to all radio in the decade.

When you look at the movement over the last decade in both Alternative and Hard/Active Rock to a lot more older songs in the mix and a lot less current music you probably have answered the 'why' question.   Rock formats clearly have a big challenge ahead with the under 34 audience.  It may be harder to find new music with the record companies struggling, but it's out there and somehow rock programmers need to find it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The New Reality of The Demos

You've probably either seen the Census crew or filled out a form by now here in the U.S. as we review our House Districts and population characteristics.  This count will bring out some realities in marketing and demographics that will likely change a lot of the strategies many products have been using for the last 30 years.

While the final results won't be out for another 6 months or so we can see what the likely picture will be from the 2009 estimates.  
Look at the 3 circled groups that roughly represent the Older Boomers born before 1964 with 63.6 million, Generation X  born from 65 to 79 with 61.4 million in the middle and the new Millennial Generation born between 1980 and 1994 at 64.8 million on the younger side.


The real key here is that now we have hit a time when the new Millennial's actually outnumber the Baby Boomers.   Much of the entire product strategy and marketing targets for most products has been built around  the Boomers since they first came of age in the 60s.   That's why we still place so much importance on the 25-54 demos even though you can see that now that audience is mostly built from the Generation X group with the lowest population numbers of the 3 groups.


We can already see the shift in many products in what they are selling and how they are using media to market their wares.  Obviously the younger Millennial's are much more adapted to all the new media options.  They also have vastly different desires and needs when it comes to products.  Look at the car industry, which seems more interested in the compact and even sub-compact models like the Ford Fiesta or the Kia Soul than keeping the Mercury brand name alive.


The problem we face in radio - we've been obsessed with 25-54 for the last 20+ years and haven't worked a lot on the younger demos.  Now that the Millennial's are centered in their 20s they are a huge marketing target and with the revelation in the upcoming Census news that now they outnumber the old champion demo of the Boomers radio has a lot of catching up to do.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What Are Men Thinking??

Esquire Magazine has a fresh article out reviewing their survey of Men and their values/views on a number of very interesting questions.   If your target audience is Men it's clearly worth a close review.

The premise of the survey and article is based on a unique demographic view.  The 2 spikes in the U.S. population are now at 20 year old Men and 50 year old Men.  The older group are the baby boomers born around 1960 and the younger group was born as the 90s hit.  Obviously they both grew up in very different worlds for values, technology, world events, and lifestyle.

The survey covers a wide range of topics including:
Overall Happiness - Both groups are pretty close here and overall fairly happy
Role Models - Both think Obama is a good one.  But, they are not happy with his performance.
Coolest Men - Clint Eastwood wins for both?
Sources for News - Both groups get it from TV?
Favorite Spectator Sport - The young guys most favorite is Ultimate Fighting?
Favorite Decade for Music - 49% of the 50 year olds point to the 70s while 56% of the 20 year olds lean on the 90s and 2000+ - The music you grow up with is YOUR music.

There's a ton more questions that have very interesting parallels and contrasts.
 Read it here

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Boring APP

So you have your I-Phone/Pod-Touch, Android, and Blackberry apps all up and running and now your stream can go anywhere.  You've entered the new mobile digital age and are all set for the future.  While your audio is streaming along -- what's happening on that little 3.5 inch screen?   Chances are your logo is just sitting there - perhaps we can see the title of the song, perhaps a tag link to buy the song with a pic of the CD and maybe a note on the station, but little else.

There is a lot more you could do with that screen I bet.   Maybe some pics of recent promotions, a shot of the morning show with a big guest, or a visual plug for an upcoming concert or promotion.  You might also be able to add weather or other info that's worth tuning in for.  There is a lot more that we could and should be doing with these apps.  Just getting in the App Store is not enough.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Streaming Stats



Looking over the Ando Media ranker for the On-Line Radio Streaming world take a look at the Average Time Spent Listening per session for the players.  Pandora is the big leader with nearly a half a million people tuned in from 6a to 8p but the session starts (cume) is over 150 million during the daypart and then look at the time spent listening at less than 1 hour.  

Looking at the other providers here CBS is 2nd with the help of AOL Radio but, it's a long way from Pandora and doesn't have much more TSL.  Clear Channel, Cox, Citadel, Cumulus, Bonneville, Greater Media and Entercom are better at TSL and much of their offerings are terrestrial station streams.  AccuRadio's big line up of stations and their attention to upscale Jazz/Classical formats and other unique offerings has better TSL, Salem's religious streams are also strong.   


As we look at the listening habits here we can see that just being a juke box with a big list of songs pretty much on shuffle doesn't make for a lot of TSL.  There is a lot of cume here and not a ton of long listening spans.  Is the audience trying it out and getting bored?  Are they tuning around because there is so much to pick from?  How is the emerging mobile (I Pod/Blackberry/Android) apps world different from the this view which is pretty much computer based?  


We have a lot to learn about the new world of streaming.   


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Cell Phone Radio Chip

The development of the NAB suggesting that in exchange for agreeing to some fees with the Music First group on royalty fees congress would add a provision to have FM radio chips required in all Cell Phones is an interesting one.   Of course Radio would like to expand the reach and having a tuner in every cell phone by 2014 or so would be great (remember it only takes around 3 years to get an innovation into the majority of cell phones with the get a new phone every 2  years approach).  

Yes we will need to step up our programming and start addressing the whole mobile world - there is a lot more on any phone to do besides tune in the radio.  

A tuner would also be a benefit the cell phone networks as the new smart phones suck up so much bandwidth - imagine if lots of the users started streaming all kinds of Internet and local stations what would happen.  We could have apps that use the GPS to see where you are and then either turn on the FM tuner or go to the on-line stream if you are out of town.  It would also help in times of emergency.   Also adding an FM tuner really won't cost but a few cents to build into the chips already in the phones.

So why is the Cell Phone industry banging the drum in any way to stop this?  They want to control what is on your phone and they don't want congress potentially limiting their potential or income.   They want to charge for music if at all possible in some way.  They also want to control your ability to listen to music on 'their' devices.  So what if it takes up tons of space on the network to stream - we'll just push the data rates up.  If we have to expand the network it will be because there is revenue potential in it.

Their attack is lined with 'radio is dead' - 'why should we support old tech.'  While some of that might be true I bet we end up with FM chips in our cell phones pretty soon.  In the world the research shows around 40% of the folks in Canada and Europe want FM tuners in their phones - here in the U.S. it's around 30% - the same as their desire for bigger screens on smart phones.   Look at the Vision Critical independent study here .  

While this rolls through congress we need to start working a lot harder on our wireless strategies in radio.  It doesn't matter if we get FM chips or not - the cell phone is vital to our survival.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Secrets of TSL

Building more Time Spent Listening is usually at the top of any programmers list of goals.  No matter how strong your station is there is always room for more TSL.  It's much like income - when do you have enough.

TSL used to be mostly built on perceptions - what the audience thought they listened to the most.  But, with the advent of PPM in many markets it's now about actual listening behavior.

Here are some tactics to build TSL and where they are likely to be effective:

  • Long Music Sets - This can be an effective tactic but we've often turned it into a 'who's got the biggest' war.  In the PPM behavior world having 20 minute music sets and trying to make them as clean as possible can be effective.  In the recall/diary market it helps to get a number into their heads.  Using 40 minutes or another number that with enough repetition may get them to write down 40 minutes of listening is one tactic that can help.  Working with 10 in a row may not work as well - the audience doesn't know how long a 10 song sweep lasts - what do they write down.  
  • At Work Listening - In both the diary and the PPM world at work listening is one of the biggest generators of TSL.  
  • It's Occasions that count.   The PPM data really shows the simple fact that if you can get a healthy average tune in time (say 10 minutes) and you can generate 5 sessions a day you can generate 50 minutes a day.  If you only get 3 sessions a day - you are nearly cut in half for the TSL number.   Remember TSL doesn't care if you listen for 40 minutes all at once or 4 10 minute sessions.  Often it's not about extending their current sessions - it's getting another session later.   
  • Don't trick the audience.  You're in the middle of a 40 minute music set and you slide in that 45 second promo for the trip giveaway.  Have you sent off the signal that the music set is over and it's time to head to other stations in search of more music?  The same can go for the jock speed break in the middle of the set.  Don't accidentally communicate to the audience that the set is ending or over.   
  • Billboards can help get the audience to hang through a stop set, but watch it.  We often throw 3 or 4 events or songs at them - it's almost a laundry list that they won't remember and it may go on long enough to bore them.   Keep it short and focus on 1 or maybe 2 items.   We don't need an all you can eat buffet before the spots - it only drags it out even more.  
  • Get to the Meat:  The jocks who get better TSL are the ones that get the entertainment in their breaks out front.   They don't work the long set up or the wandering storyline - they get in and comfortably move to the highlight of the break.  The engage the audience as soon as they can and move on when they have hit the mark.  Wandering around just to hear your voice or because you are not prepared forces tune out we can see in PPM and in the diary world it breeds the image of 'the jocks that waste my time and I tune out.'  Neither helps build TSL no matter the data collection system.   
Trying to improve TSL is a lot like managing a race car.   If you want to win each lap you have to tweak the set up, watch every detail, and be consistent.   It's often more about discipline than it is a lot of bold statements and smoke and mirrors.   

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Art of Being Authentic

Being Authentic is one of those magical qualities that can make anything suddenly desirable.  You see it in nearly every brand, product, entertainment venue, media and personality somewhere.  The ones that can hold on to this perception are the ones that usually win in the consumer's images and desires.    

So how do you capture this unique trait in your images with the audience?  It's not an easy one to grasp.  You can't just claim that that your brand or personality is authentic -- you have to earn it.  To earn it you have to remain true to the core images of the brand. You also have to deliver the product at a pretty high standard for enough time to be recognized.  


The key to executing a plan that captures the Authentic image is to build a list of the most important qualities and traits that are the core or foundation for the brand.  Once you have those don't compromise them. Also build your imaging around those qualities, but be careful not to over claim or over-hype.  


Much like leadership or humor being Authentic is something you earn.   You can't buy it, inherent it or just claim it.  But, once you have it you often have a quality that goes beyond the superficial and that's where the magical power comes in.  


As you set your values in Music, Imaging, Promotions, and the Personalities that make up your station and brand take a long look at the core qualities -- they are your key to achieving Authenticity.  

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Making Plans Into Reality

The biggest challenge working with stations often lies in making all the great ideas and plans we come up with into reality.  For programmers most of the tasks that get great ideas and improvements on the air revolve around 4 areas:

  1. Music Systems - Getting your scheduling system completely organized, working efficiently, and in sync with your library.  Keeping up with the trends, new music (if you play it), resting/platooning, feature programs, weekend specials, and local events (concerts etc.) all take organization, understanding of the software and constant review.   
  2. Air Staff - Keeping their momentum, training, critiquing, and show prepping are all crucial keys to turning voices into personalities.  You need a plan for everyone on your team and you have to keep working this plan to have any progress. 
  3. Imaging - This is the soul of the station's sound and your biggest opportunity to work the audience.  You can recycle them, build images for your important station values, promote events/contests,  increase your web presence and entertain with the content between the songs and around the spots.  But, you have to constantly work at it - great imaging doesn't just fall from the sky.  So often we see spurts of work in this area.  Every 3-4 months we update it, when we should have been working on it every week.   
  4. Promotion - Marketing - Building promotions, events and community presence.

When you break it down to 4 areas now you can get a handle on implementing the goals and tasks that lead to great ideas hitting the air.  The key is finding a reliable organization system - a few ideas:  

  •  Go at it daily.   Make Monday - Music Day, Tuesday Air Staff Day, Wednesday - Imaging and work promotions on Thursday.  Every week you tackle your list in each area.  
  • Go weekly - 1st week of the month is all about Promotions, the 2nd week imaging, 3rd for the Air Staff and music in the final week. 
  • Divide up your day - An hour for the Air Staff, 1/2 hour for imaging, 1/2 hour for music, an hour for promotions and sales.   
Sometimes picking one of these organization systems depends on how big the challenges are in each department and also the style of the programmer.   If you are building a morning show from scratch and they are still learning the basics it might be a daily effort for them along with taking 1 day a week and working for a couple of hours on their show.   If you've just got a music test in or are overhauling your systems it might be something you need to spend a whole week on.   Getting ready for the book or a packed summer of promotions/events might mean spending 2-3 days focusing on getting everything set to go.   

We also see lots of programmers juggling multiple stations and having to make this model work on multiple platforms making it more confusing and challenging.   

The important point here is have an organization plan.  Not just a bunch of meetings on your Outlook calendar, but an overall theme/focus to a period of time on a regular basis.  Now you can concentrate on executing in that area to get the job done - not just pick at a few items and really never accomplish the task.  It takes time and focus to get it done.   

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A New Meter for PPM

At least this meter looks like something from 2000 instead of the 80s look of the old pager meter.  While this may help get more of the panel to carry it more we still have the issue of a very small panel that doesn't change very often when you compare this sample to the larger samples we had (and still have in smaller markets) with the old diary system. Adding more sample would be a real improvement.

Perhaps the bigger news here is behind the scenes as Arbitron buys out IMMI - Integrated Media Measurement Inc.  You may wonder - who are these guys?  Here is their website.  They have been around for at least 3 years and have developed a full 'smart phone' system for collecting data on the media (radio, TV, Web, DVD, DVRs, maybe even more).  The system takes an audio sample from the smart phone every minute and then feeds the digital picture of the audio to the IMMI computer which compares the sample to what it has on file for any media it is measuring and matches up the data.  It is a lot like the BDS system we use to track airplay for music.  They have actually been measuring radio in a few markets but really haven't tried to sell much to radio operators focusing on the advertisers instead.

This could be the move to do all of the data collection on Cell Phones instead of PPM devices in the future.  And watch as Arbitron also moves into measuring all media usage with a cell phone system.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Crowded Web Running Out of Room!!

This is going to remind you of Y2K, but it is a fact this time.  We are running out of room on the Internet for IP addresses.  The current system is based on an addressing scheme designed in the 70s called IPv4 and it has room for around 4 billion addresses.   Well guess what - we are almost there and they figure we will run out of IP addresses in the next 18 months, maybe even sooner.

There is a system update called IPv6.  But, only the really big players like Google and You Tube are set up for IPv6 - really only about 25% of the big servers are in for V6.  V6 and V4 also struggle to get along so we can expect to see slower searches, slower Internet loading, and more crashes as we struggle with translating from V4 to V6.


While we all see so much potential in the web world.  It seems as if the audience views it as a place where everything is free, or everything is real cheap, and a place where you can do anything with any device no matter how small.   The reality is it's a complex place that really can't live in a cost free world.  Space on the WWW frontier will cost someone somewhere and we are all going  have to pay.  We should also expect that this super highway will soon choke up just like a 15 lane expressway in L.A. does just days after the workers finish building it.

Sean Ross from Edison Research and Radio-Info noted in a recent newsletter about his struggles with monitoring station streams on his IPhone.   His monitoring was blown out by dropouts, distorted audio, stream buffers, and freezing audio on his way from home to the office on a regular basis.

Yes the new tech world has tons of potential, but with the crush of the world inventing new devices and ways to hang out in the web world we are running out of space and the web infrastructure to handle it.   Expect more news on this as we ride through more significant growth on an system that probably can't handle all this change.

To catch more on the Web Address Shortage - click here
And for more on Sean Ross' streaming article - click here

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Working With Sales On Promotions

In most operations the days of having a big promotions budget for a contest or funding an event have faded away.  That doesn't have to stop you from building some creative on-air promotions and also helping the sales team work with some very valuable clients.  Yet we often see lots of the ideas we have in the programming meetings fall apart when we try to field them with the sales teams.  Here are some tips for both sales and programming to help build on air promotions together:  


  • Plan Ahead - Walking into a Sales meeting on August 1st to lay out a Fall Client Promotions package is way too late.  You should be approaching the sales team 6-7 months ahead of the promotion start.  
  • Bring lots of ideas and keep an open mind.  Walking in with a detailed plan that requires a Shelby Mustang for the prize and lots of rules/limits will probably end up with no clients wanting to join in.  Look at which clients have done promotions in the past, who is new or looking to make a move in the market.  Then consider what potential their products could have and look for a couple of 'example ideas' to pitch.  
  • Let the Client Join In-  If you let the client have some ownership you will probably make the sale sooner and you'll also have a lot more cooperation during the promotion.  
  • Follow Through: Once you have a promotion set to roll make sure to deliver 110%.  Make sure you get an A grade.   This does become somewhat of a marriage and you don't want to end up in divorce court with the client - it could be costly and tough on your reputation.   
  • Be Patient - If you have enough lead time you can be patient and often it takes a while to get a client interested and find the common ground to build a good promotion for both the station and their business.  
Lastly remember that Job 1 in the sales world is not selling the promotions.  It's about selling commercials and helping the clients market their products, brands and services on the air.  Promotions may help that effort for some.  Also keep in mind that promotions take time from the sales team and that time could be a sales call somewhere else with dollars involved. 

Even though your Spring book is still in the field as I write this you should be well into working on your Fall promotions.  Your sales teams should be including invitations to key clients on participating with the station in Fall promotions and you should have a number of target ideas circulating through the sales department.     

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Audience Research - The Future - Summary

With so much new media plus changes in entertainment and communications, as well as a revolution in our measurement systems we have many more questions than answers.  Asking the same old questions to a sample gathered in the ancient days of land line phones in a format that takes lots of precious time to execute will make it real hard to find the answers to so many questions.  

We have the tools and opportunity to blaze new trails in researching the audience.  But, like so much in radio we have to get our heads out of the 80s and welcome the new world.   Hopefully as we roll out of the recession some of the gains will find their way into learning about the audience in their new world.

The keys lie in moving more towards managed panels for our research base, moving more towards on-line resources with their rich databases.  The next step is to overhaul our questions to learn more about behavior instead of just reciting recalled images.  To learn more about the audience on these levels we need to look at new data gathering systems to get past the surface levels and also use new analysis techniques to get to the core of real audience actions.  We'll also need to move away from talking to them on the phone and interact with them in their world which as moved to the digital world of the web, cell phones, and smart phones/tablets.

It's not like we are really blazing a new trail here by ourselves.  A lot of other marketing research and industries have already started down this path.  Let's learn from them and start looking at the audience's behavior and how we can be a stronger part of it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Audience Research - The Future - Data Collection

It's obvious that we are in the middle of a revolution in communication.  With cell phones and the Internet we suddenly have a whole new platform that is evolving in a full digital world following Moore's law.   The law is built on the capacity of integrated circuits which doubles every 2 years - and with it we double the capability the the circuits and their applications.  We no longer talk on our cell phones, we text, surf the Internet, blog, tweet, Facebook, take pictures, shoot movies, and now have millions of apps that do almost anything.

In the Radio Research world a lot of what we do still relies on talking on the phone or filling out pen and paper forms - like the diary.   Our measurement is moving away from this model with the PPM, but is our perceptual and music research following along?

When you think about the telephone perceptual it's a lengthy world.   We have to read off long lists of stations, music mix descriptors, personality names, image descriptions and if we want open ended comments someone has to transcribe them.  It limits the amount of information we can get from them and the time they will stay on the phone.  We also have that interaction with the interviewer which sometimes holds people back from their real actions and thoughts.

Moving perceptual research online opens up a lot of doors.  We often get a lot more open ended responses with very valuable impressions and images, we can cover long list of images, stations and other questions much quicker.  There are also lots of animation options that will allow us to use dial type scales and other ways to collect data that gives us more insight than just the 1-7 scale. Imagine what we could do with the I-Pad touch screen!

Online research also moves at the pace of the responder - not the pace of the music test or the interviewer, the sample can come back to the questionnaire/music list at their schedule.  And of course we can add audio, video and pictures/images into the mix with ease.

Having tried out a few on-line perceptual studies we've seen the potential.  While we have all done a quick survey on-line there is a lot more that can be done in this environment.  Some innovative researchers working with other product lines have started to push the envelope in questionnaire design and the potential is very impressive.

It's a whole new world of potential and possibilities that we haven't even tapped into .  Perhaps as we start to dig into audience research again in our budgets we'll have the courage to innovate instead of just replicate.

In our last post in this series we'll summarize the thoughts early next week.   Please feel free to add yours.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Audience Research - The Future - The Questions

The usual pattern in most research studies really ends up with the same questions.   We start with their 'cume' behavior/recall and then narrow it to most listened to stations then we move on to the body of the questions .  We craft music blends for them to evaluate, ask about Morning shows, other personalities, maybe at work listening, contests, marketing efforts and maybe a few questions about the web site (have you been there).   Sometimes we are on a format search where the music mixes or other descriptive moments take more time in the questions.  There's always the pressure of keeping it under 25 minutes on the phone so we really don't have that much time.

Notice that the only area that is about their behavior is in the Cume and which stations they listen to the most.  An even there we may see the most marketed station win even though we look down their answers and they don't really know much about that station in the other parts of the study.  Where do they listen to radio the most, and what are those stations?  How passionate are they? Are they super radio users or just casual tuners?  Do they jump around as soon as the music sets end?

Also what kind of people are they?  Are they innovators that latch on to new concepts or products or are they laggards who are just figuring out innovations that happened years ago?  Or are they in that mass in the middle and where do they rank in that segment?

A few more questions about them before we dive into their perceived listening habits would really help us learn a lot more about what their actual behavior might be.  Right now we are mostly learning what they recall about our products and not a lot about how they use them.  Recall worked in the diary days - now it's about real behavior.  We have to find the secrets to making our products perform on a different plane

Many products and industries have used this type of research for years - dating back to the 60s and while it's gone through a number of evolutions it's still in use today.  Finding the key links in the sample or population and building products that use the keys to open doors to the bigger groups has been a big element for many industries.  

Now how do we communicate with the sample?  A lot has changed in the last few decades let's take a look in our next segment later in the week.  

Monday, May 10, 2010

Audience Research - The Future - The Sample

The land line phone and a random sample from the general population taken from the phone number listings has been the base for research since the late 50s.   Since radio really didn't get into ratings till the 60s and audience research in the 70s we started in the telephone era and for the most part haven't evolved much.

Now the world has obviously changed and the tides of radio research are also on the verge of changing.

First we have the land line telephone - which is quickly dying.   We are now at over 25% of the population who don't even have a land line and in some demos it's nearly 40%.  The number of Cell Phone converts grows every day and we can't call them on their cells.   Arbitron has begun the shift to try and integrate more and more cell phone households into the sample frame, but has our perceptual and music testing research?  It's not become a widespread practice, because it's hard to try and set up systems to reach cell phone only households for a survey done 1 or 2 times year.

2nd the audience has clearly changed the way they communicate.  Written snail mail and actually talking on a phone (cell or land line) are both evolving to new worlds.   With the internet we communicate in a whole new world from email to text messaging to social networks and many more evolutions to come at the speed of the internet where every 18 months we see innovations all over the place.  But, how do we communicate or research our audience?  While we have dabbled in on-line music testing, some station database questions, and maybe a few have actually done an on line perceptual test most of the time we still talking on the  phone and punching the responses into a CATI software program.

The new answers may well lie in managed panels.  Really a phone listing is a form of a managed panel of households that have phones.  In this case the panels could be built from a wide collection of on-line sources and serve as a sample base to draw from.   There are managed panels all over the place already that we could tap into and use that base to reach out on many platforms on line to gather the data.  We have started to use them for some online music testing and a few questions from our station databases, but our valid concern is just talking to our fans and not the whole market.

We also have to take a look at the new world of PPM.   This is really a managed panel of the market that is carrying around the meters for months and even years.  It's different from the old random draw of the sample that took place every week.   Here the sample is pulled with only a few replacements every week or month.  Instead of getting a snapshot of a few people's listening habits for a week we get a full length movie of them over 6 months, a year and maybe even 18 months.

Radio research used to rely on the random sample and in today's world trying to poll everyone doesn't yield enough specific information for us to work with.  More and more we need to stratify the sample and narrow the vision to those we have a chance to reach with our products when we do audience research for perceptual and music surveys.

There are panels out there, the key is grooming them so we can use them to research our product.  Many others have already started.  NASCAR, PPG, the auto companies, and many of the major retailers already work hard to grow panels that they can rely on to help them keep momentum with the audience on their products.   We need to start to find ways to make this work on much bigger scale than just our newsletter email list.

We also need to start asking new questions to learn more about behavior and not just about what they remember of our products.   We'll cover some thoughts there in a few days.   Feel free to chime in and contribute your thoughts on these topics.  Everyone's help will be needed.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Audience Research - The Future

Over the last 4-5 years doing audience research for music testing and perceptual studies has been an expense that has in many cases been deemed too expensive.   With the economy struggling, lots of competition from new media, and the need for every manager to cut expenses research seemed to fall off the table.   Clear Channel pretty much dismantled it's in house Critical Mass Media and left BA research on the table.  Other groups curtailed a lot of their work in studying the audience and many smaller owners also cut back.  

The reality here is that in many cases we've gone a long time guiding our ships in ever changing seas of new competition, audience evolution, and life style changes that no doubt have affected how the audience uses the product and their passion levels for it.  Now the economy is improving and perhaps we are getting ready to return to doing some audience research.

A lot has changed with a completely new measurement system in many markets.  The old sample system of using  mostly land line phones to gather the panel is suspect as so many people have turned off their land lines for cell phones.  Even Arbitron is using different systems to gather the sample to include non or limited land line participants in all markets.  We also have new opportunities using the internet for research that we have only done a few experiments with.

Much of our perceptual research in the past was built completely on recall behavior.  After all our whole game in the diary days was built on recall.  It really didn't matter if they really listened to our morning show every day, if they had high recall and impressions of the show we often got credit for listening.  If they could remember it to write it down - game over.  Making the impression still matters a lot, but we also need them to listen.

It's time to scrap the old questionnaires, the old auditorium tests, and the call out studies and come up with some new systems to find answers to new questions.  But, is anyone up for the experimentation it's going to take?  Over the next 10 days let's take a look at some opportunities to remodel our research here - I'll be bringing in some ideas and thoughts, but if you have any please feel free to contribute with your comments.  

First up - The Sample in just a few days.  

Thanks

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cell Phone Only Households


Arbitron has been working overtime to include more and more Cell Phone Only households into their reports in nearly every market.  Diary or PPM you will now see more of these growing number of households included.

They have integrated both the Telephone Based Sample base and a Address Based Sample into their overall sample pool.   The national average for Cell Phone Only households is 22.7% as of the 2009 research from the Center of Disease Control (they do 2 studies a year that have become the benchmark here).

Of course we'll see this number increase as the data is updated and if you look at various demos (like 18-34s) the number is much higher than 22.7%.

It's also different for individual markets and Arbitron has just released a cell phone only household map of the country for the Arbitron Markets.   Take a look (Arbitron Cell Phone Only Map).

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Talent Coaching and Management

We've all heard that on-air talent that just seems to flow on the air.   They sound comfortable, prepared, spontaneous, plugged into the audience and entertaining.   So what's their secret and how can you spread this good virus to the rest of the staff?  After working with a lot of talent over the years I usually focus on these 4 steps:
  1. Comfortable - We've all see the performer or comedian that just doesn't seem comfortable.  It's usually disturbing to watch and no matter how good the material they usually fall apart.   Of course there have been comedians that build their whole routine around being uncomfortable, but for the most part if you are not comfortable in the studio, behind the mic, with the audience, with their PD/Coach, with the station's image/style, and with themselves it doesn't work.   It's a lot to 'get comfortable with' but the real performers have that comfort level dialed in when the mic is open.   
  2. Confident - Is it any mystery that the best talent is nearly always the ones with the biggest ego?  When you have that level of confidence your communication cuts through.  But to be confident you first have to be comfortable.   
  3. Understands the Audience - Do they visualize and really know who is on the other side of the mic?   Do they also understand how the overall station communicates and images itself to the audience?  If they do then they can take full advantage of their comfort and confidence to cut through to the audience.   
  4. Prep - Not only do you need to connect with the audience you also need to organize the prep so it integrates into the show.   The key here is making sure you know 'what is really important to the audience today' and also 'what is really important on the station today.'   They are often not the same thing - the big talk in the audience might be the new I Pad or a Movie while the big news at the station might be that Slash has a new CD out.   Find the answers to both and then you know how to prep.   
If your talent is hitting on these 4 cylinders I bet they have a passionate audience, high recall scores and they will likely out perform the other dayparts.    

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Imaging

What we do between the songs and out of the spot breaks is one of the clear identifiers of our product.   Without it we are often just a limited collection of songs spinning around with perfect turnovers perhaps researched in the market or maybe drawn from a national safe list.

So often we just focus on our position - The Rock Station or Classic Rock for .... or Real Rock.  Then we let the creativity roll with lots of zaps, zings, and maybe a few clips or music hooks with the big voice.

In recent years with the advent of PPM and we got to see the quick trigger finger of the audience many stations went on an imaging diet scared that anything over 5 seconds was a tune out.  

We also often get pretty lofty with our claims and no doubt the BS indicator in the audience is at def con 5.

While the creativity and honesty is a big tactical issue in our imaging we also have to take a long look at the strategic side.  What are we really promoting - what are we really impressing on the audience?  What do we really want them to remember about our product and more importantly what actions do we want them to retain?  

No doubt you have a pretty long list of actions for them to increase their time spent with the station as well as the overall image you project to them.   Maybe you want to highlight your longer music sets, get them to listen more at night, listen more on the weekends, or keep your hot morning show in front of them and the competition.  Or maybe you want to use this time to build your position in the community or get more on the job listening.  

Do you have a real plan here or just a bunch of audio files spinning around in your studio system?  How much control do you really have over the plan?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Conventions

Just got back from an interesting Canadian Music Week convention.  The meetings were laced with lots of digital themes and concern over the next decade.   Hats off to Neil and the CMW team on another great series of meetings and showcases.

On the way we have an NAB in Las Vegas and I got an interesting offer from Jason Rouse from the NAB Travel Team.  He wanted to pass on the following offer to all McVay Media Rocks Blog readers and since it's 'free' well -----


There have been some rapid changes over the last few years that we as a digital broadcasting community face. The 2010 NAB Show is the place to discover new opportunities for all of us in the broadcaster world.

The NAB Show is coming up faster than you think – April 10-15 in Las Vegas! For a taste of what the 2010 NAB Show has to offer, check out what the Broadcast Management Conference and discover how to further monetize and manage your digital products in today’s dynamic marketplace: http://ow.ly/15xv1

Oh, and just because you are reading my blog, I’m giving out a code for FREE ACCESS to the Exhibit Hall at the show. This free Exhibits-Only pass includes (but is not limited to):

- Access to the Opening Keynote and State of the Industry Address
- Info Sessions
- Content Theater and Destination Broadband Theater

Visit http://ow.ly/13T8Q today to redeem or register at http://nabshow.com/register with the code A913 (and feel free to pass this along).

Don't forget to check out the official show website at http://www.nabshow.com for more information, news, and to register

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A Decade Later

Just for FUN let's set the Peabody and Sherman Way Back Machine to 10 years ago in the world of Radio and Records:

  1. Clear Channel had just purchased Jacor and was getting set to close on AMFM to own over 1,000 stations.  They also owned a large billboard network, TV stations and controlled the Concert/live performance world.  
  2. CCU - stock approaches $100 a share. 
  3. Larry Wilson still owns Citadel which he will sell in a year. 
  4. Cumulus is preparing to expand it's smaller market holdings and is into it's 3rd year. 
  5. XM satellite radio is planning to launch in 18 months. 
  6. The record biz total revenue was over 38 billion for 1999 (it's around 10 billion now
  7. Somewhere at Apple HQ they were drawing up the plans for the IPod which launched in Oct of 2001
  8. Top artists on the CHR charts - Santana, Christina Aguilera, Lonestar, Faith Hill, Blink 182
When you take the Way Back Machine back to the Spring of 2000 it was filled with so much potential.  I remember sitting in an early Clear Channel - AMFM merger meeting and looking around the room in amazement at the talent, the power of 1000 stations in all but 2 or 3 markets in the top 100.  Having 2 or 3 research companies dedicated to the CC stations.  Owning the big talent like Rush, Rick Dees, Bob and Tom, John Boy/Billy, and more.  Owning a full service network with tons of programming resources.  Having 100s of great programmers all dedicated to making a winning company.  

It's too bad we can't just use the Way Back Machine and go back.  What would have happened if we'd tapped all that potential of a Radio industry ready to grow into a nationwide marketing monster, the ability to own enough stations to really build huge revenue with massive cash flow margins.  A record industry poised on a whole new delivery system that could eliminate the need to ship CDs or Tapes all over the world and make music truly portable and on demand.  Instead we all know the realities we face today.  Let's hope when we set the Way Back Machine for 2010 in 10 years the picture is much better than this trip back.   

In case you never saw Sherman and Peabody - 



Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Radio Industry and Coffee



















Yes, we do drink our fair share, but here I wanted to dig a little deeper and compare our rather young industry to one that's been around for centuries -- perhaps we can learn a few lessons.   

Coffee's origins date to the 1500s coming from Ethiopia in it's bean form and was first prepared in the way we drink it today in Yemen a little while later.  With Europe trading with the world at the same time the drink spread to England and the rest of Western Europe and by 1600 was pretty well known.  

At the time drinking water was a very dangerous idea.  The supply in much of Europe was loaded with bacteria and had already caused a few plagues.  The European population solved the polluted water issues by drinking Beer.   A small glass in the mornings to refresh, a break at 10 for another beer, one with lunch, a break in the afternoon followed by an evening of quenching the thirst with the brew.  It did avoid Cholera, but it did leave the working population in a bit of a daze much of the day.  

That proved to be a problem as the industrial revolution was starting.   Workers floating through the day on the beer diet was dangerous around primitive machines and it also killed productivity.   Coffee was the perfect answer.  Since the water had been boiled it was disease free and the caffeine kept the workers sped up and alert, helping productivity.  

Coffee spread around the world as the beans moved to Latin and South America, Hawaii, Vietnam, and through Africa.  Coffee became the most traded commodity in the world - only replaced in the last century by oil.  Coffee was largely produced by family owned business' who crafted the brews carefully.  It was largely made in coffee shops and in factories and not much at home.   

As the 20th century hit Coffee grew with the population and the full fledged industrialization of the world.  The family business' became absorbed into bigger and bigger corporations.   As the accountants and marketing execs took over coffee it changed.  The advent of the percolator in the 1920s started to bring coffee home.  Only problem is the percolator kept reheating and restraining the coffee till it tasted awful.  The other option was instant coffee which was brewed and then preserved or so finely ground it lost it's flavor also.  Instead of seeking out new technology for home brewing or finding another model to keep the quality of the product in place the coffee execs just kept lowering the standards to cut the price.  Saving a few cents now became the only goal.   Profit margin trumped everything and product quality was a costly drain on that margin. 

By the 60s and 70s Coffee was a dying commodity.  They had watered it down by moving to Robusta beans over the Arabica blends.   The Robusta beans have more caffeine but a lot less flavor - which didn't matter much because with the percolator or in instant form it tasted like junk no mater what.  By the late 70s the industry was seeing no growth and some steep declines in consumption.  The only thing moving the profits around was weather conditions often pushing up the price on the coffee crop.  There were many other pick me up drinks to go to like soft drinks also marketing themselves to a younger generation.   

So how did coffee recover and regain it's market?  In the 80s the advent of the drip machines helped build more consumption, but the product still wasn't much better and it flattened out as the decade closed.  Then came Starbucks.  Their blend of high quality beans, stores on every corner and strong marketing through the 90s and the last decade helped.   This germ spread and now we find much higher quality coffee even at McDonald's.  Coffee is now prepared in elaborate drip machines with fresh ground beans or in home espresso makers.  Even in the office we now see individually brewed machines.   

Right now we seem to be in the 60s and 70s era of coffee's history.  Cutting back on every level and lowering our standards as well as watching our market take a dive.   Really we all know the way out and really it's not that complicated.  Now off to the machine for a cup of Hazelnut Afternoon Brew.   Just think, if this was 1450 I'd be tipping an afternoon pint.