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.