Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 Trends

As we head into 2012 there are a number of 'trends' developing that are worth noting. I don't want to call these predictions - just some areas that affect our audience that are emerging and worth watching:
  • Social Networks - They continue to grow and occupy the lion's share of most people's on-line time which seems to grow even more as more smart phones and mobile apps allow you to be on-line all the time.  The big trend in 2011 was the evolution of the networks to complete mass acceptance.  There are nearly a billion FB accounts and the marketing/branding world is out in full force and with FB going public in 2012 they will dominate the news.  Those who don't master social networks for building their brands and realize how to integrate the potential of radio's huge reach into a social network strategy will be ones that hold back our industry.  Right now it's a 2 team world - the rest of the networks are small niche players at best - to play you have to look at these 2:
    • Facebook - Will continue to grow and evolve but it's not the new kid on the block and every change will be widely challenged.  Marketers and brands are also taking up lots of content space here and could hurt FB if they are not careful.  The minute FB seems more like corporate hype and one big un-creative banner ad it could be replaced.  
    • Twitter - It's the service with momentum right now with 400 million users in sight soon.  Marketing in a 140 character world is a challenge.  This will be the opportunity in 2012 much as Facebook became a force for radio brands in 2010 and 2011. 
  • The Election - We have SO MUCH media space to fill that this election will be a pretty tiring event for the audience.  Look at the developments as they relate to radio content here: 
    • Super PAC and PAC money - The high court ruling that PACs can spend as much as they want has set the stage for a nuke explosion of dollars to be spent.  
    • More Talk FMs - While we haven't seen them pull shares yet - they will pull in lots of dollars and we can also expect to hear a lot about this election in the commercials.   Just look at Iowa where the airwaves are flooded and it's only a Republican Caucus.  
    • All over the Net - On the social networks, on your phone, all over your searches and dominating any web site you visit with targeted political content.  Your computer and your TV will look like this for 6 to 7 months:

    • Content - We have tons of political web sites, news services, networks, TV stations, cable news services, network news, bloggers, on-line news sites, newspapers, magazines and PAC sites disguised as news sites all searching for the big story to draw all eyes their way.  And they have to do it over and over again with the onset of each news cycle.  Is it any wonder that any Washington story can suddenly become a crisis?  Is some of the grid lock in congress coming from too many sides to any issue and a media so fixed on everything that everyone is afraid to move?  
    • Overload - This all sets up radio for a complete overload of our airwaves.  
  • PPM - As we gather more data and see more of the PPM listening trends expect to see more programming ideas and rules change.  Bow Tie clocks, quick fire entertainment/personality, tighter show prep, an evolution in imaging tactics, and lots of concern over sample size.  
  • Research - The industry needs a full overhaul.  We have so much data from the web, PPM, On-line surveys, Facebook Metrics, and web searches that the old music test or perceptual seems like super slow motion in a hypersonic world.
  • Being Local - Even as we see more trends to syndicated and voice tracked dayparts remember that just because we don't have someone local behind the mic doesn't mean that a brand or station cannot be a HUGE force and have a BIG local presence.  Take an honest look at what the 'local personalities' did to really be local on the air and off - there are more people who are just voices on the transmitter here than real people in the community.  
  • Being Authentic - The real key to marketing our clients products/services and building our brands is CONTENT.  Having creative content that is authentic and draws the attention of the audience is the only way to build any momentum in today's marketing universe.  We have so many delivery options from broadcast, the web, social networks, going viral, You Tube, billboards, print, product placement, sports tie ins and who knows what else that the audience is drowning in hype.   The only way to rise above the hype is to have some authentic entertaining content.   If we'd start to focus on building this into the campaigns we sell (both on the air and in the digital world) we will become a huge force in marketing again.  
  • New Web Gadget/Gimmicks - Last year we saw the rise of Pandora and the lure of Groupon.   In the end we can see how both are fairing in the stock world.  Pandora went public and while it held it's ground it's not likely to light the world on fire in a business sense.  Trying to mount a local sales force for Pandora in every market and living in a royalty world that will limit their income as they grow is not a model that will sell on Wall Street.  Groupon is too easily copied and really ends up being just another hyped up marketing model.  Really radio answered these threats pretty well - the advance of the CBS and Clear Channel into the streaming world is a good answer.  Groupon is being hit a lot by local stations that have built their own answers for clients.  There will be new gadgets next year - maybe one of them will be RADIO!!! We do have lots of advantages that are being ignored. 
  • Music - A big transition year.  Rap/Hip Hop is getting pretty extreme in the language and topics.  The pop world has been living for a long time on the young world of Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Ga Ga and their LPs from 2 years ago.  What will evolve?  Indie Rock with unique instruments, lyrics, and presence?  A new breed of rocker that isn't a copy of Nickleback? An authentic country voice that isn't really a pop singer in boots? A singer songwriter that impacts the Hot AC and AC world - or is that Adele?  Watch for new music on your desk this year -- the audience is ready for the Next Thing not a rehash of the last thing. 
The real note here is that we have a restless audience.  They are ready to 'occupy anything' because they are ready for something different and perhaps new.  But, in the end they are looking to be entertained and being a part of a community.  The other challenge is a world where there are new product distribution options all the time - staying on top of them and investing quickly and wisely will keep our brands in front of the audience.  If we can keep those areas as our top priorities making money, building EBITA, hitting budgets and keeping Radio a strong player in the mix will happen automatically.  Happy 2012!!!!   

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Personalization Bubble

As we work in our Broadcasting world and the ever increasing Social Media and Web world that we interact and build our audience's with there are some important lessons here in this presentation by Eli Pariser at a recent TED conference.

His thought here is that in our web and digital world we are living in such a personalized bubble that is filtered constantly analyzing everything we read, share, click on, and interact with that we can end up living in our own world.  Very interesting thought - and the more you think about it - very true.

We come from Broadcasting where the only filter is - changing the channel to another station.  It does give the audience a community.   Eli's view here is that in the Personalized web world we could be turning into individualists.

The other thought to take away is 'how to work and interact in the individualistic world the audience is building - with the help of the Social Media sites and Search Engines.  

Monday, December 05, 2011

Times Are A Changing As Always

Perhaps it's the holiday season or the excitement of a new year approaching, but I've been thinking about the some broad stroke perspectives.   

As we enter 2012 we are in the middle of celebrating some anniversaries.  We will soon have around 20 years of the web under our belts -- the first Nexus browser came out in 1990 and the Mosaic browser (far easier to use and the template for what we have today) in 1993.  It was around 10 years ago in 2002 when High Speed Internet access was only in 10% of the homes - now it's well over 70%.   And when you really look back to around 30 years ago we saw personal computers move from being a hobby to a full fledged industry with Apple- IBM squaring off and Microsoft starting to brew software.  It was also around 20 years ago that we saw the first portable cell phones that could actually be carried around without a bag or a being the size of a brick - those 1980s lug-able phones are nearly 30 years old now.

These evolutionary anniversaries signal some big changes in all of lives here on Planet Earth.   Look at some of the random examples that seem to stand out when you step back : 
  • Christmas Cards - Notice that you are getting fewer and fewer every year?  Sending off a few Email cards, dropping everyone a tweet or a Facebook greeting, or perhaps a text will do. 
  • Paper - We seemed to be drowning in paper 30 years ago.  So much of what we did in transacting our lives and creating content came from using paper.  While we still use a lot of the stuff - we can see a day when paper will be rare - sort of like stone tablets. 
  • Physical Presence: In the 80s and 90s we began to see the potential of a world where we were able to have a nearly full communication experience without needing a physical exchange. 
  • Telephones - It's clearly the all purpose tool of the future.  If you go back to the big inventions of 100 or so years ago it would have to be the mass acceptance of - Autos, Electricity, Airplanes, Phones and Radio/TV.   While all of these has evolved to some degree the biggest growth has clearly come in phones over the last 30 years.  It's been able to evolve and morph with so many other innovations.  
  • World Communication - The planet has never seemed closer in a connected way, yet we also seem to be showing more division in beliefs and struggling to find common ground in many ways.  It's great that we can all communicate so freely but it also requires that we have open minds and be curious and tolerant of a planet that will pass 7 billion people early in 2012.  
  • Demographics and Generations - We are moving faster in communication and information with every generation to a point where the gaps between various age groups is sometimes dramatic.  Look at all that has evolved and changed to a person who is in their 70s or 80s today.   We are moving at an ever increasing rate of speed that requires that you keep up or fall way behind. 
  • Elections - It will be a big year for big talk.  The influence of the evolution of our communication abilities is having a huge impact on elections.  With all the discussion of issues and drama, that is so open and interactive, elections, and our expectations of the leaders that evolve from them, is something we will have to learn and adjust to.  Maybe we will realize that Superman was fiction - none of us on this planet is that good.    Maybe the people will regain their voices in a world that seems to be more and more influenced by commerce over community. 
I'm sure you have lots of examples to add here, but as we get set for 2012 the big point that  there is a lot to reflect on.   It should be an exciting year as we start to see economies recover, perhaps some hopes for a more peaceful planet as a number of countries/cultures are evolving and changing, and the ability to communicate so quickly and freely continues to speed up our evolution.   

It will also be a year when we will no doubt hear a lot about the Mayan Calendar which seems to end on December 21st by all of the calculations and speculation we can piece together.   While some have predicted the end of the world and cosmic events - perhaps we have been working towards a big moment in our evolution and that is what they foresaw. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How Sample Changes the Game

The recent news that an analysis of Facebook friends has shrunk the old 6 Degrees of Separation theory down to 4.74 world wide and 4.37 in the U.S.  You can read all about it here.  This is a significant finding to all of us in radio programming on a couple of levels:

  1. The Audience is woven tighter than we imagined.  The real power to spread your reach and to gain more P1s really lies in the audience you already have.  If you can start a 'spark' in that group it can spread quickly.  The key is starting the spark.  
  2. Social Networks are playing a huge role.  The ability to interact with the audience and grow it's size has never been easier.  
  3. Sample Size does matter.   We've always lived on random sample world of the normal curve and standard deviations to predict the size of our audience, the music they like, the images they carry on our products.  The original study in the 60s that produced the 6 Degree theory was based on 296 volunteers who sent postcards to friends.  The Facebook 4.7 Degree theory was based on breaking down the 'friends' data of millions of users.  They had ample data from everyone on Facebook to see who they were connected to.  This is a 25% difference in the numbers here.   That is a pretty big swing from one study to the other.   Consider if you downloaded your next book and found the numbers swinging 25% up or down for no obvious reason.  The bigger sample size did show a significant difference in the result.  
The real lesson for us here are points 1 and 2.  If you start to visualize your audience as an interlinked group of people and start to interact with them on their level you have the potential to develop a huge reach.  Working from the 'bottom up' - one listener to another - is the path to building your reach.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

No Time For Social Media??

Just what the programming team needed, another task to accomplish.   Chances are your brand is trying to  keep up with the audience and the community while you seem to have fewer players on the team than you ever imagined a few years ago.

Now you've made the dive into Social Media in addition to your web site and of course keeping the content hot out of the speakers.  The Facebook Page and the Twitter worlds need attention if you are going to build and interact with your listeners.   Having just 2,000 likes when your on-air cume is 100,000 doesn't make Facebook very effective.   Just posting some pics on the page and pushing the air staff to 'post some stuff' won't help you develop a conversation with the audience or build the size of your fans in either Twitter or Facebook.   It has to be topical, entertaining, unique and clever if it's going to have an impact on the audience.  Obvious self promotion can be a big problem in building you brand - this audience is pretty marketing savvy and doesn't enjoy boring tricks.

The key to making Facebook and Twitter work is having an organization or a system so you can start to get a view of what is working and what is not.  Just like we have Selector to help us play the HITS more often and control the music  you need to have some kind of system to manage the posts on Facebook and Twitter.  Having a system that also makes it easy to create in is also a big plus.  Being able to post videos, pics, audio, flash, links, and with a system that is simple for everyone to grasp.  You can't spend hours messing around with training or complex computer systems.

We also need to know what is working and what is being ignored or damages our brand.  Just as we used charts, sales, call out, research and requests to get a picture of the music we play we need data here on how the audience interacts with the posts.

Then there is monitoring the pages.  Keeping the language under control, making sure no one is spamming you and your audience and also being able to follow up on any questions or complaints from the fans.  You can't spend your life with Facebook on your screen 24/7 to be the site police.

Lastly you have to use all the features of the page.   Making up contests, building tab pages, linking the stream, promoting events, directing them to the website, adding them to your database, and biggest of all getting them to listen to the station more.   You also have to do all of this within Facebook's rules.  Forgetting to use their contest rules and follow their regulations can cost you your page and all of it's fans.

Opps almost forgot you also have to keep up with the Facebook and even Twitter news feed scoring systems.  Appearing on your fan's news feeds with the new system of top stories is even harder than it was.  You have to have relevant, vibrant and topical content to get in their club today.  The only way to improve is to keep an eye on your progress and measure what is working and not working.  You need constant feedback to keep up.

To get all of this you'll need a lot of sources.  There are publishers and some include some analytics.   Facebook also tells you some facts about how the fans are using your pages in their metrics.  You can go to your graphic/web team to try and get help designing Tab pages for contests etc.   Facebook does some monitoring for you, but it may not keep your team from needing to watch the page.  Lots of jumping around for the facts here.

Then, of course, you have to manage the team.  Teach them how to use all these tools and how to entertain the audience in a medium that nearly everyone is still learning about.   It's also a world where Facebook or Twitter can change the rules at anytime or one where new tactics can pop up and change the game quickly.

The big brands are hiring whole teams to manage their Social Media presence.    Look at the Gatorade Social Media HQ!!!

There are programs to help you get it all organized.  There are system developing here, if you want to know more contact me.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

RIF = Reinventing Radio

The recent lay offs in Radio now known as a Reduction In Force is sad especially for those with a pink slip.  The news stories and comments all over the web/social media lament the loss of our brothers/sisters in radio and much of the content is pretty negative on the bigger broadcasters and also on the state of radio.

Many wonder how radio will become a strong local force with fewer bodies in the building.  How will they create local content when much of it comes from programmers or computers or air talent in far away places?  Isn't 'Local' radio's ace in the hole with internet radio?

Radio is re-inventing itself and the priorities are different than the model we built in the 80s, and earlier that we all seem to cling to.  Some of it comes from consolidation, some from computers being able to do the work as well as network, there is new competition, new ratings systems, and new opportunities to distribute on new media.

We have woken up on a different planet.  The gravity is different allowing us to move quicker and the communication has evolved.  Yet we still seem to move in an organization that lives on the old planet.

Radio has had opportunities to evolve in the past and in many cases we've made valiant attempts, but in the end the foundations of the industry seem to struggle.  The pressure has built and now we are at a point where the structure within the stations will be clearly different ahead.

While it may be very hard to find good news here - there is!!  Just as radio became a desperate media in the 50s as TV hijacked the audience we took on a whole new structure.  Radio re-invented self on a new planet.  That time has clearly come again - in fact it's way over due.  Really we should have been evolving a lot more over the last 10 years as the internet and new media world has evolved.

If you are on the hunt to get back into radio, build your career, or hang on to your job there are new worlds to conquer and explore:

  • Social Media - A lot of our interaction and promotion within the audience will come from Social Media.  It doesn't matter if we can make money on it or not - we have to use social media to keep and build our relationship with the audience.  The good news is it doesn't cost much - but we do need more than just a bunch of random posts that the audience doesn't care about.  You need organization and a well orchestrated strategy.  'Commin up the new Blink 182 on The Rock' isn't 'interacting' with the social network.   
  • Have a REAL Presence in the community - The days of the jock showing up at an event and hanging out in some back office doing cut in breaks - avoiding the audience - are way over.  You got to work the crowd and make lots of friends where ever you can.  You can see that Clear Channel took out a lot of air staff members that were not top 3 in their daypart or of a huge value to the station.  If you're just a nice voice on the radio that hides in the sound proof control room it's real hard to hold your value.  Work the room and build your fans.   Yes it may be harder with fewer staffers to build community presence but take a long look at the effort we put out now and even in the days of big staffs.  Really it was mostly a few events and some client remotes.  Even if you are down to the last DJ you can do better.  
  • Understand the data - Just as Money Ball changed the baseball world with data in the 90s PPM is changing our world.  Even if you don't have PPM understand the new world of watching the real reaction of the audience to what we do on the air.   Also keep up on web metrics, Facebook interaction analysis, and how the audience is using apps.  We've never had so much data on the audience before and it's a lot to digest - but we'd better learn it or...... 
  • See the Future -  It's a whole new world and everyone needs to learn how to build their team in it.We have to be 'geeks' on technology - falling behind can be costly. 
  • Improve Management Skills - If you are a manager do your best to be organized and have a strategy.  Sending everyone out for a pass is usually a bad play and too often we just dive in.  It does take time but if you get organized and get your priorities set for every day you can lead everyone to accomplish a lot of the skills noted above.  

Yes, seeing the industry that we've all worked hard in and had lots of fun creating go through all these changes can be a struggle.   Is everything the bigger groups are doing in our industry right?  Maybe not - surely they will have some lemons.  But remember - the minute we stop changing and evolving is likely to be one of our last minutes.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sports Mania Season and Radio

It happens every Fall when we have 'sports mania' just dominating the viewing and listening habits of many a male.  It's so easy to fall into all the excitement as College Football builds in October with so many teams in the hunt and great rivalries nearly every weekend.  Baseball heading into the World Series with intense match ups of the best teams.  NFL Football in the middle of the season and the race to the playoffs in December building. Then you also have Tiger Woods returning to Golf (and failing again), the start of Hockey, the NASCAR season racing to it's championship moment and if we had NBA they would be opening up their season also.

You can see the impact by just looking at the network ratings from last Saturday night where the Ohio State/Nebraska game and the baseball games combined for 13 million and the rest of the network line up just cracking 6 million.

On Monday (10/10) you could wear out the remote moving from the Lions/Bears game to the Brewers/Cards and the Tigers/Rangers games.

It's also prime time for Sports Radio as they cover and discuss all the games and the ongoing NBA disputes.  Even if your team is out of it the discussion can be even stronger that the play by play - just look at Boston or Philly right now.   Boston is blowing up the Red Sox after wiping out in the playoffs.  Philly doesn't know what to do with the Phillies dream team - pick to win it all in April out of the action.  Or should they worry about the Eagles and all their problems?

Is it any wonder that male leaning music formats like Classic Rock, Active Rock, and Alternative have a tough time keeping the audience engaged.   We often see the shares for the Rock formats drop in the Fall and Sports is a big part of it.  But, do we focus on how we could stand out in this season?  Some stations have gone to teaming up with the teams like WDVE in Pittsburgh.  Others just take their medicine.  Take a close look at the situation in your market.  Are their opportunities?  Could you create more excitement on your own and help pull the audience your way? Can you join in the sports mania and suck in some of the impact?

Whatever opportunities there are you have to have a plan and that takes time to develop.  Now is your opportunity to take a close look at the environment in your market and look at your options.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Budget Goals for 2012

It's budget time for many as we get set for 2012.  Years ago it seemed like budget season was the time to draw up the wish list.  Asking for funds for more research, raises for the air staff, a bigger (or any) promotion budget and maybe a few new toys for the team is probably not an options for any of the Programmers or Brand Builders.  The goal that most have is likely to be - what can I cut out without bleeding too much?

While you many not be thinking of goals for your 2012 programming budgets there is one that every station should have.


This goal doesn't have to be fed with lots of budget lines.  It doesn't cost a lot to keep a healthy Twitter and Facebook presence.  It doesn't cost a lot to build and keep a strong presence in the community.  Yes there is staff-power needed for both efforts but I bet if you take the time to lay out a solid strategy and plan as part of your budget season you can reach this goal.   

And with all the competition from so much media hitting the audience building and executing a plan to interact and stay in front of your audience has to be at the top of your list.  

2010 Census - The End of 25-54?

A lot of the data from the 2010 U.S. Census is out and there are some surprises when you step back and look at the big demographic picture of the country.   I have built a comparison spread sheet of the 5 year demos from 2010 (on the left) and 2000 (on the right).  Also broken out are 18 year breakouts that roughly correspond to the 'generations' (Y - X - Boomer-Etc).  You can see that we really have 3 nearly equal segments here.  The under 19s are around 27%, the 20-39s are also close to 27% and the 40-59s are just over 27%.  The under 60 population is nearly equally split.

The Generations are roughly broken out below.  Since we are dealing with 5 year splits on the data some of the definitions fall in the middle and were 'rounded' from the usually defined eras for each generation.

Still the picture is pretty clear here.  The Younger Generation X, Y and the new under 19s that really have yet to be defined are taking up nearly 69% of the pie here.  While the boomers are still strong their percentage is shrinking.  You can see the boomer ages in the boxes for both 2000 and 2010.

So where will marketers target their campaigns and where should we be aiming our demo targets?  It's an interesting question.  The importance of 25-54s started in the 80s.  In 1980 the oldest boomers where 32 and the youngest were 18.  By the end of the decade they were all in their 30s and driving the 25-54 demo. That's why it became 'the standard' for targeting in advertising.  Well we've all had a few too many birthdays over the years and now that boomer demo is between 62 and 48 years old.

On top of that we can see a the X and Y generations at roughly the same percentages of the population.

It still seems like winning 25-54 is still the gold standard - and it still represents 41% of the total population in 2010 vs. 39% in 2000.  It's still a very important demo, but today it is NOT defined by one generation.  There are Gen Y, the Mellennials with there digital world, Gen X with a strong 80s orientation and the Boomers with their 70s era history all in the same demo.  Targeting something that wide in today's highly fragmented world is starting to look like no strategy at all.  We'll have to see what the marketing minds (today's Mad Men) cook up here.  But, we would be wise to take a closer look as we target and lay our programming strategies with the realities of the population.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Imagine if the Big 3 Worked Together

Ford and Toyota just announced a joint project to build Hybrid Truck technology where the 2 auto forces will come together to help develop the technology, lower the costs for consumers and bring it to market faster.  You can read about it here.  

It all happened with the 2 CEOs ran into each other in an airport and started chatting.  For those of us in the cut throat and highly competitive radio world this seems sort of weird.  The auto world is very competitive and with something like 700 different car models out there it's a pretty cut throat world.  But somehow 2 of the biggest are getting set to build a pretty big project together.

Can you imagine CBS and Clear Channel or Cumulus or Cox or Townsquare all sitting down to work on potential answers to all the challenges we face in Radio?   It might be hard to imagine, but what if they did?  What could they work on?

  • Our National Image - How about a full cooperative program to work on the image of our media.  Too often Radio is viewed as 'yesterday's technology' and even though we see strong Cume and national listening averages we still get stuck with - 'isn't everyone listening to Satellite Radio"  or hasn't the I Pod killed you yet?
  • Spreading our Distribution - While many are streaming and there are pure play streaming systems built into the Clear Channel and CBS national streaming products are there more opportunities here?  Could we develop apps that zero in on Broadcast Streamers?  How about making up our own territory here and making it easy to navigate and use.  The new world of streaming with so many options will be tough to navigate at 70mph on the 405 or the Dan Ryan or Mass Turnpike - if we can get our world organized and localized as you drive around it could be a big help to us and the drivers.  
  • Working with Social Networks and New Media - Are there money making opportunities if we all banded together here?  Instead of letting Google or someone else develop a system of working with local business' on developing Social Network strategies why can't we use the collective reach of radio to develop a real sell-able opportunity for us and a program to help merchants and service providers get closer to their audience's through ours?  
  • New Car Radio Ideas:  Wouldn't it be great if we had an easy way to reprogram your car radio push buttons as you drove from market to market?  Instead of searching for the Rock or CHR or Country stations in Syracuse you could press a button and your car radio would lock them in.  This is one advantage of satellite radio and it will be a web/streaming wifi advantage that we should work on.  
I'm sure these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg - (if you have any more hit the comments and chime in). 

The opportunities to set radio up to be a much stronger media down the road are there.  Yes, we have the NAB and state broadcasting organizations and even the FCC to unite us - but are these organizations really getting to the 'big issues' and challenges that we need to face?   Maybe it would help if the CEOs would end up meeting in the Delta Lounge somewhere someday and decided to build a real actionable plan.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Appointment Listening - The New Obsession!?

Programmers and the air staff have been adding new 'tricks' or 'techniques' for years to try and improve the performance in delivering audience (ratings).  Recycling the audience to other dayparts with cross promos, billboards to tempt listening through the stop set, big events to build huge tune in, daily features to build certain hours in the day (the Request Lunch), listening locations (at work) and also special programming days (All Music Mondays - 2 Fer Tues).

Over the last 5 years the new big tool has been Appointment Listening.  Making a specific appointment with the listener to come back.  While it may be similar to the 'billboard just before the stop set' it really serves a different purpose.  Really this technique stems from the 'Arbitron Listening Fact' that you have an 'average time spent listening' for the station for every time they tune in.   Say the average TSL with the station per tune in is 8 minutes - so they are in the process or already have spent 8 minutes - if you can get them back in 15 minutes you will probably get another 8 minutes.   So your total here is 15-16 minutes.  At the end of the 2nd tune in maybe you can hook them for another 8 minutes and end up with 20+ minutes in a 90 minute period.  

Instead of begging them to stick around through the stop set and hope they will hang for another 8 minutes now we give in to the 'law of averages' and shoot for them to come back later in the hour or maybe later in the daypart (at 12:30 catch the big Concern Announcement for U2).  

It's an effective tool and it has been shown in lots of data analysis to work.  Of course the best way to see it is in tracking the PPM meters where we can see real behavior in real time.  Who knows if any of these techniques is really accurately recorded in a diary?  Hence we now see the Appointment Billboard being the new big standout technique in the jock breaks in PPM markets and also making it's way to diary markets.   It's even bleeding into TV - just watch SportsCenter.    

The key here is to make sure you have real actionable appointments.  Just mentioning that 3 Doors Down's recurrent from last year is coming up in 15 minutes will probably not do much.  Make sure to make it big and newsworthy or entertaining enough to catch the attention of the audience. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Today's 'Individual' Person

Before the end of 2011, or very early in 2012, we will surpass 7 Billion people on the planet!!!  Right now this seems like we have so many people here, and no doubt more to come with birth rates not really slowing down and the lifespan growing for many countries.  While it would seem logical that with more and more of us around that we would be growing more unified but if you took a look from the outside at us through our interaction on the internet you would probably conclude that the human populations in this world are really becoming a lot more individualistic.

The web offers tons of tools to become more of an individual - or to at least make you feel that you are a special individual - even on a planet of 7,000,000,000 people.  It's easy to make lots of stuff in your world unique to you.  We can all think of examples from your music collection to the color of your screen saver.  Every product works to make it as 'personal and individual' of an experience as possible.

No one wants wants to be 'wearing the same outfit' in today's world and overall it's pretty easy to become so individualistic in your virtual/web world that even with 7 Billion you are an individual.

As we go beyond 7 billion next year remember that the audience will be looking for more and more ways to preserve their individuality -- even in the face of the 1 in 7 billion odds.   Something to keep in mind as you program your station and hang with the local audience in your market.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Air Aces

The recent passing of an old friend Allison Harte from Grand Rapids brought up a lot of memories of working with her and an amazingly talented team at WLAV.  

At WLAV the on-air team were (and still are) named 'Air Aces.'   It was sort of a tradition that reflected back on the 60s tradition of naming the air staff.  You had 'The Good Guys' - 'The Boss Jocks' and a number of other names.  I guess the thought was to brand the air staff and build them as a team.  I bet Air Aces started as a sarcastic response to this Top 40 marketing ploy by a station that prided itself in not being anything close to the top 40s of the day.   We'll top their Boss Jock hype - we'll be Air Aces - way cooler.

But, the reality was that being an Air Ace at WLAV was a true honor and much like being a skilled fighter pilot it also required that you be very talented and serious about your craft.  Over the years the Air Aces became way more than just voices between the songs.  They cut through and bonded with the audience in endless ways.  Some of them like Kevin Matthews and Rick Rumble cut through with amazing comedic moments.  Others like Aris Hampers brought an amazing wealth of music knowledge and understanding.   Aces like Tony Gates dug into the community and the music and built a loyal following.

Allison was was sort of the 'sister' to the whole team of Air Aces.  A daring and bold Air Ace herself that always put the listener first, brimming with energy, a genuine love of the music and a big heart for the community.   She was also authentic and honest with the audience.  Her real name was Prudence - not a great radio name so of course it was changed to Allison Harte.  But, she didn't hide her real name or the fact that Allison was made up.  She was active on the phones, always looking to jump out of the studio into the streets, and not scared to stand out or take chances behind the mic.

Being an Air Ace went beyond just a branding gimmick.  The real key was that many of the Air Aces understood this more as a goal of bonding with the listener, the audience and the community.  They honed their talents and built their on air presence to ace the task of building a bond with the people on the other side of the mic.

While many reading this never heard Allison on the air, but you can still learn a lot from her work.  Next time you look at your show think of the qualities that made her an Air Ace and work on mastering the craft and art of entertaining an audience with just your voice and words.  Yes these are pretty obvious qualities, but how often to we really find them in today's billboard/liner/positioning phrase break?  The true Air Ace took their opportunity to bond to entertaining heights way beyond.

Thanks Allison - RIP.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rock Is NOT Dying

The news that Randy Michaels' new Merlin Media is likely moving Alternative stations in NYC and Chicago to News Talk has promoted a bit of a debate on the health of the Rock formats and especially the ones that lean on Newer Rock in their mix.   

The first reaction came when John Gehron had the following quote in a Chicago Tribune article

"In many of the major markets, rock is struggling," said Chicago radio veteran John Gehron, who is serving as a consultant for Merlin Media. "It's not the dominant sound that it was in the '60s and '70s, when rock really was the sound of a generation."

This prompted an old friend and pretty much the founder of Rock Radio Lee Abrams to publish a piece in Radio Ink where Lee covers the history of the format and seems to conclude that the 'Rock Era' may have passed on - read it here

Really the news here is that 2 stations (both Alternative) in top 3 markets are shifting formats to News Talk.  Why?  Probably the 2 biggest reasons lie in the future of the very profitable news talk format on FM and the huge revenue potential at stake for the 2012 battle for the White House.  

Just look at the revenue opportunities in the last election and now with the caps off on letting special interest groups spend money for candidates and issues the flood gates will be open.  Randy is also a complete expert in this format.  PPM has been kind to AM News Talk outlets, but we also know that they live in a world where FM radio is still the dominate band for 30 years.  It's way overdue for FM talk to make a big impact.   Randy's assumed plan to re-enter radio with new FM News/Talk properties in 2 of the top 3 markets is shear genius.  His revenue picture will be amazing when he caps his first year in business with millions in campaign revenue.   

But, IS ROCK RADIO really suffering?  If we take a look at the shares in the top 20 markets the data I dug up below from shows lots of top 20 markets where the Rock share of the pie has increased in the last 4 years.  
Yes the rock shares are up an average of 18% - note that the comparison is indexed here and 100% would be no increase or decrease.   I did not include Puerto Rico in the list.  I also included Adult Alternative stations and added them to the 'New Rock' side of the ledger - since all of them do play some new rock.  Alternative and Active Rockers are considered New Rock here.   

The other big news here is that all of these markets shifted from Diary to PPM except Houston and Philly which were in PPM in Fall 07.  Note that those 2 markets rock shares are mixed with Houston off 17% and Philly improving 9%.   

In fact Chicago is one of the most improved markets with a 50% increase.  Much of this coming from stronger shares for the Drive, the Loop and XRT.  New York was up 56% with RXP and AXQ both showing higher shares in the PPM world.  

The other factor in the perceptions of the health of Rock right now lie in the glare of the music spotlight.  It's squarely on Pop, Rap, Rhythmic and a bit on Country right now.   New Rockers are lying rather dormant - but the tides will turn there.  We've seen these cycles before.   

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Groupon - An Internet Fad or a Real Competitor?

The buzz on Groupon is pretty strong.  No doubt your sales team is hearing about it all the time.  If it hasn't hit your market yet it looks like they will, or something very close will pop up.  Radio has also tried to package itself to meet Groupon 'at the pass' in many markets.

Yes, right now this is a 'hot topic.'  But, is Groupon poised to last -- or is it hopeful that Rupert Murdoch (or someone similar) will pull another MySpace and cash them out?

On the 'Tech Crunch' website Rocky Agrawal, an entrepreneur and contributor to Tech Crunch makes a very convincing case that Groupon will start to struggle as the hype wears off rather quickly.  As Rocky goes through the economics of the Groupon business model he pretty much ends up with a sophisticated Ponzi scheme.  He makes a very interesting argument that your sales team and probably a number of your clients should read.  Are all his facts straight?  I'm sure some holes can be found, but what he says as he digs into their business model is very interesting.  Check out Rocky's analysis here.

While Rocky digs deep into the mechanics of their sales pitch and business plan at Groupon what he doesn't cover is the ability to compete with Groupon.  Many of the local sales teams in Radio, TV and Newspaper are quick to counter with coupon plans of their own.  Other web competitors like and Living Social also have been quick to hit with their deals.  

We do need to take Groupon seriously on the sales side, their pitch right now looks very interesting to a lot of local merchants and national brands.  Radio does have a ton of advantages and can integrate some of the good sides of offers like Groupon.  Couple that coupon with the power to reach a ton of cume in the market quickly and you clearly have a winner.  

Thursday, June 02, 2011

3 Kinds Of PDs

Having had the opportunity to work with Programmers over the years it usually seems that they have 3 types of backgrounds or 'DNA' that lead to their career path.  Take a look and see which group you (or your PD) may fit in:

  1. The Great Jock - This PD usually came from the air staff and was the best air talent (or one of the best) on the team when it came time for them to step up to the PD office.  They usually are pretty skilled at working with the air staff, often pretty creative with promotions, many are pretty good writers and they also have a great creative side.  They may find challenges with grasping research, working with the logs and music systems.  
  2. The Technician - This group has a great grasp of computers and the technical side of the station.  They usually do very well with the logs and studio interfaces.  They grasp research quickly and often have a keen eye for analysis of the data.  Sometimes they are challenged with creativity on air and coaching the air staff.   
  3. The Musician - Music is the main reason they got into radio.  They are fans and may have a great ear for the music.  Many are pretty strong on air performers and they usually grasp the music scheduling and promotion side of the job fairly well.  They can run into challenges with research, coaching the air staff, and keeping the station focused on a tighter list in a competitive battle.   
All of these skills are important to being a successful programmer.  Each background or approach has great advantages and challenges.  Over the years we have seen more technicians emerge as computers have taken over in the studio and the digital world has become more important.  Still it does not diminish the need for great on-air talent and a full appreciation of the music we play.  We've probably all seen PDs who have skill sets in a couple or even all 3 of these backgrounds - the great PDs find a way to cover all of these areas even if it means hiring great talent around them.   But, in today's world we often find that staffs are pretty small - finding budget and room for a Musician to fill out the staff or pushing a Great Jock into more of leadership role presents a challenge.  

Now more than ever it's very likely that the PD will have to adapt and pick up the skills that didn't come with their DNA.  

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

I Phone Now It Makes the Music

The world of the I Phone and the Apps continues to amaze.   This week David Bowie announces the release of a new App that will allow you to remix - Golden Years from the 16 track master.  Yes now you can play record producer - here are more details. 

There's also an amazing video of the band Atomic Tom doing their song Take Me Out with just I Phones and IPods on a subway in NYC.

Now if mixing or playing songs is not your game perhaps using your I Phone to fly your airplane would be more challenging:

What's next??  
How about this new APP

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Research Studies Move To Facebook?

Caught a very interesting article in Ad Age this week on the trend with a number of big name advertisers moving their survey research to social media (Facebook).  Proctor and Gamble (which spends 350 million on consumer research) and Coke both are looking to dive into exploring their brands and consumers through social media instead of spending all their efforts on random sample data and more formalized/structured research systems which we've all used for years.  

The leaders of the trend cite the fact that in today's world we can have a lot more interaction with the consumer and vice versa.   Today we don't have to dial out and hope to catch someone at home, wait for a mail in survey to be returned, or have the respondents show up at a conference to find out what they feel about any product or brand.

The ease of finding 'fans' of your product on your fan page or building panels from the large Facebook community gives any product manager lots of opportunity to easily do polls, review product comments, track marketing impressions, and catch the level of engagement.  You also can collect tons of rather open ended responses without dealing with as many group dynamics as you can have in focus groups or group studies.  The research mavens here claim that they get a lot more from the social network's two way communication.  The opportunity is there to easily get away from counting impressions to looking at the consumer's real 'expressions' on the brand - more feelings than just market shares.

The other side of the coin here - is this social network sample reflective of the total consumer picture?  In traditional sample research a lot of science and math goes into building a representative sample with measured margins of reliability.  In the social network world you are likely to be talking mostly to P1 fans in your sample and have less opportunity to see what the non fan is thinking.  But, when you look at most products it's more about building a fan base to a fever pitch and keeping it excited as the brand spreads from the early to late adapters.

We already have a new start up service that specializes in building panels and doing research off of social media samples.  It's called CrowdTap you can see how they approach the consumers on this site.  And also see how they approach marketing and research teams here.  It looks like they just launched at SXSW at the music fest just week or so ago.  I bet this will be a HOT company real soon.

How will this affect radio brand research?  This could be the next BIG trend in radio product research.  It will take a whole new system of interaction with the audience and a whole new world of analysis for all of us.  Extracting the real potential tools to building our brands from this new frontier of research will not come from using the same analysis angles we've been using since we started researching the audience.  

You can read more in the Ad Age article here.   You should also take a look at the comments from many of the advertising industry people who had a lot of very interesting reactions to this development.  You almost learn more from their comments than the article.   

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Is Pandora Radio?

While Pandora does clearly deliver music to the people who are logged on to the system are they using the service as a replacement for radio or as a replacement for their MP3/I Pod music player or playing CDs?

Radio has always had competition for music listening from LPs, 8 tracks, cassettes, and now MP3/IPods.  You could always get your music without listening to the radio.  Obviously now it's become a lot more compact and anyone can carry around thousands of songs in the palm of your hand.  Still radio's listening levels have not taken that big of a hit from the evolution of personal music listening.

While it seems that we in the industry, clients/advertisers, investors and industry pundits all seem to be looking at Pandora and other customizable music services we may be forgetting the real role that radio has developed with its audience.  That role has evolved beyond music to entertainment through the personalities and the imaging as well as the local information (traffic, news, weather), the infotainment, and the promotions/community events that we bring to the audience.  Really the music is not designed to be 'your personal favorite music' - it's a collection of the most popular songs in a given style (Rock, Pop, Country, Contemporary).  This is 'Broadcasting' and it is different from individual casting.  

Yes if the individual casters get their product to be more usable in the car and as easy to navigate as broadcast radio they can have more opportunities to take away time spent listening to music on the radio.  But, the Pandora's and Slackers of the world are computer program driven systems to build personal streams and libraries of music for individual listeners.

No doubt they serve a purpose, but it very well could be the ultimate replacement for the CD collection or even the MP3/IPod collection.  Why buy songs on ITunes or carry around your music and have to go through  the task of downloading and categorizing it when you can punch in some artists and create channels around them that you can sculpt to your taste.

Yes, radio should explore the new narrow casting - customizable media.  Clear Channel moving into the Thumb Play world is a good thing as is CBS with Last FM.  Just keep in mind that both CC and CBS will be gaining a lot more by developing the strengths of their long standing broadcast properties.  

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Complex World of Technology

We've all experienced it.  The cell phone that suddenly just shuts down, the computer that won't boot, the program that just died in the middle of an important task.  As we come up with more and more devices and more and more computer applications we may solve lots of problems or amaze ourselves but we also become more and more dependent on the ever increasing world of technology.  

Recently Steve Woznaik (the real inventor of the Apple computer) lamented that even he gets frustrated and concerned about the ever increasing role of computer driven technology in our lives.  His big concern - it all fails sooner or later.   Read more about his concerns here.

And if you want a few laughs (as if you needed any more from Steve after Dancing with the Stars) check out his recent cameo on Big Bang Theory.  

All hail to the Woz!

Grammys and Rock Music/Radio

There were a number of surprises in the Grammys from Arcade Fire winning LP of the year to Esperanza Spalding winning the best new artist, but the one resounding fact was the decline of Hard Rock and Active Rock music.   While the nominations and the results are not really a popular opinion poll in the Grammys (artists, producers and record company execs vote) there is a real message here and its not good for new rock music.

The musical spotlight from a sales, critics and Grammys reflection of this is clearly on 4 generes of music:

  • Pop/CHR - And even here the lean is rhythmic. 
  • Pop/Rap- When you have the Top Rap Artist (Eminem wins) placed in the prime time spot just before the top song and the top LP of the year you can see how important this genre has become.  
  • Pop/Country - You can argue that Lady Antebellum is a pretty pop act - it was still in the Country arena.
  • Indie Alt - Arcade Fire, Muse, and Mumford and Sons stole the show. 
Really the only 'traditional' rock moments came from Jagger singing a tribute to a Motown era artist and Bob Dylan with Mumford and Sons pretty much taking over his performance of Maggies Farm.  

Another 'blow' to guitar driven rock came this week from Guitar Hero where Activision announces that they are dropping the game.   The new hot game is Dance Central - a clearly pop and dance with the Kinect motion sensor. 

The message here is clear that Active Rock and traditional rock music in general is not even close to center stage.  If you look at the sales, downloads and other sources we can track the message isn't much different.  The library is still healthy, but the current Rock music scene is rather dark.   

The promised land for rock may lie in the Indie Rock world - not the Stadium Rock power cord world we often hear on today's rock stations.   

Facebook Fan Page Summary Thoughts

The last 'idea' for Facebook Fan pages is Contesting.  There are lots of options here.
  • Prizes for becoming a Fan - Got a bunch of tickets to a show that you are not going to use on the air?  Hand them out to new Facebook Fans.  Got a bunch of discount coupons for lunches etc - hand them out to new fans.  Get Fans whenever you can.   
  • Photo Contests - Even without prizes this can work well.  Having them post the 'snow photo of the day' or pics of them dressed for Halloween or maybe Mardi Gras.  
  • Get into Facebook Games - This can be tricky, but take a look.  Games like Music Challenge might work for some formats like AC or Oldies.   Too bad they don't have this game set up for Alternative, Country, Hard Rock, Classic Rock, 80s etc.    
  • Do face offs - Have 2 new songs to debut - link to the videos and the most 'likes' wins.  
  • Tips for on-air contests - How about taking a High Low style contest and giving tips on the amounts on the fan page?  Ideas like this could help build fans.   
Summary Thoughts:  We covered a number of tips and steps to making your Facebook Fan Page a hit - here is a quick summary:   

  • Basics: Make sure to have a plan with your staff about using the Fan pages, Promote it on the air consistently, keep a log of your postings and promotions to track growth, make sure your name and logo are easy to remember for the audience.    
  • Build Fans: Use links, special fan greeting pages, on air promotion and get your fans to spread the news to their friends.  
  • Stay Active: Post at least a couple of times a day.  You can overdo it here, but it's more likely that we will not keep as active as we could.  Posting 1-3 times a daypart is about right.  Also make sure that you have a 'big post' of the day that sort of cuts through all dayparts. 
Radio brand have a long ways to go in building friends.  Lots of stations have barely scratched the surface of their real cumes here.   Just make sure you have a good plan, some creative/fun tactics and the strength to execute it everyday.   

Monday, January 24, 2011

Facebook Fan Page Ideas Part 2

Once you have the basics down of an easy to remember address, a good Facebook friendly logo, a plan for pics with regular updating and a healthy system of daily posting it's time to try a few other tricks.

  • Links - Yes you should link to your web site and any special show pages (Morning for example).  But, also go beyond - link to artists fan pages, local club/concerts, music reviews, and even cool products.  Getting your audience to link from your page will help you link up to more fans.  The more active the more action.   
  • Pics - Invite tagging.  A while back Lenny Kravitz posted a pic of tons of fans at a concert and invited everyone to tag themselves.  Consider a similar tactic with concerts, local events, etc.   Also let the audience post pics and make it a game - remember the old Show Us Your Rock 97 contests where they painted houses, cars and cut fields with the logo.  How about a contest with them posting pics?  Make your pics interactive and get more action.   
  • Link you stream - Make sure you link your stream and also look at any other cool audio links you can put in here.  Podcasts, cool bits, best of morning shows, etc.   
  • Polls- If you can find FUN and meaningful polls use them.  But avoid the mundane here.  Too often we have polls that are not fun to participate in.  
  • Badges - Make a badge for your station and your big personalities and invite fans to share them.  You can also award badges - maybe with some small prizes? 
  • Interact - The key with everything on your page is to get the audience to interact and watch it show up on their pages.  If you can attract their friends to check out your page you can really build your fan base and that will also help you build your brand and listening potential.   
Later in the week we'll wrap up the Facebook series with a summary and give you a potential action pla

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ideas for Your Fan Page Part 1

The Basics:  Some very simple points that many Facebook Fan pages seem to ignore:

  • The Address - How do I find your page?  The addresses are often a bit hard to figure out. Especially when you have a brand like 'Kiss' where there are many of them out there.  Try to get a memorable address and also PROMOTE IT A TON ON THE AIR as well as on the web site.   
  • Logo - The problem here is that your logo is really a 3X4 picture format on the top of the page and then in all your posts it ends up being cropped to a square format.  The trick here is to get your logo to fit in both formats.  
  • Pics - Make them fun, interesting and current. Of often the pics don't look that inviting in radio pages. 
  • Link your Stream - Let them dial you up from the fan page with a link.  There are a few stations that have developed Apps for facebook so you can invite the audience to link up their friends from their pages.  Surprised we only see the big internet only streamers using this for the most part.  
  • Keep the Posts coming - You should have a status for every day and the air staff should have something on Facebook for every shift.  If you have a hot topic or big developments you can move to hourly contributions from the studio, but watch having a lot more than that.  The key is making it interesting- too many entries just to have entries and too many 'commercials' will hurt.  
The key to making the Wall happen is to set up a real team here that is all on the same page for the Wall  Think of it as if you just let the jocks play whatever - you'd probably end up with less focus and a real confusing product.  The same for the Wall - make sure everyone is together on the guideline for posts and that  you have a method to the madness.   Later in the week we'll look at more ideas including tab tools in Facebook you can add to get the facebookers more involved on your site. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tips and Ideas for Your Facebook Fan Pages

Building a real destination for your listeners on a Facebook Fan page is the marketing tool for 2011 and beyond.  We've already looked at the wide spread usage of Facebook and looked at the results from the dabbling we've done in the media.  It's pretty obvious that we need to have a healthy brand presence on Facebook just as we needed to have a station website 15 years ago.

The first step is building a Fan Page where you can gather the audience with their 'likes' and begin to interact with them.  Let's start by looking a few pages that really stand out:  

  • First Red Bull : A very active page with over 14 million fans.  They have a pretty active Wall that is mostly controlled by them.  They also have Web TV, Games and a page dedicated to their athletes who endorse the product.    
  • Nickleback: Not much here with just the Wikipedia bio on the band and little else.  No wall, no pics, no news on the band, no links to their music.  Gee they have a ways to go here - especially a band that is as plugged in as they are on the web and sporting a full time AOL/CBS artist streaming radio channel.  
  • The Beatles: Apple Corps did a nice job with a basic page.  Good links to the music, a wall that has lots of interesting posts about Beatle stuff/artifacts, and with over 12 million fans. 
  • 103.5 Kiss Chicago: A very active page with over 75,000 fans which is a lot in the radio world.  But not a lot here?  No ties to the artists or the music, no station events noted, not a lot of updated pics and the wall is pretty out of control here with lots of complaints about their new morning show.   
This should give you some ideas and tips and there are tons more pages to look at.  Over the next 10 days we'll look at 9 specific tips and ideas and some thoughts on developing an effective and comfortable Facebook Fan Page Plan for Radio Brands.  

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

What Excites Facebook Users?

his is a tough question because there is SO MUCH to look at and new opportunities/ideas are being developed every day.  At the core is DEVELOPING RELATIONSHIPS.  That is foundation for the whole site and has to be kept front and center to help build your brand on the media.  Really the core of radio promotions and brand marketing has always been about developing a strong relationship with the audience.  We've done it on the streets with promotions, over the air with our imaging, personality, and audience interaction, and we also do it through the music formats we build.

As we venture into Facebook we really don't know what works.  Should we be developing games, posting videos, tagging pics, telling jokes, showcasing artists we play, polling, running ads for clients, or letting the audience interact with us?  Maybe we should be doing all of this, but that's a pretty daunting task.  We need to look at what the audience wants in a radio brand relationship?

Maybe the place to start is by looking closely at the pages of your 'friends' or 'fans' on Facebook.  Now you can't access the pages of the people that just 'like' your page, but you can build a panel or 'focus group' of fans.  You can invite people to be 'super fans' of the station and 'friend' them on another site where you perhaps can offer some freebees or other incentives.  Here you can look at up to 1000 people and see what else they like, what topics and features they react to and also learn a little more about them.

Another trick here is to simply keep track of what you do on the page and what the reaction is.  Keep a daily log on a spread sheet and you'll see what moves the 'likes' up and what got the FB audience moving.   Here is a rough example that you can build on with your own tracking fields:
Now you have some data that you can track and see what moves the meter.  Yes it will add a few minutes to the daily Facebook ritual, but now you have some ideas of what is working.   Of course there are a lot of features and ideas to try on Facebook, we'll look at those in the next Blog.