Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tomorrow: 16 Ways To Be More Memorable

.. but first, I want you to look in the mirror and ask yourself "is my content consistently WORTH remembering?"

If you can't honestly answer that question with a resounding "yes," you can skip my post tomorrow because it won't work no matter how much you invest in marketing tactics.

You will never be able to sell people long term on something they're not personally committed and connected to.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Radio 2015: Perspective From A Very Savvy Friend

I want to turn on the echo chamber today:
Reed Bunzel is a veteran media executive with over 30 years of service in the radio, music, and digital media industries. He is president of Bunzel Media Strategies, a full service consulting and analytics firm that assists companies with industry research, analysis, business strategies, platform development, and communications/marketing.
     Remember the movie Sybil? That's the 1976 miniseries and film starring Sally Field, whose main character was alleged to have up to 13 different personalities, all struggling to coexist inside one body at the same time.
     I mention this because this week at the NAB/RAB Radio Show in Indianapolis I was having a conversation with a respected broadcaster (name withheld upon request) who compared the U.S. radio industry in 2014 to the Sybil character. Not in the sense that he thought the business was fraught with mental illness or that it needed psychotropic drugs in order to maintain a "normal" life, but because at any one time there are a number of distinct personalities inside this industry that give voice to its collective persona.
     While the analogy could be perceived as a bit of a stretch, a distinct parallel can be drawn between Sybil's internal voices and the discussions I've had with radio broadcasters these past few days at the Radio Show. All of these conversations (and some comments made at general sessions) have been fascinating, some of them are scary, and many of them contribute to a universe that seems founded more on perception than reality. Depending on whom you talk to, the American radio industry is a) healthy, b) doomed, c) challenged, d) blind, or e) all of the above.

Here's what I mean:
  • In her now-traditional role of the industry's statistician, Wells Fargo Securities senior analyst Marci Ryvicker insisted radio's revenues will remain flat until broadcasters prove her wrong, with local and national spot revenues most likely going nowhere this year. She has a strong record of accurate forecasts, so her macroeconomic view can be trusted. Her prediction of "flat" growth is not a truth many attendees in the audience wanted to hear, but as Ryvicker so eloquently put it, "radio has a lot of shit."
  • Several major group heads insisted that the radio remains strong and, while saddled with the uncertainties of change, its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. Example: Cumulus Chairman Lew Dickey, while acknowledging myriad challenges, observed that radio is "America's daytime medium" and emphasized that its greatest audience occurs during the time when most commerce is conducted.
  • RAB President/CEO Erica Farber stressed that digital is radio's most direct and imminent path to growth, a position self-avowed BS specialist Bob Hoffman (author of "The Golden Age Of B.S.") almost immediately refuted by declaring "online advertising is a fraud." While Hoffman quickly clarified that he really was referring only to display advertising, his "WTF" moment resonated long after he left the stage.
  • Univision Radio President Jose Valle stated that digital audio streaming is a $20 million revenue line that produces cash flow for his company, and noted that "we don't abandon our over-the-air audience but we have to be where our listeners want us to be. Listeners dictate."
  • Seconds later Emmis Chairman Jeff Smulyan insisted he's never made a dime from streaming, stressing instead how critical it is to get NextRadio functional in every smartphone sold in America, so consumers have access free FM radio rather than pay the near-usurious rates charged by major phone carriers. This move, Smulyan insists, will almost single-handedly propel the radio industry into the future.
  • Of course, a healthy contingent of tech-heads are adamant that it's too late for either NextRadio (which is at the mercy of AT&T and Verizon) or HD Radio to shift the digital tide that has begun to rise - a tide, they insist, that will not float all boats.
  • Then there's the die-hard cheerleaders who point to radio's 92% 12-plus reach and insist that all is good in the world of radio, despite measurable TSL erosion among younger demographics and the growth of such online digital services as Rdio, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Pandora.
  • These folks also tend to be harsh Pandora critics who don't grasp that the streaming service is a company, not an industry, and that if it didn't have to pay the performance royalty fees dictated by the Copyright Royalty Board (from which AM/FM radio is exempt), its margins actually could be far greater than those of many radio companies serving the same number of listeners.
  • And then there are the "rapturists," those individuals who are convinced that radio's apocalypse is imminent, and nothing can be done to save it from the four horsemen who are fast approaching from the other side of the digital horizon. 
     I want to stress here that I am not trying to simplify the passions or opinions of radio broadcasters, or to declare the radio industry "psychologically unstable" or "mentally unfit." Far from it. But today (Sept. 12), as the Radio Show closes here in Indianapolis and we all go back to our regular roles in the radio business, we need to recognize that it's impossible to color the radio industry with one broad stroke. I'm constantly asked "what's the big take-away" or "what's the buzz at the show"?
    I understand the questions, but I don't have suitable answers. No one does. And that's because the radio business is comprised of many interconnected parts, with multiple priorities and goals, and no two perceptions (or personalities) are alike. Each of us knows what we know about our own corner of this business, and we are influenced by the factors that affect us personally and professionally.
     For instance, some broadcasters are being chased by debtors who have no option but to let them to continue kicking the can down the road in an endless game of tag that causes many folks to doubt the overall health of the industry. Others are ruled by fear of change and cringe at the approaching reality that spot revenue might just not be enough to get them through to retirement, or to identify a reasonable exit strategy. Still others are managing to generate small revenue gains through hard work and diligence, and are accepting that digital and social media can push real dollars to their bottom lines.
     In the movie and TV miniseries, Sybil was affected by what today is known as multiple personality disorder*. It's important here to draw a distinction between that and what I've mentioned above, which is radio's multiple personalities. Period. (Whether there's a disorder involved is open to discussion.
     My only point here is to initiate a conversation about the U.S.. radio industry as we head into the fourth quarter, and to introduce my new initiative, Radio 2015. This new "media intelligence platform" is designed to engage everyone in this wonderful business in a discussion about our collective fates, futures, and fortunes, and to offer actionable analysis and information to ensure that we are guided by intelligence rather than fear.
     You'll be hearing a lot more about Radio 2015 next week - and in the weeks to come. Meantime, I invite you to email me with any questions or comments you might have regarding the radio business, as well as suggestions about what you think needs to be addressed as we set our sights on tomorrow...and the next day.

*In a book titled "Sybil Exposed," author Debbie Nathan maintains that most of the story Shirley Mason, the "real" Sybil, was fabricated.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

This Is Not A Test, It's An Actual Emergency

Blaine Thompson has been writing "Indiana RadioWatch" specifically for Hoosier Broadcasters since 1998.   

He sent this email last night from the NAB Radio Show in Indianapolis:

In one session, I kept hearing that "Content is Key." If your radio station has great content, people will find it and listen to it.

As I write this, the President is speaking. I realize that several radio stations across Indiana have this speech on their airwaves. Some radio stations do this broadcast by adding a command into the automation system. Some radio stations air the speech, and bring in local hosts to discuss what the President said. As it is 9:00PM, some radio stations let a weekender or part-timer come into the radio station to make sure the speech airs.

However, what about promotion? I asked a broadcaster about this today, and was greeting with a single word:

"What?"

So, I asked:

...Did you put an announcement on your radio station Facebook page, saying, "Listen to W____ at 9PM tonight"?

...Did you add an announcement to your Twitter page?

...Did you send a text blast to your "text club" subscribers?

How did the broadcaster respond?

With a mildly blank stare, a mumbled "Thank you," as they grabbed their cell phone (hopefully to call or text someone back at the radio station...)

(I'm not going to give a speech entitled, "What, you don't have a radio station Facebook page, Twitter feed and text club? It's 2014.")

A broadcaster told me this: "It's 2014; you can't rest on your laurels and know that anyone who wants to hear content will listen to YOUR radio station. You have to make the content compelling for your listeners."

30 To 39

Visualization by Martin De Wulf (@madewulf)
Today’s Gen Xer is the parent of Millenials, making at first glance what statistically is the smallest age cohort in our population a poor target for marketers.

Look again.

When it comes to how someone feels, 30-39 may be the largest target!

Call it attitude age

Middle age men think of themselves as younger than they are. 

20 to 29 year olds often think of their parents as among their best friends, seeing 30+ as they peers. 

Did youygo to college?  Have a comfortable income?  It’s likely statistically that you also feel younger than you chronologically are.  Singles feel older and divorcees, younger.

The folks thinking of themselves as feeling between 30 and 39 attitudinally is a huge group.

Find out how old your listeners feel they are and target that age!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Best Salespeople

The most successful salespeople tend to exhibit:

1.  Strong character, with an ability to dominate others
2.  High persistence
3.  Debating ability, playing judo with the prospect’s own objections to land an order
4.  Patience to question prospects at length before making a closing argument
5.  High energy level
6.  Self-confidence to withstand repeated rejection
7.  Good work habits and organizing ability.

-- A little reminder to their coworkers from Psychology Today

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

"What’s Happening?" Still Works

Reduce the clutter generated by sales value-added by making use of a weekly promo from sales inventory to group together a lot of smaller sales promotions on air.

These promos are :30 seconds in length, have a standard music bed behind them, run as a normal commercial unit, as read by your station’s “Fun Finder” personality under the umbrella of “here’s what’s happening at (brand name).

Place all sales events that appeal to the mass audience including remote broadcasts, personality appearances, concerts, et al.

These “sales promos” generally run once per daypart.  It’s tempting to bump them when you’re sold out, but don’t do it. 

If you promised it and got a “buy” as a result of that promise, you’ve got to deliver on ‘em and that’s another reason to count them as commercial inventory.  You can even affidavit them as long as you keep a good paper trail of everything you run.

If a client doesn’t want their mention included in a carry-all like this, of course, you’d be delighted to sell them their very own commercial to say whatever they like!

Monday, September 08, 2014

“Selling Low-commercial Load Station Time Is Easy”

That’s what Bill Moyes, Dan Vallie, Mike McVay, Jerry Lee and others started exemplifying when strategic research dominated major market radio in the 80’s and early 90’s.

“In this era of increasing clutter, the only way for an advertiser to stand apart is to use a radio station which limits advertising to a certain number of messages an hour.  By selling the idea that you have an environment of integrity,” McVay taught me, “And then framing each advertising message by surrounding it with music, you make it stand out from the crowd.”

Lee's More-FM, Philadelphia, still stands up for (and seems to prove it still works!) making use of low commercial limits to keep rates high to make sure you can showcase a marketer’s message.

This selling idea should be a primary weapon of a low-load station’s sales arsenal.  Position spots as an adjacency to entertainment.

However, with the arrival of consolidation in the mid-90’s, another, even "easier" way to sell emerged:   add more and shorter units and lower your rates, pricing for revenue share. 

Once upon a time radio’s total revenues were some $19-million and 40% of radio stations were losing money.  Now, radio’s combined top line has been climbing back up to $17.6 billion after falling precipitously in the early 2000's, creating a need to cut costs in order to sustain and grow profits while paying off the debt incurred in pursuit of a maximum allowable share of market dollars.

Cutting commercial loads was never easy, requiring tremendous courage and excellent execution.  Not everyone can accomplish it, but those who do have the potential for completely dominating weaker facilities.

The smartest among us, as they convene in Indianapolis, need to be thinking and talking about that with their investment bankers and corporate boards.


And, if you as an owner are lucky enough not to have to answer to those things, you're in an awesome position to get aggressive and press your advantage.

It’s time to do things differently.  And, the past has a lot to teach us all if we learn from it.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Increasing Your (Sales) Power (Ratio)

“It’s not my job to overpay for a radio station or to say, ‘You’ve done great, I’m going to reward you by paying more.’”   — JL Media director of broadcast Rich Russo in Inside Radio

IR’s writer opines:  “Improving ratings is often only half the battle. The next hurdle is driving rates in the marketplace. Convincing buyers who were paying $50 a spot to now pay $100 isn’t a slam dunk, even if the station’s ratings have doubled.”

They ran this graphic on Tuesday morning, posing the question about the reality that first the ratings go up and then begins the longterm task of getting the dollars the higher shares appear to justify:

This isn't the first time I have written about this (click to read some history from my perspective), but it's obvious to me at least that the increasingly automated cluster selling caused by consolidation that evolved over the past 20 years has created numerous situations where formats with great qualitative stories' power ratios have regressed to the mean.

Big owners have saved lots of money in expenses at the cost of top line growth.

Cuts in the cost of sales at many radio stations and the move to cost-per-point based transactional selling has proliferated as smaller owners attempted to compete and improve their bottom lines as well.

Now that a company has so many stations that they can throw into a pitch from multiple formats to chip away at a market leader's strongest station.

For example, Clear Channel owns seven stations in San Diego, more than twice as many as KSON owner Lincoln Financial.  At the same time, California's economy has not helped any media.

The country format audience share battles in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Portland, St. Louis, Boston. Pittsburgh and Seattle are much tighter than this single snapshot in time would indicate.  That requires a deep understanding of each radio station and the local market history.

Research Director, Inc's Charlie Sislen explains the problem like this:  "If we sell impressions and allow advertisers to treat all impressions equally, then the value of our spots goes down. However, if we position radio as a more valuable commodity, then we can grow our average unit rate and our overall revenue.  We need to continue to sell the value of our medium as a whole, and the value of each of our individual radio stations."

It has been great to see optimistic radio revenue forecasts from both BIA and Borrell, but discrete radio stations and individual formats will fail to achieve their real analog and digital potential until we get back to investing in local and national sales forces who understand the power of every format, have the time and tools to justify their unique value and we stop trying to steal pennies from other radio competition while leaving dollars on the table.

Maintaining Listener Loyalty

  1. Be consistent.  Unfamiliarity is almost always a negative.  Surround it with the familiar, so it appears as a pleasant surprise, an expected part of the overall presentation.
  2. Be the soundtrack of your listener’s life.
  3. It’s a 140 character, 17 second, society.  Be brief.  Respect the listener’s time.
  4. Be a companion and friend, never an announcer.  Avoid phrase patterns and verbal crutches.
  5. Cluster music into long sets.  Control commercial content. 
  6. Hopefully, you can play fewer commercials than your direct competition.  If not, your only winning option is longer stopsets and fewer of them, placed equally on both sides of quarter hours, equidistant from each other in the hour if you’re being measured by Nielsen PPM methodology.  If it’s BBM PPM, the station with the strongest content and the least minutes of potential tune outs wins.  If it’s diaries that make up your ratings, place commercial breaks so that you hold your listener for 35 minutes, equalling four “quarter hours.”  If it’s a phone survey, top of kindness wins.  Use telephone in your contesting and have the biggest, best prizes and promotions.
  7. Two five unit breaks per hour is ideal.
  8. Count units, not minutes.  From the listener’s point of view, intros, outros, :30s, :60s, and even “mentions” are all commercials.
  9. Play only hits.  Never add a song until you believe it’s going to be a hit.
  10. Play “clutter busters” once every quarter with your staff.  Make a list of the least popular bits, benchmarks and programs you air from the talent’s perspective and then test them with listeners in an online survey or focus groups.  Drop unpopular ones.
  11. Promote, but never HYPE.  Do what you say and offer proof.
Listing these things is easy.  DOING them is hard.  Odds are, your owner or manager will expect you to win loyalty while stinting on some of them.

That's why we believe you need a consultant.  You can sometimes win while cutting a few of these corners, but if you need to constantly and predictably do so.

There's only one way to do that.

To constantly dominate a market position, be uncompromising when it comes to all listener loyalty drivers.