Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Canary Is Still Breathing; The Branch Hasn't Broken

It's been more than a decade since it became conventional wisdom that radio's programming and marketing departments were primarily a service bureau for sales, in pursuit of revenues, cutting costs, thus attaining higher multiples.

Ratings bonuses have increasingly been replaced at the companies where bonuses for talent and programming still exist with "BCF" bonuses, making us all members of the sales department.

The executives who started this trend are longtime broadcasters and I have always told myself that they may bend the twig until they start to hear cracking, but they're smart enough to stop bending just before it breaks. They'd recognize the sound of a coalmine canary that stops chirping.

And, just because it still sounds like some major market traffic reporters, news departments and weather forecasters no longer answer to the station program director in the length or word choice of their content, the twig remains barely intact and the bird is still, softly, singing.

What? Me? Worry?

I get paid by A&O clients to worry.

As PPM is rewarding the panel listeners' most compelling and likable personalities, punishing ones they don't spend as much time using, driving up ratings of stations which waste the least amount of time talking about anything or playing songs the audience doesn't engage with, broadcasters who want to win simply must relearn how to edit, edit, edit everything.

Now, programming as a service bureau for sales includes once again focusing on trimming everything that doesn't make money or entertain to the bone.

Sure, a great PD still brings ideas that make money, but PPM clearly shows that every competitor has the same 60 minutes per hour and not a second more and it creates lots more revenue to have high ratings than to add more value-added mentions.

There was a time when the majority of General Managers and Program Directors spent a day away from the radio station listening together, agreeing on what elements grew audience and made money and which ones were simply wasting time.
  • That way, the PD could talk authoritatively to the cluster's news director, the long distance meteorologist, the bartered traffic service knowing that the GM is going to back her up when she says "this is what I need" and expect great execution.
  • That way, they agree on how many extra mentions "we" do compared to our shared-cume competition.
  • That way, they set firm commercial unit limits and concur on the costs of overselling them.
PPM has provided new tools which amplify the sound of cracking twigs, chirping canaries, making product integrity - as defined by radio's users - a programmer and manager's time-tested, very highest priority.

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