Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Maybe I’m Missing Something (Or, Are YOU?)…

I just heard from a GM of a dominant cluster whose multi-format non-duplicated cume reach in this large market is as close to 100% of the area’s total population as you can get.

All of their radio stations have been nurturing email databases since the late 1980's/early 1990’s when they were faxing to businesses from an at-work database, built with direct mail and telemarketing.

They've done it all, over the years.

Now, in an effort to jump-start a “daily discounts” revenue program in hopes of competing with Groupon, Living Social and others locally, they are buying a mass email list that reportedly contains every email address in their metro.

This list is several times the total metro population.

Unless the initial contact with this huge list is extremely well-designed it’s going to be seen as just more spam by the vast majority of the folks who receive this invitation to sign up for a second or third daily deals email on top of the ones they already find in their spam folder.

Assuming that each of this company’s stations has 20% of their cume in their email and at home/at work address (perhaps even txt databases) and they’ve been consistently maintaining those relationships both on air and in regular direct relationship/loyalty marketing over time, they have an active relationship with some one-fifth of the area’s population.

These folks (hopefully!) know their brands, their personalities and welcome the communication when they receive it. 

’t it make more sense, albeit to a smaller group of people, to offer deals and discounts to our friends rather than just adding to the volume of spam that anyone else who buys those same total market email lists are sending out too?

Won't our radio stations get measurably better response rates from our "fans" than the competing deals programs will?

If the need to buy that big email list comes from a dollars-driven desire to quickly get up to speed because the station’s databases have been lying fallow and unresponsive or, even worse are next-to-nonexistant and are only a small, single-digit percentage of the total unduplicated cume of the cluster, maybe the marketing managers of these radio stations have been missing something that can't be fixed by buying a list, no matter how well-targeted.

If, by now, you don't already have an active, responsive database which can't be quickly cloned by someone else, you are suffering from a widespread mass media disease: a lack of engagement, no carefully-constructed reputation among your listeners for compelling content and attention to much more that just trying to hawk the radio station’s latest attempt at making money from them without first adding true value that builds true affinity.

Increasing the volume of spam in your city, attaching your brand name to it, without tending to content-based relationship and loyalty marketing first probably can make you a few bucks in the short term, but you better have another scam to sell next year and the year after that, because your radio station brand will mean less and less each time you do it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

How Many Real Hits Are There?

On February 19 (2011) Kix Brooks' American Country Countdown cut the length of the show from four hours to three, dropping the venerable "Top 40" to 30.

In a trade press interview announcing the move, Bryan Switzer, Citadel Vice President of Programming and Distribution and a long time music promotion executive said the switch came at the request of the affiliates who "were uncomfortable with the level of unfamiliarity the songs in the 30s had on their stations."

"ACC Top 40" remains on the countdown's website, based as it is on Nielsen/BDS/Billboard monitored airplay, which lists 60.

Last week, when I asked a promotion executive what had happened in March to a song that she had been pursuing, she told me that one and six other tunes suddenly dropped off all monitored charts in a few weeks after Kix stopped counting down #31 to #40.

The self-evident veracity of that got me to scratching my head.

If the only thing that keeps some songs on the weekly countdown this week is the spins on last week's countdown, isn't it time to rethink what we're doing and why?

Are we countin' 'em down? Or, propping 'em up?

Friday, May 27, 2011

How much clutter is too much clutter?

The more compelling the personality and the content, the more. The less personable and relatable the non-music programming on a music FM is, the better the station will do with less of it, as long is the goal is short term only. LONG term, developing strong entertainers who know how to use content as a magnet, the better the station will do. Listeners like it best when there is NO clutter. Limiting unwanted elements that make money has always been the greatest programming competitive challenge. Running any clutter of any kind which doesn't drive revenue or usage is foolhardy. - Thanks to Radio Ink's Ed Ryan for including my perspective in the discussion.

Ed: Should announcers back-announce and intro all songs, every hour throughout the day.

Yes. In fact, Mike O'Malley and I have been urging it for many, many years.

The first A&O client to make use of it was Clear Channel's KIXZ-FM, Spokane a decade ago, suggested by then Clear Channel VP Programming Rich Hawkins and PD Paul Neumann is still there, more than willing to testify that this baked in product attribute is still a big part of our secret sauce.

Citadel's Thunder Country Grand Rapids, Maverick Media's WAXX/Eau Claire, Midwest Family's BOB FM/Springfield and Morris' KBRJ/Anchorage are just a few of the others you can hear online if you want to listen to how it's done.

If you'd like to know if listeners like it, just talk to any of those PD's or either one of us!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Everlasting One To One Guidance

1. The amount of time the listener is willing to offer you is severely limited.

2. Edit, edit, edit. There’s a famous quote, just on the outskirts of my memory, about how “I can write a ten-minute speech in an hour. A five-minute speech takes two hours.”

3. There’s a very finite limit on how much you can teach on the air. That’s why commercial messages are always so simple. Broadcast is not a good medium for imparting knowledge, beyond brief bursts.

4. Unlike print, radio can only do one thing at a time. You can’t get to “the good stuff” (music) until everything I want you to hear (the commercials) is done. The reader turns the page, but he’s still got the book or magazine or newspaper. The listener either tunes you out mentally or changes the station, in which case she no longer has you.

Ultimately, it’s not I or your PD or GM who’s pleading with you not to squander the listener’s time – it’s the listeners themselves. They won’t stand still for it – and they have choices.

The first 'coach' to impart this knowledge to me was Jay Trachman, more than three decades ago. Pass it on. It will still be true in 30 more years.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oprah Helped Influence Country Music

The end of an era will happen today as Oprah signs off her daily talk show to focus efforts towards her new TV Network ‘OWN’

In recent years some of Country Music’s Biggest Stars have opened up to Oprah about the good and bad in their lives, while showcasing their music.

A&O's prep producer Dan Vanlandingham provided a full retrospective including audio and video for our client morning shows today.

For a summary of some of the Country music stars that have been part of the Oprah Winfrey history, just click on Oprah's website and search "country music." An amazing contribution to country music's history over the last 25 years!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Week You Couldn't Miss Country's Youth Boom

Anyone who's been paying attention knows that country music is on a growth curve right now.

This was the week that it is becoming so obvious that you can't miss it even if you aren't paying much attention.

Donald Trump put on a cowboy hat John Rich brought him and named Rich 2011's Celebrity Apprentice, which got him on the Today show, Regis & Kelly, Access Hollywood and many others as he delivered a huge check and incredible exposure to St. Jude.

Taylor Swift picked up "top Billboard 200 artist." "top country artist," her “Speak Now” was named top country album and Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” received top country song at this week's Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas.

Tonight, according to Townsquare Media's "Taste Of Country," since Interscope UMG is involved with American Idol both Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina will be releasing singles on Mercury Records tomorrow.

Scotty’s is called "Love You This Big" (chosen with the help of George Strait) and Lauren’s is titled "Like My Mother Does" (picked along former Idol winner Carrie Underwood). They will both be singing them tonight and they will be available on iTunes right after the show.

16-year old Alaina is the best singer and more versatile performer, but I'm voting for Scotty, since he makes America feel good about itself. Singing heartland-focused songs about 9/11 and pickup trucks, he's an avatar for the idea that our younger generation is in step with the older one — that there is no generation gap.

No matter who wins, it's great for country, What a terrific development that with the youngest finale matchup of the show's history is also the countriest.

And, it's only Wednesday of this amazing music week that began on Sunday evening with a wonderful event at the Country Music Hall Of Fame and culminates with at least two potential brand new stars!

Monday, May 23, 2011


  • Recently, I went on a sales call with a programmer at a client station and listened as a station rep told a buyer who asked for additional value-added - after reporting that a competing station was offering more free mentions as incentive than "we" were - told the agency, "you know they will promise anything but their track record is that they talk big but don't deliver."

  • Not too long ago a music director reported that a major label promotion rep suggested that he drop a competing label's highest-charting song to make room for something on the promoter's imprint.

So, what else is new?

Of course, these things happen every day, in one way or another.

We're in a very competitive business in difficult economic times, both in our advertising contacts and our music business relationships, so you can't blame folks who aren't incented on necessarily doing things the right way, but on the short-term results they get.

However, doesn't any good business need to be based on solid product attributes which deliver results and relationships built on trust?

How does trashing your competition achieve that?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bringing Them Up? Or, Letting Them Down?

It's 6:00 in the afternoon. You leave the radio station on a beautiful sunny day and head for the car. With the sun roof open you're headed down the road. You turn the radio on, and find Zac Brown “Colder Weather" playing. Next, it's Ronnie Dunn with "Bleed Red" followed by "If I Die Young” by The Band Perry.

Most things considered, this is a pretty good mix of great songs. But, the slow tempo of this set has you driving off the road. These songs looked pretty good a few hours ago on your music scheduler, but the reality of actually hearing them played back to back is a different story.

Artist separation, era, genre, texture, turnover, and tempo are the major concerns any music director faces each week.

They are all important, but I’d say #1 simply must be consistent tempo of your station, designed to bring listeners “up” when they turn you on.

In addition to proper setting of your music schedulers rules and policies, consider the following tips:

  • Pay attention to tempo when moving songs to and from current categories. Try and keep songs with more tempo longer in categories that turn faster. Balance tempo as you build categories.
  • Weed out all "OK, barely made the cut" ballads from your radio station. Add slow songs from new and second tier artists slower than up tempo songs. When deciding on the criteria for sorting an auditorium or an online test into power, medium, and light categories, consider using different criteria for up and down tempo songs.
  • Allow songs with greater tempo but slightly lower research scores to make the cut to hotter rotations, and place songs with higher scores and lower tempo in slower rotations.
  • The important thing here is to make that decision yourself.
  • Do not let your music scheduling software program your radio station based on the rules you have placed on it.
  • That is to say: avoid forcing tempo on your radio station by playing second and third tier songs more often than power records simply based on tempo.
  • Take control by making these decisions yourself on a song by song basis. This is called manual editing, and no schedule should ever be merged until you’ve taken the extra time to do this.
  • Decide what songs are deserving of a particular category based on available resources (research, artist acceptance, song performance, and tempo) and make sure the songs in these categories are turning over correctly. This ensures a proper rotation based on all the criteria, not just tempo.
  • Do it right the first time. Give plenty of consideration to every song when coding for tempo. The little bit of extra time now will pay high dividends later. If you code a song as "medium" tempo, consider how it will play next to a song coded as "slow," etc. Is it really “medium?” Or, should it be medium slow? The more “mediums” you have, the lower the average tempo of the station will be.
  • Pay attention to texture as well as tempo. A down tempo song with a positive message will not slow your radio station down as much as a slow song with a negative message.
  • Don't just focus your attention on too many slow songs back to back. Too many fast songs in a row means you'll have fewer up tempo records in the next sweep or the next hour. Keeping fast songs from playing together will help your scheduler find available tempo "at the top of the stack" when it is needed.
  • Most important, make sure the tempo problem you're hearing is not just the music.
  • Evaluate all the non-music elements on your station to make sure they have energy and sizzle.
  • Reinforce the importance of a bright, positive delivery every time your air staff opens the microphone.

Finally, most listeners are more likely to stay with a slow ballad they truly love than an up tempo song they consider "just OK."

If music tempo is the only consideration for the excitement and energy found on your radio station, perhaps a surplus of ballads is only part of the problem.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Would You Rather Tend To A Vegetable Garden Or Watch The New Pirates Movie?

With rising prices in grocery stores, it seems that many consumers plan to tap into the potential of their own backyards by planting Vegetable Gardens, which tops Big Research's list of what’s hot for May (among 58.3%)...Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (54.3%) and Idol diva Jennifer Lopez (54.1%) aren’t far behind.

Young women also appreciate Christina Aguilera and The Voice, while men under 35 would rather opt for Thor or the NBA Playoffs.

What’s Not?

While the Colorblocking Fashion Trend is finding loyalty among ladies 18-34, most (89.3%) agree that you shouldn’t look like you got dressed in the dark.

(click for much more on attitudes about the capture of Bin Laden)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Oprah Won't Let Go

Rascal Flatts was at Chicago’s United Center last night to tape a surprise appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

The band was tapped by Oprah’s producers to perform on one of their highly-anticipated finale shows “Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular Part 1.” Their performance of “I Won’t Let Go,” from their current Big Machine Records album, NOTHING LIKE THIS is slated to air in the May 23rd episode; check local listings for times.

The show’s staff and producers expressed to the band their desire to have this song performed as the sentiments in the lyrics express their feelings for Oprah.

The Oprah Winfrey Show will air the last new episode of its 25-year run on Wednesday, May 25, 2011.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Tumultuous 15 Years

In May of 1996, I started to write a weekly newsletter I called "RadioIQ," which was the predecessor to this blog.

I found this item as I was paging through old issues today:

  • "It will take $15 billion in trading to complete the consolidation process -- defined as the point at which 75% of radio is in the hands of the top 10 groups." By that measure, the industry has 80% more consolidating to do, said Alex. Brown & Sons Managing Director/Sr. Media Analyst Drew Marcus, who estimated that the process will take at least two years to complete. Fast-growing groups are best positioned for success in the long run. That is especially true of the public companies. "The fastest-gaining [radio] stocks are the consolidators," said Marcus. He pegged consolidators' stock growth at 2.5 times the rate of static companies. "Individual stations are too volatile, and we don't like companies that rely on just a few." He said companies like his, which underwrite many initial public offerings, look for groups that generate no more than 25% of their cash flow from their top two stations and keep debt leverage under 6.5. - Heard at the May 1996 Kagan Future of Radio Acquisitions & Finance Conference

  • "Size -- if you are a public company -- is rewarded, as is diversification," said American Radio Systems Chairman/CEO Steve Dodge. But size for size's sake can be dangerous, Dodge warned. "These are still delicate critters that have to be marketed, programmed, and sold. I don't know that anyone has proven they can effectively run a 100-plus-station radio group."
It's going to be informative to see how many of these statements also apply to Cumulus-Citadel when it closes in September and how the few remaining "small" groups like Hubbard, Emmis, Entercon, Bonneville, Townsquare, Cox et all play out their futures in the face of it.

If you read this blog, your career prospects will be shaped by it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

(More From Katz): Satellite Radio – A Proper Perspective

  • It isn’t commercial free, it has virtually no local content and at $10 to $15 per month or more for a subscription, it certainly isn’t free.
  • In the 10 years since its launch it has worked its way up to being owned by… 10.6% of the Adults 18+ in the USA
  • If 30% penetration is considered “critical mass” for technology products…it has a very, very long way to go to be considered a mass medium. Today, it is irrelevant in that category.
  • It reports 20.5 million “subscribers” (includes unsold autos and cancelled subscriptions for 18 months after they cancel). Only about 85% are “self-pay” (or, real). Only 9.5% of Adults 18+ in USA listened to any satellite radio in the past week and only 1.2% plan to acquire one in the coming year.

  • Radio reaches 93.4% of Adults 18+ in the USA every week.
  • Radio connects to listeners locally, on many platforms, and then connects those listeners to advertisers.
- Mary Beth Garber/Katz Radio

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Social Network Called Radio

Click to read:
SCBA has lost an executive, Katz has gained one, but radio retains one of our most effective advocates. Mary Beth Garber sent along this chart, with a note:
"I began working as EVP/Radio Analysis and Insights for Katz Radio Group on April 1. My role is quite similar to what is was at the SCBA (and still is until all my SCBA responsibilities are reassigned). Please know that I have even more resources to be able to answer questions regarding radio and all its platforms. If you need support in defending radio or to overcome objections, or questions in general about radio, I can still be of service. I'm located in the Los Angeles office of Katz, 6500 Wilshire."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


"We've come around to saying that Nike is a 
marketing-oriented company, and the product 
is our most important marketing tool."
— Phil Knight: Co-founder and former CEO of Nike (from Nightengale.com)

Of course, you’ve seen Nike on TV, so you know that they do advertise, but building the marketing into a product you want your users to “wear” every single day sounds a lot like radio to me.

Is your product built to be your most important marketing tool? (Marketing: “placing your product in the mind of the customer, so they can use it.”)

Before you start to advertise, think like Nike.

Is what comes out of the speakers so special and unique in every single minute that it creates buzz and loyalty among the folks who are now aware of it?

If so, you’re ready to advertise and grow your cume. If not, it’s time to research, innovate and develop the "sole" of your on air product to the point that it exceeds expectations.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

BCAB 2011 Wisdom

"People don't want to be friends with a toilet paper. Be more than a BRAND. Think gestalt and discovery. No one waiting to hear from you. Be real, compelling, personal. Stop broadcasting to a mass. Start listening. We only change when things stop working for us. You can profit from change" - John Parikhal

"There are no boring stories only boring story tellers. To master the digital world: Adhere to the principles of powerful storytelling. Entertain and inform whether it is live or on-demand. Keep in mind that shows that are downloaded may not be heard right away. Expect that when there's news of an immediate nature, or a big break in a story, people will still go to their radios, TVs, and computers with the expectation that you will give them the most immediate up-to-the moment information." - Valerie Geller

"Stay as current as you can with all the new media technology toys, but keep in mind that human stuff still always relates best. A station I work with got more hits and viral buzz that anything they ever did with listener photos in a "dog-human lookalike contest." - Daniel Anstandig

"Radio at its best is good people doing extraordinary things." - Paul Ski, CEO, Rogers Media/Radio Group

"Never make a key decision when backed into a corner under duress. There's ALWAYS a creative solution." - Anthony von Mandl, quoting his father

What a terrific meeting! I thought last year's was the best ever. Now, I must revise that opinion up one year.

Really, my ONLY disappointment was when I asked what the group heads were planning to do to grow top line in the coming year and it seemed like they all agree that 3% up this year is good.

Maybe it is when you're trying to move a behemoth, but I had hoped someone would challenge us to get rates up by getting beyond selling against one another to the same "buyers" and aggressively targeting new media business.

That's what the whole convention was about, and I was wondering if any of them would be so inspired that they'd see more revenue potential as a goal beyond pacing with the economy as a whole.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Making A Big National Difference All In One Amazing Day

Astral Media's National Day of Caring for Kids Radiothon is happening simultaneously today on 60 radio stations across Canada (click their Facebook page to see what's happening), in support of children’s hospitals and health care facilities.

Double KUDOS to VP/BC Operations for Astral Brad Phillips who is also President of the British Columbia Association of Broadcasters and is simultaneously playing host to their 64th annual convention in Kelowna just as his 99.9 Sun FM, AM 1150 and 101-5 EZ Rock originate the one-day “Have a Heart” Radiothon event for Kelowna General Hospital.

This live broadcast calls upon listeners to help raise much-needed funds to support care for young patients, enable the acquisition of new specialized pediatrics equipment and provide parents with support services. The “Have A Heart” Radiothon will run from 6am to 6pm from Orchard Park Shopping Centre in the Sky Court.

This year, the focus is on raising funds for specialized equipment for the new pediatric trauma and waiting rooms at Kelowna General Hospital. One hundred percent of the money raised during this one-day, 12 hour event will stay in our community to help babies and kids.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Change? Or, Small Change?

Today's headlines:
Mel Karmazin math from yesterday's analyst call: “Sirius currently has nine percent of all listening and 15% of the total U.S. radio revenue. Thousands of stations dividing up 79%” of total radio revenue, hundreds (internet streamers) dividing up twelve percent of listening).

  • Music Week's digital specialist Eamonn Forde tells the BBC this morning that record companies have given up album sales in exchange for the "opportunity" to establish a direct relationship with digital music buyers.
Lots of spin in the air today, eh? .. which makes it a great moment to enter a "no spin zone," The Corner Office:

It is easier for an organization to keep its established focus: the station manager who simply redoubles his or her efforts to make the budget for the quarter; the programmer who is totally absorbed in the specifics of PPM meter logs. It is not that these people are not hard workers or devoted to their jobs; in many cases, they are valuable employees. But one person’s “focus” is another’s “blindness to the change around them”. Radio as an industry has been slow to acknowledge and absorb the change implication of the digital revolution; many among us just wish it would go away and let us get back to business.

That’s where the agents of change can help; they can raise the larger issues that will determine our long term future. These issues include:

What real purpose do we serve for our listeners? For our advertisers?

What are the unique resources we bring to that job?

What are the values of our organization that guide our allocation of resources?

What is the process we use to get the job done for our listeners? For advertisers?

In our business, we seldom stop to ask those questions. First, they are sometimes just too hard to answer and second, we are running at a thousand miles an hour to get our normal business done. The urgent crowds out the truly important, the really strategic questions. It is admittedly easier to go back and switch-pitch the advertiser who didn’t buy our cluster on their last avail. But every day we fill with that frenetic activity, to the exclusion of the important strategic questions, is a day closer to risking irrelevance in a digitally connected world.

-- Greater Media Chairman & CEO Peter Smyth

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


  1. The Broadcasters Foundation of America remembers former Katz Media Group CEO Stu Olds who died of leukemia last December with the first annual Stu Olds Memorial Fund golf tourney on June 14 at Olds’s home club, Westchester County's Knollwood Country Club.

  2. Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB), BMI and Mentoring and Inspiring Women in Radio Group (MIW) continues to enhance women's knowledge and expertise in Radio sales management with the fourth annual "Rising Through the Ranks" two-day training seminar dedicated to the support and advancement of women in Radio sales management will be held August 30-31, 2011, at the BMI Offices in Nashville.

  3. The 2011 NAB Marconi Radio Awards nomination process is now open to recognize overall excellence in radio broadcasting. To be considered for a 2011 NAB Marconi Radio Award, general managers may nominate their station in the "Station of the Year by Market Size" and/or "Station of the Year by Format" categories. They may also submit nominations for "Legendary Station," "Network/Syndicated Personality of the Year" and "Spanish Format Personality of the Year." On-air personalities are also eligible for a Marconi Radio Award. Nominations are being accepted based on market size. All nominations must be received by May 31. Finalists will be announced in July.

These three organizations do terrific work 365/24/7 in support of radio people, usually quietly and behind the scenes. Thanks to everyone involved for all they do.

Get involved! Make a difference.

Monday, May 02, 2011

WZZK and 102.5 The Bull: Two Facebook Friends Worth Following

Tom Taylor's head: "Cox wins praise for its storm coverage in Birmingham" and a note last week from Townsquare Media/Billings OM Ray Massie "...with the southern storms, it's a great time to watch social media at work. 102.5 The Bull in Birmingham is doing an excellent job on Facebook," it's a timely reminder of the new channels we have to keep listeners updated.

Cox market manager David DuBose: "We were giving street-by-street projections on the storm’s path, and we continued warning as the storm approached Cullman and then into the western communities of Birmingham. By 9pm (last) Wednesday night, with many people hurting, without power, cell service, Internet and TV, only my radio stations stayed on the air all night providing emergency information, opening the phone lines, directing rescue teams to the injured, and helping to locate missing people.”

What's your website, social and on air plan for when the worst happens? Check out what Alabama broadcasters did last week as a stellar example.