Thursday, October 27, 2011


Applying the term "reductions in force" to the firing of people and reordering of financial priorities from content creation, street presence, local middle management and customer/listener service to debt reduction can be a misnomer, sending the wrong message to anyone hoping to gain market share as companies like Clear Channel and Cumulus decide what to keep and what to discard.

Asian martial arts proves that it's quite possible to quickly prevail against a stronger, bigger adversary if you understand what true force is and how to leverage it.

My first lesson in this fact came in the late 1970's when I left local radio in San Jose to join consultant-syndication company Drake-Chenault.

One of my first client station visits was to North Carolina Summit Broadcasting General Manager Roger Stockton, who I was trying to convince that his radio station should move from one of our 24/7 syndicated formats, "Great American Country" which was voiced by the legendary Bob Kingsley to adding a live morning show and other "live and local" dayparts.

"Don't people wonder if Bob ever sleeps?" I queried Stockton.

He replied, "they don't seem to, since we have an 18 share in those time periods."

Consistent music rotations, a familiar voice front and also back announcing all of the current music and tight formatics compared to what other choices Triad country listeners had was sufficient force to win big at the time.

That station was WTQR and fortunately Stockton and his company had the foresight to add budget for some great personalities over the next few years, thus maintaining a ratings juggernaut that has endured for decades.

Now, of course, it's a Clear Channel station and is both in the crosshairs of its present ownership's "RIF" and its Entercom direct country competition which is working to make it an "RIP" instead.

Jay Meyers, CEO of Adelante Media Group and a former Clear Channel executive told Inside Radio yesterday that where a personality is located doesn’t matter.

Local and relevant are important but live and location are not,” he says.What matters is whether the content keeps the listener in touch with their community and gives them the same bond they used to get when there were jocks around the clock.

Meyers is talking about a force that matters most right now if you're across the street as Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman shakes things up in the programming ranks at radio’s largest company, relevance.

IR also quoted Pittman from Facebook’s f8 Developer Conference in San Francisco last month: “Weve got to get our program directors to rethink. Weve got creative talent and great programmers but we have to figure out a way to unleash them so ideas come flooding in.

Automating radio's programming is nothing new and neither is this tested and proven theorem:
  • Great beats local.
  • Great local beats unengaged execution, no matter where it comes from or how famous the voice.
  • Fun, originality, creativity, passion, interactivity, proper targeting, position, excellent formatics dominate as long as it makes the listener feel something more than anything else on the radio right now.
May THAT force be with you, radio people, as you navigate your career in these turbulent times for us all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

News And Comment

News: A bit of poetic justice and extreme irony as CBS Radio resigns from the Country Music Association just as the organization started Country Music Month, after CMA signs a ten year deal for TV broadcast rights with ABC. They told CBS Radio/Phoenix OM and KMLE PD Jeff Garrison to resign his longtime position on the CMA Board Of Directors. Now, he gets a new assignment, as he explained to Country Aircheck “helping our Country stations and our digital platforms to work more closely with artists to extend the brands of our stations while promoting new artists, album releases, concerts and other projects" as VP/Country Artist Relations, in addition to his role in Phoenix.

Comment: Every country radio station in the world needs to join the CMA. Now, more than ever. As a board member, I promise to work with the other radio representatives on the board to make it more worth your while than ever in the coming year!

CBS may have a lot of reporting and monitored station muscle, but no one in the industry is as well positioned to aggressively assist “Country radio stations and our digital platforms to work more closely with artists to extend the brands of our stations while promoting new artists, album releases, concerts and other projects." Join. Then, let's join hands with CMA to do what CBS hopes to do without CMA within it and even better for all radio stations in every market size and ownership affiliation. That's what CMA was founded to do.

News: Cumulus/Atlanta has decided that the future for their new acquisition WKHX is to offer a choice rather than battle head-on anymore with Clear Channel's WUBL KIX has just gone from 220 tunes in its Gold catalog the week prior to 381 last week. If every song is a marketing message, KIX is saying "hellooo, 45-54." They now play only 37% current and recurrents and have added early Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, the Judds, Patty Loveless, Diamond Rio and many others from the 80's and 90's. CC's The Bull is 68% current/recurrent. It's "best country hits" vs "today's new country."

Comment: A&O's 2011 "Roadmap" national perceptual study certainly has shown that there's a large upper demo appetite for more variety and less repetition and Coleman's CRS 2011 research project replicates that it's also quite possible to build a very viable and unique music coalition centered on the highly familiar music of the class of '89 boom.

However, are there enough meters in the Atlanta country sample for two stations to create a "difference" that only half the audience will love?

Both Cumulus and Clear Channel managements are savy and smart, so you can be sure they looked hard at it before making this decision.

It's a first for PPM measured markets, though Cox's classic country KTHT/Houston, has proven that an even older narrow country target can perform consistently in a PPM market with a large enough country cume.

Keep an eye on Atlanta and be prepared to learn something about country's narrow demos and metered sampling.

The pressure is on ARB to deliver consistent samples in 18-44, men, women, and 40-54, men and women.

If they don't, the ratings for 'KHX and 'UBL will be more of an indication of ongoing panel sample issues than with the differentiation strategy Cumulus unveiled last Friday.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Making Show Prep Routine (from "The Trachman Files")

Everyone's prep time is different and how you spend it depends on the kind of material that's appropriate for your station and your listeners. But there's a pretty bare-bones minimum daily requirement of at least an hour's prep for a morning show. Among the things you should be doing in that time...
  1. Read the local paper (yesterday's, if it's an afternoon paper). Check the local TV station web sites (and other web sites carrying local information).
  2. Inform yourself about what's going on in the town. Look for "little" items that interest you. If you find yourself responding emotionally to an article, it's potentially something you'll want to Share with a listener.
  3. Scan your news sources for major national stories. Also, look over the features and show business news. Be on the lookout for silliness, absurdity, irony, and what I call "throat-lumpers" (things that make you want to say "Awwwww"). Watch for anything that relates to current artists you're playing.
  4. Look out the window. Better yet, go outside for a few minutes; look at the sky, smell the air; "experience" the day. Familiarize yourself with both the official forecast, and the "look and feel" of the day.
  5. Look over new copy for promotions -- so you'll understand how a game works before the first time you have to do it. Read any new ad copy, if possible, and rehearse it out loud.
  6. Glance through publicity releases or any other material you may have on current artists. Some stations keep a "book" on all artists who will be appearing locally over the coming weeks.
  7. Set up any raps you want to do with your news person. You don't have to script them, but the other person should at least have a broad idea of what to expect, and where the bit will end.
There is no substitute for prepping your show. There is no way you can be your best without doing the work. You expect it of your jocks; how can you expect less of yourself? - Jay Trachman

Compose your raps. Be they Life Content -- which you should be gathering 16 hours every day -- or Local Content -- the best kind is that which you experience personally, rather than what you read about -- they should be pre-thought-out. My personal preference is to script my raps, word for word.

Some prefer to make notes. Depending on format, you should have about two prepared raps for each hour of your show. And you should have on paper, if not the entire rap, at least a topic sentence (what it's about) and your closing line, or "kicker."

Should everything you do on the air be prepared in advance? Of course not! But by entering the studio with a sheaf of papers in hand that will provide you with more material, of various kinds, than you can possibly use that day, you free yourself to be creative as the impulse arises. It's very hard to create when you "have to."

you don't have to, you can relax and enjoy whatever creative sparks fly.

JA adds: you may win by not doing all of these things routinely... until someone across the street from you does so.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Show Prep -- How And Why

Jay Trachman, as anyone who has read my blog for very long knows, was an immense inspiration and a lifelong personal friend to me. As I tour Turkey and Greece on vacation right now, I am going to open some old Trachman tidbits in hopes it keeps his memory alive for you as well.

There's no way you can do a successful morning show "on the cheap." And I'm not talking about money.

I work with PD-morning hosts with the vague hope that they can learn how to do a better show just by talking with me.

As though all they lacked was a little knowledge;
"Trachman will tell me what's wrong and how to fix it, and that'll make everything great!"

Well, it ain't so.

90% of the time, one of the things I'm going to tell you is, you need to do more work. You need to do research; to prep your show.

The unprepped show is easy to spot, even when done by a very talented jock.

The give-away is that he or she will talk mainly about the weather, the music, and one or two bits pre-packaged from a service. He may chat amiably with a colleague on the air, but the raps are always too long, and often seem to go nowhere. Typically, the show lacks "substance," meaning relating to anything besides what's going on at that moment in the jock's little world, or what's been spoon-fed to him or her.

Here are just a few of the elements that should go into a morning show: Life Content, Local Content, Music Content, listener phone-ins, banter with colleagues, calendars, games and contests, and informational raps.

They all require time and effort to set up.

"But," says my typical student, "I work a 12-hour day already, between these two jobs! When am I supposed to find the time to prep my show?"

That's not a question I can answer in specifics.

Look for chores you can delegate as PD; look for times you can combine one job with another.

The fact that you're already over-burdened does not relieve you of the responsibility of a) keeping your listener entertained and informed and b) setting the pace for the rest of your air staff.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Be Like Taylor

As the size of the generational cohorts comprising the age group which has already started hitting retirement now won't peak and start downward in proportion of the population until the 4.3 million babies born in 1957 during the baby boom have fast forwarded 65 years to 2022, it's inevitable that many country stations which once prided themselves on having a mean age right in the middle of 25-54, now find themselves with an audience whose average age is moving up into the mid-to-high 40's.

Last week's New Yorker offers a wonderfully-flattering in-depth profile of the woman who may have changed that course for us, Taylor Swift. Writer Lizzie Widdicombe makes it clear that Taylor wasn't trying to do anything so calculated as target the nation's next very, very large emerging generation of country fans - today's teen age girls and 18-28 females - in the article titled "You Belong With Me: How Taylor Swift made teen angst into a business empire." She's just being herself.

For those of us who hope to remain relevant from a perspective of several decades older, clearly we have some learning to do and even the descriptive phrases Widdicombe uses provide a list of traits not normal to an X'er or Boomer that we need to incorporate as we work to hold not only the Swift generation, as their values impact the entire culture.
  • Radiates unjaded sincerity no matter how contrived the situation
  • Writes her own material
  • Like Dolly Parton, writes autobiographical story songs that relate to her target audience
  • In the Internet era, (that) is also a clever marketing device
  • Doesn’t drink or go to clubs. More "wholesome" than her parents' generation was at her age
  • Emotional and personal in universal ways
  • Her mother and father remain a big part of her life
  • Spends most of her off time with band members, friends, and family
  • Approaches her career with the seriousness of a C.E.O
Anyone who opens a microphone on a country radio station would do well to run through that checklist each time they prep and deliver.

Friday, October 14, 2011

N. O. E. S. L. W. S. T. M. S.

"Using 'commercial-free' verbiage is equal to saying 10-12 minutes of every hour of your station's product is worthless," says Jim Kirkland in

Jim should look at our product from a listener and not just a media buyer perspective.

No doubt that our commercial time is worth a lot more than we normally manage to get paid for it, but there’s a reason why online streaming ads have to be :20 seconds or less and extremely engaging.

The future of media is moving to end user control and those buttons on their radio have always given them the power to avoid anything they don’t feel is worth the time.

Meanwhile, even the AAA confirms that the best bet is not to change stations while driving since even that, they infer, occasionally contributes to distracted driving.

OK, I'll stop now, after one final "No One Ever Said Life Was Supposed to Make Sense."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Making Sense Of The Senseless

I understand why record labels play both sides in major markets where all competitive stations are monitored reporters.

Makes sense. Support the station which supports your music and artists. If you don't add it, I'll try to get your competition to do so in hopes that forces you to add it.

What doesn’t make sense to me is in medium and small markets where there’s only one reporting station and as a result labels make sure they get everything and the non-reporter next to nothing.

Those stations may be on top for the required three books in a row and reporting status may change then. Or, the non-reporting programmers and music directors will be at reporting stations some day and they will remember.

Hopefully, the label executives who lobbied for the smaller number of reporters in hopes it would save money have now figured out that didn't work quite that way and some day they'll start to lobby for more stations in more markets to report too.

More reporters means fewer people with too much power and a more representative, credible chart.

Even less sensible: small markets where no one is a reporter and yet artist managers still try to enforce a standard rider in their contracts which says only reporting stations can welcome the show or appear on stage.

Often the only station in town which has partnered with the county fair or local casino for years finds that they are told the artist’s road manager wants it to be a “neutral show” with no welcoming station in spite of the fact that they are the only game in town.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Continuing Series: Stuff I Don't Understand

I'll repeat it: No One Ever Said Life Was Supposed to Make Sense

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

(More) No One Ever Said Life Was Supposed to Make Sense

It's SO great to see nice guy WWYZ PD Lance Tidwell, morning personality Corey Meyers and the Clear Channel/Hartford team leverage Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and Brad Paisley concerts to the highest country station 6+ share in the history of PPM measurement anywhere, 12.3 6+.

Meanwhile, country's PPM-measured share of the radio listening in Atlanta is 6.8. In Houston, it's a 10.1. In Dallas (where A&O hears that 40% of 25-54 panelists are Spanish-language-only households) it's a 7.8.

Can it really be that country music is hotter right now in Hartford than it is in Houston?

Bigger in Connecticut than Georgia?

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's "Hankless Monday" #2

The first thing about the whole brouhaha which makes much sense to me in any other way than just a whole bunch of folks going for publicity is this morning's RBR-TVBR observation:
"We got a lot of comments on the original story as to why ESPN decided to take a stance on this, either way, considering it was not even said on their network. But who knows what sort of comments (and from whom) they had been receiving on their end. Most likely most of them were in favor of pulling the song. Perhaps if Williams had issued a true apology, it could have been different."

The dust up seems to me like a huge coup for Hank, since he hasn’t gotten this much media coverage (he's on The View and Hannity tomorrow) in many years and will probably help ESPN too when after awhile they kiss and make up, getting even more publicity when they do.

Meanwhile, it brought up once again the old canard that “Clear Channel banned the Dixie Chicks from radio.

Not true and Ed Schultz and Holland Cooke of all people should remember that Cox and Cumulus wouldn’t use the word “banned” of course, but they were the only two companies I know of to decide at the corporate level not to play the Chicks anymore, citing persuasive listener research. Clear Channel left it up to individual stations, yet they keep getting blamed, proving that myths often resonate longer and louder than truths.

No one ever said life was always supposed to make sense.