Wednesday, November 30, 2011

That IS What I Said, But It Wasn't What I Meant

With programmers looking for benchmarks or norms to compare their station to, Arbitron, Media Monitors and Inside Radio are working on a study that looks at the musical characteristics of top performing stations under PPM measurement which will be revealed next week at Arbitron's annual Fly-In in a presentation by Arbitron's Jenny Tsao and Heine.

It examines key music metrics, like library size, current playlist and turnover rate, at top performing stations and compares them to the average in that format.

Since one of the formats they’re looking at is country, Inside Radio's Paul Heine conferenced with Mike O'Malley and me the other day and then printed a few bullet points from that lengthy conversation.

In reading it, I felt a bit like Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich, wishing one of us had done a better job explaining what I meant to communicate in a clearer, more quickly-quotable manner.

The data shows top performers share remarkably similar musical characteristics with average stations in the same format. The study both reinforces the importance of playing the hits to build a ratings foundation while demonstrating how non-music programming components separate ratings winners from also-rans.

As Heine previewed yesterday in Inside Radio, the percentage of airplay devoted to the most played songs in individual formats is largely the same – whether a station is ranked first in its target demo or not. For example, nearly one in three spins (30%) on CHR stations are from the format’s ten most played songs and nearly seven in ten are from songs in the top 50 — regardless of the station’s 18-34 rank.

While slower current music rotations mean country devotes a lower percentage of spins to songs in the top 10, the percentages hardly vary whether the station is No. 1 in 25-54 (18% of spins) ranked No. 2 - No. 5 (17%) or ranked No. 6 - No. 10 (16%).

The findings of the study were largely consistent across six major contemporary music formats.
Arbitron and Mediabase — in conjunction with Inside Radio — tracked stations in PPM markets from April-June for the study: "Country — radio’s most programmed format — exhibits few variances in selecting top songs. No matter whether ranked first or tenth in 25-54, country stations appear to be spinning and rotating the same current songs at the same levels across PPM markets."

In viewing the stats, Mike O'Malley told Heine there are only minor differences in the way number one stations spin the top 20 (or even the top 50) vs. #6-10. What is outside the Top 50 creates the majority of what country plays regardless of rank. 6-10 play slightly more songs outside the top 50 than #1s (2%) or #2-5 (1%), but really that difference is insignificant. Because there’s little different in the way ‘currents’ are spun, ranks are a function of something else.

My perspective on what that might be: no matter whether a specific market is highly Hispanic, black or primarily non-ethnic, the leading country stations still do best when they overachieve among non-ethnic listeners with an almost even balance of 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54 listeners. Thus, "common thread/low polarity" songs which work to help hit that goal tend to be the same ones regardless of whether the city is Miami, San Diego, Philadelphia, Houston or Boston.

Secondly, music promotion to country is driven by the reality that many country music fans continue to purchase music on physical CDs as opposed to digital downloads and so record labels strive to keep stations in synch on the number of consensus current hit songs that retailers like Wal-Mart and Target have on their shelves at any given time, which keeps the number of currents we're all exposing to fewer than 20-25.

O'Malley made the point that, given that, smart country stations tend to differentiate themselves musically by the gold library material a station either plays or doesn't, rather than currents or recurrents.

Heine's report included the factoid that top-ranked 25-54 country stations are playing, on average, 200 more titles than lower ranked country stations: 681 active titles for top-ranked stations, 484 for stations ranked No. 2 - No. 5 and 480 for stations ranked No.6 - No.10.

Then, he added his own observation that bigger libraries and slower current rotations are one of the hallmarks of a format long on Time Spent Exposed and light on cume followed by a quote from me, “If a country station increases its rotations too high, TSE generally declines. That’s the steel sword country has: a very loyal, passionate core that listens for a long time...” which had me seeming to say that big libraries are what makes winning stations in ARB PPM when, actually, just the opposite is true.

The repetition I was talking about was spinning currents too often which can harm heavy user time spent listening, based on audience turnover that is about half for country what the contemporary hit formats have.

They need to play currents twice as fast as country radio does to be sure that their average listener hears them about the same amount.

Country has a weapon in its arsenal that CHR generally doesn't have access to, given our wider target age: high appeal gold songs as well as currents and recurrents.

However, I sure don't want anyone to get the impression that when it comes to country bigger gold categories beat tighter ones in PPM. They do not.

The main reason a country station ranks higher in a Minneapolis or Cincinnati than in a Miami or Los Angeles has everything to do with the size of the non-ethnic 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54 population in those places and how accurately the PPM panel reflects those demographics in the correct male/female balance, NOT the number of songs in their library.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Things Are Looking UP For Retailers

Big Research: Those of us on the “nice” list may be getting an extra special surprise under the tree this year, as purchase intentions for several big ticket items – including autos, computers, mobile devices, and TVs – are on the rise this year compared to last.

What’s NOT hot? "While more popular among young women, virtual pinboard Pinterest doesn’t seem to be generating much interest among the public at large."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Awards Are Nice, But Great Results Are Nicer

Canada's Astral Radio learned last week that two campaigns broadcast on its stations have been awarded at the Media Innovation Awards gala in Toronto.

McDonald's Restaurants claimed the Gold in the B
est in Radio category for its "McTraffic" campaign, while Michelin won the Silver in the same category for its "Le bon pneu peut tout changer" campaign.

It's great to win these prizes, of course, but it's even more gratifying to
begin to understand how to measure proof of success of the campaign and its related contest.

Astral stations recorded more than 10,868 clicks on the different web formats of their campaign and, even more impressively, received a record number of contest entries in a very short 11-hour period: 11,450 entries across the two networks.

Let's all commit to sharing our success stories with one another, not just for bragging rights but to make everything that goes between the songs as entertaining and effective as possible.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Don't Let This Man Write Your Imaging

This isn’t about politics. It’s about messaging.

Like USA Weekend, which features the Obama family on its cover along with their Holiday letter, when I saw that country music was the fare the other evening at The White House, I was hoping that there might be audio of something clever and Presidential (click to download the mp3) about the values and vitality of country music that could be used in our stationality elements this weekend or even better something funny, since unlike the Bushes, Clinton, Ford, Reagan or Carter, Obama’s Hawaii and Indonesia years meant that he wasn’t steeped in country music in his childhood.

At first, I was thinking I’d make a joke of the fact that he thinks James Taylor is a country artist, but Taylor Swift officially nixed that thought last week at Madison Square Garden.

I replayed his entire five minute welcome to the audience (click to see the video mp4), looking for an edit point that was self-contained with a setup, a quick story or statement and a payoff.

No luck.

He starts very well numerous times. “The music that’s storytelling gives voice…,” name drops Charlie Pride with a nice quote on country’s inclusiveness and diversity, talks about how much it means to so many, points to The Band Perry, Dierks Bentley, Alison Krauss, Lyle Lovett, Darius Rucker but really didn’t say anything easily quotable, fully-formed and brief that might have worked over an intro to one of their songs. He wraps up evoking a “grand tradition,” which got my hopes up, but then ended up disappointing for my needs.

If you find a succinct statement as quotable as the ones written for former Presidents in situations like this, please point it out to me. I don’t think that in 5:07 of rambling, albeit very sincere ad libbing he gave us anything that would work out of the context it was said in.

It’s tempting to say that Obama needs a Frank Luntz or this inability to imbed at least one or two very quotable and brief, fully-formed, memorable phrases in five minutes of verbiage says something about why he’s having difficulty selling his agenda to his opposition, but I’m not going there.

I will say this: when it’s time to create your marketing messages, don’t be like Barack.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It Doesn't Matter Where You Sit In Front Of A Mic

It matters what you do.

Thanks to Radio Ink for digging deeper and finding some supporting opinions on my October post reminding talent that content is the new targeting and relatable is the new local.

Burns & Associates CEO Alan Burns tells Radio Ink people don't really care if Rush Limbaugh is local.
"In most cases and places, being entertaining is more important than where you originate from. Listeners will say local is preferable, but they’ll listen to what’s most entertaining or most useful to them. But local does matter. You can win with local if you do it well and thoroughly and are in roughly the same ballpark as the other guys on entertainment or information. Clear Channel’s move to more nationalized content will cause some broadcasters to try to do a better job of local service, and that’s good for the industry."

For local to matter, Burns says, you have to do more than just pay lip-service to it. "Just saying the names of three suburbs after the weather won't work. I’ve seen some of CCU’s Premium Choice stations do very well against nominally “local” programming. You have to know the market and care about it, serve it and reflect it on the air, and be everywhere in it. That’s where the national companies and content will have a hard time competing. Clear Channel, and anyone else who wants to emulate what they’re doing, has to be thinking about several questions regarding staffing levels: How many markets can one talent empathize with? Do you have enough people at the local outlet to actually be in touch with the market? Do you have enough people left to generate sufficient local presence?"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Going Over The Top For The Community

As usual, when it's time to do a little bit more for Boy Scouts and thousands of other worthy causes, radio - as represented by Cat Country 98.7/Pensacola's morning guy Brent Lane, is the first one to volunteer (click to watch the WEAR-TV video of the event).

Of course, Gannett's News-Journal was there to cover it too.

Lane termed Friday's stunt: "a top 3 adrenaline rush of a life time."

It's such a source of pride in seeing radio's people and all media working together both up in the air and on the ground to help make a big difference in shared positive values.

Please let me know what YOU are doing in your home town too!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pandora Satisfaction Slips

StateNets is a regional rep firm for the numerous state radio networks, so unless you're one of them it's unlikely that you are a regular on Chicago-based Tom Dobrez's website. That is why I'm going to take the liberty of republishing his most recent sales graphic, which you may want to include in your media kit.
Dobrez, after listening to Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman, who used the graphic as he placed radio in the new media world: "When you first got your iPod you were thrilled. You immediately downloaded music and made a few playlists. One for your bedroom listening, another for outside on the beach etc. But then you kind of tired of them and like most you shied away from them. Every once and awhile you might actually take the time to edit but rarely. Or perhaps you are a Pandora listener and you simply entered Peter Gabriel and you received a lot of tunes that sounded like Peter Gabriel. Some you actually thought were cool. However, your engagement lasted only a few days maybe weeks. Then your attention waned.

"In the world of Radio, the playlists are curated by professionals driven by extensive research. They can determine when a song is too old and magically you stop hearing it and it is replaced by something similar and fresher. Radio playlists change dynamically. That’s why you find yourself pulling your iPod cord out of the car tuner and going back to good old fashion radio every now and then. Well that and the human element which I’ll talk about on another day."

.. which means you and I had better bookmark his blog, eh?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What to Look for When Hiring Talent

Due to the recent "RIF" cutbacks at Clear Channel, Cumulus and other major groups, the number of pro's on the loose right now simply boggles the mind. Here at A&O, we're getting emails from many of them every single day. It's overwhelming and sad to know that there's a bigger crowd of people needing jobs right now which far outnumbers the ones available and projected in the coming year.

At the same time, when an opening occurs it also makes it very hard to separate the wheat from chaff. As a prospective employer, you tend to have in the back of your mind that there has to be a reason why "this" person was cut and someone else was kept.

It's tempting to only recruit people who currently have jobs, so as to avoid the issue of digging deeply into backgrounds to understand why the previous employer decided that this person was expendable. Yet, you'd be missing a lot of people who are ready to start right now and will understand how valuable a good job is, hopefully bringing extra passion to your workplace.

The most important thing to do is start by being clear about what talents, attitude, personal style, work ethic and strengths you want. A strong line-up of talent is something every station needs, but what do you look for when hiring a new jock?

The decision will always be based on a number of factors:
  • Which time slot are you looking to fill?
  • Will you hire someone from a competitor/different market?
  • Will they already have on-air experience or not?

While the final decision is always going to be a subjective, there are a few things worth considering.

You want a personality who will be able to connect with your audience confidently. So keep an eye out for a confident communicator who doesn’t come across as condescending or ‘cocky’.

The Ability To Focus
It’s a trait that every host/announcer will need to display if they are to perform to the very best ability on-air.

An Engaging Conversational Style
A great voice isn’t enough these days, you need someone who can engage your audience and keep them listening. Perhaps set them a quick test by asking them to tell you a story about a ballpoint pen, and to make it sound interesting.

Do they make you feel like they really understand your radio station and convince you that no one wants to work for you more than they do? That they have the organizational skills and work ethic to exceed your expectations.

The X Factor
No, this has nothing to do with Simon Cowell. :) But you need someone who has that extra spark, a dynamic persona, the X Factor!

If the person you have in mind has all of those abilities, chances are they’ll make a great broadcaster.

Snap them up!

Thanks to Paul Hollins at Great Britain's production and syndication company, who provided the inspiration and many of the tips for this article.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Finding Out How Many Words Rhyme With "Receptacles"

Strange times we live in, making decisions of taste almost impossible, if you're trying to please everyone.

Toby Keith provided radio a month ago with an (1) unedited, (2) edited, (3) bleeped and (4) "vegetables" version, which wasn't enough for CMT, which created a fifth (fade) version (5).

Five versions may be an all time record for the country format!

In the wake of Whitney Duncan's ‘Survivor: South Pacific’ antics, Luke Bryan's covering the CMA Awards for "Ellen" more thoroughly than he covers his "Country Girl, Shake It For Me" dancers and Zac Brown long ago proving that you can say the word "ass" on national TV, isn't this ado over "testicles" a bit overblown?

Mike OMalley and I are usually for playing unedited versions, but M O'M points out that 'vegetables' is actually funnier.

In short, we've been telling clients to opt for either the edit (ass) or clean (no ass). In any event, no beep.

The radio axiom "what you don't play will never hurt you," certainly still holds, though dead air is definitely not an audience-builder when compared to 3,155,434 views on You Tube!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Smiling While Scratching My Head

If you, like me, are glued to the stats and musings of Richard Harker & Glenda Shrader Bos on Harker Research's "Radio Insights" blog, you are already up to speed on their recent format comparisons, which they feel is a more accurate use of the numbers than Arbitron's own "Radio Today" analysis.

Devoting the entire front page to Country’s performance,“the most trusted news in radio” declared. The format ranked first among all formats in diary markets with a 14.5 but finished fourth in PPM markets with a 7.1. Put another way, Country’s average diary share is more than double its PPM share. The statement is factually accurate, the ciphering flawless, but in the end meaningless. A few lines later we learn the purpose of this expose' when the author asks rhetorically, “Why do some formats perform better under one ratings system than under another?” It's perhaps a fair question, but using Radio Today Country numbers suggests that the author really doesn't understand how to go about answering the question. Radio Today shares are calculated just like you’d do for a single market. Share is just a format’s AQH divided by the market’s AQH. To calculate a national format share, add the AQH of all the stations, then divide by the total AQH of all the markets. Simple, right? But what happens when there’s no full market Country station in New York or Los Angeles? The two largest markets in the country don’t contribute any AQH to the format tally. Consequently, the format's share is much lower. Radio Today is not designed to compare formats the way the author has tried to do.

Both approaches make country look very good, fortunately.

For example, the Harker researchers found: "There are 90 Country stations in PPM markets, but only 60 have a full 12 months of PPM numbers, so like the other formats, it will take several more months before we know how the entire stable of Country stations are doing.

"That said, PPM appears to have been very kind to Country. Nearly two-thirds (63.3%) are higher today than they were a year ago. Country has the highest percentage of gainers of any format we’ve looked at. The median Country station has a 4.1 share 6+, a tie with Hot AC for third among the formats we’ve discussed so far. The big difference between Country and Hot AC is that Country has positive momentum while Hot AC is stalled, so in this tie we give the nod to Country."

As I reported in this space when "Radio Today" released, Arbitron's research team pointed out:

The No. 1 format overall, in both Diary and non-Metro areas, Country reached more than 65 million listeners each week on more than 1,700 stations—the most outlets of any music format, not including 300 Classic Country stations. It also was the top format among most age groups (including a big lead with adults 25-54) and in most dayparts. Country enjoyed some of the longest time spent listening of all formats, and its listeners set a new high in college degree attainment in Fall 2010.

Harker distrusts ARB's approach on statistical grounds and so to assess the health of each format they looked at two key metrics, median station performance and momentum. The median station is the one in the middle. Half of the stations in the format have a larger share, half have a smaller share. As they see it, the median tells us how the format is trending. "If we see the median rising, it means mid-pack stations, the majority in the format, are gaining share. Tracking the median station is more useful than calculating an average share because averages can be distorted by what are called outliers, stations that dramatically outperform other stations in the format."

New PPM markets coming on-line make it difficult to compare current median shares to last year’s numbers because the newest markets tend to be smaller than the first PPM markets. So, to look at median share trends, Harker calculated median shares for just the stations that have been in the format and measured by PPM for at least a year.

While the median shares tell how popular a format is, Harker posits that a more useful metric for indicating the future prospects of a format is momentum, comparing past performance to the present.

Harker calculates momentum by comparing each station’s share today to what it was last year at this time, using a three month average. Positive format momentum means that more stations are higher today than they were a year ago.

Why is it that there's such a big gap when ranking format mo' and yet so much compression in the 6+ median share ranker, where just a tenth of a point separates #1 and #2, back just .4-.5 are the next four and then just a share behind #1 is #7, leading #8 by just .2?

Richard and Glenda have a theory on that as well, in a 2010 post called Arbitron PPM Trends vs. a Coin Toss, most of the month to month movement of PPM is random.
Stations go up and down for no other reason than luck of the draw. Share estimates always have two components. The first is the actual number, the share you would find if you could ask everybody what they were listening to, instead of just a small number of panelists. The second component is statistical noise. It is interference like static drowning out the signal from a distant AM station. The noise is completely random and unpredictable. Sometimes it adds to the actual share, inflating it. Sometimes it subtracts from the actual share, deflating it. Both monthly PPM share estimates and quarterly diary share estimates have so much statistical noise in them that it drowns out genuine changes in month to month ratings.

I'd interpret that powerful momentum to country's high level of engagement, in spite of lower levels of cume in PPM compared to the formats above us in median 6+ share. And, putting it another way, as Arbitron reinforced in their diary/PPM data for the past year: " Country enjoyed some of the longest time spent listening of all formats." Harker would likely predict that the country format could be a rank or two higher in next year's median averages with that solid improvement (as long as we can keep it up).

There will be a lot to discuss when we're all together next month in Baltimore, which is why both Mike O'Malley and I will be there.

Meanwhile, it's nice to know that no matter how you count it, in PPM, diaries, by momentum over last year, average OR median shares, the country radio format is having one very good 2011.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

From Fruitbowl To One To One

Just search this blog for the name Jay Trachman and you'll discover what a huge influence on me (and many, many others!) Trachman was. It has now been two years since his peaceful death at home in the wee hours of the morning and I feel the need to keep his philsophies alive.

He started "Fruitbowl" (a mix of many different, but sweet treats) in 1974, later changing its name toOne To One” (which became his lifetime mantra) but it remained a constant weekly bit service which he provided for over 30 years from the mid 1970’s until he retired.

Here’s some vintage Trachman:

1. You've got to be speaking to someone specific.

Not a demographic, not an average - someone who is very real to you (even if it's a fantasy), and with whom you feel comfortable. Two reasons: first, the safety this Personal Listener affords you - to block out the masses and picture yourself with this one valued friend - allows you to display a spectrum of emotions you'd never reveal to a crowd of strangers. (More about this in a moment.) Second, when you truly believe you're talking to one person, everyone listening who seeks companionship from his/her radio will fantasize that this person is them.

The Personal Listener has a name, a family, a history, an occupation, a hair color and all the other attributes required so you can picture him or her in your mind when you open the mike. And their primary reason for being there is not the music or the information you offer; it's to spend time with you, because he or she enjoys your company. Not what you do - who you are.

2. You've got to be focusing on the person you're speaking to, rather than the words you're saying.

Otherwise one hears strange inflection patterns and often a hyped energy level that sounds phony. A programmer tells the young jock, "Be up and bright!" It's nice when you are, but it's not appropriate coming out of a soft ballad. When you say the station identifier - no one could possibly be that enthusiastic about something they say every five minutes for four hours. You can announce those words and say them authoritatively - but when you feign enthusiasm, you destroy any chance that the listener will relate to you as a person.

3. In order to be perceived as a friend, you must behave like one.

That means doing the things all human beings do. Among them: showing the spectrum of your emotions. Sometimes people are happy; sometimes they're sad. Sometimes they're angry and sometimes they're tender. You don't have any friends who don't show all these emotions - and more - to you, over a period of time. It's something people expect from one another. You can't achieve emotional intimacy - friendship - with your listener without doing it.

4. You have to prepare material for your show.

Most important, you need to be armed with Life Content when you walk in the studio. Life Content: brief bits about your life experiences and your responses to them. Anything which caused you strong feelings is worth talking about with your listener. Most jocks don't do show prep - especially after the morning show. I've heard every excuse in the book. But the bottom line is, they almost uniformly fail to entertain.

Most of the jocks I hear who don't prep rely on station slogans, positioners, promos and whatever other liner-card junk they can come up with. One of the hallmarks of the DJ who has nothing to say is that those crutch phrases get repeated way more than the programmer or consultant requires. These DJs train the listener to tune them out anytime they open the mike. Ultimately, a survey-taker comes along and asks people what they like least about the station, and they'll reply, "The DJs talk too much!" They don't talk too much - they don't say anything worth hearing!

Entertainment means: enabling another to experience his or her feelings in a safe environment. Make a person laugh, make them cry, make them shake their fists in anger - you have committed entertainment. Every bit you do should lead to an expression of emotion, calculated to make your listener feel something in response. This is exactly what the music you play does. You need to do it, too.

Being a radio performer isn't rocket science... But it does require some understanding and a good deal of work - both before air time and during. Or... you could settle for being an interchangeable jock who wonders why you can never make much more than minimum wage.

Trachman, each week for those three decades, wrote three different types of lines.

Topical (from the news)

I dreamed I won $340 million in the lottery, and they were offering me the choice of taking it in one lump sum, or twenty fill-ups...

We just captured al-Qaeda's "number two" man in Iraq? Great - but I can't help remembering, back when Saddam Hussein was in charge, al-Qaeda didn't *have* a "number two" man in Iraq...

Halloween is coming up on October 31st; know how to spot the kid in the "FEMA" costume? He doesn't show up at your door until November fourth!

I guess I shouldn't have ignored that item in the classified: "Wanted: Supreme Court Justice... No experience necessary..."

Sorry to hear about the recent passing of Don Adams... In his honor, we'll spend just a moment inside the "cone of silence..."

Just a thought: that "number two" guy in al-Qaeda must be getting tired of getting killed and arrested all the time...

You think *you've* got problems? New Orleans police say the flooding completely destroyed two police evidence rooms... Which means there could be up to 3000 suspects they have no choice but to beat confessions out of...

We were sitting in the coffee house complaining about the ridiculously inflated price of gasoline... Over a frozen mocha latte at $6, and a chai tea frappe at $5...

At the very moment the Kansas State Board of Education was debating how to sneak "intelligent design" into the schools, the U. of Kansas opened up a major public display explaining how evolution works; the department head says they didn't plan it that way - it's just pure coincidence... So supporters on *both* sides want you to believe in fairy tales...

Do you get the feeling Bush nominating Harriet Miers is a little like O.J. nominating Johnny Cochran?

Then, he also wrote personal comedy lines about himself, his life and his character:

I wouldn't say my back yard has gotten out of hand - but last week an alien landed in the tall grass and said, "Take me to your weeder!"

Scientists believe there are many intelligent species in the universe... All are owned by cats...

Personally, I always figure exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement...

Ever get the feeling that in a past life you were somebody named "Occupant?" And they're still forwarding your mail?

A tractor-trailer containing a shipment of file folders and Post-It notes was hijacked yesterday... Police think it was the work of organized criminals...

I'm going to have to start watching what I eat... Because I keep missing my mouth...

Handy household hint: if you can't find a screwdriver, use a knife! And if you break the tip off - well, now it's an even better screwdriver!

My wife and I found that planning your vacation is half the fun... So next year, we'll plan *two*, and then stay home - we'll have the same amount of fun, and it won't cost anything!

Thought for the day: life is just nature's way of keeping meat from spoiling...

Lastly, Trachman would write lines/turns of a phrase for songs on the playlist:

All-American Rejects - Dirty Little Secret: Just because it's a sin to believe evil about others... Doesn't mean it's a mistake...

Black Eyed Peas - My Humps: My daddy always said, "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose - until you lose..."

Brown - Run It: I never worry about my kid running with the wrong crowd; he'd have to get up off the couch, first...

Clapton - Say What You Will: I always say, "Change is good, but dollars are better!"

Cabrera - Shine On: Love is blind... And it's not terribly bright, either...

Coldplay - Fix You: I asked Cousin Sara how come she married a man ten years younger than she; she said, "I figured, if you can't find a good man, raise one!"

Collective Soul - How Do You Love: Ever get the feeling a lot of people wouldn't fall in love, if it were more clearly marked?

Crow - Good Is Good: My cousin says once she was with two men in a single night; the next day she could hardly walk... Imagine, having two full dinners!

DHT - Listen To Your Heart: Just remember, the great highway of life is littered with flattened rodents who couldn't make up their minds...

DeGraw - Follow Through: I always say, never start anything you don't intend to... uh, whatever...

Eagles - Cloudy Days: You have to take the bad with the good - but you're allowed to gripe about the proportions...

Fall Out Boy - Sugar, We're Goin' Down: Life has its ups & downs... I hope my skin clears up... And my weight goes down...

Goo Goo Dolls - Give A Little Bit: I find that women are more likely to get romantic if I give them my PIN number, rather than my phone number...

Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.: Never miss an opportunity to make someone happy - even if you have to leave them alone, to do it...

Johnson - Dollar: If I had a dollar for every time the boss complimented me on my show, today I could buy - lunch!

Mayer - Daughters: I want my kids to have all the things I couldn't afford... Then I want to move in with them!

McGraw - My Old Friend: My wife ran into her old ex-boyfriend yesterday... But he got away before she could run into him again...

Powter - Bad Day: How come a fool & his money are never around when you need them?

Underwood - Inside Your Heaven: Cousin Sara told everyone she wanted to marry a ghost... I can't imagine what possessed her...

Vertical Horizon - Forever: Imagine how life would be if you had to renew your marriage license every few years...

I hope that, though several years out of date now, the specificity, quantity, brevity and variety of the material he wrote inspires you to work a little harder to keep Trachman's way of relating alive and present in your daily content as well.

My goal is not to have you go out of your way to then use these lines he has written, but I hope you’ll try this on for size - to get you started prepping what you’re going to say when there’s nothing else to say when a topic comes up, a song plays, or an aspect of his character arises in conversation.

It’s all about planned spontaneity, making listeners think you’re naturally funny. It takes forethought, writing and preparation. Replace all of the “typical DJ” words and phrases we all use with things “only YOU’ would say and in your own, unique manner.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

I Want FM On My Cell Phone (Even In Paradise)

I always wondered why Emmis Communications has been such a strong and early advocate for radio to be included in every cell phone and now I think I know why.

As a company with considerable international experience, I have a feeling that they've long been aware of what I just saw graphically proven on the Greek Island of Santorini, where the waters are as blue as you'll see anywhere and the docks are a great place to watch ferries, transportation and cruise ships take goods and people up to those white hotels, homes and restaurants up on the top of the rocky cliffs.

That is, unless it's 9:30 pm and the ferry is more than two hours late.

Then, along with several hundred other people, you stand - as I did last week - in the chill with not much information on when the boat is going to arrive and not much entertainment to kill the seemingly endless time.

That's when I was glad to watch at least half the crowd starting to reach for their cell phones and ear buds as radio after radio came on. Thanks to my HTC EVO Android phone, I joined them, feeling especially smug as I noticed that the young folks around me were the most likely to be using their cell phones as portable radios.

I know it's been a long, slow process with little visible progress thus far but it seems like a non-issue in most other countries, which puts to rest the argument for me at least that phone owners won't use them.

It's been six months since the very clever and effective Radio Ink-Orkin ads have been updated, but have you aired them as yet? If not, please do.

Perhaps the recent initiative announced at the Chicago NAB meetings including even HD Radio will add impetus to the campaign.

As I discovered on a cold night waiting for a boat, it's nice to be able to turn to entertainment at the touch of a button on this ubiquitous device.

Sooner or later, it's going to prove essential when the power's out, cell service is down and and radio comes to the fore once again to inform, saving lives.

Let's work to make sure it's there when it's needed most.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

From Bad to Poor and Everything in Between

What one word best describes the economy? 1.6% call it "hopeful."

If you said something like bad, sucks, poor, terrible or depressing, you’d be right in line with the top 5 descriptions, according to the latest American Pulse™. 6,059 respondents participated in the 2nd October American Pulse conducted 10/25-10/26/2011.

The latest results show that very few Americans have positive things to say about the economy. Many say their standard of living has dropped, most would support tax system reform and the majority thinks the government needs to spend less to get the economy back on track.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Lifespan Of A Country Current

How long does it take to find out if country radio listeners dislike a song? How many weeks of airplay does it take to make ‘em tired of a song? Is the fact that two or three country stations per market all play almost the same songs in nearly identical rotations hurting the appeal of country music on the radio?

To try to learn the answers to those questions, A&O tracks audience response to every current hit tested by our client stations year-round. Most weeks, that's between 35 and 45 titles.

Lately, I have been entering all of them - by the number of weeks a song has been played nationally (A&O AccuTest recommendations) - into a spreadsheet. The tracking of average scores is displayed by number of weeks the songs play.

Here is how the audience felt about - not the best, nor the worst, but - the average of all of the country songs played during the summer and fall of 2011:

% Positive %Burn %Dislike %Unfamiliar
After four weeks: 51.95 2.58 7.03 20.35

In most cases, this was the first week the song was tested. The tune had received 14 plays in its first week on the radio, 20 plays in its second, 27 plays in the third week and 29 plays in the week the song was initially researched. Half of the national sample (52% was already starting to like it, while one-fifth were unfamiliar with it (based on a :07-:10 hook).

The acceptance radio margin (positive:negative) was 5.41:1. In other words, the odds were 5.4 to one that by the time that UNfamiliar 20.35% of the sample became familiar with it, they would also like it.

After seven weeks: 46.9 2.7 7.32 23.9

I don’t have an explanation, just an observation. After three additional weeks of play - on average in secondary rotation - the changes in acceptance and rejection are significant statistically.

Unfamiliarity grew by 17.4% and positives dropped by 9.7%.

Could it be that passionate fans, heavy-users, who are first to hear and recognize new music feel most positive about it right away? Then, their negatives begin to grow after this early positive response as they become more discerning?

Almost all songs in the sample received at least seven weeks’ airplay before being dropped (some were for poor research results, but most drops came as a result of slow chart momentum and not weak test scores). A small number of songs were dropped after three weeks’ play. The majority of songs tested in week four were still on the playlist by week eleven.

A dirty little "consultant secret:" our first national indication that perhaps a song isn't going to make it comes not from poor research scores, but when a number of influential clients simply stop testing it.

Eleven weeks: 65.98 3.65 8.75 6.08

The 41% increase in acceptance at this point was due to at least three possible factors: familiarity with the song had gotten up to almost 94% with (by now) an average of 35 plays per week, the lower-testing titles had been dropped from play at this point (which by and of itself improved the average score) and combined negatives had only increased from 10.02% to 12.4%, a 23.8% hike.

Positives seem to grow faster than negatives.

Fifteen weeks: 68.1 3.6 8.18 6.8

Now, familiarity has peaked and stabilized. Negatives are steady. Yet, at this point, almost all reporting stations are beginning to move the song from a 38+ play rotation to an average rotation of 22 plays, due to pressure from below the song on the chart to move on to other power records.

And, why not?

It begins to seem that if a PD or MD kept a song in power rotation until burn increased to extreme levels, almost nothing would ever go off that station:

Nineteen weeks: 72.75 5.2 5.53 4.2
Twenty-one weeks: 73.68 5.0 6.25 2.65

Normally, by that time, the song is starting to go off of all current trade charts - yet it’s clear that increased play does NOT appear to cause burn or dislike to grow.

Meanwhile, familiarity makes great drops in weeks 15 thru 21. Light and medium-users have now become familiar as well, and P-1 listeners are not yet growing tired of it.

Interestingly enough, all of the markets included in these averages have two, and in some cases, three country stations.

It certainly does not seem like fatigue with over-exposed music, or growing dislike for the burnt-out songs, is a problem for country radio today.

However: it must be remembered that callout/online test research respondents are screened for the fact that they listen to country radio regularly. It may be that the opinions of non-listeners or those who are listening less lately are simply not reflected here due to our testing methodology.

Have you noticed something I may have missed?