Friday, December 30, 2011

Thank You, Carrie; Hello, Candy, Kristen, Marlee, Maggie and Jana

Last week's mail brought a wonderful Jewel Box Platinum award for Carrie Underwood from Arista Records, commemorating 14 million albums sold and 14 #1 singles.

Carrie, true to form, included a thank you note for radio's role in her exciting success story. You can't help but feel great for her!

In the same mailings of just the last couple days came music samplers from at least five women who would love to walk in her footsteps.

Kristen Kelly, Marlee Scott, Maggie Sajak, Jana Kramer and Candy Coburn are all Nashville newcomers who will be hoping for a slot on your playlist in the coming weeks.

They are all enthusiastic, talented, bright, beautiful young ladies and of course I wish them all well. The more hits, the better for radio!

At the same time, I hope they're ready for what an uphill battle it's going to be.

In 2011 A&O client national research averages tracked 82 songs which were tested for at least eight weeks. 25 different artists placed songs in this year’s top 1/3 (vs. 24 in 2010 and 21 in 2009). This is the most since 2005 when there were 26. So, the music lately has been very, very good as judged by our listeners.

There was a greater female presence among the currents we played this year in part because of male-female duets as well as mixed-gender acts. However the percent of female songs tested in the top 1/3 fell back from last year’s 9-year high (26.6%) to 20.7% this year which is just below the 13-year average of 23.6%.

Hopefully, 2012's new crop of women is coming with their very best songs as they compete for a small number of places on radio playlists.

Judging from last year, only one in four or five of country radio partisans' favorite songs ended up being by females, 75-80% were by males.

That's why Carrie's achievement is so impressive and why I hope the country distaff class of 2012 is prepared for the extremely daunting task ahead of them.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Build Connections to People Not Things"

As politics really heats up and 2012 dawns, I've been reminded of some tips given to A&O clients based on his experience doing political research from Larry Rosin:
  • Listeners are more loyal to DJs than "XX in a rows;" sell personal aspects of the station including the people who work there.
  • Sell beyond quantity, mix. Use Symbolism - attach yourself to positives, your opponent to negatives. Don't put listeners in the middle of the battle between you.
  • Use Powerful Words: verbs not adjectives drive action.
  • Avoid clich├ęs like “the best music” and use action and specifics, “we’re playing more Blake.”
  • Press The Flesh. It's incredibly powerful; people remember where you go. In politics, the chance of someone voting for a candidate skyrockets if that person has met the candidate.
  • Work Grassroots Organizations. Charity work feels good to do, of course, but it's also helpful for this reason too.
  • As ARB and BBM struggle to reach younger demos, the type of people who can be reached by their current methodology drive the rating results, just like elections. With so few voting, get those who’ll vote for you to do so (analogous with working heavy users, motivating the core to vote for you). It's useless if your biggest fans won't participate in radio ratings surveys. Encourage them, reward them for giving their opinions.
  • Database management is increasingly important; don’t just complain about returns, act on them. It takes excellent organization and execution to win.
  • Play “Retail Politics:” service the constituents; cater to heavy users. Make sure they know that you know their name.
  • Research: uncover deeply held values and key issues and act on them.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Things We Simply Couldn't Do 15 Years Ago

An article in Bloomberg Business Week on the Obama campaign "geeks," whose job is to write software that can make sense of the reams of voter data the campaign collects, searching for information that will enable a not-so-popular President running in a lousy economy to wring out every last vote he can provides another way radio stations today can "campaign" for new listeners, a lot like politicians do.
The idea is to take the now-standard practice of “microtargeting”—where a campaign repeatedly pesters supporters with phone calls, volunteer visits, and fundraising e-mails—one step further by tailoring their message to the concerns of individual voters. A woman who tells an Obama volunteer she’s standing with the President may receive an appeal for a donation a few days later. But the software will warn fundraisers to avoid hitting up that woman’s unemployed next-door neighbor for even the smallest amount of money, which could sour him on Obama for good. Instead, they’ll try to convince him that Obama is on his side. The campaign has come up with a friendly term for this kind of data manipulation: “microlistening.”

Larry Rosin’s 1996 suggestion to A&O clients that radio needs to be more aggressive in its attack marketing shocked some in the room back then.

Here’s the key point that some seemed to miss: do the majority of your negative advertising and attacks OFF THE AIR - on media appropriate to the message, television with humor (when appropriate) or direct mail/telemarketing with specifically-targeted verbiage designed to secretly reposition your opponent on the key strategic issues that are important to ‘swing voters’ in carefully-selected areas.

It is best to take the high road on your own air! Why build negatives among people who already consume your station, when your current listeners probably don’t need to be sold in the same direct, comparative way that “their” listeners do?

Bill Clinton managed to survive in the 90's by understanding this.

Keep yourself above the attack on the air.

Carefully focus any negative message directly at the listener - where they live, work and listen - who will find it credible and understandable.

Listeners of the other station who may be dissatisfied with what they hear do not yet know you present a viable alternative.

You would be wasting energy to sling mud on your own station and could even irritate your already-loyal listener.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Learning From The Politicians

Arbitron, Pandora, Edison Research and Ando Media are all playing "the game" well, right now.

What can you learn from it all?

1. Negative Advertising

  • Show a meaningful comparison or reinforce existing negative opinions of your opponent (“proving someone’s dislike”)
  • Use no unwarranted personal attacks
  • Use humor to soften the blow
  • Use candidates’ own words to associate them with negatives (you must aggressively monitor your competitors to do this)
  • Use a “High/low” approach - talk about your positives while you attack a competitor’s position
2. Position Your Opponent Before He Positions You
  • Don’t ignore a new competitor; they’re going to be noticed as soon as they start to market; act first
  • One of the most powerful attacks for a new competitor is to hang the old/out of touch handle on you
  • Respond rapidly. Unanswered advertising works (see don’t ignore new competitor)
  • Whoever quits marketing first will suffer (Ross Perot was considerably stronger where he continued market after others quit)
3. Steal Their Issues
  • Steal anything they do that is good
  • Muddy the waters
  • Shade the product towards the attacker to dilute their uniqueness
4, Conduct Opposition Research
  • Dig up facts on competition; not only is it fodder for attacks, it helps foster an understanding of where they are likely to go
  • Monitor everything they do

-- Larry Rosen, Edison Media Research, Applying Political Strategies to Radio (from a 1996 presentation to A&O's Pre-CRS client seminar)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Applying Political Strategies to Radio

Members in The U.S. House Of Representatives just sent a message to all of us this morning, in case anybody forgot that 2012 is an election year.

Which reminded me of a presentation Edison Research's Larry Rosin did for A&O clients at our Pre-CRS seminar in 1996. Back then, Larry was just starting to do research in the political realm and he shared this advice based on what he was learning:
"Meet regularly to discuss strategies and tactics; politicians meet every morning. Think of yourself as a campaign manager; there are two battlefields: your station vs. other stations and your station vs. listeners’ votes. Be good at being both an attacker and an incumbent. Radio is usually better at attacking. We wait too long to respond to attacks by clinging to a “we’ll wait till we see what the book says” attitude."

Today, Edison conducts exit polling for all the major networks and Larry appears on media often, acknowledged as an expert on opinion research which drives election result.

My notes from his client presentation 15 years ago, like that quote above, hold up very well with time and I'll share highlights of them over the next few days.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Future Depends On Quality Research

I have no idea what the term "radio" means anymore in the emerging multi-platform world, but this seems obvious as everything starts to merge on the digital vehicle dashboard.

1. Having a major program supplier and analog radio owner/vendor to terrestial radio own what they say is "internet radio's standard for measurement..."

2. Supporting radio's highly-profitable audience measurement umpire as they try to stitch together all of their existing diary and PPM methodologies with proposed new ideas to erect a credible source of multi-platform audio usage data...

.. both possibilities compete in my head. Which would be the greatest potential conflict of interest and/or source of new business and solid pricing criteria?

One very savvy analyst whom I respect predicts "confusion in 2012."

Another seems to be beguiled by on-screen graphics
rather than what comes out of the speakers, making my head hurt.

Who knows where it's all going long term, but, medium term, when two radio-friendly companies - both of which know and count financially on the viability of our business as it is today - I hope we don't have to choose between suitors.

It would be wonderful to see new competition in radio's audience measurement offerings.

Quality, reliable, local data which buyers can trust is the whole ballgame.

Insist on nothing less.

If anything being proposed devalues the current "radio/audio" revenue model, reject it.

We all acknowledge that we're an undervalued medium now.

It would be a mistake to help any supplier broaden their revenue base to emerging media at our expense.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

History

Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman seems to be at every broadcast meeting and in every trade publication putting a positive spin on the wrenching changes affecting local radio service as the era of consolidation which started 15 years ago with high price mergers and acquisitions has culminated in massive junk bond debt.
Pittman showed a chart with competing media revenue adjusted for usage, in an ideal world. Newspapers would get much less of the advertising pie, TV stations would get somewhat less, and radio's take would mushroom from about $15 billion to $38.1 billion. Pittman says it's crucial for radio to "make new revenue to the radio sector our priority." And he has this advice, as a former radio programmer and executive now returned to the business: "Don't badmouth your own industry."

I admire Bob for taking on the immense task before him and hope he's successful, for the same reason I hope that Europe is able to find a way through the Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Italy (etc, etc) financial mess.

If they can't fix the real problem, we're all going to see it at our local bank branch and in our retirement accounts.

So, the hyperbole spinning reductions in force not being about cutbacks, but about reinventing radio's local relevancy reminds me of 1998 when Randy Michaels was trying to motivate the Clear Channel of that time and, just like Pittman is today, the rest of the industry as well.

I'm not sure the downsized folks bought it then and today people like me who lived through that history now hope that Pittman, as with Cumulus' executives see things as they really are, not like they wish they would be.

They are managing toxic assets.

The problem is excessive debt and there's not enough revenue in new media to solve it in the time frame available.

While it's very nice to hear Pittman's optimistic speeches about radio's value (and I agree with him that we need to be positive about the efficiency and effectiveness of radio) the cuts that he's been forced by reality to implement throughout his company are rippling through our entire industry and are equally essential.

Saving an upside-down business in a low-growth economy requires brutal honesty and hard choices.

It's about survival.

Leadership means telling harsh truths, whether in business or politics.

I hope we're all ready for it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Looking Out At (And For) Chicago

Over the years, millions of folks have walked by and looked into the window of the WGN-AM studio on the first floor of Chicago's Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue.

Far fewer get the chance to see it from inside looking out.

Thanks to a recent visit to the legendary radio station by WMZQ/Washington morning show producer Sam Alex we now know what's on the wall Jonathon Brandmeier looks at every day:

720 WGN:
  • Bleeds Chicago
  • Tells compelling stories
  • Is relevant
  • Has the biggest guests
  • Helps people
  • Respects all listeners/callers
  • Is a place for fun & laughter
  • Is serious when it needs to be
  • Is a familiar friend

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

They Are Both Right And We Must Do It All

Bob Pittman's view of today's media audience: "TV is their hobby. The Internet is their research tool. Radio is their companion."

Walter Sabo's advice: "Stop calling them shifts. Call it your show. Constantly hit refresh. Entertain."

For years, I advised talent not to think of their "performance" as "a show," but instead to talk to one person, being real, human, vulnerable, engaging, interactive.

It's time to rethink that a bit.
  1. Be friend and companion, of course. Talking to one person, I believe, is the most effective way to do so.
  2. Keep it fresh and current too.
  3. Tell me something I don't know.
  4. Entertain as you do it.
It's not easy to be in personal intimacy mode while putting on an entertaining show simultaneously, but being the very best never is.

The listener has too many other choices than to do anything but all of it each time you open your mouth and mic.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

This Book Will Haunt You

Business Holiday Gift Recommendation #2: Brooke said many powerful things at ACCJMS11 in Baltimore yesterday in her interview with Fred Jacobs, but her obsession to edit, edit, edit to make certain "if you cough during our show, you'll miss something" not only is good advice for all of us who work in communication but she also exemplifies her talents for it in very unique ways here.

If you didn't get her book when it came out last May, it's worth putting on your Holiday wish list.

Wouldn't you know that a media gadfly would create a book employing as many media as possible to deliver her message?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Free Must-Have Research Tools

Just three quick highlights from Arbitron's Client Conference and Jacobs Media Summit...

U.S. Census Bureau's Dr. Robert Groves: The U.S. Census Bureau has several free online tools to help you get a handle on the local job market.
“You see where workers live, where they work, lives and how they commute. The possibilities and uses are endless for radio and any other planners.”

Industry Focus
allows users to identify the leading industries for an area, focus on a particular industry to see how it ranks among top industries, and view graphs and charts of worker characteristics within industries. Users can analyze industries by state, county, workforce investment or metro area based on eight workforce indicators.

On the Map is a Web-based mapping tool showing where people live in relation to where they work with reports on age, earnings, industry distribution and local workforce indicators.

The Local Employment Dynamics data tools can be found at http://lehd.did.census.gov/led/.

Speaking of maps: Google maps has real time traffic info, and it's likely your listeners access it now from their vehicle if they have a smart phone. If you do traffic on the radio, you need to be looking at this info if it's available in your city or listeners will know more than you do.

Some undeniable great info for sales and programming: Radio Delivers 93 Percent of its Lead-In Audience During the Average Commercial Break - Arbitron, Media Monitors and Coleman Insights expand on landmark 2006 study

The 2011 study of minute-by-minute audience levels across 48 top radio markets again demonstrates that radio maintains its audience delivery during commercial breaks, contrary to the common misperception among advertisers, agencies and even radio executives that audiences during commercial breaks are a fraction of the numbers that were listening to the station just before the commercials began.

For the 2011 study, Arbitron, Media Monitors and Coleman Insights analyzed 18 million commercial breaks, 62 million minutes of commercials and 866 stations for a year of audience data from all 48 PPM markets to compare the audience level for each minute of a commercial break to the audience for the minute before the commercials began.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Business Holiday Gift Recommendation #1

With the news that Clear Channel and Cumulus are cooperating on rumored divestitures and also "I Heart Radio," it's easy to jump to the conclusion that media competition in the radio space is endangered.

However, Tim Wu's sweeping history shows each of the new media of the twentieth century—radio, telephone, television, and film—was born free and open. Each invited unrestricted use and enterprising experiment until some would-be mogul battled his way to total domination.

As the Amazon review notes, "Wu identifies a time-honored pattern in the maneuvers of today’s great information powers: Apple, Google, and an eerily resurgent AT&T. A battle royal looms for the Internet’s future, and with almost every aspect of our lives now dependent on that network, this is one war we dare not tune out."

Monday, December 05, 2011

If Ed Christian Likes It, So Do I

The ASCAP press release today that the Radio Music License Committee is announcing a settlement in principle comes which gives us all economic certainty through 2016 comes as great news, especially given the quote from Chairman Ed Christian:
“This is a gratifying result for the radio industry, which reflects the current realities of our industry and puts the industry back on sound footing insofar as its licensing relationships with ASCAP are concerned. We appreciate the good will which ASCAP has demonstrated in working with our industry to get this resolution.”

I would not have wanted anyone but Ed at the bargaining table representing radio's interests.

If he's happy, when we see the entire agreement, I'm betting that we'll be very happy too.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Something Extra

The upscale Klimpton Hotel chain Hotel Monaco prides itself on every location in the company having a unique story and our downtown Seattle one is so pet-friendly that they place a goldfish in every room.

Guests are informed that it's their job during their stay to feed the fish.

So, when I check into any hotel, I'm always hoping for a little extra "something."

Mostly, I'm disappointed, feeling lucky to maybe have some shampoo, hair conditioner and lotion.

In Vancouver, this week I routinely checked in and was welcomed to The Park Inn by a little rubber ducky on the tub.

It caught me by surprise and made me laugh out loud, which is highly unusual for longtime road warrior me, who checks into at least two or three hotels a week and by and large finds the experience pleasantly-routine.

Radisson's chain has started to become so famous for the tactic that they're even getting mentions on the internet.

As you write station imaging, create your bits, add content to your website, social media posts and package it all for broadcast, please don't waste my time.

But, don't forget to throw in a rubber ducky or a goldfish too.