Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Win Radio Creative's Annual $100,000 Prizes

Normally, I reserve my Twitter account for "re-Tweeting" and try to at the very least put a new spin on news items adequately covered by the traditional trades when I blog. However, the annual call for entries, creative seminars and announcement of the Radio Mercury awards deserves an exception.

The prizes are substantial, the chief judge is impressive, the audio examples will inspire you.

Click here and spend some time on their site!

Monday, January 30, 2012

"Reinvent" This!

It wouldn't be a radio business convention or meeting if someone didn't call once again for reinvention of one aspect of what we do or another.

There's nothing wrong with rethinking, of course, but Arbitron's Ron Rodrigues (Marketing Manager for the Programming Services Team) has a better idea in my view:

The next time your sales staff is driving you crazy with value-added, got-to-have-this-or-the-client-will-cancel demands, educate them even further about the power of radio.

Go to the next sales meeting and give them the five-question pop quiz below. Bring a pair of concert tickets or a $5 gift card for the person who scores the best. Be sure to count how many times you hear “Hmm—didn’t know that.”

Before you walk back to your office feeling like the smartest person in the building, remind the sales team that all of this information can be found in Arbitron’s “Radio Today by the Numbers.” This tool will arm them with the information they need to show clients how well radio works for advertisers.

Radio Listenership Quiz

Q1: What percentage of Americans aged six and up does radio reach on a weekly basis?

  1. 73%
  2. 83%
  3. 93%
  4. 103%
  5. Are you counting all eight days of the week?

Q2: How many hours a month do consumers spend listening to the radio?

  1. 14.5 million
  2. 1.45 billion
  3. 14.5 billion
  4. A gazillion

Q3: If there are 10 people in a room, how many are likely to have listened to the radio in the past day?

  1. 5
  2. 6
  3. 7
  4. 8
  5. It depends on the room.

Q4: What percentage of consumers does radio reach during prime time (6AM–7PM) each day?

  1. 60%
  2. 70%
  3. 80%
  4. 90%
  5. More than newspaper

Q5: Rank these devices from highest to lowest by the percentage of radio listeners who own one:

  1. Digital Camera
  2. Computer
  3. HDTV
  4. Cell Phone
  5. Predator Drone

Answer Key:

Q1: C—Radio reaches 93% of all Americans on a weekly basis.

Q2: C—Consumers listen to 14.5 billion hours of radio each month.

Q3: C—Slightly more than 7 out of 10 consumers listen to radio each day.

Q4: D—90% of consumers tune in between 6AM and 7PM.

Q5: From highest percentage of ownership to lowest—Cell Phone (90%), Computer (84%), HDTV (69%), Digital Camera (67%), Predator Drone (unknown %).

I'd suggest that our agency friends who seem to be hooked on nothing but the age-old negotiating ploy called "cost per point" that actually drives the percentage they make on radio buys down, since an agency commission on a small number is less than buying radio intelligently, using qualitative, all our multimedia platforms and involving us in your creative design, testing and execution.

They might increase the rate the agency pays a bit, but wouldn't that increase the dollars buyers make from radio and also act as an incentive for the radio side of the bargain to maximize results, not just lower our prices?

Make radio a full partner in working for the client instead of just a low cost vendor you can beat up in long-used ways.

Let's talk together about reinventing THAT.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Is Your Show, Your Commercial, Your Imaging "Sexy?"

One of the best aspects of what I do for a living is that the job description changes constantly.

Consulting requires understanding changing listener tastes, working with executives and coaching talent seems to call on new skills, requiring always learning new things every day.

In 2012, Job #1 is helping Gen Xers and Leading Edge boomers "engage" and increase usage from Millennials. We're "Digital Immigrants" (learning new media as a second language, having been raised in an analog world) and they're "Digital Natives" (they learned to play video games, program a TV remote, interact with a computer before they spoke their first word).

The size of "the Taylor Swift generation" (click to watch the insightful video produced by Natalie Vardabasso and Kristina Emmott as a midterm project) means they simply can't be ignored, as the oldest of them are about to turn 30 and already they dominate the 25-34 demo.

I have been wishing I could find a way to let their parents and grandparents who still hope to be relevant in media for at least a few years more hear how life sounds to their Millennial listeners and now it's possible thanks to this man.

Meet Jad Abumrad: The man who Canada's Globe And Mail this week said has "made public radio sexy." (click to read the article)
The show uses any tools it can to illustrate the ideas it presents and hold the listener’s attention: tiny musical compositions, for example. Sound effects such as eerie echoed munching noises bring the listener to the ocean floor where scavenging hagfish devour a whale corpse. Layered voices talking on top of each other pass the story from person to person, just like in a real conversation. And rather than the formality of introducing each new speaker that listeners are accustomed to, these appear with the sound of throat clearing or a quick “ready?” before they are even introduced. For Abumrad, all this evolution is about fighting back against what he calls the “tune-out moments” of conventional storytelling and using the language of sound to jolt his listeners out of the inertia of the familiar.

How many "tune out moments" are there in your programming? Ask anyone in a PPM market: tune out moments literally do cause REAL tune-outs and drive ratings down, whether they happen in a song, a commercial, a promo, stationality elements or when an air personality opens a microphone.

“It’s totally accessible, which is awesome. I think that’s a trend in radio, and especially podcasts, making it accessible,” says Colleen Joyce, a 29-year-old living in Victoria, BC.

Do you have more listeners to your podcasts than to your terrestrial radio broadcasts? And, by the way, how are your numbers 25-34, let alone 18-24 and teens?

Perhaps you should spend some time experiencing WNYC's Radiolab.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why Radio Stations Get Away With Lying

The New York Times' "Debaters" feature last week was a thoughtful analysis on why politicians feel the need to lie and why, as a result, their most passionate supporters start lying to themselves.

Meanwhile, the inspiring author Andy Andrews is on a book tour promoting his new very easy and quick read How Do You Kill 11 Million People?.

I'm not going to wade into those controversial waters today, but all of that focus on the public's lack of trust of institutions that seems to pop up for me each time I pick up something to read right now is also a good reminder that radio stations so routinely lie to listeners needlessly that, just like most of us with politicians, they are turned off and have stopped paying attention.
  • Do we really need to "promise" 50 minutes of music every hour when we actually only play 48? Do listeners conduct an hourly auction with their time and only spend it with the station that promises to be the highest bidder? Would they listen less if we told them how much music we really play in the hour?
  • If the cost of a commercial free hour is a commercial-filled hour in the hours just before and after it, who are we kidding?
  • Is saying "the station that cares about the community" believable on a 24/7 voice tracked outlet?
  • "12 in a row coming next" is followed by an eight unit commercial break.
  • Positioning "best new music" on your radio station is followed by yet another play of Garth Brooks' "The Dance."
I could go on. So could you.

Listen to your radio station today and listen for those little lies you're telling so routinely that many jocks think that's "personality" and "entertainment."

Get them off the air. Entertain, interact, make the listener the star. Keep it upbeat and fun. Make me feel something. Paint me colorful word pictures. Tell me a story. Involve me.

Just not a fairy tale, please.

Why do radio stations get away with lying? Could it be because no one is paying very much attention?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Still Passing Out Plastic To The 9Th Caller?

Asking your listeners to drive across town to pick up a prize?

Jim Pattison Broadcast Group's JRfm/Vancouver is doing it differently.

And, as usual with digital, there are lots of helpful metrics that come along with this approach, like:
  • 230 people came to the JRfm music store on just one December day during the promotion, which drove impressive page views for many weeks.
  • The strong # 1 showing of Chad Brownlee's single, for example, is evidence that Vancouver country listeners appreciate and want to own Canadian country music.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Three? Two? One? Zero?

As it has become increasingly obvious that Clear Channel and Cumulus have both been rolling out standardized, duplicate playlists across an increasing number of their very largest market stations, I've been speculating where that leaves the trade charts today, hoping that it will open opportunity for all of those highly successful stations to somehow still be represented - as networks, perhaps - while also opening up the chance for additional stations to be monitored and report as well.

In response to that, yesterday, Scott Fuller added this comment...

I'm sure you may disagree Jaye, but I personally feel that the gradual dismantling of the 'chart system' would be the best thing to happen to country radio moving forward.

Of course, I use charts to verify music decisions I make.

But ask the question: 'what if they weren't there tomorrow?' We still have a log to schedule, full of what the audience wants to hear and separates us from the other guys.

It might force we radio programmers to do something that's deeply fallen from our daily routine: caring what our own audience has to say. Sure, we'd still play the A+ from Nashville, but I'll bet we'd give a lot more spins to the B- in our own backyard over Nashville's third or fourth tier.

And just imagine the thousands of different 'types' of country radio 'mini formats' that would follow in their wake. Call letters with character once again.

I don't hate charts, and I'm not saying tomorrow, but it is starting to look like the way the business is going in general.

I certainly understand Scott's point of view and it's tempting to agree totally with it, but I still feel that the country format needs multiple trades and as many more reporters as possible.

The shrinking size of the monitored panel seems to me to be one of the factors hurting the speed that new music by unknown artists can move. This week's Billboard Country Update proves statistically that the hits still find a way to cut through and endure, a testament to the weekly efforts of Wade Jesson, Lon Helton, David Ross and their country chart teams' concerted efforts to be judicious.

The rules of the whole system, which admittedly can sometimes be exploited by knowledgeable promoters simply because they are so clear-cut, are well-known. Though no one likes to be the umpire, we think they are generally applied by in an aboveboard, even-handed manner.

Today, it is these forces that have created the need for independent consulting firms to do research, gather objective data from stations and listeners, keep at arms-length from the record promotion business and offer dependable, objective guidance on music to radio based solidly in listener reaction.

Frankly, the consulting business is GREAT right now partially because of these very actions that consolidated groups are taking in the face of incredible promotional pressure. Their competition is increasingly looking for believable help in separating the honest hits from the hype (of which there is plenty).

Country stations want and need trustworthy data more than ever, and we work hard to maintain high ethical standards in the information we provide to our clients.

A&O thinks the future of the formats and radio broadcasters we serve depends on it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Toughest Jobs In Music City

This time, as noted in my previous missive, of potentially smaller reporting panels for BDS and Mediabase charts as two major groups move to standardize many more monitored stations' music should be a major opportunity for a reliable and, hopefully, larger sample of more stations that could be looked on by the industry as THE chart.

I certainly don't question any chart editor's right to add and drop reporters, but at a time of great opportunity for the country format, it would be a shame if the convergence of a smaller number of major group programmers controlling an increasing number of reporting playlists, homogenizing the top of the national charts and a larger portion of new reporters coming from the ranks of "easy add" stations preferred by the promotion community made the charts less trustworthy.

Over the years, large groups have diminished the impact of "independents" on their playlists after signing consent decrees, yet admitting no wrongdoing. Payola/plugola laws remain in effect, of course, and due to human nature, require careful and constant vigilance.

Rumors out of Nashville make me worry that the major trades are wrestling with all of this, contemplating cutting their panel of reporters based on a very, very, very troubling criteria --- the songs they report (or do not report)?

A very disturbing possibility, which would harm the format, I believe: if you don't play unfamiliar new music by unproven new artists that is being pushed by certain companies who are financially supportive of the trades your reporting status may be in jeopardy!

My fear (and maybe that's all it is - groundless fear) is that if chart editors and their friends in the music business don't like your playlist decisions, they will drop you as a reporter.

This is hypocrisy, ethical bankruptcy, dishonesty and damned frightening!

It is not news that the trades are subject to powerful pressures, of course. BUT - dropping stations because they don't like the songs the station reports is in essence telling us, "If there is no one at the station who can be influenced, we don't care what they are playing."

Trades should reflect what is being played by successful, winning radio stations. Period. They should NOT dictate how those songs are selected.

In tomorrow's post, let's put ourselves into the shoes of Lon Helton, Wade Jesson and David Ross and ponder what we'd do if we were in their position right now.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Charting The Country Format's 2012 Musical Relevance

Almost everyone in the radio and records industries decries the need for trade charts as a means of determining the difference between "hit" and "STIFF."

If you have local research, you've no doubt become accustomed to finding that there are a surprising number of tunes which "lost their bullet and stiffed" that continue to TEST very well in research.

The listeners who love these songs simply don't know about trade charts. However, since it's difficult to test things that people are unfamiliar with, at some point we need to make educated guesses as to which of the many songs that come in each week will be hits. Good charts can be helpful in deciding which songs and artists have the highest consensus probability of becoming a hit nationally.

Personally, I define a "hit" as a song that gets sufficient play on a national basis to chart at least top 15 and achieves a minimum of 65% positive and less than 20% negative research scores in auditorium testing and callout. Even releases which end up at the lower end of those metrics may not make it to my recurrent or gold categories, even after fairly substantial "current" spins.

I think of that airplay as a risky investment that went badly.

When charts accurately reflect what selective, local market-oriented stations who listen to the new music are playing, most of the time, those charts indicate songs which may test well many weeks before research scores become available .

What if a trade publication picked which stations report to their chart - NOT based on accurate reporting of real airplay - BUT on which songs a station did or did not report? Would you consider that chart helpful or harmful on your station's efforts to determine what REAL hits are going to be?

With stories circulating now that Clear Channel's identical Premium Choice and Cumulus' Atlanta-recommended 13-20 approved currents playlists are being mandated at more and more major stations, it seems sensible for trade chart editors to adjust their reporting panels.

Hopefully, any changes will still reflect what has become "syndicated/network" spins of course but also open the prospect of being a reporter and monitored by many more radio stations.

Today, nine "networks" and 236 stations for Mediabase and 132 monitored by BDS have become one of the primary sources of chart information for the nearly 3,000 country stations in North America.

Though errors and glitches do occur, monitored airplay is generally acknowledged as unimpeachable in its accurate reporting of what those country radio stations in 125 markets actually play.

As A&O sees it, if you want to know what a hit WAS last week, check Billboard's chart. Review Country Aircheck each week for a good determination of which of the many current hits being promoted to most of those same radio stations THIS week are ranked highest. Watch it occur in real time, day to day on BDS and Mediabase.

Looking at both can be an excellent guide to what radio is doing in the largest U.S. and Canadian markets with music.

Since, today, most new music breaks from the largest markets DOWN to the smaller ones because all label promotion and artist visits to radio only occur in those places, one might ask: do I really need any other charts?

Music Row hopes that you do. By only selecting as its reporters stations which agree to expose more new music than the typical monitored station in a competitive situation does they hope to create a definable difference. Problem is, of course, is that many songs and artists chart in the 30's and 40's of that chart and never go anywhere else.

This time of smaller reporting panels for BDS and Mediabase charts should be a major opportunity for a reliable and larger sample of stations that could be looked on by the industry as THE chart.

In the following post, I'll ruminate more about this and remind you of some painful lessons from the past.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

In 2012 Consultants Must Do More

We’re at a time where people are so busy in their day-to-day jobs that it can be a tremendous benefit to have outside consultants who are able to look at the bigger picture, take some time to just sit and think about something, and then offer you some solutions that might potentially work.

And for so many years, there has been less of a farm club for people to come up through the ranks and actually get experience on a smaller level to come to these larger markets. So many times, when someone arrives at a larger market or when you’re looking to bring someone new into the fold, they need some assistance. They need some training, some guidance. Everyone’s trying to do the job of five people, so having an outside resource to help you really is a value.

-- A&O's Becky Brenner to Radio-Info's Phyllis Stark

How It's Done

5:41 am: literally every Seattle area radio and television station broadcast an alert on the EANS notification system announcing an ice storm watch is active today until noon.

Will Pandora EVER be able do that? I don't think so.

I'm so proud of the Puget Sound area broadcasters and local governmental authorities for making aggressive use of the power and immediacy of LOCAL BROADCAST MEDIA these past 48 hours to keep the community informed and safe.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

If I Ruled The World

I'd make every radio owner, manager and programmer sign up for Pandora and spend thirty minutes per day with it and then switch over to their stations' online stream.

One of the two will captivate you with its flow and consistency and the other will treat you to clipped songs, the same Ad Council PSA's over and over, a time delay which makes it impossible to win their contests and promotions, technical glitches and snags.

With one, the two quarter hours will will seem to speed by and you might even forget to turn it off.

With the other, you'd likely become so frustrated with the experience that you'll probably switch it off early.

Aren't we supposed to be the "TSL" experts?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Be An Operator, Not A Trader In 2012

As both savvy Inside Radio scribes Paul Heine and Frank Saxe reported yesterday that the "deal market (is) still struggling to find its legs" and "... the radio industry is entering its fifth year since the task of either buying or selling a station became much more difficult following a reset in pricing and the exit of many media lenders," they also made the statement that "the buying and selling of stations is seen by many as a barometer of the radio industry’s health."

Really? Is that all there is?

Let's get back to business basics and rethink that

Entertaining, informing, interacting with and engaging listeners as a means to aggregating a large, loyal audience, creating memorable events across multiple analog and digital platforms, leading to the buying and selling time with those folks is an even better barometer of the radio industry's sustenance and health.

Advertising helps the whole economy.

Radio, done right, is still a terrific business.

Rather than trading in our hard assets and stick values, lets sell the thing we have a fresh new supply of every day: time.

That way, we'll still be around, creating jobs and building profits, in 2013.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The "Other" Questions

This is the week A&O's 7th Annual "Roadmap 2012" perceptual study goes into the field. Client stations can track strategic and tactical questions to define clusters (in addition to music preference), understand how satisfied each individual audience is with their favorite station compared to national averages, tracked over the years, in addition to tech usage.

Each A&O client station will receive a customized local breakout. The first presentation of the national findings and recommendations will be at A&O Pre-CRS Seminar '12 next month.

It's never possible to have an unlimited number of questions. That's why as Mike, Becky and I finalize the study, we ask ourselves "are these the most pressing success factors affecting clients right now?," which means that there are many other "interesting" things everyone who creates content for listeners also need to know about today's listener which we decided not to ask, since any smart programmer or personality is going to hang out with real people in their audience and tailor what they talk about to as many tribes within their cume as possible.

Do you know how long your cume and core listeners have been listening to country music? Less than a year, 1 to 3 years, 3 to 6 years, more than 6? The exact percentages matter less to your success than the fact that a bit of your content must be engaging to each of those groups as consistently as possible.

How many folks under 30 live in their residence? Is it close to the national census average of two and a half? More/fewer? Why would that be? Is it unique to your station or the local community for some reason?

Besides country music, what other types of music do they enjoy listening to? What type of program do they like to watch on TV?

In the past year, how many times have they left your home state on vacation? Did they drive or fly?

If they could choose one place to go on a dream vacation, where would it be? Would they take the whole family or go alone for an escape?

When they have spare time, what type of activity do they like to do most often?

How many vehicles do they and the other members of the household own?

Is their personal vehicle domestic or foreign? Why?

How would they identify their political views?

Social networks are one great place to start to think about these "lifestyle" questions in terms of the kind of people you want to like and listen regularly to you, and I don't just mean Facebook, Twitter and the online resources where you can interact with the lives of real people.

You don't need a perceptual study to do that.

You need a "life."

PS: if you'd like to make sure your audience is part of "A&O Country Roadmap 2012," reach out now to Mike, Becky or me.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Is "Spending Hibernation" Coming To An End?

If you've been reading this blog for very long, you know I always look forward to the monthly tracking studies from Phil Rist at Big Research, not only for sales and business reasons but also because they provide great insights for promotions and marketing as well.

Hot buttons for on air giveaways and content: USA pride, Superbowl and of course that annual resolution to lose weight and get in better shape. But: don't do it in colored jeans, a pleated skirt or trapper hat.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Interesting Times

For example..

1. A fast-growing ownership group learned yesterday from Miller-Kaplan that they have gone - in just four years - from buying a market's lowest-billing cluster to becoming that city's top-biller in 2011, but still had to work with their lenders to enter bankruptcy because they had the bad timing to have purchased the stations the year before the financial crash of '08.

Going from worst to first in revenues was still not enough to pay the bankers, who - thankfully - cooperated in the restructuring.

2. A longtime major market programmer and air talent who went into music promotion a few years ago lost his job this week when his label owners eliminated their entire promotion staff.

I told him about an on air position with a great company that just opened, but he declined my offer of a recommendation, preferring to continue to pursue work in the record business.

At least he knows where his passion lives and when times are tough, that's the name of the game.

3. Toby Keith's "Red Solo Cup" has sold 1,023,617 digital tracks since its release (ranking #1 again in sales), as almost every single track on this week's digital downloads chart is down roughly 40% from the previous sales week.

Given the state of the economy, I guess we all could use a drink and a good laugh.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Peggy Noonan Thought She Was Talking Politics

Her November 19 review of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs in the Wall Street Journal was meant to be a cautionary tale for both political parties, but in rereading it this morning it hit me that she also very succinctly explained what worries me about radio today as well.
There is an arresting moment .. in which Jobs speaks at length about his philosophy of business. He’s at the end of his life and is summing things up. His mission, he says, was plain: to “build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products.” Then he turned to the rise and fall of various businesses. He has a theory about “why decline happens” at great companies: “The company does a great job, innovates and becomes a monopoly or close to it in some field, and then the quality of the product becomes less important. The company starts valuing the great salesman, because they’re the ones who can move the needle on revenues.” So salesmen are put in charge, and product engineers and designers feel demoted: Their efforts are no longer at the white-hot center of the company’s daily life. They “turn off.” IBM and Xerox, Jobs said, faltered in precisely this way. The salesmen who led the companies were smart and eloquent, but “they didn’t know anything about the product.” In the end this can doom a great company, because what consumers want is good products.

Elegantly package passion into your product, design it to delight listeners.

Once that's as perfect as you can make it, it's time to get sales involved, not before.

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Trachman Files: Unexpected Parallels

This is the next of an ongoing series which I hope keeps the memory of Jay Trachman alive for today's class of radio personalities.

Just ask anyone who was on air between the mid-1970's, the 80's, 90's and early 2000's. His influence kept "The Art Of Personality Radio" (the title of his many books) alive for decades.

It's more necessary now.

He often seemed to see the future, as in this February, 2005, article, a full three years before the financial collapse that we're still trying to understand and cope with.

A while ago, the Fresno Bee ran an article about "the nine common investment errors. I thought it would be fun to review them, because there are some significant parallels with our own profession_ So, here they are:

1) Unclear investment objectives. You've got to know exactly what you want to achieve, before you can work efficiently to achieve it, they say. And so do I. "Adults, 25 to 54"? Way too general! Imagine if Baskin-Robbins mixed all their flavors together! Better to have one flavor you can trademark - or even eight, if you've got eight stations in your cluster.

2) Failure to adjust to changing markets and conditions. A fast way for investors to lose today's money is with yesterday's concepts. There are still stations marketing themselves as though there were no i-Pods out there, no streaming audio and no satellite radio. Last year's marketing techniques ("Sell the sizzle, not the steak!") are about as reliable today as last year's stock market values.

3) Inconsistent security selection. What they're saying is, one's investments should be based on one's ability to take risks, and on one's financial goals. Or, they could just as well be talking about a programming department that allows DJ's to make their own music formatting rules, playing their own favorites and ignoring others, until the next jock comes on, to play his own favorites... A successful station should have a tangible identity. Not six identities.

4) Over-diversification and under-diversification. To me, it's the same thing as lack of focus. Pick your goal; define your slice of the pie. Educate yourself on what that well-defined slice wants and what it'll take to make them yours, and then go for it.

5) Profits are taken too soon and losses are allowed to run. In broadcasting, as in any business, it means depleting your investment. While I have a deep respect for the fact that radio is a business and the primary purpose of any business is to make money for its owners/investors, I am nevertheless amazed that managers who will spend all morning explaining to a client why buying advertising is an investment, not an expense... can then come back and tell the program director he can't have the money for new music software, or hire a talent above entry level, card-reading, minimum wagers. "It takes money to make money" -- do you believe it or don't you?

6) Lack of a clear understanding of tax laws. I don't want to put too fine a point on this, so let's just pass this time.

7) Ignorance of the time value of money. We all believe "time is money." But how many of us bother to make the logical link -- that the extra time spent on making our performance better will ultimately result in pocket pesos? (If not from this employer, then from your next.) There are no shortcuts to being an effective air talent. Especially for people who set the standard for everyone at the station, like a PD.

8) Unrealistic expectations. If you're a 500-watter licensed to a suburb fifty miles from a megalopolis, you can't expect to compete successfully with the major market stations on their own turf, unless you've got millions to spend. Short of that, you have to stake out your own turf, if you really want to succeed. There's no way you're going to out-music or better music them. In my experience, the only thing that you can win with is what comes between the songs, that you can either do realistically and tangibly better, or exclusively.

9) Participating in today's market with yesterday's investments. Antiquated production and control room facilities which break down often enough to be noticed by listeners?

It's fun drawing parallels from other professions and applying them to radio. They don't always fit perfectly, but they do remind us that in many ways, radio isn't so different from any other "normal" business. Except that most of the time, we have a lot more fun doing it.

Too bad we all weren't taking investment advice from Trachman in 2005.

I hope you are taking his personality advice today.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

How Many "You's" Are There?

Last Sunday's New York Times Magazine featured a Charles McGrath article headlined with the question: "How Many Stephen Colberts Are There?"
The Colbert on-screen persona is actually less rigid than it used to be, and Colbert can dial it up or down as he chooses. There is now more of a winking quality to the act, a sense that we’re all in on the joke. And in the last part of the show, when Colbert typically leaps up from his desk and bounds across the set to a table in front of a fireplace with the Latin motto “Videri quam esse” (“To seem to be, rather than to be”), where he interviews a guest about a new book or movie, he usually tamps the character down enough to allow the guest a few minutes to get his or her own message across.

There are many great lessons for anyone who creates content and then brings it to life in the piece.

For example: "Colbert and his staff, which numbers about 80, have the show down to something like a science. They call it the “joy machine,” with equal emphasis on the fun and the mechanics, and the engine runs practically nonstop, at very high r.p.m.’s. By 11 every morning, a rough plan for that day’s show is established and the writers — all of them brainy and most in their 30s — are sent off, usually in pairs, to come back with finished scripts in just a couple of hours. Editing and polishing goes on all day, and sometimes continues even after the taping is done, around 9 or so.

"The show’s writing process is extravagantly wasteful. Colbert likes to say, “Let’s make it perfect and then cut it.” Every day enough good jokes or ideas are jettisoned to fill another couple of half-hours. Some are deemed too weak by Colbert’s demanding standards, some are put on hold for want of time on a given night and are then forgotten, and some are merely left behind as the show is swept along with the relentless news cycle. “The trade-off with the show is that you can have an idea and see it on TV that night,” Tom Purcell, the executive producer, says. “The downside is that you have to do it all over again tomorrow. It’s a hungry beast.”

Questions to ask yourself as you prep for Monday:

1. Can listeners hear "the real you?"
2. Is there an exaggerated, bigger than life character of you and what's that character's purpose?
3. Do both of them interact and engage with the real world in entertaining ways, adding dimensionality, freshness, topicality and relevance?
4. Can listeners describe how "all aspects of you" feel about and view one another? (i.e. do they feel like an insider, always getting the point?)
5. Do you over prepare and is what ends up on the air your very best?

Thursday, January 05, 2012


Resolve to stop using "dated" radio phrases, like "for more details, go to our website."


1. "For more" = more what?
2. "Details" = my life is full of distracting details already. Why would I want more "details?"
3. "our" = how about telling me about why I should do something, make it relevant to me, rather than just telling me what you are doing?
3b. "our" = stop using the formal "editorial we." Best, use a name, avoid the general with the specific, but if you must use a pronoun, use "YOU." Engage me. Talk one to one.
3c. Rather than pronouns, BRAND. If every radio station I listen to calls itself "us" or "we," will I remember which one is which?
4. "website" = if it was 1995, I guess the thought that a radio station has a website on the internet would be cutting edge. Today, it's 2011. If you tell me to "go to urlname.com," not only is that more powerful because it's fewer words to say the same thing, you don't sound like you speak like my grandpa.

If you've been saying it the same way for a very long time, I know you can do it in your sleep.

Don't expect me to pay attention.

Talk like I talk, not like all the other radio stations do.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

My View: The Dream Is Very Much Alive

In a thought-provoking Op Ed in a recent Nashville Tennessean former CRS Executive, author and music business professor at MTSU and Cumberland and Belmont universities Paul Allen frets that corporate radio could kill the country music dream for artists coming to Music City in the coming year.
To the talented aspiring country artist, this significantly reduces the odds that their music will be played on their hometown or regional station. It becomes harder to build a fan base and establish a reputation that can get the ear of a Nashville decision maker. If the artist does become signed to a label, it is more difficult for music promoters to get access to radio’s corporate decision makers on their behalf.

Breaking out of the crowd and getting radio spins has never been easy, and that's nothing new.

Wannabe artists give up and head back home with nothing but a bitter taste in their mouth and less money in the bank every year and it's always been thus in the fickle music business, but in a year that gave huge radio success to Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Zac Brown Band, Thompson Square, Brantley Gilbert, Miranda Lambert, Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry and numerous others it's hard to convince me that the sky is falling.

New country stations are signing on as 2012 dawns in cities that have only had one station in recent years (some owned by the giant consolidated companies), so competition is actually heating up and that should drive more desire at radio to own the music discovery image as well as offer more variety to listeners.

As always, when consumers are poorly served, the marketplace fixes that very quickly.

Country music stardom has a lot more to do with possessing a unique talent and sound, infectious passion and great music than who owns what and where.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Stop Using These Words

"Register, qualify, drawing."

Resolve to do better than taking the lazy. easy, uncreative way to meet promotional/value-added requests by kidding yourself that anyone is going to change radio stations to "listen for a chance to qualify for a chance to win a drawing."

You can be more entertaining in everything you do in the new year.

It starts by finding new ways to do the same old things.

Tell stories. Paint word pictures. Be different.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Caller #9

Resolve in 2012: no more contests where the prize goes to the "XXth" caller.

Do I really need to even give reasons besides that when you do something that everyone else has done for decades, you're being mediocre, just average, like everyone else?

Caller #9 is simple and easy ... for the people inside the control room, but almost impossible to enjoy, let alone "win" for the people you'd like to entice to listen more.

Still not convinced to give up the old habit?

Ask listeners.

With social networking, texting, mobile apps, email databases, slow connections no longer engage. (did they ever?)

Calling a radio station contest line for all but "one listener" who gets lucky means either a phone line never answered or constantly busy.

Is that any way to communicate that you care about their call, let alone making the experience entertaining and fun?

If you can't make every station giveaway rewarding for as many listeners as possible so that they drive appointment listening, let's resolve to at least make what happens on the air around it either "an experience" or at the very least more "painless" for heavy users of radio than any other radio station.