Friday, September 27, 2013

Top 10 Time Wasters

Arthur A. Hawkins II wrote a book on business effectiveness I bought in 1996.  It's out of print, I just learned when I attempted to buy a copy for a client, so I fear that this blog may be the only place you can get these tips:
  • Procrastination & Excuses.  If you don’t start, you can’t finish.  Reach your goals & objectives by continually working toward them.
  • Running Errands & Traveling.  Plan ahead.  Combine tasks and trips.
  • Rushing.  Don’t try to do everything at once or wait until the last minute.  List what must be done and the time it takes to do it.  Schedule and plan ahead but allow for the unexpected.
  • Telephone, Mail and E-Mail.  Why are you calling/writing?  Clearly define your purpose and what you want to accomplish.  When you’ve accomplished your objective, hang up and move on.
  • Paperwork, Reports & Memos.  Keep is short and sweet.  Get to the point immediately and be clear about it.
  • Meetings.  Schedule meetings carefully-time, date, location, length, type, attendees.  Avoid unnecessary meetings.
  • Television.  Informed viewer or couch potato?  Determine what’s really important to you.  Be a self-starter, do something important.  Turn it off!
  • Planning & Decision Making.  To accomplish what you want, you must act!  Plan it out in detail ahead of time.  Bottom line:  Get the job done.  Decide!
  • Computer.  Why make entries already there?  Plan-know what you need and where & how to get it.  Back it up.  Limit your time on line.
  • Just Say YES.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  If you can’t fit something into your schedule, no matter how tempting, don’t accept it!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Has A Listener Ever Called You And Asked Why You Don't Play More Women Artists' Music?

I doubt it, since music testing has been an industry standard for at least 40 years and major market country radio's music selections have been based weekly current/recurrent callout and gold tests for all that time.

For example, A&O&B's quarterly research track of our clients' music testing includes national averages on almost 700 tunes.

When ranked by "total positive %" with all of the men who participated (screened for their heavy use of country radio), not one song by a female ranked in the top 100.  There were three in the top 150.

Distaff artists do better with the female listeners in the sample.  Eleven songs ranked in the top 100.  The highest ranking song by a woman is #29 (Lady Antebellum/I Need You Now) and then #33 (Miranda Lambert/The House That Built Me).

Wise programmers target their music 60% female/40% male, based on the two genders' contribution to average quarter hour.

Billboard's Tom Roland must have been talking to Nashville music promotion folks for his article this week, "Taylor, Carrie, Rosanne, Julie: So Many Women, So Little Airtime."

It's my experience, the only people asking programmers why they don't play more female acts are music promoters.
“I just want more girls to have more success,” Music City songwriter Hillary Lindsey told Roland. “It’s just been so hard to break them in this town, and I don’t know why. Why is it that guys succeed a lot more than women? Why is it that Tim McGraw can still be selling tons of records and having hits, but Faith Hill can’t? Or Martina McBride? Why is it that women age in this business and they go away, but men can keep getting old and do it?”

The Billboard writer points out that "Lindsey’s point has merit, though to be fair, most male acts don’t have shelf lives that are all that long either. Plenty of other men have appeared and disappeared during the nearly 20-year span since McGraw’s first hit, “Indian Outlaw,” debuted on Hot Country Songs on Jan. 22, 1994. And McGraw still has another decade to knock out before he can approach the 30-year span between Reba McEntire’s first top 10 single, 1980’s “(You Lift Me) Up to Heaven,” and her most recent No. 1, 2010’s “Turn On the Radio.” favorite."

That must have hit a nerve for Terra Lindsey, JRfm/Vancouver Promotions Director, lover of country music, cheerleader for female singers and a big part of the station's weekly music meeting.  Her passion on the subject is demonstrated not just by the length of her blog in response to it (click the link to read it), but also the depth of her argument, ranging from human evolution to female biology.

She also shares her Program Director Mark Patric's reasoning:
"Women see themselves in the songs. She may or may not see herself with the actual singer, but it certainly increases the taste for the song if the singer is yummy. If a woman is listening to a female singer, she wants to picture herself AS that woman. To do that, she’s got to relate to the lyrics (because it’s all about the story in Country music), as well as like the singer.  To “like the singer” means more to a woman than it does to a man.  For guys she just needs to be hot.  Women need to see themselves in another woman to be able to look at her in a positive light. This means she needs to know something about her, something that reminds her of herself."  

Another possibility:  women are very complicated.  Men are simple.  Or, young girls' first radio format of preference as they turn ten or eleven is Top 40, which can be very successful targeting only women, so when they turn on to country, that is their first experience of listening to a radio format which doesn't target only them.

Millions of them grow to love country music, they see themselves as potential stars just like Carrie and Taylor, come in droves to Nashville with their self-involved perspective and run head long into the fact that Top 40 music is about fantasy and escape from reality while country music deals with adult realities, must be relevant to a wide demographic of not just their demographic peers but also to a "family" that spans four to six generations.

Perhaps it's this simple?

COUNTRY <--------------------> NOT COUNTRY

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rebranding? Or, Bull?

Clear Channel has had a lot of success over the years with "The Bull" brand, so I certainly don't  begrudge their decision to change what had been a winning country image in Las Vegas for almost 24 years to be something "new."

Dittos with last January when Alpha converted 98.7 in Portland, due - I assume - that they felt that 1 + 1 didn't add up to "Couple" anymore.

Having worked for those two radio stations for a combined total of more than thirty years starting when they each dominated their markets under those now-ineffective names, I hope no one thinks that what's going on is just renaming a radio station whose ratings aren't what they used to be.

Study how different the programming is under the new brands.  Spend some time listening to Las Vegas' BULL and Portland's BULL.

These days a brand isn't a name or a music position. 

That's the bow on top of the package that may tell the recipient "open me first," but a brand that works is defined by what's inside the package.

A radio station starts to lose, not because it's name wasn't right.  Winning occurs because the radio station consistently engages listeners with talent who not only meets their perceived needs but constantly surprises, wows, by exceeding them.

Otherwise, it's just a bunch of bull.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Trust In Advertising vs My Mistrust In Research

I cheered at Inside Radio's headline:  "Consumers’ trust in radio is on the rise", then I looked at Nielsen's just-released chart:
Trust in everything - other than ads in newspapers - appears to be up!

That is, until you look at LAST year's report on the same tracking question, which included a more full picture, where 58% stated, for example, that they don't trust radio ads much at all.

Let's wait until they release the 2012-2013 trend on that number too before we brag too much about the new, more positive, data.

Consumers’ trust in radio is on the rise.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

$1.3 Billion Is A Lot Of Money

With the approval of Nielsen's takeover of Arbitron, it's dubious that anyone thinks that broadcaster costs are going down anytime soon.

So, since it's fait accompli, let's at least inventory what I hope we all get for the money.

First, thanks to Wired's Tom Valderbilt, some history:
In the years after its founding in Chicago in 1923, the A.C. Nielsen Company thrived, thanks to a commitment to math and technology. While its competitors called random households and asked them what they happened to be listening to on the radio at that moment, Nielsen developed more sophisticated sampling methods. Rather than rely solely on self-reporting, Nielsen employed a device called the Audimeter that used photographic tape to automatically record listening activity. When television arrived, Nielsen used similar meters for viewing—although they were supplemented with paper diaries. But by the late 1950s, Nielsen sat comfortably atop the media-ratings industry. It had few competitors, and since television habits remained static, it had little reason to keep innovating.

Under the terms of the FTC’s approval, as Variety Digital Editor Todd Spangler reports Nielsen must continue to support Project Blueprint, the cross-platform project measuring TV, radio, PC, mobile and tablet engagement that ESPN has been working on with Arbitron and comScore, so perhaps Nielsen CEO David Calhoun's statement (“We are looking forward to providing all of the benefits of the combined company to our new clients in the radio industry and their advertisers, driving incremental value for them as well as our shareholders.”) means that we will all be getting more for the money, better, more reliable data to reflect a more mobile media world.
  • Will Nielsen households increase from 25,000 to 75,000 (the national PPM radio panel) at no additional cost to current subscribers?
  • Will the increased sample size permit cross-media usage measurement like BBM Canada has been doing since they implemented PPM in 2009, displacing Nielsen's TV measurement?
  • Will sample weighting decrease, increasing reliability?
  • Will PPM be extended to all TV markets now measured by Nielsen so that radio in those markets gets PPM data at no additional cost?

Skeptics abound, so all eyes will be on Nielsen, starting, perhaps this week, at AdWeek 2013.

After a late 2008 announcement that 50 Cumulus markets were to be measured by Nielsen and a revelation 18 months later that Cumulus CEO Lou Dickey was pleased with the results, the industry never actually saw that public release of the data which was promised, first in June of that year, then later in August and then ultimately Cumulus did not renew their deal with Neilsen, so you'll pardon me if I am fearful.

In February 2010 at Country Radio Seminar, Clear Channel Senior VP/Research Jess Hanson and I attempted to get representatives of the two ratings giants to "take the gloves off," but it turned into a gentle confrontation as then-CEO of Arbitron, Michael Skarzynski ended up a no-show, replaced by the able fencer Dr. Ed Cohen, but Nielsen Media Research's managing director for North America Lorraine Hadfield was ill-equipped to talk competing methodologies with the experienced researcher and stuck to her talking points, meaning that what was billed as a barn-burner actually turned into a good session to catch a nap, which is probably the way both of them had hoped it would be.

Ultimately, as Wired's Vanderbilt wrote, if I may adapt and paraphrase him a bit: "It all adds up to a potentially thrilling new era for radio, television and new media, one that values shows that spark conversations, not just those that hook us for 30 minutes (for TV and just 11 PPM minutes for radio). The stakes are high: Get it right and great programming will continue to thrive. Get it wrong and both the $70 billion television industry and the $16 billion radio business will be in jeopardy—along with your favorite radio station, personality and TV show."

Hopefully, Neilsen makes the most of their huge investment in the future of all U.S. media ratings by improving the value of what they deliver to clients and media buyers .. and wastes no time in doing so.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

How To “Make Things Happen”!

Sharing an idea with a co-worker.  Pitching for a new salary.  Trying to land an advertiser.  Motivating your station's Core.  

Whether it be an idea, service, product or point-of-view, the goal is to “make things happen.”   

Here are a few thoughts on selling (anything!) I learned from longtime Clear Channel programmer Michael Albl:

All objections to buying take on one of four forms: 
1.    No need
2.    No money
3.    No authority
4.    No hurry

These objections can be eliminated by using NaB & CaPTuRe:

Need:  Find out the NEED.  Verify, up-front, that your product of service matches, or is very close to matching, your prospect’s wants or needs.  Here you establish yourself as a good and careful listener.  And you will have uncovered an important need.

Budget:  Their budget for this need is your second sales stage discovery.  If they can’t pay, they can’t play!  Then again, if they got the money honey…

Commitment:  Who makes and when will a commitment to purchase be made.  You have to be talking to the right person(s).  And if you aren’t there with close in mouth (as opposed to your hand), when they are ready to buy, you might as well keep your mouth closed.
Prescription…without thorough diagnosis is malpractice in both medicine and sales.  An aggressive sales-person wants to go where the action is, not sit around gathering information about prospects needs so their diagnosis of the need is generally superficial.

Take...personal responsibility for making sure everything sold is delivered exactly as specified.  Get right on top of remedying the situation.  When all goes well, credit the support staff. the customer within 30 days of delivery to see that all is running well.  When it is, then ask for referrals.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I Feel Better Now

My week started out with my head hurting as word of a new mandatory policy at a major consolidated group dictating at least 15 or more units in a break twice an hour was confirmed.

Next day, Natalie Swed Stone of OMD at RAIN SUMMIT asked “how will listeners tolerate 15 minutes of commercials” (in an hour’s worth of a radio station's streaming simulcast) and added that “a 60” spot on the air is insanity.”

Thankfully, about then, Mary Quass called 'spotload one of multiple things we have to "suck it up" and fix.'  (thanks to Sean for Tweeting it today.

It felt like an extra strength aspirin, targeted right where my head was starting to hurt.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Make Prep A Priority

There are few things that can make a greater difference to a radio station’s sound than show prep.   

The difference between personalities (and especially morning teams) that prep material in advance and those that don’t is audible and awesome.

Some characteristics of the morning team show that doesn’t prep:  
  • They tend to have one “bit” through the show.   
  • The only thing they do to create listener interaction is contests and prizes.
  • Their content is purely “off the news” with little or nothing local.  
  • They ramble because they haven’t worked out where the bit’s going to end.
A multi-person team simply must do at least some group prep.  Certainly, the classic "generator" vs "reactor" character balance can be a crutch if the reactor never knows in advance what the point of the content is.  How do you know when the bit is over if you don't have any idea where it's going?
If your people are sloughing (show prep) off, work with them, encourage them, provide them the time and atmosphere, if possible, in which they can prepare material for tomorrow’s show.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Thanks, Zac and Gary

Zac Brown and Gary Allan sure created some buzz this week with comments about country music losing its “country” factor.

wrote a thought-provoking recap of it all that has drawn some excellent comments (after you get through mine):
  • "You used to be able to turn on the radio and you knew it was a country station just by listening to it. Now, you’ve got to leave it there for a second to figure it out.” -- Gary Allan
  • “If I hear one more tailgate in the moonlight, daisy duke song, I’m gonna throw up. There’s songs out there on the radio right now that make me be ashamed to be even in the same format as some other artists.” -- Zac Brown
  • "To me the question isn’t about being a purist, trumpets, Metallica, resisting musical evolution, or disparaging anyone. But looking at the past it seems that country has experienced several cycles where it moves toward the mainstream until perhaps it loses too many of its distinctive qualities. It then sputters, regroups and the cycle begins anew. When some of today’s most talented artists are also speaking out about what they are feeling in highly public media venues it seems worthy of consideration." -- David Ross
  • "I had a dream where I saw a ballpark filled with male Country singers. Down one aisle came a vendor with his wares yelling “Truck songs!!! Get your truck songs here”…..then a couple of aisles over, there was another vendor yelling “Girl songs!!! Got your girl songs here”. And they couldn’t get rid of them fast enough. Then at the bottom, near the edge of the field, there was another vendor yelling “Beer songs!!! Get your beer and party songs here. Beer songs!!!” And he sold out in minutes. These singers were jumping up and down with joy, thrilled with what they had found, thinking how unique it made them feel. And they left the park with their souvenirs wanting to share them with the world. But, that was only a dream, wasn’t it?????" -- Sherrill Blackman
  • I think a lot of all the music formats are currently filled with “disposable” music, almost in the “jingle” category. But “jingles” sells product, and this is the music BUSINESS, lest we forget. However, let’s hope that the Country format never loses the artists and writers, who are idealistic enough, to always want great, well written songs, with stories about LIFE……bad, good, rich, poor, love, divorce, and hell yes, there will always be parties ! It’s a “cycle”, so calm down, everything always turns out OK in the end. I’m just glad that this current “cycle” has brought a younger demographic who will discover other Country artists, with a traditional, or singer-songwriter “slant” which they wouldn’t have discovered, otherwise.  The COUNTRY FORMAT will always be the best music site for diversity. I like it all !!  -- Tony Brown
  • We’re thinking of having a little fun this week by putting ZBB’s first single against Luke’s first, ZBB’s latest vs Luke’s latest, etc letting the listeners decide (click CAGE MATCH - ZAC VS LUKE.mp3 to hear it)  -- Adam McLaren, Program Director XL Country 96.9/Moncton
That open attitude to diversity of sound, borrowing generously from what’s “hot” and adapting fresh ideas is the very thing that keeps country growing.  It’s regrettable when any of us who understand the business disparages artists, songs, radio stations or companies. A bit of the mud, when that happens, splashes on all of us.

I hope that is something we all agree on.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Spotted By A&O&B: At Sears Fine Foods in San Francisco

Because the customer has a need, we have a job to do.
Because the customer has a choice, we must be the better choice.
Because the customer has sensibilities, we must be considerate.
Because the customer has an urgency, we must be quick.
Because the customer is unique, we must be flexible.
Because the customer has high expectations, we must excel.
Because the customer has influence, we have the hope of more customers.
Because of the customer, we exist.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Quality Is As Important As Quantity

Irritating commercials are becoming an increasing cause of listener tune-out. 

The quality of the commercials is more of a potential tune-out than the quantity.

Today, the greatest missed opportunity in radio is to produce spots that are clever, ear catching, compelling for listeners to hear and compelling enough to move product for the client. 

When it comes to local “in house” spot production we turn out a lot of “average” spots. A trend as winning operators consolidate is to have a full time production person who does nothing but sharpen the production images for all of the companies properties. 

If I were a General Manager, I would invest more in a Creative/Production department.  I would want to have better spots to lead off my spotsets and create demand in my station’s creative department.
Be known for great production.  Your TSL will go up (ratings) and make your station in demand for production (revenues)!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Heard In The Halls

One of the benefits of consulting is that you hear things from some very smart people.
  • “Perceptual images are like icebergs and changing them is like trying to melt ‘em with a Bic lighter.”
  • "Women 18-34 are the country format’s fastest-growing audience segment.  However, due to the many stations that also target this desirable group their conversion ratio is often weaker than older core demo cells.  Cultivating at work listening loyalty on a consistent basis can cure this problem."
Thanks to two very well-informed researchers who must remain anonymous for being so quotable (and correct!).

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Imaging The Drivers

Once you decide what your most-important Value Drivers are, it's important to make selling them a priority on the air.

Does all station self-promotion center around just your ratings contest or money-making remotes/community appearances?

A major portion of your promotional inventory and production creative time should be set aside to remind listeners that you know why they pick your radio station from all the available choices.

If you take them for granted, they may take you for granted too.

Value Drivers

A client PD sent me her station's marketing plan for the fall survey and she related every proposed action as a driver of value to the target listener.
  • The station's unique and superior music, lifestyle and attitude position among all our competition.
  • Their commercial load limits and placement, designed to increase usage at the expense of other radio stations our listeners may also use.
  • The simplicity and fun of our "big" contest, which features very enticing prizes in contrast to other local media marketing.
  • Air personality content, controlled using a content grid to assure that it is consistent and present.
  • Personalities, unique in their compelling brand stories and always involved with the local community on the streets, meeting perceived listener needs and solving problems.
Running everything they do through the "is it a value driver to our target?" test is a great way to be sure that ratings will reflect an on-target brand, driven by loyal fans who know that the station is built around their needs.

Sunday, September 08, 2013


I don't know whether to blame this blog post on The New York Times or Taylor Swift.  Both are somewhat culpable.

They had to know that we'd all find their "Popular List" irresistible:
And, I did.  Until I reached the ultimate point of the article:  "By one measure, no one watches “Girls.” By another, it’s fantastically popular. We already understand why this is: it’s a tenet of faith that we no longer experience culture as one hulking, homogeneous mass."

It suddenly started to sound a lot like one of the country programmers quoted by Country Aircheck as PPM ratings come out.  They want us to know that they are #1 in 20-23 year old boys who live on the south side of town and seem not to recognize that we can see their station's 6+ and 18-49 numbers, where the were beaten.

This game of demographics, of course, is not new to any of us in radio, who print new rankers every book with a different target where we hit it out of the park this time.

And, if we can't find a demo to brag about, we'll find you a psychographic or a flattering qualitative stat which proves how popular we are .. with somebody.

As Times writer Adam Sternbergh notes:  "Now, the concept of cultural popularity has been flayed, hung by its heels and drained of all meaning."

Let's stop bragging about meaningless rankers and begin to focus on the measure that really matters: 
  • What proof do you have that your listeners are deeply engaged by your content and promotions?
  • What can you show me that validates your advertisers get results exceeding their expectations?
How popular are you with the people who have money to spend on radio advertising?

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Other Media Preview Radio's Potential

As Pandora increases it's ad inventory, making longer commercial breaks and Apple begins hiring ad sales teams, it's pretty obvious that it's now a multimedia world and radio must grapple with the ramifications of what competing media and not just other radio stations are doing.

CBS-TV's victory over Time Warner sets a precedent that says broadcast content is just as valuable as anything else.  CBS CEO Les Moonves says of the NFL:  "They deserve what they get because they deliver great ratings. ”

It wasn't just a win for CBS, but for anyone who creates great content that viewers and listeners demand.

Meanwhile, the up's and down's of CNN, MSNBC and Fox News provide another clue as to where things are going.  When politics are hot, the latter two do best. 

When world event warm up, it is CNN'S turn to jump up.

Selling media in 2013 requires the ability to predict when a medium's audience is going to spike and to credibly pre-sell those opportunities at aggressive and justifiable rates based solidly on the size of the audience.

Those of us who produce content need to become alert to times when we have unique viral information or entertainment that can push metered ratings above average.

iAds and Pandora are going to find that music alone can't do that. 

CBS-TV has proven that exclusive branded content non-musical content is worth the big bucks.

Now, it's up to audio media as well to develop/pre-promote big audience-builders (which of course is nothing new to great radio personalities) and market those things well in advance to maximize the money they bring in (which the majority of radio sellers still come up short on).

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Another Push

With the news this week that eight test markets have now launched the NextRadio app and just three weeks after owners of Sprint’s HTC One and HTC Evo phones could begin accessing FM radio via the NextRadio application, nearly 10,000 people have begun using the app, I want to be certainly that you embrace this technology that can become today's "transistor radio."

It is a source of pride to see that the example shown on the website is a fast-growing country radio station.

I really didn't need convincing that this is a great idea, but if you need proof before you embrace it, let me send you back two years to my blog post from a Greek Island (click to read it).

If you don't know what to do next:  go to and click the "support" tab.
three weeks after owners of Sprint’s HTC One and HTC Evo phones could begin accessing FM radio via the NextRadio application, nearly 10,000 people have begun using the app - See more at:
three weeks after owners of Sprint’s HTC One and HTC Evo phones could begin accessing FM radio via the NextRadio application, nearly 10,000 people have begun using the app - See more at:

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

If You Don't Like Hank Williams...

Taste Of Country's Billy Dukes certainly achieved a coup with his terrific interview with Hank Williams, Jr. yesterday and it was terrific to learn that Hank Jr. is in a good space these days as he contemplates working only 10% of the days in the coming year.

Meanwhile, the revelation that he likes Eric Church and doesn't "listen to today’s country radio, so I am not sure who gets played and who doesn’t … I really don’t give a s—!" shouldn't be major news to anyone. 

Church is today's incarnation of what Hank Jr. brought to country radio three decades ago and it's always been an important part of our mix.  

Thankfully, there isn't much guitar-based rock on the radio dial today other than on country music stations so - if you love it too - we are the exclusive purveyor, which is a nice competitive place to be.  However, I doubt that Williams Jr. disdains Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift any more than he once did Gary Morris, Crystal Gayle and K. T. Oslin back in their heyday.  

He has never been what you'd call a 'radio-friendly' artist.

If you're a brand manager who came to country in the last 25 years and you ever have an opportunity to catch Hank Jr. either close up in an intimate setting or in front of a huge arena crowd, prepare to be blown away.  

His talents are massive.  

However, at the very start, don't be surprised if he kicks off his performance by demonstrating his life-long bad boy "don't give a s---!" attitude before getting down to the business of entertaining as only he can do.

Bocephus, I don't think you ever spent much time listening to the mix of music on commercial radio.  Or, if you did you'd never admit it as Taste of Country just demonstrated, but the smartest among us are still listening to you!

Finding The Best Listeners

"Not all listeners and advertisers are created equal.  And when you learn how each individual uses and perceives your uniqueness - based on their uniqueness, you can actually increase your profits, without having to increase your share of the market."

“Customers have different needs from a (radio station) and they represent different valuations to a (station).  Today’s information technology allows us to tell our customers apart and remember them individually.  From there, we can use technology to customize products and services for each one.”

Sound as cutting edge as today?

Not really.

Those quotes come from DonPeppers and Martha Rogers' 1997 book “Enterprise One To One:  Tools for Competing in the InteractiveAge” (Currency/Doubleday)

If you're not segmenting your listener database, you're more than 16 years behind.

Don't feel too smug if you are "using microchip technology to make it possible to know your listeners better than ever."  You still may be more than a decade in back of a competitor who has been learning from the people formerly known as the audience since these concepts were introduced. 

It's never too late to start.