Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How Would Wharton Rate Your Radio Station?

I have become addicted to The Wharton School Of Business Future Of Advertising web pages and recommend you click around the many links and quotes offered, for example, at this one.

The faculty watched the Super Bowl and Tweeted their reactions to all of the ads making use of a rating system they term RAVES.


Now, it's your turn.

How does everything you do in generating RAVES?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Does This Look Like A Format That's About To Fragment?

Since roughly a third of all radio users give all radio stations some 70% of their total hours of listening, it's safe to say that as goes the core, so goes the radio station they use.

That's why A&O&B has been tracking annual "Roadmap" online perceptual studies for many years.

In 2014, 8,874 very local fans in more than 70 markets in the U.S. & Canada gave us their opinions.  Nine of ten were "P-1," since just 9.3% choose country as 2nd or 3rd choice.

As Mike O'Malley blogged that passion for today's country runs very high:  "even among 55-64 year olds, six in ten like new country frommillennial stars 'a lot.'"  

That's driving improving total hours tuned:

It's especially the case with younger demos:

The biggest increase came 18-24, but is across all demos:

Loyalty (likely to switch if something new became available) is also on the upswing:

That's not say that there aren't individual radio stations failing to perform at these benchmarks whose listeners might jump at the chance to try something different and new.  As Radio-Info's Mike Kinosian reported on Friday, one third of the Nielsen rated country stations in his last tracking study failed to join the national up trend for the country format.

I hope you aren't one of them, but it appears that the average country station among A&O&B clients is well-positioned to fend off a niche competitor!

If you aren't among the majority, A&O&B can help,

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bye Bye P-1 Report, Hello Cluster Analysis "Junkies"

It has been fascinating to watch Nielsen decide to stop offering a report that was created almost thirty years ago even as radio researcher Mark Kassof released a report that indicates almost exactly the same statistical relationship of a radio station's heaviest users to their total averages.

35% of all listeners, multivariate data pioneer Kassof finds, account for about 70% of all listening for the typical radio station.

As "Research Doctor" Roger Wimmer and longtime researcher Pierre Bouvard recall, a bright programmer/researcher - Gary Donohue - originated the concept of segmenting radio tuning into quintiles for programming and marketing.

Donohue's "Fingerprint" stats from back in the diary-only days proved that about 30% of radio listeners gave stations roughly 70% of their listening.

When you see two completely different research approaches yield very close to the same result over a very long period of time, you have to believe that you are approaching that rare entity:  THE TRUTH.

Just because Nielsen has unplugged the "P-1 report," it's still vital to know who your heaviest users are, where they live and how they perceive and behave.

If you need assistance in creating your own reports to analyze their use of your station, A&O&B would be delighted to assist.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My (Bad) Judgment Is Showing

You might subtitle this cautionary tale “do what I say, not what I did.”

With the arrival of NASH-Icons and Collin Raye’s recent Fox News Op-Ed calling a halt to “Bro-Country” and imploring Nashville label execs to return to a style of song that he feels is “true country” I've been asked what I think about it a lot lately.

For my 40 years in the format it seems that about every decade or so someone comes up with a “real,” “classic,” “pure,” “legends” approach to the music with the goal of appealing to older folks who don’t like the current direction the younger demos are pulling the format.

I enjoy this discussion, having led literally thousands of focus groups with every possible narrow demo niche within the spectrum of country music radio fans.  I often explain the key point I have taken away for all of this listening to passionate fans of the music is that older folks take the time to understand the tastes of young ones, whereas younger folks have no desire to figure out what makes their elders’ preferences.

Certainly, 45+ country radio listeners have the memory of at least two or three decades of songs that 18 to 44 year olds do not and they do like a number of those tune, yet - surprisingly and unlike any other format - the majority of upper end country fans seem to like the new music as much or more than they like the more familiar past favorites.

This has kept country music radio from meaningfully fragmenting in spite of predictions from very wise radio experts with experience in multiple formats.

Given the size of the leading edge boom generation it’s logical to believe that perhaps this time is different that past target evolutions.  So, when a personalty or programmer starts to forecast a new opportunity for upper-demo targeted country along the lines of mainstream vs hot ac, I often say “your age is showing” and share my experience to the contrary with them.  

This week, a 50 year old personality I greatly respect called me on that phrase.

“Jaye, I pride myself on staying relevant and plan to work in this format as long as you have (I will be 71 in July).  Telling me that my age is showing feels like age discrimination to me and is a cheap shot.  I have very good 18 to 34 listenership numbers.  You are stereotyping me based on the least important thing you know about me.”

I had to admit that my client and friend was absolutely correct.

In fact, I have long prided myself on helping to launch, brand and maintain many very successful “younger country” stations whose listeners were at least two or three generations my junior.

I guess that means MY age wasn’t showing?  Or, better, that the age of the programmer or personality doesn't matter as long as they resonate with the values of the target.

I’d never want anyone to discriminate against me based on my age.

It’s long past time for ME to start treating other folks the same way.

If I ever forget that fact again, please be like my client and friend and remind me.  Before I get sued for age discrimination.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Format's Up, But You Went Down

Among the things more than three decades of consulting has taught me:  every market situation is different and every station within those markets is unique.

When a format is down nationally and your station or show is also off about the same percentage, it's not time to beat yourself up too much.  Music trends, events and buzz move up and down over time and of course it's possible for a great radio station's programmer to foresee those evolutions and adjust rotations and other non-music elements to compensate better than the average PD did.

That's what separates the cream of the crop.  Moving up when most other stations in your format feels good.  It takes a special skill set to understand what it takes to achieve it.  Consultants and researchers are very helpful in teaching what it takes to out-perform.

However, when everyone else in your format us up and you are down, that's the time when you really need to look in the mirror and ask yourself if you know what happened or if you need to call for expert assistance.

"Arbitron Ratings:  Radio audience figures, compiled with no basis in science or reason, used to fire Air Personalities."   — Gerry House (from “Glossary Of Terms” in “Country Music Broke My Brain”)

Now, We Have To DO It

I hate predicting ratings, and of course anyone who has done a budget projection has been there.  It's even scarier when the ratings researcher predicts that you're going to do well in the coming months.

Neilsen just did exactly that in releasing an overviews of April PPM data across 45 markets* using the full-week (Monday-Sunday 6 a.m.-midnight) daypart and audience shares for listeners aged 6 and older.

Country is poised to improve upon its record-setting summer of 2013, when it saw its best audience share numbers in PPM. The format’s April results of 8.1 (for listeners aged 6+), 9.9 (18-34) and 7.9 (25-54) are well ahead of where it stood at this time last year and, in some cases, are just a few 10ths of a share-point away from matching those records set in the middle of last summer. 

The next few months will tell if 2014 will be another ‘Country summer’ on the radio.

Well, the heat is on.  There ain't nothing left to it but to DO it!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Making "Bad" 6% Less So

Not to seem ungrateful that we're now just a few more months away from seeing the 6% increase in PPM samples which Nielsen promised for 2014 last November, but - as my post "The Canary Has A Name" suggests - that won't come even close to realizing the dream of true PPM-based cross media measurement with reliable estimates a reality.

As Paragon Research's Larry Johnson recalls "when Nielsen and Arbitron were first collaborating in the early 1990s about rolling out radio PPM jointly, the sample size was to be roughly three times what Arbitron has been offering.  The sample size becomes even more crucial if Nielsen is going to measure multiple platforms with a PPM device.  If you’re going to accurately measure outlets with small, niche audiences, the sample size must increase dramatically.  For example, cable television gets cut up into very small pieces given the huge number of cable channels available.  It’s interesting that Nielsen uses a mixed methodology utilizing both diaries and meters in many of the television markets they rate."

Researcher Mark Ramsey offers a brief statistics course in a two year old article to underscore why it's important that Nielsen make the most of their abilities now that that they own PPM: 

Small samples yield extreme results more than large samples do. Every broadcaster knows this, of course, but the impact is far worse than you think.

Daniel Kahneman discusses this issue in some depth in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow:

Imagine a large urn filled with marbles. Half the marbles are red, half are white. Jack draws 4 marbles on each trial, Jill draws 7. They both record each time they observe a homogeneous sample—all white or all red. If they go on long enough, Jack will observe such extreme outcomes more often than Jill—by a factor of 8.

By a factor of 8!  Extreme (and erroneous) results are 8 times more likely with 4 rather than 7.
And how many meters are tuned to your station right now?

Ramsey asks:   "What does it say about the veracity of our message and our messengers when we’re using numbers we know to be flat-out false?"

Another researcher, Kurt Hanson recalls his attempts several decades ago to sell radio on a better sample size in a service called Accu-Ratings, and puts it this way: "introduction of Portable People Meters (PPMs) solved the wrong problem:  Diaries weren’t being filled out precisely to the minute (in fact, lots of respondents filled out their diaries in one sitting at the end of the week), and PPMs “fixed” this problem, but because meters were so much more expensive than paper diaries (hundreds of dollars vs. maybe a dime), Arbitron used far fewer of them per market.  So the sample size issue got *worse,* not better!"

If today's multi-media ratings firms are serious about credibly measuring the increasingly-fragmented pie, they have to see the potential of signing many, many new clients which hopefully will rapidly grow their revenues, while keeping radio and television's rates stable at current levels.

I hope they also understand that to achieve that lofty goal sample sizes must be at least tripled or quadrupled, not merely increased in small increments.

The Canary Has A Name

The canary in radio ratings' coal mine's name is Sean Hannity.
In a cover story interview this week, the syndicated talker tells Radio Ink "one of the problems with radio in general, and this impacts all formats, is that in the last 10 years, our lives, in terms of technology, have changed dramatically. Radio needs to wake up to this fact. It’s the single biggest threat to the radio business today — that is, the measurement system is flawed in a dramatic way."

Hannity believes he has millions of digital listeners he is not able to get credit for.  "For example, in New York, if you’re listening to The Sean Hannity Radio Show on the WOR website, even if you have a Portable People Meter, I can’t get credit for that. We know that WABC, at times, had well over 1.4 million people listening online. If we can’t get credit for that, then all the data that’s being put out there is just inaccurate. Then you add to that those people who listen to me on satellite. That’s unmeasured. If people listen on my website, that’s not measured. I’m a big proponent of iHeart-Radio, but that’s also unmeasured. What we have is a situation where, especially in big cities, it’s almost impossible to get an AM signal, and for the people listening to my show, and they are, there is no way that we can get credit."  Hannity says. he knows for a fact he has millions of online listeners. "I have never seen it below a couple of million people. Ever. This is not a small issue. This is a massive issue."

Sean was an early believer and user of PPM and spoke in 2007 to the annual consultants' fly-in about how he was using the Media Monitors and custom audience flow reports tracking of his show to hone content, so I can testify that he's an extremelty knowledgeable voice on the subject who has been digging deep into PPM data from the beginning.

Also, the responses to his views on Radio Ink's website are generally chirping in agreement:

The current reporting method stations are using for on-line listening is difficult to work with or believe at best. This problem requires a good solution from Nielsen...now.
- Dick Kalt

I say again -- add PPM encoder to your internet streams. This is not shocking revelation.  Parsing streaming server logs is also a trivial matter, albeit you don't get the same demographic data as PPM.
- Joe Cassara

This is an "Elephant in the room" issue for radio. What exactly is being done about it? Nothing yet.
- Iconoclast

For the first time in my life, Hannity and I agree on something. To the earlier comment, server logs are flawed too and subject to manipulation. - Fred Lundgren

I have written about this shortcoming, citing what Canada's BBM is doing for genuine cross-media measurement.  When ARB was radio and Nielsen was TV, using server logs was the only option open to Arbitron.

Now that Nielsen measures both TV and radio with PPM, they can do much better than 6%, as Sean Hannity clearly understands.

If You Don’t Have A Producer, You Do Have One: YOU

If you have a producer, ask yourself if she helps you do better shows or is just a go-fer.  If it’s the latter, you might actually be more effective without one.

A great producer adds value to everything by..
  • Understanding the roles and character of every member of the team.
  • Maintains and actively programs your monthly, weekly and daily planners
  • Is a constant content hunter, looking for stories that fit the values of the team and the listener
  • Reads voraciously
  • Keeps a large “rolodex” address book with contact info for anyone who might suddenly be good to place on air immediately and maintains good relationships so that when something happens right now they line up the best ‘gets’
  • Uses streaming recorder to monitor and edit down the radio stations and personalities who create content that might be adaptable to your situation
  • Writes well, producing bits and promos that are so good they make it to the air
  • “Gets” PR and knows who in local media can get you publicity, creates press releases that get you in print, online and on TV whenever you do something noteworthy
  • Updates the appearance schedule, maximizing every out-of-station event
  • Keeps a diary of the best ideas that occur during brainstorming sessions, on air or anytime a great concept surfaces
A rookie mistake is to hire a potential producer who wants to be a morning personality and not making it clear that their job is to help the existing characters be better by directing them productively not to compete for mic time with them.  Make it clear that you'll mentor and help with their personal goal, but for now their job is to make you shine.

It’s a full time job, but if no one else is doing it and there’s no budget for this position, it’s important to bake these tasks into your personal prep and self-promotion.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Your New Fall Season

The news Friday that ABC-TV has renewed "Nashville" for a third season with a full run of 22 episodes hopefully comes as a reminder that summer is the perfect time of year to plan for "what's new" in the coming year on your show and radio station.

Rayna Jaymes (as the show's website points out) "suddenly discovers her passion for the business is not enough to compete with the new generation of talent lighting up the charts. She's forced to accept the harsh reality that she’ll have to start over and reinvent herself if she plans on being relevant."

Political Scientist Charles A. Murray chose this graduation season to release his new book citing the film 'Groundhog Day' as another reminder of the need to constantly evolve even as life seems to be an exercise in repetitive experiences.
"Without the slightest bit of preaching, the movie shows the bumpy, unplanned evolution of his protagonist from a jerk to a fully realized human being—a person who has learned to experience deep, lasting and justified satisfaction with life even though he has only one day to work with."  He writes "You could learn the same truths by studying Aristotle's 'Ethics' carefully, but watching "Groundhog Day" repeatedly is a lot more fun."
There's a lot of what we all do on radio every day that seems to mirror Bill Murray's life in the movie.  Same things, same times, day after day.

If you are bored with what you do, the audience most likely is too.

The coming summer vacation time of year for both you and your listener is the perfect time to learn a lesson from what works for television.  Think through all of the things you want to keep next year as well as potential new aspects in your character, personalities, benchmarks.

Be sure that as your listener matures and grows, you're doing so as well.

What are your strengths? 
What would you like to change? 

It's  time to review what you've been doing and ask what you need to reinvent, replace and yet remain as strong as in the past.

Attack yourself!  Find and correct your own weaknesses. If you were a new morning show coming into the market what would your strategy be to beat our current/past show?

What weaknesses would you exploit? What are the weaknesses in your show’s strengths?  Each player needs to have their role definitions re-evaluated. 

Study all show benchmarks and regular features. Put all of them - as talent coach Randy Lane and his team routinely suggests - in one of three categories:

  • Perfect as is
  • Needs improving
  • Discontinue
It’s not enough to be the best today; you have to be famous too. Look for ways to generate media press and talk in the market by making this an agenda point in the planning sessions as you "launch your new fall season!"

Thursday, May 08, 2014

“Bullish on the Stick”

I was relieved to hear Cumulus Media president/CEO Lew Dickey describe himself that way in his Canadian Music Week Q&A with Talkers/RadioInfo publisher Michael Harrison.

It takes a rare, courageous individual to manage the multiple challenges of financing, buying and owning radio today.

Being a successful entrepreneur has never been easy since it typically requires mortgaging everything you own, placing yourself in a position where failure is simply not an option.

In today's radio deal market where millions of investment dollars sit on the sidelines with a business sense that in the economy of the next few years AM-FM clusters that are for sale are "prudently" worth perhaps four to six times cash flow and yet the companies with the desirable stations "everyone" is attempting to buy are demanding as much as double that.

Complicating the problem:  recent deal makers such as Digity, Alpha and Townsquare, among others, are choosing to add very small markets as they pursue medium market opportunities.

The margin for error in small marker radio is much narrower than it is in higher revenue situations. 

There is next to no national business.  Power, legal fees, equipment, the best people and other fixed costs don't cost much less in small markets than they do in medium and large cities where it's possible to bring 40-50% to the bottom line and still compete aggressively.

The percentages are very different in small markets as consolidators.

Yet - as the thousands of very successful small town mom and pop owner-operators all across North America know - the payoff to being a big fish in a small pond can be fabulous when you do it absolutely right.

Dean Goodman, Larry Wilson, Steven Price and the others who are jumping into the radio fray today appear to be deeply aware of these facts.  They all possess the strength of will, experience and smarts to understand what is at stake.

Let's hope, for the sake of the people who work for the newly-acquired radio stations and the communities depending on them, they pull it off.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Basic Basics

The next in a continuing, intermittent series of Jay Trachman treasures:

Being by The Book always bends me back toward basics. (Too bad alliteration isn't one of them...)

Here are the most basic basics of all, in brief...

1)  Talk to someone.  Not your target demographic; not a picture on the wall or a cardboard cut-out. Certainly not "the great unwashed." I mean a specific individual whom you can count on to enjoy your company. An individual; someone you know, or wish you knew. Someone with a name, a height and weight, an occupation, a history, relationships and feelings.

Intimacy is one of the last few remaining strengths of radio. If we blow it, there isn't much standing between us and iPods, Sirius and all the others we keep trying not to worry about.

Consider: our music isn't as good as what a real music lover can program for him or herself on an MP3 player. Even if it is -- even if a listener likes the mix we offer or is too lazy to "shuffle" his or her own iPod, the great odds are your music isn't discernable from half a dozen other stations in the market. The hottest hits, the longest sweeps, the fewest interruptions -- these are mechanical functions that your competition can duplicate successfully, and probably will. Seems like a hard way to win in the ratings.

Our news credibility has been pre-empted by (the internet and) TV; unless a boob tube isn't available, that's what most people choose for their primary information source these days. The weather: decades of inaccurate forecasts have left serious questions about whether anybody believes them now.

All that's left, besides our local-ness, is our intimacy -- the companionship we provide -- our ability to reach a listener and make him or her feel like they're not alone. As far as I know, in order to achieve that, you *must* be convinced you're really talking to someone.

2)  Have something to say. So obvious. So elusive. Personality radio isn't in trouble because the DJ's talked too much; it's in trouble because we said too little that was worth hearing. Talk about your community, this day, your listener's life and your own. How are you going to sound intimate and real if you never ever Share something real from your own life with your friend, the listener? If all your raps have the same inflection, and you never express a true feeling?

3) Here's the most basic of basic principals for personality jocks, so obvious it shouldn't need to be said:  TIME MATTERS.

Put it on the bulletin board. Tape it to the wall in the control room. My experience is, there's probably nothing that needs to be said *more* to today's personality jocks.

Time matters! You are a guest in peoples' minds. Don't abuse the privilege! Prep your raps. Make them lean and mean. Remember that your listener, fan that he/she may be, still only has perhaps twenty or thirty seconds to devote his mind to you. If you haven't hooked him by then, you're just blowin' smoke.

4)  Stop when you're done. Painfully obvious, again. Every rap ends with a "pay-off" - a punchline or emotional response. It's the one line in a rap that practically needs to be scripted, so you can get it just right. And, so you'll know where you're headed before you even start.

When you get there, you're done! Bam, into the next event! Either the rap has worked at this point, or it never will. There is nothing more you can do, except to establish yourself as insecure and undisciplined. Another thing you don't do is go into another piece of talk -- if you can humanly avoid it. The "one thought per break" rule is as valid today as ever. You can't observe it all the time, but when you violate it, you should have good reason for doing so.

The rules of formatics are often complex; but once you've mastered them, that's all there is, cut & dried. You follow them, execute them, and with any luck, they rarely require much thought. The rules of effective personality radio, on the other hand, are wonderfully simple. Except, the application can take a lifetime...

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Make Your Opinion Known Now

"Be a regulator. Keep President Obama's 2007 PROMISE to protect net neutrality!"
  -- Jaye Albright

That was my comment in response to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's blog post "Finding the Best Path Forward to Protect the Open Internet"

I hope you'll ponder the issue and let the FCC hear your voice as well.

Of course, you don't need to agree with me, but I hope you consider this:

If my worst fears surrounding the so-called "Open Internet" proposed rule making prove to be true, it might be a boon for over-the-air broadcasting as streaming audiences either have to pay more for what we all have access to now or  experience slower connections.  If I am right, it would also slow the pace of the battle for the broadband vehicle dashboard, reinforcing the power of traditional radio, so allowing it to proceed could even be in broadcasters' self-interest, keeping AM-FM the free, fastest way to access audio entertainment long-term.

Innovation and genuine open access challenge all business.  It's natural to want to create barriers to potential competition to enter your segment of consumers and technology, but the common good opens far more opportunity than trying to corner another market.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Minding Your "V's" And "H's"

Horizontal songs can hurt usage if they are played back to back or even too close together.  These require coding and policies to make sure they add "surprise" and "variety" to the radio station's sound.  Too many of them and you get off target.

They are the spice in the recipe.  Program them like salt in your soup.  
Vertical tunes - for most radio formats music testing reveals that there are fewer than 300 of them - are the target listener's "bulleye" and the only risk of playing too many of them in a row is that the music mix becomes predictable and boring, which of course can also hurt usage.

Some programmers opt not to play any Horizonal songs, but that decision means in a competitive situation you need to test all of your golds at least quarterly.

Horizontal content often can be a personality's most viral and popular bits.  The Senseless SurveyWar Of The RosesPhone ScamSecond Date Update.

Listeners love them, but too many in too short a period of time can be like having too many pieces of candy at one sitting.  It can make you sick.

Horizontal content is very promotable at "benchmark" times, driving habitual usage of more days per week.  It's not "the show."  It's a special event.  Too much of it, too often and it's not special anymore and stops accomplishing what it was originally designed to do.

Vertical content reinforces the character and values created by your best material but is the show.  It's the more routine content you do which listeners find informative, fun useful and helpful.

The challenge of executing vertical content is doing it with a fresh feel, passion and creativity each time.  No one is going to stop you at the Mall to tell you that they loved that clever intro of Tim McGraw's new song, but elements like it are the glue that holds everything together.

Great talent, formatics and programming begins by recognizing the difference between horizontals and verticals.  It then, requires the art of understanding precisely how often, when and where to perform them for maximum impact and minute-by-minute/day-by-day utilization.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Horizontals And Verticals

There are two ways the average radio listener makes use of the medium:
  1. How many times (and how long each occasion) did they listen to their favorite station today (vertical listening)?
  2. How many days a week did they do so at the same times (horizontal)?
If in your station imaging you only promote one of the two, you’re not maximizing your time spent exposed.

It's twice as much to sell, but today it's important to find ways to do it in half the time.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Radio Was Easier

Let’s face it.  Doing radio is harder today that it has ever been.
  1. Short attention spans.  
  2. PPM demands for excellent second to second execution with no wasted time that could cause a lost listener.  
  3. More usage of multi-media for music and info that means radio’s once exclusive lock on basics no longer exists. 
Hardest of all these days is self-promotion.  It has never been more crucial to build and own core usage-driving images, but the audience won’t sit still for anything that sounds like a sales pitch.
  1. Writing must be crisper than ever, every bit of production has to improve flow.  
  2. Everything has to be believable, reinforcing values of the target.  
  3. Momentum and brevity should be baked in.
Anyone who still believes that radio was better yesterday or simpler to execute now doesn’t understand the skill level required to be a market leader in 2014.