Wednesday, December 29, 2010

(an ongoing series) Why I Love Radio

1. WYCT-ADX/Pensacola’s Melinda Bowden hit a home run last Thursday. She got a call as she began at 10am about family who's mother is from Honduras and she is terminally ill. The story had been on WEAR-TV for a few weeks because they have been trying to get her kids from Honduras to the states to see her for Christmas and ultimately before she passed. The state department approved their Visas on the Thursday morning, but the cost of the flight was nearly $3,000.00. Melinda aired the original call back about how people could make a donation... By the end of her shift at 2p... she had raised nearly $4,100.00 and the children arrived in Pensacola Christmas Eve at 930p from Honduras... She did good radio!

The Cat Country evening personality completes the story:
“On Christmas Eve my family and I were invited by the family to the airport to greet the sons as they arrived in Pensacola. What an honor! I was humbled and encouraged by the love that surrounded that family, the nurses and my own family in the airport that night. A Christmas miracle indeed! As a result, my determination and love for radio was renewed. I was reminded that one voice can touch many, many people. I thank God that this time, he chose mine.”

2. Jack Latimer, PD/Morning co-host at Larche’s KICX/Barrie-Orillia-Midland also had one of those great moments on radio this week that worked so well with the Christmas season.
"After we did this break listeners were calling and crying on the phone about this being what Christmas is all about."

3. 92.3 WIL and "Cornbread's Kids Crusade" Raised Over $260,000 for St. Louis Children's Hospital.

"Thank you for supporting our efforts to provide St. Louis Children's Hospital with a life-saving Mobile Intensive Care Unit."

4. Bonneville's WUBE/Cincinnati's listeners have been saluting their family and friends who are in the military over the Holidays.

Bringing people together to do good things, bigger things than any ONE of us can do alone is that makes this season so special and radio does it better than any other medium!

I am so proud to be in RADIO. If you've been up to something you're proud of, please let me hear about it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

PPM: A Game Of Inches, But NOT Seconds

You have to admire the savvy major market PD who reports that his station is mandated to carry two more commercial minutes per hour than his direct format competition so he orders the talent to stop for commercials precisely from 11:30 to 18:30 and 41:30 to 48:30 while the other station - lucky enough to carry only ten minute loads in a pair of five minute stops - runs their breaks from 12:30 to 17:30 and 42:30 to 47:30.

Yes, it is just possible, since PPM is technically incapable of accurately measuring thirty second listening periods on a consistent basis that many times the tune-out potential picked up by PPM will be very close to the same in the majority of hours of both these stations!

So, Mr. Savvy Pants does get a point for attention to detail and electronic smarts from me. However, the personalities on both of them have to be sweating blood as two very anal programmers clock each break with their stopwatches.

Here's the danger.

PPM does a much better job of helping us all manage tune-out than it does tune-in and yet what is the easiest to manage isn’t always the most effective.

Certainly, a good format clock is built to maximize the length of time that a well-programmed radio station gives listeners what they tuned in expecting to hear, and seldom is that promos, sweepers, remote broadcasts and commercials.

However, it’s very hard to move the average number of minutes given in a typical occasion of listening much more than a minute or two (especially if it's located close to the crossover from one quarter hour to the next one).

Much larger “bang for the buck” movement in daily cume and time spent exposed is created by the number of days per week the average cume listener comes back to the station as well as the number of occasions per day.

Far better to get someone to start listening at :03 or :04, :18 or :19, :33 or :34 OR :43 or 44 when that minute or two leads into 26 or 27 minutes of great expectations met or exceeded!

Adding a minute or two to your TSE at the wrong time may not even buy you one more quarter hour of listening.

Adding a new occasion to your P-1 TSE invariably gets you another quarter hour and perhaps even two of them.

So, it’s a lot more productive to teach talent to always have something entertaining and fresh to say several times in every quarter hour and then spend the time they’re using now to watch the clock instead to create powerful, metaphorical and emotional teases to those strong content moments.

That will bring the listener who might be tempted to leave due to the interruptions - regardless of their length - right back in "seven" minutes.

That way, you’ll have a better shot at both more and longer spans of listening rather than just :30 seconds more.

Stop watching the clock so much. Prep both content and great teases to it.

Then, watch your numbers move in the right direction ... by more than just inches/seconds.

Some Things Should Not Be Compromised

I hope we don't live to regret political actions affecting our business being hammered out in Washington this week.

It took a decade to come to an agreement on LPFM and in spite of the fact that one of my Senators has been a big proponent of it as an antidote to 15 years of consolidation I still wonder what is going to happen as thousands of new 100 watt FM stations get sandwiched onto the airwaves with very little chance of economic viability driven by "volunteer" programming which will likely be about as compelling as cable television's public access channels.

I like Maria Cantwell a lot on most other issues and fervently hope that she's proven right about the "need" for it.

Now, it's looking as if we may find ourselves with two internets, one with an express lane on it and another one for the rest of us who can't afford to pay for as much speed as the big guys can. On this one, I find myself aligned with my hometown newspaper (click the link to read a Seattle Times editorial that makes simple, direct sense to me) and my Congressman.

I hope Plato was right about politics and that it's more than just an exercise of power.

And, don't even get me started about the implications of possibly impending Performance Rights legislation...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Multiple Points Of Failure

As The Wall Street Journal reports that newspapers reached a “tipping point” in 2010 and ad revenues were bigger for the Internet than papers, Tom Taylor adds that radio had its own moment a year or two ago, when its total revenues were surpassed by online and Radio Ink’s December 6 Eric Rhoads editorial notes that newspapers once a upon a time had classifieds, paid subscriptions and ad dollars to run their business from. Then, Rhoads cautions that radio’s “single point of failure" - advertising dollars - could dry up as a new trend develops and advertisers no longer want traditional ads.

The 2010 spending for Internet ads will finish $3 billion higher than for newspapers ($25.8 billion versus $22.8 billion). Newspaper ad spending (separate from classified and other revenue sources) likely dropped 8.2% this year and could fall another 6% in 2011. By comparison, radio revenues were running 5% ahead of 2009 through the first three quarters of this year, so it’s tempting to ignore the Radio Ink publisher’s plea that radio increase our research into finding new ways to generate revenue that are not reliant on the current model of being paid to run commercials.

For most of us worker bees who don’t have the power to make the courageous investments it takes to build branded web and theater-casts, product/app sales, event and digital/mobile strategies or other ways of leveraging our audiences for new sources of income, it may seen that the average employee’s only option is to move from an employer who fails to see the risk of having a single potential point of failure to one with more vision.

However, that overlooks each individual’s role in creating meaningful content which drives usage and enhances the brand.

Make sure your name stands for relevancy which drives daily usage.

Failing to stand out from the pack is every “average” radio personality’s most dangerous single point of failure.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Country's Top PPM Performer 18-34

Arbitron PPM Market Manager Jenny Tsao's client conference presentation (click to watch all of the online videos) on the metrics of the most successful stations 18-34 and 25-54 in the top 30 markets (click to download her presentation pdf) contained one non-surprise and one very pleasant surprise.

Not one country station ranked #1 25-54 among the top 30 markets in the months she studied for her overview. (that will change of course as they are able to study more markets in the coming year)

18-34 was a different story, however. One country station made the cut!

Tsao ID'd the overachiever country station as Cox's San Antonio country outlet and fortunately its longtime programmer Randy Chase was in the room to bask in the glory of Y-100's achievement, which may stand for a very long time.

When Univision resumed PPM encoding on April 1, that ended KCYY's 18-34 #1 rank status during first quarter 2010, but Chase's station continues to do exceedingly well in the primary difference maker for Top Performers, daily cume, especially "one or more hour per day" daily cume.

Top Performer TSL, according to Tsao's analysis, is driven by how often listeners tune in (occasions) more than time spent per occasion.

If you want to emulate one of the best country performers in PPM ratings, Y-100, San Antonio is still a good one to study (and celebrate!).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Old" is OUT. "New" is IN.

The A artist base is changing, but that's not all as country's demos shift with the arrival of Generation Y at our horizon. So, let's start a list.

  • another ten in a row/commercial free hours
  • no need to tell the names of the songs/Tell every title and artist
  • timing DJ rap right up to the posts of songs/respect for the music, crush and roll, stop when you're finished, no talk over extros and then intros too
  • EZ listening, oldies ac/hot ac
  • the best/mine
  • hype, hard sell/fun, humanness
  • superlatives/stationality, attitude
  • 12 minutes of commercials in six breaks per hour/10 units, two breaks, no more than three minutes in any QH
  • jokes/tightly edited real local people on the phone, Facebook, Tweets
  • friendly chatter/brevity, word efficiency
  • ad libbing/self-editing
  • 80's style positioning branding/benchmarking
  • slogans/doing it, being it, not just saying it
  • big on air contests/data base - silent contests
  • promotions/more creative value-added involving online and off air events
  • small prizes to the 10th caller/small prizes to everyone in the data base - off air
  • contests and drawings/rewards
  • requests/music rotations
  • TAP plans/OES
  • oldies features/countdowns
  • memorability/memorability
  • top of mindness/top of mindness

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Is The Country Format's Share Of Hispanic Listening Shrinking?

Is country radio's share of Hispanic listening in 2010 going to be down to merely a two share? That's what I heard last week at the annual ARB Programming Fly-In.

Even with numerous media alternatives through which consumers can entertain and inform themselves, radio’s overall reach among Hispanic listeners has remained between 94% and 96% ever since Arbitron's annual "Hispanic Radio Today" studies began in Spring 2001.

2010's update is coming soon and I hear that it continues to validate that Hispanics remain the fastest growing population group, America's heaviest radio users (those figures have decreased less than 1% over the last decade).

Among Spanish-dominant Hispanics, radio’s reach in 2008, for example, was 95%, and it was more than 93% with English-dominant Hispanics.

Last year's report showed growth in country radio's share of Hispanic listening to a 2.9, but whispers coming out of ARB hint that the news is not so good (if you want to call less than a three share 'good') for country radio in this year's update.

Whether Spanish-dominant or English-dominant, radio reached at least 91% of Hispanic men in every age group, and attracted more than 91% of Hispanic women in every demographic cell 12-64. Country's reach among that group is in the very low single digits.

In addition to the first-time use of PPM data in this edition, Hispanic Radio Today 2009 highlighted language preference among Hispanic consumers. Arbitron asked Hispanic respondents about the language they prefer to use.

The options are:

•All Spanish
•Mostly Spanish
•Mostly English
•All English

Country radio's tiny share of all Hispanic listening, of course, comes primarily from those last two groups.

Their social values are conservative. They are family-oriented, religious, and most importantly growing at a time when the non-ethnic U.S. population is getting smaller and older as a percentage of the total population as the 2010 census data is showing.

We first "studied" the problem at CRS four years ago. Little has happened to take action on the findings since then.

Country must find a way to welcome more of these folks.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pass It On: The Tweet Before Christmas

@JessicaNorthey just met @SClarkWXYZ last week at the ARB-Jacobs Media meetings in Baltimore and already they have 1,000++ folks watching their networks' #TweetB4Christmas video.

Allow me to add my voice to the throng: "Greetings! or maybe I should say "Tweetings"!"

It's nice to see the country format so well-represented.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Looks Like Maybe They're Starting To Cautiously Spend

.. and autos and computers are the December '10 big ticket items on wish lists.

Big Research’s Phil Rist says “home is where the “hot” is this month, with homemade Christmas cookies (81.6%) and board games (59.2%) topping the list in December, Xbox 360 Kinect (58.5%) and eReaders (55.7%) follow.”

Those 18 to 34 are looking forward to holiday office parties, while Tron: Legacy is highly anticipated by young men specifically. And, women are trying the over-the-knee boot trend on for size.

What’s Not Hot? Rist writes: "George W. Bush. Despite a bestselling memoir, the former President just isn’t winning over his fellow Americans, who remain very worried about the economy in 2011."

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Fan Trip To Opry: Meet Keith Urban

To celebrate the holiday season, the Grand Ole Opry is giving fans the opportunity to meet Keith Urban.

Throughout the month of December, fans of the Opry's Facebook page can sign up to win a prize package including a trip for two to Nashville, courtesy of Southwest Airlines, two nights stay at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and a pair of tickets to see, and meet, Keith Urban when he performs live at the Grand Ole Opry on a date to be determined in 2011!

The Grand Prize winner for the "Win a Meet & Greet with Keith Urban Online Sweepstakes" will be announced on January 3, 2011 and will redeem their prize in 2011. Additionally, the Opry will randomly select 50 winners from the contest entries to receive a pair of 2011 Opry tickets. Winners of those tickets will also be announced on January 3, 2011.

PS: While you're on the Opry's site, check out their new mobile app too. Our music's heritage at the state of the art.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Arbitron Client Conference One Tweet At A Time

Real-time results for #ACCJMS10: (join the conversation!)

We must be the source of innovation. --Larry Rosin, Edison Research
@stevejonesabc: Compared to 1-year ago, 55% of 12-24 are using Facebook MORE, says Edison Research.

Jessica Northey JessicaNorthey Hope everyone at the Arbitron Client Conf/Jacobs Media Summit is getting as much from it as I am!!! At #ACCJMS10 sitting w/@JessWrightRadio @JayeAlbright Valerie Gellar @MomsofAmerica and Tom Taylor from Radio-Info listening 2 @fnjacobs

Fred Jacobs fnjacobs
Great remarks from Arbitron boss Bill Kerr about radio's opportunity in the digital media space.

"We are sitting on the greatest opportunity to transform the radio industry forever...Nobody can mine a database better than us" Create specialized contests & prize packages for your strongest, most involved listeners. You have to mine the data to get there.

jessbenbow @arbitroid Welcome! Don't forget the hashtag for today's session! #ACCJMS10

Monday, December 06, 2010

No Exceptions? (smile)

I applaud stations which have a strict "no personal phone calls while you're on the air" policy for air talent. Personal emails, txt's, Tweets, Facebook updates, etc too.

That's because a successful personality simply must wade into all of those pools to mine content for on air use if a station hopes to keep today's listener fully engaged and interactive. You can't be fully involved with listeners if you're chatting with your family and friends.

However, at a client station recently, the reception desk may have carried things a bit too far.

After a midday personality who will remain nameless here got off the air recently, she received a phone message that said:
"Taylor Swift called and wanted to talk to you, but I told her that you were on the air and couldn't be disturbed."

New rules: interrupt me for superstar calls, but only after you've administered the "are you REALLY???" test to the caller.

No one ever said that being at the switchboard at a successful country radio station was going to be easy.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

"Brevity" Isn't As Good As "Efficiency"

It's the season of giving, and hats off to the always-innovative Mike McVay for giving talent and programmers a daily video Talent Tip gift on his website.

“Oh, Wow?” Or, “Oh, Crap?”

Clear Channel’s WMZQ/Washington’s 3.8-3.6 October-November 12+ ARB trend of course can’t be attributed to any one thing, but the station’s 3.7 (July)-3.9 (August)- 4.3 (September) moves in the wake of going commercial free every Tuesday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm since August, among other things, may underscore that keeping a station constantly fresh, even when you’re doing something you know listeners really love is an important part of the game.

Is it saying that they even get used to a full day commercial free and it can become old news after a couple months? If so, can ANYTHING be kept fresh and top-of-mind enough??

With that in mind, a client PD asked me this week if A&O has an "oh wow" oldies list for country after reading online about the pros/cons of maintaining freshness of destinational formats by maintaining/platooning spice songs in and out.

We do, and also could, of course, start a comments thread in reply to this thought of the many, many country novelty songs, could-a/should-a been's and one hit wonders of the format over six or more decades.

There are hundreds of them.

But, country is a transitional format with a constant need to keep a great balance of male, female, 18-24, 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54 appeal, let alone the right mix of “P-1” music vs “P-2” appeal songs, I recommend looking for “oh wow” songs from new music rather than opening up marginal gold songs that one age group might find exciting to hear but another group will simply not get the musical reference point from before they came to country music.

The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young,” which of course has turned into a breakthrough #1 hit for an exciting new group started for me as an “oh wow” song which added a nice quality of freshness to our sound because it was so different from everything else when it first came out 30+ weeks ago.

Zac Brown Band, Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Chris Young, Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum and many others got their first traction on country playlists with an “oh, wow, what/who was that?” song. Taylor Swift’s “Tim McGraw” not only did that on radio, but also on the ACM Awards TV show when she went into the audience and sang it face to face to Tim.

Now, THAT moment was a WOW.

Look at the playlist of some of country’s most-successful PPM stations and you’ll see “buzz record” new music being used very cleverly.

Consultant playlists, by definition are “safe,” since we build our national recommendations on consensus research, but A&O sometimes adds new music right into heavy rotation when we hear music that creates sizzle.

So, for me, country’s “oh wow” category is built most often on exciting new songs that resonate with the values and universal life stories of all the ages we need to energize every age and gender.

How about you? What songs do you use to keep your rotations fresh? How do you play them?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Have You Sent The Holiday Cards To Your Database Yet?


Here is a step-by-step method of maintaining contact with your core using data base marketing, while constantly building new cume for the radio station and locating P-2 and P-3 listeners and converting them to P-1 (loyal) listeners. If you're not wrapping yours for 2010 up right now, resolve to do it in 2011.

1. Buy a metro survey area (from the same supplier of lists ARB/BBM uses) list of households with listed telephones in your target demo.

2, Telemarket to at least 10% of that data base during each survey. Call in the evening. Invite folks to try the station tomorrow morning. Make an appointment to call them again tomorrow night to ask their opinions. Follow up the second contact with a thank you letter from a member of station management. Add all who agree to sample to your station "frequent listener" data base.

3. Mail a letter to your entire data base from the station manager or program director at least once per year that includes a response card. See if they are still listening. If they ARE, keep them in the data base. They are are NOT, target them for telemarketing or a direct marketing campaign related to the reasons they no longer listen. Capture an email address, of course, and hook them into your social networking too, but don't stop using snail mail for these tactics until ARB and BBM do.

4. Send a station newsletter to the data base at least once per survey period. Have it arrive during week 1 of each survey period. Keep the editorial content fun, use lots of pictures of air and music personalities, but don't forget to sell the key benefits of listening to your station too! Sure, by email is cheaper, but aren't you trying to impact the ratings survey?

5. If you are in a Fall ratings market, you should have sent your Christmas cards (that contain a yearly calendar with a picture that will be saved and displayed throughout the coming year) signed by your personalities to the data base in weeks 8 or 9 of the survey.

6. Gather birth date information from all data base names. Send a birthday card (with a coupon for a cake, etc) hand signed by all air personalities to 1/12 of the data base each month.

7. If you are in a Winter survey market, send a Valentines Day card (with a coupon for flowers or candy) to all women in the data base during week 4.

8. Gather "at work" listening information and the names of friends who listen. Do mailings with silent contesting to listeners rewarding them for listening at work. Mention friends names on the air and pay off for data base people who "tell a friend" about the station.

9 Work to build a data base - emails, social networks and also snail mail too - that equals at least 20% of your projected cume goal. Recognize that at least one-fifth of the names and addresses will become outdated each year. Keep your data base up to date by constantly using it to generate "value added" promotion ideas that can be done off the air (consuming no units, yet building promotional revenue).

10. Send "thank you gifts" to your data base: refrigerator magnets, bumper stickers, key chains, etc.

These aren't tactics. Together, done in a timed, disciplined basis, it's a strategy that will pay off in better ratings in 2011. Growth isn't cheap. But, a plan like this isn't that expensive either, especially given the potential pay off.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Canada's Most Competitive Market, Edmonton

Just watch and see:

(if the video doesn't work in your browser, click here:

.. but they still have a ways to go to catch up with Salt Lake City (click and count the stations!).

Country's Upper Demos Are More Loyal In PPM Too

Inside Radio's report this morning on what's called "the largest format study ever based on PPM data" now includes radio’s 30 largest markets, calculated from an average of the January-September 2010 surveys, which will be presented next week in Baltimore, demonstrates that the less ethnic the market, the better the cume of the average country station and the country format overall.

“Yes, you have to have a high cume, and more specifically a high P1 cume,” says Research Director, Inc. partner Charlie Sislen. “But you also need high TSL among P1s, even though they are only a small portion of your total audience.”

The fewer country stations in a market the better in that measure the average PPM-rated country station appears to do, especially in younger demos.

18-34's average station share indexes .92 of the 6+ share of 3.9, while the 18-34 country format share is. .95 of the country format share of 7.4. The average country station share in these 30 markets 18-49 and 25-54 is .95 of the 6+ share, respectively, and 35-64 the average station share is a one to one relationship with 6+. Country format indexes by demo are better 18-49 (.99) and 35-64 (1.03), and worse in the more competitive 25-54 demo (.97).

Two educated guesses from a non-statistician:
  1. PPM tends to favor country stations with the broadest demo P-1 cume reach across all age groups and may punish ones with narrower targets on the young side.
  2. Compressed shares of audience are probably not due to PPM technology per se, but look to me to be the result of small samples which can under-represent any station or format which doesn't have very similar shares in all geographies and age groups.
Woe to you if you have a weak signal or a station/format with polarized appeal or which does better in only some metro zip codes, demos or ethnicities.

Good for you if you dominate your format's listening profile. To the usage leader go the spoils.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Want This Shirt?

I wish I could take credit for it, but I can send you to the blog of a guy who earns the right to wear it: Dublin-based on air legendary (on two continents + the cash-strapped island that is Ireland too) whiz kid, free E-zene writer and consummate blogger, Brian McColl.

If you can't actually get your hands on one, you can at least DO what it says, content break after content break.

That way, you'll become so rich you can afford to buy one of them.

A final note: "coming up, the latest from, available in stores" et al does not hook and a list of three songs/artists you'll be playing in the next ten minutes is not a tease.

Surely you can do better than that!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Is Canada's Chief Media Regulator Advocating Deregulation?

Broadcast Dialogue quotes CRTC Chair Konrad von Finckenstein this week saying he has no idea if vertical integration in the media is a good thing but he’s concerned enough to have scheduled public hearings on the issue for May 9.

He also told a Commons committee late last week that with the broadcasting landscape changing at lightning speed – the advent of digital and the Internet – the rules and regulations may need to adapt. He rejects the notion that integration – owning both content distribution and production – necessarily narrows Canadians’ choices.

One of the areas that might change is radio, specifically AM. von Finckenstein said it’s been a long time since there was an application for a new AM licence. The question: “Should we still be regulating the AM market? Is there a case to be made for letting it go by way of exemption?”

He reportedly thinks the digital world is driven by the consumer and that the old top-down models are increasingly outdated, including regulation. To regulate by controlling access to the airwaves is yesterday's concept, he said.

It's tempting to respond to these statements with a shrug, a "duh" or "it's about time," and let it go at that, since the most rural Canadian provinces now have been left with absolutely no AM radio stations at all, leaving numerous remote agricultural areas with no local broadcast service, giving them only subscription cable companies to provide what local programming is still available.

Better late than never. It would be nice to hope that completely open AM airwaves would foster something exciting, new and profitable for those communities.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"There's No Rules"

That is what Show Dog-Universal president Mark Wright told Tom Roland in this week’s Billboard Country Update about the current music business landscape in terms of the "Wild West" frontiers that other artists might shy away from.

The label’s marquee act, Toby Keith, who has the #16 song on the new Billboard country chart remains a minority investor in Taylor Swift’s label Big Machine as well, which had the week’s greatest gainer and was the top most-added song to the airplay chart as an ad touting her new hair style touts, so TK and Show Dog include hedging their bets in that “ no rules” approach.

Even with the growth of the Internet and the increased ability of country acts to gain exposure on TV, Wright still views country radio as the key piece of the puzzle in building careers.

New artists may get a foot in the door in other media, but they still need a song that finds its way to drive-time commutes. “You’ve got to have radio hits,” he told Roland.

But not exclusively, he claims. Show Dog-Universal is working with Universal- affiliated Sanctuary Management on a multi-artist rock tribute album with an international audience, Wright says. And the company is hopeful that a movie soundtrack project will come together.

“You can only work four to five singles at a time in country radio, which is pretty much what a promotion staff is maxed out at,” Wright says. “You’ve got to have what I call non-radio revenue—other projects that you don’t have to just necessarily drive up the charts for 30 weeks to sell an album. We’ve got a couple of those in play.”

I keep hoping that some of the many new artists on small labels which seem to languish for weeks and weeks in the bottom half of the airplay charts, ultimately failing time after time to make it into the top 20, are spending their money productively and (even better!) are making a buck along the way, but I have my doubts.

Wouldn't a larger panel of monitored/reporting stations provide more play list diversity, opening up room for perhaps another ten potential national 'hits?'

Of course it would, but I don't know of anyone who thinks that is on the horizon anytime soon given the economics of the music business.

So, rule #1 in this "no rules" time: don't give up your day job!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Behind That Wheatstone "Technology Gap" Study

Of the 10 revenue generating technologies the study measured, streaming a station’s radio signal over the Internet was seen as having the most potential. Having a website that interacts with listeners was second, while streaming multiple channels of programming was third.

When respondents were asked which of the 10 technologies their radio organizations are now deploying, streaming was the top pick by far. For six other technologies (listed below), each requiring capital investment, respondents reported group owned stations as implementing them at a substantially higher rate than stand-alone stations:

  • Having a website that delivers video: Group owned, 43.1%; stand-alone, 26.8%
  • Promoting stations with a mobile phone app: Group owned, 43.1%; stand-alone, 22.8%
  • Streaming multiple channels: Group owned, 38.5%; stand-alone, 20.3%
  • Broadcasting in HD Radio: Group owned, 36.9%; stand-alone, 19.5%
  • Websites that create musical discovery: Group owned, 27.7%; stand-alone, 17.9%
  • Broadcasting multiple HD Radio channels: Group owned, 26.2%; stand-alone, 10.6%

What's holding the smaller broadcast companies back? (duh) MONEY.

For the remaining three technologies, which do not require capital investment (using social media to win more listeners, creating a website that interacts with listeners, and creating podcasts) responses for stand-alone and group-owned stations were comparable.

“This study comes to the radio industry at a critical time. As traditional ad revenue has declined, radio organizations are experimenting with new technologies that will add revenue by enabling them to deliver programming through a variety of new channels.” -- Wheatstone Vice President Andrew Calvanese

Evaluating the new radio business models is not easy. “Part of the difficulty is they are all baby models at this point, and they are all different. Different organizations are following different models: Some people are making money from streaming, others from local events, still others are making money from banner ads. Not everyone is good at following these paths. Radio could end up becoming multiple industries, because [individual] broadcast groups [could] have less in common with each other than they do with companies in other industries.” -- Mark Ramsey, president of Mark Ramsey Media

With the exception of streaming, stand-alone stations are falling behind group-owned stations in using revenue generating technologies that require capital investment. Group-owned stations are pulling ahead by a ratio of about 2:1.

Long term, as revenue builds from these new technologies, stand-alone stations could find themselves challenged to compete economically. (grab the study report here - pdf)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Getting Younger Listeners To Pay Attention

  1. Tight production. Treat the station like a CHR or Hot AC in terms of production value. But, today's contemporary - authentic and organic - not like 80's or 90's Top 40.
  2. Music elements. Use contemporary music as backgrounds or as "hooks" for feature stories. Use music beds, when appropriate, but beat beds which distract from the content don't work. Keep it simple, real.
  3. Hipness factor. Saying you don't know how to pronounce "Kanye" or "Bieber" says 'you are old.' If you can't pronounce it, don't say it.
  4. Pop culture references provide context for your content.
  5. No "interviews with water commissioners," even in newscasts and public affairs shows. Tell stories, engage. Begin each narrative with "what's in it for me."
  6. Less clutter. Stick to commercial limits. Shorten newscasts or eliminate formal "newscasts" and make everything you talk about be a reflection of what's happening right now.
  7. Less "traffic report" mentality. More human "news you can use."
  8. Faster pacing. Convey a "sense of urgency."
Impediments to younger demo growth:
  1. An "old" reputation gets in the way.
  2. Prehistoric production values.
  3. Hype.
In fact, let's change that headline to "getting ALL listeners to pay attention."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Driving The Trend

The growing size of the 15-29 demo cell in the coming years, Generation Y, will have more demographic muscle than any other single 25-54 cell (their grandparents - Post War Baby Boomers - will be straddling three different cells).

Five years ago, when the Boomers were all 40-54, THAT was where all the action was.

Watch 22-34 in the next few years!

Look for some new ways to speak their language in the next year.

The country demo was easily defined just five years ago. The largest and most desirable target was comprised of a single group of listeners who shared common core music preference. In the past two years, things have started changing again and driving the new artist evolution is demography.

Next year, that trend will continue.

What has emerged is a new group of non-ethnic teens and 25 to 34 year olds who just love country music.

Just as adult contemporary is now seeing a division between old and young around the age of 39 to 42, so too goes the country audience in 2011 and beyond. It's a trend that we haven't completely felt the full impact of and it even has a counter trend/bit of a backlash in the form of some new retro sounds appealing to 45+ as well, like the new Alan Jackson and Sunny Sweeney, among others.

Is country about to fragment, with two equally-sized potential audiences, one skewing younger and newer, with the other older and more familiarity and variety-based?

Historically, it has been very possible for a market leader to prevent significant fragmentation from any new competition in markets where the mainstream leader has made the adjustment to the new rules of "today's country" and aggressively practiced relationship marketing to their traditional core and social networking with the newcomers at the same time.

Will history repeat itself?

Monday, November 15, 2010

More Evidence Country’s “Guard” Is Changing

Each year in January, A&O clients participate in an online perceptual study designed to track common benchmarks of success and compare their local key images to the national averages.

We present highlights/trends from the national data at the annual Albright & O’Malley client seminar in Nashville, just before CRS, so an update for 2011 is less than 90 days away.

2010’s report was based on responses from 8,867 country radio listeners from across North America.
Some evidence that things are evolving: three years ago roughly three of four chose currents and recurrents by historical super stars of the format and hits from the mid-late 2000’s by those same longtime “A artists” as their favorite clusters of music.

Then, two years ago, those percentages suddenly fell and the average listener expressed a lot more interest in currents and recurrents by newer artists ( the non-hstorial superstars).

Is it that the audience has changed and become more open to new artists? Or, since early 2000’s songs by the historical stars remained steady, do listeners feel that their newer music isn’t as strong as their previous releases were?

A&O will have data on that right after the first of the year, but my guess is that it’s BOTH things.

Getting back to those evolving audience clusters I wrote about last week, I’d postulate that you get a quicker life cycle in the convert market because country is not their only market. In transition 30's, you get a longer life cycle. And, in the traditional market, once you hit, you're there.

The biggest difference for country radio comes when you are able to click strongly with all three target groups within our cume.

That’s the distance between doing more or less as well as the average station or hitting cume, TSL and share of total audience levels that are far above the national mean.

It's the difference between "good" and "absolutely great" country music radio.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Continuing The Conversation

Last week Tucson-based Jessica Northey really impressed A&O clients on our latest bi-weekly client conference call, as she shared her expertise, taught us a lot about the "do's and don'ts" of Social Media Networking for Radio.

There's no doubt that country radio is playing catchup in this fast-emerging social economy as new "do and don't" lists seem to appear almost daily.

It's easy to mistake all this sharing and blogging as absolutes instead of what it really is, an ongoing dialog where new rules are constantly trumping old ones.

In that light, allow me to toss in the possibility that Jessica is "86% right" in our very enlightening exchange.

Two things she suggested raised caution flags for me.
  1. Videos of the morning show (unless its compelling) can be an issue I'd try not to do. Of course, if it's truly incredible, there's nothing like Facebook to take something absolutely worldwide, but "broadcast" sparingly in social media, and engage generously. Don't find yourself with two million "likes" for all the wrong reasons, none of which grow your radio audience locally.
  2. DO NOT update "Status" hourly on Facebook. It is self defeating. You won't make your target's news feed, since over posting drives down your score. If you want to post hourly or more often on Twitter, that's fine, since it usually leads to nothing.
It's not that I think Jessica is absolutely wrong, really, but it's just that I worry about folks taking this advice too literally, feeling that they have quotas to meet and thus damaging their efforts.

Sadly, most of the online content produced by the average radio station doesn't compete very successfully outside their current, small, group of 'friends.'

It's not that "less is more," it's that better is better.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cash Is King, But Big Ticket Items Are Making A Comeback

Good news for retailers: after rising in October to 34.6%, the number of consumers planning to decrease overall spending has dropped nearly four points to 30.8% this month, on par with Nov-09 (30.4%). However, Big Research's monthly online tracking study postulates that with a third (32.2%) making paying down debt a fiscal priority over the next three months, consumers say they overspend this holiday season. One-quarter plans to increase savings (25.3%), while one in five (21.3%) intends to pay with cash more often:

Those in search of Thanksgiving turkey and all of the fixings will likely head to Walmart this month, where nearly one in five (18.5%) shops most often for Groceries…Kroger (7.1%), Publix (3.9%), Safeway (2.9%), and Shoprite (2.4%) complete the top five for this category.

The seasonal Toy battle has begun, with retailers hotly vying for a piece of Santa’s wallet this year (just like every other year)…for holiday 2010, look for consumers to head most often to Walmart (20.2%) and big box Toys R Us (17.9%). Target (6.2%), Kmart (1.3%), and Amazon (1.2%) follow the “Big Two” in Toys. Though with 46.0% citing “No Preference” for Toy store shopped, discounts, promotions, and availability will be key to courting a large number of consumers.

56.2% are highly anticipating Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I. Those under 35 also appreciate 3D TVs, while those 35+ are tuning in to the new Hawaii Five-O. And if any guys need a gift idea, women love the idea of cuddling up to cashmere. What’s Not? Fair Isle Sweaters…nearly 90% say this Nordic knit trend should stay on the ski slopes.

More info? Email Phil Rist.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Transition Continues

Chuck Geiger and I obviously have been thinking the same thing this week with all of the exciting new artists as the 44th Annual Country Music Awards in Nashville formally recognizes the constant changing of the guard which keeps country music and radio relevant and vital, welcoming new listeners year after year.

Country continues to be the most programmed format in American radio, on at total of 2,017 radio stations.

As alternative rock today seems to be a gold-based format and music historians increasingly describe what was once "new rock" in the past tense, how is it that country continues to bring in new fans? And, who exactly IS our target today?

Painting with a very broad brush - there have long been three distinct country markets: traditionalists, transition 30's and country converts.

Traditionalists' portion of country's pie vary regionally, but they comprise roughly one in four of today's national country audience. Age: mid-teens to late 50's. A long age continuum, but possesses narrow artist preferences. They like: Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, George Strait, Randy Travis and new artists who sound traditional. They tend to listen to country radio exclusively, watch GAC (somewhat less to CMT). Most live in central Canada, the U.S. midwest and down through the Tennessee and Ohio valleys. Not exactly audiophiles, they still buy CD's over digital music five to one. They buy less than 20% of the country music product at retail.

Transition 30's. Size: a little less than half of today's country life group. Age: early 20's to early 40's. They listen to country music as their primary entertainment. The oldest of them came to country in the early 1990's and the youngest have discovered it in the last five years. They generally grew up not liking or listening to country music and now the prefer country music over any other type of music. They like it because it has understandable lyrics and beats and because it is more in synch with their values, passage through life. They buy almost two thirds of the country music sold at retail. They strongly dislike "old" (pioneer) country music and most "twang." It reminds them of the time in their lives when they had an aversion to country. They do not buy poorly recorded product and increasingly purchase digitally three to one over CD's. They buy both new artists and traditionalists. They watch a bit of CMT and GAC, but video channels are not important to them. They get it online via social networks and You Tube. They watch country awards shows religiously. These folks divide their radio listening among three stations, two of which are country.

Country converts. Size: a little less than one-third of the total country-oriented population. Age: predominantly in their teens, 20's and 30's, but country radio users among them range in age from mid-20's to late-40's. This is the market that has expanded the country music industry to the northern and western corridors in the last two decades, the fastest-growing portion of the market (also the most fickle and least loyal). They listen to some country, but also to Lady Gaga or Daughtrey. They buy about a third of country music at retail/iTunes, but may simultaneously purchase "Speak Now" and "Come Around Sunday" or Rod Stewart. They accept country as "hip," but are loyal primarily to their "seek" and "scan" buttons. Recognize them by their white ear buds. The challenge: can we convert them to more loyal listeners? Too many commercials, music repetition and unnecessary DJ talk alienate them quickly. If country radio can grow on them as it has the "transition 30's, who were attracted to the format and were just as fickle during and after the "class of 89" and briefer "class of 2006" surges, we will be a solid leader for the next twenty years!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Proof That Radio Is "A Really Big Shoe"

Yes, that is thousands of shoes covering the Idaho Capitol's steps.

Yes, that is a WOW 104.3 banner on the left and right pedestals.

Dan Matthews of WOW 104.3 blogs that they were only able to put about one-third of the shoes collected as the station teamed up with the Boise Rescue Mission and Rosendahl Foot And Shoe Center.

Peak Broadcasting Boise and their listeners
teamed up with the Boise Rescue Mission and Rosendahl Foot And Shoe Center, donating thousands of shoes to help keep local families warm this winter.

Pity the poor promotion staff who had to lay the shoes out for the great media event/photo op .. and then had to pack them all back up for distribution to the needy!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The More Things Change...

The audience is wide and the hunger is deep for emotional directness and song-oriented craftsmanship.

The raised-on-rock generations of the sixties, seventies and eighties, now paying mortgages and raising families, no longer see their concerns reflected in computerized dance beats or heavy metal cartoons.

They hear in Jennifer Nettles and The Band Perry what they love in Bonnie Raitt; identify with the bluesy, blue-collar populism of Brad Paisley, Toby Keith, Zac Brown and Jason Aldean as the honky tonk equivalent of Lynyrd Skynyrd; appreciate in the tunefulness of Lady Antebellum what they previously prized in Linda Ronstadt and find their Elvis (or at least their Elton) in the kid-next-door sincerity and concert razzle-dazzle of Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney.

-- my updated rewrite of critic Don McLeese’s December 24, 1992, Rolling Stone quote

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Country's Dirty Little Secret May Be A Future Strength

I love meeting with the sales teams at client stations during market visits and often tell them that country radio offers a unique kind of value-added that savvy media buyers expect us to give them for free and yet they secretly understand the power of it: 55+ listeners, lots of them.

Now, thanks to NBC Universal, we even have a name for the demo - “AlphaBoomers” (the affluent and active 55-64 demographic, a big part of country radio's extremely broad target audience of listeners) and this article in Mediaweek (click to read and print it out) may finally give us all the courage to ask for good money for our delivery of them.

NBCU President of Research and Media Development Alan Wurtzel “wants advertisers to know that, when it comes to consumer spending based on what they see in television ads, the 55-64 demo is the new 18-34.”

Reporter John Consoli says NBCU's new research “dispels myths about how adults 55-64 respond to advertising and spend as consumers.”

NBCU president and CEO Jeff Zucker said he’s hoping the findings will motivate tech companies like Apple, Droid and Bing—which are not advertising on CNBC news programs because they are older-skewing—will start doing so.

“What we’d like to see is these companies and their agencies start targeting AlphaBoomers as much as they do the 18-34 demo,” Zucker said, acknowledging that the presentation could also help other networks’ newscasts.

Research in the NBCU presentation shows that AlphaBoomers have a median household income of $69,000, dwarfing that of those under 25 ($27,000), 25-34 ($58,000) and close to those 35-44 ($75,000).

Other findings include:
  • AphaBoomers spend more on home improvement products, home furnishing, large appliances, beauty and cosmetics and casual dining than adults 18-49.
  • A similar percentage of AlphaBoomers have high-definition TVs, use DVRs and broadband as adults 18-34
  • 70 percent of AlphaBoomers buy at least one product a month online
  • 59 percent of AlphaBoomers send text messages via their cell phones
  • Wurtzel: "people in that demo make buying decisions similar to younger demos.”
Anyone who's been to see a country concert has seen these folks face to face and knows how true this is.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Canary Is Still Breathing; The Branch Hasn't Broken

It's been more than a decade since it became conventional wisdom that radio's programming and marketing departments were primarily a service bureau for sales, in pursuit of revenues, cutting costs, thus attaining higher multiples.

Ratings bonuses have increasingly been replaced at the companies where bonuses for talent and programming still exist with "BCF" bonuses, making us all members of the sales department.

The executives who started this trend are longtime broadcasters and I have always told myself that they may bend the twig until they start to hear cracking, but they're smart enough to stop bending just before it breaks. They'd recognize the sound of a coalmine canary that stops chirping.

And, just because it still sounds like some major market traffic reporters, news departments and weather forecasters no longer answer to the station program director in the length or word choice of their content, the twig remains barely intact and the bird is still, softly, singing.

What? Me? Worry?

I get paid by A&O clients to worry.

As PPM is rewarding the panel listeners' most compelling and likable personalities, punishing ones they don't spend as much time using, driving up ratings of stations which waste the least amount of time talking about anything or playing songs the audience doesn't engage with, broadcasters who want to win simply must relearn how to edit, edit, edit everything.

Now, programming as a service bureau for sales includes once again focusing on trimming everything that doesn't make money or entertain to the bone.

Sure, a great PD still brings ideas that make money, but PPM clearly shows that every competitor has the same 60 minutes per hour and not a second more and it creates lots more revenue to have high ratings than to add more value-added mentions.

There was a time when the majority of General Managers and Program Directors spent a day away from the radio station listening together, agreeing on what elements grew audience and made money and which ones were simply wasting time.
  • That way, the PD could talk authoritatively to the cluster's news director, the long distance meteorologist, the bartered traffic service knowing that the GM is going to back her up when she says "this is what I need" and expect great execution.
  • That way, they agree on how many extra mentions "we" do compared to our shared-cume competition.
  • That way, they set firm commercial unit limits and concur on the costs of overselling them.
PPM has provided new tools which amplify the sound of cracking twigs, chirping canaries, making product integrity - as defined by radio's users - a programmer and manager's time-tested, very highest priority.