Friday, December 30, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Build Connections to People Not Things"

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

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Things We Simply Couldn't Do 15 Years Ago

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

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

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

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

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

Keep yourself above the attack on the air.

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Learning From The Politicians

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

What can you learn from it all?

1. Negative Advertising

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

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Applying Political Strategies to Radio

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Future Depends On Quality Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Insist on nothing less.

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

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

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

Saturday, December 17, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

They are managing toxic assets.

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

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

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

It's about survival.

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

I hope we're all ready for it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Looking Out At (And For) Chicago

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

They Are Both Right And We Must Do It All

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 08, 2011

This Book Will Haunt You

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Free Must-Have Research Tools

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

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

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

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

The Local Employment Dynamics data tools can be found at

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Business Holiday Gift Recommendation #1

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

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

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

Monday, December 05, 2011

If Ed Christian Likes It, So Do I

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

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

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

Friday, December 02, 2011

Something Extra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

That IS What I Said, But It Wasn't What I Meant

With programmers looking for benchmarks or norms to compare their station to, Arbitron, Media Monitors and Inside Radio are working on a study that looks at the musical characteristics of top performing stations under PPM measurement which will be revealed next week at Arbitron's annual Fly-In in a presentation by Arbitron's Jenny Tsao and Heine.

It examines key music metrics, like library size, current playlist and turnover rate, at top performing stations and compares them to the average in that format.

Since one of the formats they’re looking at is country, Inside Radio's Paul Heine conferenced with Mike O'Malley and me the other day and then printed a few bullet points from that lengthy conversation.

In reading it, I felt a bit like Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich, wishing one of us had done a better job explaining what I meant to communicate in a clearer, more quickly-quotable manner.

The data shows top performers share remarkably similar musical characteristics with average stations in the same format. The study both reinforces the importance of playing the hits to build a ratings foundation while demonstrating how non-music programming components separate ratings winners from also-rans.

As Heine previewed yesterday in Inside Radio, the percentage of airplay devoted to the most played songs in individual formats is largely the same – whether a station is ranked first in its target demo or not. For example, nearly one in three spins (30%) on CHR stations are from the format’s ten most played songs and nearly seven in ten are from songs in the top 50 — regardless of the station’s 18-34 rank.

While slower current music rotations mean country devotes a lower percentage of spins to songs in the top 10, the percentages hardly vary whether the station is No. 1 in 25-54 (18% of spins) ranked No. 2 - No. 5 (17%) or ranked No. 6 - No. 10 (16%).

The findings of the study were largely consistent across six major contemporary music formats.
Arbitron and Mediabase — in conjunction with Inside Radio — tracked stations in PPM markets from April-June for the study: "Country — radio’s most programmed format — exhibits few variances in selecting top songs. No matter whether ranked first or tenth in 25-54, country stations appear to be spinning and rotating the same current songs at the same levels across PPM markets."

In viewing the stats, Mike O'Malley told Heine there are only minor differences in the way number one stations spin the top 20 (or even the top 50) vs. #6-10. What is outside the Top 50 creates the majority of what country plays regardless of rank. 6-10 play slightly more songs outside the top 50 than #1s (2%) or #2-5 (1%), but really that difference is insignificant. Because there’s little different in the way ‘currents’ are spun, ranks are a function of something else.

My perspective on what that might be: no matter whether a specific market is highly Hispanic, black or primarily non-ethnic, the leading country stations still do best when they overachieve among non-ethnic listeners with an almost even balance of 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54 listeners. Thus, "common thread/low polarity" songs which work to help hit that goal tend to be the same ones regardless of whether the city is Miami, San Diego, Philadelphia, Houston or Boston.

Secondly, music promotion to country is driven by the reality that many country music fans continue to purchase music on physical CDs as opposed to digital downloads and so record labels strive to keep stations in synch on the number of consensus current hit songs that retailers like Wal-Mart and Target have on their shelves at any given time, which keeps the number of currents we're all exposing to fewer than 20-25.

O'Malley made the point that, given that, smart country stations tend to differentiate themselves musically by the gold library material a station either plays or doesn't, rather than currents or recurrents.

Heine's report included the factoid that top-ranked 25-54 country stations are playing, on average, 200 more titles than lower ranked country stations: 681 active titles for top-ranked stations, 484 for stations ranked No. 2 - No. 5 and 480 for stations ranked No.6 - No.10.

Then, he added his own observation that bigger libraries and slower current rotations are one of the hallmarks of a format long on Time Spent Exposed and light on cume followed by a quote from me, “If a country station increases its rotations too high, TSE generally declines. That’s the steel sword country has: a very loyal, passionate core that listens for a long time...” which had me seeming to say that big libraries are what makes winning stations in ARB PPM when, actually, just the opposite is true.

The repetition I was talking about was spinning currents too often which can harm heavy user time spent listening, based on audience turnover that is about half for country what the contemporary hit formats have.

They need to play currents twice as fast as country radio does to be sure that their average listener hears them about the same amount.

Country has a weapon in its arsenal that CHR generally doesn't have access to, given our wider target age: high appeal gold songs as well as currents and recurrents.

However, I sure don't want anyone to get the impression that when it comes to country bigger gold categories beat tighter ones in PPM. They do not.

The main reason a country station ranks higher in a Minneapolis or Cincinnati than in a Miami or Los Angeles has everything to do with the size of the non-ethnic 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54 population in those places and how accurately the PPM panel reflects those demographics in the correct male/female balance, NOT the number of songs in their library.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Things Are Looking UP For Retailers

Big Research: Those of us on the “nice” list may be getting an extra special surprise under the tree this year, as purchase intentions for several big ticket items – including autos, computers, mobile devices, and TVs – are on the rise this year compared to last.

What’s NOT hot? "While more popular among young women, virtual pinboard Pinterest doesn’t seem to be generating much interest among the public at large."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Awards Are Nice, But Great Results Are Nicer

Canada's Astral Radio learned last week that two campaigns broadcast on its stations have been awarded at the Media Innovation Awards gala in Toronto.

McDonald's Restaurants claimed the Gold in the B
est in Radio category for its "McTraffic" campaign, while Michelin won the Silver in the same category for its "Le bon pneu peut tout changer" campaign.

It's great to win these prizes, of course, but it's even more gratifying to
begin to understand how to measure proof of success of the campaign and its related contest.

Astral stations recorded more than 10,868 clicks on the different web formats of their campaign and, even more impressively, received a record number of contest entries in a very short 11-hour period: 11,450 entries across the two networks.

Let's all commit to sharing our success stories with one another, not just for bragging rights but to make everything that goes between the songs as entertaining and effective as possible.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Don't Let This Man Write Your Imaging

This isn’t about politics. It’s about messaging.

Like USA Weekend, which features the Obama family on its cover along with their Holiday letter, when I saw that country music was the fare the other evening at The White House, I was hoping that there might be audio of something clever and Presidential (click to download the mp3) about the values and vitality of country music that could be used in our stationality elements this weekend or even better something funny, since unlike the Bushes, Clinton, Ford, Reagan or Carter, Obama’s Hawaii and Indonesia years meant that he wasn’t steeped in country music in his childhood.

At first, I was thinking I’d make a joke of the fact that he thinks James Taylor is a country artist, but Taylor Swift officially nixed that thought last week at Madison Square Garden.

I replayed his entire five minute welcome to the audience (click to see the video mp4), looking for an edit point that was self-contained with a setup, a quick story or statement and a payoff.

No luck.

He starts very well numerous times. “The music that’s storytelling gives voice…,” name drops Charlie Pride with a nice quote on country’s inclusiveness and diversity, talks about how much it means to so many, points to The Band Perry, Dierks Bentley, Alison Krauss, Lyle Lovett, Darius Rucker but really didn’t say anything easily quotable, fully-formed and brief that might have worked over an intro to one of their songs. He wraps up evoking a “grand tradition,” which got my hopes up, but then ended up disappointing for my needs.

If you find a succinct statement as quotable as the ones written for former Presidents in situations like this, please point it out to me. I don’t think that in 5:07 of rambling, albeit very sincere ad libbing he gave us anything that would work out of the context it was said in.

It’s tempting to say that Obama needs a Frank Luntz or this inability to imbed at least one or two very quotable and brief, fully-formed, memorable phrases in five minutes of verbiage says something about why he’s having difficulty selling his agenda to his opposition, but I’m not going there.

I will say this: when it’s time to create your marketing messages, don’t be like Barack.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It Doesn't Matter Where You Sit In Front Of A Mic

It matters what you do.

Thanks to Radio Ink for digging deeper and finding some supporting opinions on my October post reminding talent that content is the new targeting and relatable is the new local.

Burns & Associates CEO Alan Burns tells Radio Ink people don't really care if Rush Limbaugh is local.
"In most cases and places, being entertaining is more important than where you originate from. Listeners will say local is preferable, but they’ll listen to what’s most entertaining or most useful to them. But local does matter. You can win with local if you do it well and thoroughly and are in roughly the same ballpark as the other guys on entertainment or information. Clear Channel’s move to more nationalized content will cause some broadcasters to try to do a better job of local service, and that’s good for the industry."

For local to matter, Burns says, you have to do more than just pay lip-service to it. "Just saying the names of three suburbs after the weather won't work. I’ve seen some of CCU’s Premium Choice stations do very well against nominally “local” programming. You have to know the market and care about it, serve it and reflect it on the air, and be everywhere in it. That’s where the national companies and content will have a hard time competing. Clear Channel, and anyone else who wants to emulate what they’re doing, has to be thinking about several questions regarding staffing levels: How many markets can one talent empathize with? Do you have enough people at the local outlet to actually be in touch with the market? Do you have enough people left to generate sufficient local presence?"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Going Over The Top For The Community

As usual, when it's time to do a little bit more for Boy Scouts and thousands of other worthy causes, radio - as represented by Cat Country 98.7/Pensacola's morning guy Brent Lane, is the first one to volunteer (click to watch the WEAR-TV video of the event).

Of course, Gannett's News-Journal was there to cover it too.

Lane termed Friday's stunt: "a top 3 adrenaline rush of a life time."

It's such a source of pride in seeing radio's people and all media working together both up in the air and on the ground to help make a big difference in shared positive values.

Please let me know what YOU are doing in your home town too!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pandora Satisfaction Slips

StateNets is a regional rep firm for the numerous state radio networks, so unless you're one of them it's unlikely that you are a regular on Chicago-based Tom Dobrez's website. That is why I'm going to take the liberty of republishing his most recent sales graphic, which you may want to include in your media kit.
Dobrez, after listening to Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman, who used the graphic as he placed radio in the new media world: "When you first got your iPod you were thrilled. You immediately downloaded music and made a few playlists. One for your bedroom listening, another for outside on the beach etc. But then you kind of tired of them and like most you shied away from them. Every once and awhile you might actually take the time to edit but rarely. Or perhaps you are a Pandora listener and you simply entered Peter Gabriel and you received a lot of tunes that sounded like Peter Gabriel. Some you actually thought were cool. However, your engagement lasted only a few days maybe weeks. Then your attention waned.

"In the world of Radio, the playlists are curated by professionals driven by extensive research. They can determine when a song is too old and magically you stop hearing it and it is replaced by something similar and fresher. Radio playlists change dynamically. That’s why you find yourself pulling your iPod cord out of the car tuner and going back to good old fashion radio every now and then. Well that and the human element which I’ll talk about on another day."

.. which means you and I had better bookmark his blog, eh?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What to Look for When Hiring Talent

Due to the recent "RIF" cutbacks at Clear Channel, Cumulus and other major groups, the number of pro's on the loose right now simply boggles the mind. Here at A&O, we're getting emails from many of them every single day. It's overwhelming and sad to know that there's a bigger crowd of people needing jobs right now which far outnumbers the ones available and projected in the coming year.

At the same time, when an opening occurs it also makes it very hard to separate the wheat from chaff. As a prospective employer, you tend to have in the back of your mind that there has to be a reason why "this" person was cut and someone else was kept.

It's tempting to only recruit people who currently have jobs, so as to avoid the issue of digging deeply into backgrounds to understand why the previous employer decided that this person was expendable. Yet, you'd be missing a lot of people who are ready to start right now and will understand how valuable a good job is, hopefully bringing extra passion to your workplace.

The most important thing to do is start by being clear about what talents, attitude, personal style, work ethic and strengths you want. A strong line-up of talent is something every station needs, but what do you look for when hiring a new jock?

The decision will always be based on a number of factors:
  • Which time slot are you looking to fill?
  • Will you hire someone from a competitor/different market?
  • Will they already have on-air experience or not?

While the final decision is always going to be a subjective, there are a few things worth considering.

You want a personality who will be able to connect with your audience confidently. So keep an eye out for a confident communicator who doesn’t come across as condescending or ‘cocky’.

The Ability To Focus
It’s a trait that every host/announcer will need to display if they are to perform to the very best ability on-air.

An Engaging Conversational Style
A great voice isn’t enough these days, you need someone who can engage your audience and keep them listening. Perhaps set them a quick test by asking them to tell you a story about a ballpoint pen, and to make it sound interesting.

Do they make you feel like they really understand your radio station and convince you that no one wants to work for you more than they do? That they have the organizational skills and work ethic to exceed your expectations.

The X Factor
No, this has nothing to do with Simon Cowell. :) But you need someone who has that extra spark, a dynamic persona, the X Factor!

If the person you have in mind has all of those abilities, chances are they’ll make a great broadcaster.

Snap them up!

Thanks to Paul Hollins at Great Britain's production and syndication company, who provided the inspiration and many of the tips for this article.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Finding Out How Many Words Rhyme With "Receptacles"

Strange times we live in, making decisions of taste almost impossible, if you're trying to please everyone.

Toby Keith provided radio a month ago with an (1) unedited, (2) edited, (3) bleeped and (4) "vegetables" version, which wasn't enough for CMT, which created a fifth (fade) version (5).

Five versions may be an all time record for the country format!

In the wake of Whitney Duncan's ‘Survivor: South Pacific’ antics, Luke Bryan's covering the CMA Awards for "Ellen" more thoroughly than he covers his "Country Girl, Shake It For Me" dancers and Zac Brown long ago proving that you can say the word "ass" on national TV, isn't this ado over "testicles" a bit overblown?

Mike OMalley and I are usually for playing unedited versions, but M O'M points out that 'vegetables' is actually funnier.

In short, we've been telling clients to opt for either the edit (ass) or clean (no ass). In any event, no beep.

The radio axiom "what you don't play will never hurt you," certainly still holds, though dead air is definitely not an audience-builder when compared to 3,155,434 views on You Tube!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Smiling While Scratching My Head

If you, like me, are glued to the stats and musings of Richard Harker & Glenda Shrader Bos on Harker Research's "Radio Insights" blog, you are already up to speed on their recent format comparisons, which they feel is a more accurate use of the numbers than Arbitron's own "Radio Today" analysis.

Devoting the entire front page to Country’s performance,“the most trusted news in radio” declared. The format ranked first among all formats in diary markets with a 14.5 but finished fourth in PPM markets with a 7.1. Put another way, Country’s average diary share is more than double its PPM share. The statement is factually accurate, the ciphering flawless, but in the end meaningless. A few lines later we learn the purpose of this expose' when the author asks rhetorically, “Why do some formats perform better under one ratings system than under another?” It's perhaps a fair question, but using Radio Today Country numbers suggests that the author really doesn't understand how to go about answering the question. Radio Today shares are calculated just like you’d do for a single market. Share is just a format’s AQH divided by the market’s AQH. To calculate a national format share, add the AQH of all the stations, then divide by the total AQH of all the markets. Simple, right? But what happens when there’s no full market Country station in New York or Los Angeles? The two largest markets in the country don’t contribute any AQH to the format tally. Consequently, the format's share is much lower. Radio Today is not designed to compare formats the way the author has tried to do.

Both approaches make country look very good, fortunately.

For example, the Harker researchers found: "There are 90 Country stations in PPM markets, but only 60 have a full 12 months of PPM numbers, so like the other formats, it will take several more months before we know how the entire stable of Country stations are doing.

"That said, PPM appears to have been very kind to Country. Nearly two-thirds (63.3%) are higher today than they were a year ago. Country has the highest percentage of gainers of any format we’ve looked at. The median Country station has a 4.1 share 6+, a tie with Hot AC for third among the formats we’ve discussed so far. The big difference between Country and Hot AC is that Country has positive momentum while Hot AC is stalled, so in this tie we give the nod to Country."

As I reported in this space when "Radio Today" released, Arbitron's research team pointed out:

The No. 1 format overall, in both Diary and non-Metro areas, Country reached more than 65 million listeners each week on more than 1,700 stations—the most outlets of any music format, not including 300 Classic Country stations. It also was the top format among most age groups (including a big lead with adults 25-54) and in most dayparts. Country enjoyed some of the longest time spent listening of all formats, and its listeners set a new high in college degree attainment in Fall 2010.

Harker distrusts ARB's approach on statistical grounds and so to assess the health of each format they looked at two key metrics, median station performance and momentum. The median station is the one in the middle. Half of the stations in the format have a larger share, half have a smaller share. As they see it, the median tells us how the format is trending. "If we see the median rising, it means mid-pack stations, the majority in the format, are gaining share. Tracking the median station is more useful than calculating an average share because averages can be distorted by what are called outliers, stations that dramatically outperform other stations in the format."

New PPM markets coming on-line make it difficult to compare current median shares to last year’s numbers because the newest markets tend to be smaller than the first PPM markets. So, to look at median share trends, Harker calculated median shares for just the stations that have been in the format and measured by PPM for at least a year.

While the median shares tell how popular a format is, Harker posits that a more useful metric for indicating the future prospects of a format is momentum, comparing past performance to the present.

Harker calculates momentum by comparing each station’s share today to what it was last year at this time, using a three month average. Positive format momentum means that more stations are higher today than they were a year ago.

Why is it that there's such a big gap when ranking format mo' and yet so much compression in the 6+ median share ranker, where just a tenth of a point separates #1 and #2, back just .4-.5 are the next four and then just a share behind #1 is #7, leading #8 by just .2?

Richard and Glenda have a theory on that as well, in a 2010 post called Arbitron PPM Trends vs. a Coin Toss, most of the month to month movement of PPM is random.
Stations go up and down for no other reason than luck of the draw. Share estimates always have two components. The first is the actual number, the share you would find if you could ask everybody what they were listening to, instead of just a small number of panelists. The second component is statistical noise. It is interference like static drowning out the signal from a distant AM station. The noise is completely random and unpredictable. Sometimes it adds to the actual share, inflating it. Sometimes it subtracts from the actual share, deflating it. Both monthly PPM share estimates and quarterly diary share estimates have so much statistical noise in them that it drowns out genuine changes in month to month ratings.

I'd interpret that powerful momentum to country's high level of engagement, in spite of lower levels of cume in PPM compared to the formats above us in median 6+ share. And, putting it another way, as Arbitron reinforced in their diary/PPM data for the past year: " Country enjoyed some of the longest time spent listening of all formats." Harker would likely predict that the country format could be a rank or two higher in next year's median averages with that solid improvement (as long as we can keep it up).

There will be a lot to discuss when we're all together next month in Baltimore, which is why both Mike O'Malley and I will be there.

Meanwhile, it's nice to know that no matter how you count it, in PPM, diaries, by momentum over last year, average OR median shares, the country radio format is having one very good 2011.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

From Fruitbowl To One To One

Just search this blog for the name Jay Trachman and you'll discover what a huge influence on me (and many, many others!) Trachman was. It has now been two years since his peaceful death at home in the wee hours of the morning and I feel the need to keep his philsophies alive.

He started "Fruitbowl" (a mix of many different, but sweet treats) in 1974, later changing its name toOne To One” (which became his lifetime mantra) but it remained a constant weekly bit service which he provided for over 30 years from the mid 1970’s until he retired.

Here’s some vintage Trachman:

1. You've got to be speaking to someone specific.

Not a demographic, not an average - someone who is very real to you (even if it's a fantasy), and with whom you feel comfortable. Two reasons: first, the safety this Personal Listener affords you - to block out the masses and picture yourself with this one valued friend - allows you to display a spectrum of emotions you'd never reveal to a crowd of strangers. (More about this in a moment.) Second, when you truly believe you're talking to one person, everyone listening who seeks companionship from his/her radio will fantasize that this person is them.

The Personal Listener has a name, a family, a history, an occupation, a hair color and all the other attributes required so you can picture him or her in your mind when you open the mike. And their primary reason for being there is not the music or the information you offer; it's to spend time with you, because he or she enjoys your company. Not what you do - who you are.

2. You've got to be focusing on the person you're speaking to, rather than the words you're saying.

Otherwise one hears strange inflection patterns and often a hyped energy level that sounds phony. A programmer tells the young jock, "Be up and bright!" It's nice when you are, but it's not appropriate coming out of a soft ballad. When you say the station identifier - no one could possibly be that enthusiastic about something they say every five minutes for four hours. You can announce those words and say them authoritatively - but when you feign enthusiasm, you destroy any chance that the listener will relate to you as a person.

3. In order to be perceived as a friend, you must behave like one.

That means doing the things all human beings do. Among them: showing the spectrum of your emotions. Sometimes people are happy; sometimes they're sad. Sometimes they're angry and sometimes they're tender. You don't have any friends who don't show all these emotions - and more - to you, over a period of time. It's something people expect from one another. You can't achieve emotional intimacy - friendship - with your listener without doing it.

4. You have to prepare material for your show.

Most important, you need to be armed with Life Content when you walk in the studio. Life Content: brief bits about your life experiences and your responses to them. Anything which caused you strong feelings is worth talking about with your listener. Most jocks don't do show prep - especially after the morning show. I've heard every excuse in the book. But the bottom line is, they almost uniformly fail to entertain.

Most of the jocks I hear who don't prep rely on station slogans, positioners, promos and whatever other liner-card junk they can come up with. One of the hallmarks of the DJ who has nothing to say is that those crutch phrases get repeated way more than the programmer or consultant requires. These DJs train the listener to tune them out anytime they open the mike. Ultimately, a survey-taker comes along and asks people what they like least about the station, and they'll reply, "The DJs talk too much!" They don't talk too much - they don't say anything worth hearing!

Entertainment means: enabling another to experience his or her feelings in a safe environment. Make a person laugh, make them cry, make them shake their fists in anger - you have committed entertainment. Every bit you do should lead to an expression of emotion, calculated to make your listener feel something in response. This is exactly what the music you play does. You need to do it, too.

Being a radio performer isn't rocket science... But it does require some understanding and a good deal of work - both before air time and during. Or... you could settle for being an interchangeable jock who wonders why you can never make much more than minimum wage.

Trachman, each week for those three decades, wrote three different types of lines.

Topical (from the news)

I dreamed I won $340 million in the lottery, and they were offering me the choice of taking it in one lump sum, or twenty fill-ups...

We just captured al-Qaeda's "number two" man in Iraq? Great - but I can't help remembering, back when Saddam Hussein was in charge, al-Qaeda didn't *have* a "number two" man in Iraq...

Halloween is coming up on October 31st; know how to spot the kid in the "FEMA" costume? He doesn't show up at your door until November fourth!

I guess I shouldn't have ignored that item in the classified: "Wanted: Supreme Court Justice... No experience necessary..."

Sorry to hear about the recent passing of Don Adams... In his honor, we'll spend just a moment inside the "cone of silence..."

Just a thought: that "number two" guy in al-Qaeda must be getting tired of getting killed and arrested all the time...

You think *you've* got problems? New Orleans police say the flooding completely destroyed two police evidence rooms... Which means there could be up to 3000 suspects they have no choice but to beat confessions out of...

We were sitting in the coffee house complaining about the ridiculously inflated price of gasoline... Over a frozen mocha latte at $6, and a chai tea frappe at $5...

At the very moment the Kansas State Board of Education was debating how to sneak "intelligent design" into the schools, the U. of Kansas opened up a major public display explaining how evolution works; the department head says they didn't plan it that way - it's just pure coincidence... So supporters on *both* sides want you to believe in fairy tales...

Do you get the feeling Bush nominating Harriet Miers is a little like O.J. nominating Johnny Cochran?

Then, he also wrote personal comedy lines about himself, his life and his character:

I wouldn't say my back yard has gotten out of hand - but last week an alien landed in the tall grass and said, "Take me to your weeder!"

Scientists believe there are many intelligent species in the universe... All are owned by cats...

Personally, I always figure exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement...

Ever get the feeling that in a past life you were somebody named "Occupant?" And they're still forwarding your mail?

A tractor-trailer containing a shipment of file folders and Post-It notes was hijacked yesterday... Police think it was the work of organized criminals...

I'm going to have to start watching what I eat... Because I keep missing my mouth...

Handy household hint: if you can't find a screwdriver, use a knife! And if you break the tip off - well, now it's an even better screwdriver!

My wife and I found that planning your vacation is half the fun... So next year, we'll plan *two*, and then stay home - we'll have the same amount of fun, and it won't cost anything!

Thought for the day: life is just nature's way of keeping meat from spoiling...

Lastly, Trachman would write lines/turns of a phrase for songs on the playlist:

All-American Rejects - Dirty Little Secret: Just because it's a sin to believe evil about others... Doesn't mean it's a mistake...

Black Eyed Peas - My Humps: My daddy always said, "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose - until you lose..."

Brown - Run It: I never worry about my kid running with the wrong crowd; he'd have to get up off the couch, first...

Clapton - Say What You Will: I always say, "Change is good, but dollars are better!"

Cabrera - Shine On: Love is blind... And it's not terribly bright, either...

Coldplay - Fix You: I asked Cousin Sara how come she married a man ten years younger than she; she said, "I figured, if you can't find a good man, raise one!"

Collective Soul - How Do You Love: Ever get the feeling a lot of people wouldn't fall in love, if it were more clearly marked?

Crow - Good Is Good: My cousin says once she was with two men in a single night; the next day she could hardly walk... Imagine, having two full dinners!

DHT - Listen To Your Heart: Just remember, the great highway of life is littered with flattened rodents who couldn't make up their minds...

DeGraw - Follow Through: I always say, never start anything you don't intend to... uh, whatever...

Eagles - Cloudy Days: You have to take the bad with the good - but you're allowed to gripe about the proportions...

Fall Out Boy - Sugar, We're Goin' Down: Life has its ups & downs... I hope my skin clears up... And my weight goes down...

Goo Goo Dolls - Give A Little Bit: I find that women are more likely to get romantic if I give them my PIN number, rather than my phone number...

Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.: Never miss an opportunity to make someone happy - even if you have to leave them alone, to do it...

Johnson - Dollar: If I had a dollar for every time the boss complimented me on my show, today I could buy - lunch!

Mayer - Daughters: I want my kids to have all the things I couldn't afford... Then I want to move in with them!

McGraw - My Old Friend: My wife ran into her old ex-boyfriend yesterday... But he got away before she could run into him again...

Powter - Bad Day: How come a fool & his money are never around when you need them?

Underwood - Inside Your Heaven: Cousin Sara told everyone she wanted to marry a ghost... I can't imagine what possessed her...

Vertical Horizon - Forever: Imagine how life would be if you had to renew your marriage license every few years...

I hope that, though several years out of date now, the specificity, quantity, brevity and variety of the material he wrote inspires you to work a little harder to keep Trachman's way of relating alive and present in your daily content as well.

My goal is not to have you go out of your way to then use these lines he has written, but I hope you’ll try this on for size - to get you started prepping what you’re going to say when there’s nothing else to say when a topic comes up, a song plays, or an aspect of his character arises in conversation.

It’s all about planned spontaneity, making listeners think you’re naturally funny. It takes forethought, writing and preparation. Replace all of the “typical DJ” words and phrases we all use with things “only YOU’ would say and in your own, unique manner.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

I Want FM On My Cell Phone (Even In Paradise)

I always wondered why Emmis Communications has been such a strong and early advocate for radio to be included in every cell phone and now I think I know why.

As a company with considerable international experience, I have a feeling that they've long been aware of what I just saw graphically proven on the Greek Island of Santorini, where the waters are as blue as you'll see anywhere and the docks are a great place to watch ferries, transportation and cruise ships take goods and people up to those white hotels, homes and restaurants up on the top of the rocky cliffs.

That is, unless it's 9:30 pm and the ferry is more than two hours late.

Then, along with several hundred other people, you stand - as I did last week - in the chill with not much information on when the boat is going to arrive and not much entertainment to kill the seemingly endless time.

That's when I was glad to watch at least half the crowd starting to reach for their cell phones and ear buds as radio after radio came on. Thanks to my HTC EVO Android phone, I joined them, feeling especially smug as I noticed that the young folks around me were the most likely to be using their cell phones as portable radios.

I know it's been a long, slow process with little visible progress thus far but it seems like a non-issue in most other countries, which puts to rest the argument for me at least that phone owners won't use them.

It's been six months since the very clever and effective Radio Ink-Orkin ads have been updated, but have you aired them as yet? If not, please do.

Perhaps the recent initiative announced at the Chicago NAB meetings including even HD Radio will add impetus to the campaign.

As I discovered on a cold night waiting for a boat, it's nice to be able to turn to entertainment at the touch of a button on this ubiquitous device.

Sooner or later, it's going to prove essential when the power's out, cell service is down and and radio comes to the fore once again to inform, saving lives.

Let's work to make sure it's there when it's needed most.