Sunday, July 31, 2011

Disney's "Low Ride Out" Policy

Some years ago WAJI/Ft. Wayne PD Barb Richards attended Disney Institute and came away raving about many principles she learned and put into practice as a programmer.

For example: "When they put in a new ride, they take out the one with lowest ridership."

If you are a popular station, you probably get lots of requests to be involved with events. It's hard to say no -- and the next thing you know you're over-committed. Rather than adding and adding to the calendar, look at the events that give you the most exposure or the really big image builders. Keep those, move some smaller events in and out. Say no to the rest. Don't be afraid to move on to new things when you sense an old one has run it's course.

We kick off our "95 Days Of Summer" with a water-park party.

There's just no other way to start the summer in Fort Wayne. Unfortunately in the years we have done this event, the weather has been crappy more times than not. We used to do a rain date, but discovered that it was really hard to keep up the enthusiasm. So we decided if the weather was bad, we would just cancel.

Still planning on doing it next year, but thinking about what we can do as an alternate. How can I make this event still work with our lousy, unpredictable Indiana weather?

Ask yourself when someone wants the station to become involved if this is the best decision for the station. How would you feel if you heard it on anther station? Would it bother you not to be there?

These questions can help you decide if you want to be involved.

Promotions are great, for so many reasons. But they have to work for the organization or sponsor, and work for the station.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Song Facts

Intriguing topics and trivia at a website you won't be able to avoid on a daily basis, once you discover it.

  • Worthy or Worthless: Questionable Band Members
  • Depressing Songs That Sound Happy
  • The man behind "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman" and "MacArthur Park" talks about his classic songs.
  • When their record company tried to market them as slick Country-Pop, it didn't fly.
  • "I'll keep dating jerks until I've got enough material for all the songs I want to write."
(click for) Song Meanings, Lyrics and Trivia =

Thursday, July 28, 2011

(Re-read, Re-) Focus

FM radios on cell phones - how to increase usage of them, streaming numbers, up from a year ago, are experiencing the annual summer dip, the impending Cumulus-Citadel buyout deal, among several others rumored to be on the radio business horizon and, meanwhile, Congress seems bent on ignoring the hurting economy in pursuit of political aims in the wake of a soft second quarter for advertising and retail.

And, that's just the start of worrisome headlines that not only create heartburn, but tend to get us all spending time on the wrong things.

Which is why I just went to my bookshelf and reread my copy of the 1996 book "Focus" by Al Ries (Harper Business - 800 331-3761), before tackling their new book on how to be an effective marketing person today.

Here are some highlights from the co-author of "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing," "Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind," "Marketing Warfare," "Horse Sense: The Key to Success is Finding a Horse to Ride," and "Bottom Up Marketing:"

Ries' daughter Laura did the research for "Focus," which is filled with fascinating facts, precise prognostications and thought-provoking case histories, beginning with Peter Drucker.
In 1954 Drucker said: "Any business enterprise has two and only two basic functions - marketing and innovation. Marketing is the distinguishing, the unique function of the business. Any organization in which marketing is either absent or incidental is not a business and should never be run as one."

As you read "Focus," you begin to realize how lucky we in radio were that re-regulation of our industry allowing consolidation and crossownership, creating the current need to grow by expansion and acquisition did not start to occur until the mid-1990's. Due to lucky timing, we had plenty of examples to learn from as other industries followed the fast growth path. Ries warns that loss of focus causes business failure. He cites numerous short-term growth strategies over the past two decades that didn't live up to their promise and hypothesizes what went wrong.

Sadly, most of us ignored them and have made them all over again in the last 15 years. He observes that it takes about six years for the typical company to go from optimistic predictions of incredible growth due to potential synchronicity to dour admissions of declining profitability due to loss of focus. Just as radio companies are beginning to search for synergies and expansion, Ries cautions us "whether you call this process 'line extension,' diversification,' or 'synergy,' it's the process itself, the urge to grow, that causes companies to become unfocused.

"When annual sales get in the neighborhood of $10 million a year (give or take a few million) a small company often hits the wall and becomes unfocused," he claims. "Ten million is about the time the founder decides the company is getting too big and delegates operating responsibility to three or four key people. Result: Each person...runs in a different direction. The more products, the more markets, the more alliances and company names, the less money it makes. 'Full speed ahead in all directions' seems to be the call from the corporate bridge. When will companies learn the lesson that line extension ultimately leads to disaster?

"If you want to be successful today, you have to narrow the focus in order to stand for something in the prospect's mind." Ries points to lemming-like trends that businesses often fall prey to. "In the seventies, it was diversification. In the eighties it was synergy. The fad of the 90's was convergence, the notion that digital technologies were all coming together. So naturally companies have to merge or set up alliances in order to take advantage of this powerful trend.

"This isn't just about cable and telephone hopping into bed together. It's about cultures and corporations combining into one mega-industry..."

Ries states: "Convergence is against the laws of nature. In biology, the law of evolution holds that new species are created by the division of a single species. Convergence, on the other hand, would have you believe that species are constantly combining, yielding such curiosities as the catdog."

In "Focus," Ries returns to the theories of Drucker, who maintained "concentration is the key to economic results (which) require that managers concentrate their efforts on the smallest number of activities that will produce the largest amount of revenue.

"What drives success," he feels, "is owning a piece of the prospect's mind" -- one word that is the essence of what you do.

"No brand, no company, no corporation can achieve 100 percent share of a market in the face of competition. Once you accept this reality, finding a word you own in the mind is greatly similified. You don't have to face those demons who keep telling you 'let's not give up any part of the market.'

"The question is, what kind of a niche do you want to own? The quality niche? The price niche? The safety niche? The driving niche?"

And, in case you don't think Ries is talking about our business in the year 2011:
"Vertical convergence is best illustrated by the Walt Disney deal to buy Capital Cities/ABC for $19 billion in stock and cash. It's a merge of content and distribution. 'One plus one equals four,' said Michael Eisner, Disney CEO. His thinking is as faulty as his math. Competition is the driving force in improving the breed, not sweetheart distribution deals. From ABC's point of view, they should be searching for the best content. They should not be forced to take the Disney output." Ries characterizes the Disney deal as follows: "One plus one equals maybe one and a half."

It took my breath away as I read those words written in 1996 as those same "Disney" radio assets are just a month away from being consolidated yet again, with promises of even more "value" being unleashed.

Whether you own, run or work for one of today's fast-growing radio super-duopolies, I'd suggest a RE-read of "Focus" by Al Ries. Then, click on that link in the previous sentence to a presentation of radio consolidation strategy from the 1998 RAB convention and ask yourself how well we did then, and what we need to do differently this time.

Big business, the brokers and the bankers are doing what they always do, but for the majority of us who exert no control over any of that - and often feel like we're just along for the ride - our focus is still best placed on innovating great content that drives listening and sells products.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The New Challenge For Personalities

Learn to stand out from the noise in everyone's life in positive and engaging ways which drive more regular usage.

Radio, on average, continues to satisfy listeners by meeting their expectations as we always have. Perceptual research proves this over and over, and the fact that above average usage isn't being driven doesn't matter to the listener, whose favorite stations have always been "seek" and "scan."

Once upon a time, a great marketing tactic was to find 'em, fool 'em and forget 'em. PPM actually makes radio better for the listener as we all pursue more usage by watching how they behave as they listen to us.

Radio Ink's Ed Ryan: What is your advice to programmers on how to maximize ratings for the PPM?
  1. Look at a graph of your station's average minute audience over multiple weeks.
  2. Look at the "down" time periods, which perform lower than your average.
  3. Study what you and your shared cume competition do at those times.
  4. Smooth out the valleys in your listening and grow the size of your down average minutes to the level of the highest ones.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Few Pointers

Q: I am writing to you in hopes that you can give me some suggestions concerning a career in broadcasting. I am 28 years old (perhaps too old to get into the business), and have always wanted to express my wit, charm and talent on radio. I have been told time after time that I should get into radio but I never pursued the challenge. I am often asked to MC dances and other functions, and on occasion I have accepted the offers. I hear from people all the time, "You're wasting a good talent." Anyway, I'm not giving up, even if I have to get a job as a janitor, and work my way through a station. I am obsessed with wanting to become a DJ. Maybe you can suggest a few pointers. Sincerely, Mike.

A: Sure, Mike! First point: you don't want to become a DJ because everybody says you'd be good at it or that you're a "natural" -- you only do it because that's what you think would make you happy. You wish to express your "wit, charm and talent on radio"?

Fair enough. But beware -- working a daily shift on the air hasn't much in common with emceeing dances and hosting parties. There, you're the center of attention. On the radio, you are rarely more than a buzz in the background.

Wit and charm? Sure... In small doses, often few and far between.

Here's another point to consider: when people tell you they think you should be on the radio, what they usually mean is that you have "a great speaking voice." You *sound* like their mental image of a radio announcer.

Let me tell you -- your speaking voice is the least important tool you have in becoming a successful radio personality. The airwaves are full of people with average voices who are successful, not because they soothe mass audiences with their dulcet tones, but because they reach lonely listeners -- *one at a time* -- with their sincerity and warmth. (The converse is also true: the smallest markets are sprinkled with jocks who have great voices but who've never learned to use theirs to contact other humans, One to One.)

So, how *do* you "break into radio?" By breaking into radio! By not taking "no" for an answer.

By, as you say, taking a job as a janitor, if need be, until you can work your way up. But there's one thing most of us have to do, that may not have occurred to you, despite the research you've done: you'll probably have to move away from home for your first job. Radio jobs don't happen when and where you want them.

So, hire or borrow a studio, put together the best audition you can, have a resume made professionally, read the trades and send out your demos wherever there's an opening that looks like they might accept beginners. Eventually, if you have any talent and a lot of persistence, you'll score. Be prepared to move, to work odd shifts, and to put up with only being allowed to show a minimum of your talent -- because that's standard for beginners.

Be very sure of your wishes, because it takes years of putting up with lots of BS at low wages, before most of us earn any sort of a living in radio. Be damn sure you're doing it because *you* want to, not because of what other people say. The used car lots and insurance sales offices are littered with former disc jockeys who went into this business for the wrong reasons -- among which is, "Everybody says I ought to be in radio!" The only *right* reason is, "*I need* to do this."

Break a leg, Mike!

-- by Jay Trachman (another of my trove of "Trachman treasures," saved over the years because he was so right on, week after week)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Local Angle Makes Every "Bit" Better

Have your morning show do localized "theme days" to create an aura of unpredictability. And, ONE place to go for good, local ideas is the printed Yellow Pages book after you've looked at the latest A&O monthly package of inspiration.

Pick an event or idea that seems like it would be fun for you to share.

Just thumb through the top of page headings and invite local business owners to come in and help the team with: hypnotism day, veterinary day, back rub day, auto repair advice day, haircut day, etc, etc.

Interact with good ones off the air, record (be sure to tell them you are recording, of course!) and edit the best ones. Create spontaneous local character-building engagements for use on the air, as if these folks just happened to drop in when you mentioned the event or holiday.

Build a file of contact info for the most entertaining ones for use in the future, next time the subject comes up.