Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hear Some Terrific Radio

.. commercials, that is. 

Click here to listen to the Radio Mercury Award Finalists

I am thinking that these will be the kind of spots that even the folks who use Apple's new patented ad-skipping pateneted technology someday in the distant future will still stop to listen to!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Why The "Record" Business' Hair Is On Fire

A study from Strategy Analytics reports that downloads and streaming music services such as Pandora and Spotify are set to pass CDs as the music industry’s biggest U.S. revenue source.

SA's Ed Barton posted data on its website predicting U.S. digital music sales will rise to $3.4 billion this year, moving it ahead of the $3.38 billion in revenue from CDs and vinyl.

Within 3 years, digital music will surpass physical purchases globally, he adds.

I can't possibly top the comment in reaction to that news from The Conclave's Tom Kay in this week's Tattler:  "No wonder I’ve had such a devil of a time trying to find that Lady Gaga 8-track."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

You Never Call

That infamous quote, long attributed to Jewish mothers, is now obsolete for today's Jewish mom of a Millennial, since she's probably a friend on all of her kids' Facebook pages and waits for texts instead of the telephone to ring.

Somehow, though, getting an sms text message on Mother's Day just isn't the same as hearing the voice of that offspring you love.

It's the same with morning radio.

You can't blame listeners for not wanting to call "the request line."

It's busy all the time.
It rings and rings with no answer for many minutes in a row.
If the personality you took the time to phone actually does answer, they sound like they're always in a giant hurry, anxious to simply get you off the phone as quickly as possible.
They can't play that special song for you.
You always end up being "caller number six," wondering what special magic that winning eighth caller had that you didn't.

So, if you lead a typical life and aren't one of the walking wounded who leads such a lonely life that you are willing to put up with those indignities for a few seconds of validation from a radio personality you look up to, you do feel the need to share a story with your favorite radio station, emailing, texting, Tweeting or Facebooking is so much less painless and time-consuming.

Pity the poor radio personality who hopes to hear from "normal" listeners and also knows that reading those written messages aloud on the air isn't as much fun and entertaining as interacting, connecting, engaging, conversing with a real human voice.

What to do?

How about inviting listeners to use the mobile device in their hand to add their two cents to today's hot topic and if it's something you want to use on air, turning the tables and calling them to get audio?

It's not as easy as just picking up the phone in the studio, of course.

Sure, it takes extra effort, time and planning.

Doing the extra little things your competition won't do is what separates "great" from "average."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

“Where were you when…?”

A recently-released Sony/Nielsen survey asked those-sampled to recall their most memorable TV moment, and if they remembered where-they-were when they watched history happen.

The top 5 moments were:

1. 911
2. Hurricane Katrina
3. O.J. Simpson verdict
4. Space Shuttle Challenger explosion
5. Osama bin Laden death

#42 was the final episode of M*A*S*H.
#43 was The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.
#44 was the “Who Shot J.R.?” episode of Dallas (the-revival-of-which, incidentally, is Summer’s top TV hit).

Drilling-down to demographics:
  • People age 55+ rank President Kennedy’s assassination a close second to 911.  
  • To young people in the sample, President Obama’s election night speech was #3.
  • To women, Princess Diana’s funeral was #4.  To men it was #23.
A reminder to all personalities to constantly update and freshen your demographic target relevant historical references from news talk consultant and friend of A&O Holland Cooke, who reminds me of the great line from the prophetic 2000 book "Millenials Rising:"

"One generation's headline is the next one's punch line."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Radio & Podcast, Mark & Lynda, Brian & Jill, You & The Future?

Kevin Carter and Steve Resnik (click to read Monday's "RAMP" email) wrote a very sensitive recap of what happened Friday on the Los Angeles airwaves (click to listen)

Now, Brian's first post-show podcast with Mark and his new online cohost Jill explains a lot about what's happening to them all next.
"There's more coming, because it's a changing time."

The Wikipedia entry on the longtime duo has now been updated to include the past tense, but provides a great history of their many accomplishments.

Godspeed to both of them as they break new trails for the rest of us who also know that we, too, must  learn to profit from the differences and possibilities of traditional broadcast and emerging interactive media.

Thanks, Mark & Brian, for all you've done to advance the art of radio personality.

Bon voyage on what you plan to do next in new media content creation.

We will all be watching and listening.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Follow The Leader?

I wish Clear Channel had taken their idea to the NAB with the goal of having all of broadcasting get behind 9/11 Day not just as a feather in the cap of one big company proving how powerful and influential it is but instead making the idea much bigger, big enough for all of us.

BUT, they didn't.  So what now, fellow "frenemies?"  Do we get involved in "their promotion" and get no credit for it in what you know will be the glowing PR to come about how much Clear Channel did for 9/11 Day?
“The overall level of participation surrounding the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was astounding, and we hope to build on last year’s success,” said Jessica King, Director of Community Engagement for Clear Channel. “Clear Channel’s efforts are intended to remind people across the U.S. that they can pay tribute to those impacted by 9/11 by engaging in simple positive acts.” 

There are lots of ways you can commemorate 9/11, named in federal law as a day of service.  Just sign up on the website by registering your project, if getting credit is what drives you and get started.

Other ways to help:
As usual, there is no shortage of ways you can make a difference if you choose to act.

Follow the leader?

Not if the leader is heading toward a cliff, so "study the leader," first. 

But, when the leader is genuinely leading - and a parade is forming - it's time to get in step, join it or organize your own parade going the same way.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Experiment

Another in a continuing series of Jay Trachman treasures:

There's nothing wrong with pounding home the "basics": call letters, frequency, your name, the station positioner or slogan. You've got to give people your "address," so they can get back to you. And, the theory goes, if they hear it enough times, just maybe they'll remember when the rating diary falls into their hands.

It may be true, but it's not the whole story.

So let's explore the topic in a little more depth...

Imagine you're at a party where you meet a lot of strangers. If you're like me, you'll forget most of them by tomorrow. Of those you remember, what sticks in your mind? Three principal things: name, appearance and personality.

Who will you remember? The ones who impress you in some way, either positively or negatively. People with whom you've carried on a conversation, found you're on more or less the same wavelength, felt you'd like to know them better. Or, the one who made the biggest fool of him or herself.

Now, try this fantasy: supposing you were introduced to a lot of people, several times. "I'd like you to meet Joe, Mary, Steve, Shirley and Andy.  That's Joe, Mary, Steve, Shirley and Andy. Got that? Joe, Mary, Steve, Shirley and Andy." An hour passes, and none of these people distinguish themselves from the rest of the crowd in any way that matters to you. By now, how many names do you think you'll remember? If you're like me, maybe one. (Usually, the most attractive woman.)

On the other hand, supposing, at this party, you make three new friends, and spend some time chatting with each one. Mentally, you hope to get together with them again after tonight. How many of *them* do you think you'll remember?

See my point? Let's re-cast this as a listener with a dial full of radio stations, punching the "seek/scan" button. And every time they stop at a new station, they hear the call letters, frequency or slogan. How many do you think they'll remember?

But now, our fantasy listener hears something that catches her attention:  her favorite song? Perhaps. Maybe a DJ who's saying something to which she responds emotionally. She likes what she's hearing; she enjoys the brief experience. I submit, this is the one station she will remember, because she is motivated. Motivation is more important than repetition in this process.

Why would a new listener want to remember your station so he or she could find their way back? Because you play the most songs in a row? Because you play the hottest hits? Or the most favorite oldies or the "truest" Country Music?

Don't make me laugh.

When everybody's playing more or less the same music, all in a row, you may think that your slogan or positioning statement is important to your listener, but the evidence is that he or she can't tell your station apart from all the others that are doing essentially the same thing.

Yet that's how 90% of the radio stations attempt to position themselves today. "Most hits, best variety?" If you were a listener with a choice between stations that play 10 in a row, 20 or 30 in a row, would this have meaning to you? What are you offering that he or she can't get anywhere else, and that has meaning to them?

The station must be doing something the listener can perceive as unique, and the DJ has to be talking about things that no one else in town is. Like... his/her own perceptions and responses to life, his experiences as a husband or wife, as a parent, a music lover, a shopper, a jogger, blogger, biker or bowler; above all, as a citizen of this place on this day.

Appeal to me as a fellow human being; that's what I need to motivate me to remember those call letters and that positioning statement.

No matter how many times you say it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Taylor Swift Breaks All The Boundaries

When Time Magazine reports Taylor Swift Has a New Song—Ex-Boyfriends Beware, St. Louis' alternative weekly reports Taylor Swift Just Took Her Pop Queen Throne. All Hail! and the photo of her you get then you simply Google her name is from an Indonesian newspaper site, you know something big is happening.

Jakarta Post


No doubt you've heard that her new single is #1 in one day on iTunes.

Other quick "We Are Never Ever" factoids:

Mediabase reports the song has already been heard by nearly 42 million radio listeners on Country, Top 40, Rhythmic, Hot AC and AC stations.

BDS indicates how deep the penetration has already been in less than two full days across North America:

The average radio station in all these formats has spun it more than five times already.  That average is skewed by the Big Machine-Clear Channel shared revenue relationship, since most Clear Channel stations played it once per hour in the 29 hours from after her Monday night fan Google+/You Tube webinar until late last night.  One Clear Channel country station played it every 20 minutes in multiple hours between midnight and 5 am.

What impact will this have?  Is it possible that "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" will debut on next week's spin charts at #1?

Country fans, historically, have reacted negatively to crossover airplay, as both Faith Hill and Shania Twain can attest.  After their amazing success on multiple charts in the late-90's, they never again were as easy an add for country radio as they were before it.

My favorite head-scratcher example of the phenomenon is Dolly Parton.  After "Islands In The Stream" with Kenny Rogers and of course "Nine To Five," she has not had a big hit like her pre-crossover successes and movie stardom.

If the amazingly talented and prolific Dolly's not country enough for our listeners, who could possibly be??

Topping five radio format airplay charts in less than two days is an amazing achievement.  In my lifetime only Elvis was able to do anything even comparable.

Clearly, Taylor is now much bigger than "country," which is terrific for her, because most likely she's going to have a very difficult time when it comes to listener research on her music if history is a reliable guide to the future.

So, Taylor, don't blame country music radio if we're slower to add your music in the future as we work hard to reflect the always-fickle tastes of country listeners.

You're in very good company.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Et Tu, Ramsey?

There is a spirited and intelligent debate going on at Mark Ramsey's blog in the comments section in response to his post FM on Mobile Phones? Be Careful what you Wish For.

I don't understand how Mark can cite the fact that Arbitron is still working out the complexities of measuring ear bud listening in PPM measurement as a reason not to have FM on smart phones at all.

Most of the other proponents and opponents can be grouped by their financial interests.  

Count me with Jeff Smulyan and the NAB.  My financial best interest, and perhaps yours will be served by making sure that analog radio's multi-billion dollar business continues for as long as possible, driven by the fact that more than nine of ten people in the U.S. and Canada use it every week, ten times the reach of streaming media.

Sure, let's keep working on digital radio too.  Make the product more listenable and unique.  Find a way to improve the financial model so that it's possible to make a comparable profit to FM and AM radio today while continuing to serve local communities with quality content.

On the other side:  CEA and CTIA.  If listeners can't get "free radio" anymore on FM/AM in their vehicles and mobile devices, they make more money since we'll be paying them for the bandwidth that analog radio makes so ubiquitous.  No wonder that they don't want us on their platforms.

Where Ramsey's opposition is coming from is less clear to me.  I assume it's idealism and a drive to push us all as rapidly as possible into the future, since his financial interests are supported by today's radio too.

Of course, the future is definitely coming at us lickedy split and we are in the midst of rebuilding business models to capitalize on it, but that's no reason to shut the doors and turn out the lights while radio just as it is today remains so important to so many folks (FM Chips in Cell Phones Survey Results - NAB).

I think Voltaire was right, Mark Ramsey.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Back To School Is Big

The August report from Big Research:

With school nearly in session, popular categories like Children’s Clothing, Shoes, Health & Beauty Aids, and Electronics are looking UPward over the next 90 days, according to the BIGinsight™ Diffusion Index. In addition, all other categories – save for seasonal Lawn & Garden – are poised for spending increases compared to last month, last year.

It appears that shoppers are maintaining a more optimistic stance this year when it comes to big ticket purchasing over the next six months (which, of course, includes the upcoming holiday season)…compared to Aug-11, purchase intentions are on the rise for computers, autos, housing, furniture, jewelry, mobile devices, major home improvements, and TVs, while digital cameras and vacation travel are relatively flat:

If you can't figure out why I think you'll be interested in these stats, we need to talk! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

You Go, Beau!

In the early 80's, I was PD at KMPS/Seattle and he was GM for what even way back then was clearly "Seattle's Best Rock," KISW.  The instant I heard his radio station I knew that this guy Beau Phillips was someone special and as I got to know his people my admiration grew.  He inspired them.  He challenged them.  He and his team created great radio.

Not surprisingly, Beau has been involved with some of the most impressive media launches and campaigns over the three decades since that time.

His Dial Global Networks exit interview with Radio Ink Magazine contains wisdom which will sustain his many industry fans (of which I am a big one) for a long time to come:
- Build a lasting brand. Radio jukeboxes can’t compete against stations who create an emotional bond with listeners. Engage listeners and create loyalty through clever personalities, topical and timely info, and music discovery.
- Stop trying to outsmart PPM.
- Invest in personalities. They are our biggest competitive advantage. Not one station in the Top 50 markets wins with “more music” in AM Drive.
- Focus on adding great content. Too much attention is being paid to eliminating anything that listeners might tune OUT. But not enough effort is made to add exciting content to encourage tune IN. The game is all about creating more listening “instances."
- Realize that you can’t "cut to success." Now that broadcasters are running lean operations, it’s time for Act II -- Growing The Stations. Look to brilliant stations like WTOP, KISW, and WBEB as your beacon. Successful companies know the winning formula is People, Product, Promotion, Profit…in that order. The shrink and starve approach just can’t sustain. You can’t, and will drive yourself crazy trying.

Take and live by this advice, radio, and your future will be very bright.  His own life example offers ample proof of that.

Thank you, Beau.  Best wishes on your next conquest!

We'll all be watching you very closely to see what inspires you and where you'll devote your endless energy and creativity next.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Commercial Radio News' "Slow Walk" Compared To Competing Media

Lawrence Stessin Distinguished Professor of Journalism and chair of the Department of Journalism, Media Studies, and Public Relations at Hofstra University, Bob Papper's annual TV and Radio News Staffing and Profitability Survey for 2012 reports that radio continues to make strides in the use of social media (click to download his pdf report), but we remain well behind television.

Papper:  "A year ago, radio soared in the use of social media; this time around growth was more like a slow walk.  All the categories rose, but, overall, the gains were mostly from stations already engaged in some social media doing more."
Overall, the use of Facebook in radio news rose another 10% in the last year (following last year's 10% increase).  Large and major market stations were much more likely to have Facebook pages than stations in small and medium markets.  Non-commercial stations led commercial ones.

Similarly, use of Twitter rose 9% from a year ago (which was up 12% from the year before).  But all of that increase came among "periodic" users of Twitter.  Both "constant" and "daily" use remained essentially unchanged.

Thanks, Bob.  We need your annual "wake up call."

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Things That No Longer Work

Thanks to Don Anthony for another terrific issue of "Mouth" and to "iconic Minneapolis radio deity," Dave Ryan of Clear Channel's KDWB, who weighs in on things that may no longer work on the radio. Can you add to his list?

"A couple months ago, I wrote an article for this fine publication about the things in radio that just don't really ever change. We talked about how there's at least one male whore on every air staff. (Usually the night guy) I mentioned how engineers tend to be some of the oddest people in the building. And how there's one person on every staff that you aren't quite sure exactly what they do. These are constants in the radio business." 

Later, at the urging of a friend, Ryan decided to make a list of what he thought no longer works on the radio:
  • "Stunt boys: Years ago, everyone had a "Goat Boy" who went out and got attacked by a police dog or went cliff-diving ... all for giggles. We don't do that anymore, because I really think it belongs to another era of radio. Today, listeners want to hear the star of the show ride a bull, get hit by a stun gun or have a finger cut off. Even the idea of saying, "Here's Xtreme Jamie out on the street, ready to get dragged behind a car" makes me cringe a little. It was incredibly fun radio back then, but just like Tom Green, it's time has passed."
  • "Endless Entertainment reports: Yes, we still do entertainment news every day. But we don't talk about everything under the sun ...We don't spend a lot of time on the Kardashians. Why? Two reasons: One, everyone else in the market is talking about that stuff. Someone once told me, "If all the restaurants on your street are selling steak, sell chicken." Offer your audience something different. "But Dave," you cry, "Our consultant tells us we have to talk endlessly about 'Biggest Loser.'" I know that. Cover it occasionally. But here's a question: "America's Got Talent" is a huge show. Tell me how much time they spend every week discussing the Kardashians or 'American Idol'? Of course it's none. Zero. Zip. The show is interesting on it's own. But take the argument some consultants make and apply it to "America's Got Talent" and by his estimation, it should be getting slaughtered in the ratings for not doing entertainment reports. Speaking of which, my second point is, make your show interesting enough with characters, plots, storylines and storytelling, that you don't need to rely on Hollywood gossip to fill up your four hours."
  • Double time checks: I put this in almost as a joke. Years ago, a consultant listened to our show and his only feedback? Do double time checks. Yep. "It's seven Oh five, five minutes past seven." Today, I'm not even sure time checks are necessary. Everyone has a cell phone in their hand or in their pocket. Turn it on and BOOM, there's the time. I still do them, probably more out of habit than anything else, but I'm not sure we need them. Same with weather forecasts. They can't hurt really, but it's there on everyone's cell phone.
  • Music beds: I think this is one of those things radio came up with 20 years ago and never really explained why they needed to exist. I used to have a zillion carts (remember them?) with music beds on a big giant rotating rack. Talk to callers? Use a music bed. Put a winner on the air? Use another one. Be very quiet and listen right now. Is there a music bed playing in the background of your life? When Oprah talked to Paris Jackson, was there a cool hip-hop instrumental in the background? Randy Lane told me one of the most compelling sounds on the radio can be that second or two of silence while someone is thinking and we're all wondering what they're going to say. A music bed can only take away from that.
Tomorrow, in Pt. 4, he addresses 'Characters and Being Cool.'

Monday, August 06, 2012

The "D" In HD Radio = "Darn?"

I have an Accurian HD Radio on my bedside table and have been carefully setting aside an hour with a cup of coffee for the past five weeks to listen closely to the replay of Robert Harris' fascinating five hour long "History Of The Gods" on CBC's Sunday Edition with Michael Enright

"The traditional record business is dying. What will happen when it goes?" 

By and large, I enjoy the additional choices the radio gives.  It brings me every Seattle FM station's programming times three and fairly-impressive sound.

The always-thought-provoking CBC program is broadcast on KOUW-FM HD2, with KUOW's main channel on HD1 and the BBC World Service 24/7 on HD3

Sure, I could have listened to it on CBC's web site, but the convenience of having that radio in my bedroom has been a terrific reminder for me that HD Radio could indeed be a part of radio's future, in spite of the fact that a tiny percentage of today's radio audience uses it in the wake of considerable promotion and increasing availability, due to the turnaround in American auto sales.

Suddenly, I feel a bit like Don Quixote.  After investing five hours of my time listening (building up to the show's climax in the last two minutes when it seemed like host Enright was about to tell me what was going to happen to the music business), suddenly the audio dropped completely.

I switched to HD1 and of course the normal KUOW analog FM programming was loud and clear.  HD3 was also coming in just fine, but HD2 was silent.  No signal. 

My Bainbridge Island bedroom is 14 miles from KUOW's 100,000 transmitter and tower atop Seattle's Capitol Hill.

Lesson learned.

I can't count on HD Radio when I really need it.

Up to now, I had always considered myself ahead of the curve technically as one of the only people on my block with an HD Radio, thinking that eventually everyone else would some day catch up with me.

Today, as I had to head to the Internet in order to reliably hear those terrific final minutes of the program on demand via my smart phone, I realized that my HD Radio-less friends had beaten me to the media future, while I - like the recording industry - was the one trying hopelessly to hold onto a past that's quickly vanishing.

My $200 "digital" bedside radio let me down and my smart phone which costs exactly the same amount rescued me.

It does everything my radio does (yes, it does have FM radio on it) and many things more as well.

What took me so long to figure that out?

Saturday, August 04, 2012

I Know How Local NPR, Glenn Beck, ESPN and Rush Affiliates Feel

While it's terrific to see a nationally-syndicated host active on the net, pulling his fans into his video content, I wish there was a way to do it through local affiliate websites and make sure that these network shows aren't replacing the relationship that still provides the bulk of their paychecks and gives them the reach with a direct connection to their listeners which replaces a consistent source of monitization with an unknown and less certain one.

If a national personality's online initiatives ultimately make their listeners stop using "radio" to hear, see, converse with them, what business are they in?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

It's Bad Enough That They Had A Fire

BBM Canada distributed a notice today, reporting on the PPM monthly data for Corus' CHQR/CFGQ-FM/CKRY-FM, Calgary, titled "Encoding Issue:"
As a result of a fire at the station, the signals for CHQR, CFGQ-FM and CKRY-FM were unencoded on July 11, 2012 for a period of approximately 28 hours.  The approximate start and end times of the incident are detailed in the PPM Technical Incident Report which is available on BBM’s secure website.

It's one thing to report the news.  It's quite another to BE the news.

Fortunately, the week 40-52 BBM survey is 13 weeks long, running from May 28 through August 26, releasing on September 6.

You have to know that today's Calgary monthly PPM release had to make some local Corus people's hair catch on fire and anyone who's measured by PPM these days had to feel some sympathy pains.

Let's hope that the final quarterly update gets back to normal for 'em.

Meanwhile, make a note:  in addition to a generator, plus all of the standby transmission and audio chain equipment it takes to have as a backup to be ready for anything, don't forget that backup encoder too (or when you go off your main audio chain, move your encoder as fast as possible to the redundant system).

At a time when more folks are turning to you for information, don't neglect to work as well to have that usage accurately measured.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Have A Nice Piece Of Pie!

Coady Diemar's Chris Ensley Terrestrial radio’s reach has remained relatively flat over the years. For example, in 2001 radio reached 95% of the U.S. 12+ population, and today it reaches 93%. However, over the same time frame the U.S. population has grown, and as a result, so too has radio’s weekly reach, as we show in the chart below. Arbitron recently estimated that radio reaches 241 million Americans over the age of 12 each week, and based on our estimates, we believe that reflects approximately 16 million incremental listeners relative to 2001, when we estimate the industry reached 225 million weekly listeners. 

TV viewing trends (the broadcast networks) typically experienced ratings declines in the mid-to high single digit range, but had made up for that through pricing increases. In the chart below, we look at time spent listening to terrestrial radio and note that in the first half of the last decade, time spent listening declines were very modest, roughly 1.2%-1.3% per year.