Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Online Listening To Audio Doesn't Hurt AM/FM Usage

In fact, among core country fans, it appears to increase it!

Your listeners are looking for you where ever they use audio media and that change is coming fast:

The national averages, of course, are fascinating but meaningless, really, except as a comparison to your local performance.  Are you ahead of/behind the curve on every data point?

There's only one way to know and that is to do local research.

- A&O&B Roadmap 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

Roadmap 2014: Country Listeners Are Increasingly Social

Sure, Facebook is big.  BUT there isn't one emerging social medium that isn't picking up more of our listeners on a daily basis.

(My Space?  What's THAT?)

The national averages, of course, are fascinating but meaningless, really, except as a comparison to your local performance.  Are you ahead of/behind the curve on every data point?

There's only one way to know and that is to do local research.

- A&O&B Roadmap 2014 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

"AM, FM, XM too.."

Even the most satisfied core listener sometimes gets pushed away by their favorite radio station doing something they don't like.

Where do they go when that happens?

A little less than half punch another preset.  One in four goes to their own digital player, but after that the other 2014 "second choices" are not what they used to be!

If you're not planning ways right now to prevent Luke Bryan from looking for things to rhyme with "Pandora, Slacker and iPod too" in his next single, it's time to start.

 - A&O&B Roadmap 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Country Radio's Diversity Problem

I have been writing about the coming of the Millenials into country's target for more than twenty years, so this week's revelations from Edison Research at the Country Radio Seminar should not come as a surprise to anyone who's been paying attention to our evolving target.

Today (from the country/new country section of Nielsen's State Of Audio Today 2014):
Tomorrow (from Edison's CRS research as reported by Inside Radio):

It's not going to be simple or easy as our creators of music open their sights beyond the traditional themes and sounds of America's South, as our personalities evolve to understand how to be relatable and entertain in broader ways and today's upper demos accept these changes.

Of course, it has to happen in a way that "country" remains uniquely "country" or we'll be surrendering the values which make us so appealing and strong, but anyone who would predict that it can't happen or won't work doesn't know our listeners very well.

The evolution has already begun, it's helping us grow right now.

The intelligent way to see and embrace this change is to see it as "country's diversity opportunity."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Roadmap 2014 Sneak Preview

More than 9,000 country radio listeners from nearly 100 radio stations participated in A&O&B's Roadmap 2014.  This is nearly double the number of stations whose listeners completed the online survey and an increase of 43% in sample size from 2013.
75% reside the USA and 25% live in Canada  Demos were fairly well-balanced, with huge growth in the under-35 cells:

13%  18-24
21% 25-34
19% 35-44
25% 45-54
16% 55-64

90% called a country station "their first choice."

Just 13% agreed with the stations that country music is worse than it used to be.

58% said they spend more than two hours per day with their favorite country station and 33% listened 1-2 hours daily.

72% called themselves very satisfied with their favorite country station.  Fewer than 1% said that they are "very dissatisfied" with the country station they listen to the most.

In short:  these are passionate fans of country music who use radio heavily.

The national averages are certainly fascinating to ponder, but the real utility of these numbers for A&O&B clients is to compare every data point in the study with their local listener perceptions to spot both problems and opportunities by knowing more about their audience.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bob Kingsley

What can you add, after...
  • Garth Brooks says:  "All of our greatest memories have his name attached to them."
  • David Nail:  "It was a great thrill to hear Bob introduce one of my songs.  I guarantee there was never a happier person to have the No. 40 record in the country."
  • Reba:  'Your countdown is such an important part of the DNA of country music."
And so many more luminaries added their tributes?

USA TodayMerle Haggard's If We Make It Through December was the first song to top the country chart when Kingsley became producer of American Country Countdown in 1974. Kingley took over as host of the program, which had been created as a country-music counterpart to the Casey Kasem-hosted American Top 40, in 1978. He hosted that show until 2006, then launched Bob Kingsley's Country Top 40 in 2006.  In all, 1,307 songs have topped the charts during Kingsley's run on the two countdown shows, and Garner presented Kingsley with "the world's largest No. 1 plaque," representing every one of those singles.

All AccessBecause KINGSLEY is also one of the most humble of radio legends, his wife, NAN and GRAND OLE OPRY VP/GM PETE FISHER had to trick KINGSLEY in attending, under the guise of the OPRY’s 89th anniversary celebration.

As usual for the always-giving Bob, the event was a benefit for a wonderful charity.  The Opry Trust Fund.

I am fortunate to say that Bob has been my friend for at least 35 of those 40.  In fact, for 25 years he and I talked new music each Monday evening starting when we both worked for Drake Chenault in Los Angeles.  He was the programmer and marquee voice of "Great American Country."

When I tell folks that story, they ask why we stopped talking new music each week, and there was only one reason.

Bob Kingsley never said anything negative about any artist or song.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Catch A Code

A&O&B has been ranking the most played songs at the end of every year and then ranking that list by how each one researched with listeners.

It is always instructive to understand the differences between what listeners rated highest compared to what radio played the most.

Here is another important use of those stats, as illustrated by the top testing song of each year since the turn of the century:

2013:  Blake Shelton - Boys ‘Round Here
2012:  Luke Bryan - I Don’t Want This Night to End
2011:  Blake Shelton - God Gave Me You
2010:  Miranda Lambert - The House That Built Me
2009:  Billy Currington - People Are Crazy
2008:  Kenny Chesney - Don’t Blink
2007:  Carrie Underwood - Before He Cheats
2006:  Rodney Atkins - If You’re Going Through Hell
2005:  Toby Keith - As Good As I Once Was
2004:  Tim McGraw - Live Like You Were Dying
2003:  Dixie Chicks - Travelin’ Soldier
2002:  Alan Jackson - Drive
2001:  Diamond Rio - One More Day
2000:  Faith Hill - Breathe

It's a reminder of how one only thing consistent about country fan music tastes is change.

Superstars today are a completely different list than just a few years ago.  What seemed so new and edgy a few years ago now sounds very mainstream. 

Hopefully, each year - at the very least, if not more often - you revisit the song types, sound coding, era codes, special artists and A-B-C artist codes in your music system.

If it has been awhile, here's a fast reminder that you may have all of your music categories completely up to date, but if your coding isn't, you're playing today's hits with yesterdays policies and priorities, making your sound target older than you believe it is!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What's In It For You?

When it comes to excuses on "why I don't need to do that," I've heard them all.

1.  "I don't need to do remotes or other personal appearances.  It kills the theater of the mind I create.  I'd prefer to use the magic of radio and have them picture me the way they want to.  If they meet me face to face, that's gone."

Nice try.  My theory on this one is that this person is naturally shy and insecure.  Maybe they got into radio so they could be outgoing and be themself without ever having to face rejection.

As their manager/coach, assure them that everyone is insecure and shy and those of us in the entertainment business can't be as successful as our potential if we don't face and overcome that demon.

Sometimes you simply have to force them out of that comfort zone, placing a set number of remote broadcasts and public appearances in their employment agreement so they have no choice but to do them if they want the job.

Make them get out in front of the broadcast desk close to people, looking each listener they meet directly in the eye and repeat the listener's name as least three times as they interact with them. 

Often, this alone fixes the problem as they begin to realize that people who come wanting to meet them enjoy their personality and they have nothing to fear.

2.  "I don't do social media.  My entire show is social."

No, it's not.  It's a broadcast.  If you get too personal on AM/FM radio by playing every request people ask for, using every phone call you get on air without editing them, your ratings are going to go down because your show will be loved by the folks who call, but boring to the mass audience.

If being on the radio for you is just to have people call you and tell you how wonderful you are because you do your show just for them, you're never going to be as successful if you talk to everyone, but do it with a "one to one" vocabulary.

Your task when the microphone is open is to curate everything that is going on right now.  Choose only the best material and maximum value to the listener who chooses to sample you.

Keep them listening longer by being as entertaining and engaging as possible.

Use all of your social tools to build those personal relationships one person at a time.

Tailor which social platforms you use to the tastes of each individual listener.  Use them all, but don't broadcast one post to all of them.  Consider what makes a user of each platform choose that one and make sure they know you understand what makes them unique and special, not just a number in your database.

Need a good example of how this is done?  I have one word for you:  Ellen.

If her great example along with those intellectual/logical explanations don't work, I go for the jugular and tell the personality that failing to use every medium at their disposal in exactly the way its users expect will cost them competitively in the ratings.

To #1:  if you don't get out into the community and also use social and expect the audience to grow every day, you better be the most consistently entertaining personality available to your target in every minute of every day so that they never get tempted to try anything else.  Cume is always going down unless you work hard to keep it growing.

To #2:  If you knew exactly who had ratings diaries or was carrying a Personal People Meter right now, wouldn't you want to take extra care to find out what they are doing, what they like and dislike?

Try this experiment:

Go to the mall and randomly ask people if they have ever participated in the radio ratings.  If you ask 100 people, you'll be lucky to find five who say yes.

At your next public appearance or remote broadcast, ask the very same question (do NOT do it on social platforms or you'll probably get delisted!) and you'll find that as many as one in ten (or even more) answer in the affirmative.

The point is not to do stealth marketing, but to prove to your recalcitrant talent:

The people who reach out to you socially and come out to say hello to you are more than twice as likely as the average person to participate in the radio ratings when they receive that call.

Don't you want as real and close a relationship with them as you can possibly have?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Impersonally Personal

Creating universally relatable emotional experiences driven by personal stories:  that's what the best of AM/FM audio media does to engage more than 90% of the population every day of the week

You can only do that by talking to as large a cume audience as possible - one person at a time - when the microphone is open.  That's called intimacy, and it's our greatest strength.

Each listener feels that you are talking only to her personally, even if he is riding in a van pool with six others.  At some level, they know they are an "audience," but due to theater of the mind it feels like you're talking only to each individual.

When the mic is off, all other hours of the day, live appearances and social media require a completely different approach.

Change gears.  Genuinely talk to each person.  Listen to his story, being as personal in response as possible.  Make each individual who "likes" and "follows" you feel as if you want to get to know him by name, face to face.  This is what makes being an AM/FM personality so important.  As a bonus:  it feels good to do.

There is no other medium that can equal the real, enduring relationships built on mutual trust that doing it consistently well creates.

Monday, February 10, 2014

It's Not Personal

There's a battle of the vehicle and mobile brewing.

No wonder.  Edison Research president Larry Rosin in New York at IAB Digital Audio Agency Day last week:  “We don’t see a lot of evidence of people listening to less AM-FM radio.  It’s that they’re listening to more internet radio.”  He says the research continues to show more ways to listen to audio is driving up total consumption.  

Inside Radio
created the chart from Rosin's presentation.

Adding even more credibility, as Pollack Media's Pat Welch blogged, that the 89-90% number comes pretty close to Nielsen's (92%) estimate also just released.

The percentage jumping off the pages is 18-34's use of "personalized radio" and "on-demand music" twice as much. 

“The main advantage of AM-FM remains very much in the car.” Rosin points out that 81% of 18-34s listen to AM-FM while in cars and trucks, compared with just 30% who listen to web radio in that listening location.  In other locations, Millennials report listening to web radio while at home than those who turn on AM-FM (63% vs. 48%).  At work, 41% told Edison they listened to web radio in the past week compared to 31% who said broadcast radio.  “It all breaks down on the nature of the work.  If people are facing a computer screen all day, they’re very likely to be listening to internet radio.”  Digital listening also scored higher among young adults in locations like at the gym, walking around or on public transport. 

“In all of these other (non-car) locations internet radio is being used more,”
  according to Rosen.  Edison’s research found reasons include more choice, clearer signal, song ID, more convenient, stations outside their local area, and live event listening.  At the same time, 40% of those same folks told Edison that they’re actually listening to more AM-FM than a year earlier and another 40% said that they're listening about the same amount of time.  Just 20% of 18-34s claimed to be listening to AM-FM less at the same time 70% of them are using more web radio too.  “Audio is a booming category right now and young people are spending more time with more audio options than they have ever before.”

The findings are based on a 2013 online survey of 3,016 people age 12 funded by TuneIn, Spotify and Pandora.  A video of the entire day is posted on Kurt Hanson's RAIN website.

Jukeboxes are not new.  Top 40 radio was famously created when a smart programmer back in the 50's noticed that the majority of people were putting coins in the machine to hear the same songs over and over.

People have been willing to spend money to hear their favorite tune immediately for as long as live performers have been willing to play requests.

AM/FM radio has never been about personalization.  It was smart of the researchers to create new categories of "radio" for this study.  Our success - the "need" we can still fill better than anyone else - is building community with information, universals, relatables and entertainment value.  I don't see anything in this new info on uses of emerging technology to change that.

It would be a mistake for today's AM-FM radio to try to be something new technologies can do better, just as it has been to cut the resources that create the things nothing else can do as well.

The quality of the service - what our talent talk about and music we select - provides to them has more to do with how much time listeners give us than competing technologies.

Those are the best weapons to take to this inpending on-the-road battle.

We all had better take that very personally.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

It Was Just One Number

I know that it takes three measurements in a row to create a trend and one stat can easily be a wobble, but when you're looking at an average of every single country station rated nationally by Nielsen slipping even just .2 after several years of growth can be worrisome, as I blogged last year when the country format "Radio Today" was released.
  • Was country over-reacting to the exciting growth of the last few years in teens and 18-34, perhaps turning off Gen X?
  • If so, would the format that has resisted fragentation for decades by targeting broadly across all narrow demos within 18-49 and especially 25-54 begin to split?
Selling country is tough enough without having to explain why your station wins in the 12-34 age groups while the other guys dominate 35-54.

Perhaps it was my writing last year.  Or, maybe it was just savvy programmers who saw the same thing I did in their local numbers and adjusted.  Or, maybe the new music coming out from artists, writers and producers in the past year was more mass appeal.

Whatever it was, Nielsen had some good news for us last week in what is now called "Audio Today 2014" (each report uses data from the year prior, so Fall 2008 became Radio Today 2009, Fall 2009 became 2010, etc):

Country's 25-34 Share Trend 
Fall 2008:  11.4 *note that this was Country only, we did not start combining Country + New Country until the next edition of Radio Today
Fall 2009:  12.3
Fall 2010:  12.2
Fall 2011:  12.8
Spring 2012:  12.6
Spring 2013: 13.1

After four years of upticks in the center of 25-54, that slip last year had me concerned and now the new stat's move forward is a big relief to see.

It's called "Gen X" because it's a smaller proportion of the population, of course, so the fact that it's contribution to country's cume is lowest of all adult generations is to be expected.

Time spent listening losses drove last year's dip and it's exciting to see it returned to consistent this year with the demo cells on both sides of it, helping support the rebound.

Of course, the latest uptick is just one number too and can't be called a trend yet either, so you'll want to keep a close eye on all narrow cells in our target in local research.

Thanks to this good news from Nielsen (country ranks #2 in teens, #1 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54 and #2 55-64 - exactly the demo balance our sellers expect from us) we all have earned the right to gloat a bit right now.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

When It Comes To Cross Media Usage, Keep Your Eyes On Canada

Since BBM Canada makes use of the PPM to measure both major market TV and radio usage, Canada's media ratings company is in an excellent position to compare apples to apples in all forms of encoded audio and video usage.

BBM has three initiatives underway:
  • BBM started a test last August to determine whether or not the PPM radio meter panel can support Internet streaming measurement (i.e., separating Internet streaming from live broadcast currently reported together) and to look into the volume of Internet streaming usage by radio broadcaster audiences.

    Twenty-two Toronto member stations started participating in a test late last summer, separately encoding their online radio stream.  Now, 25 Toronto radio stations are encoding both their terrestrial and streaming programming.

    Then, in November eighteen stations in Vancouver Central (Metro) Area were added to the test and as of December, sixteen stations have participated in Montreal Central (Franco and Anglo). 

    Individual station-level data have been presented to all participating broadcasters in each market by BBM, but the data is not yet currency for public release.

    However, the early headline is quite promising, boding well for the future.

    The combination of over the air PPM usage average minute audience and encoded streaming appears to increase radio's total week 12+ audience by about 3%.  OF course, there is great variability in online streaming between stations.

    BBM told its member stations this week that overall the highest percentage of online listening occurs during the workday at 5%.

  • The second initiative is to report radio tuning and television viewing in a single database. 

    BBM’s Cross Media Database was tested in the past few months, and will be released in May with data back to September 2013.  Quarterly releases will occur until August, and then Cross Media will be released monthly.

    Cross Media Data is not currency as it is based on Central Areas, and Television currency is based on Extended Markets, but this single source data should have many other uses.  Data will be at the respondent level so users will have a lot of flexibility looking at tuning between radio and television from the same sample.

  • The third initiative, Non Linear Measurement, is in a proof of concept test.  This is designed to report media that is accessed from servers.  The initial test is for Video on Demand, but this technology to extend PPM to user-controlled access will have many other uses in radio and television.   Television broadcasters have installed the software based encoders and will insert the PPM codes as the material is loaded to their servers.  Data should be available for industry assessment mid-2014.  BBM is the only measurement organization able to measure Non Linear consumption in its panel.  BBM already reports all live streaming, so addition of non-linear will give users a full view of consumption of their programming regardless of the platform. 
These initiatives extend BBM measurement across media, and much deeper into media now reported.  It should be clear in a few months how these datasets can be used.

Organizations south of the 49th parallel working in this same area have a lot to learn from our Canadian friends right now.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Playing Catch Up

CBS and other major group owners are working with Nielsen Catalina Solutions to demonstrate the power of multi-media usage to help marketers tailor advertising across platforms in the belief that it will ultimately improve radio's revenue shares.

Yesterday, Clear Channel confirmed that it is “far along” in the process of working with measurement partners to define next-generation cross media measurement for audio. The company didn't disclose which researcher it is using, but EVP of insights, research & analytics Radha Subramanyam told Inside Radio the work “will lay the foundation for how the medium is looked at in the 21st century” and provide “a true read of what is going on in the ecosystem.”

It wouldn't be surprising to learn that Cumulus is working with Triton Digital on something similar.
Clear Channel, meantime, says it is “far along” in the process of working with measurement partners to define next-generation cross media measurement for audio. The company hasn’t disclosed its measurement partners but EVP of insights, research & analytics Radha Subramanyam says the work “will lay the foundation for how the medium is looked at in the 21st century” and provide “a true read of what is going on in the ecosystem.” - See more at:

As more media buying is done transactionally by computers talking to each other the data coming from new media measurement initiatives means, hopefully, that our sellers will no longer need to overcome old media buyer stereotypes that have meant radio fails to get its fair share of the media usage pie.

Solid data is crucial in this effort and the combined power of on line, at home and away from home/mobile, I'll bet, will support something anyone who engages daily with people who use radio has known for a very long time:  they actively and heavily use audio entertainment while multi-tasking throughout their media day and that improves the return on investment of audio advertising.

Hopefully, it won't be long until these efforts are peer reviewed, coordinated and accredited so that the buying community gets consistent, believable numbers from everyone concerned.

There's too much at stake to get this wrong.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Seven Words

Q:  My listeners say almost all of the things you cited in your previous post when I talked to them by phone, text and on social media, but I agree with your point that when we montage them in radio station imaging they often do sound inauthentic.  What to do?

A:  The trouble with those typical multi listener-voiced self-promotion images isn't just the choice of verbiage. 

In fact, I borrowed those benefit statements from real listener promos that came from things actual folks really did say to their favorite stations.  The lack of genuineness comes from the length of them combined with the fact that what were stated as simple phrases when each listener said them to a personality come across as unbelievably lengthy compound-complex sentences when they get edited together.

1.  As you employ listener voice testimonials, apply the seven letters (W-A-R-P-A-S-T) and then go one step farther.  Imaging should talk in telegrams.

2.  Keep listener testimonials short and simple:  seven words at most.

Monday, February 03, 2014


An axiom of today's marketing is that radio listeners respond to testimonials.

The best place to get them, of course, is by recording every interaction with listeners and as much as possible using real people giving real endorsements of real personalities, benchmarks and positions.

However, sometimes the real people don't sound "real" or believable so it's tempting to write statements for them.

Like:  "... always tells the titles and artists of the songs they play..."

Before putting it on the air, ask yourself "would a real person actually say this?

"I'd been listening all day at work, and ... really makes the day go better..."

Would a real person actually say this?

"Everyone at work agrees....'s new policy of only stopping the music twice an hour is GREAT..."
Would a real person actually say this?

"I start my day at 5 am, love the fun of ..... all morning long..."

Would a real person actually say this?

"At our house we all agree...if you don't listen to ..... you're missing something fun...something...dependable...something uniquely (town)..."

Would a real person actually say this?

"....a whole lotta fun and a whole lotta music!"

Would a real person actually say this?

"...more FUN in the morning and most music all day..."

"It's a radio bungeejump at ......  I depend on it."
"  ...... really does stop the music just twice an hour..."
"... LOVE that (brand) music...and I count on ..... to keep me up to date on (town).  .... news is so dependable that they win awards.  So...when .... says something, I take it to the BANK."
"I love the  ..... people you can trust because they really know (town)...reliable news, weather, community service, sports....great music variety, a better selection and long song sets...
"There's always another extra long song set just minutes away..."
"(brand) plays more (star 1)...more (star 2)...more (star 3)...
"... is perfect at work..."
"........the best music means I listen longer.  I'm an all day listener..."
".... makes me want to dance"

Would a real person actually say this?

Seven letters to post on the wall of the studio where you produce station imaging:  WARPAST.