Monday, June 30, 2014

Local Relevance

Great radio stations are peopled with performers who can take the day-to-day aspects of their home market and incorporate them into everything they do.

You can’t achieve this with lip-service. 

There’s only one way to create this image and that is by being actively involved in the civic spirit that unites the market.

Reflect the vibes and values that make the city special and do so genuinely. 

The listener can sense an impostor. 

Weave yourself into the fiber of your town’s culture, sports and information tastes.  Achieve that and you’ll produce big results.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Now that PPM has proven the average radio station’s highest usage daypart is afternoon, it’s not possible to simply judge a morning and midday personality by their daypart's ratings alone.
  • Does morning drive attract enough early morning cume recycle their audience into midday and afternoon?  (folks tuning to radio at home before 7 am, listen several hours per day more than the average person - who now starts their day at home with television and only turns to radio when they get in the car, so those very early radio at home listeners help the station all day)
  • Does your morning audience grow after 8 am, as listeners arrive at work?  (many do not, as a station's cume switches into at work station mode)
  • Does the midday talent take whatever cume given to them in their first quarter hour and avoid dips in their quarter hour by quarter hour and day by day audiences (that requires an understanding of the best places to put the stickest content)?
A morning show and midday host is successful when they not just beat their competitors head to head, but when a large percentage of the cume audience is actually returned to the station for the next day part.

Evenings and overnights must do the same thing for the next morning show's audience.

Listener retention is about both eliminating irritants and entertaining content, acting like a user magnet in every minute.

That is how we must attack our success.

Something To Say

Jay Trachman wrote this in August 1995 and I think it's still relevant today:

I heard the Classical version of the "paid-by-the-word" jock this week:  "That was the Piano Concerto #1 in the key of B-flat minor, Opus 23, by the composer Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky..." He's soul-mate to the jocks who say "Ten minutes before the hour of 12..." and "The temperature in Metroville is 79 degrees; the temperature in Burbtown is 77 degrees and the temperature outside, right now, is 78 degrees, looking for a high today of..." (We know it's degrees and if we didn't, we knew it after the first time... and we didn't think you meant the temperature inside the studio!)

Where did we get the idea that adding unnecessary words makes us sound better? Unless your audience is mainly people who speak English as a second language, the opposite is true. The fewer words we can use to ourselves, the more significant things we can say and be heard saying.

These people are first cousins to the jocks who read the sports scores -- all the scores -- because it's something to say... regardless of whether any of his/her listeners care about the teams involved... And to the ones who read both the local and regional weather bureau forecasts verbatim, followed by the extended forecast, God help us, all in the name of "something to say." Add to this group the ones who "pound home" the station slogans and positioners -- often adding one or two of their own -- more often than they're required -- because it's "something to say."

These are some of the more obvious over-talkers, but there's a more insidious form of the same sin: writing your own raps, and then failing to edit them for word efficiency. If a bit really takes sixty seconds for the setup, body and kicker, well, okay... But if it could be done in fifteen -- you've just wasted enough time for another whole bit! No wonder consultants like Jaye, Mike and Becky come in and shut these guys & gals up! No wonder you often get the impression there are only two kinds of jocks -- those who have nothing to say, and those who won't shut up!

Here's a clue: you are not paid to talk on the radio. You are paid to provide entertainment and information to a listener. The information, in order to be worthwhile, has to be something of likely interest to your listener. If there isn't any, why give it?  If it takes ten seconds to convey, how will you be perceived, when you take thirty seconds to say it?

"When am I supposed to do my entertaining?" jocks ask me. "The PD doesn't want us prattling on during stop sets; I've got to do the weather, the positioning statement and maybe a PSA and then it's time to get back into music!"

The secret is in compressing your words. Don't say the conditions three times in your forecast, if they're going to be consistent through the period: "Cloudy through Wednesday..." does it just fine, and is more likely to be heard and understood, than "Partly cloudy today; partial overcast tonight; then partly cloudy tomorrow..."

PSAs can be compressed routinely. Then, when you get one you really relate to, you can take the luxury of expressing some emotion about it, without appearing "too wordy."

This is such an easy problem to fix. All you have to do is believe in the concept of word-efficiency, and listen to your own air check once in awhile.

You can hear the wasted words. The next day, eliminate them. Oh, you may find a few hanging on because they've become habit... But over the course of a few weeks, listening to your air checks daily, you can wash them all out.

It's a principle newscasters have discovered, but a lot of us never seem to have caught onto the lesson: the shorter you make each bit, the more time you have for others. The more you compress each routine informational bit, the more real entertaining you'll have time for. And the less likely that you'll be perceived as "too wordy."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Ideally, algorithms driving what should be the user experience would drive each of us farther apart from one another into individualized, customized experiences, driven by our unique values, past behavior and preferences.

So, why does Amazon tend to give us all the identical “people who purchased … also bought” titles for the New York Times best seller list and Pandora tend to play popular hits instead of delving ever deeper into undiscovered tunes of the type I appear to enjoy?

It seems that popularity and mass appeal may have their finger on the scale, creating a less personalized selection.

I think this is why radio’s research-driven music playlists based on known target groups who are large enough to build a radio format around so often prove to be personal enough for the nine out of ten music fans who still choose to use radio for such long periods of time every day.

We’re personalized enough.  Plus we have something else that Pandora makes no attempt to achieve. 

Radio format listeners relate to their favorite artists, personalities and stations as part of a local community which validates who they are, enables to work together to make everyone’s lives better.

It’s the human touch, and maybe some day computer scientists will find a way to automate that, but I have my doubts. 

There is a word for feeling like you’re relating to another real person and then discovering that you’ve been interacting with a software program:  creepy.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Another Day, Another Form

If you've been reading my blog for very long, you no doubt know that I love forms.  They organize and create systems, making for consistency.

Here's a good one 97 Country/Lakeland PD Mike James created back when he programmed WQIK/Jacksonville:

I am sure Mike, always competitive, has come up with much better ones than this many times over, which is why I feel free share it now with you. 

We all get in ruts after doing the same things for too long.

Is it time to suggest a new prep form for your team?  Sometimes that's all it takes to reinvent and refresh for presentation and content.

5 Ways To Build Loyalty To Any Radio Show

From old pal Cliff Dumas who doesn't call himself a "talent coach," but prefers "talent mentor:"

1.    Every break in PPM stands alone, so each break must be a positive, fun and entertaining experience for the listener .
2.    Create memorable benchmarks for horizontal, day-to-day listening.
3.    Build ideas around personal and pop culture topics that create talk. Innovation fuels greater occasions of listening.
4     Develop short term "story arcs" around relevant content that carry people to the next day. (Can’t be missed moments) In PPM, listening longer is really about occasions of listening verses lengthening time exposed on a certain day.
5.    Seize moments and discover opportunities to reflect and showcase our characters through relevant news and pop culture events relatable to all.

I'll have a good form to use as you evaluate these things tomorrow.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Weather (Or Not?)

Everyone has a smart phone, so why bother with time checks and weather forecasts?

Sure, we can all hit the screen of our mobile device and get the entire week's forecast.  Yes, it can be set like an alarm clock and it has the time, day and date right there.

So, you should stop doing those things on the radio?

If you do, you simply communicate to your listener that the things they "need" each morning aren't important to you.

Yes, I know it gets harder since "double time sells" (7-10, 10 after 7) probably don't make any sense today.

And, telling me the obvious (clouds today, cloudy tonight, most cloudy tomorrow, considerable clouds tomorrow night) is just a waste of my time.

The basics still apply, but the way you do them, who does them and how can't be as rote and repetitive back when radio was the only source.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Every Voice On Your Radio Show Must Agree On

  • Who’s the leader?  You can't be Letterman, Colbert or Katie Couric.  Be who you are, but if you are the lead character, set the tone for the entire program, control the content, production values and momentum.  You can’t win if two players of your soccer team acts like they both are the goalie.
  • Who’s the sidekick?  This is an extremely important role that might even get as much or more mic time as the lead character, but Fred Armisen doesn't try to be Seth Meyers.  Roots takes their part very seriously but never forgets that it's Jimmy Fallon's show.  This may be a more difficult role that playing the lead, requiring quick wits and restraint.
  • Who plays the foils?  This person may not even be a full time employee.  News? weather? traffic? sports?  The more people involved in your performance, the more important that the leader understand the role of ringmaster isn’t to take too much time, but to seamlessly glue the pieces together.
  • Individual vocal character for everyone.  Who listens to be sure it's always clear who's talking and people aren't talking over one another?
  • Humor, especially jokes:  don’t do them unless it feels comfortable and natural.  One person needs to make that call, directing relevance to the target, locale, pacing, production value, theater of mind, in’s and out’s -- to be sure a fistfight doesn’t break out with the mic open.  A bar fight may be fun once in awhile, but not as a way to bring the average person back to "your place" day after day, hour after hour.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Shhh.. Don’t Tell Your Social Media Followers This

1,  The interactions are for the benefit of your radio audience.  Your listener must feel as if they are a part of the online conversation.

2.  Encourage the listener to speak to you on their preferred social platform, telling their stories.  Their followers and friends don’t want to hear their friend interrupted by a radio personality.  Respond, react, support, engage.  They’ll like you if you add relevant content which moves them emotionally.  Your goal is not to impress them, it’s to get them to listen to the radio, go to your blog, your station website and sign up for your email newsletter.

3.  If someone shares something entertaining, message them and ask for their phone number so you can contact them and get them to get that story so you can record it, edit out all the extraneous chatter.  Don't forget that you're in radio, not social media, as your primary job.  You don’t want listeners to your show to get bored with “hello, how are you, thanks for giving me your phone number, etc.

4.  Edit laughs, team reactions and signs into and out of bits recorded perviously.  It’s even OK to cut a good laugh or clever rejoiner from one listener and cut it into one from another listeners as long as it flows well and sounds “live.” 

Social is a tool. It’s there to add immediacy and localism to your audio performance where the majority of your audience experiences you and the better your final product, the higher your usage and memorability (ratings) will be.

And, be sure to "friend" and "follow" me, so I can see how well you do it all.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Selling Hits? Or Self-Interest?

“This is an unjust system that must be changed.” -- Lee Thomas Miller, songwriter/president of Nashville Songwriters Association International

“Every one of you has a vested interest in some part of the status quo, and every one of you is railing against some aspect of the status quo.” -- Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican of California.

I read the Peter Schweizer book "Extortion," so don't blame me for thinking that perhaps "here we go around again."  Last week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing was probably just another turning of the usual wheels.  Sound Exchange lobbies its friends and one-sided meetings are held in the chambers of Congress.  So, the NAB lobbies radio’s friends in Washington.  And, for yet another year, hopefully from radio's perspective a bill gets sidelined after more hearings are dutifully held. 

A second music licensing hearing is scheduled for June 25, with witnesses from ASCAP, the radio broadcasters, record labels and others, as well as Rosanne Cash

I think I know where she stands and I'll bet you know where I do.  It’s happened so many times over the years that it’s easy for both sides to get complacent.  If that happens and one year "opposition" (lobbying) doesn’t step up, legislation could actually pass.  Which is why it's more than a little comforting to see Cox now join several major radio groups in a direct deal with a major Nashville label.  A change in the political routine will be welcome and hopefully more reasonable heads are starting to prevail. 

Both sides could recognize that there’s a reasonable, fair middle ground that may settle the matter for once and for all. 

At least I did, until Michael Huppe at the New Music Seminar dropped a bomb, rhetorically asking "if FM radio went away tomorrow, would music sales go down or up?” displaying a chart that purported to show FM radio hurts music sales.

If he had admitted labels were asleep at the switch back when RCA owned Napster, peer to peer file sharing hurt music sales and then they gave a third of each sale to iTunes, he could have built some credibility with me, but FM radio?  Huh?  Trying to rewrite history by distorting facts makes it seem like he's not serious and not a win-win! 

The CMA has plenty of genuine research on all sorts of country music consumer bahavior including this from several years ago, directly contradicting that assertion with country radio fans, for example:

For my entire career, I worked as though radio, artists, labels, publishers and anyone who makes a living from music were all in the same business, promoting one another's best work. 

Creating new music hits is good for all of us.  Radio listeners hear them and buy 'em.  It's been that way for what seems like forever.

I know it, and so does anyone who follows the money in the music industry does too (I hope).

NAB probably has even more recent and relevant charts. 

In the upcoming hearing, someone will doubtless ask the music industry what percentage of their marketing budgets are spent on pursuing radio airplay.  Maybe they will even have some fancy graphs to show those millions that could be saved by promotion and marketing departments if it ever failed to drive sales.

After it's revealed what a large and still-productive number that is, someone should explain to Huppe that radio and the music business work best as a team.  Tearing that long-standing partnership apart with patently self-serving exaggerations won't be good for either music professionals or radio.

Artists and labels can make much more money from selling their hits, merch and concert tickets by use of radio as partners in promotion than they can distorting facts in order to sell music licenses.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Happy Father's Day

106.5 CTQ/Sarasota's Maverick Johnson shares a little magic for this weekend, a reminder of the power we all have to impact one another positively:

"I lost my Dad on July 26, 2011... I have always lived my life on the radio. No greater test of that, than in discussing losing my Dad with my audience.  Well, Fast Forward... At the end of yesterday's show, I received a call from a Woman who has listened to me for years. Why was she calling? She wanted my advice. She just lost her Dad 2 weeks ago. She wanted to know how I felt and what to do, on her first Father's Day, without her Dad.... I was stunned.. She remembered me talking about losing my Dad. She wanted my advice.   So this morning, I told the story of her call and her questions. I gave my simple advice and how I have coped with my loss, and then I opened up the phones. It was a great show.... Tears in my eyes for a good part of it (mind you).

"Jaye, I received several emails about this morning's Father's Day topic... This one (below) choked me up the most... So, I thought I would share... "

To: Johnson, Maverick
Subject: Father's Day

Just heard you talking about Father's Day on the radio and brought me to tears.  My son lost his dad 4 years ago when he was just 6 years old.  I can remember picking him up on his last day of school not knowing how to tell him his dad was gone.  Two weeks later, it was Father's Day.  We went to the cemetery to take flowers.  On the way home, I went to McDonald's to get him a cheeseburger.  He sat there so quiet just looking at his cheeseburger.  I asked "What's wrong Jordan?"  He said "Daddy always ate my pickles."  Then he asked "Do you think they give daddy pickles in heaven?"  I said "I'm sure he gets all the pickles he wants."  So now every father's day its a trip to see his dad and a cheeseburger after.  I know its such a little thing but it means so much to my son.

Thank You

To:  Lori
From: Mav

"Hi Lori, Thank you so much for listening. I truly appreciate you taking the time to email me and your kind words.  I must say, Your story brought me to tears.... What a special thing for you and your son... Next time I go to McDonalds, I'm ordering extra pickles... just for Jordan and his Daddy!  God Bless and please Have a Great Day this Sunday!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Saying Farewell To One Of The Best

I have loved Lee Rogers for more than three decades.

From Seattle to Billings, San Diego, Minneapolis, Jacksonville, Portland and other radio markets he enriched hundreds of thousands of lives. He knew how to entertain, but more than that he gave everything he had to his audiences and communities. He made Wapato very, very proud by living life to the full every day.

So, when I was visiting him a couple years ago, I went with him to the Phoenix VA Hospital to wait with him during his appointment.  He spotted this guitar in the lobby and jumped at having his photo with it.

Lee loved guitars, nightclubs, country music, radio, family and his many, many friends with myriad associations from each of those things.  To say that he was bigger than life and a people person would be gross understatements.

I learned this morning that, after two more debilitating strokes in just the last few days, the guy who told the crowd that he'd take a bullet for me as he was being enshrined into the 2011 Country Radio Hall Of Fame class left us today at the age of 67.

Lives are better for having known Lynn "Lee" Rogers!

I count myself as richer for having been one who is proof of that.

Guest Commentary On Radio's Engagement Goals

Lately, every time I click on something, especially a link on Facebook, I have to sit through a commercial that's up to 30-seconds in length.  It's getting rarer and rarer that you get an ad where you can bail out after 5-seconds.

Yesterday, I wanted to stream a station and was greeted with a 15-second spot for the Washington Lottery.  But the stream died and I had to restart it, only to hear that exact spot again.  Without getting into all the reasons why, I had to hear that exact commercial 6 times within 5 minutes.  UNCLE!

Not all, but a lot of these ads are being bonused to stations' best advertisers.  So, if we're GIVING them away, why not stick to the shortest ones -- the 10s?  I've seen them cross my desk and it is frequently the option of the AE to select which spot the station can use. 

Have we reached a time when the sales department no longer thinks about the listener and what used to be part of what we called Listener Fatigue?  The Internet is not like a radio station where the listener knows he/she is waiting for music and can turn the radio down, mentally tune out, or literally tune out.   But when people click onto a link on the Internet, it's literally in your face.  You're sitting at a computer monitor or tablet with your nose pressed against a video screen, so it's difficult to escape the ad without shutting down the browser.  On top of that, you're liable to get the exact same ad over and over if you are clicking around to various sites.  I can't believe that leaves an impression that the advertiser wanted.

To me, there's no longer anything that is worth sitting through a 30-second spot in my face.  More often than not, I say, "Forget it," and go back to what I was doing. 

Doesn't it seem like a good idea to drop a cookie into the person's browser to let the advertisers know they've already made their point and to give the listener a break for a change?

  -- Jon Badeaux

PS:  When I first left BP Consulting Group back in the mid-90s and went back on my own as a consultant, Jon was my first associate and I still worship his intelligence and integrity, as do many of A&O&B's long-standing clients.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Managing Engagement

When Clarke Ingram was PD of KRQQ/Tucson he remembered the old radio programming saw "the more times you say your call letters, the higher your ratings will be."  So, he mandated that his personalities say "K-R-Q" a minimum of 60 times per hour and the station hit a TEN share.

PPM, of course, has changed the metrics in larger markets, but Lord Kelvin's maxim ("If you can't measure it, you can't improve it") still holds true with smart programmers.
  • Want to improve the time listeners spend with your radio station?  Figure out how many occasions your average fan spends with you and create ways to grow that number.
  • Want to build your email database?  Figure out why your current list subscribed and do more of the things - free concert tickets, discounts on valued planned future purchases, learn how to buy the best seats in advance.
  • Want to improve the level of engagement your social and text fans have with your radio station?  It's tempting to begin counting the responses from listeners in answer to questions you post and ask more of those same questions day after day.  
That can grow your numbers short term, but it also will dilute the authentic character of your personality images, making the kind of social interactions you have more like the very same kind everyone else you compete with also has.

Just like a political candidate, it is important to resonate with the values of your target if you hope to win the election.  But, taken too far, everyone stands for the same things, making some positions and content too generic to build memorability and loyalty.

Before starting a count of anything, the savvy programmer figures out what makes each personality unique and appealing to the largest numbers of target listeners, coaching to improve the quality and consistency of those moments.

That way, as engagement stats build, so does the stickiness of each voice on the radio station on all available touch points.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Allow Me To Propose One More Initial

I admire Cox Radio for the way it operates and manages its radio stations as indicated by the titles it uses for programming executives and it was great to see the Drew Bland's appointment this week in Orlando as further evidence of it.

What used to be called a "PD" is now "B&P," and I'll bet it won't be long until that position gets another letter:  "BP & E."

Today's radio programmer certainly protects the brand, spending a lot of time improving programming, but the importance of new media can't be understated as well.

A big part of today's "B&P" job is also overseeing, encouraging and perfecting all forms of listener engagement as well.

Mobile Natives

I first encountered the concept of “digital immigrants/digital natives” in my local school district as today’s Millennial Generation started to come into kindergarten and first grade 25 years ago.

Their teachers discovered that their digital background started with video games like “Pong” and “Frogger,” while their students were texting each other and writing their own software.

Now, Millenials are the youngest teachers playing catch up learning a new language.  They struggle to incorporate the ubiquitous mobile devices in their classroom into their curriculum as their students see no need for laptops or desktop devices, intuitively figuring out how to do everything they need on their device formerly known as their “phone.”

This is speeding everything up.

No one has an instant for a slow website to load, a video to buffer, unwanted ads to crowd their way in.  That requires "mobile native" software.

Even native advertising, which Twitter does better than almost anyone, must be entertaining, informative and relevant or the sender gets unfollowed fast.

The pressure is on.

The listener of analog radio is increasingly mobile native wondering what we’re doing to make their life better, more manageable and easier.

Fortunately, the country format has a bit more time than the formats whose audience is now becoming completely addicted to their mobile device.

You may not need the best app in the world yet, but it’s well past time to have a strategy and a time line.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Radio Was “Mobile First.” So What?

... Or, at least, thanks to inventions like car radios and then transistor radios, radio became the very first mobile medium.

As a result, we have grown to love our long term lead in the mobile space.  Perhaps too much.

As with the town square and the local mall, location still matters in retail and having a transmitter that covers a local area does give radio a powerful advantage.  People won’t drive very far for a grocery store, pharmacy or a hardware store.  That means that being perceived as nearby can be powerful motivation to consumers and listeners when it comes to AM or FM radio as well.

You don’t need to be the best in the world, just the best in the local community to win in ratings and in use to local advertisers.

Today’s mobile devices were not built with radio in mind.  Rather, as this week’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference indicates, the hardware and software inventors are creating try to make the most of the memory and processing power of the device to solve problems as their primary mission. 

That market is worldwide and a great app making the most of it can sweep the globe, potentially making billions of dollars.

That is, IF you create the best app in the world.  Being #2 app in the world isn’t good enough.  When #1 is free or a few dollars, why would anyone consume #2?

Radio’s future is still in dominating, or at least being a major player, in mobile audio and enriched content that involves video and interactivity which makes the most of every device a radio station’s users choose to own.

Once upon a time, inventors and manufacturers built devices to make the most of our output.

Now, it’s radio’s turn to innovate digital apps to compete with the very best in the entire world.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Steal This. I Did.

The A&O&B team has learned a lot through our twenty year relationship with what is now called McVay/Cook.

An example of the long-lasting wisdom we took from their winning adult contemporary playbook and have long applied to the country format is this amazing form:

At first, it was designed to be the teaching tool for news people on the priorities for keeping information relatable to the all female target at a time when most radio news was "old news" in story selection, writing style, verbiage and presentation.

Today, it is even more essential -- to evaluate every bit of content being considered for on air, listener database emails, social content, personality blogs and station websites!

Go ahead.  Feel free to steal it, with enduring thanks to programming genius Mike McVay and an assurance that there's a lot more A&O&B programming tools -- we have created ourselves, borrowed and taken from the clients and associates we admire -- where it comes from.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Building Blocks

If you expect your listeners to recall and even more crucially "use" your daily benchmarks as PPM-drivers, you need to be so entertaining at every moment that the audience is in constant fear of missing anything so they never tune out.  

OR, you need "named elements" that simply knock their sox off and create daily buzz at predictable times.  Theorems behind this concept:

1.  Be certain your listeners know the names of these key appointments for entertaining listening.

2.  Listeners rarely can recall more than two or three of them.  That means you are wasting your (and your listener's) time naming daily elements that fail to be sticky over the long term.

3.  The name of each solid benchmark must provide a clear indication of its meaning, which listeners all understand.

4.  You know how much interest each potential entertainment element contains for your listener, as well as the perceived importance of every type of attribute you consider adding to your show.

5.  What kind of/level of negatives does each also generate?  Do the positives greatly outweigh the negatives?

There's only one way to be sure.  Ask your listener.  Thanks to today's many social and interactive research tools, it's now easier than ever to do so. 

Which means that if you're not constantly tracking real-time feedback from your heavy users to be sure that what you believe are your "benchmarks" serve as the same for listeners, it's quite likely that your competition knows more about what works and what doesn't on your radio station than you do.