Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Biggest PD Mistakes

  1. Forgets that the most important part of the job is to protect the station's license.
  2. Still thinks that it's a sales versus programming world and as long as (s)he gets ratings (s)he has done the job.
  3. Doesn't worry about heavy radio-users or passionate fans of the kind of music the station plays.  Targeting takes care of itself.
  4. Does whatever it takes to win.  Ethics and fair treatment of his/her employer and coworkers do not matter as long as the station is winning and profitable.
  5. Has a 'not invented here' attitude about new ideas and approaches.  Doesn't bother to network or seek objective opinions of knowledgeable counsel.
  6. Under-estimates the competition.
  7. Sees radio as a craft, not an art.  You can get everything you need to know by copying winning radio stations in the same format in other markets.
  8. Feels that people are replaceable.  As long as everyone is working as hard as possible, everything is fine.
  9. Thinks that business management is the GM's job and time management is a sales thing.
  10. Doesn't need research.  (S)he knows what listeners want.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Three Parts Of Prep

The last in an enduring series written by my friend and hero, Jay Trachman:

One of the nice things about teaching is that it helps one to organize his own thoughts. While explaining to a Jock Doc student recently about how to create Life Content, it occurred to me that the process has three distinct parts, which ought to be kept separate, lest they pollute each other.

Life Content: you, talking about your own life; Sharing the little emotion-causing experiences with your one listener. A lot of them seem so trivial when you're experiencing them, that you forget them by the time you're on the air. Yet these are the kind of raps that individualize you, reach your listener, and bond you to him or her.

Part one of the process is "research": gathering, "standing outside yourself" and noticing that something just caused you a significant emotion.

Then, "getting it down," saving the thought until you can deal with it more thoroughly. The best tools for doing this are a pocket pad, a microcassette or mini-sound recorder. When something happens that you think you might enjoy Sharing with your mate or your best friend -- make a note of it!

You see, when you're talking to someone in real life, the two of you go back & forth in conversation. Eventually, something will remind you to mention the experience in question. When you're talking with your listener, you get no such outside cues; you have to do all the work. That's why you have to make the notes. My own, collected over the past few days: "hummingbirds" ... "wind while biking" ... "radishes."

The second step is your show prep. Here you take the notes you made, and flesh them out into raps. "We've got hummingbirds in our garden! I never saw one in my life until yesterday, except in books, and I'm out watering the garden when all of a sudden, this thing that looks like a fat butterfly swoops in and *stops*! I mean, he's hovering in mid-air, wings beating a mile a minute, this pint-sized miracle, right in front of me! Then off he goes! For a minute, my heart was beating as fast as his wings!"
  • "Did you ever notice while biking, that you're always pedaling into the wind? Whenever I go to the post office, I can feel the wind in my face as soon as I turn the corner, and I always say to myself, 'Brisk wind today; it'll be nice when I'm coming home...' And then when I'm on the way back, instead of a nice tail-wind, it's still blowing into my face... Because, obviously, there really isn't much wind; it just seems that way when you're pedaling... Sometimes I think life's a little like that, don't you?"
  • "I guess this is the end of the cool-weather crop season; my radishes and lettuce have both started to bolt; we're picking them as fast as we can, but they're still setting flower heads; one of the radishes blossomed overnight -- which means it's no longer edible, right? Right. Another little lesson, learned the hard way -- pthbthbthbt!"
Notice how I've led to a feeling at the end of each bit; with any luck, you (or my listener) experienced some feeling in response. That's the whole reason for doing the bit.

Now comes part three of the process, and I can't over-emphasize the importance of keeping it separate from the other two: the editing. You don't ever want to be editing while you're gathering or writing, because it shuts down the creative process. I'd rather throw a bit away later, than miss one because my "censor" was working, and I told myself, "Naah -- that's not worth Sharing..."

Editing means taking the bit I created, then examining it to decide which details are necessary to set up the ending ("kicker") and which just add time. Also, does the structure set up the ending? Does the kicker express my feeling strongly enough so there's a good chance my best friend will respond?

The research is your life... The prep is taking your experiences, identifying the emotions you experienced, and figuring out how to make your best friend feel something, too... The editing is making it fit within the format requirements of brevity and structure, making sure the kicker is strong enough. These are the three distinct parts of creating raps. Keep them separate. You'll enjoy the process more, and find yourself working more productively when you do.

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Brand" new? Nope

In 50 words or less, here is an abbreviated history of brand identity on American and Canadian radio.
  • Fibber McGee And Molly
  • The Jack Benny Show
  • NBC
  • The Mighty 690
  • 77 WABC
  • Color Radio
  • 93 KHJ
  • Westinghouse Broadcasting, KDKA
  • WCCO, Real Radio
  • WSB, Atlanta
  • Paul Harvey News
  • The Big 8
  • Cash Call
  • The Best Variety
  • K-Lite
  • CHUM
  • EZ
  • The Most Music
  • CKNW
  • Froggy
  • Magic
  • Continuous Country
  • 12 in a row
  • Mix
  • The all new…
  • Country 105
  • BOB FM
  • Double Your Paycheck
  • Kiss
  • Jack
.. and the tradition continues.

How does your branding stand up?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Opening Your Promotional Tool Kit

An Example Of Each Implement:
  • Build awareness.  Million dollar cash grab.
  • Force listening.  $1,000 song of the day.
  • Create sampling.  Premiums:  t shirts, stickers, refer magnets.
  • Packaging.  Thousand song weekend, lunchtime requests.
  • Loyalty/regularity.  Points program.
  • Coupon/Discounts.  Commercial free Monday, at work kickoff.
Before employing these tactics, always ask yourself what your competition will do to top it.

Be prepared for that response and decide if you will have to top IT as well as how and when you'll do so.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Learning From The Students

On April 28, 1949, WGRE-FM was the very first ten watt educational radio station licensed by the FCC.  Its first official broadcast was a tribute to the President of DePauw University at the time, Clyde Wildman, who was unable to attend the inauguration of the new radio station because he was in the hospital at the time.  The students operating the radio station presented him with an FM receiver so he could hear the ceremony from his hospital bed.

The station’s programming has been worth listening and paying attention to ever since.

For example, this decade-old Operator’s Manual (pdf) which is still well worth emulating as you discipline and train your talent.

You're Not Ready

... until you ask:

Does Nielsen/Numeris have all current facilities information?  Have we reviewed the market slogan file?  Are any stations in the market reporting a slogan that they are not using on-air as per frequency standards?  How might this impact us negatively or positively?

Has there been any shift in audience composition by demographic or gender?  Has there been movement in sharing patterns with key competitors?  If so, is there a real trend?  Should research parameters be adjusted accordingly?

Does the most recent book analysis uncover opportunities to recycle available cume?  Do current TSL trends indicate library rotations may require adjustment?

In the U.S., have we tracked zip codes for diary placement, return in target demos, highest AQH versus cume counted, etc.?  In Canada, where privacy laws restrict this info, have you used your own database to understand where your listeners live and work?  Does the marketing dept. and their outside vendors know how to exploit this data to maximize ratings and strengthen cash flow?  Do they have access to audience mapping technologies?

Was there anything abnormal in the previous survey?  When was the last time the station ordered a diary review, PD Advantage or other in depth study of PPM usage?  Do we know if we get more credit for slogan, call letters or frequency?  Are we using digital frequency in our primary identifier?  Is this being picked up by the survey?

Does an hour-by-hour (and in PPM, quarter hour by quarter hour or minute by minute) analysis show significant tune-in or tune-out for a target cell?  Might it be attributed to a regular feature or contest?  Should it be repeated later in the day/week or deleted?

Are there any daypart specific programs, especially on weekends that are “performers?”  Are they placed for optimal exposure to available targeted cume?  Might the station benefit from a repeat performance in the same broadcast week?

Does the station have a data cruncher expert on staff, at your consultant or other vendors?  Have they generated and distributed pertinent reports and tools from the last market measurement?

Does the station have a Qualitative expert on staff?  Have they conducted a meeting for air personalities to hone content targeting?  (Note:  CMA organizational members can receive free reports from the Country Music Association.)

Do we have a graduate of "Ratings University" in our employment roster?  Have they shared their insight to “the game”?  If not, when is that Numeris/Nielsen road-show coming to the area?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Pre-Book Competitive Overview

It's never too soon to audit yourself these days, since there's always "the nest book" just around the corner:          
  • Evaluate key competitors’ positioning statements, claims, benchmarks and stationality.  Is there anything we need to defuse?
  • How can we further maximize the strengths of our cluster to block and/or reposition our key competitors and those of our sister stations?
  • What tactical/strategic outside media (TV, billboards, mail, stealth telemarketing) campaigns are we likely to be up against?  Will our programming/marketing arsenal be competitive and crippling?
  • Are there new players?  Who are their consultants, programmers and companies?  Can we predict and “borrow” possible strategies, tactics, features and devices before they are aimed at us?
  • When was the last time the most recent perceptual/strategic action plan was reviewed for compliance?  Is the on and off-air brain trust following the game plan?
  • Has the programmer and marketing executives spent a day away from the station to critically listen and evaluate product performance?
  • Prizes:  “dollar for dollar,” how are we likely to be remembered in the mind of the listener?  Is this a “hill” we even care about?
  • What mechanisms are in place to insure we  seize “the moment/ big events” as they pop-up.  Are key community, industry, media (etc.) contacts in place?  Have we done a good job delegating the bases on the playing field so we won’t miss important opportunities?
  • Is the station and the cluster’s Marketing Model (Target+Product+Position+Promotion) current, active and actionable?                                                                

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lou Dickey On Evaluating Your Morning Show And Its Competition

In cleaning out some old files, I came across some information and a worksheet for monitoring morning radio from two decades ago that was created by Lou Dickey back when he was a radio researcher.  It holds up pretty well:

Stratford Research worked for quite a few of our consulting clients back then, and I have to say that the quality of their work was exemplary and they invented effective new ways to understand what drove images and usage.

One bit of their wisdom that has stuck with me over all the time since:  two of the five major drivers of morning radio success:  habit and familiarity.

The remaining things that can give a morning show leverage:
  • Format preference
  • Entertainment/style preference
  • Information needs
The weaker you are in those first two, the stronger you must be in as many of the others as possible.

It's still true today:  you can't beat a deeply-entrenched and successful morning incumbent by doing the same things they are well-known and regularly used for.

Being "better" isn't enough.  You also need to be different.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Life Lessons (A Never Ending Series)

Back in the mid-70's when I did mornings at Owens Enterprises' KUZZ/Bakersfield, I heard "you're good, but you're no Johnny Kaye" at almost every appearance I made.

I made a lot of appearances, so I heard it a lot and I have to admit that the competitive side of me got a bit jealous each time.

Being OM/PD as well and extremely curious to hear Johnny, I organized a "KUZZ Reunion Weekend" and contacted as many of the former air personalities to come back and do a few hours on air over a weekend to kick off a major station promotion.  (It is impressive how many long-timers from way back then remain with KUZZ today!)

When I reached Kaye by phone, I found him to be extremely gracious, friendly, supportive and cooperative.

He did his shift for us and - I had to admit - he was simply great.  Listeners were right.  Johnny Kaye, a complete professional, knocked my socks off!

Hard-earned lesson:  learn from history.

Don't let your ego deny the previous people and events their share of the credit for what built the radio station where you work, helping to construct the platform you make use of now.

Attain higher heights by standing on the shoulders who folks who preceded you.

You can't get very high by stepping on other people.

Becoming More Memorable

  1. Use all available media to the utmost of your ability, but before deciding which to make use of, choose your message.
  2. Promote who you are and what you stand for.
  3. Start by using your own airwaves and digital tools.
  4. Give away lifestyle prizes as your rewards for listening. 
  5. Cash is the easiest lifestyle universal.
  6. Create a memorable brand name and catch phrase which encompasses all of the above.
  7. Don’t expect it all to work quickly. 
  8. Great marketing and branding, let alone product development, take time to be effective.
  9. Cume building contests and campaigns still work and must employ outside advertising.
  10. Ah, there’s the rub.  Trying to build cume without buying advertising may improve your time spent listening and can generate word of mouth if done very creatively, but that strategy adds to the time it will take.
  11. TV morning shows dominate outdoor in most markets today with creative that looks exactly like morning radio used to do.  Small wonder that our pre-8 am audience is gravitating to TV at home.
  12. Time spent listening is driven by recycling audience. 
  13. Tease with specifics, theater of mind and exact times.
  14. Ah, here’s another rub:  everyone else knows that too, so depending on it to drive your growth requires doing all of these things better than all of the other choices listeners now have.
  15. Target hot zips, the neighborhoods where your most loyal listeners live and work.
  16. Do appearances in “blitzes.”  Create the image that where ever your fans and prospects go, you’re there too. 
It’s impossible to keep this up constantly.  Plan tactically and conserve your researches.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

The goal:  make potential listeners feel like you’re constantly visible in their community.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tomorrow: 16 Ways To Be More Memorable

.. but first, I want you to look in the mirror and ask yourself "is my content consistently WORTH remembering?"

If you can't honestly answer that question with a resounding "yes," you can skip my post tomorrow because it won't work no matter how much you invest in marketing tactics.

You will never be able to sell people long term on something they're not personally committed and connected to.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Radio 2015: Perspective From A Very Savvy Friend

I want to turn on the echo chamber today:
Reed Bunzel is a veteran media executive with over 30 years of service in the radio, music, and digital media industries. He is president of Bunzel Media Strategies, a full service consulting and analytics firm that assists companies with industry research, analysis, business strategies, platform development, and communications/marketing.
     Remember the movie Sybil? That's the 1976 miniseries and film starring Sally Field, whose main character was alleged to have up to 13 different personalities, all struggling to coexist inside one body at the same time.
     I mention this because this week at the NAB/RAB Radio Show in Indianapolis I was having a conversation with a respected broadcaster (name withheld upon request) who compared the U.S. radio industry in 2014 to the Sybil character. Not in the sense that he thought the business was fraught with mental illness or that it needed psychotropic drugs in order to maintain a "normal" life, but because at any one time there are a number of distinct personalities inside this industry that give voice to its collective persona.
     While the analogy could be perceived as a bit of a stretch, a distinct parallel can be drawn between Sybil's internal voices and the discussions I've had with radio broadcasters these past few days at the Radio Show. All of these conversations (and some comments made at general sessions) have been fascinating, some of them are scary, and many of them contribute to a universe that seems founded more on perception than reality. Depending on whom you talk to, the American radio industry is a) healthy, b) doomed, c) challenged, d) blind, or e) all of the above.

Here's what I mean:
  • In her now-traditional role of the industry's statistician, Wells Fargo Securities senior analyst Marci Ryvicker insisted radio's revenues will remain flat until broadcasters prove her wrong, with local and national spot revenues most likely going nowhere this year. She has a strong record of accurate forecasts, so her macroeconomic view can be trusted. Her prediction of "flat" growth is not a truth many attendees in the audience wanted to hear, but as Ryvicker so eloquently put it, "radio has a lot of shit."
  • Several major group heads insisted that the radio remains strong and, while saddled with the uncertainties of change, its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. Example: Cumulus Chairman Lew Dickey, while acknowledging myriad challenges, observed that radio is "America's daytime medium" and emphasized that its greatest audience occurs during the time when most commerce is conducted.
  • RAB President/CEO Erica Farber stressed that digital is radio's most direct and imminent path to growth, a position self-avowed BS specialist Bob Hoffman (author of "The Golden Age Of B.S.") almost immediately refuted by declaring "online advertising is a fraud." While Hoffman quickly clarified that he really was referring only to display advertising, his "WTF" moment resonated long after he left the stage.
  • Univision Radio President Jose Valle stated that digital audio streaming is a $20 million revenue line that produces cash flow for his company, and noted that "we don't abandon our over-the-air audience but we have to be where our listeners want us to be. Listeners dictate."
  • Seconds later Emmis Chairman Jeff Smulyan insisted he's never made a dime from streaming, stressing instead how critical it is to get NextRadio functional in every smartphone sold in America, so consumers have access free FM radio rather than pay the near-usurious rates charged by major phone carriers. This move, Smulyan insists, will almost single-handedly propel the radio industry into the future.
  • Of course, a healthy contingent of tech-heads are adamant that it's too late for either NextRadio (which is at the mercy of AT&T and Verizon) or HD Radio to shift the digital tide that has begun to rise - a tide, they insist, that will not float all boats.
  • Then there's the die-hard cheerleaders who point to radio's 92% 12-plus reach and insist that all is good in the world of radio, despite measurable TSL erosion among younger demographics and the growth of such online digital services as Rdio, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Pandora.
  • These folks also tend to be harsh Pandora critics who don't grasp that the streaming service is a company, not an industry, and that if it didn't have to pay the performance royalty fees dictated by the Copyright Royalty Board (from which AM/FM radio is exempt), its margins actually could be far greater than those of many radio companies serving the same number of listeners.
  • And then there are the "rapturists," those individuals who are convinced that radio's apocalypse is imminent, and nothing can be done to save it from the four horsemen who are fast approaching from the other side of the digital horizon. 
     I want to stress here that I am not trying to simplify the passions or opinions of radio broadcasters, or to declare the radio industry "psychologically unstable" or "mentally unfit." Far from it. But today (Sept. 12), as the Radio Show closes here in Indianapolis and we all go back to our regular roles in the radio business, we need to recognize that it's impossible to color the radio industry with one broad stroke. I'm constantly asked "what's the big take-away" or "what's the buzz at the show"?
    I understand the questions, but I don't have suitable answers. No one does. And that's because the radio business is comprised of many interconnected parts, with multiple priorities and goals, and no two perceptions (or personalities) are alike. Each of us knows what we know about our own corner of this business, and we are influenced by the factors that affect us personally and professionally.
     For instance, some broadcasters are being chased by debtors who have no option but to let them to continue kicking the can down the road in an endless game of tag that causes many folks to doubt the overall health of the industry. Others are ruled by fear of change and cringe at the approaching reality that spot revenue might just not be enough to get them through to retirement, or to identify a reasonable exit strategy. Still others are managing to generate small revenue gains through hard work and diligence, and are accepting that digital and social media can push real dollars to their bottom lines.
     In the movie and TV miniseries, Sybil was affected by what today is known as multiple personality disorder*. It's important here to draw a distinction between that and what I've mentioned above, which is radio's multiple personalities. Period. (Whether there's a disorder involved is open to discussion.
     My only point here is to initiate a conversation about the U.S.. radio industry as we head into the fourth quarter, and to introduce my new initiative, Radio 2015. This new "media intelligence platform" is designed to engage everyone in this wonderful business in a discussion about our collective fates, futures, and fortunes, and to offer actionable analysis and information to ensure that we are guided by intelligence rather than fear.
     You'll be hearing a lot more about Radio 2015 next week - and in the weeks to come. Meantime, I invite you to email me with any questions or comments you might have regarding the radio business, as well as suggestions about what you think needs to be addressed as we set our sights on tomorrow...and the next day.

*In a book titled "Sybil Exposed," author Debbie Nathan maintains that most of the story Shirley Mason, the "real" Sybil, was fabricated.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

This Is Not A Test, It's An Actual Emergency

Blaine Thompson has been writing "Indiana RadioWatch" specifically for Hoosier Broadcasters since 1998.   

He sent this email last night from the NAB Radio Show in Indianapolis:

In one session, I kept hearing that "Content is Key." If your radio station has great content, people will find it and listen to it.

As I write this, the President is speaking. I realize that several radio stations across Indiana have this speech on their airwaves. Some radio stations do this broadcast by adding a command into the automation system. Some radio stations air the speech, and bring in local hosts to discuss what the President said. As it is 9:00PM, some radio stations let a weekender or part-timer come into the radio station to make sure the speech airs.

However, what about promotion? I asked a broadcaster about this today, and was greeting with a single word:


So, I asked:

...Did you put an announcement on your radio station Facebook page, saying, "Listen to W____ at 9PM tonight"?

...Did you add an announcement to your Twitter page?

...Did you send a text blast to your "text club" subscribers?

How did the broadcaster respond?

With a mildly blank stare, a mumbled "Thank you," as they grabbed their cell phone (hopefully to call or text someone back at the radio station...)

(I'm not going to give a speech entitled, "What, you don't have a radio station Facebook page, Twitter feed and text club? It's 2014.")

A broadcaster told me this: "It's 2014; you can't rest on your laurels and know that anyone who wants to hear content will listen to YOUR radio station. You have to make the content compelling for your listeners."

30 To 39

Visualization by Martin De Wulf (@madewulf)
Today’s Gen Xer is the parent of Millenials, making at first glance what statistically is the smallest age cohort in our population a poor target for marketers.

Look again.

When it comes to how someone feels, 30-39 may be the largest target!

Call it attitude age

Middle age men think of themselves as younger than they are. 

20 to 29 year olds often think of their parents as among their best friends, seeing 30+ as they peers. 

Did youygo to college?  Have a comfortable income?  It’s likely statistically that you also feel younger than you chronologically are.  Singles feel older and divorcees, younger.

The folks thinking of themselves as feeling between 30 and 39 attitudinally is a huge group.

Find out how old your listeners feel they are and target that age!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Best Salespeople

The most successful salespeople tend to exhibit:

1.  Strong character, with an ability to dominate others
2.  High persistence
3.  Debating ability, playing judo with the prospect’s own objections to land an order
4.  Patience to question prospects at length before making a closing argument
5.  High energy level
6.  Self-confidence to withstand repeated rejection
7.  Good work habits and organizing ability.

-- A little reminder to their coworkers from Psychology Today

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

"What’s Happening?" Still Works

Reduce the clutter generated by sales value-added by making use of a weekly promo from sales inventory to group together a lot of smaller sales promotions on air.

These promos are :30 seconds in length, have a standard music bed behind them, run as a normal commercial unit, as read by your station’s “Fun Finder” personality under the umbrella of “here’s what’s happening at (brand name).

Place all sales events that appeal to the mass audience including remote broadcasts, personality appearances, concerts, et al.

These “sales promos” generally run once per daypart.  It’s tempting to bump them when you’re sold out, but don’t do it. 

If you promised it and got a “buy” as a result of that promise, you’ve got to deliver on ‘em and that’s another reason to count them as commercial inventory.  You can even affidavit them as long as you keep a good paper trail of everything you run.

If a client doesn’t want their mention included in a carry-all like this, of course, you’d be delighted to sell them their very own commercial to say whatever they like!

Monday, September 08, 2014

“Selling Low-commercial Load Station Time Is Easy”

That’s what Bill Moyes, Dan Vallie, Mike McVay, Jerry Lee and others started exemplifying when strategic research dominated major market radio in the 80’s and early 90’s.

“In this era of increasing clutter, the only way for an advertiser to stand apart is to use a radio station which limits advertising to a certain number of messages an hour.  By selling the idea that you have an environment of integrity,” McVay taught me, “And then framing each advertising message by surrounding it with music, you make it stand out from the crowd.”

Lee's More-FM, Philadelphia, still stands up for (and seems to prove it still works!) making use of low commercial limits to keep rates high to make sure you can showcase a marketer’s message.

This selling idea should be a primary weapon of a low-load station’s sales arsenal.  Position spots as an adjacency to entertainment.

However, with the arrival of consolidation in the mid-90’s, another, even "easier" way to sell emerged:   add more and shorter units and lower your rates, pricing for revenue share. 

Once upon a time radio’s total revenues were some $19-million and 40% of radio stations were losing money.  Now, radio’s combined top line has been climbing back up to $17.6 billion after falling precipitously in the early 2000's, creating a need to cut costs in order to sustain and grow profits while paying off the debt incurred in pursuit of a maximum allowable share of market dollars.

Cutting commercial loads was never easy, requiring tremendous courage and excellent execution.  Not everyone can accomplish it, but those who do have the potential for completely dominating weaker facilities.

The smartest among us, as they convene in Indianapolis, need to be thinking and talking about that with their investment bankers and corporate boards.

And, if you as an owner are lucky enough not to have to answer to those things, you're in an awesome position to get aggressive and press your advantage.

It’s time to do things differently.  And, the past has a lot to teach us all if we learn from it.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Increasing Your (Sales) Power (Ratio)

“It’s not my job to overpay for a radio station or to say, ‘You’ve done great, I’m going to reward you by paying more.’”   — JL Media director of broadcast Rich Russo in Inside Radio

IR’s writer opines:  “Improving ratings is often only half the battle. The next hurdle is driving rates in the marketplace. Convincing buyers who were paying $50 a spot to now pay $100 isn’t a slam dunk, even if the station’s ratings have doubled.”

They ran this graphic on Tuesday morning, posing the question about the reality that first the ratings go up and then begins the longterm task of getting the dollars the higher shares appear to justify:

This isn't the first time I have written about this (click to read some history from my perspective), but it's obvious to me at least that the increasingly automated cluster selling caused by consolidation that evolved over the past 20 years has created numerous situations where formats with great qualitative stories' power ratios have regressed to the mean.

Big owners have saved lots of money in expenses at the cost of top line growth.

Cuts in the cost of sales at many radio stations and the move to cost-per-point based transactional selling has proliferated as smaller owners attempted to compete and improve their bottom lines as well.

Now that a company has so many stations that they can throw into a pitch from multiple formats to chip away at a market leader's strongest station.

For example, Clear Channel owns seven stations in San Diego, more than twice as many as KSON owner Lincoln Financial.  At the same time, California's economy has not helped any media.

The country format audience share battles in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Portland, St. Louis, Boston. Pittsburgh and Seattle are much tighter than this single snapshot in time would indicate.  That requires a deep understanding of each radio station and the local market history.

Research Director, Inc's Charlie Sislen explains the problem like this:  "If we sell impressions and allow advertisers to treat all impressions equally, then the value of our spots goes down. However, if we position radio as a more valuable commodity, then we can grow our average unit rate and our overall revenue.  We need to continue to sell the value of our medium as a whole, and the value of each of our individual radio stations."

It has been great to see optimistic radio revenue forecasts from both BIA and Borrell, but discrete radio stations and individual formats will fail to achieve their real analog and digital potential until we get back to investing in local and national sales forces who understand the power of every format, have the time and tools to justify their unique value and we stop trying to steal pennies from other radio competition while leaving dollars on the table.

Maintaining Listener Loyalty

  1. Be consistent.  Unfamiliarity is almost always a negative.  Surround it with the familiar, so it appears as a pleasant surprise, an expected part of the overall presentation.
  2. Be the soundtrack of your listener’s life.
  3. It’s a 140 character, 17 second, society.  Be brief.  Respect the listener’s time.
  4. Be a companion and friend, never an announcer.  Avoid phrase patterns and verbal crutches.
  5. Cluster music into long sets.  Control commercial content. 
  6. Hopefully, you can play fewer commercials than your direct competition.  If not, your only winning option is longer stopsets and fewer of them, placed equally on both sides of quarter hours, equidistant from each other in the hour if you’re being measured by Nielsen PPM methodology.  If it’s BBM PPM, the station with the strongest content and the least minutes of potential tune outs wins.  If it’s diaries that make up your ratings, place commercial breaks so that you hold your listener for 35 minutes, equalling four “quarter hours.”  If it’s a phone survey, top of kindness wins.  Use telephone in your contesting and have the biggest, best prizes and promotions.
  7. Two five unit breaks per hour is ideal.
  8. Count units, not minutes.  From the listener’s point of view, intros, outros, :30s, :60s, and even “mentions” are all commercials.
  9. Play only hits.  Never add a song until you believe it’s going to be a hit.
  10. Play “clutter busters” once every quarter with your staff.  Make a list of the least popular bits, benchmarks and programs you air from the talent’s perspective and then test them with listeners in an online survey or focus groups.  Drop unpopular ones.
  11. Promote, but never HYPE.  Do what you say and offer proof.
Listing these things is easy.  DOING them is hard.  Odds are, your owner or manager will expect you to win loyalty while stinting on some of them.

That's why we believe you need a consultant.  You can sometimes win while cutting a few of these corners, but if you need to constantly and predictably do so.

There's only one way to do that.

To constantly dominate a market position, be uncompromising when it comes to all listener loyalty drivers.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A Blog Worth Echoing (Loudly!)

"History is littered with really good ideas, which for one reason or another (or many), just failed to catch on. And recent history suggests with the ever-rapid changing world of technology, the list of really good ideas that just came up short will probably be more populated. I wouldn’t be surprised if  HD Radio is on that list by the end of this decade.

"HD Radio Can Be Saved, If Someone Cares to Try."

  -- Matt Sammon

Click for 5 reasons why HD Radio has failed, and 5 reasons why it can rise from the ashes…

Monday, September 01, 2014

"We Don't Have A Strategy Yet"

Creating a solid strategy begins by recognizing when you lack one.

When President Obama was quoted so widely last week, it reminded me of some great advice from John Parikhal, founder of Joint Communications, The Media Fix and Breakthrough Management.

It's also a good time to ask yourself if you have one. 

John calls strategy the outline and says it must be long-term.  “Tactics are the colors that we paint with inside the outline.”

Keys to building an excellent strategy, which I assume the Prez is waiting for from the Pentagon and our potential allies:

1.  ID the win.  Establish a clear long-term goal.
2.  Know the players, both your troops and the enemy.
3.  Sift all available info to focus the plan on reality.
4.  Know the rules of offense, defense, flanking and guerrilla warfare.

Admitting you don’t have a strategy is actually a great place to start building one.  The tools to get it done (for a radio station, since I’ll leave foreign policy to greater minds):

1.  Research
2.  Advertising, promotion and marketing.
3.  Management skills.

The researcher feels every GM should spend 12 hours outside the radio station each month by simply listening to the radio with a different member of his staff and take the morning personality or team for a drive in morning traffic to listen to the radio at least once every 90 days.

Parikhal encourages his clients to learn what motivates your own staff and your listeners psychologically.  Every person is unique.  Figure out what makes each of them tick.

In your workplace, for example:

Drivers        Expressives     Analytics        Amiables
——            ——                 ——               ——
Save time    Save effort       Save face       Save the relationship
Action         Applause          Be right          Trust
Control        Social              Avoid              Support
GM             Talent             Researcher    Sales

He says that “most companies don’t understand Analytics and Amiables, in spite of the fact that they most often are the people who are the “long timers” on every staff.