Thursday, November 27, 2014

May Your Stuffing Be Tasty...

May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!
-- Grandpa Jones

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Time For Programmers To Learn A New Language

This development is not at all surprising.

As usual, they want us to cut our inventories while refusing to pay anything more when we do it, in spite of considerable data proving radio's impact.

If the only way they will pay more is when "cost per point" hits media buyer wishes and dreams, it's crucial that the people creating content fully understand which quarter hours and programming tactics have the highest potential to get target GRPs, ultimately ARPs, as high as possible.

Let's stop worrying about 6+ average quarter hour shares, replacing those with the highest payoff target points.

That's an entirely new way to approach formatic, content and programming metrics.

It's going to require a quick learning curve for most Brand Managers, but A&O&B can help make it simple and very rewarding for you to do so.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's That Wonderful (?) Time Of The Year

If you're a small indie label or a new, emerging artist, you're coming upon potentially the best time of the year at radio for your needs.

If you're a music director, it's the annual time of year to watch your mailbox for unknown names and labels you never heard of before.


As Billboard's Country Monday Update noted in listing the adds for the next few weeks it's just three weeks from the time when the vacuum of major label and star artist releases begins.

Country Aircheck made note of the same phenomenon in its pages this week as well.

Most weeks music directors find a lot more piled up in their in box than they can add to their playlists in any one week, but not December 8.

So, it's a very brief window of opportunity if you have something a bit risky or brand new.
Smart music promotion people, like my pal Kris here, know this.

The catch:  if you have a new Christmas song it's going to have to compete with the very familiar and welcome sounds of years past.  It has 17 days to get big or never be heard ever again.

If you have something that you hope will be a major hit in the coming year, you have a few more weeks before the superstar tracks start to come out in 2015, but it needs to be so sticky that it can achieve impact at a time of year when radio listeners are asking to hear more and more Holiday songs per hour.
 At best, you've got five or six weeks to get to the point most big hits take twice that long to gain traction.

So, indie labels and new artists, bring it.

But, please make absolutely sure that what you bring is your very best

And, pardon those of us in radio if we're still a bit dubious and skeptical as we click on your newly-arrived package.

It's the time of year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Sense Of History

As we all get ready the 39th annual Twin Cities radio meeting, I am reminded of an anonymous response back in 1996 to a "RadioIQ" (our client e-zene) report of CBS Radio President Dan Mason’s talk at the Upper Midwest Communications Conclave which continues to echo all these years later.
“Jobs on the programming side of radio will continue to be eliminated,” Mason correctly predicted back then. “For every position eliminated in programming this year, there will be three added in sales.”

Now that programmatic buying and selling is emerging, eliminating reps while making media sales more transactional and less seller-driven, I am reminded of an anonymous comment I got after that post from 18 years ago:
"…any medium which requires more effort to sell than to create is headed for a future no better than slimy posters on the brick wall of public consciousness."

I greatly respect Mason’s smarts and proven track record over the years since that Conclave speech, but I have always wished I knew who “anonymous” was.

That person may have been the smartest of us all.

Their comment remains true, now than ever.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Let Me Second That Motion

The announcement from Country Radio Broadcasters that Jeff Smulyan will be given the 2015 Tom Rivers Humanitarian Award during the opening ceremonies of Country Radio Seminar 2015 is another great decision from the seminar's board.

If you want to peruse the many, many wonderful giving works Jeff has spearheaded and been involved in, click here to read the complete press release listing a lot of them.

I'd like to add a personal reflection on what Jeff has created for the people who work for and with him, which in today's corporate radio competitive environment is another level of humanitarianism.  As their company website notes:  "Emmis is the 9th largest radio group in the U.S (based on listeners) and has been voted the Most Respected Radio Company in a poll of industry CEOs."

Other owners wishing to establish a positive productive "family" environment for their employees would do well to go to click around and learn about a winning culture. 

He purchased my hometown baseball team, reunited two guys named Griffey and turned a losing ball club into a winner, though it wasn't a winner for Jeff.  He used radio marketing tactics and rallied a community to the team's side, getting attendance up after years of apathy by local fans.  He lost money on the deal, but made baseball fun again for Puget Sound fans.

That's when I first observed that this was a guy who did the right thing first and worried about bottom line secondarily.

"Emmis" is the Hebrew word for “truth," and I first got a chance to work with the company when they purchased "KIX" (now "The Arch") in St. Louis from Zimmer.  

We had a very good run and thanks to a wonderful group of people, managed to make a pretty good showing against a powerful incumbent.

In Nashville I was a fly on the wall when they made their first presentation to the Music City community after buying the now defunct KZLA, which was very impressive.  

Of course, from Terre Haute, Indianapolis and many other legendary radio stations, they have shown their ability to win long term in many markets.

I brought up the no-doubt painful Mariners, KZLA and KIX situations for two reasons, having seen Emmis' greatmedia.greatpeople.greatservice® mission in action for a very long time, even in situations where circumstances led them in the infamous "other direction."   

Their people and the culture Jeff and his team have innovated show "class" even in places where it's not easy to do so, living Eleven Commandments of doing business with a humanitarian tone indeed.

Charitable works are terrific, and Jeff has performed many, but the way you live your life in all aspects is even more noteworthy.

Our entire industry is better because of the values exemplified every day by Jeff Smulyan.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

One A Day

Yesterday's list of 16 metrics A&O&B encourages you to track consistently (Programming By The Numbers) is completely overwhelming.

So, try this:  put a different one of them on your day planner every other workday.

Give yourself 30 minutes the first day to update the stats on that area of your responsibilities.  Set up a once-monthly meeting with anyone else who is responsible for that area.  Have them track the numbers and bring them in writing to this meeting to distribute with everyone.

Don't allow it to go longer than a half hour.  Look at the metrics for that one thing compared to the last few months of both your radio station and your competition.

If you're trending up, bettering the folks across the street, give pats on the back all around, award rewards and set up the next update on that one measure one month from today.  The better you're doing, the fewer meetings for all.

If you're not doing as well as you'd like on that set of stats, encourage everyone who has anything to do with it to spend some time later today thinking about what we could do to improve.

Set up a one hour meeting tomorrow to brainstorm, evaluate and prioritize all of the ideas you can generate.  Save the last ten minutes of the meeting to assign duties.

At the next full staff meeting report to everyone on the issue and what needs to be done by the whole team to fix it.

Get back together next month and repeat.

Do what W. Edwards Deming recommended.

If you don't know who he is, it's time to start reading.

Or, reach out.  A&O&B will help adapt his principles to your specific situation.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Programming By The Numbers

Thanks to Radio Ink Magazine for being the impetus for this article by Mike, Becky and me.  They published it yesterday.  In case you missed it: 

Nielsen’s recent report that for the first time in many years the country format national average shares experienced three down months in a row combined with Mike O'Malley’s almost-simultaneous blog post highlighting the A&O&B national country music database music acceptance trends has to be at least a little concerning for Brand Managers.

My post last week in reaction to just-published NuVooDoo format perceptual data showing that country radio success tends to be more music-driven than other formats, while the highest-rated A&O&B client stations have more personality-driven appeal than our “average” client and at the same time Dan O'Day and Becky Brenner have been enumerating the traits of the very best PDs, all of which no doubt made any sharp programmer sit up and wonder what success factors most deserve their time.

Perhaps (though I doubt it) there may have been a time when a radio programmer only had to worry about how their station sounded and “sounding great” was sufficient to be a winner. 

Even all the way back back to when Gordon McClendon, Todd Storz and radio’s many other creative format and research pioneers of the last six decades attacked existing ways of doing things and won, they tracked specific numbers.  You could hear those stats reflected in how their radio stations sounded.

Today’s complex media, lifestyle and demographic environments create a new problem. 

There are so many things you could possibly track which could help you win or lose, the key to success is prioritizing them, understanding which ones drive you to where you need to be as well as what you need to do in your programming to bring them to life:
  • Ratings:  Share, persons, total cume audience, heavy users percentage, daily, weekly, monthly trends.
  • Stream audience:  uniques, average active sessions, listen live tune-ins, mobile downloads, mobile streaming.
  • Music:  how many of the songs you play most often are “favorites” for a third or more of your target?  How many are rated “positively” by at least 65-70%?  How many are burnt to the point that double digit percentages of your target is tired of hearing them on radio?  How many of the songs you play were “never liked” by similar percentages?  Who do listeners feel plays the most?  The best variety according to their tastes?
  • Formatics:  what proportion of the entire market’s radio listeners understand your unique position and consider it valuable to them?  Does your content drive usage at the exact times the rating methodology requires on a consistent basis compared to the other choices available?
  • Personalities:  how likable are they face-to-face with those on other stations?  How memorable are they?  What are they being remembered for?  How high are their negatives versus their positive images?
  • Outreach:  how many non-commercial appearances do you do compared to your competition?  How well do you take advantage of them in turning listener contact into loyalty, giving the folks who do see you reasons to listen immediately?
  • Reception:  what are people coming in to talk about?  What questions are they asking when they phone us?  How many are positive/negative on specific things we do?
  • Website and blogs:  Visits, page views, uniques, average session length, page views per session, blogs page views, video views.
  • Listener phone lines:  what are they requesting?  Complaining about?  Where are they calling from?
  • Branding:  how does your brand make people feel?  How does that compare to all other stations you compete with?
  • Technical:  can everyone you need to listen receive you with a powerful signal?  How does your station compare to other choices?
  • Social:  Facebook likes, people talking about this, engaged users, viral reach, paid reach.  Twitter followers, following, tweets.  Others:  what percentage of your target uses each of the others?  How viable in similar stats as above are you in the ones they make use of the most?
  • Database:  Email database compared to your competition?  Loyalty club members?  Response rates?  New %?  % in metro?  Contests vs non-contest players?  Active in the past 90 days?  Text club members, # of texts, response rates.
  • On air contesting:  how important is it to your usage?  Do you dominate the image or are you beaten by someone else?
  • Info elements:  weather, news, community involvement and service.  How important is each to your success and how strong is your ownership of the images that matter most.
  • Events:  what percentage of your target knows what you do?  Are they motivated to participate?  What other events do they attend and would like you do be involved with?  Where are the best locales for our external marketing?  What % of our time is being spent in those places?
Ask any radio researcher.  If you have the money and listeners are willing to take the time, they can design a perceptual questionnaire that tabs all of these metrics for you and many more.

The challenge for Audio Program Director/Brand Managers today is that every one of the time-proven data points still matters a lot, but the nature of today’s changing listening patterns means that many more new numbers you must track are also crucial to understand and compare in every heritage and new media competitive environment.

Prioritizing and measuring them all while acting on what they tell you about all station activities and endeavors in fun, creative, authentic ways so that it all feels and seems “easy” is what builds a lasting winner.

That is how you get to the number which has always mattered the most:  #1.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Why Consumers Enjoy Radio In LA

Nielsen Harris Poll, October 15-23, 2014, wordcloud presented to SCBA:

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
  • Listen critically at all hours and every day of the week and ask yourself how well your station lives up to these listener expectations.
  • Finally, does your radio station do so in unique ways and all your analog and digital media channels  that belong exclusively to your brand and not to every radio station in your area?
The secret is that there is no secret. 

We all know what the audience wants and expects. 

The key is executing it better and more consistently than our proliferating competition.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

From Borrell: Much More Than #4

No doubt you've seen the trade press on a webinar last week anchored by researcher Gordon Borrell celebrating the 20th anniversary of the appearance of the first banner ad.

The prognostication presentation came as a result of a survey of 2,102 Small and Medium Business managers conducted in August & September 2014 combined with an analysis of Borrell’s database of marketing expenditures covering 3,000 U.S. counties.

Borrell wanted to know:
  • Is the Golden Age of Advertising coming to an end? 
  • What will the media company and ad agency of the future look like?
In spite of the fact that the "big" reason for the study had only a little to do with analog media and much more to understanding the priorities of SMB operators as it relates to digital marketing budgets, there is no denying that Gordon and his team predicted along the way:
  • Half of the 15,433 radio stations currently on the air will cease to exist. 
  • “It will be the weakest stations we believe that will disappear, reemerging in the form of promotions.” 
  • "Local advertising as we know it disappears, but it reemerges in the form of promotions,”
  • New dashboard technology will cause long-term listening erosion for FM/AM radio. 
  • “Inevitability” of radio-enabled smartphones.
  •  “All of these businesses out there have the medium at their disposal to go direct to consumers.”
  • Sales reps won’t sell ads but help educate local businesses on how to create and perform promotions.
  • 95% of advertising will be bought and sold programmatically by 2024
Since A&O&B friends Mark Ramsey and Tracy Johnson have already written prescient thought-pieces on what we need to do about #4, I'd like to focus on another very positive radio story contained in Borrell's data:  24% more of these SMB executives credit radio with providing them with new customers than television does!

“Radio tends to have a very strong beat on promotions.  All of these businesses out there have the medium at their disposal to go direct to consumers.”  -- Gordon Borrell

My take: allowing media buyers to convince us to move away from direct local, regional and national selling person to person toward numbers-based programming buying will devalue radio.  

In the short run, it may save up to 30% of gross revenues by lowering cost of sales, but if radio polishes its immediate bottom line while failing to invest in face-to-face presentations of our ROI strengths vis a vis all other competing media, it won't even take ten years for Borrell's pessimistic prognostications to become self-fulfilling.

A full analysis of the results can be found in “2014 Digital Marketing Services Outlook” on the Borrell website.

Monday, November 03, 2014

(Not So) Smart

It shouldn't take many words to make my point today.  Take a look at my inbox and ask yourself which one you'd move to spam before even reading:

I normally read all of the "SmartBrief" messages, because they often carry great content.

Not this time.  $25 isn't enough to waste even a few seconds of my time.

And, if you're the type who needs words to understand a point, read Steve Marx's latest blog post which will explain it all to you:  How to Get Your Email Opened: Subject Line Best Practices