Monday, December 31, 2007

One Last Post for 2007...


CLEAR CHANNEL SVP/AC Programming JIM RYAN tells ALL ACCESS, "It is with mixed emotions that I tell you that VALERIE SMALDONE has decided not to renew her contract with the station. In her 24 years at CLEAR CHANNEL AC WLTW (LITE 106.7)/NEW YORK, VALERIE has become so much more than a radio personality. We will all watch her continued growth and success in whatever direction she chooses and wish her the best of luck."

That's what was reported in this afternoon's update at All Access.

Mainstream AC isn't typically known for its personalities, but WLTW was always a little different than most of the other AC's around the country. In my opinion, a large part of what made Lite-FM a very special (and hugely successful) station was it's humanity. Ms. Smaldone played a big role in that differentiation.

I have no idea what transpired between Valerie and the station, but given the cuts and realignments Clear Channel has been making around the country it's not too much of a stretch to guess what happened. This move now completes a nearly complete purge of the entire airstaff over the last couple of years.

With more and more non-stop music machines available from a ever-growing variety of sources, one has to wonder whether moves such as this one will turn out as planned. Maybe the next great AC star for WLTW is waiting in the wings--at a lower price point; but what if they aren't?

What is a rating point worth in New York?

Friday, December 28, 2007

As 2007 Comes To A Close...

My New Year’s Wishes for the Radio Industry (in no particular order)

  • We lift the negative veil hampering the radio industry
  • We figure out positive ways to communicate that more than 230 million Americans listen to the radio EVERY week
  • We discard a few of the “truths” of the radio industry and try some things that may be counter-intuitive
  • We have stronger industry leadership step forward and communicate a refreshed vision for our industry
  • We stop worrying about new technologies we can’t stop and find ways to use them to our benefit
  • We develop and create entertainment programming for those under 25 that is available in real-time on air and anytime everywhere else
  • We let the programmers program
  • We encourage risk taking and allow some mistakes in order to find a couple of gems out of some valiant efforts
  • We remember that this is show business and we must put on a show
  • We find some new words and phrases to describe what we do on the air (please!)
  • We develop new and creative ways to monetize our programming and services
  • We stay safe, remain healthy, and appreciate all of the really important things in our lives

I wish you the happiest of New Years! Can you believe it’s already 2008?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The HD Radio Blues

In the beginning many of us were excited about the possibilities of IBOC errrrr HD Radio. As BB King sung so many times--the thrill is gone. I turned on my HD Radio this morning for the first time since nighttime AM HD broadcasting was approved a few months ago. Why? I was reminded I had it when I opened my email to read in Inside Radio, as I have also read elsewhere, that Consultant Fred Jacobs and HD Alliance leader Peter Ferrara are sparring over the latest radio ad campaign:
HD Alliance defends new ad campaign. The HD Radio Alliance's new ad campaign is drawing fire. Critics worry about how the campaign portrays existing analog radio - while doing little to sort out consumer confusion about HD Radio. Consultant Fred Jacobs says the new campaign "stunned" him because he thinks it positions analog radio as "repetitive, and lame." But Alliance chief Peter Ferrara says the industry needs to adjust its message to what today's consumers are thinking.
For the most part HD Radio has not broken any new ground. FM's have programmed mostly line extension formats or narrow niche formats and AM's have banked on the improved audio quality to draw listeners. While the audio quality improvement is impressive (yes, there are those who disagree with that), that alone will not bring new listeners to the band. And don't get me started on the channel numbering!

I'm not going to get in the middle of Fred and Peter's debate. Both men are capable of defending their own positions. In my opinion HD Radio has been a terrible distraction at a time when traditional radio is facing challenges as great as its ever faced. Not to mention the fact that thus far it has been a massive failure on multiple fronts--consumer confusion or disinterest leading to only a reported half million radios sold. It is safe to say finding an HD Radio in the hands of a listener would be as difficult as finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. How many of those radios are in the hands of radio people?

We know that "improved" audio quality will not move the needle. If better sounding audio was important, mp3's would not be as big an audio format as it is. We know that deep cuts, or dance, or bluegrass are not likely to get consumers in droves heading to the local Best Buy to pick up an HD Radio.
So, what's it gonna take? Something different, something that is also web based since there are so few HD radios, and something that has a financial commitment that extends for more than a quarter or two for it to work. It's gonna take embracing competitive technologies that can actually help the platform grow. It's gonna take a staff dedicated to making it happen. And finally, it doesn't have to be local to a single market.

It wouldn't take a great debater to argue this is no need for more places to get audio entertainment. However, IF we can create a genuine need people might latch on to the technology. Maybe in '08.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Will 2008 Be a Better Year For Radio?

Radio has many things going for it--here's my top 5:
  • Mass distribution
  • 93% national weekly usage
  • The ability to adjust programming very quickly
  • The majority of radio listeners are still satisfied with the medium
  • Lots of revenue and cash flow--despite recent negative growth

No one would argue we are in challenging times but I believe out of adversity good things can happen. I don't think consistent financial growth can occur again until some new strategies and innovations take root in our industry.

We have a few things to figure out moving forward.

  • How can a mass medium thrive in an on-demand word?
  • How can we reinvent our advertising model that would be perceived positively by listeners and advertisers alike?
  • What new format structures can we develop that will attract attention and loyalty?
  • The hits are the hits are the hits, but what might we do in order to spark new excitement in music radio?
  • What's next for talk radio--how might we ensure the next generation of 35-54's latch on to the format?

Seems like there's always more questions than answers, but I believe the answers are out there.

In a previous post I suggested programmers find the time to really listen to their station(s). It is an eye opening experience. Focused, quality time dedicated to the sound of the product will make the station sound better. I also believe greater attention needs to be paid to the output of station streams--too many streams are very sloppy. Lastly, I think interactivity with listeners is vital both in-person and on-line. Yes, in person. It's fine to have promotion staff at events, but there is still something special for a listener meeting someone whose voice they hear on the radio. And what's special about the content on your website? Is there any reason at all for a listener to come back tomorrow after visiting your website today? There better be.

I don't know how 2008 will turn out for radio. But I do know that I am a believer in our industry and believe it can recapture some of its past magic in the new year. What do you think? Can our industry rebound on '08? What are the most important things to be done?

Your comments in this space are always welcome. I realized that comments had been limited to Gmail folks. That problem is now fixed and anyone can be a part of this community.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Who Do You Like?

It’s been quite a long time since I was on the air. To be honest, I never thought I was a particularly good air talent. In fact, I would listen to my air checks and hate every single minute of it. Surprisingly, I always seemed to get good ratings and when I would meet listeners I always got positive feedback. What gives? The best I could figure, and believe me I tried to figure it out, was that I was likeable on the air—a friendly voice talking about the music, what was going on in the market, and talking up the best things about the radio station. It was a pretty simple formula. I would talk about what I thought the listeners might be interested in hearing about. I did it consistently and it worked. When I had the chance to do some talk radio shows I did the same thing with a healthy dose of opinion and sure enough I got the same results.

Today we look for entertainers, comedians, opinion firebrands, or bad boys. I can’t recall a single talent ad searching for someone the listeners will like. Of course, programmers assume that if a talent gets good ratings the listeners must like them. Don’t take that assumption to the bank just yet.

There’s a popular talk talent who I have listened to countless times; someone whose point of view I tend to agree with and someone who demonstrates a great passion for his opinions. Yet I find myself listening less and less. I have concluded I just don’t like the guy. He is missing an endearing quality that would pull me in day after day.

We’ve all heard the phrase; I love to hate that guy—a talent with whom a listener doesn’t see eye-to-eye but tunes in every day just to hear what he is going to say to make him angry. I contend, most times it’s not the anger part that is drawing him in, but the likeability factor that keeps him coming back for more.

If you had a falling out with someone who you generally liked and with someone you didn’t really care for which person would you be more likely to give another chance? Of course, it’s with someone you like. There would be little incentive to have dealings with that other person.

One of the great things about radio is our ability to paint a picture with words and connect with people one-on-one. Maybe it's a little old school to be talking about being the listeners friend, but a talented individual who can make it happen will almost always achieve success.

BTW--making friends today goes well beyond on the air and personal appearances--let's talk about blogs, podcasts, and listener interest on-line communities.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Meet the RadioCube


"It's simple—and it all depends on how you stand the dice-like gizmo. The Radiocube's creator, Cambridge Consultants, reckons that we only listen to four stations at a time. So, four of its six sides correspond to the stations, the fifth is a speaker, and the sixth the equivalent of an Off

Is your web stream compelling enough to be a preset on this internet radio?

Read the entire story here.

Oh Howard...

Robin Quivers is famous for saying the words-Oh Howard-when Howard Stern would veer off into questionable territory. This morning I'm saying "Oh Howard" for a different reason--I got to listen to some of his History of Howard show yesterday and today and it was superb--well produced, interesting, historical, topical, and at times side-splitting funny. I had tears streaming down my face from laughing so hard. I sat in the car unable to leave because I needed to hear how a bit would end. When was the last time that happened? Exactly!

Look, Howard isn't for everyone, but, love him or hate him he must be recognized for his long-time accomplishment of consistently entertaining his listeners show after show, year after year. As we approach 2008 his style and content has held up very well and has been emulated by scores of others.

When will the next renegade talent break through and captivate us to stare at the radio (or computer or smart phone)like it was a movie screen? And what will that person sound like? Maybe the larger question is will this talent be allowed to develop content that may not be in the center lane? Will they be given the lifeline for two or more years to "find their audience?" I ask these questions because I suspect it won't be easy.

With approximately 93% of all Americans still using the radio every week, we like no other entertainment vehicle, have the means to create stars. Are you doing something really unique and different? I would like to showcase your best work right here in this space. Email me with your story and some mp3 audio and I will pick (subjectively of course) some of the best entries and share them on this blog.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Programming Masters Degree

Very early in my career I was a jock at “AOR” station WBAB on Long Island. Back in the very early 80’s way before Selector and at the tail end of the “prog rock” era we had a very simple programming system—4 categories of currents rotated with index cards and everything else was “on the back wall” with songs rotated by tracking sheets taped to the album jacket. Power currents rotated on a 6(!) hour rotation and non-currents were in 2 categories—blue dots-3 day rotation and no dots-five day rotation. We also had this funky “oops” category which was a one time per show event that carried a big yellow caution flag with it. We didn’t play every song on every album, but it is safe to say we played lots of songs. I don’t know the count but on the low side 1500 titles and on the high side it might have been 3000 titles.

This system sounds pretty loosey-goosey by today’s standards but back at that time it worked and worked very well. PD Bob Buchmann (now PD at Q104.3 NYC) was the vision behind the station—a guy I learned a lot from. We were competing against a few big stations such as WNEW-FM, WPLJ, WLIR, and others. Each station, including WBAB had its own unique sound. WNEW-FM had the rock image and the famous jocks, WPLJ played the rock hits and was hated by the progressives, WLIR was long Islands own progressive station. WPLJ began the decade as the Long Island rock ratings leader, followed by LIR and then NEW if I remember correctly. In 1980 WBAB was barely on the radar—that would quickly change!

Every jock on the station would program their own show—on the fly. Looking back, it was quite exciting. Hmmm, I’m playing Zep’s Black Dog, what would sound good after this. We had to worry about balance, flow, tempo, type, style, hit, album cut, etc all by ourselves. What an education! You might be thinking, there had to be some rules, a clock, something? Not really. It was our responsibility to make the station sound great and the only rule was we had to play a “blue dot” every other song and we had to keep a music log where we wrote down every song we played. In later years, more dot codes were added as the world began to change but this system remained until long after I left in 1985.

What about accountability? We had weekly jock meetings in which we had to review one of our shows in front of the entire programming staff. Everyone had a chance to comment. If you were doing a show on WBAB, not only did you have to know music and have a passion for it, but you had to develop a knack for programming it.

Can you imagine trying this today? Honestly, no. Sure, there are some who have the passion and self control to keep the listener in mind versus a self-indulgent escapade (one of the reasons jock self-programming went away in the first place). Can you imagine a GM signing off on this and having to explain it? Can you imagine a programmer having enough time to really pay attention to what is on the air? I could go on—but you get the point.

I’m not suggesting this is a system that needs to return, but I am thinking out loud how we, jocks and programmers alike, couldn’t avoid the intense interactivity with our radio station, the music it played and everything it did.

Friday, December 14, 2007

My Buddy Phil

Had lunch with fellow radio guy Phil Wilson yesterday. He encapsulated our lunch here. It's the first lunch I ever went to that got summarized in writing. Phil was kind enough not to include the part about me hanging my heavy winter coat on the back of my chair which caused it to tip over. Of course, I didn't notice this and ended up on the floor trying to sit on a chair that was down there with me. It was "a moment" for sure.

The Generation Gap

I started to write a post that was going to talk about the technology generation gap and its impact on the radio business. Once I started writing I thought it might be a good idea to try to find some statistics on the subject. Of course there was no shortage of information! Then, as I was searching and reading I came across a terrific article written way back in 2004 by a PhD named Larry D. Rosen (not the same Larry Rosen many of us know from Edison Media Research). This Larry Rosen has a site called and wrote an article Understanding the Technological Generation Gap that quite simply does an outstanding job of explaining what is going on.

It is interesting that way back in 2004 IM was all the rage and text messaging wasn't even mentioned. If just shows how fast things move in today's nanosecond world. This article suggests many things, but I can tell you this, we (yes, all of us) better find some unique ways of entertaining listeners because if we don't someone else will.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Vote In The New Poll

Right above this post is a new poll asking what you think will be the greatest challenge to the radio industry in 2008. Please take a moment and vote. There are many challenges ahead, but I am optimistic there will be good things happening as well.

I would like to see this blog grow to be an interactive forum for all of us to share ideas. With that in mind--I put the ball in your court: What do you think is in-store for the new year? Click the comment link below and join in!

For the time being, and I hope for the long term, I would like to keep this space unmoderated. So please keep things respectful.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Official Announcement

December 11, 2007
Contact: Harve Alan
952.401.9067 (office)

MINNEAPOLIS, MN—Successful programming executive Harve Alan officially announced today the formation of his new advisory and consulting company, HARVE ALAN MEDIA. The company will specialize in multi-format consulting and development, content innovation, talent discovery and coaching, new media strategies, and creative solutions for success in today’s extraordinary marketplace.

Commenting on the new company Mr. Alan remarked, “I remain very bullish on the radio industry and I have designed my new company to help client stations and groups better navigate the ever-changing audio entertainment landscape. I am not selling cookie-cutter solutions, but custom crafted and strategically sound advice, counsel, and guidance”.

Harve Alan has more than 29 years of extensive media and broadcast experience including Vice President of Programming, NextMedia Group; Executive Vice President Mercury Radio Research/hear2.0; Director of Programming ABC Radio Networks; Senior Vice President of Programming Clear Channel Radio with similar posts at AMFM Inc. and Capstar Broadcasting.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Oprah Tour Brought To You By....

She may very well be THE biggest star on the campaign trail. Oprah Winfrey is not the first celebrity to endorse a political candidate--not even close, but she towers over the rest. [Read the story here:,2933,316223,00.html] When Barack Obama got her public endorsement and she agreed to hit the road with the presidential hopeful; he instantaneously gained cred he may have never gotten. He is now reaching people who may never have given him a second thought or even knew who he was, until now.

While I have my own political POV, this blog is apolitical and this post has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with star power and how vital it is--even in r-a-d-i-o! Barack (or his people) gets it. But do we? Sure, it would be nice to hire a high priced celebrity to host our afternoon show. Of course, that is no guarantee of success as many have learned. But what if we began coaching our existing talent and hiring our new talent to be more that just announcers and more like local stars? Yes, I am suggesting we open pandora's box and create shows filled with big ego STARS! How many local stars are there in your market?

The creation of a star goes far beyond using this mornings prep sheet and working the latest Britney or Paris gossip into a music sweep. This is not a cookie cutter endeavor. It takes a well thought out strategy, an honest assessment of what defines a star in your community, and the inherent talent of the host who wants to be a star. Stop for a moment and think about the biggest stars on radio, TV, film, and now the internet (Perez Hilton, Matt Drudge, and that guy on You Tube creating shaky video magic); they all have a quirky and unique personalities that cut through and evoke emotion, passion, ire, and most importantly a human connection on some level.

We have stars in our business (both local and nationally syndicated) but we are going to need many more if we are to raise our standing as a top shelf entertainment medium.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Is Pink The New Red?

'Tis the season to be downsized falalalala....

So what else is new?


In most cases revenues continue to stay flat or decline, listener attrition rolls on, and radio companies continue to appropriately trim staffs to stay profitable. Yes, I said appropriately. That is how business is done. Lower revenues means reducing costs and in radio that means fewer people since you can't turn off the transmitter to save money. At the same time all this downsizing is going on we need to be tackling our most immediate problem--what is the next big exciting programming advancement we can make to spark increased interest in the radio industry? We need to be at the pinnacle of creativity right now; figuring out how we are going to remain a great entertainment medium in the years ahead. As fewer and fewer people have a radio station to go to every day, those still employed have less time to veer away from the tasks at hand and try something new. Some will suggest there is creativity out there and I would agree, but it's hard to argue that it is enough to change our course. Most times these days, creative time is short and turns out kinda dull.

Our industry is in its most precarious spot since the death of the live orchestra and soap operas in the radio studio. Back in those days, as the history books recount it, radio got lucky and discovered it could play records with a disk-jockey in between announcing the records. It's been the model ever since. Sure--it has changed, morphed, niched, etc since that time but it's still a song then a voice (many times "that big voice guy") and some commercials. This time, it probably won't be as easy.

We have focused the chatter so we never give a listener a reason to think we talk too much. In some instances we have allowed the PC police to neuter controversial content for fear someone might notice. We have trimmed the entertainment value of our radio stations right along with the head count.

Let's look at the recipe:

1 part less people
1 part less cutting edge entertainment
1 part less risk taking
1 part old thinking
1 part fear of what's next

Bring ingredients to a boil and let simmer. Serve with a side of New Media.

What is the solution? That's a tricky brew. A lot of what has transpired in the radio industry is not of its own making (on demand, I want it when it want it, thank you) and some of it is (on-demand--not doing enough of it soon enough). The voices of creativity must be let back in the room. Listening to what they have to say in not enough. An action plan must be created, it must be appropriately funded, and it must be given enough time to be successful. A dream world? Maybe.

When do the declines stop? Nobody really knows for sure or if they ever will. What I do know is that there are a lot of smart people in the business and if given the chance will get creative and come up with news ways to capture an audiences attention.

Later today or tomorrow people are not going to stop listening to the radio. The end is still a good ways off in the distance. But, time has a way of catching all of us. One day we are innocent kids in the first grade and before you know it you are sending your own kid to the first grade. Let's figure it out, sell it through, and get it on the air and on-line...maybe even on-demand.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

An Elfin Good Time

There's always time to have fun...this is great interactive marketing from OfficeMax. You can be a star just by going to the OfficeMax website

Have You Tried This?

We live in a go-go world filled with endless daily tasks and meetings. Here are 5 things PD’s probably don’t have time to do but should do anyway! Try one or two, you might be surprised with the outcome.

  • Spend a day off site and critically listen to your station—you would be amazed what you might hear or in some cases not hear. (Be sure to turn the phone off)

  • Conduct a programming and promotion brainstorming session with anyone in the radio station willing to come and participate—you never know who is going to have a GREAT idea.

  • Listen to 10 brand new songs—you never know you might hear the next big thing!

  • Answer the studio request lines and listen to what the listeners have to say—you might learn something interesting.

  • Do something fun and maybe a little goofy with your staff. Nerf football anyone?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Just a Little Minneapolis Flavor!

Let it SNOW! Looking out my front door.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Interviewed by R&R

I was honored to be asked some months ago to be interviewed by R&R's Erica Farber. Honestly, I don't do a lot of interviews (OK, almost never) but when Erica called I said yes to be featured in the "Publishers Profile."

Here is that interview:

Originally published on June 1, 2007 Harve Alan

It takes a mix of art, science and research to give the audience what it wants

Bitten early by the radio bug, Harve Alan remembers riding in his mother’s car, pretending a spoon in his hand was a radio microphone. Alan’s career has brought him from on-air to programming and consulting. In January he was appointed VP of programming for NextMedia, directing content development for 42 stations in 12 markets.

Getting into the business:

Growing up in Long Island [N.Y.], I listened to WABC, and I would get completely immersed in what was coming out of the radio. The day I got my driver’s license, I applied for an internship at WBAB/Long Island. A couple of months into it, I found myself getting paid as a board op.

First full-time job:

My first full-time job was at WCCC/Hartford, as on-air, promotions and programming. My lucky break came less than a year in. The program director was on his way out, and I cajoled, convinced, begged and was in the right place at the right time and became interim program director.

The station was losing the rock battle, and when I took over, it was at a 3 share. The first book out, we popped to a 4.9. The second book, we were up to a 6.4. Someplace between the 4.9 and the 6.4, I actually got to keep the job.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

More Than 60 Markets and Hundreds of Stations

Over the years I have been privileged to be involved with more than 60 markets in various capacities as well as having been engaged in national entities serving the entire country.


Chicago IL
Dallas-Ft. Worth TX
Houston-Galveston TX
Philadelphia PA
Atlanta GA
Washington DC
Boston MA
Nassau-Suffolk Long Island NY
Baltimore MD
Pittsburgh PA
San Jose CA
Providence-Warwick-Pawtucket RI
Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News VA
West Palm Beach-Boca Raton FL
Jacksonville FL
Hartford-New Britain-Middletown CT
Richmond VA
McAllen-Brownsville-Harlingen TX
Albany-Schenectady-Troy NY
Allentown-Bethlehem PA
Akron OH
Wilmington DE
El Paso TX
Harrisburg-Lebanon-Carlisle PA
Little Rock AR
Springfield MA
Greenville-New Bern-Jacksonville NC
Ft. Pierce-Stuart-Vero Beach FL
Melbourne-Titusville-Cocoa FL
York PA
Worceter MA
Lancater PA
New Haven CT
Roanoke-Lynchburg VA
Portmouth-Dover-Rocheter NH
Bridgeport CT
Canton OH
Reading PA
Saginaw-Bay City-Midland MI
Burlington-Plattsburgh VT-NY
Newburgh-Middletown NY
Atlantic City-Cape May NJ
Salisbury-Ocean City MD
Stamford-Norwalk CT
Savannah GA
Huntington-Ashland WV-KY
Myrtle Beach SC
Poughkeepsie NY
Wilmington NC
Wausau-Stevens Point WI (Central WI)
Manchester NH
Frederick MD
Danbury CT
Bangor ME
Winchester VA
Charlottesville VA
Wheeling WV
Augusta-Waterville ME
Williamsport PA
Harrisonburg VA

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Thanks for stopping by. For those who are meeting me for the first time...a little bit about me.

For more than 29 years I have been a passionate participant in the broadcast industry. From the early days of being on-the-air to promotions, production, programming, producer, coach, research, brand development, management, and senior executive management.

  • Vice President of Programming--NextMedia Group, Minneapolis, MN
  • Executive Vice President--Mercury Radio Research/hear2.0, Minneapolis, MN
  • Executive Producer--Christmas Around the World ABC Radio Networks/The Walt Disney Company, Orlando Florida
  • Director of Programming--ABC Radio Networks, New York, NY
  • Senior Vice President of Programming--Clear Channel Communications/AMFM Inc/Capstar Broadcasting, Mid Atlantic and North East Regions
  • Program Director--WZGC-FM, Atlanta, GA
  • Media Consultant--DeMers Programming, Philadelphia, PA
  • Station Manager--KHEY FM & AM, KPRR-FM El Paso, TX
  • Operations Manager/Program Director--WONE-FM and WAKR-AM, Akron, OH
  • Program Director--WAAF-FM, Boston, MA
  • Program Director--WCCC-FM, Hartford, CT
  • Very early career--WBAB-FM, WGBB-AM, WPOB-FM, Long Island, NY