Tuesday, December 30, 2008

DIY and Retro "in" for 2009

One of my favorite websites, Trendhunters, just released its Top 20 trends for 2009 by way of Trendhunters TV.

Predictions about what will be hot is always tricky business but watch carefully...it might just trigger a great idea you can use to start a trend of your own.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Thinking About 2009

There's been lots of talk about the credit crisis, the housing crisis, the automakers crisis and the economic crisis in general. And yes, plenty of talk about the radio crisis--amongst us radio folks.

Do you think the listeners know there's a radio crisis? Probably not. All they know is whether there is a radio station or stations that fulfill their needs as listeners.

Fulfillment and needs--two very good words to keep in mind as we steer our ships into 2009.

Maybe this is a little old school, but, if we focus our attention of finding ways to better serve our listeners we might discover new ways of formatting radio stations, new ways of connecting listeners with advertisers, and new ways to use our digital platforms to better connect and entertain listeners.

In 2009 radio companies that find ways to bolster their R&D budgets will have the best chance to be the big winners going forward.

R&D budget? Radio? Yes, R&D and radio! If Proctor and Gamble does it for 100 year old soap products we ought to be doing it for our radio products.

Here's a few ideas you might want to consider.

1--Find $30 a week to pay a new talent to try something new on the air for 2 hours every Sunday morning at 3am. For an investment of $1500 per year you might just discover someone or something new that could mean your future success.

2--Start attending local events again...festivals, community groups, or even high school football games. Talk to your neighbors, they might have something interesting to share.

3--Think about topics other than Hollywood gossip to talk about on the air. There's a phone topic right there: when you are not talking trash what else do you like to talk to your friends about?

Each idea is very low cost and very different from each other but yet all three are about the same thing: the listeners fulfillment and needs. Are these ideas groundbreaking? Hardly. They are basics we used to take for granted.

But then again, we used to take for granted that a newspaper would be printed and delivered to our house every day of the week and not just on certain days of the week.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Quotes of Creativity and Innovation

Enjoy this short presentation; it might inspire creativity or the desire to take a shower...you'll see.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bravo! Bravo!

Inside Radio had this in their afternoon update.

Live, from Chicago -- its overnights.
At a time when most stations are fighting to stay local outside of drive time, Salem is launching a live and local overnight show on WIND, Chicago (560). PD Marcus Brown says they see an opportunity to reach a "neglected" late-night listener. WIND weekend host Geoff Pinkus will host "Chicago Overnight."

I don't know any additional information, but at face value it's great to read about something other than a layoff.

Do You Have An Appointment?

Appointment listening is built into talk radio and presumably big morning shows have their fair share. What about music-centric dayparts and radio stations?

Now more than ever, with more stations making the choice to minimize the presence of personalities or forgo air talent altogether, what are you airing worthy of someone remembering to tune you in?

Inside Radio reported this morning:

More consumers pick silence.
The Consumer Electronics Association’s annual study of audio consumption finds that 13% of respondents aren’t listening to any form of audio entertainment these days, up from 4% a year ago and 2% in 2005. Consultant Sean Wargo says “It’s harder for consumers to decide where to allocate their time, so in some cases they’re just turning off the sound.”

In-car listening is down the most.
Blame the cell phone and fewer miles logged, but the number of consumers who listen to any form of audio while behind the wheel continues to drop. The CEA’s annual survey finds 83% listened to the radio, a CD or MP3. That’s down from 92% three years ago.

The new Britney, Kings of Leon, or classic Zep might be enough for some in the near term but I do not believe it will be enough for too much longer. What we program today will leave lasting impressions or is it lack of impressions.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

This Post May Make You Smile

Came across Comics.com --a searchable comic-strip website and found these "radio" comics. There were thousands available and I thought these might be smile invoking...and we all could use an extra smile. And yes, you can click on each of the comics to see a full-sized version.
Arlo & Janis

The Born Loser

Get Fuzzy

Friday, December 12, 2008

***The Newswatch Never Stops

***Except if you are a newspaper reader in Detroit. It seems home delivery might be reduced to three days per week. See the story below.

Maybe radio stations should consider turning the transmitter off during low cume dayparts. Sorry, I couldn't resist. Let's hope my snarky "sense of humor" is not predictive of what's around the corner.
Report: Detroit papers likely to cut delivery

Published report says Detroit newspapers likely to cut home delivery to 3 days a week

DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press are leaning toward cutting home delivery to three days a week, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The Journal, quoting a person on its Web site whom it didn't name, said a final decision has not been made. But the newspaper calls it the "leading scenario."

The papers have separate newsrooms but their business operations are combined under a joint operating agreement.

Leland Bassett, a spokesman for the partnership, would neither confirm nor deny the Journal report but said a news conference was planned for Tuesday.

"We do expect to announce a new, more dynamic business model, and the focus is on maintaining and strengthening two very strong and independent newspaper voices," he said.

There already are signs of change. Both newspapers have Web sites promoting Sunday and Thursday home delivery and online access on other days at a cost of $15 for three months.

Bassett said the promotion has been up for weeks. Asked if it's the sole option for subscribers, he replied: "We will be announcing ... a wide range of dynamic options. Those are still being finalized."

The Detroit market would be the largest in the country to lose seven-day home delivery if the strategy is adopted, said Rick Edmonds, a media analyst at The Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"I think doing nothing is really not an option," said Edmonds, noting the industrywide revenue slide. But there are risks, he said, especially if staffs are cut and loyal print readers find that a redesigned paper is just a "shell" of the old version.

"For some people, the newspaper is part of their routine," Edmonds said. "Those folks are not going to be happy if it doesn't come on Monday and Tuesday."

The Journal said home delivery would be limited to Thursday, Friday and Sunday, with an "abbreviated" print edition available at newsstands on other days. Readers would also be directed to the papers' Web sites.

The changes likely would mean major job cuts, the Journal said.

The Free Press, owned by Gannett Co., had a daily circulation of 314,554 at the end of March; 618,324 on Sunday. The News, owned by MediaNews Group Inc., had daily circulation of 178,280. It does not publish a print edition on Sunday.

Bassett said the papers recognize the "tremendous importance of digital communication and finding ways to better deliver news and information to people in ways that are most convenient to them."

Reporter M.L. Elrick, vice chairman of the Free Press unit of the Detroit Newspaper Guild, said there's anxiety in the newsroom.

"Everyone here is afraid we're going to have staff cuts," he said. "I wish I had my sources call me as often as my colleagues have called the past couple days. No one knows where this is going to end up."

A Radio Station Employee Pop Quiz

How many can you answer correctly?
  1. Would you listen to your own station(s) if you didn't work there?
  2. Do you even have time to listen to your own station(s)?
  3. Do you find your station(s) interesting to listen to?
  4. Do you secretly listen to satellite or internet radio for a different(better) variety of music?
  5. Do you secretly agree with listener complaints when you get them?
  6. Would things change if you were more empowered to make changes?
Loaded questions for sure. If enough people choose to answer I will crunch the answers and publish the results next week.

Bonus question: Would your listeners miss your station if it were taken off the air?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Brian Williams Shows His Generation Gap

Recently Brian Williams, the NBC Nightly News anchorman, jokes about technology at a speaking engagement (Adage had the video). It's really more like a body check [for you hockey fans] about technology. The subjects? Ebooks and streaming (err, radio).

It was humorous...especially when he talks about mastering the technology which he referred to as equipment. He was talking about an iPod Touch. Seemed a little overstated to me.

Whether it is a physical book or a portable radio what Mr. Williams is missing here is that great content needs to be platform agnostic and should work anywhere and anytime on any device. That goal has yet to be reached, but we are getting closer, much closer.

I wonder how many people will choose to stream local radio when it's hard to tell the difference between a stripped down radio station and one that is created in the bedroom of a 19 year old?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Steve Young - R.I.P.

Today I write about a fellow radio warrior and friend -- Steve Young. Last night I found out he had passed away while on vacation.

It's always so shocking when someone you know dies so unexpectedly. I had just spoken to Steve the week before Thanksgiving and last ran into him at the R&R/NAB convention this past September. We've been running into each other for a lot of years and each time we'd say: here we are, another convention. We survived another year.

At this years convention I shot some video of people I talked with and one of those people was Steve. I posted it on this blog back at that time and as a tribute to Steve I am posting it again.

My sincere condolences to the family and friends of Steve Young.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Power of Radio

This is a very funny story! Florida Republican congresswoman hangs up on President Elect Barak Obama--twice. Why?? It wasn't partisan politics, nope, it was RADIO.
"I thought it was one of the radio stations in South Florida playing an incredible, elaborate, terrific prank on me"

Now, one could debate whether these pranks are appropriate or not. That's another post entirely. But make no mistake about it--what's between the records IS what makes radio special and unique.

MIAMI -- When a man sounding remarkably like President-elect Barack Obama called a Florida congresswoman Wednesday, she assumed it was a crank call.

So Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen hung up. But, the Miami Herald reports, this was no prank.

"I thought it was one of the radio stations in South Florida playing an incredible, elaborate, terrific prank on me," Ros-Lehtinen told the newspaper. "They got Fidel Castro to go along. They've gotten Hugo Chavez and others to fall for their tricks. I said, 'Oh, no, I won't be punked."'

The call came about 1 p.m. Obama congratulated her on her re-election, saying he was looking forward to working with her as the ranking Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs committee, Ros-Lehtinen told the newspaper.

The conversation lasted about a minute when she cut Obama off, telling him she wasn't falling for the hoax and that he was a better impersonator than the guy on Saturday Night Live, she said.

Then Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff, called the congresswoman to tell her it wasn't a joke. But she hung up on him, too. It took a call from Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, to persuade Ros-Lehtinen that Obama really did want to talk to her.

When the two finally talked, Ros-Lehtinen said she and Obama had a good conversation and she congratulated him for his victory despite how hard she campaigned for his opponent, Sen. John McCain.

He didn't even blame her for mistaking him for a radio-station prank, she said.

"He laughed a lot, saying in Chicago they do it all the time," Ros-Lehtinen said. "He said, 'I don't blame you for being skeptical."'

Repeated calls by The Associated Press to two office numbers for the congresswoman rang unanswered after hours Wednesday. An e-mail message to an Obama spokeswoman after hours wasn't immediately returned.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Serious Newsmen ARE NOT Funny!

A very out of character promo for PBS. Good to see and good for a chuckle.

Even the VO is not in the norm--Doc Morgan's booming voice loud and clear.

Your Turn

"Radio Is My Life". Remember that saying? I do. I said it. I lived it. And I still love the industry today. [I think the NAB or RAB might have distributed a button that said that some time in the early 80's.]

It's much harder to imagine people mimicking that phrase today. What kind of life would we be talking about? Not there was ever any guarantees, but compared to today there were abundant opportunities to learn, grow, and perform. Yes, perform. Remember we are in the entertainment business.

Now before you think this post is all about the "good old days"...there was plenty of crap then too! This post is really about what could be now and in the future.

This blog launched last year at about this time and over these months I have tried write posts that were honest, encouraging, educational, and hopefully interesting and entertaining. I will let you be the judge.

I see many opportunities for today's radio industry. Right now, however, I look around at the economic realities that most radio companies are dealing with and with few exceptions I fear that some of these opportunities could slip through our fingers.

The rest of this post I would like to turn it over to you. How do YOU see it? What does 2009 hold? What do you think are our best opportunities? Concerned about posting? Post anonymously if you would like.

I am interested in what you have to say.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mark Ramsey's New Book

Please allow me to recommend Mark Ramsey's new book "Making Waves."

I have known Mark for many years and worked with him at hear2 and Mercury and I can tell you he is one of our industry's brightest minds. This book will be a quick and easy read but I can't think of a more important book for radio people than this one.

Dana Hall at Radio-Info just posted a brief interview with Mark. Here is the link.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Game Over!

What game is over?  

The game of data-centric, company focused, cluster fitting, competitive landscape, Arbitron manipulating marketing and programming.  Anyone who knows me has heard me say one thousand times we must develop a "unique definable position" in order to cut through and achieve not only programming success but long term SALES success.  Unique and definable to listeners that is.  

Some examples of how we might fall short:
  • A station does a music test (are there still stations doing music testing?) and the "cutoff" is, let's say, a 70 score.  A song gets a 69.7 and the song doesn't get considered for airplay.  Ridiculous!  
  • A station gets the PPM ratings and drills down and notes that when the jock reads the liner card the ratings dip.  Solution:  reduce the chatter even more.  How about talking about things LISTENERS care about instead of a "work day liner?"
  • A station website is nice to look at but misses the chance to truly interact with listeners by not having personality blogs, music sampling and polling, or other interactive listener-centric content that might emotionally connect listeners with the station.  
  • Talking in radio-ese.  (see picture below)
  • Fish where the fishes are.  That means be out in your community at festivals, events, concerts, and any other well attended places where you can shake hands, kiss babies, and communicate a positive impression about your brand--even if there's no sales component.
I could go on and on...but you get the idea.  

Creative thinking has all but disappeared from the programming process due to workloads, less people, and too much group think.  I should also include fear since many times "creative" doesn't always yield instant results. 

There's no naïveté here.  I like big ratings and I understand the importance of cluster strategies--not too mention economic realities.  However, we shouldn't be programming radio stations only in conference room bubbles.  We need better outreach and LISTEN to our desired audience--they might have something worthwhile to say.  
Listen, appropriately filter, and get creative!  Sounds like a plan.  

As I regularly do, I like scanning Slideshare looking for cool presentations worthy of sharing with you.  Today, I found a great one!  

Check out this slide and then take a look at a short 17 slide presentation.  
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: business mobile)

Radio Legend Dies

Bill Drake has died--from lung cancer in Los Angeles at age 71.

His impact on radio, great radio, is undeniable. KFRC in San Francisco (among many others) stands as one of the greatest radio stations of all time--at least to me.

Check out this KHJ Los Angeles tribute to Boss Radio

Wikipedia has his history. (They note the article might require some clean up and revision)

Bill Drake (1937-2008), born Philip Yarbrough, was an American radio programmer. He chose his last name from among his relatives' surnames, because it rhymed with "WAKE", the station in Atlanta, where he worked as a programmer and disc-jockey in the late 1950s. Later, Bartell Broadcasting, who owned WAKE that he had programmed to number one, transferred him to KYA in San Francisco, which also became number one. It was later at KYNO in Fresno, California that he met Gene Chenault, who became his business partner. Together, the pair developed highly influential radio programming strategies and tactics, as well as working with future "Boss Jocks" (their new name for on-air radio talent).

Drake-Chenault perfected the Top 40 radio format, which had been created by Todd Storz, Gordon McClendon and other radio programmers in the late 1950s, which took a set list of popular songs and repeated them all day long, ensuring the widest possible audience for the station's music. Jingles, news updates, traffic, and other features were designed to make Top 40 radio particularly attractive to car listeners. By early 1964, the era of the British Invasion, Top 40 radio had become the dominant radio format for North American listeners and quickly swept much of the Western world.

Drake streamlined the Top 40 format, using modern methods, such as market research and ratings demographics, to maximize the number of listeners. He believed in forward momentum, limiting the amount of disc jockey chatter, the number of advertisements and playing only the top hits, as opposed to less-organized programming methods of the past. Drake created concepts such as 20/20 News and counter programming, by playing music sweeps, while his competitors aired news. Drake-Chenault controlled everything from the specific DJs that were hired, to radio contests, visual logos, promotions and commercial policy. Drake essentially put radio back into the hands of programming, instead of sales. Drake hired the Johnny Mann Singers to produce the Boss Radio jingles, ensuring a bright, high-energy sound that engaged the listener, while providing a bridge from song to song, as well as a smooth transition from songs to commercials.

After turning around the fortunes of Fresno's KYNO, Drake applied similar tactics to take KGB, from 14th to 1st in San Diego. KGB's owner, Willett Brown, suggested to his fellow RKO board members, that Drake could turn KHJ around.

In the Spring of 1965, Drake-Chenault were hired to turn KHJ in Los Angeles, from a financial and ratings loser into a success. Drake hired Ron Jacobs as program director, Robert W. Morgan in the mornings and Don Steele in the afternoons. KHJ quickly jumped from near-obscurity, to the number one radio station in Los Angeles. "Boss Radio" moved faster and sounded more innovative than the competition, making it the #1 choice over competitors in Southern California.

Bill Drake also programmed KFRC in San Francisco, WOR-FM in New York, KAKC in Tulsa, WHBQ in Memphis, WRKO in Boston and 50,000 watt CKLW, in Windsor, Ontario, across the Detroit River from the city of Detroit.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Drake and Chenault formed Drake-Chenault Inc., marketing the format in the form of similar customized Johnny Mann jingle packages used on KHJ. These jingle packages were sold across the US and overseas. They also marketed "automated" radio format packages such as "Hit Parade", "Solid Gold", "Classic Gold" and "Great American Country". Disc Jockey voices heard on those formats included: the legendary Robert W. Morgan, Charlie Van Dyke and others. Drake also conceived the pioneering 48-hour radio special, The History of Rock & Roll, first aired in February of 1969 on KHJ and later voiced an updated version, that was broadcast on over 400 stations nationwide. Other radio specials followed, but none were arguably as successful as The History of Rock and Roll. Drake-Chenault was sold and eventually dissolved in the mid-1980s, but their radio specials are still available from a variety of sources.

In 1973, Drake left KHJ, along with Steele and Morgan, to program KIQQ-FM ("K-100") in Los Angeles. Bill Drake was a member of the nominating committee of the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lots To Be Thankful For...Really

Doom and gloom in the radio industry is off the charts right now. The health of our industry for 2009 and maybe even 2010 is in question.

Layoffs and centralization are the current buzz words. Surely not what any of us would like to be buzzing about.

Last week I read a story from Variety stating, among other things, that the old line TV networks, CBS, NBC, and ABC are considering shortening prime time from 3 hours to 2 and returning the other hour back to the local stations to save on costs. That's a possible 33% reduction in prime time product. Wow!

Everything around us appears not to be like it used to be. Change is inevitable and man-oh-man are we changing. For most people change is hard, cruel, and many times devastating--especially for those who get caught in the storm.

At times like these there are three words that come to mind as we all try to navigate the heavy seas.
  • Creativity
  • Optimism
  • Perseverance
Whether you are on the inside or the outside right now please take those words to heart. Put those words in any order that works for you. Put the words next to each other if that works better.

Whatever position you hold, have held, or want to hold now is the time to embrace the notion that it is up to us to create the next story line for radio.

It's out there just waiting to get on the air.

As we approach Thanksgiving I am thankful for so many things. Family, friends, and for the career that has been so good to me for so many years. 2008 marked 30 years since I first sat behind the microphone at WPOB-FM Plainview, NY--the high school radio station where I learned for sure that this was the business for me. I am no less enthusiastic about broadcasting (that includes web and mobile, BTW) today.

I wish you the happiest Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Social Era Continues

Forrester Research's Jeremiah Owyang presented "The Future of Social Media" a few weeks ago at the Thin Air Summit in Denver.  Some of it you may already be aware of but it's worthy of taking a look. 


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Something Special In The Air

Here's another reminder of what's around the corner.
No, that's not a new player on your laptop computer screen but the command center from the new media center upcoming from Mercedes Benz. Still at least a few more years away but that time will go very quick.

While the announcement of these systems is nothing new--in addition to MB, Chrysler and BMW have already released systems--what is noteworthy is how fast the technology is advancing.

Engadget had this article of the MB system:
Mercedes-Benz has already toyed around a bit with some internet-connected in-car systems, but it looks to really be going all out with its new myCOMMAND system, which it's now showing off at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Among other things, it would constantly pull various traffic information off the internet and take it into account for route selection, as well as give you access to internet radio stations, let you make VoIP phone calls, and even give you a browser that'll let you " surf the internet in the accustomed way." Mercedes is also promising that the entire system will be completely intuitive, with most of the primary functions controlled with a single rotary pushbutton, and two secondary buttons provided for things like menu operation. Of course, it's all still very much a demo at this point, and Mercedes itself says it'll be least a "few more years" before it actually winds up in a production vehicle.
Interesting that there is no mention of AM and FM radio. While I don't think it won't be included, it's a sign of the times that it is not viewed as MOST important. HD Radio...ahhhhh

So back to the title of this post. SOMETHING SPECIAL IN THE AIR. We better do it. And now.

What Does Your "Future Life" Look Like?

Today's blog will be the easiest and toughest read you have all day. I invite you to open your mind to a virtual world that will make the current day look like child's play. Literally. Play-Learn-Share-Experience.

It will all be a lot clearer after looking at the following slide and then spending a little time clicking through an excellent presentation given to the Digital Technology Symposium in Auckland, New Zealand.

The slide (you can click to enlarge) illustrates the generational differences back to 1922:
And here's the slideshow that takes us to a world that is as different as what living on Mars might be like. Hmmm, that different? Well, you decide.
Since this is a blog that is mostly about radio I ask you...how, if this thesis is accurate, will radio compete in its future life?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Free Pizza on Facebook?

How do you make friends and fans? Give away free pizza. Of course Papa Johns is trying to get pizza-eaters in the habit of ordering their pizza on line. Click on the photo to go to the Papa Johns page.

What could you give away on your Facebook page? What client partnerships could be developed by using on-line tools like Facebook? You have a facebook page right?

Traditional advertising is in a world of hurt right now. I certainly don't need to tell you that. I am wondering out loud whether it will ever come back to previous levels. I will only say maybe, with a hint of doubt thrown in.

Whether it's programming trying to connect with listeners in different ways, or sales trying to find solutions for clients looking for new ways to reach customers we must look past traditional spots and promos to compete in our tech-crazed 21st century world.

Z100 in New York has:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ozzy: Pitchman

Proving that identifying talent and knowing how to put that talent to good use is truly an art.

Read the whole story here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Off Topic

Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson writes a very interesting and popular blog.

He posted this:

Bustup Not Bailout

Bustup not bailout should be our rallying cry. Once upon a time busting up big companies was a populist movement. Its time for that movement to rise up again. Not so much to rid our society of monopolies but to rid our society of financial minefields that are 'too big to fail'. I read a quote on twitter yesterday that said 'too big to fail means too big to exist'.

And yet the govt's answer to our problems is to push for more consolidation. Its nutty. Scale and complexity is the enemy of innovation and what ails most of the large businesses in this country, auto in particular, is a structural lack of innovation in the industry architecture

It takes something like 5 years to get a new car designed and built in most large auto companies. That's too long. I realize that designing and building a new car platform is not like hacking up a new web app. But five years? C'mon. We have to do better than that

And we need to completely neuter the auto industry's ability to lobby our govt to stop important initiatives like clean/alt+energy and mass transit. Its borderline criminal what the auto industry's political efforts have done to our global competitive position right now

The same is true of the financial services business, the airline business, electric utilities, and a host of other industries

I am sympathetic to the arguments that we cannot allow the entire supply chain of the auto industry fail and I am certainly aware how many plants will close and jobs will be lost if we let GM, Chrysler, and Ford fail. Its a tough call and Obama has already staked out a pro bailout auto position

So I hope someone in his incoming team reads this and the conversations on this topic that went on via twitter yesterday. If we give taxpayer money to the auto business, it should be to finance a wholesale bustup of the business. One PE firm should buy Volt. Another should buy Buick. A third should buy Jeep. A fourth should buy Lincoln. And if a brand can't find a buyer at any price with a boatload of taxpayer money behind it then it should fail

This is the best way out of this mess. We have to get the biggest businesses in this country smaller and nimbler, we have to get smart money behind them, builders not spreadsheet pushers, and we must focus on innovation not lobbying. That's the only way forward that makes sense short of throwing them all under the bus and starting over.

Note: I wrote this on the eliptical trainer at the gym so no links and prob some typos. I'll try to fix both later

Why did I post this? Well......while reading it I couldn't help but think if we applied some of his solutions to radio we might happen upon some new and groundbreaking ideas that under the current radio structures might never see the light of day.

BTW, I'm still accepting inquiries about my crazy block programming idea.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Taking My Own Advice

I often write about the importance of having great content on radio station web sites in order to give listeners a good reason to visit more than once. Recently, I began working with a company called CineSport which provides video sports reports free of charge to media websites and provides a revenue share as well.

Typically, I don't publicize companies and organizations that I am working with on this blog, however, I really like the CineSport product. It's exclusive local video content that's not available anywhere else, updated automatically every day, and produces revenue, and I thought it is worthy of showcasing here.

Here's a screenshot of what the Harve Alan Media branded sports report looks like:
If you would like to see the latest report scroll to the lower portion of the Harve Alan Media home page and it is available to view, anytime. If you like what you see and are interested in the service for your site give me a call or send me an email and I can provide you with some additional information.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Value of Air Talent

The value of air talent is sinking faster than the cost of a gallon of gas ($1.94 here in Minneapolis as of this writing). Whether the solution is extended shifts, voice tracks, or a non-stop segue serenade the next chapter in operating radio stations has been written. We still need to be a personal medium, but there will be less persons being personable in the personnel pool.

I have been very consistent in my opinion that it is NOT voice tracking that is the problem. It is bad voice tracking that stinks. I have always used a Tonight Show analogy—nobody cares that Jay Leno is recorded, all people care about is that he is funny. Nobody thinks twice about time shifting a program on their DVR or iPod. All they care about is that it is good. Pre-recorded programming may in fact be desirable!

Just as the radio industry poisoned listeners to the idea of commercials years ago—and then gave them double the amount, we are training people that outside of morning drive all we are is a jukebox with two or three long commercial interruptions per hour. Outside of talk radio and a small group of stations this is the truth. The days of radio making personal connections, providing companionship, and prompting appointment listening are over.

That would be OK if we had moved on to the next great thing. Nope, stay tuned folks 10 songs will be played next—there will be 2 dead roll segues, 2 six second voice tracks, and a bunch of short produced liners with forgettable positioning statements. All that will lead up to a short passion free :30 break informing listeners that a fun time will be had this Saturday at the tire store where you could win a free alignment. WooHoo! We could get away with this half-assed version of radio when music was mostly exclusive to radio.

OK, OK I am overstating things a bit. But, admit it—radio as I have described is being broadcast every day in too many places.

I have an idea. Block Programming. All voice tracked. This is where you are supposed to think I have lost it. I’m not suggesting a program of Chamber Music, followed by an hour of news, with Polka’s coming up next. Not even close. I am talking about producing great content in a shorter program context—an hour, maybe two at the most. Programming that will keep music central but far more interesting and compelling. Unique.

At the very least I hope I have sparked some thought.

2009 may be a more challenging year than 2008. We must not only think about who’s getting cut and how are we going to get by, but how can we broadcast programming that’s not watered down but actually new, different, and enriched.

We have two choices. We can either “Cut, Cover, Coast” or “Cut, Cultivate, Create”.

Friday, November 7, 2008

FlyCast and Blackberry

My T Mobile Blackberry Curve just got a fresh software update and I can now stream with the aid of FlyCast. I take you on a guided tour with the video podcast.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Don't Be Surprised!!

Courtesy of Al Peterson's NTS Aircheck:

» "We All Should Be Fair And Balanced!" That's what U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said in an interview on FOX News earlier today when asked if he favored a return of the repealed Fairness Doctrine. On the eve of what polls predict will be a Democratic majority in Congress and a Democrat in the White House, Schumer was asked if he supports the idea of government intervention into what broadcast radio -- primarily Talk radio -- programs. "The very same people who don't want the Fairness Doctrine want the FCC to limit pornography on the air," said the NY Senator. "I am for that, but you can't say government [should be] hands off in one area to a commercial enterprise, but you are allowed to intervene in another. That's not consistent." Schumer's remarks come in the wake of recent indications of support for a return of the Fairness Doctrine by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and other congressional Democrats.
It doesn't matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, if this were to come to fruition it would dramatically change the talk radio landscape--for the worse. It potentially could further hurt an already hurting industry.

We need to remain dillegent and not let this creep up on us.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Free For A Day


Turns out the devil is in the details and it's illegal to give gifts for voting; KIRO-TV in Seattle has the details:
Seattle-based Starbucks is making fast changes -- after being accused of breaking the law with an offer to voters.Prior to Monday afternoon, Starbucks was promoting an ad that said anyone who says enters a Starbucks on Election Day and says that they voted would get a free cup of tall coffee.RAW VIDEO: Starbucks' Election Day AdElection officials for the state of Washington told KIRO 7 that rewarding voters with free coffee is illegal."No good deed goes unpunished," said Nick Handy, director of elections.Handy said there is a federal statute that prohibits any reward for voting.Starbucks' good deed can be perceived as paying someone to vote, and that’s illegal, Handy said."The way it is written, it expressly prohibits giving any kind of gift," Handy said.Handy said the intent of the statute is aimed at special interest groups trying to influence who and how people vote.To fix the situation, Starbucks had agreed to give a tall cup of coffee to anyone who asks on Election Day.A statement from Tara Darrow of Starbucks says, "We've been excited by the number of positive responses received about our free coffee offer. To ensure we are in compliance with election law, we are extending our offer to all customers who request a tall brewed coffee. We're pleased to honor our commitment to communities on this important Election Day. We hope there is a record turnout on Tuesday and look forward to celebrating with our customers over a great cup of coffee."
That's the message from Starbucks--as long as you vote. Anyone who stops by a Starbucks coffee shop tomorrow, election day, who's voted will be given a free "tall" brewed cup of coffee.

Seems like a great way for Starbucks to rebuild some of the lost foot traffic that has hit many of their stores over the last year or two.

Here's a promotion that gives it away for free with the hope that a renewed exposure to the taste, experience, and community of Starbucks will rekindle peoples interest in the now aging brand. Of course, keeping with Starbucks socially conscious motif they have tied it into election day--a good hook!

What "free for a day" styled promotion could radio be doing to rekindle interest in our aging brands?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Your On-Line Brand

How's your on-line brand? You know, the one that's represented on LinkedIn, Facebook, or your blog. What does it say about you? What does it say if you don't have one?

Take a few minutes today to think about YOU. Here's a good thought starter:
You, the online brand
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: blogs networking)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

SNL Finds Success, Again

Saturday Night Live has gotten rave reviews this political season doing what they have always done, with varying degrees of success, since the mid 1970's. Let's be honest, some seasons have been nothing short of painful. Thus far, this season has been a home run. The writing, the topicality, the guests, and the performances have been excellent. The Palin factor. And the buzz on the show? Off the map. Not to mention the huge live TV audiences and the even larger on-line audiences.

What the show tries to do every week closely resembles what entertainment based radio shows try to do every day--also with varying degrees of success. So much of a shows success starts with the prep and the writing. Typically, winging it is not the best path.

Last night on Charlie Rose (on PBS) SNL's Lorne Michaels, Seth Meyers, Darrell Hammond, Fred Armisen and writer James Downey appeared to talk about the process, the prep, the performance, and, yes, this season's success. Pull the curtain back and get a peek into their process.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Music is Back at MTV

What began as Music Television, over the years, has morphed into something very different--virtually no music. Now, on-line, the music [videos] is back. MTV has launched MTV Music.

The database is very large--more than 22,000 videos so far. From the current to the classic. Including this vintage nugget:

In addition to all the videos, MTV Music is set up for social networking and allows for those who register (free) to post their own user created videos and author their own blog. The site also features staff picks, viewer comments, and ratings. Audio and video quality seems high as well. What's missing right now is playlist creation and there's no way to buy or download the music and videos--but you can share a link and also embed a link as I did here.

Sites like this are tough competition for radio station websites. They have the natural resources, so to speak. What natural resources do you have to help grow your traffic?

Google, Wal-Mart, and T Mobile

Two separate items--connected:

Here's a new survey of U.S. internet users. Take a look at what people are willing to pay for:

T-Mobile and Google go mega mass market--Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart To Sell Google's G1 Phones At Discount Starting Wed

October 27, 2008: 08:37 PM EST
NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Wal-Mart Inc. (WMT) will start selling the G1 phone at a discounted price starting Wednesday, a Wal-Mart spokesman confirmed Monday night.

Wal-Mart will carry the Google Inc. (GOOG) G1 phone, sold through Deutsche Telekom AG's (DT) T-Mobile USA, in 550 Wal-Mart stores at the reduced price of $ 148.88 for new customers, or existing customers eligible for an upgrade, who sign up for a two-year agreement, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Melissa O'Brien said.

Consumers interested in purchasing the T-Mobile G1 can save $31.11 at Wal-Mart as opposed to buying through T-Mobile, which sells the device for $179.99.

The T-Mobile G1, released for pre-order last month, is the first phone that's compatible with Android, Google's new operating system.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Arbitron vs. New York State

Thrown out!

According to the judge the states case raises "important state interests." In short, the AG's case alleges Arbitron is guilty of fraudulent and deceptive business practices and civil rights violations. [All Access posted the full text of the judges opinion here.]

In a release Arbitron SVP/Press & Investor Relations THOM MOCARSKY said, "Today's ruling does not impact ARBITRON's right to publish our PPM audience estimates in New York. We went to Federal Court seeking to protect our right to provide the radio industry with the up-to-date PPM audience estimates it needs. Following our efforts, the New York Attorney General chose not to seek a temporary restraining order adversely impacting our right to produce PPM estimates.

"Now that ARBITRON has commercialized the PPM service in NEW YORK and other key markets, we look forward to defending our interests. Broadcasters, agencies, and advertisers need continual PPM audience estimates if radio is to remain competitive in an increasingly complex and crowded media marketplace."

Fraud, deception, and civil rights violations? Let me be understated here. Really? What? Over the years Arbitron has gone out of its way to fairly (some might say more than fairly) appropriately represent minority listeners. What changed? Why now?

I'm the last person to give Arbitron a free pass. I'm not saying PPM is perfect. It seems to me that stating that the state has an important interest in radio ratings is troubling. Why?

It's fair game to challenge Arbitron on panel size, ethnic balance, and other key components relating to PPM. Aside from the lawyers there are no other guaranteed winners in this case and only serves to tarnish the already hurting radio industry even further.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Still Sitting On The Text Messaging Sidelines?

There may be no better way to reach radio listeners.

That's 79 billion text messages in ONE month!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Just Be Aware

In my heart of hearts I don't really believe (or don't want to believe) the Fairness Doctrine will be inflicted on media in this country again. I am firmly against it. There is no shortage of places to express ones opinions and viewpoint. It is my belief we do not need the government sticking their partisan noses into a stations programming.

Take a listen to the clip from an interview with New Mexico Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman and his support for the Fairness Doctrine.

Link: New Mexico Democrat Supports Revival Of Fairness Doctrine


This posted on Radio and Records

By Mike Stern

Talking with morning host Dave Durian on Hearst talk WBAL/Baltimore, FCC commissioner Michael Copps (pictured) said he does not foresee the return of the Fairness Doctrine, at least not in the same format.

"What we do need is to make sure our airwaves are open and covering a lot of local events, covering local political races, making sure viewers and listeners both can benefit from a clash of antagonistic ideas and issues being covered," said Copps. He added, "Even though the fairness doctrine is gone that's still in the telecommunications act."

The challenge, Copps says, is how to address that issue, "Do you go back to a controversial doctrine that was really the product of a previous age when media was different or do you try to go forward and say how do we do that now with modern communications and a different media environment?"

While reinstating the old doctrine isn't the answer, "we need to have debate about how you keep these airwaves serving the public interest and nourishing the public dialog our democracy depends on," Copps said. "We still want to be sure we have that kind of free flowing debate and cover the issues people need covered to make intelligent decisions."

It's All About Tribes

Seth Godin's new book TRIBES is out and as usual he is thought provoking and has wrote a must read book for those of us who are charged with attracting an audience or helping those looking to attract customers.

What's this book all about? Mr. Godin has posted a full (and lengthy) presentation explaining why people (listeners) are looking for leaders and will seek out tribes they can be a part of and feel good about.

Take a little time and see what he has to say.
Full notes are provided with this presentation. I would suggest you click this in the viewer. It will take you to the slideshare site where the notes are visible.
Seth Godin on Tribes
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: book tribes)

Monday, October 20, 2008

You Think We Got Problems (in radio)?

With people under 30 it would appear TV may be in worse shape.

MediaPost had this story based on a Pew study:
Only 58% of adults younger than 30 say they watch TV almost every day, while 23% of say they watch television only a few times a week. That's according to new research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Numbers decidedly weaker than we are experiencing in radio. What's not mentioned is what the numbers were in the past and how far they have fallen. It's reasonable to guess that younger demos have always watched less TV than their older counterparts.

Here's how the older demo's shake out.

Among older adults, the numbers are higher. Seventy-two percent of people age 30-49 watch TV almost every day, as do 80% of those 50-64 and 89% of those 65 and older.
A huge difference.

Get this...from the same MediaPost article:

Independent of the Pew study, The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about the growing number of adults who have stopped paying for cable TV because they can watch any programs they want online. Presidential debates can now be streamed live, shows on cable channels like MTV are available for free streaming, and the best moments from "Saturday Night Live" can be viewed on demand at Hulu.com and NBC.com.

And the article goes on to say:

If people had already started canceling their cable subscriptions before the recent economic events, it's easy to imagine that more will do so in a recession. And that means that Internet video, which already commands some of the highest CPMs out there, will grow in popularity. Current predictions are that the market could reach $1 billion by 2010, but that could turn out to be an underestimate if more people than expected stop watching TV.

Additionally, as people spend more time online, search advertising also is likely to continue to grow. Many Web users now view search engines, and not portals, as the gateway to the Web; when those people go online, they start at Google, Yahoo or another company's search engine. Just last week, Google reported that second quarter profit grew 26%, showing that paid search is holding up very well, even as the rest of the economy teeters.

The future is here and it's on-demand. Honestly, I had never heard that cable TV subscriptions were being canceled. But if that tidbit is accurate, that's got to send chills down the spine of TV exec's everywhere.

And we wonder why there is little to no appetite for HD Radio--good content or not.

MTV Networks learned long ago that music and music videos were becoming too much of a commodity (not to mention the declining ratings) to center most of it's programming around it. The channels today are largely about music and the people making the music but not music videos.

It's a very difficult lesson for radio to wrap its arms around. I'm guilty, we are all guilty of selling "more music." It was a plausible strategy before more music could be better deployed elsewhere. Now the challenge is to develop radio programming (live, on-line, on demand) that gets beyond the songs exclusively.

What exclusive content do you have worth searching for and consuming on-demand?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Radio Guy Glenn Beck Changes Channels From HN to FNC

Politico and Drudge report the story this afternoon:

From Politico:

Drudge teased this earlier, and Fox News has announced that conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck is joining the network, leaving behind CNN's Headline News. Beck will host a show at 5 p.m. on Fox beginning in the spring.

It hasn't yet been determined when Beck's last day will be, but I've heard from a network source that Headline News was already prepared to re-air "Lou Dobbs Tonight" at 9pm, instead of Beck's show (which first airs at 7pm). When Beck leaves, Dobbs show will be in the 9pm slot.

"Glenn has been a terrific employee and colleague to many of us at CNN," a network spokesperson said in a statement. "We wish him well.”Glenn Beck has signed a multi-year agreement to join FOX News, announced Roger Ailes, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of FOX News. Beginning next spring, Beck will host FOX News Channel’s (FNC) 5 PM/ET weekday program as well as a weekend show on the network.

Currently, Beck serves as the host of Glenn Beck, a talk show on CNN’s Headline News which has grown more than 200% in viewership in both the 7pm and 9pm timeslots since its 2006 debut. He also hosts a daily radio show The Glenn Beck Program which is syndicated via Premiere Radio Networks to more than 300 stations nationwide as well as XM Satellite Radio, and ranks as the third most listened to radio talk show in America among adults 25-54.

In making the announcement, Ailes said, “As we embark on a new political landscape, Glenn’s thought provoking commentary will complement an already stellar line-up of stars at FOX News”

Prior to his television career, Beck served as a talk radio show host at WFLA-AM in Tampa, FL where he took his program to number one within his first year there. He began his radio career in Corpus Christi, Texas as the youngest Top 40 morning show disc jockey in America at 18 years of age. Beck later moved on to become a top 40 disc jockey in major markets around the country, including Houston, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Phoenix and New Haven, CT.

Beck added, “I am thrilled and profoundly humbled to have the chance to bring my program to FOX News. Expanding my audience is exciting, but I'm really looking forward to joining Mr. Ailes and his world-class team."

A recipient of the 2008 Marconi Award for Network Syndicated Personality of the Year from the National Association of Broadcasters, Beck is also the author of the New York Times bestseller An Inconvenient Book - Real Solutions to the World’s Biggest Problems (2007) as well as The Real America - Messages from the Heart and Heartland (2005).

First Lawsuits, Now A Press Conference--The PPM Fight Continues

Ad Age has posted this video report of a press conference at NY City Hall by political representatives and trade organizations of minority broadcasters. US House of Representatives member Representative Nydia Velazquez (D) of New York stated, "we must ensure the voices of minorities are not silenced and this is exactly what Arbitron will do."

Pretty strong words. Watch for yourself, but it seems to me the claim that Arbitron is purposefully trying to put minority broadcasters out of business is quite a stretch.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Model To Find Tomorrow's Talent

Fox News is all about TALENT. Roger Ailes gets talent and the essential need for developing new talent as well, if not better, than anyone in the media business. FNC is constantly trying out new people and even entire long form programs with fresh casts of interesting people. Ever see Red Eye? It's a great show...you will probably have to TIVO it since it's on at 3am ET.

The cable news channel also promotes a very progressive intern program.

Today while scanning the TVNewser blog I saw this:
Tuesday, Oct 14

Interns Get Their Say at Fox News

fncu_10-14.jpgFox News launched a new page on their Website today, with content that comes entirely from the network's interns. The FNCU (Fox News Channel University) page (fncu.foxnews.com) includes stories and videos from current interns and the application process if you'd like to be an intern.

Also featured on the site is an intern interview of FNC anchor Shepard Smith, about how he got his start in the business and his experience with interns at FNC.

Currently led by FNC's VP of recruitment, Brigette Boyle, FNC's summer internship program officially launched in 2004, and the network has had interns since the network began in 1996.

You can bet, among other things, this program is designed to sift through aspiring young talent and identify the next Sean Hannity or Sheppard Smith. [And let's not forget that FNC has committed to a content rich web experience and this is just another way to do that.]

I know radio stations have interns, but how many intern programs give their interns an entire website and encourage them to produce content?

Seems like a terrific idea to me.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Suits, Countersuits and a Voice of Reason

The PPM saga continues. You've read about it and no doubt have an opinion.

Here's mine:

As I wrote in an earlier post, I am not for giving Arbitron a pass when it comes to sampling: panel size, gender, ethnicity, or geography; however, for the health and benefit of an already hurting broadcast industry I wish this matter would have been dealt with without the notice of the Washington Post, USA Today, NY Times and many others.

Too late.

One has to take notice when the NY and NJ AG's refer to PPM data as "fraudulent." In my mind that is like calling a car with a couple of bad tires a lemon. You and I both know Arbitron is having difficulty conducting research in ALL markets--not just those markets in which they are deploying PPM. Conducting research of any kind today is fraught with recruitment issues. Problematic, yes, fraudulent, I'm not prepared to make that leap. [I also found it disheartening that both the senior and junior senators from Illinois thought this was important enough to comment on. Just what we need--more government opinion inserted into private matters.]

Station owners are spending large sums of money to support PPM and it's Arbitron's duty and responsibility to deliver a market's measurement with as few anomalies and issues as possible. On Mark Ramsey's hear2.0 blog he dives into the data in one PPM market and illuminates some of the issues as one drills down into specific demographics. Frightening. And also reminiscent of the very real problems that occur every month and quarter in diary markets.

And now a pragmatic voice of reason from an individual who is a large stakeholder in PPM's success:

As many African-American and Hispanic broadcasters have been very vocal in their opposition of PPM, the Washington Post ran this article today with comments from Radio One's Alfred Liggins:

Some station executives defend the system, however, maintaining that Arbitron is working the bugs out. "Anytime you adopt a new technology, there are always short-term dislocations," said Alfred C. Liggins III, chief executive of Radio One Inc., the Lanham-based company that owns 53 stations -- including WMMJ and WKYS -- that seek African American listeners. "There's going to be a learning curve. . . . But [electronic measurement] is reality. I'd much rather get reality on the road then delay, delay, delay."

Liggins said that Radio One's stations in Houston and Philadelphia initially saw a steep drop in their ratings when the meters were introduced months ago but that they have since recovered to roughly the same ranking in the market.

Because the meters tell broadcasters who's listening to what within just a few days (compared with weeks under the diary method), stations can quickly "fine-tune" their promotions, commercial breaks and even on-air personalities, he said. In Philadelphia, for instance, Radio One removed a DJ from the air after just a few weeks when his ratings sagged; a similar personnel decision might have taken 18 months with diaries.

"If you're really brilliant and funny, you can keep talking," Liggins said. But as it turns out, "the number of people who really have that ability are few and far between."

Spot on!

Now I hope Mr. Liggins will be looking to hire more of those brilliant and funny talkers to populate additional dayparts on his radio stations. Those are the people who ARE radios future.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It Always Starts With Content

Digital marketing agency Avenue A/Razorfish takes a short but very good look at 4 digital media trends and as always it starts with CONTENT. Take a peek.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Tale of Two [Arbitron] Diaires

In the not to distant past I was involved with a station that was in a multi-front battle for male audience. In this particular small market there were at least 5 stations vying for the males shares--a tough road no matter how you sliced it.

That brings us to those two pesky male diaries, both from the same household and with enough AQH's to take a station from essentially last to first with a big lead. And since there were so few males diaries to begin with those 2 diaries carried so much weight they were the difference between success and failure! Easily provable with a simple diary review. Good thing Arbitron calls these diary ratings "estimates." Sure, we voiced our concerns, but after numerous rounds of discussion that ratings disaster stood. Magically, the next book was not quite as out of wack.

If I had known all I had to do was call the states Attorney General to complain I would have done it. After all, this stations financial health depended reliable ratings information to sell advertising and to uphold its standing in the market in the face of stiff competition. Wrong. No such help available. This was between a vendor [Arbitron] and its customer [the radio station].

So how did the current PPM battle become not only a state legal issue but a POLITICAL football as well? Of course, the two go hand in hand.

Despite having had my fair share of "discussions" with Arbitron over the years I do not believe they are purposefully trying to screw their clients. I don't fault the complainants either for trying to get the fairest ratings possible, in fact, I applaud and support their desire to get what they are paying for. My objection is making this a news event when it should be handled behind the scenes.

Like any good political fight it is escalating out of control with Arbitron releasing PPM data two days early and the NY AG warning Arbitron, radio stations and ad agencies of the risks they are taking by releasing, using, selling, quoting these potentially "tainted" numbers. (not sure if I should laugh or cry)

While radio is going through a very challenging time (along with everybody else right now) the last thing the industry needs is to be screaming from the rooftops--hey look at us we got even more problems, our fancy new 15 plus years in the making ratings systems stinks!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I Thought This Was Interesting

Between laptops, smart phones, etc. electronics tops the list of college spending (aside from tuition) by 18+ students and their parents. Check it out.

US Consumer Spending on Back-to-College Products, by Category, 2008 (billions)

  • Electronics.....................................$11.05
  • Clothing.........................................$7.01
  • Dorm/apartment furnishings.................$4.74
  • School supplies.................................$3.57
  • Shoes.............................................$3.05
  • Collegiate gear..................................$1.84

Note: ages 18+; includes spending by parents of college students and college students themselves

Source: BIGresearch for National Retail Federation (NRF), “2008 Back to School Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey,” July 22, 2008