Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Comedy is Not Pretty

This from yesterday's Boston Herald:

Gervais blogs the ’Truth’
By Inside Track
Photo by Jess Gatley

“The Office” guru Ricky Gervais is having some fun shooting his new flick, “This Side of the Truth,” up in Lowell. And if you don’t believe us, just check out his blog.

“Two great days in a row,” Ricky wrote in his most recent dispatch. “And by that I mean we finished at 4 p.m. . . . People can’t understand how we are doing such short hours. The answer is simple; I am turning in some very shoddy work. This won’t even go straight to dvd. This is going straight to radio.”

Ricky’s flick, which stars Gervais, Tina Fey, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Christopher Guest and Jeffrey Tambor, is about a town where no one has ever lied - until a writer decides to give it a whirl.

Check out all of Gervais’ musings at rickygervais.com

Hey, I know it's just a joke but he could have said the local cable access channel...but he didn't. Inconsequential I know, but kinda telling...no?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Sign of The Times

None. (read on and you will understand)

If you were at your local mall and you (as an adult) were looking for the teen and young adult clothing and accessories store Hollister you might be hard pressed to find it. This very popular store features no sign over the doorway, has no windows looking in and it is nearly as dark as a movie theater.

Found this story about the Hollister stores at the Marketing Student website. The post included this photo peaking inside. (keep reading, I promise there's a radio angle to this story)

Here's the complete post:

"There’s nothing like the feeling of knowing that you don’t belong somewhere. I am reminded of this whenever I step inside a Hollister retail store, which is so teen it hurts.

No brand name over the front doors, no glass windows to see inside, and two Tiger Beat model types to greet you on the way in. The inside is so dark, ladies might feel the instinct to grasp the pepper spray inside their purses. An overbearing perfume/cologne mix hangs in the air. It’s almost as if they’ve designed the store to repel you, but their success clearly shows that Gen Y is responding.

Above is a peek inside one such store, which almost seems to go against every ergonomic and design rule conceived in the last 50 years. But perhaps that’s precisely why it’s so successful. Teens are always going to want to rebel against their elders, and this is just the latest iteration.

Or…maybe I’m just getting older. Next thing you know I’m yelling at kids to get off my lawn…"

Think about what you just read and consider how very different it is from every other store in the mall. Think about how different Gen Y's are compared to GenXer's. Think about how different we are going to need to program radio stations to even have a chance to connect with Gen Y. Some have argued it's a lost cause. I am of the mind that if we build it ("it" being very good, interactive, and compelling) they will come.

Forget about your quarter hour maintenance, forget about your laser-zap-swishes, forget about running your :07 second stopwatch on your jocks--forget it all.

Look, I am not saying set structure and all of the other radio basics are unimportant; but what I am saying is perfect execution of these tactics are not going to automatically make you a winner with Gen Y's.

Communication structures have changed. A recent study estimated that more than 70% of 15-34 year olds are members of social networks. Content expectations have changed. The hits are a dime-a-dozen. Free really. [Go to You Tube and within a couple of minutes you can search and build a playlist of the top 10 songs and be listening and watching them as quickly as turning on a radio and searching for a station that's playing a song you like.]

Yes, music can be a central theme. But we have to develop content and connections around the music that evoke similar feelings and emotions that those Hollister clothing and accessories stores do. Cool, different, hot, and most of all a place not for my parents!


Occasionally the good folks at Radio-Info will post a story in the "guest mic" section and this Gen Y story is one of those stories. Executive Editor Dana Hall checked in with these comments. Thanks Dana!!

I’ve been in Hollister with my boyfriend’s 16 –year old daughter. The music was so loud that I had to leave several times to get away—and I love my music loud!

It was cool how they had a place ( a display) to actually look at all the CDs they played—like a juke box—that customers could pick to hear something (for free—it didn’t cost anything). That’s what really intrigued me. And it was all kind of underground, alternative rock stuff—but not really anything that I recall hearing on the radio.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Listen Line For Tweens

Disney's mobile content division, mDisney, just deployed a new WAP site to take Radio Disney mobile. The site includes the last 10 songs played, other playlists, plus one can send "shout-outs," request songs and vote in on-line polls.

And you can listen to Radio Disney live. Just click the link, and get this, it dials a phone number and it connects you to what amounts to a "listen line."

With an estimated 40% of tweens having a cell phone the market for Radio Disney is pretty big--the question is how many tweens and their parents will be happy about burning up their phone plan minutes to listen on a worse-than-AM sounding phone line?

Here's the number, listen for yourself. 303.552.9829

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Target Moms and Make Money

EMarketer reports that approximately 35 million moms are on-line and they are inquiring about and recommending products and services relating to their lives.

They go on to say:

Moms regularly engage in parenting-related activities online, but they are also involved in other online activities such as search, entertainment and shopping.

In fact, moms rely on the Internet for purchase decisions. Upwards of two-thirds of online moms of young children research products online, so it is critical for marketers and retailers to understand the role of the Internet in their purchase decisions.

What a great opportunity for RADIO.

You are looking for great content for your website.
Your listeners are looking for information and community.
Your advertisers are looking for more customers and ROI.

Here's one sample idea that could be successful, enjoyable, and profitable for everyone:
  • Engage a local hospital or medical group to provide an expert to participate in an exclusive radio station webinar--a live on-line meeting that can be audio, video, text or all of the above.
  • Invite listeners to your website to join in. A simple email address is all that is needed to "log in."
  • Your listeners are active participants asking questions and sharing their own experiences.
  • After the webinar your listeners can now be connected via your "mom's" page and on-line community at YOUR website--sharing their experiences and being active with the radio station and it's advertisers. Provide a positive experience and these moms will tell other moms and your community gets built out from there.
  • For your advertisers you now have a active multi-platform experience to sell. On-air and on-line with targeted prospects.
  • Remember, the webinar is not a one time only event. Make that webinar available on demand on your site and the site of your clients. Let moms (and everyone) download the webinar and share it with their friends. Host more webinars and your mom network will continue to grow.
There are so many ideas, many relatively simple, that can be impactfull and vital to reaching your listeners and advertisers.

Got an comment or idea? Feel free to share it here.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Do We Have A Winner?

By now you've read the headlines:

Exciting new plan to SAVE radio... HD Radio on the move... Radio 2020... Radio Heard Here...

All "designed" to rejuvenate radio's images, perceptions, and realities. Sorry folks, no winners here.

Here's the scorecard as I see it.

Logo = 0
New Content = 0
HD Radio = 0

What's with me? I'm being so negative. It's not my normal style. I'm a positive "glass half full" person.

It's hard to be to remain positive when one sees his beloved industry make questionable turn after questionable turn. I feel kinda sick aside from the miserable spring cold that's permeated my head.

I wish I could be positive about that retro (read: horrible) logo released last week. Aside from the weak visual what does it communicate? The intended recipients already know that radio exists; they are choosing to use it less or not at all. How does this address their issues?
It's been said in this space before. It's a content issue, not a hearing issue. We need to be developing new content that REALLY entices under 30's to switch off their self directed choices and discover unique and one of a kind entertainment coming out of that old fashioned radio.

It's not likely to come in the form of music. The hits are the hits are the hits. iTunes proves that every day when one simply takes a look at the top downloads. It looks remarkably similar to the top 40 charts.

There's always been a segment of the music audience that has broader and more eclectic tastes than the general public and the on-line world demonstrates little change from that. Remember the days of the original Alternative format? Once a song "crossed over" and became popular the Alt audience shunned that song and had already moved on to the next hip thing. That is not to say there aren't genres and specific styles of music bubbling under the mainstream that could become the next big thing.

The one of a kind entertainment I am talking about is the kind that is conceived, written, and performed by humans. Content that is interactive, fun, funny, challenging, enticing, titillating, controversial, endearing, informative, helpful, caring, tells a story, unique and different. Insert your own descriptors and now you have a "support radio" campaign that might strike a chord with its intended listeners.

Ho Hum....here goes HD Radio again...

Aside from the Alliances own self-serving research every other study says the same thing--stillborn.

After this amount of time the chance of HD Radio catching fire with consumers seems pretty dim. There's no shortage of folks saying the same thing.

I said it when IBOC was being readied for deployment and I want to say it again now. Using the dash-1, 2, and 3 system was a huge mistake. HDTV did it for their over the air digital signals and aside from a few geeks (myself included) NO ONE knows those additional channels are even there (cable and satellite do not carry them and few watch over the air). HD Radio should have been called DM for digital modulation--AM, FM, DM. Everyone would have understood it--instantly. Even though the signals would use the same spectrum space as they currently use, they should have received their own "band" and been assigned their own channel number. Pick a range...it doesn't matter.

Would this have spelled success for HD Radio? I don't know. But I believe it would have reduced some of the confusion and allowed the digital channels to have unique identities and not be tied to the main signal. Even if this system had been adopted there was no guarantee of success.

All of the same programming issues would remain. Especially that pesky one that music machines are not the future. Real content created by humans (radio pros and listeners alike) is the future.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Different View of the News

Found an interesting visual news aggregator called Newsmap

Based on the Google news aggregator it assembles news live, as it happens, and can be viewed in a number of different formats.
I will let the creator explain how it works--I'm not sure I could adequately describe how a "treemap visualization algorithm" functions.
Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap's objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe.

Newsmap does not pretend to replace the googlenews aggregator. Its objective is to simply demonstrate visually the relationships between data and the unseen patterns in news media. It is not thought to display an unbiased view of the news; on the contrary, it is thought to ironically accentuate the bias of it.
It's sorta like what Drudge does, but without the human intervention and direction. Of course, it is still dependent on the news agencies and the writers to report and create the stories in the first place.

With a lot of the original news content being created by newspapers (especially large papers like NY Times, Washington Post, and LA Times); it will be interesting to observe as newspaper newsrooms continue to shrink what will become of a lot of this reporting. Who will pick up the slack and report the news? Or will some stories go unreported? Or with less detail?

I suspect it will morph into whatever viable financial model works. Whether that is good for the news business and the news consumer we'll have to wait and see.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Be Smaller Than Your Comeptition


A few days ago at the eMarketing Association's Executive eMarketing Conference in San Francisco Frog Design presented "The Shrinking Brand-Marketing in a Small World," explaining how to make effective use of micro-formats which they suggest should be central to your marketing plan.

Micro formats?
  • blogs
  • micro blogs
  • customer service
  • community events
  • slideshows
  • social networks
  • word of mouth
  • on-line video
  • podcasts
What's striking about this list of recommended micro format strategies is just how perfectly suited radio is to do ALL of them. In fact, one could say that radio has been in the forefront of customer service (i.e. request lines-unless of course you've stopped answering them), community events (unless of course you've stopped doing them), and word of mouth (unless of course you've stopped doing things worthy of creating word of mouth).

The rest of the list are all things that radio has begun to focus on and in many places are doing them very well.

There's a lot more to this presentation and you can digest all of it right here:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Less Talk...More Music

It sounded good at the time when that "nifty" phrase began making its way to stations around the country all those years ago. Most of the time, it simply was bluster intended to cover up increasing spotloads and other time-eating clutter.

Monday morning NAB President/CEO David Rehr delivered his opening address at the NAB convention in Las Vegas and said this:
"For years, we've been saying local, local, local. And that's true, but we have a new wrinkle. We also learned from these consumers that being local, in and of itself, is not what defines radio's value. It's the accessibility and the connection with radio personalities. And it's being everywhere and available to everyone. A radio is not a jukebox.

"If you're listening to radio, you want to hear a human voice sharing that same moment in time that you are. There is power in that personal bond. A CD doesn't have that connection. An iPod doesn't have it. No, our model is not broken."
He got it right--radio is not a jukebox. But turn the radio on outside of morning drive you wouldn't know it. One could argue that's what it needs to be in the face of, well, the proliferation of the jukebox...errrr iPod.

Today the more music strategy is still "working" and in the short term it will continue to do so. What is not visible right now is what lurks right around the corner. The gradual aging in of the the Gen Y's that begins in 3 short years--that's when the first of the millennials turn 25. That magic age when one becomes much more important to our industry and its advertisers.

As we all know this is the first generation of consumers that's always had computers, cell phones, and 100+ channels of TV. We also know that this generation's mantra is "give it to me now...on-demand". Couple that with this groups dramatic decline in passion and perception of radio and one must believe these factors indicate the future radio climate will be stormy at best.

What can we do? A cynic would say we can't do anything to reverse this trend. I believe we can. It is going to require game changing strategies and "more music" won't be one of its tactics.

A new generation of talent will begin to emerge as radio is FORCED to reassess what it sends down the transmission line. If you are an echo boomer (maybe Gen-X) or older think about what lead you to a career in radio. If you hadn't been captivated, inspired, or mesmerized with what came out of the speakers I suggest we might all be bankers, plumbers, or health care providers today.

You know how hard it is to attract under 25's to choose radio as a career today. I say build it and they will come. Some courageous broadcasters will step up and begin developing this new brand of radio--one that does not depend on music alone for its success. Once that process begins and IF it's relevant and compelling something magical might begin to happen--new people will want be in radio.

I refuse to seed radio's future to the cynics. I believe new coalitions will be identified, talent will come from new and different places once we start looking for it, and the role of music in this new world will be quite different than what we know today.

Who's ready to join me in the future today?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

From The NAB...

Saw a good session on Sunday here at the NAB in Las Vegas. The presenter was Rob Curley, Vice President, Product Development, WashingtonPost.Newsweek Interactive.

It's one of the most popular websites and you can check out the Washington Post here. Or sample a special series produced exclusively for the website--it's called on being. Very well done and entertaining. You may have to register to see certain parts of the their site, but it's free.

For the second time in the last couple of months I learned just how big Web/Internet departments can be. And that number is: 350. The first time was at a recent conference and the discussion was Sports Illustrated's web staff; and today I learned that's the number in the Washington Post's Internet office--of which 15 are full time videographers. How many web creators does a radio station/cluster/group have? I'm sure there are some that are appropriately staffed up, but I'm not sure that's the norm.

It was pointed out at the session that even though Washington is a world city there seems to be an enormous appetite for finding out about your neighbors and the interesting aspects of their lives. Their POV is be local and people will be interested. Of course that is provided the content is good.

Stating the obvious: find out what content your listeners crave and make sure you provide that content on your website. Our industry has improved, but the improvement must be ongoing.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bon Jovi Gets New Media

Let's start at the website. Fans are invited to created videos centered around their towns and then submit them so they can be included in the concert when the band comes to town. They're working with You Tube to showcase these videos plus some video from their shows. There also a Bon Jovi news section that includes the latest information and fan comments. How cool is it for a fan to be in Bon Jovi's on-line community?
Then when the band comes to town it all comes to life in the show on stage and on the massive Hi-Def screens that surround the stage.

Jon Bon Jovi has figured out how to stay relevant after all these years. My first exposure to Bon Jovi was in the early 80's when the band was featured on the WAPP-New York homegrown album. The song? Runaway.

CNBC did a great story on Jon Bon Jovi and the mega-millions high tech concerts he's putting on. He talks about how his four kids keep him clued in that what's current. Couple that with the fact the he is a tech-head himself and it's not surprising he now features live text messaging at his shows. Those messages could be messages to the band to what songs should be played in the encore. Smart.

Check out the CNBC video right here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


That's the name of another music on demand program.

Just type in your favorite songs and add them to your playlist. Customize your cool retro cassette face (I choose TDK, but pick BASF, Maxell or any number of others). Type in the title of your mix, save your playlist and you are ready to link and/or play your playlist right there. See my link and listen to my playlist at the end of this post.

I chose top-40 songs for my playlist, but they seem to have a huge library from Elvis to Led Zep to George Benson to Sinatra. Just for kicks I typed in the Bay City Rollers, Abba, and even Ripple from the Dead--all there. Listen here: My MixWit Playlist

P.S. While searching around I found some interesting audio on the site including a JAM Jingle demo. Excellent, I am a jingle freak! So, I start the audio and my next surprise...my friend Leigh Jacobs (former Philly PD and current Critical Mass Media research expert) introducing his new Magic 103 jingle package! Take a listen. JAM Jingles w/Leigh Jacobs intro!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Radio Does Not Need More Formats Or More Inventory

From Tom Taylor's Tuesday newsletter:
Wachovia analyst Marci Ryvicker says “HD Radio is not a catalyst” for radio, at least not now.

Marci’s prĂ©cis of last Wednesday’s SNL Kagan Summit concludes with this paragraph: “HD Radio has been in the works for years, yet it is amazing to us that #1, it is still not in cars (please tell us who would actually buy a radio in the store when there are sexier technological gadgets out there). #2, Radio groups still plan to use the spectrum for programming rather than datacasting or on-demand alternatives. #3, No one can figure out what the revenue model will be.” Ryvicker says “our thoughts: radio does not need more formats or more inventory. Use the spectrum for something else [like datacasting] and get it in the car, as a non-pay option, ASAP.”

Well said.

The HD Radio debate/situation/deployment is so distracting from the real business at hand--becoming/staying relevant with Gen Y. They are the future and they DO NOT need us. Figure out what they need and want and watch radio's tide begin to turn.

It's not going to be a music play alone. We are going to have to entertain the next generation by talking their language, enabling flexible content platforms (phones and browsers), and then figure out new ways to monetize it because the traditional spot model will not be sufficient.

I am not anti-HD Radio. Maybe I am all wrong about it. I'm not afraid of being wrong. Maybe people will flock to the Apple Store to buy the Polk Audio HD radio/iPod dock for $499.95.

The sales figures at the end of the year will tell the tale. How many HD radio's will be sold? What's your guess?

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Internet...10,000 Times Faster

It may not be as far away as it sounds.

The TimesOnLine in the UK originally had this story picked up by engadget.

Apparently, when CERN isn't colliding particles (and ripping massive holes in the space-time continuum), it's busy working on a new "internet" which will be 10,000 times faster than our current version. The project -- known as "the grid" -- is built atop completely fiber optic networks, and utilizes modern routing centers. By keeping traffic out of our current phone and data systems, the researchers have been able to achieve speeds heretofore unseen on previous networks. The system connects from CERN to 11 centers around the globe, and will be switched on when the Large Hadron Collider is activated, on what the group is calling "Red Button Day." Project heads believe a network with this speed will lead to all sorts of futuristic innovations -- like true cloud computing, holographic video conferencing, and really, really fast pirating of the entire Nightmare on Elm Street series.
Shortly after reading this story I saw one of those TV commercials for that dial-up service, Net Zero, the one that takes you to the same internet as those higher priced services...which was kinda funny.

We have only begun to experience how the hyper-fast virtual world is going to change our lives. Think Star Trek and their transporters mixed with the Matrix. I'm ready.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Gen Y's Are Changing Everything

Those born between the years of 1986–2000 (some demographers offer slightly different years) are changing everything...as they should.

Millennials see life differently than Gen X, Jones, and Boomers because their experiences have been different in large part due to technology. Or maybe better put, what technology has enabled them to do.

There was an excellent story on The Fox Report with anchor Sheppard Smith Friday evening about the dramatic increase in Gen Y's interest in this election cycle. Consider that these teens/early 20's are coming of age at a time when all they have known is their country at war and their first political memory was the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

There was much more to this report than politics. Some of the key points:
  • They crave authenticity
  • BS detector high for in-authenticity
  • Keep it real, no made-for-TV moments
  • Email is slow
  • Many without TV's
  • If it's not on the internet it doesn't exist
If having a TV has become less important imagine how Gen Y must feel about radio (let alone a HD radio). In a few short years the first members of this group will be crossing into that all important 25-54 demo. We all must continue our march to be all things virtual and mobile but most critically we must provide content that provides high entertainment values.

Watch the video right here:

Friday, April 4, 2008

The NAB in Vegas

Will you be heading to Las Vegas for the NAB?

If so, I would love to get together with you.

Drop me a quick email (harve@harvealan.com) and let me know.

See you there!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Your Station's Brand Is NOT Its Logo

"A brand is not what you say it is, but what they say it is," so says the author of this excellent slideshow on branding. Hopefully a lot of this you already know; but don't let that stop you from taking this presentation out for a spin.

Learn about the five disciplines of brand building. And test your station's branding for its charismatic attributes--a pretty important component of a successful radio brand.

My favorite slides from this presentation is in the form of a riddle. Here's goes...

Q: How do you know when an idea is innovative?

A: When it scares the hell out of everybody.

So true!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

This and That

Sometimes talking about the future, commenting on the present, and opining for a healthier radio industry needs a little rest.

Today's post is really 4 posts in one. Lucky you!

1-cool new device; 1-iPod tidbit; 2-mashups (I love mashups!!)

Lenovo (formerly IBM) has a cool new "do it all" device coming out. Check out the Ideapad U8.

The iPod Death Clock

Like all gadgets, even the lauded iPod will eventually make its way to scrap heap. Check out this site and put your iPod on it's very own death watch.



ABBA and 50 cent mAsHUp (why not?)


And this one: Queen and Outkast

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What Song Was That?

Tom Taylor on Radio-Info this morning had this:
Your BlackBerry can tell you what song just played on the radio, thanks to a new free downloadable program named “Radio Companion”, developed by Nobex Technologies. The airplay data comes from suburban Philly-based Mediaguide, which tracks more than 2,700 U.S. stations.
Being a long time Blackberry user and proud owner of the a BB Curve I had to download the small piece of software to see what it could do. Easy to download and install and easy to use once on the Blackberry Desktop.

Mediaguide monitors a boatload of markets from the majors down to below the top 200. I chose Fresh in New York.

The program is running live and when the next song begins the screen automatically updates. You can also scroll back and see what has already been played. Hit select on the device and moments later a detailed email arrived.

In the email, all of the information about the station, the artist and song--plus a link to purchase the song from iTunes. Of course, that's linked with the Apple affiliates program; Mediaguide will earn a 5% commission on every song sold. [Local radio stations can do the same thing on their own websites]

Buried deep at the end of the press release for this product is the following:
Radio Companion does not yet stream audio from radio stations directly to BlackBerry smartphones. Nobex and Mediaguide anticipate adding this feature in late summer of 2008.
So by summer's end I could be streaming any of 2700 stations right on my blackberry from coast-to-coast? Seems ambitious. Seems somewhat unlikely. Seems exciting. A free platform for radio stations to get on mobile devices? Hmmmm We will have to watch this one and see how things develop.

What seems clear to me (and many others) is the mobile device is the radio of the future (almost today). Wouldn't it have been prudent for the radio groups to invest in this type of technology vs. the IBOC (HD Radio) technology which as every day passes seems less and less likely to gain any traction--despite valiant and hard fought efforts. So much controversy, many technical issues, and a buying public that has thus far rejected the idea that they need to buy a new radio. All they really want to do is get a phone that does everything and will fit in their shirt pocket.