Monday, June 30, 2008

The Nets Get Older

No, not the internet...the broadcast television networks.

Variety reports that all of the networks have aged--some more than others with ABC and CBS, aging out of the prime TV demo, 18-49. For the just-completed 2007-08 TV season, CBS was oldest with a median age of 54. ABC clocked in at 50, followed by NBC (49), Fox (44), CW (34) and Univision (34). When you factor in time shifted viewing (DVR) the ages drop by about a year. In case you were wondering the average median age in the US is 38.

The article pointed out that traditional television is no longer necessarily the first screen for the younger set.

Even the shows that one might think would deliver younger viewers such as The Tonight Show profile out of the demo. In fact Leno's median age is the oldest of the late night talkers at 54, followed by "Late Show With David Letterman" at 53. "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" has edged up to 46 but still delivers the youngest demos of the late night shows.

I feature this story to further illustrate the challenges ahead for ALL traditional media--TV, newspaper, and RADIO. As the Variety story pointed out, TV was not necessary the first stop for young viewers, just as radio may not be the first choice for younger listeners. We know that 12-24's are still radio cumer's (down over the last decade but still there) based on Arbitron's national listening study, but we also know that their time spent listening and AQH rating are down dramatically.

We all must live in the here and now--meaning that programming must deliver ratings that sales can sell today. Budgets must be met. We all understand this reality. Unfortunately, that leaves little room to re-think, re-tool, re-deploy assets (stations) with new, inventive, and radically changed products. Products that may not be a big ratings draw--at first. Eventually the day will come and these changes will have to be made.

Will it be too late?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

EZ Widget-making

Got good content on your website? Share it. Have your listeners include your station widget on their My Space, Twitter, or Facebook page. It's easy. I set up an account at Widgetbox, designed my widget, and the software produced the code in short order. There also a ton of already-created widgets that can be customized and placed on your website.

Here's a promotion idea:

Have a listener widget page on your site. Creativity counts. The more creative the better. Maybe encourage listeners to share their favorite songs, favorite club, new movie, or summer activity. Whatever. Put your listeners front and center and make them a part of your community. You could even run a contest to see who can create the best and most creative widget.

Do you already do this? Share it with me and I will feature your website here on this blog. Got a better idea? I will be glad to give you props in this space too.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Live From The Conclave!

A couple of photo's from today's session's here in Minneapolis at Conclave 2008--

NAB Chairman David Rehr talks performance royalties, fairness doctrine, and XM-Sirius in a mid-morning session.

Talker Ed Schultz fires up the after lunch crowd with a energizing talk about getting it done, following dreams, and never taking no for an answer. Very good!

A little later Lee Abrams...

Always a great gathering and this year has not disappointed.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Don't Let This Happen To Us!

More on the possible and unthinkable RETURN of the Fairness Doctrine courtesy Al Peterson.

» Pelosi Backs Return Of Fairness Doctrine: That's according to John Gizzi, Political Editor of the conservative news website In a report posted today, Gizzi says the Speaker of the U.S. House "made it clear to me and more than 40 of my colleagues that a bill by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) to outlaw the Fairness Doctrine would not see the light of day in Congress during '08." Asked if she supported a return of the Doctrine, repealed more than two decades ago, Gizzi says the California Democrat replied, "Yes." Asked if she would allow a floor vote on Pence's anti-Fairness Doctrine bill this year if the congressman failed to get enough required signatures to move it out of committee, the Speaker replied, "No." This is an issue that could have a serious impact on Talk radio's future and you can read the full story here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Radio's Amazing History...

I ran across a feature piece that WCVB/Channel 5 in Boston did on their show "Chronicle" celebrating radio's 100th birthday back in late 2006. It's a wonderful look at the rich history of New England radio--something of particular interest to me having spent a large part of my career in and around the area.

Over the years I have been involved with countless stations in all 5 New England states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. These places hold a lot of memories for me--mostly good! It is radio after all, and it can't all be good.

Whether or not you have any connection to New England radio you will find the history interesting. From legendary AM stations like WBZ and WTIC to the birth place of FM radio broadcasting from Paxton, MA. Major Armstrong's experimental FM station is still on the air today; a station that I had the privilege of programming in the late 80's--107.3 WAAF. In fact, last I knew the original tower is still standing and may still serve as a backup.

See the video right here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

What Did He Say?

Did Imus step in it again?

This morning while discussing suspended Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones, Imus asked sports guy Warner Wolf, "What color is he?" After Warner told Imus he was African-American, Imus said, "Well there you go. Now we know."

One has to ask why he even ventured down this road today given his past "situation." Should Imus have refrained from asking his race? Can one even ask and get away with that question in 2008? Was his comeback answer toxic or benign? And does it matter...he asked the question.

Will this episode manifest itself into something or nothing at all? Time will tell.

Listen to the audio and decide for yourself.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

See Ya @ the Conclave!

The always excellent Conclave gets underway this coming week here in Minneapolis. I am looking forward to seeing some friends and making some new ones. Hope to see you here!

This year I will be a faculty member...

Saturday June 28th 3:30P THE FORMATICS TRACK: The P&P Of Today’s Rock Radio. Presented by R&R and BitXChange Prep Service (St. Croix 1, 6th Fl)

No matter which form of rock radio you program, you’ll see and hear tangible examples you can take back to your market and improve the sound of your station. Product and Platforms are the two areas that impact every radio station -no matter the format. Attendees will hear multiple suggestions on finding & developing new talent, as well as retraining talent to work with today’s tools in order to help your PRODUCT stand out. Attendees will also see and hear how to utilize multiple PLATFORMS that can make a radio station more than a transmitter and tower. Facilitator: Mike Boyle, Rock editor-R&R. Faculty: Harve Alan (Harve Alan Consulting), Jeff Murphy (DeMers Consulting) and Steve Young (Jones Radio Networks).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Topic A?

It's not oil prices.
It's not the presidential election
It's not the Midwest floods


From TV Newser:

Friday Jun 20, 2008

Pregnancy Pact: The Friday Focus Group


If the cable news channels want to know what stories test well, they need look no further than the mediabistro lunch table. The talk among the 20-something, mostly female group today was not flooding, or congressional testimony or the presidential race. On this Friday, it was the Mass pregnancy pact. As lunch wound down, the group stopped by the world HQ of TVNewser (two desks and three monitors) and watched with interest as FNC and MSNBC simultaneously reported the news (CNN aired a segment about 10 minutes later.) It's one of those stories that generates discussion, even debate as it did today at And on a day like today, it's a story that fuels the cable news networks too.

In my opinion this is not just a talk radio and cable news topic. Any content driven personality could have taken this story (unbelievable really) and had a segment or two worth of compelling content. As TVNEWER pointed out it was top of mind with 20somethings at the lunch table.

What are your listeners talking about?

In case you missed it read the full story here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Fairness Doctrine

Yesterday on Laura Ingraham's Fox News show there was a discussion regarding the possible return of the fairness doctrine.

I feel very strongly it should never return. Among other things modern day talk radio would be severely crippled without the programming freedom it has encouraged. Whether the opinions are from the left or the right, stations should be free to program Ed Schultz or Rush Limbaugh or whomever they desire. Let the marketplace decide what content stays and what goes.

Also, there was a very bazaar comment about how Britney Spears replaced local music on corporate owned radio stations across the country. Odd.

Watch the segment for yourself right here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

10 Lessons of Innovation

"Innovation" a word that gets thrown around a lot in the radio business; usually in the context of we need a lot more of it. How do we get to this innovation we all speak of?

How can we push forward aggressive innovation in an industry that values the tried and true? How can we aggressively develop new formats in an industry that always asks the question when speaking of these new formats, "where else is it being done?" How can innovation take place in an industry that likes to categorize and compartmentalize nearly everything?

It's not easy. Let's start with courage, fearlessness, tenacity, and skin thick enough to accept lots of skepticism and the inevitable failure of many, if not most, new and untried ideas and formats. This innovation thing is not for everyone.

I came across a slide show by Idris Mootee, Author, Speaker and New Venture Strategy Advisor from Blast Radius Inc., that offers 10 solid lessons on innovation. There are some very good points to be gleaned from the presentation. My favorite lesson is one that fits our business so well:

#5 Innovation occurs at the intersection of previously unconnected and unrelated planes of thought

Check out the entire slide show and see what you think.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

OK, Thrill Seekers!

If you like classic Top 40 radio take a spin around the control room at the WRC-Washington tribute website!
Hit the cart, spin the record, hit the post...maybe even backtime. It's a lost art and maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Check out the entire WRC tribute site here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Radio's Split Persona

The pictures and news accounts of the Iowa floods got me thinking...

Radio, as always, in times of need and disaster steps up and provides information, help, and aid. Competing groups find common ground in order to help the communities they serve--even loaning studio space and technical assistance to competitors to help keep them on the air as was done this week in Iowa.

During disasters radio becomes relevant for both young and old. Raging waters and floods know no age. Radio is vital in times of need and that's been the case since the beginning of wireless broadcasting. This too shall pass--as the flood waters reseed and the process begins to return ones city, neighborhood, and life back to normal; radio will reseed back to "50 minutes of music this hour" with fewer interruptions and less relevancy to listeners both old and, especially, young.

So while parts of the country are trying to cope with the intense challenges put forth by Mother Nature, the rest of the country is knee deep in the summer season. Let's compare how radio stations act in times of need versus more normal times.

On the beach at Manasquan at the Jersey ShoreI am not one to live in the past, however, I can't help remembering how active radio stations used to be during the summer in years gone by. Now, before you jump on me about all your station does...I know there are active stations, very active stations, out there making friends and connecting with listeners in your part of the world. But more and more, aside from showing up at one big summer festival or event, it's business as usual for radio stations around the country.

Whether it was beach patrols, station branded ice cream trucks (still a great idea!), free weekly car washes, fireworks shows, community pool tours, or even a dopey morning show promotion I was involved with many years ago--Burgers For Breakfast! Dopey or not, it drew a lot of people, attention and listeners felt a bond with the station.

Being out in the community--shaking hands and kissing babies, as we used to say, will not be the savior of radio especially with younger listeners. But let me suggest, if your STAR talents (you have local stars on your station, right?) meet listeners face-to-face those personalities will mean more in your city.

Anyone can play songs. You don't really even need jocks to do that anymore. But personalities that communicate well, tell entertaining, funny, or meaningful stories of interest to the listeners (good enough to podcast) have a chance to go beyond being an anonymous voice on the radio that nobody cares about or relates to.

What is your station doing?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Promo CD's For Sale

Busy day here at Blog Central...

You can now legally sell all those promo CD's that have been collecting dust in the back of your closet. Universal Music Group had sued an eBayer who was reselling "promo only" copies claiming they retained eternal ownership of the CD's. The Federal Court disagreed and the decision is recounted below.

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation

June 11th, 2008

Liberation Day for Promo CDs: Victory in UMG v. Augusto

Posted by Fred von Lohmann

In an important victory for the first sale doctrine, a federal district court today ruled that selling "promo CDs" on eBay does not infringe copyright. The court threw out a lawsuit by Universal Music Group (UMG), which had argued that the "promotional use only" labels affixed to these CDs somehow conveyed eternal ownership on UMG, making it illegal to resell the CDs (or even throw them away).

For decades, record labels have mailed out millions of promotional records and CDs to radio stations, music reviewers, DJs, and music industry insiders. Troy Augusto, an eBay seller, finds these "promos" at used record stores, where he buys those that have value as collectibles and resells them on eBay. After an abortive attempt to use DMCA takedowns to block Augusto's eBay auctions, UMG ultimately sued him in federal court, claiming that the "promotional use only" labels on the CDs mean that UMG owns them forever and that any resale infringes copyright.

EFF and the San Francisco law firm of Keker & Van Nest took Augusto's case to fight for the proposition that a copyright owner can't take away a consumer's first sale rights just by putting a "promotional use only, not for resale, remains the property of UMG" label on a CD. After all, the first sale doctrine had its origin in a Supreme Court case involving book publisher's effort to enforce a "may not be sold for less than one dollar" label on a book.

In its ruling, the district court found that the initial recipients of "promo CDs" own them, notwithstanding "not for resale" labels. The court rejected the notion that these labels create a "license," concluding that the CDs are gifts. According to the opinion, "UMG gives the Promo CDs to music industry insiders, never to be returned. ... Nor does the licensing label require the recipient to provide UMG with any benefit to retain possession." (The court also found that federal postal laws relating to "unordered merchandise" establish that promo CDs are gifts to their recipients.)

With software vendors, laser printer manufacturers, and patent owners trying to strip consumers of their first sale rights with unilateral labels, licenses, and notices, today's ruling sets an important precedent holding the line against these efforts (and comes one day after the Supreme Court reaffirmed the same principle in the patent context in Quanta v. LG). Here's hoping this ruling is another nail in the coffin of "label licenses" that try to strip consumers of their privileges under copyright law.

Tim Russert

It's a sad day as we hear about the death of Tim Russert.

As tough an interviewer as there ever was.

A real pro

Honest and Fair

Those of us who have a passion for news and the news business can only solute and respect his enormous talent and life.

Read some notable comments here

If You Went Out of Business Tomorrow, Would Anyone Miss You?

What a great question. It speaks to the need to have a great product and great people. And part of a presentation that outlines how to grow a better and more successful brand and how to grow a better team.

If you are pressed for time (and who isn't) simply fill in the blanks of this question:

Should be easy, right? Maybe not as easy as it used to be. And it was never easy.
What's your unique - definable - position?

If you have a little more time I encourage you to read through this slide show. It is worth your time.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Radio Star Get's Own Night at MLB Ballpark!

How many radio stars in your city could pull this off?

Hats off to Bubba for being a larger than life character and capturing a huge audience in Tampa-St.Pete.

From All Access:
Tampa Bay Rays Schedule 'Bubba Night'

BUBBA THE LOVE SPONGE has TAMPA BAY RAYS fever: The COX RADIO Classic Rock WHPT-F (102.5 THE BONE)/TAMPA and SIRIUS SATELLITE RADIO personality's show will hold "BUBBA at the Ballpark" night under the roof at the RAYS' TROPICANA FIELD in ST. PETERSBURG JUNE 20th.

Over 35,000 BUBBA/RAYS T-shirts to be handed out and the show's "NED" throwing out the first pitch before the RAYS-HOUSTON ASTROS interleague game. The ST. PETERSBURG TIMES and its TBT free paper are co-sponsoring the event.
We need more stars. We need more storytellers. We need more creative and talented people encouraged to be personalities that can paint pictures with words and capture the imagination of their audience.

We need to be prepared for the ongoing decline (much faster young and somewhat slower older) in music radio.

Humans communicating with humans. It works at any age. As long as it's good.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Laura Ingraham Off Radio (for now) and On Fox News Channel (for now) at 5pm ET

If you have been reading the radio trades the last couple of weeks there's been lots of chatter surrounding Laura Ingraham going absent from her radio show. This afternoon TV Newser breaks the news that she is getting her own 5pm show on FNC --at least for a while.

Ingraham In at FNC

Ingraham_6.10.jpgJust In with Laura Ingraham is the name of the new (and most likely temporary) 5pmET show launching next week on Fox News Channel. TVNewser has learned the show will fill out FNC's late afternoon schedule for at least the next few weeks.

We're told the Ingraham show is also intended to give morning-to-night anchors Megyn Kelly and Bill Hemmer a break from double anchoring duty. Former 5pmET anchor John Gibson continues his radio show while Heather Nauert will be filling in on the FNC anchor schedule.

I hope radio isn't losing one of its stars to TV; or will she be doing both radio and TV? And if she is doing radio, what network will she be on? And when?

Now, FNC needs to find a way to get the wildest talk show on TV, Red Eye, on the radio. Haven't seen it? Might be because it is on in the middle of the night. This is definitely a major Tivo alert!! Or check out the on-demand video at the FNC/Red Eye site.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Business of Innovation

CNBC's Maria Bartiromo has a new special series, "The Business of Innovation," and tonight's show was "Innovate or Die."

Among the guests was Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin. It was a very good segment and classic Mel. At one point in the interview Maria and her panel of experts got into management style and hearing Mel talk about playing "devils advocate" and managers "getting Mel'd. would make anyone who has worked for him smile. (I did in the 90's)

No doubt that he is all about the money, but he does understand and appreciate, as he puts it, "the arts and crafts department" and places great value on strong content.

Watch his segment right here:

Sunday, June 8, 2008

GenX is 25-44

Remember when being a GenXer equaled being a slacker listening to grunge and making Starbucks your second home drinking endless double frappes? Today GenXers are home owners, squarely in the middle of their work-life, raising kids, and they sit in the sweet spot of the “money demo,” representing two-thirds of 25-54. It’s not a stretch to say that both the 25-34 and 35-44 demo cells are the two most important in our industry.

The Boomers and Millennials seem to get all of the attention. If you are a regular reader of this blog you know I have spent a lot of time writing about how imperative it is for the radio business to figure out how to entertain today’s under 25’s. The Boomers, partly because the of the sheer numbers they represent, still receive a great of attention. Hey, that’s OK. But unless something dramatic happens (like advertisers deciding that 45-54 is a demo they care about) Boomers will have all but aged out of the money demo in less than a decade. That sounds like a long time, but consider we are coming to the close of the first decade of the 2000’s and to me the new millennium feels like it began much closer to yesterday.

As GenX aged-in we experienced numerous changes in radio programming:

  • Mainstream AC left “soft” mostly behind
  • Hot AC was born with GenX women in mind
  • Top 40 did what it always has done—play whatever is currently popular but now with three distinct blends: rock/pop/rhythm or rock/pop or pop/rhythm
  • Urban radio saw Hip Hop take center stage
  • Urban AC saw exponential growth
  • Traditional Oldies died
  • Rock radio splintered into Classic Rock, Active Rock, Alternative, Mainstream Rock, and Triple A
  • Classic Hits format umbrella targets Oldies, Rock, and AC refugees (depending on station and market)
  • Talk radio’s popularity exploded—largely conservative leaning and more recently expanding to the FM band

Amidst all of these programming changes the business of radio changed very significantly as well:

  • Ownership rules changed—first expanded ownership and then unlimited ownership
  • Consolidated local and regional clusters
  • Group think within companies and clusters
  • Clusters of stations see station pecking orders develop—the big stations, the secondary properties, and the weak signaled cluster mate
  • Staff reductions
  • Reduced marketing and promotion budgets
  • Digital automation comes of age
  • Voice tracking
  • Expanded spot loads
  • Expanded availability and proliferation of syndicated programming.
Fortunately for us in the radio business GenX grew up with radio and still like it, use it, and feel some connection to it. Still, we are seeing declines in cumes and time spent listening especially with the younger end of the Xer generation despite all of the programming changes targeted at this generation. Have the changes in the industry had a lasting effect on the listening behavior of the Xers? We can't discount how much has changed. Certainly technology has played a role in some of the decline but to a lesser degree than with the Millennials.

We are going to have to be sure we stay on top of the tastes, trends, and attitudes of GenX since they are our success or failure in the years to come. And of course, continue working overtime to develop some lasting and significant connection with Millennials since they begin crossing over the magical demographic line in just 3 short years.

I came across an article in the Harvard Business Review –The Top 10 Reasons Why GenXers Are Unhappy at Work and found a few of the top 10 insightful and useful in the context of radio programming and management.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

1 Company, 2 Books, and 2 Very Different Stories

Clear Channel is the subject of two new books--one quite critical and the other quite complementary.

Which book is right? That depends on the lens through which you view the company. I worked there and certainly have my opinions, but I will say simply this: like any other place there was good and bad, but overall my experience was good. Don't mean to disappoint those of you who thought there might be some good dirt spewing out of this blog.

I was there, in a senior programming position, as many of the stories were being written about national playlists and other such supposed "crimes." Every time something was written that was patently false, and there were plenty of fictitious or skewed stories being written, I tried to pay as little attention to it as possible and stay focused on productive things.

At the same time the reduction/elimination of the farm team and the multiple rounds of cuts was tough to be a part of. I always believed there needed to be a better plan in place to ensure there would be an adequate stable of passionate radio folks for the future.

So, which book is closer to being right? I will let you decide which story seems closer to the truth. Maybe it's a mix of the two? wink wink.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A New Reality: The Micro Tastemaker?

Who are the tastemakers of your audience? Can they be courted? How do you identify them? What are you doing to court them?

Are personal tastes so individualized and dispersed that tastemakers are a dated concept? While it's true that the user generated/user controlled content has/is growing by leaps and bounds we also know that when consumers find things they like they very much like sharing their "find" with their friends. What if radio could be thought of as a find? It's gonna take something special and more than 10-in-a-row of today's biggest hits to get it done.

So it would seem there might be a new group worth going after -- the "Micro-Tastemaker." It almost seems counter-intuitive, doesn't it? How can it be micro and be on Twitter? Like any other community, the greater community may be very large but you will not be close with everyone in that community. And the reality of in-person interaction must be factored in.

In businesses we hear about and witness --the "Inner Circle." Gaining admittance to the inner circle is limited to the leaders closest and most highly trusted associates. The Micro-Tastemaker will have a similar profile--a very small group of the most trusted and closest friends. It might only be 1 or 2 people.

One of the challenges of infiltrating and influencing the micro-tastemaker group is they may not be P1 to your station or heavy radio users at all. However, these are people that can influence opinions and maybe even audio entertainment choices.

As all traditional media struggles to remain mass appeal, identifying these micro trends could be a catalyst to identifying some flavor capsules and potential secret sauce recipes that can set you apart from all of the competitive noise. Maybe we should call it user generated spice. This is tricky business. It might be a bubbling under music style; it might be a new on-line community; it might be a new video game; it might be a new air talent that speaks a language that GenX and Boomers have trouble relating to.

OK, sounds intriguing. Where do I look?

Here are some thought starters to get that ball rolling.

On-site: station events, non-station events, casual conversation as you go about your business--maybe a place like the Apple Store or at a restaurant at lunchtime.

On-phone: start answering those request lines again and ask questions.

On-line: live blogging, polling, and database blitzes are three areas that come to mind.

On-air: contesting? Yes, contesting. Reward listeners for nominating friends that are cool and have a positive influence. The nominated person also receives a reward and the ego boost of being nominated. (disclosure: this is an idea I thought of as I was writing this piece and hasn't been field-tested)

Research: no matter what type of research you are currently doing, start asking a small battery of questions to identify the tastemakers. Additionally, if you are fortunate enough to have extra research money there are a number of methods one could use to extract this type of information.

Is this a realistic new reality? Small micro groups having an impact to help bolster our mass-appeal model. Admittedly, this post is a thesis of sorts--thinking out loud how we might take advantage of today's reality, understand it, and use it for the betterment of our industry. As always, your thoughts and ideas are always welcome.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

We Interupt This Blog...

For this most important news update:

RSStroom Reader Now Available
From Trendhunter:
Ready for some crappy news? Yi Tien Electronics has made a computer/printer that has a very specific purpose - it prints the latest RSS headlines directly onto your toilet paper! This gadget reads the user’s weight when they sit on the toilet seat and then, personalizes the RSS source for that person. The RSStroom Reader makes a lot of sense - most news is crap, anyways.
Now that's new media innovation. Hilarious!