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, 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?