Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Radio Without People, Presence, and Community

Over the last 20 years, Radio has become more and more wrapped up in its music than it's link to the audience and the community.  Yes, we've all seen the research from the audience that always declares that the music is the most important ingredient on the music stations and that we should all shut up and play the hits.  The PPM meters show the levels diving off as the music ends - so we focus on just playing the hits over and over.

But, the reality is that the audience has access to music all over the place.  It's on their phones, streamed into apps, all over YouTube, and Spotify.   The real key to great radio in today's world is not just playing the hits with some catchy sweepers.  It's getting involved in the audience's life.  Being at the festivals, having the audience involved with the station on air, having the personalities become stars in the community and linking to that community in every way possible.

To do this it takes people.  Just having a syndicated morning show and a bunch of sweepers between the songs isn't going to really draw a dominate audience anymore.  It takes some people and a plan.  You can't just flip on the auto studio and expect the audience to engage, even if you play the right music.  Music has really become defense - just don't let the other stations or music providers score.  You can't score much with music.  There are places to find it first and places that play more of it along with more places that specialize in any genre of music you can play.  You like edm-chill music there are whole channels streaming 24/7.

Where you score points and create offense in radio is with your personality and community presence.

In many markets the Summer is when you can really pour it on in the community.  Take full advantage it's scoring time.   

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Old Fashioned Paper Diary

Rating services have been using the Paper Diary for around 45+ years.  They are still used around the world even with the advent of the people meter.  They are simple to fill out and there's not a lot of expense to get the data once you've got a willing participant.   But, it's getting harder and harder to get the younger audience to fill out a diary with a paper and pen.

Writing things down is something that is quickly fading from our world.  We click on the keyboards (no matter how small they are) and dictate to our devices.  There is no need to write much for the older half of Gen X and all the Millenials which make up the entire 18-45 cells. Even their signature is going digital.

We have seen the sample sizes continue to struggle in these cells and we often see extra cash sent to these groups to try and get the sample.  In most cases, the sample falls short and the diaries from these cells are weighted up, so they are worth 130 or 200 percent of the value of the demo cells that met their goals in returns.

So why not take the diary on-line?  Have it set up so you can fill it out on your smartphone or tablet or laptop.  Will younger demos fill it out?  Will it be more accurate? In Canada, their ratings system (Numeris), made the bold move to give it a try this past Fall.

So how did it turn out?  So far it looks like the sample return was up for 12+  just under 6%.  The 18-34 demos did show a stronger return.  But, the time spent listening was down - also around 6%.  Is the On Line Diary more cumbersome to fill out on a keyboard than just grabbing a pen?  We also saw fewer listening occasions, but longer reported listening when they did tune in according to what they entered in the on-line system.

No doubt there will be tweaking ahead, but it's a great move to at least see the potential of moving beyond the paper diary.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Is Social Media Branding A Waste!!!

We see it all the time as a brand or business launches something new and posts it on Facebook.   The post goes up and then you look at the comments and it's filled with haters.  Everyone complaining about the announcement to the point of no return.

Even though you may have 1000 likes and 800 shares, the 500 haters commenting and picking everything apart almost makes you wonder - should we have just announced the change on our website and avoided all comments?

This is one of the issues with Facebook and perhaps it's may not be your best option to announce a change.

I've recently seen some changes in radio stations where they ran out with announcements on Social Media.  The problem is that they had NO control over how the message would hit and with the door wide open for comments they get clobbered.   It usually starts with all the people who claim radio is useless or so old fashioned and that they have moved on to satellite radio or one of the streaming apps.  They claim not to listen at all, but they seem to know how bad it is or that the station doesn't play their kind of music now.  The same can go for personalities, contests, features and even special community events.  They can say anything they want in the comments - make it up and say whatever you want.

All it seems to take are a few haters tapping away on their keyboards to dampen the whole event or change.  There are ways to make sure you have some control when you announce in today's world - it may be worth it to consider the alternatives.  While yes - the haters will hate hate hate - you don't have to open the door just to accommodate them.  

Friday, September 9, 2016

Helping The Sales Team

With all the opportunities we have to market and build brands with all of today's Media options on so many platforms, your sales team has to really hustle to hit those budgets and build the revenue line. This probably isn't 'breaking news' in your shop, but has it become 'old hat news'?  Is it just a 'slump' that seems to go on and on?   Are we giving up on opportunities we could take advantage of or create?

But, what can the programming team do to help?  It's a sales issue, right?

Radio advertising may look like just selling 30s and 15s in the 2-3 spot islands we have in most hours, and while that probably makes up much of the revenue, we have a lot more opportunities.
The Potential to work outside the cluster boxes to build brands, draw customer traffic, and help brands integrate themselves in the community.

Many of these opportunities involve embedding opportunities outside of the clusters - an integration right into the product.  A place where your message is a lot harder for the audience to pass over.

It's sponsorship of features, events, promotions, studios, weekends, whole dayparts, and anything else we can dream up.  Too often we look at these as 'inventory' on a list that the sales team needs to sell.  How about if we changed the 'optics' to - opportunities for brands/clients/advertisers to engage their message front and center on the product.

Programming needs to take a leadership position here and look for opportunities that fit the product and don't intrude on it.  Next, we need to outline the opportunities and create the guidelines so the sales team and the client knows what to expect.  It may sound simple, but do you and your team have a real plan here?  Or do we just wing it when the client brings it up?  Maybe it's time to work with your sales team and develop your plan.  

Friday, June 17, 2016

Your Point Of View Behind the Mic

When you, or the on air talent on your team, cracks the mic what is their Point Of View.  Are they in the sound proof room talking into the magic cylinder and making the meters wiggle so the masses can hear their every word?  Or are they communicating with the listeners and having a real conversation with them?

Obviously we know what will connect with the audience.  Yet, how many breaks do we hear on stations in all size markets with all levels of talent that just focus' on them and their point of view only.  Yes there are personalities that have a captivating point of view and a gift of gab and much of their audience dials in to bathe with their words, but face it most of the on air talent we have will build a lot stronger engagement with the audience by taking their Point Of View.  

Go back and listen to your breaks if you are on the air - where was your Point Of View?  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Big Data

Today we are all giving off huge quantities of data with our every breath.  It's tracked on our Fit Bits, phones, computers, cars, tablets, the affinity clubs we've joined, the social media we use, and all the cameras we pass through all over the place.  We can open our GPS apps and see exactly how fast traffic is moving on nearly any street in the country, and it's done by tracking the movement of every cell phone on the street.  We can see so much and are able to store so much of it that the term Big Data is really an gross understatement - it's way bigger than big.  I don't think Carl Sagan could find a word to do it justice.    

On the other side of this picture we have many who are studying all of this data to see if they can find the 'needle in the haystack' or the 'golden nugget' that launches a new product or allows you to direct all your marketing and distribution systems to hitting the consumer target right between the eyes - with 'super smart bomb messages.'  

We have tons and tons of data.  Yes, more than we can put to any real use.  So much that it often points in multiple directions with equal conviction.  

While all this data grows and accumulates are we just making huge piles of big data or are we actually finding new answers to human behavior or new ways to reaching them in marketing or messaging?  

One thing to keep in mind.  Just having lots of data is not the answer - we have to be able to understand and find real ways to use the data and that comes from finding a balance between the 'Art' and the 'Science'.   We have tons of 'Science/Data' here.  To make progress with all this data we will need to develop the 'Art' of building messages and having a full understanding of the audience.  

Just having piles of data is not enough.  

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Are You All Set For 2016 in Promotions?

As we wrap up 2015 your station should be well along in your plans for 2016 in Promotions.  In fact you should already have 1st quarter pretty set and 2nd quarter roughed in.

We often see stations wait till just before a book to start planing out the promotions.  If the budget is not very strong we end up seeing if we can work with clients, barter, or sponsorship's to get a good promotion off the ground.  The problem here is running to the sales team with lots of last minute pitches and a lot less opportunity to craft the idea or event to work for both the station and the client.

The other area is community presence,  Being a big part of the festivals, concerts, sports, and community issues that are entertaining is also something that has to be planned out well in advance.

Pulling it all together in a rush always leaves lots of opportunities in the dust.

The meetings are not that hard to pull together and with on-line calendars you have lots of template opportunities.

A lot of stations have fallen behind in promotions.  The staff's are smaller and it becomes harder to pull everything together with only a few bodies on the case.  All the more reason to take the time to make a plan for the whole year and stay a full quarter ahead in your follow up meetings.  Your sales team needs time and you also need time with the leaner staffs and tighter budgets.   

Friday, October 16, 2015

Managing Your Team - Tips from Joe

Baseball season is coming to it's climax with the World Series just a few weeks away.  So much of the excitement this year is around the Cubs.  We all know the long legend of the Cubs, 108 years since last winning the series.  This year the team has finally built a potential winner with the skills of owner Tom Ricketts and GM/Money Ball wizard Theo Epstein.  They built a team of very young players that many felt were a year or two away from being contenders.  Lodged in a division with the two best records ahead of them with Saint Louis and Pittsburgh, they overcame it all and are now the top pick in Vegas to win it all.

While the players on the field make the plays and swing the bats, a big key is the coaching in the dugout.  Joe Madden manages the Cubs in a unique way and this is the real reason the Cubs are contenders.  This group is a real TEAM.  You see nearly everyone contributing with solid pitching performances, clutch hits, towering home runs, and strong defensive plays on the field.  It's not built on big egos or just a few individuals - it's the whole team.

The line up is very fluid with many players roaming all over the field on defense and the line up changes all the time with many unique twists.  In the game you never know when Joe will change the strategy to small ball or get very aggressive.  The other key is that he strongly believes that having fun, keeping it loose and celebrating are key elements on his team.   The PJ party after the no-hitter on the way back from LA, the petting zoo at practice, and many other fun time are all part of the party legend.

Joe is also very skilled with the press.  We are close to Chicago and get to see the press conferences, the are honest, relaxed and usually entertaining - the press loves him.

As programmers, operations managers and market managers we all have talent managing challenges.  What can we learn from Joe?   Here are 3 observation from a fan who's watched a lot of  Cubs games:

1. - Keep it Positive and Loose - Joe is always calm and positive around his team.  It's not about pulling a player aside and yelling at him.  This is a relaxed and comfortable team and there is a big reason why that works.  If the team is tight, fearful and full of pressure what happens when the pressure of the game ramps up?  What happens when the bases are loaded and you need a clutch double play with a team that's already at 10 on the tension meter - ERRORS.  If you keep it positive and loose you are a lot stronger when the pressure pushes the whole team.  A great example was when the press brought up the Billy Goat curse - Joe's response " I don't vibrate on that frequency."

2. Celebrate - Joe also keeps the tension away with team parties and celebrations at key times.  He preaches that every win is celebrated for 24 hours or till the next game.  Sometimes it's a big party and other times it might be more subtle but every win is special.  Let out the emotion and keep it loose.

3. Balancing Art and Science - Theo Epstein is legendary for his stat team of geeks.  He wrote the book on tracking every piece of data he could collect on the game and analyzing it.  The movie Money Ball is all about his number crunching systems, that have changed a game that's filled with legends and myths.  Joe is very keen on the numbers and you see many moves he makes because he has key data.  Watch him constantly looking at a stat guide he has the geek team prepare for every game in the dugout.

But, Joe doesn't live completely by the numbers.  He knows that a lot of the great performances in the game go beyond the numbers.  The human emotion plays a huge factor and there are not a lot of data points that you can run that will predict that magical game winning performance that comes out of the blue.  Sometimes you have to go with the gut and Joe uses his gut a lot.  He is always balancing his gut and the geek teams numbers.

Hopefully the Cubs will go all the way and you'll have the chance to see lots of games.  Watch Joe and the team - there are lessons for all of us to learn.  We also manage a tight knit group of talented people on air, in sales, and behind the scenes in our stations.  Getting all of them to perform at their peak is a constant goal.