Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy 2014

Happy New Year!!  Here at the start of the 2014 it looks like there is a lot to look forward to in Radio.  The Economy is improving and we still have a strong media with a great reach.   Yes our loyalty is challenged as more and more options for music, news and entertainment pop up everywhere but we are clearly in the game.    

So what can we look forward to in 2014?  Let's start with a look at music:

Music - 2014 looks like it could be a year of SURPRISES.

Pop: 2013 saw 3 big divas return with Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Beyonce.   Plus we also had lots from the last group of divas - J-Lo, Mariah, and Britney, trying -- but not in peak form.  Rihanna continued to be a presence as she gears up for a 2014 release - this could be a big year for her.  Taylor Swift will also be releasing in 2014 but it looks like there could be room for a new pop-diva to emerge over the Summer.  Justin Timberlake was also a big presence in 2013, which will likely fade in 2014 as the best from his releases has already hit.   Will Maroon 5 be able to pull in another big round of huge pop songs?   Will Bruno Mars pull in a bigger presence?  Then there's Miley and Bieber boy - is it about 'them' or their music.  While there are plenty of big stars here you can sense the timing is there for some big new faces to emerge.

The Alt - Indie Rock movement seemed to have a healthy presence in the overall music stages throughout 2013.  It started the year with Imagine Dragons, Lumineers, Monsters and Men, and Fun.  Then we witnessed Capitol Cities and Lorde finish off the year strong.  Will this movement pull in some fresh faces for 2014?  Will we see follow up power from some of the artists here or are they one hit wonders?

Rock - Not much going on here, but will 2014 pull in a big surprise act that rocks the house?  The potential is there for a group with some 'indie cred' to break through here with the right look and feel.

Country - While Pop music still has a lot of the music spotlight at center stage Country keeps building more and more younger stars.  It seems like we get 2 or 3 fresh faces every year that seem to emerge and grab the spotlight. There is no reason for this to change in 2014.  Nashville has built a great team that works well with Radio, covers TV well and has kept up with all the social media tricks.  Their model is also not built solely on selling CDs --  touring, endorsements, videos, fan engagement, and celebrity all play big roles and Nashville seems to execute all these roles consistently.

Rap - Hip Hop - It seems like we always have new faces here to watch - but the need to push the edge all the time often limits the reach here.   The movement of the last 4-5 years of more and more Hip Hop integration into pop music seems destined to continue - it's become too valuable and important.  But at the same time there seems to be an authentic underground that closes itself off.

Dance - It seemed like there were clear signs of a breakthrough for Dance music, but it seemed flatten out as 2013 rolled on.

One trend to keep an eye on is 'music with a message.'  Just go back and look at Blurred Lines, Royals, and many other big hits that had a lot of lyric power in them.

A year to keep your eyes and ears open you can almost smell a change or a surprise in the 'music weather' brewing.

There are lots of other topics to look at for 2014.   Over the next week let's take a look at 4 other areas that could be important 2014 areas.  Happy New Year!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Nielsen Audio Wish List

One of the biggest 'change events' for our whole industry in 2013 was Nielsen buying Arbitron.   Nothing hits more at the heart of our world than the ratings and having it switch to Nielsen and actually start the morphing into a central measurement service that covers many different media is destined to have a big impact.   

It's also Christmas time so let's combine these 2 topics and have a seat on Jolly Ole Nick Nielsen's lap and see what he can fit under the tree.  

Here's my list Nick Nielsen:  

  1. Sample Size - Great move to improve the sample sizes in the PPM markets and especially in the 30-50 ranked markets where it was very weak.  But let's not stop there.  The smaller markets that are still on diaries still need to have a much stronger sample.  There is so much weighting going on in these markets it's very hard to trust the data - especially in the younger all important Millennial age cells. Nick we've been very good broadcasters outside of the top 50 markets serving our communities and in many markets you can sell to someone other than the big 3 giving you some diversity in your client base. 
  2. The Diary - Let's face it the diary is completely useless technology to collect data with.  With most of the population under 40 this is sort of like bring out a quill and a bottle of ink.  We can see it all the time with the lack of response from the under 40 year olds and also we have to wonder - 'are the ones who will cooperate with this antique data collection system' representative of the general population or are they a very tight sub cell?  Perhaps they are Amish? With today's new smart phones there are many more ways to collect data that is way more accurate - similar to how the PPM data works.  Also consider the huge costs of processing all this paper, postage and recruiting a fresh sample every week.  
  3.  The Demos - We drew up the 25-54 standard back in the 70s and 80s when the baby boomers were all represented in this broad cell.  It became the standard for using radio, but now it's time to move on and realize that generations evolve and age and we need a system and a standard that is not pegged on what was the demo profile of 30 years ago.  Nielsen is the one with the data and the one who stands in the middle of the buyers of our media and our media builder/seller side.  Education, some innovation, and look at the design of the software and the reports.  There are ways for Nielsen to start a new revolution here and give radio a chance to show that it can impact many important generations - not just one.  
  4. Costs - Radio operators bare the brunt of the costs and in the future it looks like our sample will be providing data for a number of media operators with Nielsen offering lots of sellers and buyers data based on the sample they draw for 'audio' measurement.  Their buying pool will increase, that should mean that Radio costs can come down.   
Many of us have some fears here.  Will Radio get lost in a sea of competitors that all show up in some form of combined media standard?  Will our needs in gathering data take a back seat so mobile media, pure play streamers, video services, Social Media sites and web portals all grow at our expense when a 'standard' is set?  But, in the end it's time to give the buyers the data they need and do our best to make 'Audio' broadcasting the star of the show.  

Surely you can add to the list.   So have a seat on Nick Nielsen's knee and have a great holiday.   

Monday, October 28, 2013

Endorsements On A Whole New Level!!

Next time you or one of your personalities is approached for an endorsement don't just take the product or service and just ramble on - go the extra mile.   The new Ron Burgundy campaign for the new Durango should serve as some inspiration.  

Ron goes all out and completely in character for this assignment.  He also does over 65 versions of the campaign with many destined for Social Media and You Tube exclusive placement.  The spots also serve as a great promo for what will likely be The Movie Of The Year in December.  Will goes the extra mile and these full on character spots get your attention.

We are seeing more clients jump into endorsements and live spots.  It may sound like a simple - easy concept but to make them really work you have to get creative.  Next time you set out to build an endorsement make sure your creative mojo is turned up all the way.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How Much To Post on Facebook??

As we work with Facebook we often end up in a discussion on how much should we post?  We often see articles by Facebook gurus claiming that we should wait 3 hours between posts.  This stems from the metric that the average life of a post to gathering likes, comments and shares is around 3 hours.  Frequency of posts is also an etiquette consideration.  Just like a person who 'talks too much' in a conversation you don't want to come off as dominating in the relationship with the 'friends/fans.'  You also have to ride the balance of selling and building your brand on Facebook and engaging the audience without coming off with too much 'hype.'

Considering the etiquette,  hype factor and the post life there is also another huge factor that we have to consider that that's the traffic level.  The average user posts around 1.1 times a day or 36 times a month.  So if you have 500 friends and maybe 20 fan pages you end up with 500-600 posts a day.   That's  probably around 30 posts an hour or one very 2 minutes.  Take the peak hours from 7a-10p and you are way above 30 per hour.

I have around 400 people on my personal page and I checked the posts on my news feed in mid-day and there were over 75 posts that were around an hour old.   Add 8-10 'sponsored posts' in the feed and then another 20-30 posts that were older (but still seeing enough action in likes, comments, shares and views to push themselves back into the feed) and you can see that even in 1 hour you can find your post is 1 of 100.  

Also consider that if you check in on Facebook 6 times a day - every 3 hours your news feed could have 250 to 300 posts on it.  Given those facts it would see that only posting every 3 hours is probably not enough for your brand or station to really have any impact unless your posts are all super engaging.

Think about like this.  Let's say you have around 250 commercials on your station from 6a-7p would you expect a client who only runs 1 commercial a day to have any impact with their message?  Probably not - no one on your sales team would suggest such an schedule because it won't produce any impact.  The same frequency issues are there in Facebook posts also.

Facebook is getting more crowded every day.  Maybe not with more users but with all the revenue activity on it now that there are stockholders to keep happy there is a lot more on any news feed than there was a few years ago.  In the end if you want to have an impact for your brand or personality you have to engage more to keep up.

Of course you have to balance it out.  Having a post every hour that 'another 20 minute music marathon is starting now' is a waste and probably won't make news feed anyway, but just getting in 4 posts from 6a-8p will only work if all those posts are 'killers.'   You have to have both - a healthy quantity of posts and also have very engaging posts that catch the eyes and interaction with your fans.     

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Demos They Are A Changing

In the reports from the NAB show an interesting topic popped up from large agency director Sumeet Kanwar at OMD who notes that 'his media buyers spend millions with radio, but when it comes to measurement they are not getting what they need.'   Sumeet when on to elaborate that 'there is a need to develop more finite demographics, rather than expecting clients to buy a demo like Women 18-49,'

Sumeet couldn't be more correct.  For the last 35 years we have really lived mostly in one demo - 25-54 adults.  Yes, the last 15 years or so we have seen a rise in 18-49 but face it - we mostly celebrate the 25-54 numbers.  For 35 years we've had the same perspective on the audience.  When we started to build this demo it was the early 80s and the Baby Boomers (1945-65) were in the core of this demo for most of the decade.  The first Boomers turned 30 in 1975 and 20 years later in 1995 the last of the Boomers turned 30.

Now the Boomers are all over 50.  In just a few years all the Boomers will be over 55 and out of the demo completely.  This demo became THE important demographic because it was centered around the Boomers who were the largest demo group in the population and marketing to them as they built their lives and spent their dollars has no doubt built the economy we have today.   But, they have earned their highest incomes and spent at their highest levels.   It's a new reality and we've sat in one chair looking out the same window for 35 years.  Recently the 18-49 Demo has seen more 'action' in radio but even there this is a very wide group of people with very different life needs and a lot of the 18-49 demo overlaps with 25-54.

Sumeet is right - it's time for a new view.   So how should we divide up the Demographic Pie today?  

The chart shows the 2010 Census populations by 5 year spans and I outlined the Boomers, Gen X and Millennial generations as they sit for 2014, and noted the updated ages.  

For marketers right now these are 3 pretty different generations.  They are all in different stages in their lives and offer many different challenges to marketing.   The Boomers are now 55+ and in a very mature consumer state.  Gen X is in their peak earning years and also their peak spending years with family expenses mounting up.  The new Millennial Generation are nearly all out of high school on the young end and over half of them are approaching 30 years old.  

We could divide it up in many ways:

  • Make it a 3 way world - 50+, 30+ and 12-30 -  You would be pretty close to lining up with the 'stages of maturity' of the whole population and also fairly close to the current Boomer/GenX/Millennial alignment.   This would be a full change - we'd really be packaging the demos not by their population but more on their age and the consumer needs surrounding that stage of their maturity.  
  • Go for 2 broad groups that are tighter than what we have now and with a lot less overlap.   Here you would have 20-44 and 45-70 spread.  You are either looking at younger and older targets for your product.  
  • Set up our age data breakouts with Arbitron so we have combos of 5 year spans.  You can pick 3+ combos and tailor the full presentation to the client.   Build a 25-40 demo for products that are looking for new families with young kids in them.   Build an 20-35 breakout for products aimed at younger singles or just married.  Build 50-65 group for empty nest couples.   
Sumeet is 'spot on' in pointing out the need here and this is going to take a full head on effort.  Not only do we have to figure out new ways to divide up a moving target as the demos grow and age, but we also need to completely change a lot of our culture and radio product structure.   Here's a starting list of 'things to do' to accomplish the task: 
  1. Getting Arbitron to develop new breakout demos and systems in all the software, 
  2. Teaching the sales teams to present a whole new package with either completely different demos or specific targets customized for the client's target - not our 25-54 break out. 
  3. Programming will need to adjust it's targeting also.   What is the most valuable target to dominate?  It's a whole new question and maybe one that changes all the time.
For sure we are all going to need to be a lot more in tune with product target demographics, the generations and their characteristics within the population and be ready to overhaul our key demo rank and CPM business model.   

Perhaps the NAB should be taking the lead here and take Sumeet's observations to the planning table.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Jimmy Kimmel Teaches Us All How To Twerk Social Media.

Jimmy Kimmel's recent exploit with the Epic Twerk Fail gives us all some great lessons in the new world of Social Media.   No doubt you saw the video all over your Facebook page, on news casts, in talk shows, or just roaming the office on someone's computer.  The 30 second video of a girl twerking and falling backwards on a table with a candle and her pants catching of fire spread like wild fire.  It's over 11 million views in just a week and then Jimmy reveals he did the video as a hoax with a stunt woman and that reveal is heading to 10 million views.  

Here are some observations and lessons that Jimmy's prank can teach us:

Authentic Wins - You can't hype it.  Look at all the 'authentic looking' touches here.  It starts with the video itself looking as if it was shot on a phone.  Even the 'acting' here is carefully executed to make it look 'not professional.'  The room itself is set up with cheap furniture and a no frills look.   The key here is that the video looks real.

Timing It: The other key here is how Jimmy deals with the video.   He sets the trap carefully by just posting the video and then he waits till it starts to grow.  He carefully waits to show it on his show till it has already started to grow on Social Media and media programming.  How many Morning Shows posted this video on their web sites and Social Media pages?  Too many to count.  Jimmy sits and watches it grow and then he reveals the hoax and takes over the bit.  

Hitting A Hot Topic:  This bit wouldn't have grown much with out Miley's wild twerking on the MTV Awards show.  Jimmy's other key here was jumping on something that everyone was already talking about.

Let Social Media Do the Work:  If you have something that is 'hot' enough you can see the power of Social Media here.  Just remember you can't HYPE it.  Social Media will do the work IF you carefully set the stage.  

So what does Jimmy really get from this bit?  So what, he racks up 10 million views on some video.   Actually Jimmy gains a lot from this bit.  Next year we'll be watching an 'epic battle' on the nightly talk shows.  Leno exits again and now we have 2 newer players Fallon vs Kimmel.   Kimmel is on ABC and still finding an audience - this is where Nightline was just a year ago.  NBC's Tonight show has always won this slot - just ask Letterman.  Fallon is building up solid props and looks ready to hit it big on the Tonight Show.
Kimmel needs to grab the spotlight now - while he is the only 'new world' show in the time slot.

When you look at the new breed of show that Fallon and Kimmel are crafting they are clearly aiming at an audience that lives in social media and has never known a world without the web.  The Jimmies play constantly on Social Media.  They tweet all the time, play games with the audience on social media and use material that comes right from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and if some new site develops they will pounce on it.  

Meanwhile Letterman and Leno only put their toe in the Social Media pool.

So what does this mean to your station and your personalities?   Actually a lot.  There is a lot to learn from in how Kimmel built the bit and used Social Media here.   The lessons are really pretty obvious.  Perhaps the real area we should consider here is - 'are we living in the Letterman/Leno world or the world of the Jimmy's.'  Are we diving into the audience's pool or just hanging out around it?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Big Picture Look at Radio Brands and Facebook

Facebook will be 10 years old early next year.   It's almost hard to imagine a product marketing without the familiar blue square "F" logo and the Blue Bird in it.  Social Media has clearly become an integral part of the fabric of the world.  In the U.S. around 60% of the 130 million people living here use it (most estimates are around 180 million U.S. users now in a population of  315 million).

So how are radio brands doing in reaching and working with a media that's clearly become integral to any brand out there.   Let's take a BIG PICTURE look.  We'll use the Page Rankings from Quintly.com where you can pull out various categories of Fan Pages and see how they stack up.

If we start with the whole world and look at the stats:

Eminem with 75 million is at the top (if you take out You Tube and Facebook itself) and it goes from there to more artists like Rihanna, Michael Jackson, Lady GaGa, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Linkin Park are all above 55 million.  Some big brands like Coke, Red Bull and Disney are in the top 50 with more than 40 million.

There are lots of TV shows, some movies, a couple of sports stars (soccer) and some video game sites.  It's a very interesting list that's updated by the minute, you can visit it here.

Now let's take a big picture look at the Radio Station segment of all these pages:

The On-Line radio brands I Heart at 6 million and Pandora at 5.6 million. After that we have lots of radio brands from Europe and other spots in the world.   France and Italy have brands here with some pretty strong numbers given that both countries are around 60 million.

You can play with the ranks here.

You have to go all the way to #38 in the ranks to find Z100 with around a 1/4 of a million fans.  KISS in Los Angeles, BLS in NYC, WILD in SF, KISW Seattle, Movin Seattle, KUBE Seattle and WXPN Philly all manage to crack the top 120 and have 50,000 to 250,000 fans.

When you stand back and see the other countries and radio brands there are some interesting stories.  Hungry only has 6 million people yet the have a radio brand in the top 100.  Toronto has 3 stations in the top 120 - more than NYC?

When you stand back and look at our performance on the BIG PICTURE it's really a bit concerning.   If we took a look at the Twitter numbers the picture wouldn't even be close to the Facebook showing.  Social Media is huge interaction vehicle.  Our brands will never be strong in the digital new world we are trying to build a presence in without Social Media.   We have plenty of opportunity to grow here.

While some of the growth comes from building the message on-air to your cume a lot more of it comes from creating engaging content.  Being the 10th one to post those pics of Miley Twerking probably isn't going to spread the word.   You also have to be consistent - posting randomly when the mood hits is also a way to fall off the News Feed.

Do you have a real strategy and plan for Social Media?  We are still novices, but even in elementary school there is a plan and a strategy.   

Monday, July 29, 2013

Feast On Our Cume

For the most part when buyers look at radio they lean on the average persons and rating point numbers.  The main currency revolves around 'how many people will hear the commercial.' But, no one goes into a marketing program on radio buying just one commercial.  You wouldn't walk into a casino and take the $2,000 dollars you were going to spend and put it all on one number.

Radio has sold itself in the advertising world by often leaving our best player on the bench for the whole game.  That player is our CUME.  The total sum of the audience that listens to the station sometime over the rating period.   Back in the diary days we'd see a Cume number that was made up of an average of the audience we collected over an average week during the survey period.   Usually it was a pretty big number showing a couple of stations maybe reaching 25% of their total market population.

Of course that number came from people remembering to write down the stations they listened to and how long they listened.  Now that we have the people meter in the field we can see how wrong the 'recalled numbers' from the audience are compared to their real behavior.   It the world of Cume it looks like the diary method caught around 55-65% of the actual Cume numbers for most stations.  If you look at a market leading station like WDVE in Pittsburgh in the Diary days it was usually around 450,000 for the cume - reaching a little under 25% of the market which is just over 2 million.  In a PPM world WDVE is often 200,000 higher in the Cume numbers with over 600,000 listeners.   In fact we usually see 3-4 stations that are above 600,000 in cume in this market each of them reaching around 30-33% of the market.  If you segment the market to Women or Men or Younger and Older you can easily reach 50-60% of the market for that demo just by picking the leading station.  

When you look at all the marketing options for a product today there are really very few options where you can really 'reach the market' with a vehicle.  Yes you have TV as a big reach contender but when you have only 4-6 local channels and they compete on the same cable box with 400 other channels and a DVR the reach of the media falls back.  Radio's reach is also very consistent with over 90% of the market using the media every week for decades upon decades of data.

For years we've put Cume in the backseat.  But we still sell radio and any other media with the goal of reaching the biggest share of the market possible.  When we look at a You Tube video campaign - the first number that matters is the 'total views'.   The fact that Jeff Gordon's Pepsi Test Drive video spoof is over 38 million views is the number that really counts and the one that the Pepsi guys are toasting over.

The problem is that we've really never had a reliable Cume number to sell with.  The averages that often made up our Cume in the diary books are now proven to be way under estimating the real Cume.  And since most campaigns run more than just on 'average' week any average week cume number is also way underestimating the real cume audience that the 2-3 week campaign could have reached.  It's also like guessing how many stars in the sky tonight - it depends on how many you can see, and our vision is limited.

In marketing a product the goal is to buy a campaign to reach as much of the market and the target as possible with your resources. The more people you get your message to the more people in the store, the more product moved off the shelves, the more car shoppers in the lot, the more people sitting down to dinner, the more people clicking on the buy button and the more people following you on social media and becoming 'fans' of your brand.   To accomplish any of the goals we just listed you have to reach a big Cume with your message.  Just putting out a steady stream of messages to your 300 fans on Facebook is a not much of a marketing plan to increase your revenue.  You need to reach a much bigger number to have an impact and that's CUME.

Radio has that CUME.   Perhaps our problem is that instead of putting that CUME in the game we've left it on the bench - just pinch hitting here and there in our game.  Could it play every day?  Could it win games?  Well coach, maybe it's time to find out.  

Maybe what we really need is a better understanding of the Cume number and a better measurement of it in EVERY market.  If the buyers of media really understood Cume and if the clients we sell to really understood how to use the Cume to build their brands, ring their cash registers, build their fan base and learn to use radio to take full advantage of our huge Cume audience we would be seeing our revenue shares making some meaningful gains.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Your Community

Nearly every conversation on terrestrial radio's assets lists being 'local' at, or near, the top.  Great stations are the ones that DO embrace their community and most station teams work very hard to stage events, raise funds, as well as helping organizations and individuals.

It's an unprofitable investment when you look at it on a spread sheet at budget time.   All the man hours spent setting up events, attending meeting after meeting on the Blues Festival in the park, and bringing in extra people as we broadcast from the local fair for the weekend.  While many staffers 'donate' their time and work extra just to help you still need people and people cost money to have around.  You can see some stations are fading away in interacting with the community.   They have paired down their staffs with air talent on multiple stations, fewer bodies in the building to do all the work it takes to get into all the events and community needs.

You can also visualize the minute by minute Media Monitors PPM rating graphs sinking as you spend another break helping the local hospital raise funds for a children's wing.  We've all done huge festivals and participated in events with great local media coverage and opened up the rating book to see 'nothing' in return.  Sometimes we seem to do it mostly for 'logo exposure.'   Get the banners up, park the van and set up the tent - we're there.  Other times we just hope to get a mention on the local TV news - only to be known as 'a local radio station.'

Community IS very important and when you see how stations jump in and really make community events shine that is when you get real value.  This is when you build images that really stand out with the audience and make lasting impressions that may not translate into instant ratings or revenue, but they build a long term bond with the audience.   We can all think of great local events that became legendary because a radio station united the community around them.  We also know that you can't just do one fireworks show or one concert fest a year and expect the audience to be convinced that you are a great neighbor.  It would be like just running two great commercials and expecting to fill your store as a client.   You need to keep the effort and focus on being involved every month in your community in a visible way.

A couple of tips:

  • Use your Air Time Wisely - How many times do we approach an event by just cranking out a liner and telling the air staff to 'yak it up.'  The liner is a laundry list of thank you and sponsor plugs and a rambling jock, trying to make this break turn into something.   How about setting up a quick theme and building a system of sponsor mentions that doesn't let this turn into a rambling exercise.  Also don't put all the promotion eggs in the liner/air staff basket.  
  • Integrate it - Cover it in the news.  Even if you only do a few casts in Mornings cover the event on a regular basis.  This IS something going on in the community and part of the news in your community - why not cover it and get that extra mention in Mornings?   Also look at covering it in the weather - ahead on the Big Fest Weekend - partly cloudy and in the low 80s - just a slight chance of a shower.
  • Set up the Imaging to help:  A quick statement at the end of the 'music sweepers' to quickly mention a big event helps, so do doing some advance work when you have artists on the phone, hanging backstage or doing an interview - have them plug the bigger events.  With a few minutes with the editor you can tweak the imaging and get those extra mentions in the hour without stretching out the breaks.
  • Involve sales - How about a package where you get to be a community sponsor for an event.  What the client gets is a tag on the end of their commercial this month for the event.  Maybe a bonus or maybe a way to tag on a few extra dollars for the association.    
  • Use Social Media:  Tons of opportunities here to build up the event, spread the word and keep it active without taking up tons of air time.   The key is building a social media campaign.  You can't just keep running the same 'hey come out and be there' posts 3 times a day.   Get creative with pics, video, and build up the special angles available.   
  • Need volunteers to help: Invite the audience.  I bet you'd be surprised at the response as you tapped into the girls basketball team or just brought in some 'volunteers' to be 'roadies for a day'.   Don't have a jock to hang out at an event - have a budding audience star jump in.  With a little creativity and some coordination you can find ways to stay involved. 
As we all take a day for the 4th and many of you head out to host fireworks displays, hang at the state fair, or host that music event in the community stand back and consider the opportunity this event might bring or how you could enhance it.   Also take a look at all the events you do in the community.  Which ones have potential and which ones are just taking up space.  You have to balance quantity and quality to be effective here.   

Lastly, thank you local radio for putting in such a big effort for our communities.  You've all given up precious days off, time with your families, and put in lots of effort to your communities.  Sometimes broadcasters may not get as much credit as you, and the station, deserve.   


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Stop Your Busy Day and Look Behind the Monitor

Stop your busy day as a Brand Manager, PD, Ops Manager (or whatever title you've taken on) and take a long look at what you do.   Do you really have a clear view of the brand, the audience, the clients who advertise on it, and the real view from the studio of the team that really creates it?   Yes you have data flowing into the computer from everywhere.  The Web metrics, ratings data with all kinds of special breakouts, and in the PPM world it's pouring out of the monitor like Niagara Falls.

I bet if you take a look you'll find that most of the day is spent behind the CRT display, pecking away on the keyboard and zipping the mouse around.  It's a sea of logs to edit, data to review, emails to answer, audio files to review, imaging files to edit or evaluate in a wave editor, and maybe a web meeting here and there.  There is new software to master, new distribution platforms to keep up with, the web site to keep updated, the studio software complexities/screw ups to master, the social media world to advance the brand's engagement with the audience, the latest trends within the audience, today's gossip, the music in your format, and then there are the management of the whole team that will likely make or break the brand.

In today's world you also may be doing all of this with 2 or 3 stations in the cluster so you can see how easy it's become to enclose ourselves in a computer cocoon.  Our POV has changed from listening to our brands, actually watching/listening to the audience, and interacting with clients marketing themselves with our brands.  Instead we see it mostly from a 22" LED monitor filled with data graphs, wave forms, emails and logs.

As you head into the Spring and Summer maybe it's time to set a few new priorities for your role and your POV.    Here are some suggestions:

  • Hit the Sales Road - What do the local clients think about your brand and using radio to market their brands?  Have they noticed the engagement you have with your audience in social media?  The power the on-air personalities have to market their products with their audience?  The impact you make in the community with the promotions and events you stage and work with?  Have you showcased the creative power of your brands and radio to them or have we just let the on-line world take that stage?   Or do they really see us as yesterday's media that doesn't work as well as some of the on-line experiments they engage in.  Do they really have a vision of your audience anymore?  Or has it also been lost is a sea of CPM breakouts? 
  • Get away and Really Listen - We used to get a hotel room and write down the whole day.  With BDS and Mediabase we can see the music anytime, but what about the imaging, the personality breaks, the phones, and the music flow on your brands.   How does it stack up minute by minute with the competition.  How does it stand out even in a world where there are so many music options? 
  • Listen On Line Also - How does your stream sound?  From the VOP of those of us who listen to a lot of streams in our daily routine you hear a lot that are pretty disturbing.  Dead air, music cut off, commercials chopped up, instrumental music that's just weird, endless boring PSAs and all kinds of streaming events that are unfortunate at best.  Maybe a few years ago not many people tuned in on their computers - we all know that's not the case today.   Have you just let the steam dry up??
  • Social Media and the Web - Stand back and take a LONG HARD look at the website, Facebook, and Twitter.  Are we falling behind and looking at a website that is just dated and not maintained.  Do we still have the same jock blog entry from last summer?  Are the news feeds on our Rock station all about Justin Bieber?  Do we have a cume of 120,000 but only 4,000 facebook fans and the posts are just coming from a few personalities with no strategic or tactical purpose?  
  • Hang with the Audience - We used to do listener advisory boards and there were also lots of events, remotes, and moments when most PDs had time to get a good look and listen to the audience.  Not only did we see the number breakouts and graphs on their listening, we actually listened to them.  Maybe it's time to start again?   
  • Hang with the Personalities and Programming Team - Yes everyone's busy, but you need to keep the creative juices flowing and the teamwork ticking.  Just having staff meetings, procedure memos, email notices, and show meetings that are mostly mechanical it's time to brainstorm, create, have some fun, play a few jokes on each other, and get pumped up to entertain the audience.   Most of this doesn't come pouring out of a monitor and keyboard.   
Gee we didn't even hit a full 7 steps here.  If we just took 1 day and spent it on each area here in 6 weeks your brand could be a lot more in touch with sales team, the air personalities and the audience.  Plus we all know it would clearly sound better on the air and on-line.   The biggest step here isn't 200 sit ups a day - most of it is just pushing away this keyboard I'm typing on and the monitor you're reading this on.   BYE.   

Friday, May 10, 2013

Exploring Your Local Market Dialect

Traveling from Radio market to Radio market in the U.S. and Canada one of the traits that is always fascinating is the local dialects.  It's the one big key to sounding local and a part of the community for any talent in any market and it's also often very important to the whole staging of a station/brand.

Where did these traits come from?  Why do we have so many different accents, phrases and styles of speech?  I ran into an overwhelming exploration of the various Dialects in North America in a recent link from a Facebook pal.   This is an amazing map and site, complete with You Tube links to illustrate various Dialects, as well as detailed histories on the evolution of the Dialects.

You can take in the whole site here.

The author is Rich Aschmann who is a Christian Minister who does this more or less as a hobby.  As he notes 'some people collect stamps - I collect Dialects.'  It's an amazing site that has way more information than most of us will every use to pick up the Dialect in Minnesota or around Pittsburgh but if you want to really dig in and know your market this is a valuable resource - if you can understand and grasp it all.

Even though we all speak English there is clearly a regional and local influence across both the U.S. and Canada.  It's more than just 'soda' or 'pop.'

Friday, April 5, 2013

TSL Part 8 - Some Conclusions and Summary

TSL started out as a math formula to illustrate the relationship between the Cume audience and the Average Quarter Hour numbers.   We started with AQH times the number of quarter hours in the daypart (504 for the total week) then dividing by the Cume.   When we started, getting 30-40 quarter hours a week was a strong performance.  Over the years we've seen this number shrink.  Some of it comes from changing to PPM data measurement in the top 50 markets.  The reality of the meter vs. the old diary recall data has changed the trending here so measuring long term trends in the audience have become a mute point.   But, we can clearly see that TSL is getting weaker for the transmitter radio world even if the 'rules of the game' have evolved.

If you look back at the series here we've sampled a lot of tactics and strategies to try and improve TSL.   The list here is still evolving.   I just got a note from Jon Miller at Arbitron about new TSL analysis of PPM data that is looking at the number of days audience groups tune into a specific station.  Obviously if you can go from 3 to 4 days of tune in from the sample your TSL will improve.

Sean Ross (now with Billboard) recently brought up some interesting points on TSL.   His points seem to highlight that while we spend all our time building occasions and making appointments and focusing less on keeping people listening right now we may be hurting TSL.   You can read Sean's excellent piece on TSL - HERE 

Setting up our clocks to follow listening patterns has helped TSL.   No doubt that building towards events with billboards and teases has held some ears listening longer.   Pushing for more tuning occasions has also shown to be a clear way to gain some more TSL.  As we comb through more and more data on PPM we will no doubt see even more ways to tweak our programming systems to gain that 'extra yard' or 'run per game' by tweaking the game plan.

No doubt there are answers to keeping TSL strong in all the number crunching, but we also have to look beyond the numbers.  Going back to our 'Money Ball' analogy here we've all seen players on the field who clearly win games, fill the stands, and manage to do it even if the competition focus' their resources just on beating them.   How do you think Derek Jeeter fairs in pure Money Ball world?  Probably not nearly as good as he performs as a great baseball player with a bat or glove in his hand.

While the numbers do offer some effective tactics great TSL comes from keeping the audience engaged.  Being a unique/special brand that builds a bond with listeners and keeps them entertained, informed and musically intrigued.   Rarely is there just ONE answer or tactic to success.  It always takes a balanced combination of tactics and strategies.  To win make sure you have a full and balanced approach.

We have tons of experience in building TSL, lots of data to look at and learn from, and a long history with the audience that gives us all the advantages to preserve TSL even as more and more media options present themselves every day.  In may ways 'we are the pros in this world'  the new comers really don't have much to show with the key elements of entertaining and engaging radio.  They rarely have personality, information, a local community presence, imaging/branding and when it comes to promotion radio's abilities still very strong.   The tactics are important but so is the product.  

Thanks for your TSL here and of course you thoughts and input are always welcome.

Friday, March 29, 2013

TSL Part 7 - Picking Your Moment

As we head into our 7th in a series on Time Spent Listening tactics we have covered different theories, tricks an practices programmers have used to improve TSL.   Radio is clearly facing lots of new options for entertainment and music as the internet continues to expand.   While we have seen our cume levels hold up fairly well you can see that all the new options are draining TSL.   We have been reviewing the evolution of the past tactics in this series to get all of us focusing more on strengthening TSL.

This week we are looking at some new thinking that is starting to evolve as we see more and more data from  the PPM world.   The thought here is to focus on key stop sets or key times of the day when you have high usage (PUR or PUMM) and can get the most impact from a TSL extending piece of programming.

Mark O'Neill and his ROI Media Solutions team are behind the discoveries here and Mark spoke the the last Arbitron Programmers Conference in December.
Mark's Proposal here is to look for those key moments during the day that occur on a regular/daily basis and use those to implement key TSL tactics.  For example you may find that around 4:40 you see a spike in overall listening on a consistent basis but for your station there is perhaps a dip in listening or no advantage to you even though the 'tide is high.'

Mark's idea is to 'fire your tactic/heat seeking missile' here.  It's more than just roaming over the listening levels and then looking at your ratings.  PPM puts out a TON of data and bringing it all together takes careful sorting of the data and unique analytics.    You can learn a lot more catching Mark's presentation here.

You may wonder how just focusing on one quarter hour or even a key stop set could actually bring on a meaningful gain for the overall ratings.  Mark's theories and proposals seems to have 'proof' that there are clear improvements with his tactics and strategy.  You can learn a lot more catching Mark's presentation here.

TSL is going to be the key to keeping terrestrial radio strong as more and more options appear.  We'll sum up the series next Friday with a review and some thought/debate on the effectiveness of the strategy and tactics we've used to improve TSL over the years.    Thanks for sharing this series with fellow programmers. We all have a great opportunity and a big challenge ahead as more and more options for the audience appear daily.

Friday, March 22, 2013

TSL Part 6 - The People Meter !!!

As our tale of the evolution and tactics programmers have used  to increase Time Spent Listening  rolls on we suddenly hit a very different reality - the People Meter.   As the top 50 markets moved from the diary method of gathering data to the new People Meter suddenly we began to see TSL take on a lot of new tactics and thinking.

PPM gathers listening data in the sample with no listener bias.   PPM's don't forget which stations they punch up on the commute or what they listened to all day at work.   It doesn't ignore dad listening to the hip-hop station after he picks up his son from practice - even though he has no idea who Drake is.

On the other side you also have lots of programmers still living in the non PPM world in the 180+ markets that still rely on the diary.

As we began to break out the minute by minute data and saw actual content in Media Monitors you could see a lot of different patterns developing.   What we saw overall was that TSL was way down from what we had in the diaries.  People listened to many more stations than they noted in the diary and punched around a lot more than we saw when they had to write it down.

Spot breaks suddenly began to look a lot more dangerous than they did in the diary world.  Longer jock breaks became a death zone in PPM as the audience tuned out sooner than we had thought.   Playlists also took a hit - suddenly taking any chances at all looked a lot more dangerous when you could lay the PPM graph right over time period you played that deep cut and see the impact.

Remember the first tactic we noted in our series here of building the clocks to avoid breaks on the top/bottom/15 and 45 times in the hour?   You can read about it below.   That tactic was one of the first ones that saw a tweak in the PPM world. Looking over the tune in and tune out patterns it became obvious that while the no breaks on the quarter hours clock set up that had become the 'law of the land' in diaryland it may not be ideal for the PPM world.

Actually the clock that has evolved is often called the Bow Tie clock as it pushes the spot breaks to the 15 and 45 spots in the hour.   The top and bottom are still left as music islands, but now the actual listening patterns showed advantages to breaking a lot closer to what was no man's land in the diary world.

We also saw a renewed interest in the longer music sweep.  Instead of trying for 'repetitive' style music sweeps with 10 in a row every hour the new tactic was more about 'commercial free hours' and 'commercial free days.'

Appointment listening still seemed like a meaningful tactic in PPM.  TSL does improve by making appointments and you can get some audience to come back if you work at making an appointment that is worth keeping.  The problem is that this tactic isn't as effective as now we see the reality of how much time the audience really spends with each button punch to a station.  It's no where near what we thought it was in the diary world.   The averages vary a lot by station but in the end the reality that when we see all their listening data (not just what they can remember and write down) the TSL is not nearly as long as it was in diaryland.  Of course the good news is that the audience listens a lot more stations than we saw in the diary.   Our reach and Cume numbers are way more than we saw in the diary.

Next week we will take a look at the newest tactic based on PPM where key hours and times are targeted to improve TSL.   Again thanks for spreading the word on this series.  As more and more entertainment and music listening options blossom in the digital world the need for TSL will be crucial for our brands.  We'll need new thinking, creativity and the guts to try new ideas to keep our media valuable in the future.

Friday, March 15, 2013

TSL Part 5- Make An Appointment

As we continue on exploring the tools of TSL that radio programmers rely on we come on the advent of Appointment Listening.

The idea is to set appointments with the audience to listen at key times.  'Tune in at 9a - 2p - 5p' to enter the contest or for some other event.  Really this is recycling in many ways but the theory and 'science' behind it is different.

Most of the TSL tactics we used were to try and extend the current listener.  Get them to listen through the stop set or just give us another 3 or 4 minutes, or maybe another quarter hour.   Stretch what you have.

Here the idea is 'worry more about getting them to come back.'  Again the practice here has roots in breaking down Arbitron data.  If your average listener averages 15 minutes with your station in their tuning occasions - if you can increase the number of times they punch in to your station your TSL will grow a lot more than fighting to hold them for another 5 minutes.

Another key in this tactic is to come right out and promote the times and make the appointment.  This throws out the thought of 'listen all day - you never know when we will give away the big prize'  Here you come right out and admit - listen at 1:10 to win.

This idea does work if you have a good enough 'hook' to set the appointment with.   A lot of the focus here has been with contesting.  Now that we have PPM data you can see this tactic working on many stations.  There are clear spikes around contests with appointment listening.   In the diary world you can also find data that shows success in building more TSL with appointments.   There are also stations that use this tactic all the time and have little to show for it.  The key is having good content and contests to make sure the audience will keep that appointment you tried to make.

Next week we'll start to look at the PPM era tactics of TSL.   Thanks for spreading the word on this series - we've seen a lot more activity on the blog.   While TSL has always been important to programmers to build winning brands and stations it's becoming a crucial tool as we approach the digital and mobile world ahead.  Suddenly we have a lot of new competition for the audience's time and ears.   Keeping the entertainment and attention on our brands will be key and keeping up the usage and TSL will have to be a top top priority.

Friday, March 8, 2013

TSL Part 4 - Billboards And Recycling

As we explore the tools of TSL, along with their effectiveness and history there are 2 tools that may seem a bit simple and obvious - Billboards and Recycling.  

The Billboard may also be known as the 'Tee Up', 'Set Up', or 'Tease' and can be very effective in the right hands.    Just before the spot cluster kicks off we 'billboard' a big event coming out of the stop set and hopefully everyone is so excited they don't tune out during all the commercials.   In the right hands and with the right content it can work.   But the key is 'in the right hands' and 'with great content.'   "Coming up another Katy Perry song" in CHR radio today is probably not going to get many to sit through 5 minutes of commercials.   When Katy finishes her new songs this summer you can probably get a crowd to stick through the spots for the 'first play' of the new song.  

Billboards can be a great TSL weapon, if they are well executed and justified.   In many ways we haven't really built them into an art, instead they have become a necessary task and show up before nearly every stop set without much thought or prep.  Especially now in the PPM world the billboard could be one of the most effective weapons.   How well it's used by the talent is the key.  In today's world of voice tracking dayparts and even letting some dayparts and weekends roll without air talent it seems like billboarding is taking a back seat and not being utilized or developed much as a TSL tool.

The other tool we're looking at this week is Recycling.   In some ways it's like billboarding but here the dynamic is not just to hold the audience through the stop set and into the next quarter hour - it's trying to get them to come back to another hour or daypart or day.   The most recycled daypart is Mornings with most shows getting regular sweepers and mentions throughout the day.  

While Mornings are very important what about the other dayparts?   Building up at work listening, making sure the Morning audience is also there in afternoons and could you get a little more out of evenings with some more exposure throughout the day?

Both of these techniques are obvious and they do work.  Perhaps more so in a PPM world than in the 'recall world' of the diary, but they can pull the audience through a stop set and they can build numbers for other dayparts.   The challenge is that it's effectiveness relies on:

  1. Great Content - If you don't have something big to billboard or recycle it doesn't work as well. 
  2. Preparation - You have to plan this out to make it really work.  You need a full recycling plan, running weekend recycling on Monday probably won't be as effective as Thursday.  
  3. Air Talent - Some have a real talent for building up the excitement and some just seem to go through the motions here.   In the end the air talent has to prepare the teases - hunting down the best content in the hour and packaging it to be effective.  Are we teaching, coaching and evaluating this trait anymore???   
There really isn't anyway to find any research or metrics to prove that Billboards and Recycling help in actually delivering TSL.  Based on what we can see in PPM tracking there may be some evidence, but since we really don't track the 'content' of every billboard and compare it to the audience graphs (like we do with music and spots) we really don't have any 'proof.'   But we all know that billboards that are skillfully delivered, well planed and that promote captivating content the audience will stick around or try to come back. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

TSL Part 3 - The Music Sweep WARS

We continue exploring the importance and evolution of the Tools of TSL for radio programmers.  Last week we looked at the early days of clock tweaking to Arbitron's editing system.  This week we'll see how programmers turned to more obvious marketing tactics in the 80s.  

The decade brought on the advent of 'commercial free' sweeps, hours and even days.  In Detroit WLLZ launched with months of commercial free music into a crowded rock battle and wiped everyone with format leading shares in the debut book.   We had every kind of name you could imagine to package 20-40 minute blocks of music and the long music sweep fever became a part of nearly every music format.

Contesting was also a part of the marketing.   Stations started building in 20 song marathons every few hours and backing it up with - 20 songs or $20,000.   Many DJs in those days of live control rooms feared skipping a song or having an unforced error cost the promotional budget 20K during their watch.   Others set their clocks to always promise 8 in a row every hour or some always played 25 minutes music sweeps with only 2 tops sets in the hour.  It seemed there was no end to innovative clock systems to build in music sweep tactics.  It kept us busy in Selector and no doubt made many a traffic director duck when we came into the room.  

This tactic clearly worked for many stations.   The WLLZ story may have been extreme but you could see a number of other stations pull in stronger TSL with the music sweeps.   The problem is that wars started and the music sweeps also didn't lower the commercial load - it just moved more spots into some hours and less into others.  While you reaped more TSL in this hour it was quickly give up in the next hour with long stop sets.  

There were also lots of concerns from the sales teams.  Going on the air and proclaiming that 'commercials=bad' wasn't exactly making it any easier to convince the clients that radio was their best friend for marketing their brands with those 'evil commercials.'  By the mid-90s the more music/commercial free tactics started to fade.  Between the sales concerns and the over hype of nearly every station trying to out due their competitors in the arena it looked like the fad had run it's course.    But like any fad it can, and probably will, come back.  

PPM has brought new life to the 'B97 (((MONSTER))) Music Marathon' with the long music sweeps playing a role in the TSL tactics and strategies today.  In fact they are really enjoying a bit of a comeback.   In PPM the minute by minute - hour by hour - tracking of the tune in and tune out shows that the music sweeps are effective.  In the PPM markets there are commercial free days and hours built into many logs and dayparts.   Programmers have started to look at every hour and plot where to pull in the most benefit from TSL more music tactic.

Next week we'll see the TSL tactics start to shift back to more of the Money Ball - Arbitron Data analysis side of the quest.   Thanks for stopping by and let your radio friends in on this series.   Improving, keeping and developing TSL will be radio's key need as more and more media options evolve in the digital world.   We all need to master the art of TSL.   

Friday, February 22, 2013

TSL Part 2 - Clock Tweaking The Early Days

One of the first programming tricks designed to build more TSL came right out of the 70s.   Buzz Bennett was a pioneer from the old Drake days and came up with lots of tricks and innovations.

For this TSL trick Buzz looked at the Arbitron editing process which gave you credit for the full 15 min quarter hour as soon as you had 7 minutes of listening in the quarter hour.   If you tuned out at 10:07 for another station and noted that in the diary the full 15 min segment to 10:15 was credited to your station.

Buzz looked at the clocks of the day and there were many that ran spots at the :15 and :45 slots and also often ran news at the top of the hour.  Buzz's idea was to move the stop set to at least 7 minutes into the quarter hour and try to get credit for the full quarter hour as much as possible.

Today you can still see that pattern in most of the stations we listen to.  Breaks typically at :22-:25, maybe one around :37-:40 and the last one close to :50 or even later.

While this trick looks like it can't miss there are a few issues.  The first is that hardly anyone fills out a diary minute by minute with the exact time logged in the entry.  We really don't know how the diaries are filled out by the listener.  Some recall what they did today and log it in estimating what they listened to, others fill it out minutes before the mail truck shows up, others may jot down a few entries throughout the day and try to keep up.  Even if they did fill it out right to the minute on their wrist watch - how accurate is their watch?

At the time when the news of Buzz's innovation circled the PD world - clocks changed instantly.   In the end we now have different credit rules with PPM and in PPM the actual listening is automatically recorded so there is no diary keeper estimates in the data.  While we all jumped and Buzz is still a genius programmer on many levels this one probably didn't deliver much help in building TSL as we would have hoped.   Today in the PPM world spot placement follows many new innovations that throw out many of the traditions from this tweak.  We'll cover that more as this series progresses.

Next in the evolution of TSL came the More Music and Longer Music Jams we'll take a look at these tactics next week as we continue to explore the many facets of building TSL.   TSL is a huge challenge as we continue to see more and more options to listening to music from the digital world and over the next month we'll take a full look right here.   Thanks for stopping by and pass the word.   

Friday, February 15, 2013

TSL - The Big Challenge Ahead

As more and more tempting alternatives come pouring into the audience's smart phones, dashboards, tablets and computers terrestrial radio listening continues to hold a reach of 92% of the population weekly.  Ahh but what about time spent listening?  So far the 2012 analysis by Arbitron seems to indicate Radio is holding fairly steady.   But, we all know that TSL is likely going to be the real battle field for the audience's time spent with music and audio entertainment.   All of these music and entertainment options have to cut into Radio's TSL sooner or later.

TSL is very tough to analyze for the whole industry and across all the formats now.  The advent of PPM measurement in the top 50 markets has changed the data dramatically.  We really can't compare the old TSL levels of the diary with PPM's huge volume of tracking data.  Meanwhile we still have lots of 50+ markets that still live in a diary world.  This makes tracking this data across the whole radio landscape nearly impossible.  Even though this 'money ball' data may be impossible to quantify it is still the driving force behind AQH, Ratings and market share.

Much like 'Money Ball' programmers have taken on all levels of data analysis and implemented a number of programming 'tricks' to try and move the magic TSL needle.  Moving the stop sets, billboarding, laying in commercial free blocks, gaming the editing systems for diaries and meters, and appointment listening are some the tools we've tried and still implement today.  But, will they really work as the choices expand from 30 stations on your car dashboard to thousands of streaming stations, podcasts, mp3 playlists and custom built streams?

Over the next 4 weeks as you gear up for the Spring book, or continue your 52 week marathon of ratings measurement let's take a look at the tools we use and perhaps a few we could be using to build more TSL.

We'll start next week with a look at the first 'tricks' programmers used and then progress to the newer tools that we are still developing today.  Next week - moving the stop sets the early days.    I hope you'll tune in and spread the word to fellow programmers and radio pros.