Radio’s Wizards

Wizard NotebookI remember how a weekly fax changed my radio life. It was called the “Monday Morning Memo,” and it was written by a guy in Texas by the name of Roy H. Williams.

Every Monday, I couldn’t wait to get into the radio station and check the fax machine for his latest missive. It never failed to ignite my soul.

Things That Won’t Change

I’ve written in this space about Jeff Bezos of Amazon and what he considers to be the most important question most people don’t ask about their business and that is “What won’t change in ten years?”

Roy’s Monday Morning Memos are an excellent example of focusing on those universal things that won’t change about branding, marketing and selling. They are those universal concepts that will don’t change with the latest technology.

Secret Formulas

In my broadcast sales class at the university, I would spend the end of the semester with each class reviewing principles of Roy’s book “Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads.” All of Roy’s books are a must read for anyone in radio sales.

Here’s an example of some of the things that won’t change for great radio advertising:

  • Surprising Broca – most radio ads are predictable and use clichés that listeners have become adept at tuning out. Great radio ads seduce the listener and then persuade.
  • Words are Keys – you know the product, just by the ad keys used by the brand. Let me give you a couple of examples: “We’ll leave the light on for you” or “Just Do It.”* Do I need to tell you the brand name or what they sell? Do these two companies surprise you with their ads?
  • Engage the Imagination – people only go to places they’ve already been in their mind. The skillful ad writer will engage the listener’s imagination and take the listener where they want the listener to go.
  • Sleep is the mind’s eraser – when we go to bed, sleep is the process where the mind clears itself for the next day. Like an eraser on a chalkboard, sleep wipes away all of the advertising messages a listener is exposed to that day. Knowing this is why, building a radio schedule that delivers the minimum frequency to be effective, is so important.
  • Power Verbs – present tense and present progressive tense verbs conjure up powerful images in the mind. How often to most radio ads use them? Sadly, not very often.
  • The Secret Path to Miraculous Ads – Roy says “journalistic writing is an objective presentation of the facts in an attempt to inform, not persuade. Creative writing is the telling of a story with wit and charm in an attempt to entertain, not to persuade. And Poetry is writing to communicate a new perspective in a brief, tight economy of words. An attempt to persuade.” Will your ad persuade a listener when they hear it? Emotion is KEY. They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. How do you feel after viewing this ad for State Farm called “Never”?

Fearless Flyers

Fearless-Flyers_Chet-Young-at-the-Beach_780This past Tuesday, September 11, 2018, America remembered the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on America in New York City, Washington, DC and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. My class at the Wizard Academy was supposed to have 29 students. Only four of us showed up: Dr. Kevin Ryan, a famous writing coach from Utah; Chet Young, a big salesman with a booming voice from Burlington, Iowa; Akintunde Omitowoju, a senior programmer of Nintendo games from Kyoto, Japan and me, a radio station general manager from Atlantic City, New Jersey.

It took place in a small, converted gym in the offices of Williams Marketing in Buda, Texas just one week after 9/11 in 2001.

Roy has the students come up with a special name for their class and ours became the “Fearless Flyers.” Each of us flew on a commercial airliner whose crew outnumbered the passengers.

This past week I learned of the passing of Chet Young. His niece dropped by the Wizard Academy to see if this magical place her Uncle Chet always talked about really existed. It does.

Roy shared a memory of our class in this week’s Monday Morning Memo’s “Rabbit Hole.” You can read more about it HERE.

Positive Things YOU Can Do

Roy H WilliamsWant to make your radio station more effective for your advertisers and more engaging for your listeners? Then do those things that will not change for effective radio in ten years.

Subscribe to Roy H. Williams’ “Monday Morning Memo,” read the Wizard of Ads book trilogy and make plans to spend a week at the Wizard Academy to learn directly from the Wizard of Ads, Roy H. Williams.

Thank You and God Bless You Roy.

Wizard of Ads Coin

*Motel 6 & Nike

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Watch the Media

John ShraderI was recently invited to be a guest on the radio show and podcast “Watch the Media with John Shrader.” The program airs on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus radio station and the podcast of the show can be heard on SoundCloud.

John had some interesting questions and I thought I’d share them, along with my answers in this week’s blog article.

What is the State of Terrestrial Radio?

If we look at the topline number of how many Americans listen to terrestrial radio today versus the last ten years or so, that number is remarkably stable. Unfortunately, what has changed are the TSL (Time Spent Listening) and PUR (Persons Using Radio) numbers. They’ve been in a steady decline since 2007. That’s 11-years of erosion.

What’s not pretty is the accompanying loss of revenue that comes with losing 30% of your TSL.

Radio revenues today are characterized with such phrases as “flat is the new up.”

In 2017, U.S. commercial radio’s over-the-air income declined 2% year-over-year, according to BIA Advisory Services’ Q1 2018 “Investing in Radio Market Report.”

In should be noted that, the same report showed that radio stations reported a 9.7% increase in online revenues over the same period.

Radio Revenue Recent History

During the 1990s, ratings and ad revenue rose rapidly. According to the Radio Advertising Bureau, industry revenues grew from around $11 Billion per year to nearly $20 Billion between 1994 and 2000. After 1996, revenues grew by double digit percentages every year until 2001.dollar sign

PBS reported that “The collapse of advertising budgets that came in 2001 after 9/11 hit radio hard, cutting revenues by 8-percent that year to $18.4 Billion.”

In February 2005, then Viacom (today CBS) President Leslie Moonves told the L.A. Times this his top priority was returning the business to a “growth path.” Moonves recently sold off all of CBS radio stations to Entercom.

2017 Radio Revenues

In 2017, radio revenues ended at $13.87 Billion; not exactly a “growth path.”

BIA SVP and Chief Economist Mark Fratrik summarized the situation for American radio this way:

“Revenues are growing for broadcasters online but not over-the-air. We do not expect over-the-air advertising revenue of U.S. radio stations to grow much this year or in the near future. There is an unprecedented number of new audio entertainment and information sources and new advertising platforms competing with radio, including many that are unregulated. It’s an aggressive environment that competes for audiences with local radio.”

Who are Radio’s Listeners and Where do They Listen?

In general, today’s radio listeners are on the backside of Everett Rogers “Diffusion of Innovation Curve.” diff-of-innovationThey are part of the Late Majority and Laggards.

car radio.jpgThe primary way people access radio today is in their car. But by 2020, it is estimated that 75% of the cars sold will be connected to digital services.

Today’s heaviest radio listeners are reported to be Black or Hispanic.

Radio’s best listeners tend to be employed full-time versus unemployed. That’s great news for radio sales people to share.

What’s alarming is the fact that recent research showed that 29% of all American households don’t have a single AM or FM radio in them and even more alarming, 18-34 year old households are now at the tipping point of radio ownership. 50% of those household don’t have a single AM or FM radio in them. That probably explains how monthly online audio listening reportedly increased from 5% in 2000 to 64% in 2018.

Edison Research has more HERE

What’s the Future for Podcasting?

Podcasting is still growing. About 26% of people over the age of 12 have listened to any podcast in the past 30-days. However, 36% of Americans still don’t have a clue as to what podcasting even is. So, it would appear there’s a lot of growth potential.

Great podcasts, like great radio personalities, tell great stories.

Something to watch is Amazon. It laid off its entire original podcast staff in August.

What’s the Impact of Smart Speakers on Radio?

Tom Webster at Edison Research says “smart speaker adoption is the fastest tech adoption we’ve ever tracked in the Infinite Dial research. It went from 7% to 18% in a year.” echo

Smart speaker growth isn’t slowing and these new devices are replacing radios in the home.

I got my first Amazon Echo for Christmas 2017. By the end of Q1 2018, I owned three of them. 100% of my in-home radio listening now occurs via a smart speaker.

These things are addictive.

65% of people who own a smart speaker say they wouldn’t give them up.

What’s Radio’s Future?

People my age grew up with radio. Our parents controlled our home’s only television back in the 60s/70s. Radio was a way we could escape and connect with people our own age and the music of our generation.

Much as we created radio for our generation of listeners, today’s future broadcasters will need to mold it for their generation.

We are living in the days of a communications revolution. Not since the invention of the printing press and movable type has the world of communication been so rocked by change. Revolutions are messy, the future is not always clear, major disruption is par for the course.

New ways of communicating are being created.

Radio, as we knew it, is not coming back.

ON DEMAND

We now live in an ON DEMAND world. It has changed the way we use all forms of mass media. People going forward will want what they want, when they want it.on-demand-cpe

Netflix created the new phenomena of binge-watching TV shows. I do that now too. I also binge-listened to the podcast SERIAL on a long car drive after that weekly podcast had completed season one.

What Won’t Change?

What we know is that people will always be drawn to great story telling. Our brains are wired for stories. We also know that people will want to be connected to others like themselves.

Dan Mason puts it this way, radio is all about community and companionship.

I don’t see that changing, do you?

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What a Radio Looks Like in the 21st Century

first iPhone introducedIt was only 11-years ago that Steve Jobs took the stage and held in his hand the future. It was an iPhone.

Many people were skeptical that this device could compete with the very popular Blackberry. I think I may have been one of them, as I was a Blackberry owner/user until 2012.

I quickly realized that I knew how to operate an iPhone, after buying an iPad in the fall of 2011.  All Apple devices share a core eco-operating system that makes learning them fast and easy. My first iPhone was the 4S. The “S” stood for Siri and I quickly learned to use Siri to type all of my text and emails via dictation. In 2017, I upgraded to an iPhone 7.

OK, so I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know. But in just a decade, have you ever stopped to think about the impact that the smartphone has had on our lives and the technology we use?

RADIO

In America today, 29% of households don’t have a single working AM or FM radio. But it gets worse. The percentage of households without a single working AM or FM radio grows to 50% for the 18-34-year-old age group.

Edison Research recently reported that even 63% of heavy radio listeners now consume their audio online. 82% of those listeners own a smartphone and the most commonly downloaded App is Pandora (40%).

For many, a radio in the 21st Century looks like a smartphone.

SMARTPHONES

Crosley AM FM Radio

Often it appears like radio people think they are the only ones who are not affected by the innovations of technology. Such as, no matter what comes along, AM/FM radio will always be there. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking is like sticking your head in the sand.

Let’s think about how smart phones have replaced other “must have” technologies:

  • My Nikon camera no longer goes on vacation with me, it has been replaced by the pictures I take on my iPhone
  • Same for videos using my very expensive camcorders
  • My iPod is now my iPhone
  • My newspaper is my iPhone
  • My calculator is my iPhone
  • My eBook reader is my iPhone (or iPad)
  • My pocket voice recorder is now my iPhone
  • My GPS when on foot is my iPhone, though I still prefer my Garmin SmartDrive 61 in the car
  • My flashlight is now my iPhone
  • My iPhone is my compass, barcode scanner, and portable video player
  • My iPhone is the way I access Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn away from home
  • My iPhone is the way I get both my local weather forecast as well as access weather radar. Weather alerts come in immediately to my iPhone replacing the need for my weather radio.
  • I’ve been a cellphone only household since 2000
  • My smartphone is my household answering machine
  • My smartphone is my alarm clock
  • I no longer wear a wrist watch, as my iPhone is my watch
  • I use my iPhone as a timer when I’m cooking
  • I have my digital library on my iPhone
  • My work and personal calendars are all on my iPhone
  • I keep notes and other records on my iPhone
  • Since I take all my pictures with my iPhone these days, my photo album is also my smartphone. (Note: I have 2-TerraBytes of iCloud storage to back up everything)
  • My entire “rolodex” (contact list) is now on my iPhone (I started with a Day-Timer and went digital in 1989 with a Casio Boss. Then moved to a Palm Pilot. Then to the iPhone.)
  • I check my email when not at home on my iPhone
  • I surf the internet frequently on my iPhone
  • When I call the kids & grandkids, it’s using Facetime on my iPhone
  • My credit cards, plane tickets, show tickets are now all in my Apple Wallet on my iPhone
  • I can even use my iPhone to run my Apple TV as a remote control

SMARTPHONE ADDICTION

A new research study by Pew finds that 54% of U.S. teenagers, age 13 to 17, worry they may be spending too much time on their phones. While they also say they are trying to reduce their smartphone and social media time spent, 56% of teenagers find that doing so makes them feel anxious, lonely, or upset.Group Of Children Sitting In Mall Using Mobile Phones

And it’s no better for parents (and may I add, grandparents). Pew’s survey tells us that we are struggling with the same impulses over the time we spend on our phones and social media, sometimes with even worse results than teenagers.

Adults lose focus on their work and students lose focus in the classroom, by the constant need to check their smartphone.

SMART SPEAKER

echoMost research today indicates that since the introduction of the smart speaker, the device that’s getting a little less use is the smartphone. I would concur that is the case in my home as well. Our 3 Amazon Echoes are the way we access at home radio listening, get flash briefs, find out the time and latest weather forecast.

At home, 100% of our radio listening is streamed through a smart speaker.

Speaking of Voice Command devices, my Garmin GPS SmartDrive 61 is now programmed by my voice and I can add via points while driving simply by telling my Garmin where I want to go next. It’s the best improvement in automobile navigation since the GPS itself.

ON DEMAND

on-demand-cpeWhat the smart speaker and the smartphone have in common, are both devices give the user what they want, when they want it. On Demand is the real game changer of the 21st Century communications world.

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV etc. are delivering on demand television. The smartphone and smart speakers are doing that same thing for podcasts, radio, news, weather and everything else.

Edison Research noted, in their recent research, that the hardware challenge in the home is significant. Getting analog radio back into the home (and I would add, in the very near future, the car) seems unlikely

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Whatever happened to…

Red Sox CapThe other day, we took two of our grandchildren to a wildlife safari park here in Virginia. It was a simply magical day. But that’s not the part of the story I want to share. It is that both kids were wearing their Boston Red Sox baseball caps.

As we were getting ready to leave we met one of the animal caretakers who screamed “YES!” Then a second later, she exclaimed, “They’re both Red Sox Fans!” Instantly, there was a bond between complete strangers.

Purple People

Minnesota Vikings Mower

I’m convinced that Minnesota Vikings fans bleed purple. I know one whose whole wardrobe is virtually branded with Vikings colors and logos; even his lawn mower.

Sports franchises truly understand the power of their brand and building their fan base.

So, whatever happened to this sort of thing with radio stations?

Eazy 101

Eazy 101 receiverJerry Lee recently sold his only radio station, WBEB in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was 55-years ago this past May that Jerry and his partner David Kurtz put the station on the air. It signed on as WDVR. In the 1980s the call letters were changed to WEAZ and the station was branded as “EZ 101.” The station brand was not only well known, but fixed tuned FM radios were given out by the radio station to area businesses to play the station in their stores and offices.

B101 Bee

When the station updated its format, and changed its call letters again, this time to WBEB and branded itself as “B101.1,” giant bees appeared at events all over the “City of Brotherly Love.”

The End of an Era

Marlin Taylor (no relation) was there from the beginning and recently blogged about the station’s sale to Entercom. His article was titled “End of an Era.” You can read it HERE 

Marlin wrote:

“While I pretty much grew up with a ‘Can Do’ attitude…seeing Jerry in action confirmed that staying pro-active and constantly on the offensive were keys to a meaningful and effective life! If you need proof, just take a look at the 55-year track record of the station at 101.1 on the FM dial in Philadelphia.

There’s no question that Jerry was and is a promoter, pure and simple! And, yes, he’s a Futurist…a person who studies the future and makes predictions about it based on current trends and conditions. I would also add…always looking down the road to see what challenges and opportunities lay ahead, then utilizing (his) assets to most effectively counter-act or benefit from them.”

Familiarity

As Jerry changed his brand over the years to keep his station’s programming and image in vogue with the times and his target listeners, he understood the power of familiarity in attracting and keeping a radio audience tuned to his radio station. Mark Ramsey suggests that “familiarity IS preference.”

morefm rebrandingMost recently, Jerry rebranded his station as “101.1 MoreFM.” This change, like all the others, was promoted in every imaginable way and became familiar to listeners virtually overnight.

wobm bumper sticker

Bumper Stickers

Once upon a time, you couldn’t drive in New Jersey without seeing a WOBM-FM bumper sticker on the car driving in front of you. They were everywhere. They made this station VERY familiar and Paul Most, a former GM of WOBM-FM, always used to say “When you can’t be heard, you’ve got to be seen.”

Arbitron Diary

arbitron diaryOnce upon a time, all radio listening was recorded using a diary, kept by a listener for seven days. Years of diary reviews at the Arbitron headquarters in Maryland proved to me that the radio stations most familiar to their listeners got the most “votes” from their fans.

When PPM measurements were introduced, the importance of unaided recall seemed to take a back seat with radio operators. Best Practices in large radio companies replaced the old tried and true ways of doing things. Radio promotion, except for over a station’s own airwaves, was cut from station budgets.

New Media Platforms

The shiniest new media platform on the block is the smart speaker. A recent research study, “The Smart Audio Report” from NPR and Edison Research, showed that traditional OTA radio was seeing the time people spent with radio, being the most disrupted. smartaudio-chartPeople in the survey said traditional AM/FM radio was the thing most replaced by audio listening via their smart speaker.echo

Having now owned three Amazon Echo smart speakers for six months, I can tell you Alexa is very addictive. But she’s also very precise. To have her serve up what you want to hear, you need to say it correctly, in the exact way she is programmed to understand, or else she will serve up some really bizarre things.

My household pretty much matches the research on why audio consumers love their smart speakers: 1) it’s fast, 2) it’s convenient and 3) it provides great choice.

Brand Promotion

In an interactive voice world, if people are familiar with your brand, they will ask for it by name. If not, the digital assistant will make that choice for you. That will make branding more critical than ever.

This means that the way radio promoted itself to its listeners back before PPM – the unaided diary days – will be the way it will need to promote itself in a world of voice control devices.

“Brands are a risk of being marginalized in a voice driven world, so brand marketing may matter even more.” -Bryan Moffett, COO, National Public Media

branding“Brands now have a chance to behave like human beings, talking, understanding, guiding, empathizing…voice is the single biggest vector of emotion, emotion is the biggest driver of preference. This is a true 1:1 marketing opportunity and a chance to build relationships like never before.” -Mark Paul Taylor, Chief Experience Officer, Global DCX Practice, Capgemini

Jerry Lee never deviated from his proven path of spending on promotion and delivering a quality product.

Everything old is new again, when it comes to branding a winning radio operation.

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AM/FM or just FM?

HD FM Radio ReceiverThere’s something that’s been troubling me for some time. It’s the radio industry’s habit of reporting radio listening results by calling it “AM/FM” versus what it really is, virtually all FM radio listening.

Nieman Lab

Who could not be buoyed by this headline from Nieman Lab: “AM/FM radio holds strong for American listeners.”

But is it true?

When I read the ratings reports from both PPM and diary markets, I see an FM world.

Don’t get me wrong, I grew up on AM radio and recognize that almost every market has a heritage AM radio station that still garners a big audience. I’m not blind to the wonderful ratings of 1010 WINS in New York City for example.

But there are only 26 all-news terrestrial radio stations left in America according to Nieman. This popular format is missing from the majority of America’s radio markets.

WTOP

WTOP logoWTOP was built on AM radio. It moved its entire operation over to the FM band and grew its audience, revenues and lowered its listener demographic. People who never heard this radio station on its AM dial position were suddenly newly minted fans of their all news format.

The FCC Saves AM Radio

The FCC’s mission to save AM radio is to give these radio stations an FM dial position using a translator. What are we really saving? The AM band or a particular format that a radio operator created on the AM band and now, to survive, needs to move it, like WTOP, to the FM side of the dial.

WIP

WIP logoFrom my blogging, I get lots of feedback about a variety of things concerning broadcasting. One reader wrote to me about his father, a sports fan, who turned on WIP-FM to hear the latest chatter. WIP-FM was broadcasting a game of no interest to his father, so his son said to him, why don’t you turn on WIP AM610. Sadly, this person wrote the audio was unlistenable. He wrote: “You’d think the FCC would mandate that AM have standards for audio quality in receivers.”

WSM

WSM logoWhen I was living in Bowling Green, Kentucky, I couldn’t receive 650AM WSM in my office, even though my office looked south and my antenna was able to enjoy a full wall of windows. The noise floor both inside my university office as well as around town while driving in my car made the station unlistenable. WSM was once listened to all the way to Louisville in northern Kentucky. Instead, I downloaded WSM’s app and could enjoy the radio station in crystal clear stereo. (I see WSM has stopped subscribing to Nashville Nielsen Audio ratings.)

BBC

BBC logoThe British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) did a review of the range of services it offered on the AM band (called medium wave across the pond) and it included a financial review of all its services too. They concluded the ROI (return on investment) in AM was not there and announced they would be turning off some 13-AM radio stations in January 2018 according to Radio Business Reports.

WHVO

WHVO logoThere’s a great radio operator in Cadiz, Kentucky by the name of Beth Mann. WHVO is her AM radio station at 1480, but if you go on her website, you won’t find any mention of this station being on the AM radio dial. It’s promoted as WHVO 96.5 & 100.9 FM.

Bottom Line

It’s time to face the fact that AM radio needs to be re-deployed for a new service. Current radio station owners should be given a viable FM dial position that replaces their AM service area, and doesn’t require multiple translators to attempt to accomplish this task. (Note: WHVO needs two translators to deliver the signal of its AM 1480.)

It’s time to allow those same dedicated radio broadcasters to sell off their expensive AM tower sites and turn off their AM stations that consume electrical power with no real ROI.

Ecclesiastes 3

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven…”

AM radio’s time has come and gone as the mass communication delivery system it was from the 1920s to the 1970s, much as radio replaced vaudeville.

To put things in perspective, at a time in America’s radio history when the number of FM signals equaled the number of AM signals on the air, 75% of all radio listening was to FM. So, you can only imagine what it’s like today for AM radio listening when FM signals outnumber AM signals by four and a half times in the USA. (FCC BROADCAST STATION TOTALS AS OF JUNE 30, 2018:  4,633 AM signals / 20,758 FM signals)

That’s why I believe we do no service in promoting radio as “AM/FM” and not being honest about where virtually all of the radio listening is really taking place.

Sadly, AM radio is to broadcasting as coal is to power generation. It was the perfect solution in its day.

 

 

 

 

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Why Do People Love Radio?

We-Love-RadioI read a recent article in Bloomberg about how in an age of cord cutting, where millions of Americans are leaving the cable bundles and abandoning traditional TV, others are staying put.

Why?

The big reason should scare anyone working in ad supported media: “Our customers don’t want to cut the cord because they’d have to give up critical features like the ability to skip commercials…” said Jay Roth, chief marketing officer at Dish Network Corp.

Commercials = Clutter

A former colleague of mine at the university wrote to me the other day about the changes going on in higher education and the field of radio broadcasting. He wrote:

“I’ve also had it with local radio and TV, too. Too many commercials back to back to back – it’s like classified ads. Who remembers the 5th ad in a spot set, even if it is well written? (most are not). Thank goodness for SiriusXM. That’s where I am, unfortunately.”

Here’s the concerning point of sharing my colleague’s comment, this person grew up, worked in and taught AM/FM radio, and is of the age group that should still be “in love” with the business.No Ads

We have plenty of data showing how the younger age groups don’t even own a radio, instead listening to audio content via their smartphone or some other connected device.

So, what makes radio listeners stay?

The Radio Habit

A 2017 Jacobs Media survey found that AM/FM listening is pure habit. 91% of survey respondents said they listened to radio for an hour or more per day, but TV/video and the smartphone usage came in at 87%.AM FM Radio

Digging a little deeper, respondents cited hearing their favorite music and a connection to their favorite air personalities as reasons they listen to AM/FM radio.

Radio’s Free

The 2018 Infinite Dial  study from Edison Research and Triton Digital reported that 82% of respondents who have ridden or driven in a car in the past month listened to traditional car radio.

Pandora For Brands authored a “State of AM/FM Radio: What Advertisers Need to Know” piece that said:

“True, America’s oldest electronic mass medium – AM/FM radio – is still alive, kicking and serving throngs of listeners every day, but it’s also being disrupted by today’s growing digital media landscape. Radio has prospered for so many decades because it’s free, easy-to-use and there are tons of them around. In fact, it used to be the only way to enjoy music without having to invest in a record collection or to hear news, sports and traffic information on-the-go.”

But the real shocker was this data point:

“Currently, people between the ages of 50-60 years old who have mobile devices are spending more time with mobile apps than they are listening to AM/FM radio.”

-Nielsen Total Audience Report, Q1 2017

This age group was raised on AM/FM radio!

New Habits

I bring this all up because we are seeing new habits being formed with the new disruptive media technologies.

It’s like the old saying “Once they’ve seen New York, how are you going to keep them down on the farm?”

Once you experience Netflix or Amazon Prime, it’s hard to return to ad supported TV. And those folks who still buy the cable bundle, do so in part to have a way to eliminate the commercial clutter and to produce a more Netflix type of viewing experience.

Once you listen to your music on Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music or access your music via a smart speaker, you will be hard pressed to go back to a cluttered listening environment.

But the biggest new habit in our short-attention-span world is On Demand.

Whether we are talking about TV or audio, we are now a culture of wanting things when we want them, not when they are served up, and that’s the juggernaut all traditional media are faced with.

Newspapers, television and yes, radio, serve what they want you to have.

Today’s media consumer knows they have choices and they don’t have the time or patience for the way it used to be.

The Future is…

In 1967, the movie “The Graduate” had a scene where the Dustin Hoffman character was taken aside by a family friend who advised him about where the future was for a person his age. The answer was one word: “Plastics. There’s a great future in plastics.”

What might a friend advise a young person today to focus on? Podcasts?

Focus on the Things That Don’t Change

BezosJeff Bezos’ secret sauce has been to focus his efforts on things that would not change.

He said the question that he’s always asked is “What’s going to change in the next 10-years,” but the question that’s rarely asked is “What’s not going to change in the next 10-years?”

It’s that second question he feels is most important.

Bezos doesn’t concern himself with what will change, but on what won’t change. Then working to make those things better and better and better.

With this strategy, Bezos has become the richest man in the world.

This is what the radio industry should be doing.

 

 

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Disruption is Everywhere

disruption aheadI’ve been reading the trades, trying to grasp what is happening, and it is all so very confusing. Have you felt that way too? That’s what a period of disruption looks like. Black is white. Up is down. It’s enough to give you an Excedrin headache.

SiriusXM

Jim Meyer, the CEO of America’s only satellite service reported strong growth in Q2. On his conference call he’s reported as saying that despite the surge in technology over the past ten years, AM/FM radio still attracts a big number of listeners. However, he also feels that the radio industry has a problem and it’s their product. He warns that if AM/FM radio doesn’t vastly improve their product, it will be to their own peril.

The feedback I received from my recent article “Radio & Traveling – Then & Now” that I wrote about in “From the DTB Mailbag…” seems to indicate that Mr. Meyer is not alone in that sentiment.

Streaming

Then I read how just halfway through 2018, streaming is growing at a rate that defies mathematical trends. By that, the writer meant when it comes to percentages, they are usually big when the numbers are small but become smaller as the numbers of people engaged increases.

With this area of streaming, we are seeing BOTH the numbers of people who stream growing with the percentage of people who are now streaming.

That’s a trend worthy of keeping you up at night.

Adoption Curve for Smart Speakers

In my university “Process & Effects of Media Classes” I introduced my students to the work of Everett Rogers and his Diffusion of Innovation Curve. Adoption Curve - Everett Rogers

Rogers studied how innovations with farmers in his native Iowa were adopted. He very soon realized that what he was witnessing occurred in all areas when a new innovation was introduced.

The latest research report from NPR/Edison, “The Smart Audio Report” showed we are into the Early Majority part of the curve with the smart speaker innovation.

Good News, Bad News

The smart speaker innovation has the ability to bring radio listening back into the homeEcho at a time when AM/FM radio is no longer the entertainment focus of the vehicle dashboard, replaced by the entertainment center that resembles the touch screen on your smartphone.

Unfortunately, the smart speaker also delivers an infinite world of audio choices and it is not a given that radio will be the benefactor.

Fred Jacobs basically lays out the fact that radio’s established brands such as a Z100 or a WTOP will find their engagement traversing from over-the-air to over-the-stream and onto smart speakers. I know that in my own case I can receive WTOP over-the-air, but atmospherics can play havoc with the signal at times. Not so with listening to WTOP via Alexa.

The best radio brands with strong listener engagement will grow.

Cord Cutting

The latest numbers indicate that cord cutting (eliminating the cable TV bundle) is growing faster than expected. The latest study from eMarketer  says that we can expect people cutting the cord to grow to 33 million Americans in 2018.

Netflix is now more popular than cable TV.

Jim GaffiganThe other night I watched Jim Gaffigan’s 5th Netflix special called “CINCO.” In his standup comedy routine, he hit the nail on the head about why Netflix is more popular than cable TV. Here’s what Jim said:

“Netflix has definitely made watching television with commercials kind of painful. Takes forever. You’re like, “What am I, growing my own food here? All right, Geico, we get it!” And it’s not just the length or the number of the commercials, it’s what the commercials say about the typical viewer of the show you’re watching. “Catheter? Why would–? Reverse mortgage? Back pain? I do have back pain. You know me so well, television show.”

Changing Habits

What we are witnessing in the current period of media disruption is the changing habits of the audience. They now have choices. Lots & lots & lots of choices.

Baseball, still radio’s #1 sport is seeing the decay of its audience to a myriad of choices to watch or listen to the same game. It’s no longer the monopoly it used to be.

But worse, once you’ve developed the Netflix or Alexa habit, going back to any delivery system that delivers lots of interruptions is, as Jim Gaffigan says, “painful.”

Ad Supported Media’s Future

I believe that there’s a future of ad supported media, but it can’t be done the way it’s currently being done. Podcasts understand this better than broadcast.

Amazon Prime is good at airing program promotions before the movie starts, in much the same way that my local movie theaters do.

And who didn’t enjoy hearing Paul Harvey say “page two?” It would be the first commercial break in his news and commentary but we listened. Because Paul was as engaging with his sponsor’s material as he was with the rest of his broadcast.

And thank you Mr. Harvey for making me want to own a BOSE Wave Radio. I now have two of them. However, I now play my Alexa Dots through them.

Life’s Only Constant

My old boss used to always say, nothing stays the same. You are either getting better or getting worse.

And he was right.

Life’s only constant is change.

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