Great Radio Starts in the Station’s Hallways

Once upon a time, a radio station had a team of people fully focused and dedicated to a single radio signal. Think of the incredible radio stations you listened to in your youth: WABC, WKBW, WRKO, WLS, WPRO, WDRC, KHJ, KFRC, CKLW, etc. These were standalone radio stations with dedicated staffs that numbered ten or more times larger than today’s radio clusters, which are made up of 4 or more stations.

WBEC

When I was on-the-air and in programming/operations for AM1420-WBEC, it was the only radio station I was concerned about. When the owner added an FM signal to our operation, he hired a dedicated air staff and programmer to oversee this new signal.

In my car, in my home, in my office, you could here WBEC playing. I remember the programmer of our new FM station grousing that his station was not being heard anywhere in the building but his own radio studio.

WUPE/WUHN

When I moved into sales at Whoopee Radio, our programming was simulcast on both our AM and FM signals. When ownership decided to split the AM and FM into separate formats, I was promoted to general manager of the AM station and went about hiring air personalities and a sales staff for our new Radio One – WUHN. Only our broadcast engineer and office staff would be shared by both operations.

On my side of the building all you heard playing was WUHN and on the other side it was WUPE.

KOEL AM/FM, KCRR & KKCV

When I got to Iowa as Market Manager of a four station cluster, the sound of any one of the radio stations playing was hit and miss in the common areas, but each station had its own dedicated staff, completely focused on their operation. Again, only office and engineering staff were shared.

Radio Clusters in 2022

People wonder why Christian Radio and Public Radio stations are often the most successful radio operations in markets across America. I don’t wonder. What I see are radio operations that hearken back to the way I started in radio, an entire staff, 100% focused on a single radio station.

In these radio stations, the programming can be heard in the hallways, bathrooms and coming out of every office.

In my Capstone Class at the university, I would take my students to see how different radio and TV stations operated in the area. The differences in equipment, staffing, and facilities were always enlightening. Everyone in these stations could be seen jumping from one station to another, many had programs they hosted on more than one signal.

What never ceased to amaze me however, was when you went into our local public radio station or our local Christian radio station, the energy was palpable. Everyone in these radio stations were dedicated to the mission of the station. They didn’t just broadcast their formats, they lived and breathed them.

Culture always changes in the hallways,

before it changes out the speakers.

-John Frost

When John Frost asked in his weekly blog, “if your radio station went off the air, would anyone care,” it got me to thinking about what makes for a successful operation. Be it a business, sports team, or even a radio station, if you don’t have that spirit of a shared mission with a defined goal that everyone’s working towards, you won’t ever be a success.

Radio broadcasting is an emotional art form. If you don’t feel that emotion in the hallways of your operation, you’ve entered a radio station that is dying.

Radio is not dead, but many radio stations are on life support.

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Radio’s Leaking Listeners

The results of Techsurvey 2022* was presented in a webinar this week and two things about the latest data and the trend lines of the last five years struck me.

“We have met the enemy and it is us.”

-Pogo

Walt Kelly coined that phrase in a poster he made for an anti-pollution poster for the first Earth Day in 1970. He would later repeat it in a comic strip he created for the second Earth Day in 1971.

Sadly, the similarities between what needs to be done to preserve our planet and the radio industry are striking. We all know what the answer is, but aren’t applying the solution.

Personalities

Jacobs pointed out that “over the past four surveys, broadcast radio personalities have stayed ahead of the music as a key attribute of the medium.”

Yet, the big radio owners have done more to eliminate the very advantage broadcast radio has over its many audio competitors. Worse, our industry has no plan to create a farm team of new broadcasters that will replace personalities that are retiring or have retired.

Instead radio has tried to compete in areas where, at best, it’s a distant second; like music discovery.

Besides Personalities Radio’s Positives are Under Attack

Radio, we are told is easiest to listen to in the car. Unfortunately, when a person buys a new car, they learn SiriusXM is just as easy to access. Plus now everything on their smartphone easily connects to their dashboard. In fact, Fred Jacobs points out that in Techsurvey 2022 the feature most wanted in a new car is Bluetooth (76%) followed by an FM radio (70%) and having a smartphone connector or auxiliary input (57%).

My first blog article of 2022 told how even with older cars, like our 2009 Honda and 2006 Subaru how easy it was to make them connected cars. You can read that article here. https://dicktaylorblog.com/2022/01/09/why-i-stream-all-my-radio-listening/

It doesn’t take a Mensa to realize that this is another hole in the radio listening bucket.

Radio is “free,” with the tradeoff being forced to listened to very long commercial breaks, which radio listeners say is the thing they most dislike about listening to broadcast radio.

Radio’s covenant with its listeners was, you give us your attention to our advertisers, and we will entertain and inform you. Sadly, radio owners kept adding more commercials to each hour while eliminating the very programming elements that attracted listeners.

There’s nothing wrong with advertising, that is when it is in balance with programming content sought by the user. Podcasts understand this and enjoy increasing listening with advertisers seeing a positive benefit from sponsoring them.

Trends

No one called Paul Revere’s warning that the British were coming as being negative, and neither should anyone who cares about the radio broadcasting industry call those who are trying to promote positive change, “negative.”

Techsurvey 2022 should be a wake-up call to radio people with trends that show eight in ten people that can now connect a smartphone in their cars. Those who own a car with a “connected system” now spend the majority of the in-car time with digital audio or SiriusXM.

The car is the last beachhead that broadcast radio has left, and it is under Sirius attack.

SiriusXM

Techsurvey 2022, like all the surveys that have been done before, use as their database, fans of radio broadcasting. They are the core of our industry and so when we see these folks leaving us for other forms of media, it’s like seeing the canary in the coal mine lying on the floor of its cage.

One of the reasons given by people who still listen to broadcast radio, as to why they continue to listen is, it’s become a habit. When a person buys a new connected car and gets SiriusXM to listen to for free, what is happening is that a new habit is being formed. Not only do they now have access to a myriad of content options, but often their favorite radio personality might be rediscovered hosting one of the music channels.

During the pandemic, SiriusXM removed the paywall for their App as well as listening on a smart speaker, both of which had been available for an extra charge. What Fred Jacobs showed on his webinar was how this positively impacted listening at home, at work and other places for the satellite provider. The habit of listening to SiriusXM was now something that could be done everywhere, and that should keep any radio broadcaster awake at night.

The tipping point is that magic moment

when an idea, trend, or social behavior

crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.

-Malcolm Gladwell

I fear we are at the tipping point.

*Watch the full presentation of Fred Jacobs webinar on Techsurvey 2022 here: https://jacobsmedia.com/techsurvey-2022-results/  

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Celebrating a 1st Communion

We have a granddaughter in New Jersey that will be making her 1st Communion and we’re on the road to celebrate this wonderful moment in her life.

We are so proud of Sadie Rose Taylor.

She is growing into a graceful, and Godly young lady.

Just as she is blessed with God’s love, we hope that she knows that our family is blessed by her every day.

Grandma & Grandpa

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What Business is RADIO In?

This question was last asked at the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Show in 2019, before a two year shutdown of the world due to a global pandemic. I don’t remember what answer they came up with back then, but no one foresaw the changes that COVID-19 would bring into our lives.

The question was visited again in one of the opening sessions at this year’s NAB Show in Las Vegas and the answer can be boiled down to two words, “very different.”

New Media Behaviors

COVID changed the nature of how people do their jobs, and this got me thinking how my own life changed with my retirement.

From my high school days in the 60s until 2010, I worked six to seven days a week in the radio industry. If I wasn’t listening to my own radio stations, I was listening to the competition.

In 2010, I transitioned into my second career as a college broadcast professor, teaching the process and effects of mediated communications, the history of broadcasting, broadcast sales, on-air radio production and the program’s Capstone management course.

My radio listening was mainly in my car, as my college building wasn’t conducive to receiving over-the-air radio signals, so when I was working in my office I streamed smooth jazz from my iPad to the aux input on my radio.

When I retired from my second career, got married and moved to Virginia, my radio habits would change again, as well as my television habits. Now all of my media would be accessed via streaming on the internet.

The Future of Work Impacts the Future of Radio

Without evening thinking about it, as the nature of my work changed, my media habits were greatly impacted by those changes.

Looking at the future of radio, new studies done by CivicScience really opened my eyes. Their studies have found that 44% of people who listen to radio have changed their habits over the past 12 months.

People are now listening to more audio content via internet streaming, they’re listening at different times of the day, their consumption of podcasts have increased, and while 20% say they are listening more often, a whopping 34% say they are listening less often.

Listening More or Listening Less

When CivicScience looked deeper into the reason people are listening less to radio, they found that the location of where people worked played a big role. Of the 51% that said they listened to radio less, they also were part of the group that was working remotely (i.e. from home) or were unemployed.

Since so much of today’s radio consumption occurs in the vehicle, people who work from home are spending less time in their cars and therefore less time listening to radio.

Post-Pandemic Work Choices

When CivicScience asked people what their future work preferences were after COVID, only 24% said they wanted to return to their office full-time. 37% wanted to work from home full-time and 40% said a mix of in office and at home would be their preference going forward.

These findings present radio operators with a real dilemma. The radio industry depends on a working age population all moving to and from work at the same time, hence the reason that both morning and after drive radio time sales have always commanded more dollars than middays, nights, overnights and weekends.

Moreover, people who stream their audio content are the people who prefer to either work entirely from home or have some kind of hybrid office/work-from-home situation. They represent 75% of the workforce in this study.

Global Supply Chain Disruptions

The global pandemic and the war in Ukraine have caused major disruptions to the global supply chain. For example, GM announced they would be having a two week shutdown at its plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana (it produces the popular Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks) due to a shortage of computer chips. While Russia and Ukraine don’t produce any of the computer chips that are in such short supply, Ukraine is the world’s leading supplier of neon, a gas used in the production of computer chips.

Company business models work on the premise that resources of materials and goods move freely across geography. Both COVID and a war have totally disrupted the way the world was operating. Long term, we will adapt, but the immediate future won’t be pretty.

Now, take this one example and apply it to virtually every area of our lives and you can see how complex things have become.

An Ecosystem-Driven World

Radio used to be such an easy business, just beat the other radio station in town and steal as many advertising dollars from the local newspaper as possible.

Every radio station was like its own little fiefdom, but now in 2022 every radio station is part of a very large media ecosystem and the competitive advantage is no longer how efficient you can run your operation but how connected you are to your listeners on all devices and via all platforms; connections that go far beyond your FCC license to operate an AM or FM radio service to your local community.

For me, Apple is not my iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, Mac or Apple TV, it’s the ecosystem that all of my devices operate on. For me, that’s what is most important.

What makes our ecosystem-drive world so hard to navigate is that everything is in a continuous state of flux. This makes our deciding what we should pursue unclear, and whether other media properties are opponents or an ally.

“Competitive Advantage” is no longer the sum of all efficiencies, but the sum of all connections.

  Strategy, therefore, must be focused on deepening and widening

networks of information, talent, partners and consumers.

-Greg Satell

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P E R S O N A L I T Y

In 1959*, Lloyd Price released the song “Personality.”

It was about a girl and what made her special.

Here’s a sample:

            ‘Cause you got personality

            Walk, with personality

            Talk, with personality

            Smile, with personality

            Charm, with personality

            Love, with personality

With the exception of a daypart or two, it’s what most radio lacks today – PERSONALITY.

Rewound Radio

Every Saturday, Rewound Radio, a streaming-only radio station features its “DJ Hall of Fame.” They are air checks of some of America’s best radio personalities, like Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy, Robert W. Morgan, Charlie Tuna, The Real Don Steele and so many more. While everyone of the personalities I just mentioned are now in radio heaven, their recorded radio shows sound as vibrant and exciting as ever. That’s why people from all over the globe dial in to hear them, and not just radio people, radio listeners who grew up with them.

People like me.

Techsurvey 2022

So, it wasn’t really a surprise when Fred Jacobs gave us a sneak preview of his latest research on why people listen to over-the-air (OTA) radio.

People today listen to OTA radio for the very same reason that they always have, to hear their favorite radio personality. The unfortunate thing is, the radio industry talks the talk, but doesn’t really walk the talk.

Radio’s ultimate strength as a medium is dependent

on the power and popularity of its personalities.

-Fred Jacobs

Club DJs

When I walk the boardwalks in New Jersey, Delaware or Maryland in the summertime, you can’t help but be very aware of how important it is for each club to have a popular DJ. Club DJs get people dancing, having fun and spending their money in that particular club for hours.

The longer club patrons stay, the more money club owners make.

The reality is the role of a Club DJ could be easily automated and the music would be non-stop, but it is the special magic a live personality delivers that makes all the difference. Great performers make people feel things. They deliver an emotional experience that can’t be duplicated by automation.

“People are always neglecting something they can do

in trying to do something they can’t do.”

-Edgar Watson Howe

Living in a VUCA World

The world today is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous; it’s a VUCA existence. Many businesses are told they must innovate or die.

In radio’s race to stay relevant, it tries to compete with streaming audio services, where at best it can only be second best when it plays on their terms. What OTA radio should be heavily investing in is the development and promotion of outstanding, compelling, relatable radio talent.

“Treat talent with respect.

They are the reason radio remains so important.”

-Lori Lewis

Family Feud

Sue & I love watching Family Feud with Steve Harvey. This TV game show debuted on ABC on July 12, 1976 with host Richard Dawson. It would be broadcast for nine years before the network pulled the plug,  but would continue to air periodically over the following decades. The show has had six hosts, but only its original host and the current host have seen the show be an audience hit.

In fact, it was when Steve Harvey took over as host in 2010, that Family Feud was finally resuscitated. His hosting abilities with his stand-up comedy and radio background has the audience always wondering what he will say next and almost always producing laugh-out-loud moments on the game show. It also doesn’t hurt that Steve Harvey is as nice as he seems. Being genuine is always an asset in the media world.

I said there were six hosts of this show over the years, Richard Dawson was the first and Steve Harvey is the current host, but you probably can’t name the other four without looking it up on Google. And that’s my point.

Personalities are the difference maker.

Radio leaders talk a good game when it comes to telling us how important local talent is to the power of great radio, but it’s time they put their investment monies where their mouths are, by hiring and training the next generation of radio performers.

It’s time for the radio industry to focus on a change that matters.

Family Feud Hosts: Richard Dawson, Ray Combs, Louie Anderson, Richard Karn, John O’Hurley and Steve Harvey.
*Note: an earlier version of this post stated the date of Lloyd Price’s hit record “Personality” as 1957. It was updated to 1959 after a reader pointed out this error.

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Happy Glorious and Radiant Easter Morning

Dick has again asked me to share with you the beauty of this day through my word, and the spoken word.

My offering to you this day is definitely not radio, but more of a fire side reality chat of the heart.

“We have been created for greater things, to love and be loved”

– Mother Teresa

PASSION

Each and every one of us has a passion, a desire, a love.  This is something that you are born with, and if pursued- develops and grows with you in life.   It begins with a “word”- a spirited desire- It is the offing of many children’s books- “you can be anything or anyone that you want to be”. Starting with -“I want to be a fireman, policeman, garbage man, fisherman, teacher, president, doctor, lawyer, nurse, musician, or mom, the possibilities are endless.  If this path is followed, an energetic zeal develops into another category, something that ultimately joins forces with a degree, a certification or powerful idea.  These can then be put into action and move toward what and who you were born to be. With this sticktoitiveness the outcome always, always equals – “the want to care for someone other than yourself.” But whenever or wherever it is found, it is the influential entity of who you are, where your thoughts live, what you think and also the people you associate with that now is leading you to fulfilling – who you were meant to be. 

“If you can’t figure out your Purpose, figure out your passion.

For your Passion will lead you right into your Purpose.”

-T.D. Jakes

You most assuredly will find confusion in your own wants and thoughts, as the people around you try to direct and steer you toward “their” path of what’s best for you, where you should live, and what you should do in this life. But…

Do not abandon yourselves to despair.

You have been selected by a force greater than yourself

to step into your God given calling, listen and hear the conversation of your silent heart –

and then proceed.

IMAGINE

Now, take another “word” out of your pocket and put it in front of or behind your quiet inner passion-“Imagine.”                 

This is where “Passion” grows.

The following are just a few names of individuals who have walked thru many centuries of God’s time portal with a passion and a purpose to helping others and making a difference.  They took their “Imagine” and wrapped it in a “Passion.”

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Alexander Graham Bell, Grace Hopper (Pioneer of Computer Programming), Larry Page (co-founder of Google), Albert Einstein(Quantum Theory of Light), Thomas Edison (sound recordings, mass communication, motion pictures), Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Nikola Tesla(1st alternating current-AC motor, AC generation and transmission technology), Gutenberg (printing press), Henry Ford (auto manufacturer also developing the assembly line), Leonardo da Vinci (inventor), Robert Fulton (Steamboat Inventor), Samuel Morse (Inventor of telegraph and Morse Code), the Lumiere Brothers (devised early motion picture camera and projector- known as the Cinématographe), George Washington Carver (known for inventing crop rotation), Marie Curie(discovery of Radium and Polonium), Louis Pasteur (Pasteurization), Oskar Schindler (credited with saving  the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust), Tom Jennings (first black man to receive a patent – Dry Scouring or Dry Cleaning), The Wright Brothers (aviation pioneers), Mother Teresa (dedicated her life to caring for the less fortunate), Jonas Salk (developed the polio vaccine), Tsukamoto (inventor and stem cell researcher) and Peter Tsai (inventor of N95 Mask).

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with Great Love.”

-Mother Teresa

Gratitude

This past year, we as God’s children, have been wrapped deep in the reality of a global pandemic, on the East coast the release of a 17 year cicada & lantern fly bug infestation, a drought in the West, environmental devastation by climate change, food insecurities, political unrest and now a senseless war in the Ukraine. If we are not actually living and experiencing these things, we are witnessing our fallen world through the news.

In spite of all these negatives, we should be so grateful for the other side of the coin, those that have come forward with their positive “Imagine” word. These people have put their “Passions” to work finding solutions and cures, bringing food and shelter to the homeless, defending and standing up for the weak and meek. These are God’s children in action. People with great passion can make the impossible happen. They choose not to yell, as yelling silences the message, they speak and move quietly so that one hears God’s voice.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is not promised. We have only Today. Let us Begin”

-Mother Teresa

Imagine Your Passion

People of the world engaged in social media tend to post lovely quotes that sometimes make your heart sing with emotion. But why can’t we take God’s Hand and step into a different journey, by getting out there and actually trying to imagine a passion of serving, and stirring the pot of change. What is stopping us?

Do it quietly, be that walking sermon; one thing, each day, just one. Our time on this planet is getting shorter and shorter, and even though we are one person, we have been given this gift to change one life. Do this not for the benefit of your ego, but for walking the path that we have actually been directed to follow. Ask yourself, why not, and DO IT.  Find and discover the person you were created to be – If you can find the God inside yourself, you will be able to find the God inside every living creature.

“Spread Love Everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”

-Mother Teresa

Reach for the Hand of God, see His beauty, develop your Imagined Passion to soar and reverberate throughout the ages.

“WE are all the Easter People and Hallelujah is OUR Song”

-Pope John Paul 11

Susan Towley is a graduate of Concordia University with a degree in Family Life Education, is a Certified Grief Counselor and Guided Imagery Therapist. God joined us together in 2018.

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Less Is More

When I was a market manager for Clear Channel, the company president introduced a new concept for reducing our commercial load, he called it “Less Is More.” It sounded good on the surface, however instead of reducing on-air clutter it introduced shorter length commercials. Each of my radio stations now aired ads that were as short as 5-seconds down to 1-second in length. This meant more ads could be run in a spot break. For example, the time it would take to run four minute length commercials, with Less Is More stations could now run six half-minute commercials or twelve 15-second commercials etc. Listeners don’t consider the length of a commercial break, but the number of different elements that air in a break.

Radio Commercials

If there’s one thing radio listeners tend to always agree on, when it comes to improving the radio listening experience, it’s reducing the number of commercials. That means the number of ads that air in a single commercial break, as well as the total number ads broadcast each hour.

Clear Channel recognized this listener issue, but by introducing shorter length ads, the “Less Is More” initiative added more elements to each stop-set. To the radio listener, the amount of clutter increased and in essence, made their favorite radio stations less listenable.

Commercial Free Radio

It was in 2008, when New York’s CD 101.9 WQCD dropped its Smooth Jazz format to switch to playing rock music with the new call letters WRXP.  Not finding any radio station in the greater New York City area that programmed the Smooth Jazz format, I would search online and discover Sky.FM.

They offered more than one flavor of Smooth Jazz music programming and it quickly filled my appetite for this musical genre. They only stopped the music twice an hour, once to tell me that I could hear this music without interruption by becoming a premium subscriber and the other announcement was about how they were looking to hire more IT personnel.

Those were the only two announcements and they lasted about 30-seconds in length, but over time, it was like Chinese water torture; so, I went online to find out how much it would cost to become a premium subscriber, learning it would cost me only $49/year. But that wasn’t all, that fee also increased the audio quality of the stream .

I was hooked and remained a subscriber, only leaving the service when I got my first Amazon Echo and Radio Tunes (formerly known as Sky.FM) wasn’t available on the service.

Recently a reader of this blog, told me that he listened to commercial free Radio Tunes on his Amazon smart speakers and I’m a subscriber once again.

My wife Sue loves Pandora and for Valentine’s Day 2022, I bought her Pandora Premium. This is their top service, it’s commercial-free and offers listeners the ability to ask for any song and immediately hear it. Plus she still can listen to any of Pandora’s wonderfully curated channels and skip any songs she doesn’t like.

Repetition Breeds Acceptance

I often hear people say they get tired of hearing the same songs over and over. Yet, successful radio stations often employ strategies that can seem counter-intuitive. They achieve the more variety music position by playing fewer songs. They reach a larger audience by targeting and focusing on a more narrowly defined audience.

By subscribing to Pandora and Radio Tunes we didn’t eliminate music repetition, we eliminated the programming elements that interrupted the music. It’s the music repetition of our favorite songs that actually attracts us.

In fact, I remember when Sirius and XM were still two separate subscription satellite radio entities, the most listened to commercial free music channels on both of them were HITS 1 and Top 20 on 20; both of which had the highest music repetition.

Dave Van Dyke, the President & CEO at Bridge Ratings Media Research, said that globally there are 3.6 music streamers for every paid subscriber. So, don’t completely count commercially supported radio out yet.

Great Radio Ads

When I was managing radio stations in Iowa back in 1999, my two sons came to visit. Before they left, they made what you might think is an unusual request, they wanted to know if I could make copies of the radio commercials my stations aired and put them on a cassette to bring back with them to New Jersey.

I also remember being at a house party and the radio station providing the music entertainment was largely background, until they stopped the music to play some commercials, and everyone would hush the conversation so they could listen. Yes, the radio ads this station created were that good.

I’m a graduate of The Wizard of Ads Wizard Academy in Austin, Texas. Roy H. Williams has been teaching radio folks for years about what makes an effective radio ad. Following Roy’s lessons, my advertisers have been very successful.

Radio commercials aren’t bad.

Bad radio commercials are.

Radio’s secret ingredient is the radio personality. Great radio talent has been effectively telling their listeners about all types of businesses, products and services for decades.

I need go no further than radio’s greatest salesman, Paul Harvey.

I own two BOSE Wave Radios because of Paul Harvey. What makes this so amazing is that I listened to him broadcasting on an AM radio station, but Paul was selling me a radio that would play FM stereo and CDs with the highest fidelity.  

While Paul Harvey was a news commentator, he called himself a salesman. His audience knew that he used the products and services he advertised. Harvey personally wrote the radio commercials he would broadcast.

Among his many accolades, the one Paul Harvey was most proud to have received was being named “Salesman of the Year.”

Paul Harvey loved his advertisers, saying “I am fiercely loyal to those willing to put their money where my mouth is.”

Creating great radio, means leveraging the power of the medium to deliver an engaged audience for its advertisers. That means reducing the number of ads in a commercial cluster and reducing the number of ads per hour, making sure every ad is about the listener and their life.  

Tomorrow has always been better than today.

And it always will be.

-Paul Harvey

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Subscription Media

The inspiration for this week’s article came from a blog written by Fred Jacobs titled “When will ‘Netflixification’ Come To Radio?” Fred’s article revolved around Netflix’s innovation of a subscription model for its entertainment offerings, which got me to thinking about when the subscription business model for media began.

The Subscription Model

We would have to journey back to the 17th century to find the earliest records of book and periodical publishers pioneering a subscription business model for print media.

The subscription business model is one where the customer

pays a recurring price

at regular intervals to access a product of service.

Most recently, Apple is said to be working on a subscription model for its hardware; iPhones, iPads, computers etc. Why? Well customers are good, but it turns out that subscribers are even better. Emarsys’s Chris Gooderidge writes that over the last nine years, “the subscription economy has grown nearly 6x (more than 435%),” with subscription businesses growing five to eight times faster than those with a traditional business model. The two years the world closed down due to COVID only served to accelerate companies’ and consumers’ digital transformation.

On Demand & Subscriptions

What most of us want, as consumers, is convenience. We want what we want, when we want it. The subscription business model fulfills this desire. It enables us to listen to music or play games, as well as watch TV shows and movies.  

The more customers gain a taste

of truly personalized repeat services,

tailored specifically to them…

they won’t want to go back to what they had before.

-Chris Gooderidge

Subscription Radio

In 1923, in Dundee, Michigan, an early radio entrepreneur offered subscribers a wired radio system, that would provide radio programs from several radio stations for $1.50 a month; which would be $24.75/month in 2022. While it didn’t succeed, it was the precursor to what later would become the cable television industry.

Subscription Television (STV)

Back in the 60s, over-the-air television experimented with a subscription model. Companies in Connecticut and California each found themselves in court with theater owners when they developed a subscription business model that offered recent movies to be viewed in the home. The battle in Hartford, Connecticut made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

In the end, the pay television model was taken over by cable television, which learned in addition to providing a community antenna to receive distant broadcast television signals, could also create original programming. These new program channels could be offered on a subscription basis, like CNN, ESPN, The Weather Channel etc.

Is a Subscription-Based Business Model Right for You?

Like most questions along these lines, the answer is: it depends.

The subscription model is dependent on products and services that have a high perceived value to the consumer. (Note: things offered for “FREE” often don’t have a high perceived value)

On the blog, Billing Platform, they list four common successful subscription based business models:

  1. Consumables and Retail Models in Subscription Billing: companies like Dollar Shave Club and Blue Apron
  2. As-a-Service Subscription Billing Models: companies like Microsoft with their Office 365 and Dropbox
  3. Digital Entertainment Subscription Billing Models: companies like Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Peacock etc for video and Spotify, Pandora, Radio Tunes etc for audio
  4.  Maintenance and Repair Subscription Billing Models: companies like landscaping, pest control, heating & cooling, as well as other common maintenance needs

Peak Subscription

Which brings us to the million dollar question, when do we max out on all of these monthly/annual subscriptions? When do we reach, “peak subscription;” that light-bulb moment when we realize we need to start eliminating some of these expenses.

It was that very question that finally got me to sit down and review our monthly household subscriptions and total things up. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do anyway, but Fred’s blog was the spark that put me in action.

Here’s our entertainment subscription list:

  • Amazon Prime
  • Frndly TV
  • Netflix
  • Disney+
  • Apple TV+
  • Washington Post
  • Time Magazine
  • The Atlantic
  • Consumer Reports
  • Radio Tunes
  • Pandora Premium
  • Sling TV

Now, to make most of these digital entertainment subscriptions work, we need to subscribe to an internet service and since we use many of these services on our iPhones, we also need to add in our monthly call/text/data plan too.

Our monthly cost is $228 or $2,736 annually.

Fred reveals that in the upcoming Techsurvey 2022, two-thirds of the people in his survey now agree with the statement, “I am concerned about the growing number of subscription fees I’m paying for media content.”

I urge you to sit down with your bills and do an audit of your household’s entertainments subscription expenses. If you are like us, you didn’t subscribe to all of them at the same time, but added them one-by-one over a period of years.

Sophie’s Choice

The problem for all of us, comes to making a “Sophie’s Choice” of our media subscriptions. We love them all and trying to decide which ones to eliminate is NOT an easy decision.

What one learns when they are faced with this decision is that we are “happily hooked” on all of them.

Commercial radio and TV operators also need to realize as the subscription economy for entertainment continues to grow, the number of hours in a person’s day is finite, and our time with subscription media means little is left over for OTA radio/TV.

People will spend their time, on those media services

they spend their money with.

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What Makes Your Radio Station Unique?

In teaching broadcast sales at the university, one of the things I taught my students was to help their advertising clients to identify their unique selling position in the marketplace. In other words, what was the one thing that made them different than everyone else in their specialty.

Something For Everyone

The answer you most often hear when you ask an advertiser what makes them unique is, “well, we have something for everyone.”

Something for everyone is nothing special for any one. To the radio listener, it’s like blah, blah, blah. It’s meaningless. Why? Because every other advertiser selling everything from soup to nuts says the same thing and the listener has become trained to tune out these advertising clichés.

Plumbers

Plumbers are probably not something you ever give much thought about, UNTIL you need one. That’s true for lots of repair services when you think about it.

What’s the one thing you hate about calling a home repair company? Knowing that you will be kept waiting and waiting and waiting for their arrival at the time when they said they would.

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it.”

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing could have said a lot of things about the services they provide, but instead they decided what would make them unique in the ears of future customers would be being punctual.

Benjamin Franklin

The Punctual Plumber

They built their whole franchise around the realization that people hate to be kept waiting. In fact, they promise when you don’t have time to wait around, you can count on them to be punctual plumbing professionals, but if they are ever late, they will pay YOU for every minute they’ve made you wait. Doesn’t that resonate with you? It does for me.

Give Your Radio Station a Diagnostic

When is the last time you pulled out the Advertiser Diagnostic sheet and used it on your own radio station(s)?

What makes your station unique? Not the music, that’s for sure. The songs you play were carefully crafted by composers, producers and talented artists, who have record labels that have worked relentlessly to get those songs played on as many radio stations, pure play streamers, movies, TV shows and any other place that uses music to entertain people.

Is your brand name unique? Well, if you branded your radio station KISS you are one of 78 radio stations in America that call themselves that, along with radio stations in Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Iceland, Greece, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Brazil, Canada and Australia. It’s no different than calling your radio station HOT, Jack, Bob, Alice or some other cute name that dozens upon dozens of other radio stations are doing, especially in a world where voice commands increasingly are the way people are accessing audio on their smart devices.

But if your brand is 650AM -WSM, you are the only one in the world that has that brand. You have set yourself apart from the estimated 44,000 radio stations currently on-the-air in the world. WSM is the Home of the Grand Ole Opry. I don’t expect this historic radio station to ever call itself by any other name, but by the one it owns exclusively: WSM.

Streaming Radio

In a world where you can receive virtually any radio station on an App like TuneIn, being unique and one-of-a-kind has never been more important.

If a person tries asking Alexa, Siri or Google to play the KISS radio station, I have no idea which one she will play. However, I don’t have to wonder for a second, if I ask my smart speaker to play WSM, I will hear any other radio station, but the one from Music City USA, in Nashville, Tennessee.

What Makes Your Radio Station Unique?

If you stake your radio station’s future on things created by others, like music, talk shows, network news, syndicated programs, jingles – things every other radio station in America has access to – then your radio station is NOT unique.

When other providers are able give your listeners more of what they want while eliminating the things they dislike, your days as a broadcaster are numbered.

Another way to think about this is, if you were to eliminate all of your commercials – the thing radio listeners say they object to most – would you be able to sustain your radio station by listener support, like public radio and Christian radio does? Or the way that Netflix or SiriusXM does?

If a listener hasn’t heard of your radio station,

wouldn’t choose your station or recommend it,

your brand is dead.

<Picture: The Fuse Vert is a premium vertical vinyl audio system which can also play FM radio>

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Hiking Time

Taking the weekend off to go hiking in the mountains of West Virginia, where it truly is “almost heaven.”

Back next Sunday with a new blog article on “What Makes Your Radio Station Unique?”

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