Category Archives: Radio

Think like there is no box

78One of the things you often hear people say is you need to “think outside the box.” You’ve probably heard this cliché so many times that you want to punch that proverbial box out. So when I heard Ziad Adbelnour say “Don’t think outside the box. Think like there is no box,” it got me thinking how you might do this for today’s radio.

Walt Disney

I just spent a week in Orlando. I went to Disney World and experienced an environment Imagineered by Walt. Imagineering, Disney said, was a blending of creative imagination with technical know-how.

Carousel of Progress

I first experienced Walt’s Imagineering at the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York City. My dad worked for General Electric Company. We got discount tickets to the fair and went both years a couple of times each year. My favorite exhibit was GE’s “Carousel of Progress.”

It was a theater that revolved around a center series of stages that showed how technology evolved over time improving the lives of families and ended with a glimpse into the future.

That exhibit still exists in the Land of Tomorrow at Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando and I went to re-live one of my fondest childhood memories.

Walt conceived of the Carousel of Progress himself.

8 Principles of Imagineering

Alex Wright explained the way Walt Disney worked in his book “The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland.” There are eight principles: 1) Area Development, 2) Blue Sky, 3) Brainstorm, 4) Dark Ride, 5) Elevation, 6) Kinetics, 7) Plussing and 8) Show.

So how would these apply to radio? Let me take a whack at that.

  • Area Development: means the first impression your radio station gives off; the grounds, lobby and overall look your facility make on everyone who comes to your station. Have you stopped seeing what others see when they arrive?  Look at your property again with fresh eyes.
  • Blue Sky: means when you start thinking about anything new generate as many ideas as you can. Anything is possible. Nothing is out of bounds. The sky’s the limit.
  • Brainstorm: When any group brainstorms the only rule is there are no rules. Nothing is a bad idea. The whole reason for brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as you can.
  • Dark Ride: While in a Disney theme park this means a ride that is all indoors, where every element can be controlled, in a radio station, this should mean the layout of your broadcast studios. Are they able to be lit to individual tastes? Does everything work as it’s supposed to and kept in operational condition through preventative maintenance? Is the chair comfortable? Can a person(s) stand if they want? How about the HVAC? When I toured the famous RCA recording studios in Nashville where Elvis recorded, I learned that they had multiple light conditions to bathe Elvis in the kind of mood lighting to fit the song he was recording. When recording “Are You Lonesome Tonight” Elvis decided none of the available lighting schemes worked and so he had every light turned out and the band, engineers and Elvis recorded the song in total darkness. If you listen to the end of that recording you can actually hear Elvis bang his head against his microphone because he forgot where he was and couldn’t see it in the dark.
  • Elevation: A series of drawings to bring clarity to the project and guide construction activities. In radio, this would be a fully written out plan of action so that everyone is on the same page in executing the plan.
  • Kinetics: Walt wanted to know how everything would move in one of his attractions giving it life and energy. For radio, our remotes need some serious kinetic thinking. Taping a station banner to a card table and calling in the breaks on a smartphone is not getting the job done for the listener or the advertiser.
  • Plussing: This is perhaps my favorite one of Walt’s eight principles. With Disney, nothing was ever finished. He was always thinking how everything could be made better. Plussing is non-stop Imagineering to provide continual surprise and delight to all.
  • Show: For Disney everything was part of the show. It’s why all of the people who work at Disney are considered cast members, even the people picking up the trash. How important is it to be so fanatical? Very. In addition to Disney World I spent a day at Universal Studios in Florida. I only have one word for that day’s experience: disappointing. I won’t ever be going back. Those that were with me maybe summed it up best when they said of the rides, “they are all the same ride, only a different movie is played.”

More Outside the Box Ideas

One of the things I try to do in this blog is look at other industries and find the lesson for radio, broadcasting or education that can be applied.

Another is reading a variety of things that literally have nothing to do with one another. Being a curious personality helps here, but it also exposes you to new worlds.

In fact, my office at work and home is filled with a variety of knick knacks that to the casual observer have nothing to do with one another. That’s because they really don’t. But they caught my attention and stimulate my thinking.

“Today you hear people talk about ‘thinking outside the box.’

But Walt would say, ‘No!

Don’t think outside the box!

Once you say that, you’ve established that there is a box.’

Walt would refuse to accept the existence of a box.”

-Jim Korkis, Disney Historian

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The Big Game’s Ad Clutter

80During this year’s football season, viewership to the NFL games was down. A lot of reasons were offered as to the reason why. I’m sure you have your own theories. But when it comes to the Super Bowl – “America’s party Sunday” – surely that would again show an audience increase. It didn’t.

M*A*S*H

For many years, the finale of the TV show M*A*S*H was the most watched television show, until the year that a Super Bowl would surge ahead. For a couple of years, each year the Super Bowl of that year would beat the viewership of the past year and ad rates would go up right along with the viewership. Ad clutter too.

$5 Million per 30-Second Ad

This year FOX trumpeted that it sold Super Bowl LI half-minute ads for an astounding $5 Million per ad.

Viewership to the fifty-first Super Bowl game was, like the rest of this year’s NFL season, down.

We have to go back to 2012 to see an audience this small for football’s big game.

Game Stats

Now don’t get me wrong, the NFL is still the 800-pound sports franchise to be reckoned with when it comes to broadcast. But nothing goes up forever and we may be seeing a peak.

The average professional football game lasts three hours and twelve minutes.

The average NFL game will air more than 100 ads.

The average time the ball is in play is 11 minutes.

Does this seem out of balance to you?

Super Bowl LI Ad Clutter

Media Life magazine featured this headline: “Big winner in this year’s Super Bowl: Ad clutter – It’s second-most cluttered game ever, with 51 minutes and 30 seconds”

If you’re in the ad-supported media business, this has to be concerning to you.

Ad rates can’t keep going up, ad clutter going up and audience viewership going down and expect to stay in business.

In a scholarly paper authored by Auburn University’s Herbert Jack Rotfeld he writes, “the increasing advertising to editorial ratio is causing audience inattention and consumer complaints.” And that “more effective advertising would mean that there would be less of it.”

“Abuse of audiences by intrusive advertising lowers the effectiveness of the entire communications form.”

Radio’s Ad Clutter

About a year ago this month I wrote an article entitled “Are We Killing the Golden Goose”  In that article I compared the story of Aesop’s fable of the goose that laid the golden eggs to what I saw going on with the swelling advertising inventory in radio.

Radio is like a golden goose. It has the ability to deliver unlimited revenues to the bottom line for its owners. Having an FCC license was for many years considered akin to having a license to print money.

Radio is the #1 Reach & Frequency Medium

In June 2015 my good friend – and my very first Arbitron representative when I started managing radio in a rated market – Pierre Bouvard would announce that radio was now America’s #1 REACH MEDIUM.

Radio had always been America’s number one frequency medium (the ability to reach a listener with the same message multiple times) but now it beat TV and all other ad-supported media in reaching the most people too.

That’s BIG!

It’s why I’m concerned about ad clutter.

No Ad Blocking in Radio

Radio, unlike online and TV, doesn’t have ad blocking. Online ad blocking is epidemic. TV has the dreaded DVR that allows viewers to fast-forward through the ads.

Radio doesn’t have to deal with these issues, yet.

But that doesn’t mean it can abuse its audience.

Podcasting

Everywhere I turn I see that podcasting is increasing in audience size. But what I’m also reading is how effective the ads in podcasts are. Could the reason be that a single sponsor usually supports podcasts and the ad is often delivered by the very voice that also creates the content that the listener tuned in to hear?

Stephen Covey

Covey wrote in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” “when people fail to respect the P/PC Balance in their use of physical assets in organizations, they decrease organizational effectiveness and often leave others with dying geese.”

The bottom line is the future of radio will be determined by the vision of the people leading the radio industry.

Don’t kill the goose.

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Bucket Lists

79Life gives us lots of fears. When we’re very young, we’re fearless. Not because we are so brave, but because we aren’t smart enough to know what to be fearful of, yet. That, however, changes quickly and life gives us a heaping helping of stuff to be afraid of.

Growing Older

I think one of the best benefits of growing older is overcoming a fear of failure. When you have some decades under your belt, you know that success isn’t lasting and failure isn’t terminal. Life is a series of hills and valleys.

Joy in Life

I just re-watched the movie “The Bucket List” with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. It’s a classic.

IMDb gives this storyline, if you’ve never seen this film, as follows: Corporate billionaire Edward Cole and working class mechanic Carter Chambers have nothing in common except for their terminal illnesses. While sharing a hospital room together, they decide to leave it and do all the things they have ever wanted to do before they die according to their bucket list. In the process, both of them heal each other, become unlikely friends, and ultimately find joy in life.

What Were You “Meant” to Do?

I’m very grateful for the life I’ve lived. I worked in a career for over four decades that I loved. I then transitioned into teaching at a university, which was the next career move on my short career “bucket list.”

I’ve mentored so many engaged students and gotten lots of positive feedback on my classes. A recent note said “I just wanted to thank you for your awesome class. I really enjoyed it and you as a professor.”

No job can get more rewarding than when you receive notes like that!

Good Times & Bad

There’s an old saying about good times and bad that goes like this: ‘The bad news is the good times never last. The good news is, neither do the bad.’

Change is in the wind at my university. Uncertainty and anxiety runs high.

I will now check off my career “bucket list” teaching at a college or university with the completion of I my seventh year of being a broadcast professor in May 2017 at Western Kentucky University. I didn’t have a career goal beyond college teaching.

Next Life Goal

These past two years, I’ve found that this “radio guy” loves to write. I’ve got both a weekly blog as well as a quarterly column in a national magazine. I’ve done podcasts, vlogs and radio interviews/shows in addition to my teaching/advising/professional activities/university service and consulting. I’m obviously not one to just sit on a couch and eat bonbons.

Excited About New Possibilities

One of the decisions I’ve made at this point in my life is that I wish to move closer to my family and grand kids. All of my life, I’ve let my career determine where I’d live. Then I was challenged to keep in touch with my family. With the passing of the last great grandparent, the torch has been passed, so geography just became more important to me than in the past.

I look forward to leveraging my experience in media, advertising, consulting and teaching in new and exciting ways. I have so much wisdom to pay-forward. I’m a passionate person looking for his next place to make a positive impact.

Think you and I might work well together? Reach out to me: Dick.Taylor@wku.edu

Just Say “No”

Megyn Kelly’s move from the FOX News Channel was made not to make more money but for Megyn to be able to spend more time with her family. Her reasons for making the move really resonated with me. I also want to put some balance into my life when it comes to family and career. It’s time to “just say no” to chasing an overly-demanding position that steals away my time and energy from my family. It’s time to make my next life goal be living a balanced life.

My story does not end here.

Stay tuned.

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What Amazon Could Teach Radio

76aI can’t think of a more competitive marketplace than one that offers infinite choice. This is the marketplace that Amazon operates in. It’s called the internet.

So how is Amazon doing?

Exceptionally well.

Why?

Customer Focus

The Motley Fool writes that Amazon’s secret weapon for success is just a handful of core principles with the leading one being to “focus relentlessly on our customers.”

Jim Collins, author of such great books as “Good to Great” and “Built to Last” created the strategic framework that Amazon uses known as the “flywheel.” Here’s what that looks like from Amazon.com via Benedict Evans

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The beauty of this concept is that while it takes a lot of effort to put everything in motion, once it is moving it develops its own momentum that contributes to future growth. Much as I learned in my college physics class about Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion. These things are really universal and when you can connect the dots, magic happens.

Christmas 2016

You’ve probably heard by now about how merchants did selling stuff for Christmas. The forecast for 2016 was one trillion dollars to be spent; an increase of 3.6 to 4% over 2015.

So with that kind of spending on the table what we see is Macy’s, Sears and Kohl’s among other retailers reported flat or down sales for Christmas 2016. Macy’s, Kmart and Sears announcing store closings as a result.

Amazon meanwhile reported its best holiday season yet, shipping over one billion items worldwide.

AMAZON Christmas 2016

To give you a better idea of how strong Amazon’s Christmas sales were in 2016, let’s look at the Monday before Christmas. Slice Intelligence reported that Amazon sold 49.2% of items purchase online.

For the 2016 Christmas season, Amazon ended up making 38% of all online sales followed by Best Buy at 3.9%, Target at 2.9% and Walmart at 2.9%.

Customer Focus Rules

When you focus on your customer relentlessly, you organize your whole organization around a single goal and insure that everyone stays focused on that goal 24/7.

Your radio station(s) have the power to do what other media services can’t do, be live and local delivering entertainment and information that can’t be obtained from any other source.

One of the big advantages Amazon had this Christmas was their Prime 2-day delivery. It meant that Christmas shopping procrastinators aka most of us men could shop closer to the big day.

You might have read or seen that Amazon is working on delivery by drones and delivery services shorter than 2-days. Amazon appears to be thinking about owning its own delivery supply chain eliminating the need for UPS or USPS.

So how much time has been devoted by you and your people to customer focus? That means your listeners and your advertisers.

Once per year?

Once per month?

Weekly?

Daily?

So what’s stopping you?

 

 

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You Can’t Have Too Much Fun

77There are some things in life you can’t have too much of.

You can’t have too much fun.

You can’t have too much wisdom.

You can’t have too much love.

Too Many College Bowl Games

My university invested a ton of money to upgrade to Conference USA. We won our bowl game in Florida this year too. Did you watch our team win? Probably not. Turns out attendance at the plethora of Florida college bowl games is down.

“When the Outback Bowl in Tampa announced an attendance of 51,119 on Monday who watched Florida dismantle Iowa 30-3, it became the sixth college bowl game among eight in Florida to have a decline in attendance from the previous year,” reports the Florida Times-Union.

NFL TV Viewership Decline

Rolling Stone magazine wrote that one of the big stories of 2016 was the decline in viewership of the NFL. How big was the decline? Down 8%.

Prime Time games were down the most with an audience erosion of 10 to 12%.

Commuter Traffic

The Federal Highway Administration says that by 2025 passenger miles traveled will have increased 72%. Why? Because that same agency says our population will have increased by 26% by that same year.

Tell me the road you commute to and from work isn’t already over congested.

Why is Country Music not the Top Radio Format in Nashville?

Nielsen Audio did a research study in 2014 and said the top radio format in America was country music. Ironically, the top radio station in Music City aka Nashville was NOT a country station. And it’s still not.

The latest ratings for Nashville show the highest rated country music station is ranked #7. The following radio formats are all ahead of that country station: Adult Contemporary, CHR, Sports, Urban AC, Talk and Variety Hits.

However, if you combine all of the audience of the many country format radio stations in Nashville, you will have a higher share of audience than the number one radio station commands.

Less Is More

So while you cannot have too much fun, wisdom, or love, you can have too many choices of products and services. Great for consumers’ maybe, but not for business owner/operators. Ask those who are dealing with the increase in college bowl games, NFL games, traffic congestion or playing country music in Nashville.

Radio is experiencing its own issues with supply versus demand.

The FCC will open up two windows for new translators this year. That’s after 750 new FM translators were signed on in 2016. Currently there are 19,778 FM signals beating the airwaves throughout America. Compare that to 4,669 AM radio stations currently on the air.

At the point in America’s history when the same number of AM radio stations equaled the number of FM radio stations on the air in America (end of 1992), 75% of all radio listening was to FM radio.

The Psychological Aspects of Overpopulation

This brings me back to my own undergraduate college days and psychology class. I remember learning about an experiment about putting too many rats into a confined space.

“As the number of rats rose above a certain level, the effects became rather dramatic,” wrote Albert J. M. Wessendorp, Psychologist-Psychotherapist. The rats displays behavioral disturbances, death rates rose, male rats began to show deviant sexual behavior and more. You can read more here.

Whales are known to commit collective suicide in order to control overpopulation.

What about you and me? How are we impacted by overpopulation (or over choice)?

The research says even human population growth is subject to limits. If we fail in controlling things ourselves, mother nature will begin to do it for us. (Think: Climate Change)

Radio Station Overpopulation

I love the radio business.

I share these thoughts because I’m concerned that the current overpopulation of the FM band is not taking into consideration the laws of physics or the impact of anything that gets overpopulated.

The FRC when it was formed (Federal agency that pre-dates our current FCC) it made it its mission to see America have quality radio stations or a large quantity of mediocre ones. We now look back on this period of time as “The Golden Age of Radio.”

Wessendorp writes that Maslow taught us that “People are only stirred into action when they feel their basic needs to be threatened.”

Have you looked at the revenue forecasts for radio for 2017? Are you feeling threatened yet?

What You Can Do

Next week I will continue with this topic and offer up what I believe is a solution to radio’s problem in an overpopulated entertainment world.

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Radio’s Jobs Didn’t Move to Mexico

75It seems like no matter what line of work you’re in, someone is finding a way to take your job away. If you’re in coal mining, you think the EPA is doing it to you. If you’re in manufacturing, you think its Mexico or China or some other country that pays their workers less and offers no benefits. But is that really what’s happening to jobs?

Where are the (Radio) Jobs?

I got into radio when I was in high school because I wanted to be a disc jockey. (Discs were what records were once called. Records were how we played music on the radio off of turntables, after live musicians were replaced by recorded music on the radio.) My DJ days are long behind me, but I don’t remember anyone from my earliest days being upset that records replaced the need for live musicians to play music on the radio. Do you?

Musician’s Union

I was also a musician. Played trombone. This was another way I earned money to go to college in addition to my radio work.

A fund set-up to promote live music from the playing of recordings on the radio is where the money came from to pay for my performances in local community concert bands. It was called the “Musicians Performance Trust Fund.”

To be eligible to be paid under this fund, you had to join the local musicians union AFL-CIO. I was a union member at age 15.

Truck Drivers

As high wage manufacturing jobs were leaving, many turned to the profession of truck driver. Truck drivers are well paid and people thought, let’s see them automate that. Truck driving employees have been untouched by globalization and automation. You can’t send truck driving in Ohio to be done by person living in Mexico. But that other factor, automation, is now on the horizon.

Uber Driverless Truck Delivers 50,000 Beers

I’m sure you’ve heard about driverless cars and that many expect they will be a reality by 2020 (3 years from now). But while many in the radio industry worried about the loss of radio listening in the car if the car starts driving itself and now everyone can watch TV or surf the internet, I worried that more middle class jobs would soon be automated, never to return.

Wired magazine reported in late October of 2016 how OTTO (Uber bought this company for $680 million) was driving the beer truck down the highway in Colorado without a human behind the wheel.

So it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to realize that we soon will see driverless cabs, buses, trains, planes, boats and a whole lot of people formerly known as the middle class will be out-of-work.

This same thing is happening in higher education too via the internet.

The Fate of the DJ

So where did the radio jobs, like being a disc jockey (DJ) go? They were high-teched. Automated. The industry calls it “voice tracked.” The very technology that did away with the need to have live studio musicians playing music now no longer needs the person that played the recordings of those musicians.

To radio personalities this is not news. It’s been that way since the late 20th Century.

To the multi-tasking, hard-working, over-committed and under-paid middle class it might have seemed as nothing had changed. Heck, they might have even seen the change as an improvement. Certainly recorded music was better in some ways than live studio musicians as it provided more variety in musical entertainment.

It’s Technology, Stupid

The wonderful high-tech devices designed to make our lives so much easier are also taking away the well-paying jobs that created the middle class of the 20th Century.

What’s the world’s 21st Century plan to deal with this change?

Ad Supported Media

The current crisis in ad supported media is that in a world of infinite media choices, and unlimited advertising avails, the money that used to be enjoyed from the sale of advertising is now less than previously realized.

About two years ago I wrote in this blog an article about what I saw as the future of ad supported media. I wrote it after reading Thomas Piketty’s book “Capital in the 21st Century.” I went back and re-read that article and see the trend lines of the graph on page 357 still all moving in the same direction and that should give us all pause.Picketty Chart on page 357

21st Century Media Business Model

All media is moving to a pay-for-play model. HBO, Showtime, Hulu, iTunes Radio, SiriusXM, CBS All Access, Amazon, Netflix, Pandora, Spotify etc. The ad supported model is coming to an end and the pay for what you want is replacing it.

The Wall Street Journal reported in the 4th quarter of 2016 that streaming revenues off-set declining sales of CDs and digital downloads.

People now rent what they want versus own.

And where does that leave your business?

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Words Matter

74The words you use can make all the difference in the outcome of whatever you’re trying to do. Visual mediums can get lazy with wordcraft thinking the visuals will carry the message. Radio can’t.

Writing Persuasively

Colleges teach two kinds of writing: creative and journalistic. One is made of whimsy and the other is fact-based. Effective radio ads are written to persuade. Few do.

Cliché Town

In my sales class we spend time exploring how to write messages that cause the listener to see themselves doing what it is we want them to do. People must first envision something in their mind before they will ever actually do it.

Walt Disney said:

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”

So you’d think that when my students produce their radio ads in their sales presentation during finals week they would be filled with persuasive wizardry. They’re not. They’re filled with all of the tired old clichés that comprise most radio ads. Why, because they’ve been brainwashed with them without even realizing it. Even though they have no impact, rating a big zero on the persuasive scale, they are still filling their brains.

Clichés Have No Father

While we’ve all heard them – like “plenty of free parking,” “committed to excellence,” “fast friendly service,” “these prices won’t last long,” “in business since 19–,” – and know them, we have long stopped connecting them to anyone or any business. They are in a sense orphan phrases that fill-up an advertisement but don’t deliver the goods. And they usually are what cause an advertiser to say “radio doesn’t work.”

You don’t listen to clichés and neither will anyone else.  Stop using them.

Google It

George Johns is a famous programming consultant and he puts it this way:

“He who controls the language controls the budget.

We don’t Bing or Yahoo things we Google them.”

Google means search. It’s why the parent company re-branded itself from Google to Alphabet.

What’s Your Point?

Whether you’re selling advertising for your radio station(s) or you’re writing radio copy for one of your clients, you should distill your message into a single compelling sentence.

The last presidential election had two candidates. One candidate made a consistent, compelling point and the other had a “basket of deplorables.”

Long after people have forgotten all the dry details of the race, they will never forget those red ball caps and that single compelling sentence.

Final Point

It’s a New Year and time to stop using worn-out words and tired old clichés. To quote the great advertising man David Ogilvy:

“You cannot bore someone into buying your product.”

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