Category Archives: Radio

Profitability Depends on Repeat Customers

The radio advertising business is all about its ability to deliver both reach (the number of people who will hear your advertisement) as well as frequency (the number of times a listener will hear the same advertisement). Radio, for all of my life has been the medium for delivering the best frequency for an advertiser, but in today’s world, it now is also the best for delivering reach.

Pierre Bouvard, my first Arbitron sales representative and today the Chief Insights Officer at Cumulus Media/Westwood One, calls AM/FM radio the soundtrack of America’s recovery and spending resurgence.

Relationships

When I started out in radio sales, my first goal was to start making friends with each business person I called on. I used to say to myself, “If you can’t make a sale, make a friend.”

People do business with people they know and like, it’s first step in building relationships with your advertisers.

Advertising is an Investment

Patience is at an all-time low, so the problem in today’s fast-paced world is everyone wants things to happen immediately.

When you’re dealing with people and human nature, things move at their own pace.

Farmers know when they plant a crop, they won’t be going out the next day to harvest it. Likewise, when you put an advertiser’s message on the radio, it will take time to grow in the mind of the consumer. Done correctly, a business can be harvesting sales 52-weeks a year.

Great Radio Ads

Great radio advertising can benefit the listeners of your radio station in addition to growing the business of your advertisers. Great ads speak about the customer’s wants, needs and desires.

Getting Referrals

Make money for your advertisers and they will be happy to refer you to other local business people who could benefit from your radio station’s audience. And unlike cold-calling (knocking on doors of people you don’t know), a referral is like getting a foot-in-the-door. It’s golden.

Fair Prices & Excellent Service

Studies have shown you don’t have to have the lowest price to attract repeat business, fair prices will do.

Combine fair prices with excellent service and you have a winning combination for building repeat business with your customers.

Your goal as a radio sales person should be to become a sustaining resource for your customers. A person who they call first when they need help with their advertising or promotions; a person they can trust.

You Can’t Do It Alone

Everyone in your radio station that comes in contact with your listeners and advertisers impacts the future relationship your enterprise will have with each of them. Everyone needs to be engaged in delighting your listeners and your advertisers.

It takes a team effort to be successful.

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My Desk is Cluttered, Not My Mind

One of the snappiest dressers on television was Morley Safer. But if you were to peek into Morley’s office when he was off-camera, you would have seen an office that was quite the opposite.

Depending on your point-of-view, a cluttered desk might have been thought of as a cluttered mind, or the opposite; a clean desk means an empty mind.

Spatially Organized

Let me offer you a third perspective.

My desk is usually cluttered when I’m deep into a project.

What I have learned about myself was I tend to be spatially organized, and when things get neatly put away, out of sight, in a file drawer, they are also out of mind. Mine!

Productive Workspaces

We’re all different.

When people try to design workspaces for others, it will most likely fail.

In his book, “Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives,” Tim Harford explains how engineered spaces can kill productivity and innovation, while having a messy workspace might actually help us to do some of our best work.

Arbitron

I remember entering Arbitron’s new facility when it opened in Columbia, Maryland. Everything was fresh and new and oh, so very sterile.

One of the managers could be seen chasing people around and chastising them for taping things to the walls or for having a cluttered desk.

This type of order is fine for an automobile assembly line, but not your radio station.

WLAN AM/FM

When I moved WLAN AM/FM from its original location in downtown Lancaster, PA to a brand-new facility, I told everyone that their workspace was theirs to decorate as they wished.

I even let everyone pick out their own style and color of desk and chair.

Everyone was excited for moving day to arrive and had been planning for months how they would set-up their new offices.

Studies have shown that when people are allowed to decorate their work place with the stuff and personal knickknacks they love, productivity can increase by as much as 32%. In fact, people are not only more productive, they are also happier and healthier.

Moves can be really disruptive to a business, but when I moved my Lancaster radio stations, we had a record setting year in both ratings and revenues.

Mix It Up

Another way to stimulate innovation and productivity in your station, is to create spaces where everyone bumps into each other on a regular basis.

When Steve Jobs was designing Apple’s new building, he purposely made sure there would be spaces that would cause employees from all sectors to come in contact with one another.

Diversity of thought and ideas come from everywhere and everyone.

So, break down the silos that walls create, and have some space that brings your people together like a tossed salad.

This will be a real challenge as COVID-19 sees more companies allowing their employees to continue to work from home as an option, versus daily commuting to an office.

The Take Away

The key thing to know about creating a productive work environment is this, you can’t dictate it. You have to empower your people to create it for themselves.

People who have power over their workspace tend to be more engaged, productive and collaborative.

Just remember, it can get a little messy at times, but that’s how greatness is birthed.

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Crisis: Danger or Opportunity?

There’s no doubt about it. We live in challenging times.

The big word of these day is “disruption.”

As we read every day about how some new shiny toy is the latest radio disruptor.

But is that really what’s happening?

Dematurity

The radio broadcasting industry is also dealing with something bigger; dematurity. “Dematurity is what happens to an established industry when multiple companies adopt a host of small innovations in a relatively short period of time,” says John Sviokla. This term was coined back in the 1980s by Harvard Business School professors William Abernathy and Kim Clark.

Radio’s Dematurity

Think about this phenomenon as it applies to radio.

The internet introduced the concept of streaming radio with two companies introducing nationwide radio coverage from satellites above America. The smartphone provided an opportunity for Pandora to stream to cellphones and podcasters followed. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat and others would compete for a smartphone owner’s attention on these same devices. Meanwhile, on the home front, Amazon developed its Echo voice activated device, as Google, Microsoft, and Apple followed with their own smart speakers.

Each move by these technology companies might have seemed trivial when announced, but when looked at in total, they represent a crescendo of mini-disruptions.

The Currency of People’s Time

While most will focus on the shiny new innovation, what we’re really seeing is how people spend the most valuable currency in their lives, their time.

For radio broadcasters, the challenge is providing people with a listening experience worth their time.

Government Regulations

Another factor that impacts business is government regulations. While radio broadcasting has been heavily regulated since the birth of commercial radio in the 1920s, we compete against online and satellite audio providers that are not regulated.

Government regulations have enormous impact on the type of competition and the intensity it brings in your market.

Death & Taxes

Benjamin Franklin wrote in a 1789 letter that “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be certain, except death and taxes.” So, in business, you probably can add dematurity as there is not a business that won’t be impacted by it, if it’s not already.

Ask the Right Questions

John Sviokla poses these questions for trying to get a handle on how to build value and sustain value:

  • What makes for efficient scale?
  • Who is the competition?
  • Who are the customers?
  • What do the customers want?
  • Who owns what?
  • Where is the risk?

Sviokla, in his book, The Self-Made Billionaire Effect, says more than 80 percent of the self-made billionaires he’s profiled made their money by reinvigorating a mature industry. “They either introduced a product tuned to new consumer habits, changed the technologies of production, adopted new ideas from another industry, adapted to new regulation, changed the distribution system, or made some combination of those moves,” says Sviokla.

While dematurity is inevitable for all businesses, brainstorming what change is happening, and making changes to take advantage of it, is the difference between crisis and opportunity.

“Change will lead to insight far more often

than insight will lead to change.”

-Milton H. Erickson

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On The Road Again

It was over a year ago that COVID-19 would close down the world, and with it, all of our travel plans for 2020. I vividly remember how I had no sooner completed booking all of our flights, hotel rooms and even a cruise to Alaska, that I would be back on my computer cancelling all of them. Like you, Sue & I would be looking for toilet paper, Lysol and face masks. That first time I wore a mask into my local bank, I felt so self-conscious and never imagined myself doing such a thing.

15 Months Later

Beginning this week, we’re ready to travel again. We’re fully vaccinated, own an assortment of masks and have learned to carry hand sanitizer in our pockets. On our travel agenda is visiting our children and grandchildren on the West Coast.

Bucket List 2018-2019

Two years ago, we departed on a cross-country road trip of over 11,000-miles that allowed us to see from the ground, many of the places we had flown over at 30,000-feet most of our lives. The 2018 road trip took in the northern half of the USA. In 2019, we traveled about 9,000-miles covering the southern states.

We checked off many sites that were on our Bucket List:

  • River Boat Cruise on the Mississippi River
  • Seeing “Music & the Spoken Word” in Tabernacle Hall in Salt Lake City
  • Visiting the Hoover Dam
  • Riding the Hooterville Cannonball to Petticoat Junction
  • Taking a mud bath and drinking wine in Napa Valley
  • Walking through a giant Redwood Forest in California
  • Sitting in the cockpit of the Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose”
  • Watching Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park
  • Touring the “House on the Rock” in the Dells of Wisconsin
  • Cruising across Lake Michigan aboard the historic S. S. Badger
  • Standing in the studio of Motown records at Hitsville, USA
  • In Detroit, touring the Henry Ford & Greenfield Village and oh, so much more

Bucket List 2021

This year our Bucket List includes visiting Glacier National Park in northern Montana, a night at the Bavarian Lodge in Leavenworth, Washington and taking my first Amtrak train trip from Seattle back home to Virginia.

But the part that we are most looking forward to is spending time with our children and grandchildren in Nevada, Montana and Washington.

What About the Blog?

Since I anticipate very little online time during this seven week trip, I have been writing blog articles that will automatically post to this blog site while I’m on the road. I know some folks have become “addicted” to this weekly muse and so I don’t want anyone to suffer withdrawal.

Now is a good time to go to the blog website: https://DickTaylorBlog.com and sign-up to receive my weekly articles via email each Sunday morning at 3AM.

Thank You for reading and sharing your thoughts in the comments section.

It’s by sharing our wisdom, experiences and perspectives that we all learn and grow together.

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2021 – Year of The Great Reassessment

When the novel coronavirus turned our world upside down, life as we had known it was dramatically changed. About the closest thing I can compare it to was when I made the decision to retire, move from Kentucky to Virginia and get married; again.

Time to Retire

All my life I had witnessed stories in movies and on TV about people retiring. I remember my own dad being forced to retire at the age of 65, because back in the 70s General Electric Company had a mandatory retirement policy. It seemed like something people planned and looked forward to, and now, after a decades long career in broadcasting and then as a professor at a university, I had arrived. My wife and I planned out two years’ worth of road trips to see America from the ground. As a flight attendant for Delta, she had flown over most of the United States, but like me, longed to see it up close and personal; as can only be done from driving the highways and byways of this great land.

Life in Retirement

I will admit that retirement brings with it, major lifestyle changes, and I truly have learned to enjoy all of it. As an example, in the summer, pool aerobics takes place in an outdoor pool bathed in the warmth of the morning sun. What’s not to like about that?

COVID-19

You might think that a retired person’s life couldn’t have changed much when COVID-19 appeared, and the world closed down. Wrong! Those pool exercise programs were terminated, our planned cruise to Alaska via Canada was cancelled as the border between our countries closed, trips to visit our children and grand children were transformed into ZOOM visits and like everyone else we wore masks, used lots of hand sanitizer and took advantage of senior shopping hours (usually from 6-7am) which meant having to get up with an alarm clock once again.

Lifestyle Changes

The global pandemic brought lifestyle changes to the world that were as dramatic as retirement. It’s why after sitting in on the latest Fred Jacobs webinar, TechSurvey 2021, it was this single slide that made the most impact on me.

When radio station listeners were asked why they spent less time listening to radio, the number one and two responses were basically the same: Lifestyle Change.

People were spending less time in their cars as many were now working from home, going to school from their bedroom and meals were now being prepared in the house kitchens versus dining out.

Most people listened to traditional radio in their automobile, because it may be the only radio they own and when “Work From Home” (WFH) became the norm, car usage plummeted.

So, what did we do at home while we were sequestered? We streamed everything: movies, TV shows, music, newspapers, magazines, and visiting friends and relatives, were all made possible via internet.

The last time the world saw so many important structural changes as we’re experiencing today, was in the 1920s; a time when commercial radio was born, and a time when people were yearning for change after experiencing a two year global pandemic from the “Spanish Flu.”

Reassessing the Meaning of Life

The disruption brought with COVID-19 has caused many people to really think about what’s important in their life. This great reassessment is going on at all levels of the American economy causing many people to decide if they want to do something different with their lives. People have realigned their priorities when it comes to what’s important to them, and what makes for a happy, fulfilling life.

Sixty-six percent of unemployed people in a recent Pew Survey said they had “seriously considered” changing their field of work, which might help to explain why certain businesses are having a hard time re-hiring workers as COVID vaccinations are re-opening our economy.

Reassessing Media Usage

The sequestering at home saw, according to TechSurvey 2021, that streaming video services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ saw a 35% increase in use, followed by a 15% increase in usage of streaming music services like Spotify and Pandora, as well as spending time on social media. Video gaming was up 13% and the radio station that sent these radio listeners this year’s TechSurvey showed a 10% increase.

It’s important to note that the people who love listening to radio, put listening to their favorite radio personality ahead of hearing their favorite music as the reason they listen.

 The Lego Lesson

Now you might be thinking that as a radio owner/manager “I need to be doing more.” That seems to be human nature when anyone is contemplating how to beat their previous performance; whether that means increasing audience ratings or bottom line revenues.

Let me tell you about a study where participants were asked to modify a structure built with Legos. Most participants added more bricks – our gut instinct that to do better, it will take more of something – but the better strategy it turns out was to remove a few Lego bricks from the structure.

When it comes to improving your radio operation, might you find a better result by subtracting rather than adding? When you keep things simple focusing on those things that made you successful, magic happens.

It was true when radio was born, and it’s even more important today, but don’t take my word for it, listen to what radio listeners say is the main reason they’re still listening in the latest TechSurvey.

Radio’s most important assets are its air personalities.

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The Thrill is Gone

Like many readers of this blog, I grew up listening to AM radio. It created for me the passion and desire to pursue a radio career while I was still in grade school. As a young child, I remember my parents having a least one radio with the FM band, but scanning that band produced not a single radio station to be heard.

FCC Broadcast Station Totals

Looking through the FCC database, I found that the commission’s Broadcast Station Totals reports begin with December 1968, the same year that my professional radio career began. In America, that report listed 4,236 AM Commercial radio stations on the air with only 1,944 FM Commercial radio stations, and even adding the 362 Education FM radio stations only gets you to about half the number of AM stations.

On March 31, 1994, FM Commercial radio stations outnumbered AM Commercial radio stations 5,001 to 4,933; plus, there were now 1,674 FM Educational stations on the air.

To put things in perspective, when the number of America’s FM signals equaled the number of AM signals, 75% of all radio listening was estimated to be occurring on the FM band.

Today’s AM/FM Radio Landscape

The FCC just issued its March 31, 2021 Broadcast Station Totals report and it shows the number of AM Commercial radio stations is down from 27 years ago by 387 stations; now just 4,546 stations, and FM Commercial radio stations are up 1,681, for a total of 6,682 stations. In addition to the commercial stations, there are now another 4,213 FM Educational radio stations and 8,521 FM Translators & Boosters along with 2,114 Lower Power FM radio stations. That’s a grand total of 21,730 FM signals on the air in America compared to 4,546 AM signals.

What percentage of listening would you estimate is now taking place to AM versus FM in the 21st Century? I’m thinking it’s probably north of 99%.

All Digital AM Authorized

October 27, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized ALL-DIGITAL AM RADIO in America. The commission’s ruling says that all “AM broadcasters will be able to voluntarily choose whether and when to convert to all-digital operation from their current analog, or hybrid analog/digital signals.”

A quick check of the FCC database shows only 245 AM radio stations currently broadcasting in hybrid analog/digital; six of which either had their license cancelled or were silent.

The issue for the consumer will be having to buy new AM Digital radios, since all their existing AM radios will not be able to receive an all-digital AM signal.

No to Digital AM

Frank Karkota wrote a guest column for Radio World titled “No to Digital AM” in which he listed six reason why he was opposed to the digitization of the AM band. Let me summarize them for you:

  1. Building an AM Digital radio is too complicated
  2. The technology is becoming too complex
  3. Because of the remarkable advancements in analog AM receiver technology, there’s no need to digitize the AM band
  4. The poor recovered audio quality of digital radio
  5. The listening audience will lose some listening options
  6. Most car radios will need to be replaced to permit digital reception

I’m not an engineer, so I’ll leave it up to technical readers to weigh in here, but as a non-engineering radio guy, why would I go through all those hoops when I can simply click on an aggregator like TuneIn.com and stream any radio station I want to listen, to via my smartphone?

The biggest reason why this is a bad idea is that people are not going to spend money buying a single use device to listen to a radio station when there are so many ways to listen to virtually any radio station in the world today on so many other multi-use devices.

Radio’s Biggest Problem

Back in August 2017, I wrote an article titled “Coal Ain’t Coming Back & Neither is AM Radio” which had hundreds of people commenting.

This month Bloomberg reported “Coal Is Getting Even Closer to the End of Its Line” saying that the United States is on track to use less coal than at any point since the 19th century. This graph paints the picture:

Now look at the change in the number of AM radio stations in America over the past thirty years:

Whether we’re talking about coal or AM radio stations, the trendline is spiraling downward.

Radio’s biggest problem, AM and FM, is that it suffers from a deficit of imagining the lives of its listeners. Radio broadcasters are in the communications business, and yet, they are too focused on saving the past instead of focusing on the future of communications.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

-Henry Ford

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them.”

-Steve Jobs

Both Ford and Jobs understood that to win the heart of the customer, you needed to create a future they never even knew they wanted.

The future for radio is creating great audio programming that has people wanting to receive it no matter what platform it is delivered on.

Stop Your Air Talent from Multi-Tasking

It saddens me, that today the radio industry is asking their air talent to multi-task on multiple radio stations. Could you imagine the NFL deciding that their quarterback could also act as the team’s coach at the same time? Never!

The short answer to whether people can really multitask is no. … The human brain cannot perform two tasks that require high-level brain function at once. Low-level functions like breathing and pumping blood aren’t considered in multitasking.

-Chris Adams, ThoughtCo.com

Listen to what a difference it makes when an air personality can focus on one station, one market and communicate one-on-one with the listener, as KHJ Midday Personality Charlie Tuna does in this air check (Courtesy of the Charlie Ritenburg aircheck collection). Click HERE

This is not a morning show air check, but a midday one for Charlie Tuna. Notice how integral he is to the pace and flow of the radio station. He provides a link to the Los Angeles community and companionship to the listener. The on-air production is tight and smooth. It’s a style of radio so hard to hear anywhere today.

It’s the style of radio that launched my 50 year radio career.

Memo to the Radio Industry

 It’s time to bring back the thrill

of listening to Great Radio.

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Change Is In The Air, Can You Feel It?

This year’s Academy Awards on ABC recorded an all-time low in viewership with fewer than 10 million people who thought it was worth their time to tune in to see which picture was named the year’s best (Nomadland), or who won best actress (Frances McDormand) or best actor (Anthony Hopkins).

Was it because all the theaters closed down in 2020 due to COVID-19 that people didn’t care about the movies?

No, the Oscars telecast is suffering the same fate that has befallen the Golden Globes, Primetime Emmys and the Grammys; today there’s lots of competition for our attention.

Miss America Who?

I lived in Atlantic City, New Jersey for the better part of two decades. My WFPG-AM 1450 radio station was the flagship station for the Miss America radio broadcasts and continued broadcasting the annual beauty pageant to the South Jersey radio market long after network television took over broadcasting the pageant to the nation, via TV.

If you don’t know who the reigning Miss America is (Camille Schrier), you’re not alone, as only 3.61 million people tuned into the NBC telecast; continuing a downward trend of its audience ratings.

World Series Strikes Out

The 2020 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays saw Game Three entering the record books as the least-watched World Series game since Nielsen began tracking ratings in 1968. Just over 8 million people watched.

Super Bowl 2021 Fumbles

With everyone being sequestered at home, and the annual Super Bowl telecasts being the most watched programs on television since 2010, you might scratch your head wondering how the most recent Super Bowl matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs only attracted 96.4 million viewers making it the lowest rated Super Bowl since 2007, when the Colts vs. The Bears attracted only 93.1 million viewers.

Before the 2010 Super Bowl, the season finale of M*A*S*H reigned as the most viewed television program for 27 years, with 105.9 million viewers saying goodbye to Hawkeye and friends in February of 1983.

The 2010 Super Bowl broadcast would garner 106.5 million viewers, and each Super Bowl broadcast after that would become the new most watched program on television.

Welcome to The Internet Revolution

In the 20th Century, the industrial economy was top-down, with all decisions originating from the CEO’s office. The 21st Century now depends on building relationships, collaboration and networking. Not since the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s has America seen anything like what’s happening today.

You’re probably in one of two camps with regard to the speed of change happening right now: one group believes things are changing too fast, and the other group believes things aren’t changing fast enough. Business leaders no longer can sit on the fence about the issues that face us, but are being forced into picking a side.

The media industry that was birthed, and has been fully supported by the selling of advertising, is now looking towards selling subscriptions to support itself. Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, PBS Passport, Amazon Prime, YouTubeTV, Paramount+, HBOMax, AppleTV+, Showtime, Starz, Frndly, and SlingTV are all subscription supported. Then there’s all the music streaming services you can subscribe to like Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, and Apple Music.

Do you like to listen to podcasts, well Spotify and Apple have announced those too will be adding a new subscription option for podcasts you might currently be enjoying for free.

In our house, we subscribe to seven different streaming video services, which grew from zero just five years ago and we currently use ad-supported audio streaming services from Pandora, Amazon and TuneIn. We access all of our streaming services by asking Alexa to play what we’re in the mood to hear via anyone of our four Echo’s and three Alexa equipped televisions.

I honestly cannot remember the last time I watched any commercial television channels.

Whether watching video, listening to audio or reading publications like The Washington Post, The Atlantic, AXIOS or the multitude of radio/TV publications that I devour each day, all of it comes to me ON DEMAND and via the internet.

Our household literally has more content than we have hours in a day to consume and still have time for a life with family and friends outside of the home.

The Future of Media Consumption

For the consumer, streaming consumption is the future, but there is a limit to how much media we can consume, let alone afford to subscribe to and we are approaching a peak in both.

For the media companies, understanding their future will demand a clear-eyed review at how the present came into existence. It will be survival of the fittest and not all will make it.

“Every model is flawed.

Some can be useful for decades or even centuries,

but eventually circumstances change and they become untenable.

After a period of tumult, they collapse and a new paradigm emerges.”

-Thomas Kuhn

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Leadership is Like a Three Legged Stool

It’s never been more challenging to be a leader, but some of the basics are as important today as ever.

Leadership is about inspiring and empowering people to believe in themselves, their company and the path that lies ahead.

Leg One: Lead by Example

People will follow more what you do than what you say. I remember having one of my department managers tell me that people in our building were afraid to swear around me, because I didn’t use swear words. It’s not that I didn’t know those words, but I personally chose not to use them, resulting in others following my lead.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Leg Two: Create a Unified Vision

A lot of companies have very lengthy and detailed “mission statements.” The problem is that few people can hardly remember, let alone put into practice everything that’s in them. Created by committees, these mission statements call to mind the old joke about what a camel is—it’s a horse created by a committee.

I prefer the idea of creating a “unified vision.” My favorite is the one that Steve Jobs created for Apple: “Create insanely great products.”

Notice he didn’t say they would create the world’s best computer, tablet or smartphone, but that whatever Apple committed to making, it would be “insanely great.”

Leg Three: Inspire Everyone to be Their Best

It’s not one thing that makes an organization the best, it’s everything. Great radio stations are great in programming, promotions, engineering, sales, facilities and community engagement. They should super serve everyone they come in contact with.

“Nobody remembers who finished second,

but the guy who finished second.”

-Bobby Unser

Great leaders hire the best people for each area of their operation, and then, get out of their way to let them excel. Leaders praise in public and correct in private, mentoring everyone in their charge. They stand ready to tackle any obstacles that prevent their people from being their personal best and inspire them to become leaders.

Leaders don’t create followers,

they create more leaders.

-Tom Peters

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You Can’t Make an Elephant into a Giraffe

Let’s face it, somethings in life are what they are. Giraffe’s have long necks and elephants have big ears, big feet and trunks. Just as pickup trucks were designed for a different purpose than speed boats. So, why do we think that radio can somehow defy the natural order and become something that it was never designed to be?

Work on Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses

One of the lessons I learned in classes at Clear Channel University* was how people often focus on their weaknesses and try to improve them. However, studies have shown that when we focus on our strengths, we grow faster than when we try to improve our weaknesses. Added benefits to focusing on our strengths are that we become happier, less stressed and more confident.

The cure for constantly falling short of your goals is to work on improving where you’re already strong, rather than on areas where you are weak.

Why Doesn’t Radio Focus on Its Strengths?

Entercom changed its name to Audacy, saying:

“We have transformed into a fundamentally different and dramatically enhanced organization and so it is time to embrace a new name and brand identity which better reflects who we have become and our vision for the future. Audacy captures our dynamic creativity, outstanding content and innovative spirit as we aspire to build the country’s best audio content and entertainment platform.”

-David Field, CEO

Audacy is the fourth largest radio company in America (based on the number of radio stations owned) and just like the top three radio operators ahead of them, none use the word “radio” in their name.

It was in 2010, that National Public Radio announced that it would be using “NPR” as its brand name, even though its legal name remains the same. NPR celebrated its 50th birthday in 2020, the same year that American commercial radio turned 100.

What is it about the name “radio” that has radio station owners and operators distancing themselves from this word?

Finding Your Strengths

If you want to grow your strengths, first you need to identify them. This week, Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer at Cumulus Media/Westwood One, did a pretty good job of that in his blog. While Pierre was trying to correct some misperceptions about broadcast radio, he also gave us a good place to start with identifying some of its strengths. Here are five Pierre cites:

  1. Radio reaches 88% of persons 18 years of age and older each week in America.
  2. Radio reaches the 60% of Americans who are back in their cars commuting to work every day. (The Radio Advertising Bureau says radio’s reach in the car is 83% in 2021, making it the dominate form of media on-the-road.)
  3. Radio’s audience shares are twenty-one times larger than ad-supported Pandora and ten times that of ad-supported Spotify, according to Edison Research.
  4. Radio delivers an impressive Return On Investment (ROI). Pierre says “for example, for every $1 invested in an auto aftermarket AM/FM radio campaign, there is a $21 sales return.”
5. Radio delivers listeners at all hours of the day, seven days a week.

Radio’s Analog Audience

Lee Abrams posted a short YouTube video back in August 2020 that you might have missed explaining his “PSYCHOGRAPHIC CHART.” If you’re in radio, you should watch it now.   

View the full twelve-minute presentation HERE What I’d like to focus on is the two quadrants that Lee has labeled as “Analog Generation/Culturally Sophisticated & Culturally Unsophisticated.” These people are radio listeners. They were born with and are comfortable with analog media.

Lee makes clear that you can’t satisfy more than one quadrant. Pick one and super serve those people to the point of making what you do appalling to people in the other three quadrants.

The bottom line is that you can’t be all things to all people, but you can be everything to some people. This is really Marketing 101.

But the Future is Digital

Yes, the future of media is digital and it can’t be ignored. But you can’t make radio into something it’s not and never will be. It’s a powerful one-to-many media entity; leverage that.

The Australian Radio Network’s Neuro Lab is doing some interesting research into how a listener’s brain responds to audio, whether it’s coming from the radio, a podcast or streamed.

What should make all radio owner/operators sit-up and take notice is the fact that “radio showed the strongest ability to engage listeners and for extended periods of time, racking up 60% more neural engagement than any other audio format.” Podcasts showed higher levels of memory encoding and streaming was noted for promoting positive attitudes towards brands. You can read the full report HERE

All Audio is Not Created Equal (in the Brain)

Dr. Shannon Bosshard, the neuroscience specialist who conducted this groundbreaking research said, “This is the first time that anyone has demonstrated, from the perspective of the brain, that radio, podcasting and music streaming are processed differently and should be treated differently, in the same manner that audio and audio-visual mediums have been.”

Radio Financed TV

It was the incredible revenue streams produced by broadcast radio that were used to build out the medium of commercial television. TV also stole radio’s stars and programs, leaving the radio industry to reinvent itself and compete with television for advertising.

Today, radio is once again finding itself the “money mule” charged with funding the buildout of digital initiatives, having to sacrifice the very thing that makes radio unique in the process; its personalities. And then, just like with TV, radio has to compete with digital for advertising.

Fred Jacobs in his TechSurvey 2021 revealed how important the Radio Personality is to today’s radio listener.

But this shouldn’t come as a surprise. For generations, the radio personality has been the primary attraction drawing audiences to one radio station over another. At his peak, Dan Ingram on WABC in New York was said to be more popular to the station’s listeners than The Beatles.

Great Radio

In the end, great radio isn’t any one element, it’s all of them – personalities, jingles, promotions, station imaging, community involvement and companionship – that makes a radio station part of a listener’s family. People have favorite movies, but not a favorite movie theater; they have favorite television programs, but not a favorite television station; however, people DO HAVE favorite radio stations.

Remember that. Leverage that. Make money knowing that.

*Clear Channel University was closed in 2009

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It Was All Harry’s Fault

Magnetophon German Recorder

There was an interesting discussion this week, stirred up by a couple of Fred Jacob’s blogs; one asking if radio was losing the battle for the listener’s ear and the other questioning if radio’s “Live & Local” ship had sailed.

I’m sure you have your opinions on both.

But it got me to thinking about the history of radio and its battle over LIVE versus RECORDED programming.

Radio Was Born on LIVE Programs

In the beginning of commercial radio, the Federal Radio Commission had a decision to make, would it put a lot of radio signals into the air with mediocre content or limit the number of radio signals to only those entities that could provide LIVE quality programming content. It chose the latter.

Radio was born as a medium that broadcast only LIVE content. Music, news and sports was all broadcast LIVE; that is until a man named Harry came along.

The Following Program was Pre-recorded             

In the history of show business, Harry was a very popular entertainer and is remembered as its first “multimedia star.”

By 1948, half of the recorded music broadcast on radio was Harry’s, not to mention he was also a major Hollywood attraction at the movies.

But first and foremost, Harry was a savvy businessman, investing in Minute Maid orange juice, owning part of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team and seeing the future of tape-recording technology.

In 1936, Harry became the host of a nationwide variety show. Because the network radio programs were all done LIVE, Harry not only had to do the show once, but twice, every night; once for the East Coast and again for the West Coast.

By 1945, Harry was tired of two shows a night and because his network, NBC, wouldn’t let him record his first show for replay, Harry and his network parted company when the season ended that year.

NBC Red & NBC Blue Networks

It was during this same time that NBC, which dominated America’s network radio with their Red and Blue networks had been forced by the government to sell off its Blue network, which would become the American Broadcasting Company and the ABC Radio Network.

ABC needed a headliner and they approached Harry to host their nightly variety show. Harry said he would do it, if he could record it for replay to the West Coast. ABC said he could, but only if the quality of the recorded show equaled that of a live broadcast.

The recording technology in that day was primarily the Electrical Transcription or ET disc. These were giant records, 16-inches in diameter (an LP is 12-inches in diameter), but even an untrained ear could discern whether what they were hearing through a AM radio speaker was LIVE or played off of an ET.

If you’ve ever heard the Herb Morrison broadcast of the crash of the Hindenburg, you know the level of quality this type of recording device delivers. Listen HERE

Recording on Magnetic Tape

A recording device that resembles a reel-to-reel recorder had been developed in Germany during World War II to record Adolf Hitler. After the war, an American GI brought one of these machines back home and began to improve upon it using American made components. Recordings made on this new machine sounded like the original LIVE performance and Harry thought this might be the answer he was looking for. There was just one problem, the company was broke. So, Harry put $50,000 in an envelope and sent it to Alexander Poniatoff, the head of the company called AMPEX.

To put this in perspective, $50,000 in 1948 would be the equivalent of more than a half million in today’s dollars.

ABC heard the recordings of Harry’s show on these new AMPEX recorders using 3M recording tape and gave them a “green light.”

Now, Harry only had to do one LIVE show a night on the East Coast with the West Coast hearing the recorded playback.

Radio’s Innovators

It’s always a challenge to say who makes a greater contribution to changing the world, as each generation has its great innovators.

Marconi gave us the wireless, a one-to-one form of communications that transformed the world.

General David Sarnoff (RCA) innovated the radio as a form of mass communication, giving us a one-to-many instant communication service of news, entertainment and advertising supported radio.

And Harry “Bing” Crosby was the person who introduced high quality recording technology to broadcast radio that sounded equal to the original LIVE presentation.

Like Steve Jobs, who didn’t invent the cellular telephone but had the vision to develop it into the smartphone we enjoy today, Bing Crosby was the person who had a vision to see how a new recording technology could be transformative to the radio industry.

Innovation requires investment.

For too long, radio broadcasters have been living off their “seed corn,” while technology companies have been focusing on improving the audio listener experience and by delivering  what the customer wants.

“It’s never too late to do great radio that serves your community.”

-Fred Jacobs

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