Category Archives: Radio

The World’s Gone Crazy (but you don’t have to)

85I normally write about radio, education, advertising and/or marketing. It’s my life. I mentor others sharing what I know to pay-it-forward.

Be Happy

I know I’m not the only one feeling a little stressed these days. So I thought this week I’d write about things we can do to make our lives happier.

One of the things I learned is that logic won’t change an emotion, but action will. So get off the couch and do something. Anything.

Happy Mondays

I write publish my blog every Sunday morning. For me Sundays are the first day of a new week. So Mondays are the second day. Mondays make up a seventh of our lives. Sundays have always been kind of a prep day to make my Mondays another chance for me to make a dent in the cosmos.

Hugging

I’m a hugger. Anyone that knows me has probably been hugged by me. More than once. Did you know that the average hug lasts only about 2.1 seconds? That’s not nearly enough time for the positive feelings to move from one person to another. That takes a minimum of seven seconds. Longer is better. So hug. Hug often. Hug longer.

Be Grateful

I’m an early riser. Up before 4:30am and waiting to greet the Mr. Sun. I’m grateful for every new day I’m given. I’m grateful for my first cup of coffee. I’m grateful to have a hot shower to enjoy. I think about all the things I’m grateful for like health, my fiancé, my family.

Enjoy the moment

Too many people are always pining for the weekend, a special holiday, their next vacation. Don’t wish away the present for some future point in time. Enjoy the moment you’re in. Live in the present.

And when you’re with someone, put your smartphone on silent or turn it off all together.

Focus on Your Strengths

Professional people often have a mental coach. These coaches help their clients to focus on their strengths. We all have things we’re good at. Write down yours. Then focus on them.

Develop a Winning Attitude

Life is not about what happens to you but how you deal with what happens to you. About ten percent of your happiness in life is because something external happened. That leaves a whopping ninety percent that doesn’t fall into this category. The choice you have is how you choose to deal with that ninety percent. Pick the positive. It really is a choice you can make.

Act Happy

I remember Zig Ziglar saying that his children’s friends enjoyed calling the Ziglar household to hear Zig answer the phone. When the phone rang, Zig would pick up the handset and say “It’s a GREAT DAY at the Ziglar’s.” To which he’d hear little voices giggling on the other end.

A person in a seminar asked Zig if he was always in a positive mood and he said “No.” But I’ve learned that the way to get into a positive mood is to act happy and by doing that I soon would be.

Think about the people you enjoy being around. They’re happy, positive people I bet.

Be one of those people.

Yoda Got it Right

In the movie Star Wars Yoda said “Do or do not, there is no try.” Most of us say we’re going to try to do this or that, like lose weight, start a fitness program, learn another language, make more sales etc.

Take a tip from Yoda. Lose the “try.” Just do it.

Your Greatest Challenge

Your greatest challenge in life is finding out who you are.

The second greatest challenge is being happy with what you find.

Being happy is of the utmost importance.

Success in anything is through happiness.

-Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

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The End of Mass Media

84Jack Nicholson famously said in the movie A Few Good Men “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”

I think he was right.

We can’t.

We say we can. We want to believe we can. But the reality is the truth is scary.

The Future of Mass Media

The reality is the future of our business – mass media – is that it won’t be all that “mass” anymore.

The future will be a media that is built around relevance and quality of message, not volume.

And that’s scary.

Not to just us broadcasters but to the ratings service known as Nielsen. We aren’t going to need to know the volume (aka cume) or AQH (average quarter hour) numbers in the future. The real value that we will deliver will be based on how relevant we are to our listeners and what value we deliver.

The King is Dead

Remember when the catch phrase of the day was “Content is King”?  Bill Gates famously said that.

There were others that felt that distribution was king.

Turns out the “king” is dead for both of these theories and the new king is relationships. And relationships are based on mutual interests and relevancy.

Facebook

What’s the power of Facebook?  Relationships.

Oh sure it uses complex algorithms to manage our relationships, but we are not smitten with algorithms we are drawn to relationships and we friend or unfriend based on the relevance of those relationships too.

Google gets it too.

Each of us is an individual and these social media companies go to great lengths to treat us in just that way.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Commercial radio broadcasting still strives to deliver the “one size fits all” solution. Those days are over.

Radio needs to build, as Seth Godin might say, tribes. People who believe what we believe.

Simon Sinek says that people aren’t attracted to what you do but why you do it.

What’s your WHY?

If there are enough people in your coverage area that will make you a meaningful size tribe of listeners, then do it. If not, find something else that is meaningful.

But trying to be all things to all people – the concept of “mass media” – those days are over.

Advertising

The 800 pound elephant in the room is how to pay for it. Ad supported media is being challenged by the internet in ways that Netflix, Amazon, Google and others that grew up on a different metric are not.

Today supply far outweighs demand in the advertising world.

Even those special live television events that were growing in audience every year are now seeing they’ve peaked. Nothing goes up forever.

The future is creating something relevant to the people you develop a relationship with. The value will be in how strong those relationships are not necessarily how big, in terms of numbers of people, they are.

The future for all media I suspect will start to look more like that of public radio or Christian radio. Each of these mediums has established strong relationships with their listener. They also don’t abuse those relationships with underwriting announcements that either doesn’t fit their audience or by unbalancing the content to underwriting ratio.

Commercial broadcasters seem to take the view that adding one more spot to the hour; the cluster etc won’t affect their audience. They would be wrong. It does.

Keeping things in balance and running seamlessly will be critical to broadcasters whether they’re being consumed over-the-air on AM or FM, or over the internet.

Sales people in this new world will be business evangelists that seek out business owners with innovative ideas and solutions to their problems. Businesses owners who benefit from these relationships with media sales folks will in turn reward the media enterprise with their support.

What’s your WHY?

But it all starts by first defining, as Simon Sinek says, your WHY.

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy WHY you do it.”

Answer that question, and you will have taken the first step.

 

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Relevancy – Part Two

83Last week I wrote about “relevancy.”

For any business, but especially the radio industry, making sure every element that goes on-the-air is relevant for the listener your station targets is critical.

Unfortunately, the way things get on the air these days makes it nearly impossible for any program director overseeing multiple properties at the same time to be so diligent. Worse, the commercials often come to each hour from a variety of sources (network, syndication, barter, distressed insertion, ca$h, etc). Sometimes different entities sell the same customer and the very same ad might air more than once in a single break.

TV also has this problem, and as Bernie Sanders might say, it’s YUGE!

Make it about the listener

Simon Sinek tells the story of a homeless lady.

Like many homeless people she sits on a street corner looking for money and holds a sign.

Simon says that most signs all say basically the same things:

  • I’m homeless
  • I’m hungry
  • I’m a veteran
  • I’m a God-fearing person

What does each of these types of signs have in common?

They are all saying versions of me, me, me, me.

It’s not about you

Using the approach above in signage a homeless person might expect to earn up to $30 a day.

Could they do better than that with a different sign?

A marketing person wanted to test this theory and asked a homeless person if they could change the words on their sign. The person agreed to give it a go.

A day’s pay in just two hours

Using the new sign, the homeless person made $40 in just two hours.

In the same 8-hour day that brought in $30 total – if they were lucky – using this new sign they were on pace to earn $160 in that same 8-hours.

The words you use make all the difference

So by now I’m sure you’re dying to know what the new sign said that produced such amazing results.

It said this: “If you only give once a month, please think of me next time.”

Why was this sign so effective in increasing donations?

The change was in making the donation not about the receiver but about the giver.

Leaders Eat Last

In his book, “Leaders Eat Last” Simon Sinek explains why leaders make it all about their people and not about them.

Successful radio stations do the same thing.

If you are constantly telling people why your station is so wonderful, you’re like the homeless person I started off talking about. You’re talking about you.

But when you make your listeners feel wonderful, when you make it about them, it’s you that will reap the rewards.

Is this relevant to you?

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Relevancy

82I am a trombone player. Or maybe I should say “was” as it’s been quite a few years since I picked up the horn. Growing up, I knew that was the instrument I wanted to play. Out of all the instruments in the band, trombone was the one that caught my attention and was relevant to me.

76 Trombones

Meredith Wilson’s Broadway smash “The Music Man” is one of my all time favorite musicals. Can you guess why?

In that production, Robert Preston knows to be successful in selling band instruments “you gotta know the territory.” In fact, all of the carpetbaggers knew this. In “The Music Man” the song “Rock Island Line” establishes the rules of selling on the road. In other words, you had to know how to make what you were selling relevant.

And then I heard someone say RADIO

Alan Mason is a programmer that I’ve known for years. I subscribe to his weekly “Mason Minutes” and was thrilled to see Alan promoted to President of K-Love and Air1 as this New Year began. Alan actually assumed his presidency before Trump did.

Alan’s minute recently told the story of celebrating his birthday in a crowded restaurant. You know the scene, you hear lots of conversations but you’re not really paying attention. When Alan said he heard someone say “RADIO” and he heard that clearly.

“It’s funny how our minds are attuned to filter out almost everything except what’s relevant to us. We can be in a crowded ballroom buzzing with people and still hear our own name. It gets our attention and pulls us in,” Alan wrote.

Frost Advisory

I also subscribe to John Frost’s weekly “Frost Advisory” and John must have been as taken by what Alan wrote as I because he made it the subject of his programming memo this past week. John wrote about his friend Eddie who needed to get a passport photo. He went online and found a place all the way across town. It wasn’t until he was on his way home he noticed a camera store near where he lived that took passport photos. He never noticed, because getting a passport photo had no relevance to Eddie, until it did.

Radio Ads

And that’s the way it is with radio ads. The listener never hears them until something that’s relevant to them speaks to them.

Sadly, radio programmers no longer have a say in what commercials air on their radio stations.

I was a general manager before becoming a broadcast professor and even I had lost control of what ads would be placed on my radio stations by (at that time) Google.

Google did a deal with Clear Channel and would insert ads they had sold on all of the stations in my cluster between 2am and 3am in the morning. I wouldn’t even know what they had sold until I heard it on-the-air driving into the station.

I heard ads for restaurants advertising their lunch special for that day and the restaurant was over three hours away from my coverage area. I heard ads out-of-phase air on my AM station in the cluster that were 30-seconds of dead-air. (Out of phase ads means the left and right channels of audio cancel each other out on an AM mono signal.)

Bonneville Beautiful Music

When I moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1984, WFPG-FM was a Bonneville Beautiful Music station. Bonneville had strict guidelines about what content could be added to their music presentation and that included commercials.

Atlantic City’s biggest car dealer did the loudest screaming radio ads you’ve ever heard. We dearly wanted their business but not those screaming ads.

It took lots of meetings but we finally convinced the owner not to “wear a t-shirt to our black tie” radio station over-the-air presentation. We would be the only radio station in Atlantic City to have specially created ads that would perfectly fit the musical content of our format.

I don’t hear that happening on any radio station today.

Relevancy

Today, money talks and nobody walks.

Radio stations appear to take every ad that comes through the door.

When you consider the volume of ads airing on stations these days, one or two ads in that cluster than aren’t relevant might lose the listener’s ear or worse, cause the station to be changed.

WAVV in Naples, Florida is a station that marches to a different drummer. It plays music the owner enjoys and the sound is so unique it can’t be heard anywhere else. It’s why the station doesn’t stream. You have to listen to it over-the-air on your FM radio. But what makes WAVV golden in my book is that the commercial breaks are just as carefully watched over as the music. The ads are about things that listeners attracted by the music will also enjoy. Be it theater, dining, travel, clothing etc.; it’s all relevant.

John Frost ends his article by writing “We throw a bunch of stuff at the wall without using the precise filter of relevance. Start with the listener and work back. What does she care about RIGHT NOW?”

Unless the program director is given the authority to approve every element that goes on the air and insure that each goes through the relevancy test, your product is compromised.

Is what I wrote relevant to your radio station?

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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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