Category Archives: Radio

It’s Wine Time

Wine GlassesThe headline read, “The Price of Wine is Dropping Fast.” Being a wine drinker, I wondered what was the reason for this downward price spiral and it turns out that it’s due to a surplus of California grapes. (Note: this story broke before the COVID-19 Pandemic. I’ll have an update on how that’s impacting wine sales at the end of this article.)

In this case, the law of supply and demand says when an oversupply of grapes exceeds demand., prices will fall.

From the moment they plant a new vineyard, vintners tell us it takes up to five years to bring wine to market. Only five years ago, demand greatly exceeded supply, causing vintners to begin planting a plethora of new fields. It seemed like a sure bet, because this growth in demand had been steady for the past two decades, until it vanished. The sudden slowdown caught the wine industry by complete surprise.

Supply & Demand

Any business that wants to see the price for its goods or services go up, knows that it benefits when demand exceeds supply.

For vintners, the first part of their problem was growing too many grapes, but the second part was seeing the consumption of wine drop for the first time in twenty-five years delivering a one-two punch to the wine grower’s gut.

Boomers

The generation that was fueling the growth in wine consumption were the Baby Boomers. And let’s face it, we Boomers aren’t going to live forever.

The problem the wine makers are having is best demonstrated by looking at two couples dining out. One couple is in their twenties and the other is in their sixties. If you were to ask a server to bet on which couple would be ordering wine, twenty years ago, they would have chosen the twenties couple, but today, they would bet on the older one.

Silicon Valley Bank’s wine division says it’s due to a failure of the wine industry to capture the attention of the millennials.

Does This Problem Sound Like Radio’s?

It’s no secret that the radio industry has been focused on increasing the number of signals it can put on the air in America. The FCC reports that as of December 31, 2019 there are 21,255 AM, FM, FM Educational, FM Translators & Boosters and Low Power FM radio signals on the air. Ten years earlier that number was 16,649, and twenty-five years earlier (the same amount of time that wine began its 25-year growth cycle) there were only 2,281 radio signals beating America’s airwaves.

So, like the growth in the number of grapes produced over the past twenty-five years, the number of radio signals grew almost ten times over that same period of time. Also, like wine, radio was dependent on Boomers to make their numbers. Younger generations are moving away from beer and wine for beverages, and away from broadcast radio for their audio consumption. Radio people and vintners have good reason to both want to drown their sorrows.

Former WLW programmer and air personality, Darryl Parks, tweeted the situation out this way:

More stations mean more avails to sell, which in turn means lower rates. Never understood how those running the big box broadcasters don’t understand the simple law of supply & demand. There’s no other way for this to turn out. Death by a thousand cuts.

Universal Laws

I believe that some laws are universal, in that they transcend all areas of life.

In the area of my college major, physics, Newton’s 2nd Law says, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Zig Ziglar, the great salesman and motivationalist, put it this way, “you can get anything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” And the Bible says, “as you sow, so shall you reap.”

Botanists know that pruning plants causes new growth. Forest fires, while appearing destructive on the surface, actually are part of the natural cycle of woods’ growth and replenishment, clearing dead trees, leaves, and competing vegetation from the forest floor, so that new plants can grow.

For the radio industry to grow and prosper, it needs to stop choking off its own growth and prosperity by thinking more and more radio signals will be to its benefit.

To serve their communities of license, it’s time for less radio signals, that do more for the communities they are licensed to serve, while being economically viable.

Why not pour yourself a glass of wine and start working on meaningful solutions that don’t try to counter life’s universal laws.

COVID-19 UPDATE

Quarantinis are driving a spike in alcohol sales

US sales of beer, canned cocktails, wine and spirits have surged in recent days as people stocked up on drinks to see them through quarantine and pub closures. Experts predict the increase will be short-lived as many households will prioritize more pressing expenses if emergency measures remain in place. Some experts have raised concerns about the risks of increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic — a fear that has driven officials in several countries to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages entirely.

 

 

 

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And the People Stayed Home

1919 Pandemic Photo

Spanish Flu 1918 photo

There’s a wonderful poem that’s been circulating on social media during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It’s often prefaced with these words:

History repeats itself. I came across this poem written in 1869, reprinted during the 1919 Pandemic.

This is Timeless…. It was written in 1869 by Kathleen O’Mara.

 

There’s only one problem, it’s not true.

The author of the poem is Kitty O’Meara. After Deepak Chopra shared it, the untitled poem went globally viral and made her the poet laureate of the current pandemic.

Kitty lives in Madison, Wisconsin, she’s retired, lives with her husband Phillip and they have five rescue dogs.

You can read the whole story in Oprah Magazine HERE

And Now You Know, The Rest of the Story

So, take a moment and enjoy this wonderful message, perfect for these times.

And people stayed at HOME

And read books, and listened, and rested,

and exercised, and made art, and played games

And learned new ways of being, and were still,

And listened more deeply,

Some meditated, some prayed, some

danced, some met their shadows.

And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of

people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless

and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people

joined together again, they grieved their losses,

and made new choices, and dreamed new

images, and created new ways to live and heal

the earth fully, as they had been HEALED.

-Kitty O’Meara

 

Kitty adds that we all have gifts. It’s a good reminder that whatever your gifts are, and however small they may be to keep using them. This is a really good time for that.

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible;

and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

-Saint Francis of Assisi

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Our New Normal

Normal?We are living in a surreal time. The birds are singing, the trees and flowers are blooming and yet, life is anything but what we used to call normal.

Huge changes are in the wind, in ways that we hadn’t predicted as 2019 was coming to an end.

If You Had More Time, You Would…

Funny how we fool ourselves about the reasons we haven’t gotten around to doing some tasks.

Example: A person on Facebook wrote, “After years of wanting to thoroughly clean my house, but lacking the time, this week I learned that wasn’t the reason.”

I’m sure similar thoughts are conjured up in your mind.

Normal Routines

I’m retired but I still had a daily routine. I got up every weekday with my wife, had breakfast, saw her off to work and then poured myself another cup of coffee while watching a morning television news program.

Then I’d start my day.

The media I used consisted of streaming TV and streaming audio. Over-the-air radio was something I played in the car when I went shopping for food or supplies.

Then COVID-19 invaded everyone’s normal life.

Disrupted Routines

With my wife now out of work, we didn’t have a need to rise with an alarm. Watching the morning news with that second cup of coffee was now a memory. Going out for the daily food and supplies is now something done much less frequently. Streaming movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hoopla and YouTube now make up more of our day, as has Face-Timing with our kids and grandkids, as they too are all home now.

I can only imagine, how even more disrupted the lives of parents are, they now find themselves trying to work from home, plus home school their children.

New Normal

On average it takes a person over two months to form a new habit, 66-days to be exact. That’s the length of time, most of us, will be staying-at-home. What will we be like after that time?

Will we immediately make plans to dine out, go to shows, be in large crowds or will we cautiously proceed?

Will we maintain some of those new habits, never to fully return to the way things used to be?

Will we begin to maintain a basic stockpile of necessities, like toilet tissue, to be sure we never find ourselves looking at bare store shelves when we’ve run out?

Will we find that saving more money in our bank accounts is prudent for times when we may find ourselves out-of-work again?

Will the new media choices we’ve found during our time of forced hibernation become the ones we now depend on in our daily lives?

How Has Your Life Been Changed by COVID-19?

In the comments section of today’s blog, I hope you will share your COVID-19 stories about how your lives have been changed by this virus. How you are adapting and how you are surviving. Maybe there’s something you’re doing we might all enjoy doing as well.

We’re all in this together.

Stay safe, stay home.

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Look for the Helpers

 

Look For The Helpers“These are the times that try men’s souls,” wrote Thomas Paine on December 23, 1776. What Paine was writing about in his essay “The Crisis” was about how Americans were being tested in their ability to stand up for their country and their newly won freedom.

Paine went on to say, “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

Courage

I remember when Dan Rather anchored the CBS Evening News, as that network was going through tough times, and he changed his nightly sign-off to one word, “Courage.” That’s what we all need right now, courage.

Dan recently wrote,

“When we emerge from this, we must remember what society needs in order to function more equitably and justly. At the same time, please let us protect the embers of light that makes life livable.

We are left with a lot of time to sit and think. That is the nature of this particular crisis. The news is grim, and will likely get grimmer. But there is still joy and hope. There can be. There must be.”

Some Helpers

Fred Rogers was born the day I was writing today’s blog, March 20, 1928. Mr. Rogers was always quick to share with us what his mother told him in times of trouble, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

This week, some helpers appeared, to give those of us in media and advertising some new ideas and encouraging thoughts on how we can help our clients (and ourselves) through the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Gordon Borrell & Borrell Associates

The first helpers of the week were Dave Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia; Matt Coen, president of Second Street Media; Matt Sunshine, Managing Partner at The Center for Sales Strategy; Jim Brown, EVP of Sales for Borrell Associates; Corey Elliott, EVP of Local Market Intelligence for Borrell; and Gordon Borrell, CEO. They presented a free webinar titled, “Crisis Marketing for Local Media.” Here’s a link to the recording: https://wordpress.borrellassociates.com/crisis-marketing/

Not only did Gordon and his associates give actionable ideas for helping local agencies and media companies on how to serve local businesses during this global pandemic, but even the format of the presentation itself was an excellent blueprint of what every media organization should be doing on the local level, right now.

I highly recommend viewing this webinar and using Gordon’s slides in your own presentation for your marketplace.

You’ll learn how to help your clients who are struggling with declining sales and customer distractions. You’ll learn what businesses might actually thrive with the right marketing, and how you can help them establish their local voice as community leaders.

When the recovery begins, you’ll know what those who are suffering will need most from you.

Edison Research

The next helpers were Tom Webster and John Rosso. Tom Webster (Senior Vice President, Edison Research) and John Rosso (President, Market Development of Triton Digital) delivered the latest data in their annual “The Infinite Dial” webinar.

With most people sheltering in their homes, and with one third of American households without a single OTA radio receiver, the presentation provided real insights into why radio stations need to be paying close attention to their streams. In most America homes today, the smart speaker is the radio, and Amazon’s Echo, dominates. You can view the presentation deck here: https://www.edisonresearch.com/the-infinite-dial-2020/

The Research Director

The third helper of the week was Charlie Sislen, partner in The Research Director, Inc. I’ve known Charlie since his days at Eastman Radio in New York City and have always found him a go-to person when you need help.

Charlie presented a short, to the point, webinar on “Advertising in Uncertain Times.” During that webinar he gave a link to a webpage you will want to bookmark on your browser: https://researchdirectorinc.com/hot-topics/

In addition to the material Charlie covered in his webinar, you’ll find constantly updated information, ideas and facts in his “Radio Survival Kit.”

Charlie writes:

“These are uncertain times. Nearly every aspect of our lives are changing due to the spread of COVID-19. Research Director, Inc. strives to help our clients and the radio industry at large, weather this storm by gathering the strongest and most informative data and opinions available.

 

It may be an understatement to say that we are living in unusual times. Every American’s life has been disrupted and there is a real concern for what will happen next.

 

While it may seem minor compared to other events that are pressing right now, this is a time when radio, especially local radio, excels. It is important for everyone to realize that this is not business as usual, and our industry’s ability to adapt is the secret of our long-term success.”

Focus on the Future

It always seems, in times like these, that things will never get back to normal. But they always do.

Be optimistic, you really don’t need to fill your basement up with toilet tissue. The stores will soon be fully stocked once again and offering you coupons to buy it.

We’re in this together.

Let’s “be the helper” and help one another to get through this.

BONUS HELPER

This Monday morning (3/23/2020) I opened my email to find this email from The Wizard Academy. I wanted to share it with you. I hope you will share it with others.

Wizard Academy Update:

Advertising in a time of crises.

We just sat down with Roy and filmed a quick video of some very encouraging wisdom and insight for small business owners and advertisers during this extremely difficult time we are all facing.

This is our small way of giving hope to small businesses that you don’t need to simply give up and fade away, but can actually succeed and grow in this season.

-below is the direct link to the video:
https://youtu.be/kHaM_7l5-Gw

 

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The Day the World Shut Down

Disney World ClosedSwitching from a ten-year run as an air personality and operations manager, America was headed towards a brief recession, when I began in radio sales in 1979.

During that year, inflation had climbed to an unbelievable 11.3%, but 1980 saw it continue to grow to 13.5%. The prime interest rate, considered an important economic measure, climbed to 21.5% in June 1982.

They say timing is everything, and beginning a radio sales career during these challenging times turned out to be a blessing. Orders were not flying in over the transom. but if you wanted advertising business, you had to do your homework, develop creative advertising programs for your clients and burn lots of shoe leather to get the orders.

The Great Recession of 2008

I wasn’t afraid of facing the Great Recession of 2008, as I had learned that during difficult economic times, radio was the effective and very affordable means of advertising that got solid results for local businesses. Plus, during the economic downturn in 1989-90, my radio station cluster in Atlantic City turned in its first million dollar bottom line performance.

While the business environment was very challenging, and not all segments of society were doing well, there were people who were still employed, making money and wanted to increase their possessions, go places and try to live a normal life and radio was what reached them most effectively and efficiently.

COVID-19 Pandemic

Fast forward to 2020 and the global pandemic.

Maybe the closest comparison to what’s happening right now is the planet’s two World Wars.

Not in my lifetime, can I ever remember a time when just about everything was closing down, postponing or cancelling their events all across the globe.

The list continues to grow and the depth and breadth of it boggles the mind.

We are truly in uncharted waters.

Social Distancing

The new buzzwords are “social distancing.” Church services, if they are even allowed to be held, are telling parishioners not to shake hands but rather to nod their heads or make the peace sign during the service and avoid all human contact.

Everyone now is being told to stay home and avoid all contact with other people.

Every time I open my computer inbox, another company is sending me an email detailing how they’re dealing with the pandemic and advising me to stay home.

My city in Virginia added a new page on COVID-19 to their website and sends out emails and text messages updating the situation in both our city and state.

This new form of communication from local schools, governments and businesses, eclipses broadcast media for staying abreast of the situation on a moment by moment basis.

Economic Impact

While economists were already predicting a recession in our future the percentages of that occurring this year were relatively low, until COVID-19. Bloomberg now says with the bear market’s arrival last week, the chances of a recession in America this year have increased to 80%.

When the weatherman says there’s an 80% chance of rain, I grab my umbrella when I leave the house, so I take this change in the economic forecast very seriously.

Bloomberg says only twice has the stock market plunged 20% and not had a recession follow.

Truly, the United States is facing a potential “Black Swan Event.” Black Swan Events are occurrences that are extremely rare and unpredictable which spawn potentially severe consequences. Is radio ready for a “Black Swan Event”?

Fasten Your Seatbelts – Turbulence Ahead

People who are sequestered in their homes, will most likely be consuming media that they stream.

Most radio listening these days occurs in the automobile, but if people are staying home, they are not in their cars and listening to their car radio, and one third of American homes no longer have a single radio receiver in them.

I expect we will see an increase in people binge watching programs on their streaming video services, as well as buying groceries and other items they need online, to be delivered to their home.

To create a new habit, it takes three weeks to become routine, and the lockdown currently underway appears it will last from three to five weeks. Is that enough time for a major change in media habits to occur?

After the Crisis Ends

In terms of deaths and economic impact, the COVID-19 Pandemic has been described as a “major crisis” and could be on scale with that of a world war.

When it ends, will we see pent-up demand for goods, services and experiences, like occurred after WWII ended? Or will we see people reassessing their lives and what’s really important to them, moving people away from a consumer driven society to a more planet/people sustaining one?

What will radio’s role be then?

It’s not too early to begin forming a strategy to deal with the aftermath of COVID-19.

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Where Have All the Baby Boomers Gone?

Baby BoomerBill Thomas, a media and branding idea expert and broadcast & radio veteran (@BillThomas), shared a link on Twitter to an Ad Week article about three brands that bought ads in Super Bowl 54, targeting the 50+ demo. It’s not surprising, as the author of the article points out, that this is the age group that is most active and ready to spend online. Any guess on what the three brands are, that were targeting this Baby Boomer age group? Do you think it was iHeartMedia, Cumulus, and Entercom? Stay tuned.

Citizen Insight Academy

The City of Winchester holds a Citizen Insight Academy annually, and I signed my wife Sue and I up for the 2020 edition. We’re only nine weeks into this 16-week program and Citizen Insight Academyit’s been illuminating learning about our city and the way it operates. The other evening, we had a session with the city’s Emergency Management and E-911 departments.

You can imagine my reaction when the head of the E-911 department began her talk with “People don’t listen to the radio anymore, but they’re really into social media.” She went on to say how she grew up listening to the radio but how other forms of communication, like social media, have replaced that habit. Much like smartphones have replaced people’s landline telephones.

She told us that most calls into the city’s 911 switchboard come from wireless phones versus landlines. The percentage was something like 75% wireless to 25% landline. I myself have been a cellphone only household for over a decade, and our class of 35 had only about four people who still have a landline.

Traditional Radio Stations Have Lost Faith of Listeners

If I thought our city’s 911 Director was tough on radio, the BBC’s head of radio and education, recently said “Radio as we’ve always known it, has lost the faith of listeners.” He explained that “where once it was everything, now it is not. In fact, for many listeners, it is no longer their default.”

BBC Chief

BBC Radio Chief, James Purnell

In 1920, when commercial radio service began in America, you were lucky if you had a single choice for wireless communication. In many localities, you might have only had radio service after sunset via the AM skywave phenomena.

As more radio stations came on the air, Americans began to develop a radio habit. Radio listening was something we did while working, riding in the car or while we were at play. It provided the audio accompaniment to our lives. But everything’s changed. Now radio stations need to create an experience that earns a place in someone’s day.

NuVoodoo on Media Addictions

I wasn’t surprised to see NuVoodoo releasing some data from their latest research that shows all age groups today are addicted to their Smartphones. But what caught my eye was how Millennials, Gen X and Gen Z groups were more addicted to a favorite FM or AM radio station than Baby Boomers.

NuVoodoo Addiction to Media 2020

Which got me to thinking, why were the very people who grew up with radio and few other choices, be the age group least engaged with the medium today?

Boomers Know Great Radio When They Hear It

Real Don Stelle

The Real Don Steele

Baby Boomers grew up during a time when great radio personalities dominated the airwaves. Broadcasters like Harry Harrison, Robert W. Morgan, Larry Lujack, Dan Ingram, The Real Don Steele, Ron Lundy and so many more filled our lives with information, entertainment, community and companionship. It was a time when radio stations had local news teams, great promotions, exciting radio jingles, stationality and air personalities. Personalities, so important in our lives that we wanted to meet them more than the recording artists that created the music they played.

Radio for Baby Boomers isn’t like that anymore, so they’re moving on.

The boomer generation now embraces smartphones, smart speakers and social media with a vengeance, taking all their dollars to spend right along with them. Baby Boomers hold around 70% of the disposable income in the United States and they make up 50% of sales for all consumer package goods.

The Big Three

So, who were the media companies that want to gain a larger share of the 50+ demo? The ones that know that Baby Boomers are the most active and ready to spend their dollars online?

Google, Amazon and Facebook, that’s who.Facebook Amazon Google Logos

Facebook advertised during a Super Bowl television broadcast for the very first time in 2020. They hired as pitchmen, Chris Rock (54) and Sylvester Stallone (73). Both men are iconic celebrities and are part of this powerful consumer demographic, the 50+ audience.

Meanwhile, radio continues to jettison the very people that connects them with their local audience, the radio personality.

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Streaming & Podcasting

computers streaming & podcastingI’ve been thinking about these two forms of audio for some time now. With each new article published about streaming, we see how more and more people are listening to music in this way. The smart speaker has certainly contributed to the growth of music listening via streams, and the smart speaker growth is exploding.

I know with my own experience by getting my first smart speaker as a gift, to now owning three of them, how it’s totally changed how I listen to music.

And then there’s podcasting, a way for the spoken word to be communicated.

Radio versus Streaming & Podcasting

Radio for most of my life was a way to hear both music and the spoken word. It was curated and delivered in fresh and exciting ways by a variety of radio stations across the country.

Unfortunately, radio delivered programming on its timetable, not the listeners.

As VCRs came into the television world, I remember hearing, why isn’t there a device like that for radio? There actually was, I owned one, but it never really caught on like the video devices did.

The VCRs and DVRs changed how people consumed their television programs, and essentially did away with the concept of “Must See TV” turning it into “must record TV.”

Netflix

Then along comes Netflix, and the concept of On Demand TV viewing was born.

One might argue that Blockbuster started it with video rentals, but it still really didn’t impact American viewing habits like streaming video did.

Again, Netflix disrupted people’s viewing habits when it would release an entire season of a TV series all at once. Gone was the need to come back week-after-week to see a program. Now, a new type of TV consumption was created, the binge-watch.

Broadcast versus Streaming

What’s really changed in our consumption of TV and radio is our ability to control what we see and hear, and when we want to see and hear it. In other words, On Demand is the media consumption process of the 21st Century.

I stream 100% of my television viewing. I can watch a program live, or start the show from the beginning if I arrive late, or just view it whenever I want, at another time through On Demand viewing.

Streaming TV has trained us, and now the smart speaker is taking our new media consumption habit and making audio listening just as easy to consume in this manner.

Alexa is ready, willing and able to play any genre of music that I want to hear, on a moment’s notice. She has more song selections than my own personal CD library and it’s so much easier to ask Alexa to play a song for me than try and find the CD that a song is on, and then load it into my CD player.

Podcasts

Complete honesty here, I’m not a fan of podcasts. I don’t know why, I’m just not. The only one I ever listened to in its entirety was the first season of the podcast Serial, and that was mainly due to a long 13-hour car drive, and my ability to download all the episodes onto my iPod to play in my car.

However, I do know that younger folks are really getting into podcasts and this segment will only grow as the spoken word genre finds a way to promote its wares.

The Looming Audio Battle

What I do see on the horizon is radio being drawn and quartered by streaming audio for music, and podcast audio for the spoken word. Both types of audio programming are easily called up via smart speakers and available On Demand.

Curated programming, as has been the staple of broadcast radio, will be challenged to compete.

Professional Radio & Amateur Radio

Radio won’t die, it has a future, but I see it bifurcating in the following ways:

  • There will be professional broadcasters and amateur broadcasters.
  • I see the future of radio looking something like the difference between professional and amateur theater. For example, the difference between Broadway and community theater; where the former are professional paid actors, and the latter is made up of talented volunteer locals with an insatiable love of theater.
  • The advent of low power FM radio stations is the first toe-in-the-water that points in this direction for amateur radio personalities who volunteer their time and energy.
  • Some of these volunteers will come from the ranks of retired or “dislocated” professional radio personalities and some will be members of the community that always thought it would be fun to be on-the-air.
  • What seems to be disappearing are local radio stations in the middle, ones that used to be ad-supported by local businesses, who now find themselves displaced by big box stores and online shopping.
  • The newspaper industry is the canary in the coal shaft for ad-supported media. Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charles Munger points out that, “Technological change is destroying the daily newspapers in America. The revenue goes away and the expenses remain and they’re all dying.” However, Munger does feel that papers like The Wall Street Journal and New York Times will most likely survive.
  • Newspapers have been cutting staff like crazy but it’s done little to turn things around. Radio is following in print industry’s footsteps as “employee dislocations” are occurring at all the major broadcasting companies.

Does any of this make sense to you?

I’d love to hear what your thoughts are.

Please post your thoughts on comments section of this blog article, so that others may read them and hear different opinions.

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Choice Paralysis

57 channelsI sat in on Radio World’s presentation about “Digital Sunrise for AM Radio” hosted by editor-in-chief Paul McLane. The webcast lasted almost two hours and was technically informative.

The question Paul kept asking the presenters about going all digital on AM, was a question he hears numerous people asking him, “has the horse left the barn?” In other words, has the world moved on and does anyone really cares about AM radio anymore.

But that’s not the question that was running through my mind.

Too Many Choices

We live in a world with infinite choices when it comes to audio & video entertainment. Twenty-eight years ago, Bruce Springsteen released his song “57 Channels and Nothing’s On.” The lyrics are very telling of the condition we find ourselves in today.

I bought a bourgeois house in the Hollywood hills
With a truckload of hundred thousand dollar bills
Man came by to hook up my cable TV
We settled in for the night my baby and me
We switched ’round and ’round ’til half-past dawn
There was fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on
Well now home entertainment was my baby’s wish
So I hopped into town for a satellite dish
I tied it to the top of my Japanese car
I came home and I pointed it out into the stars
A message came back from the great beyond
There’s fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on
Well we might’a made some friends with some billionaires
We might’a got all nice and friendly if we’d made it upstairs
All I got was a note that said “bye-bye John
Our love is fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on”
So I bought a .44 magnum it was solid steel cast
And in the blessed name of Elvis well I just let it blast
‘Til my TV lay in pieces there at my feet
And they busted me for disturbing the almighty peace
Judge said “What you got in your defense son?”
“Fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on”
I can see by your eyes friend you’re just about gone
Fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on

It’s not unusual for people to spend an entire evening going through the program guide on Netflix only to finally retire for the evening having not watched a single program. We’ve all done that.

On just Netflix alone it was estimated in 2015 that it would take a person 34,739 hours to watch everything available on the streaming service. I’m sure that number has grown considerably when you consider in 2019 Netflix introduced 371 series and movies to view.

Add to Netflix more television streaming services like Amazon Prime, Hulu, Apple TV+, Disney+, YouTube and it means choice is not the TV viewer’s problem, it’s choice paralysis. (And maybe also how to pay for it all.)

ALL DIGITAL AM

The question running through my mind about investing in building out an all-digital AM radio service in America is, “why?” When I scan the AM band now, I can hear the same talk shows on station after station. The FM band is no different when it comes to everyone doing the same type of programming.

It has me humming Bruce Springsteen’s song in my head, only with a lot more channels of programming attached to the “nothing’s on” part.

Digital AM seems to be the answer to a question, that listeners aren’t asking.

Less is More

Many businesses fall into the trap of thinking that more products equal more sales and radio certainly can be accused of falling into that trap.

HD Radio was designed to offer a higher quality broadcast signal for AM and FM radio stations. FM station owners didn’t really get interested in HD Radio until they learned they could feed FM translators with HD2, HD3 signals and put more FM analog signals on-the-air in their market.

I learned that the all-digital AM service offers the opportunity for an HD2 signal that could feed another FM analog translator.

What Al and Laura Ries tell us from their research is how this strategy of adding more and more choice becomes a trap and can lead to negative consequences in the long term.

Just One Thing

In media sales, we try to have our clients identify what one thing makes them special and unique. What makes their business so different that consumers will want to come to them instead of their competitors. You may know this process as finding a business’s “unique selling proposition.”

One Good Reason

Back in the day, 66-WNBC put up a billboard that gave radio listeners one good reason to turn their radio dial to 660 AM. It simply said “If we weren’t so bad, we wouldn’t be so good.”

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This one simple sentence captured the essence of both Don Imus and Howard Stern. It was this radio station’s one good reason to listen. It was this radio station’s one good reason to advertise on it.

And speaking of one, I was told by the WNBC Sales Manager that it only took one commercial on Howard Stern for an advertiser to see immediate sales results.

That’s the power of a unique brand.

Misplaced Priorities

Radio had a choice to make in the last decade, to either develop unique powerful brands localized to the marketplace the FCC licensed them to serve, or build out more signals with programming that was virtually hard to tell apart from one another. Unfortunately, the radio industry chose the latter and as a result has turned the business into a commodity.

Something for everyone equals nothing for nobody.

Economics defines a commodity as goods or services that have fungibility, or in other words something the marketplace treats as everything being nearly equivalent to each other, with little regard for who produces it.

This is why radio sales people will often hear advertisers says things like “all radio stations sound the same, now let’s talk about your spot price.”

Perception is reality.

Or should I say that the listener and advertiser’s perception is accurate with the reality today being all radio stations do sound the same.

Elections & Radio Listening

I read an article the other day that said what changes the outcome of any election is turnout. That the way someone wins an election is by getting people, who normally sit it out on the couch, engaged and out to the polls. It’s not getting people to switch party affiliations.

I think radio may have a similar problem.

For the radio industry to be growing again, what radio needs to be focused on, and investing in, are its people and programming, not putting more signals on the air with nothing to hear.

 

 

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DJs Get Paid More than Real Musicians

Wolfman JackI was reading an article in Medium about “How Platform Capitalism Devalued the Music Industry,” when I came to this comment from electronic pop artist Grimes – currently dating Elon Musk – “DJs get paid more than real musicians.”

As the blowback continues to reverberate from the recent “employee dislocations” by iHeartMedia, of hundreds of their disc jockeys across America, I wondered who were these highly valued DJs Grimes was talking about.

World’s Highest Paid DJs

Turns out that Forbes published a list in July of what Forbes called “The World’s Highest-Paid DJs of 2019.”

chainsmokers

The #1 highest paid DJs are “Chainsmokers” earning $46 million in pre-tax income over the past year.

Who?

If that was the first thought that flashed across your brain, you’re not alone. The Chainsmokers are made up of Drew Taggart and Alex Pall.

#2 was “Marshmello” at $40 million, #3 was “Calvin Harris” at $38.5 million, #4 was “Steve Akoi” at $30 million and rounding out the top 5 was “Diplo” at $25 million. Forbes actually ranked the top 15 and you can see the whole list HERE.

None of these DJs are on your local radio station. They are all club DJs.

The Chainsmokers signed a three-year exclusive residency deal with Wynn Nightlife in Las Vegas that has the pair performing only in nightclubs at XS and Encore Beach Club in Vegas in 2017. The pair is such a draw, that agreement has been extended until 2021. The group also records EDM albums and released their first single in 2013.

Club DJs

marshmelloChristopher Comstock, aka “Marshmello,” signed with the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas taking up residency at their Kaos Dayclub and Nightclub.

Marshmello entertains from a rotating DJ booth shaped like his signature cylindrical marshmallow mask. If you’d like to see him in action, here’s a link to a YouTube video

This year coming in at #3, “Calvin Harris.” He previously had been the #1 highest paid DJ for six consecutive years.

Absent from the list are over-the-air radio DJs.

Radio’s Highest Paid

It should come as no surprise that Howard Stern reigns in the top spot with an income north of $90 million. But he’s on satellite radio.

The top earner on terrestrial radio is Rush Limbaugh, who recently announced he’s battling advanced lung cancer. Then comes Ryan Seacrest, Sean Hannity and Glen Beck, all syndicated talk radio hosts.radio sign

What’s the attraction of all of these personalities?

Grimes puts it this way, “It’s kind of like Instagram or whatever. [Listeners] don’t want the real world.” Great personalities give us an escape from our world and make us feel like we are a part of their lives.

Great Radio

Radio provides the listener with community and companionship through the stories it tells and music it plays.

Harry Harrison, New York City’s Morning Mayor, recently passed away at age 89. He was a New York City DJ Legend, broadcasting over WMCA, WABC and CBS-FM for the majority of his radio broadcasting career.

Cousin Brucie was invited to share his memories of Harry and why he was so loved by Big Apple radio listeners. Brucie said it was all about making the members of the radio audience feel like family. It’s all about talking to people and being out in the community Cousin Brucie & DTwith them, touching their hands. In fact, the host said, when Brucie showed up at NBC4  to do the segment, people who work at the TV station came to see him and gave Brucie a hug. Something that rarely happens when guests appear on the program.

I know how they feel because, one Saturday night, that’s exactly what I felt like when I had the opportunity to spend a night in “Cousin Brucie’s Place” at SiriusXM.

The Power of the DJ

The common thread, whether we’re talking about a popular club DJ or radio DJ, is their ability to bring people together, engage in the same thing at the same time and make us feel like we are welcome and belong.

Harry Harrison told his listeners that “every brand new day should be unwrapped like a precious gift” and he always wished his listeners the very best, “because that’s exactly what you deserve!” Ron Lundy greeted his listeners with “Hello Luv,” Dan Ingram called his listeners “Kemosabe,” and everyone was a “cousin” with Brucie.

The biggest casino operators know how important the DJ is in bringing people into their dance clubs. A great club DJ can read the room and know exactly the right mix of music to play to get everyone involved and have a good time.

That same magic built great radio on thousands of local radio stations across America. It can’t be replaced by artificial intelligence and algorithms.

Real local radio knows how to read the community and provide exactly what it needs at that moment. All great radio is local and relevant.

DJs become your best friend.

Is there anything better than hanging out with your best friend?

 

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We Are the Choices We Make

WSM(15)From my earliest days, I knew what I wanted to do in life. Drive a car, fly a plane and be a disc jockey.

I know, they don’t seem like big hairy audacious life goals, but to an eight year old, they were.

Disc Jockey

You might be surprised to learn that the goal of becoming a professional disc jockey on an AM radio station came first. I actually had to have my mom drive me to the radio station and pick me up after my shift and I’m sure it was a kick for both of my parents to hear their youngest son on the radio.

My mother was a radio listener. My father never was.

Driver’s License

By the time I got my driver’s license and was graduating from high school, my radio work had earned me enough money to buy my first car and head off to college.

My course of study in college was in physics and education. I was on the path to becoming a teacher. My parents didn’t feel that becoming a full-time disc jockey was a career with any future and wanted me to have a college degree and a career I could fall back on.

While pursuing my undergraduate degree, I worked to get an FCC license for an FM radio station for my college and became the first general manager of WJJW 91.1FM. Between classes I DJ’d on my college radio station, and on weekends, holidays and summers, earned money working in professional radio.

I never had a student loan and between my radio work and playing a trombone in professional marching and concert bands, I not only paid for my college education but saved some money too.

1968 was when minimum wage paid the most money per hour in the history of the minimum wage law in America. You can’t do what I did on minimum wage today.

Airborne

Flying a plane wouldn’t happen until 17-years later. I was promoted to general manager of WIIN-AM/WFPG-FM in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The previous general manager had worked out a trade deal with our local airlines, which also provided our news/talk AM planeradio station with local traffic reports during beach season. When I took over the job, everything was already in place for flying lessons and I took advantage of the arrangement and learned to fly.

Soloing a plane over the South Jersey Shore Beaches in the summer time on the weekends was such a thrill.

Teaching

IMG_3351Whenever people would ask me what I wanted to do next with my life, my answer was always the same, teach. Yes, I wanted to teach at a college or university the very profession that I had spent my entire working life doing, radio.

When Clear Channel was doing major RIFs (Reduction In Force) in 2009, I one day found myself with a surprise visit from my Regional Vice President. For the past year, I had spent being told who I needed to terminate next in my radio stations and I knew this time it was me. It was the worst year in radio I ever had.

The good news was, I saw in Radio Ink that Western Kentucky University was looking for a broadcast professor to teach sales, management, history and other radio/media courses. The position perfectly described my background and because of my two college degrees, both in education, I knew I had found the final path of my professional life.

I moved to Kentucky. Helped Dan Vallie to create the KBA/WKU Radio Talent Institute and over the course of seven years did research on the future of radio, along with creating this very blog, that I’ve been writing weekly for over five years.

Disc Jockey, Second Act

Before retiring from the university, Joe Limardi, then operations manager for WSM 650AM in Nashville, invited me to come to Music City and do a radio shift on The Air IMG_2368Castle of the South. Joe Limardi had been a guest professional broadcaster in my Capstone Class at WKU and it was during his lectures with my students that I learned that Joe had grown up listening to me on the radio back in our hometown of Pittsfield, Massachusetts on WBEC 1420AM. Joe always thought of me as a disc jockey and little did I know I inspired him to pursue a radio career.

IMG_2352I had not been behind the mic on a radio station in 35-years. I had a 10-minute lesson in how to run the control board from Joe and then was off on my own to do the next four hours on The Legend WSM.

Soloing on WSM that day was a thrill, one I had not had since my flight instructor got out of the plane one day and said, “Take it around by yourself.”

But my disc jockey second act didn’t end that day, I continue to do a VT midday shift (EST) on WMEX-LP out of Rochester, NH and heard worldwide on TuneIn Radio.

One thing is clear, we are the choices we make.

Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do it.

 

 

 

 

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