Category Archives: Sales

Can Algorithms Be Fair?

A while back, I wrote a blog article about “The Fairness Doctrine.” After the January 6th siege on Capitol Hill, many people began wondering if this policy, originally enacted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1949, but then eliminated under President Ronald Reagan, should be re-instated.  

To review, this doctrine required the holder of a broadcast license to both present controversial issues of public importance, and to present these issues in a manner that was honest, equitable, fair and balanced.

In other words, broadcasters were supposed to not only uncover what the people in their broadcast service area should be aware of, but also to present both sides of the issue.

The Fairness Doctrine only applied to radio and television licensees and no other form of media. Even if it was still in place today, it wouldn’t have applied to Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram or any other forms of non-broadcast communication. The problem with social media is that what we read, see, and hear is all controlled by algorithms.

The Challenge of Controlling Algorithms

Unlike most innovations that human beings have designed, algorithms are not static and easily defined. You can’t say that one algorithm is good and the other is evil. They are like a living organism, in that they can learn, adapt and change over time.

Cornell University online behavior scholar, J. Nathan Matias, put it this way:

“If you buy a car from Pennsylvania and drive it to Connecticut, you know that it will work the same way in both places. And when someone else takes the driver’s seat, the engine is going to do what it always did.”

With an algorithm, it changes with each human behavior it comes in contact with and that’s what makes trying to regulate it, from a government standpoint, such a challenge.

Broadcast radio and television was an unknown when it appeared, and government was challenged to regulate it. It used as a model, the regulations that had been developed to oversee America’s railroads. In fact, that’s where the concept of requiring radio and TV stations to operate in the “public interest, convenience and/or necessity” comes from. It’s also why no one has ever been exactly sure of what this phrase actually means when it comes to broadcast regulation.  

Closing the Barn Door

The old saying “It’s too late to close the barn door, once the horse is gone,” might be the type of problem facing regulators trying to bring fairness to today’s internet dominated world.

The European Union’s first go at trying to regulate Google Shopping, demonstrated how the slow moving wheels of justice are no match for the high speed technology of today. By the time regulators issued their decision, the technology in question had become irrelevant.

20th Century Solutions Don’t Work on 21st Century Problems

We all learned in school how America’s Justice Department, and in some cases individual states, broke up monopolies in oil and the railroads. Historically, what government was trying to do was breakup price-setting cartels, and lower prices for consumers. But with entities like Facebook and Google, no one pays to use their service; it’s free!

Promising Technology or Dystopian Reality?

When commercial radio was born a hundred years ago, it was greeted with the same exuberance that the internet was and people thought radio would connect people, end wars and bring about world peace.

Then American radio would give a voice to Father Charles Coughlin, a Detroit priest who eventually turned against American democracy itself through his nationwide radio broadcasts, opening the door for the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine coming into regulatory existence.

A Collaborative Solution

Media regulation in the 21st Century with algorithms that act like living organisms maybe should be regulated in the same way we protect our environment.

As an example, how would you go about improving a polluted river?

“To improve the ecology around a river, it isn’t enough to simply regulate companies’ pollution. Nor will it help to just break up the polluting companies. You need to think about how the river is used by citizens—what sort of residential buildings are constructed along the banks, what is transported up and down the river—and the fish that swim in the water. Fishermen, yachtsmen, ecologists, property developers, and area residents all need a say. Apply that metaphor to the online world: Politicians, citizen-scientists, activists, and ordinary people will all have to work together to co-govern a technology whose impact is dependent on everyone’s behavior, and that will be as integral to our lives and our economies as rivers once were to the emergence of early civilizations.”

-Anne Applebaum and Peter Pomerantsev, The Atlantic, “How to Put Out Democracy’s Dumpster Fire

Now you know why bringing back “The Fairness Doctrine” will not work in a communications world controlled by algorithms.

We need to think differently.

Albert Einstein said it best,

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

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Only Change is Here to Stay

Every night, the music of Enya lulls us off to dreamland. One of our favorite songs is “The Humming.” A line from that song is “only change is here to stay.”

I’ve often written in this blog about the only constant in life is change, and that if you’re not changing your life for the better, you’re changing it for the worse, for nothing stays the same. Nothing.

Changes in Communication

Watching the Ken Burns documentary on “Country Music” it was very clear the important role that radio played in spreading the popularity of this musical genre. But that was then, today the smartphone is at the center of everyone’s life.

Smartphones

The latest from Edison Research now says that 88% of Americans over the age of 12 own and use a smartphone; 250 million, to be exact.

The wireless phone companies will tell you that today we use our smartphones primarily for data. Edison Research tells us that 82% of Americans are now active on social media platforms, the top three being Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Smart Speakers

While 32% of homes in the U.S. don’t have a single AM/FM radio in them, 47% now have a smart speaker.

Today, 193 million Americans – or 68%  of adults 12 years of age and older – digitally consume audio using one of these smart devices.

Car Radio

AM/FM radio’s last place of dominance is the vehicle dashboard. WFH (Work From Home) eliminated the need to commute for a lot of people, thereby causing them to spend less time with traditional radio in their cars.

McKinsey Global Institute says at least 20% of people currently in the WFH mode won’t ever be returning to an office after the pandemic ends. Just as alarming for radio station owners is the recent report by Edison Research that shows the percentage of people who listen to audio on their smartphone in their cars is now at 50%.

“We’re recovering to a different economy.”

-Jerome H. Powell, Federal Reserve Chairman

ZOOM

Before COVID-19, we already were doing video conferencing and phone calls on platforms like Go To Meeting, Face Time, WebX, or Skype. But then the world was shut down by a novel coronavirus and it was ZOOM that suddenly became the dominant platform for teaching school, conducting government, running our courts, attending church, working from home, celebrating our weddings and birthdays, and just about everything else we used to do in person.  

ZOOM is the best example of how fast our world changed when COVID-19 struck.

How did ZOOM do it? By investing the time to know what their video conferencing customer wanted, knowing it better than anyone else and then delivering it best when the critical moment – a global pandemic – arrived.

“Spend a lot of time talking to customers face-to-face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers.”

– H. Ross Perot

Your listeners are changing, your advertisers are changing, your world is changing. So, you’d better be listening carefully to understand how you must change to be relevant to their wants, needs and desires.

Because as Enya sings “only change is here to stay.”

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Build Your Rainy Day Fund

The novel coronavirus has eliminated jobs in less time than it takes to read this sentence. Many of those jobs were going away anyway, but COVID-19 sped up their demise.

For real radio people, the phrase “you haven’t really worked in radio until you’ve been fired at least three times,” taught many of us how to deal with a sudden loss of income.

13 Lucky Years

I moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1984 to take over as general manager of WIIN/WFPG radio stations. At the young age of 32, I was promoted to my second general manager job; a job I would perform successfully for 13 years, until one day the stations were taken over by new owners.

Shortly after the closing, I learned that one of the owners would now become the new general manager, eliminating my position.

NJ Transit

I quickly learned that I would receive no severance pay, that my job was ending immediately and that my company car had just turned into a New Jersey Transit Bus if I needed wheels.

My new home with its hefty mortgage was manageable with my former income, but not with an unemployment check.

Job Hunting

While searching for my next radio management position, I traveled to a radio conference in Phoenix, Arizona. There I met another radio general manager who had also recently lost his job through a change in ownership. We were in the same situation, except he wasn’t as stressed out over landing his next position, as I was. Here’s what he shared with me that I never forgot.

Live Below Your Income

He told me as he advanced in the radio business, working in larger markets, and increasing his income, that he and his wife bought bigger houses, better cars and added lots of toys to their lifestyle. Each time when another job would end abruptly, he would become panicked and stressed out about quickly finding his next job. But when he moved to Phoenix, he told his wife that they were going to buy an affordable home and adopt a lifestyle they could manage, even if this job ended tomorrow. This time, they would live below their income and “build a rainy day fund.”

Why Don’t We Save?

Dan Ariely is an Israeli-American professor and author. He serves as a James B. Duke Professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. Recently a reader of his Wall Street Journal column asked “Many people I know have lost their jobs during the pandemic, which made me realize I needed to set up an emergency savings fund. But my job is secure so far, so it hasn’t felt very urgent to put money in the account. What can I do to make sure I contribute to my emergency savings every month?”

Dan told his reader “research shows that we are much more likely to save money for a specific personal goal than simply because it’s the right thing to do. The better way to look at this is to calculate how much you need to pay your mortgage or rent for three months, or to buy food for your family etc. When you think of saving as protecting those you love and meeting particular needs, you are more likely to commit to making regular contributions.”

I did something very similar after landing my next position, with the caveat of making the saving part, automatic. I calculated how much I would need to live and then directed the remainder to be automatically direct deposited into my “rainy day savings account.”

Sleep Like a Baby

One of the worst feelings you can have as a parent is not having the finances to take care of your family.

The change in my spending/savings habits gave me real peace of mind and I have slept like a baby ever since. I never felt like I was making a sacrifice either, as I would learn that life isn’t about acquiring more and more things, the secret to enjoying life is learning to appreciate the things you already have.

“What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

-from Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince

Pick a Profession, Not a Job

Just as important as financial security, is your health and well-being. For that, you need to be employed in something where you can’t wait to get up every morning.

If you want to become really good at something, you’ll need to spend years honing your craft. Malcolm Gladwell says it takes a person 10,000 hours to really master something, so you better love what you’re doing.

Cleveland radio air personality, Michael Stanley, passed away this week. He wrote a goodbye letter to his WNCX listeners that said in part, “it’s been said that if you love your job then it’s not really work and if that’s really true (and I definitely think it is) then I have been happily out of work for over fifty years!”  

I too was fortunate to have found a profession I made into a lifelong career and have enjoyed for over 50 years. Just like it’s important to live below your income level, it’s just as important to spend your days filled with doing things you’re passionate about.

Today, writing this blog and volunteering as a radio personality on a non-profit radio station continues to be my joy and hopefully provides mentorship and entertainment value to others.

Life is not about the destination, for it’s the same for each of us, it’s about the journey.

Enjoy your journey.

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COVID-19, One Year Later

It was just a year ago that I wrote about “The Day the World Shutdown.” So, shall I ask you, “how are you doing?”

For Sue & I, while we were just vaccinated on Friday, the wearing of face masks, hand sanitizing and social distancing is unlikely to change for us for the rest of 2021, if not longer.

Based on my research of pandemics past, I realized very early that this would be about a two year disruption and I suspect that when we say “Happy New Year” and ring in 2022, things will finally be on course for whatever the “new normal” is.

WFH

Working From Home, most often abbreviated as “WFH,” has also changed people’s media habits.

A year ago I wrote that I expected most people would consume their media by streaming it via the internet. The latest research has shown that is exactly what happened. eMarketer data showed that traditional radio broadcasts were eclipsed by digital audio, mid-2020. This week, Edison Research reported, that 30% of all audio listening now occurs on mobile devices; unless you’re between the ages of 13-34, then that number is 46%. Not surprisingly, this age group’s listening to audio on an AM/FM radio receiver is down to only 20%.

Working from home meant that those people who normally listened to AM/FM radio while commuting in their car, were now doing their audio consumption where they live, and 32% of today’s households don’t have a single AM/FM radio in them. However, 44.2% of homes today have a voice activated assistant, like Amazon’s Alexa, to access their favorite audio content.

Audio in Cars

The global pandemic has forced all of us to get used to new ways of doing every little thing, such as shopping online, streaming video entertainment on huge flat screen TVs and asking Alexa for assistance like she had become a member of the family. We’ve become so comfortable with these new Artificial Intelligence (AI) devices that we might start to wonder what life was like before them.

Automobile manufacturers also took notice of this change, like the commercial for a new Buick – or is it an “Alexa on Wheels?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqvEcLWI0ME

I remember when I used to tell advertisers that a car was a “radio on wheels.”

Now I don’t have a new car, but my 2009 Honda Accord has a fabulous sound system that seamlessly connects to my iPhone and streams my audio content in my car. My car radio is locked on “AUX.” (I know I’m not alone.)

The End of Commuting

Bill Gates shocked the world when he predicted in November of last year that 50% of all business travel would never come back and that 30% of the days people spent in an office would likewise disappear forever. McKinsey Global Institute pretty much corroborated Gate’s predictions by adding that 20% of workers would continue to work from home indefinitely.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome H. Powell, puts it this way, “We’re recovering to a different economy.”

Disney Closing Mall Stores

Disney plans to close 20% of its Disney Stores saying that they’ve seen changes in the ways people shop due to COVID-19 and that the future means people will continue to shop online. As a result, Disney plans to focus on e-commerce, its Apps and social media platforms. Disney says the data shows that the global pandemic increased the speed of change from brick-and-mortar to online shopping by half a decade.

Movies & Streaming

Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek went even further in announcing the company’s future, saying that the days of releasing new movies to theaters for several months before bringing them to their streaming platform, are over. For example, when “Raya and the Last Dragon” hits the theaters this month, it will simultaneously be available on Disney+ for subscribers for an additional $30.

Disney+ has exceeded everyone’s expectations, rapidly growing to over 95 million paying subscribers. The biggest surprise to this streamer of family content was that over 50% of those subscribers don’t have children.

Worst Year in Pay-TV History

2020 was a record year for cord-cutting according to analysis of cable TV subscribers by MoffettNathanson. Cable TV lost six million subscribers dropping cable’s household penetration level to a low, not seen in thirty years. Smart TVs are the primary reason people now stream their video content from the internet.

Award Shows Audiences in Decline

Audiences for the Academy Awards, Grammy’s, Golden Globes and Primetime Emmys have all been in a steady decline since 2000. The first of these 2021 award shows, and a harbinger for those to come, the Golden Globes, set a record low for NBC’s telecast of these awards.

Where Have All the Sports Fan Gone?

You might have thought with people stuck at home, that sports would have seen solid television audiences, but that wasn’t the case. 2020 saw a drop in viewership for practically every sport. Compared with 2019, the NBA Finals were down 51%, the NHL Finals were down 61%, the U.S. Open tennis matches were down 45%. Even the Kentucky Derby recorded its lowest TV audience ever, falling 49% from 2019, to just over eight million viewers.

Television’s biggest audience draw for many years has been the NFL and the Super Bowl, but not this year. The big game’s audience was the lowest it has been in fifteen years.

If Misery Loves Company…

Pro Sports, Harley Davidson and broadcast radio/TV are all suffering from a similar problem, they aren’t attracting the next generation. Generation Z Americans, those born after 1996, just aren’t that into sports, Harley’s and traditional media, like previous generations.

That’s probably why, when the NFL started asking for a 100% increase in TV rights payments, Disney (owner of ESPN) immediately rejected it.

However, streamers, like Amazon Prime and AppleTV+ may give the NFL the money they want, but will those high rights fees manifest in higher premiums for subscribers.

For the maker of “The Hog” and traditional broadcast media, the future is as challenging. Harley Davidson is looking to make their motorcycle line all electric, following the lead of the world’s automobile industry, and hoping it will attract new riders to their brand. Radio/TV broadcasters are also trying to capture new audiences with Apps, streaming and podcasts.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

-Wayne Gretzky

Anyone who thinks their business will return to the way it was, once COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror, will be hanging the “Gone Fishing” sign out, be down-for-the-count or just plain out-of-business.

It’s time for all of us to be thinking like Gretzky.

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Remodeling Communications

My church recently sent its Annual Report for 2020 to all its members. It reminded me that it was on March 13, 2020 that in-person worship service was suspended at our church, along with all other activities because of the highly infectious nature of COVID-19.

Pastor Martha Sims wrote, “In its 267-year history, this congregation has had its share of difficult times; fires and conflicts and even some changes that resulted from the virus of 1918.”

The 1918-1920 global pandemic, often referred to as the “Spanish Flu,” caused my church to end the use of a common cup for communion during services and begin using little individual glasses. While communicants had the option to either continue to drink wine from the common cup or use the new individual glasses, the record shows that people quickly adjusted to the new normal and both methods did not have to be offered beyond that first Sunday morning of the change.

Permanent Change

I share this story with you, because setting up those little individual glasses for the communion wine, and then collecting them, washing them and putting them back out again for the second Sunday morning service was something my wife and I participated in as part of our church service. But now I wonder what the future will hold regarding more changes in this and other areas of our church life after what COVID-19 has taught us.

We’ve dined out on only a few occasions, mainly due to traveling, and noticed that restaurants now give patrons a paper menu that is disposed of after orders are taken.

Hand sanitizer is found in every store you go into these days, often with signs asking people to use it upon entering. Might we find these changes remain, post-COVID?

Radio Personalities Broadcasting from Home

Broadcast programming consultant, Gary Berkowitz, hosted his first ZOOM call with radio programmers from throughout the United States and Canada talking about how they’re dealing with the global pandemic in their radio operations. What struck me most was that all of the radio stations had equipped their personalities with high quality microphones, processing, laptops and high-speed internet service to do their shows and/or voice track them from home.

Personalities in places like New York City and Philadelphia were broadcasting from their apartment or basement on some of America’s top radio stations.

One personality said he had to get special permission to go into the radio station to do a special Christmas broadcast, taking calls from youngsters who wanted to talk to Santa, because it wasn’t possible to execute this from his home studio.

A Canadian programmer said his radio group spent about $2,500 per personality to equip them with the best equipment to broadcast from home, and that it has worked out seamlessly with no disruption to any of their radio stations normal programming. Might this become permanent?

Bob Van Dillen

It’s not just radio personalities, but television personalities too. Bob Van Dillen is the meteorologist on HLN’s Morning Express with Robin Meade. Since the pandemic hit, Bob has been doing his weather forecasts from the safety of his home.

I also noticed that some of our local TV anchors and reporters on NBC4 out of Washington, DC are doing this too.

COVID-19 Disruptions

I’ve done a lot of reading about past global pandemics, with the intent of trying to learn how they made permanent changes to the world going forward. What I’ve learned is, there really is nothing to compare with what we’re going through, with those of the past.

The Internet

Probably the biggest reason this time is so different is the existence of the internet. Never before has the world been able to continue operating to such a large extent by being so instantly connected as we are today.

Almost everything we need, can now be obtained via this communications innovation.

Our last medical appointment with our doctor was done over a ZOOM-like connection. Our weekly church service is broadcast live on Facebook and on-demand recordings are available for later viewing on YouTube. Our church has already committed to continuing video church services even when in-person services can once again take place.

In my home, all of our television viewing is via streaming, using AppleTV, FireTV, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu and YouTube.

I access the world of radio, via streaming as well these days by simply asking Alexa for the station or audio content I wish to hear.

Audio Tipping Point Crossed in 2020

While we were all consumed with trying not to contract COVID, the average time spent listening to traditional radio (AM/FM) was surpassed by listening to digital audio.

“ When we change the way we communicate, we change society.”
-Clay Shirky

The Future of Radio is to Meet the Listener Where They Are

Today’s audio consumer is more likely to be accessing audio content via digital streaming than through an AM/FM radio set and they are also more likely to want some visual content along with their audio. It will be critical for broadcasters to be offering programming – both audio & visual – that is engaging and delivers what people want.

Broadcasters will have to take into consideration the environment the media consumer is using their product in, and take full advantage of all the technology advances it offers, be it at home, at work or in the car.

In other words, it’s time for broadcast media to start making plans to remodel the way they communicate with their audience. The first question every broadcaster will need to be asking is:

How relevant are we to our media consumer in this environment?

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Your Cell Phone is a Radio

By definition, radio is, a: the wireless transmission and reception of electric impulses or signals by means of electromagnetic waves. b: the use of these waves for the wireless transmission of electric impulses into which sound is converted, according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary.

Your cell phone sends signals to (and receives them from) nearby cell towers (base stations) using Radio Frequency (RF) waves. This is a form of energy in the electromagnetic spectrum that falls between FM radio waves and microwaves.

My First FCC License

When I studied for and passed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) test to obtain my 3rd Class Radio-Telephone License, I initially wondered why it said “telephone” on it.

Telephones in 1968 were all wired devices, like in my parent’s house in which our family phone was connected by a copper wire and bolted to the kitchen wall.

When I began to study the history of radio, I learned that an early experimenter in radio broadcasting, Kentucky melon farmer Nathan Stubblefield, wanted to be able to talk to his wife while he was driving his automobile while away from their farmhouse. In those early days, no one had a clue what this new technology would become.

Radio’s Metamorphosis

The podcast “Local Marketing Trends” hosted by Corey Elliot and Gordon Borrell, recently featured an interview with the Radio Advertising Bureau’s (RAB) President/CEO Erica Farber in which she said the radio industry’s sales arm was going through a metamorphosis; today the RAB thinks more broadly, to include all things audio.

Gordon asked Erica if she meant podcasting and streaming audio like Spotify and Pandora, to which she said “Yes.” When might this happen, Gordon asked, to which she responded, “maybe today.”

Farber explained how she feels radio is ahead of the curve in not just delivering content, but in delivering services too. Radio is no longer just about selling thirty and sixty second spots but it’s a very different business now, with radio’s core product today being “delivering results.”

Audio Advertising Bureau

Might the Radio Advertising Bureau change its name to become the Audio Advertising Bureau?

I hope not. Here’s why I say that.

Radio suffers from traditional broadcaster thinking that it needs an FCC license, radio tower, antenna and transmitter which sends a signal out over the AM or FM radio bands. But if you ask a young person, what is radio, they will tell you about their favorite stream or podcast which  they listen to through their smartphone.

Radio is not a dated identifier, it’s very much in vogue in the 21st Century, but what imagine comes to mind when one says the word “RADIO” will differ depending upon a person’s age.

1940s Floor Cabinet Radio (what my parents listened to)
1970s Transistor Radio (the radio of my youth)
21st Century Smartphone used as a radio & a whole lot more (the “radio” I use today)

Apple Music Radio

You might have missed Apple’s August 2020 Press Release about how they were changing the name of their radio service from Beats 1 to Apple Music Radio. In spite of trying to invent a new name for their streaming music offerings, their users called it “RADIO.” And now, so does Apple.

Beats 1, has been Apple’s flagship global radio station since its launch in 2015. Five years later, it’s been renamed Apple Music 1. Oliver Schusser, vice president of Apple Music, Beats and International Content, explained

“Apple Music Radio provides an unparalleled global platform for artists across all genres to talk about, create, and share music with their fans, and this is just the beginning. We will continue to invest in live radio and create opportunities for listeners around the world to connect with the music they love.”Beats

Now is NOT the time for AM/FM Radio broadcasters to abandon the sonic brand known as “RADIO.”

Adapt or Die

When people started streaming over the Internet and calling it “radio,” traditional broadcasters looked down their noses in much the same way that print journalists looked down their noses at the new media platforms like Buzzfeed and Vice Media invading their world.

Traditional media survivors will learn to accept and embrace the new platforms that disrupt the world as we knew it and are creating the world that will be.

An inability to adapt to new platforms is what causes both people and industries to fail.

AM, FM, internet streaming, smartphones, connected cars are all platforms. Radio, newspapers, magazines and the like, are all media products. Understanding this dichotomy is critical.

And so, the challenge for radio is not changing its name, but adapting its product to today’s platforms.

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It’s Groundhog Year

Admit it, 2021 doesn’t feel like anything more than “2020, the Sequel.”  

In addition to COVID-19 continuing to mutate and spread around the world, we are getting ready for another Senate Impeachment Trial. We did flip the calendar, didn’t we?

Crossroads

Bruce Mehlman is a Washington, DC attorney who publishes some very insightful PowerPoints. His latest is titled “Crossroads.” I encourage you to take a moment to review the entire slide deck, but if you’re time challenged, here are some key points that Bruce makes. I think you will find these very encouraging.

Reasons for Hope

Bruce found 20 Hopeful Headlines You May Have Missed

Digital Transformation is Accelerating

Mehlman points to nine areas where accelerating digital transformations will improve the world:

  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Government
  • Research
  • Cities & Retail
  • Workplace
  • Wellness & Fitness
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Transportation

The biggest challenge facing us is not COVID-19 or the Economy or even China, but TRUST. When it comes to media, 56% of Americans believe “journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations,” and that should be very concerning for any media professional.

If people don’t trust us for giving them the straight story when it comes to news, what makes you think they will trust our advertisers?

For an ad-supported industry, TRUST is tantamount, which is why last week I wrote about the trust problem with “Subscriber First,” Nielsen Audio’s new policy of only releasing the ratings of subscribing stations to the radio trades. You can’t trust what you see, because you’re not seeing all the stations impacting a radio marketplace. You can read that article by clicking HERE

Recommendations for Leaders at the Crossroads

Mehlman makes five excellent suggestions for the leaders of any business or industry:

  1. Communicate Directly, Truthfully & Often Business is now more trusted than politicians or media outlets thanks to pandemic straight-talk. TRUST begins with telling the truth.
  2. Support Constructive Leaders It’s time to stand up for people who are doing the right thing, stop treating responsible and irresponsible players like they are equals. It’s also important that we engage those we hope to change.
  3. Leverage Your Power Business has become the “4th branch of government” according to Axios. We need to take responsibility and own the impact we’re making on society and not do things we know to be wrong or bad, because we want to put a dollar in our pocket. You have power over what programming you put on your airwaves, and the people you endorse. Set a good example for others by the way you run your business by championing causes that will make a positive difference in your community.
  4. Lead By Example Modern media and politics reward outrage, division and sanctimony rather than pragmatic problem-solving. It’s way past time for change!  The documentary “The Brainwashing of My Dad” shows the power we wield. As media companies we need to demonstrate the value of cooperation with others in creating a better world.
  5. We’re All In This Together Doing your part is no longer enough. Societal and global risks threaten to overwhelm our system, demanding collective action. Sometimes you need to go outside of your lane.

I encourage you to click on this link and see the full PowerPoint slide deck that Bruce Mehlman has thoughtfully prepared. You will find it HERE

“Don’t give them what you think they want.

Give them what they never thought was possible.”

Orson Welles, actor, director, screenwriter & producer

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Subscriber First or Buyer Confusion?

In November of last year, I wrote a blog titled “Why Make Radio Advertising Harder to Buy?” It was inspired by articles in all the radio trades on how Nielsen Audio was no longer going to provide buyers with any data pertaining to non-subscriber radio stations through their ratings service. It would be as if these radio stations had vanished from their markets.

That sounded pretty scary!

Winchester, Virginia Nielsen Audio Ratings

Well this week, the latest Nielsen Audio Ratings for my radio marketplace were released and it was startling.

Was it possible that the only radio stations impacting the Winchester, Virginia radio market were owned my iHeartMedia or was something missing?

Winchester, Virginia Eastlan Radio Ratings

The answer, as I’m sure you guessed, something IS missing, all the non-subscribing radio stations that put a signal into the Winchester metro don’t appear.

Eastlan Ratings has committed to showing ALL radio stations in its radio listening reports.

The first thing you notice is that iHeartMedia doesn’t have the #1 radio station in the Winchester Metro, Centennial Broadcasting’s WINC-FM/WXBN-FM has that position and by almost five share points.

Nielsen vs. Eastlan vs. Arbitron vs. Birch

Over the years, as I studied the different ratings services, it gave me some sense of how they differ.

When I managed WFPG-FM, a Bonneville Beautiful Music formatted radio station in South Jersey, Arbitron’s diary methodology was very good at finding the older adults that enjoyed this music presentation. When Birch decided to measure the market, their telephone methodology found all the young adults that enjoyed album oriented rock. As you might have guessed, I never purchased a Birch Ratings Report.

When Arbitron and Eastlan measured the same radio market, I noticed they were both good at reporting listening to the dominant, high powered radio stations, but what made Eastlan different than Arbitron was finding listeners of small niche radio signals that never made it to the pages of the Arbitron report.

When Nielsen Audio took over Arbitron, this sampling methodology remained unchanged.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

It seems that the song the big radio owners were singing when announcing the change to “Subscriber First” was Don’t Worry, Be Happy. But when I read the trades, I saw radio advertising buyers were anything BUT happy.

Agency buyers said they expected the ratings reports they bought to be an accurate representation of the market, but if reports don’t show the non-subscriber stations, then those ratings become basically useless.

Nielsen Audio has said that agencies can get all the stations IF they pay more for respondent level data (RLD), according to published reports. But will they?

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

-Mike Tyson

Left Hook

With the start of a brand new year, it appears the first punch has been landed. Non-subscribing radio stations have been erased from Nielsen Audio’s Topline Data, the data used by the radio trades like AllAccess Music Group, Inside Radio, RadioInsight, Radio Ink, and Radio Business Reports. For radio lovers, like me, these published reports are totally useless.

Winners & Losers

The reality is that even if everyone pays to have access to the data, only the very top performing radio stations will enjoy the benefits. Often any station not rated number one or number two – will be paying for data that in the end only helps the market’s “big dawgs.” For many stations, it’s paying big money for nothing in return.

Radio Ad Sellers vs. Radio Ad Buyers

Radio ad buyers want to know who’s listening to what, and when, and for how long etc. And early indicators are showing radio buyers, as a group, are none too pleased with this change. Sadly, the people who appear to have never been consulted about this change, were, radio ad buyers.

“How am I doing?”

-Ed Koch, Mayor – New York City 1978-1989

One of the things I told my broadcast sales students was something I learned from Mayor Koch, if you want to know how you’re doing, ask. Mayor Koch was famous for asking people everywhere he went, “How am I doing?” They told him. And he listened. That’s how he was elected to three terms as New York City’s mayor.

Customer Unfriendly

With the country still in the grips of COVID-19, the timing for this change comes at an especially bad moment for the radio industry. Instead of increasing transparency of radio’s impact, it’s making it opaquer.

Might an unintended consequence be for advertisers to try another medium to advertise in that gives them more consumer engagement data?

E-Commerce Usage Explodes

COVID-19 has seen an acceleration of E-Commerce adoption by consumers of all ages. Everything from essential goods to holiday gifts are being bought online, which McKinsey & Company, an American worldwide management consulting firm, says compressed ten years of E-Commerce adoption into three months. Part and parcel with this change is a massive shift in consumer behavior, the type of shift that historically used to take decades to occur. These changes were already in motion before the onset of the global pandemic, but COVID’s impact was like hitting the fast-forward button.

Consumer behavior is moving in the direction of convenience and speed, should radio station operators think it will be any different for the behavior of buyers of advertising? If it gets harder to figure out what a market’s true listening habits are, if it takes more money, more elbow grease to get to the bottom of the audience estimates, do you think they might opt for a new direction?

Ad buyers have never had more choices. Once they invest their ad dollars in a new directions, they may never return.

“There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’:

Illegal drugs and software.”

-Edward Tufte

My good friend and expert radio researcher, Charlie Sislen at The Research Director, poses more questions about the impact this change will make for both subscribers and non-subscribers in his blog and asks: “Is it Nielsen’s primary job to deliver data that properly reflects all radio listening in a local market OR to increase its profits for their parent company and shareholders?”

Read Charlie’s thoughts here: https://researchdirectorinc.com/2021/01/nielsens-war-on-non-subscribers/

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Sunday, January 21, 2021 2:30pm EST Update: Alert readers of the blog have told me that the link I posted no longer works. Apparently, Charlie has removed this article from his blog. Here’s a link to an Inside Radio story about what Charlie wrote (and also includes this same link to Charlie’s now removed blog article). http://www.insideradio.com/free/unintended-consequences-for-radio-subscribers-flagged-in-new-nielsen-policy/article_be6bf0dc-61ff-11eb-8410-3bbaf52569cb.html

I included to a link to what Charlie Sislen had written, because I found his insights to be very informative.

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Marketing In a WE Cycle

Bob Dylan

In 1963, Bob Dylan wrote the song “The Times They Are A-Changin” which would become an anthem for frustrated youth who were anti-establishment and wanted change. This marked the beginning of the upswing of a “Me” cycle. 1963 was the rise of the Baby Boomers, a generation that would grow to seventy-four million teenagers at its peak. A generation raised on radio.

The Rosetta Stone

Before Napoleon Bonaparte discovered the Rosetta Stone in 1799, no one had a clue how to read Egyptian hieroglyphics. But that four foot tall stone had engraved on it the same story in three different languages, two of which scholars knew how to read.

Today, we live in a world where everyone is concerned about the rapid changes being brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic. But our world is changing in ways that go beyond the impact of a novel coronavirus, it’s also a societal time of change in America, change that will continue even after a vaccine has been discovered that will quell this out-of-control virus.

Come gather ’round, people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
And you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

The “We” Zeniths

In 2012, Roy H. Williams and Michael R. Drew came out with a book titled “Pendulum, How Past Generations Shape Our Present and Predict Our Future.

The essence of the Pendulum hypothesis is that society follows a predictable oscillation, meaning a pendulum that swings between a “We” zenith and a “Me” zenith. Understanding this oscillation will give us insight into the forces that drive the decisions the public makes.

“Predictable, rhythmic attractions are what move our society. Rhythm is intrinsic to the human experience. Feet patter, hearts beat, lungs breathe, planets circle, and seasons cycle to a rhythm. Music, poetry, and dance are built upon it.”

-Roy H. Williams & Michael R. Drew

Some of the “We” zeniths the book Pendulum describes:

  • 1783 America wins Revolutionary War
  • 1863 American Civil War
  • 1943 Adolph Hitler – The Holocaust

{Each “We” zenith is 80-years apart}

Pendulum points out that “virtually every instance of widespread viciousness in Western society has happened within ten years of the Zenith of a “We.” It should be noted that a complete oscillation of the pendulum takes 80-years and that 2023 will mark the zenith of the current “We” period in the Western world.

“We” periods can be defined as “I’m OK, You’re Not OK,” and “Me” periods as “I’m Not OK, You’re OK.” “We” periods are times of witch hunts, “Me” periods are times of hero worship.

According to this book, marketing becomes very easy as we approach the zenith of the “We,” and all one needs to do is “choose what and who you will demonize, and then start tossing fear-soaked words as though they were longneck beer bottles full of gasoline with fiery rags stuffed down their throats.” Does any of this sound like the world we’re experiencing today?

Human Change vs Other Change

We live in a world where the speed of change feels like it is constantly accelerating, and on a technology level it is, but deep human change does not; like the speed of change of the trees, which is not controlled by technology.

Plant a tree and monitor its growth, it appears to not change by the day, but come back in 10-years, 20-years or 40-years and the changes will be obvious. Technology and the internet have done nothing to change the natural cycle of change.

What we can hope for is that the 21st Century’s instantaneous global communication might mitigate the negativity and viciousness as we approach the zenith of the current “We” cycle.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

What Does It All Mean for You?

We’re seeing people demanding authenticity and transparency in all things. We’ve given up our liberties for the perception of security and given up our privacy for convenience.

The future of education will be about creating new pathways to wealth, and re-creating a middle class, as our current world has been bifurcated in to “haves” and “have-nots.”

How Do You Market in a WE Cycle?

You write “pull” messages, rather than “push” messages from now until 2043 for all of Western society, Williams and Drew write. What’s the difference you ask? Push messages are based on a ‘needs analysis’ and ‘over coming objections,’ where as pull messages build relationships through positive attraction. Social media via the internet is a relationship-building tool. The internet by serving up only what’s requested, is in essence a “pull” medium. Radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and outdoor are all “push” mediums.

People who attempt to “push” their messages with pop-ups and other methods on the internet are met with anger by the consumer.

How could your radio program attract an audience with seduction? How could you romance your listeners to want to spend more time with your radio station, its website and/or podcast?

Time is money is the name of the game in a “We” cycle. As Williams and Drew put it, “Whoever wins their time is the one most likely to win their money.”

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’
We Me Sales Strategies

Pendulum by Roy H. Williams & Michael R. Drew

This article was originally published in August 2020.

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Car Radios & The Future

AM Car RadioThe first mass-market car radio premiered in June of 1930, but due to a second World War it wouldn’t be until the 1950s that car radios became common.

Another factor that slowed their growth was cost. Those early six vacuum tube car radios cost around $130.

To put that into perspective, you could buy one of Henry Ford’s model A’s for $450.

Motorola

The Galvin Manufacturing Corporation, founded by brothers Paul and Joseph Galvin, were early pioneers in car radios. Paul Galvin realized their radios needed a brand name and came up with the name of “Motorola,” a portmanteau (a word blending the sounds and combining the meanings of two others, for example motel (from ‘motor’ and ‘hotel’) or brunch (from ‘breakfast’ and ‘lunch’) of the words motor car and ola. “Ola” back then was a slang word for anything audio.motorola car radio installation

Motorola introduced the first dash-mounted AM car radios in the 1930s. It wasn’t until 1952 that a German company, Blaupunkt, would introduce the first FM car radio. AM/FM car radios followed the next year.

1952

I was born in 1952, and like other Baby Boomers my age, radios and cars have always been one.

While transistor car radios were introduced in 1955, it wouldn’t be until the 1960s that they became affordable. It should also be noted that dashboard radios were still an option in 1963, however, they were a very popular option and more than 60% of all cars on the road in America had one.

Rear Speaker & 8-Track Tape Player

I can still remember the time my parents were buying a new car and one of the decisions that they had to make was whether or not to add the new car radio option that had just come out, adding a rear speaker to the dashboard radio.Car 8-track player radio

The first aftermarket option I remember my parents adding was that of an 8-track tape player. I loved this device because it allowed me to listen to air checks of my weekly radio show on my daily commute to college. I wanted to improve my style and presentation.

Cassettes & CDs

The 8-track tape players in cars would soon be replaced by cassettes, allowing people to make up their own “mix tapes” of songs they loved to hear most.

Compact Discs (CDs) eventually replaced cassette players in the car dashboard, and for those of us that didn’t want to change CDs, one at a time, it was a thrill having a six-CD changer located in the trunk that allowed for even more variety with the touch of a button.

iPods & Smartphones

Steve Jobs once said he wanted to be able to have a 1,000-songs in his pocket, and from that vision, came the Apple iPod. iPods could eventually be plugged into the car’s audio system and now offered a virtually unlimited supply of music and audio books at the touch of a button.

The iPhone would offer all that any iPod ever could, plus so much more. It became the computer in our pockets replacing a multitude of single use devices, including the car radio.

Entertainment CenterDigital Car Radio

Today’s automobile dashboard offers occupants a complete entertainment center that immediately connects to a person’s smartphone via either Apple’s CarPlay, Google’s Android Auto, or a manufacturer’s proprietary system. Today the vehicle’s onboard entertainment system plays a big role in people’s car buying decision and it can also add from a thousand to two thousand dollars more to the price of a vehicle.

Self-Driving Cars

TV Car RadioWith the evolution of self-driving cars, you can expect that more and more vehicles will come with video capabilities as well as audio, and also that the competition for who can provide the best in-car entertainment will be fierce and passionate.

Traditional radio programming staples, like Two-fer Tuesdays, ten-songs-in-a-row and no-repeat workdays aren’t going to cut it.

The global pandemic has caused two markets to significantly heat up:

1) suburban house sales and

2) new car sales.

Today’s reality is that people who now find themselves working from home, don’t want to be stuck in a little urban apartment and are moving to homes that offer more space to enjoy. Likewise. those individuals whose work demands they still commute, no longer feel safe on mass public transportation and are upgrading their ride.

Understanding how these changes will impact the future of your media enterprise is critical.

 

 

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