Category Archives: Sales

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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First Things, First

covid-19If someone had asked you, “Where do you see yourself in 5-years?” I seriously doubt anyone could have imagined they would be smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic. But that’s where we find ourselves at this moment in time.

No matter what you may think will return us to the life we had before COVID-19, nothing even begins to change until we have two things: therapeutics to cope with this novel coronavirus and a better understanding of how this dastardly disease can be squashed like a bug. In the meantime, everything else we try is merely a Band-Aid on the problem.

TRUST

A good radio friend posted on LinkedIn a graphic from the Radio Advertising Bureau (source: Kantar 2017)  “Trust in News” purporting radio to be the medium, Americans turn to for trust.

Radio & Trust

Well, we are now half-way through 2020, and I wonder what relevance that this research conducted in 2016 and published in 2017 has in a COVID-19 world. Probably, slim and none.

In fact, the NRRC (Network Radio Research Council) is recommending that all network/national buying and selling be based on the Fall 2019 Nationwide survey, and not those surveys conducted since the start of COVID-19, saying “the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented divergence of traditional patterns of media consumption, including AM/FM listening and the streaming of audio.”

If we can take to the bank anything from the world we are living in now, it’s that anything pre-COVID-19 is now FUBAR*.

How COVID-19 Has Changed Our Media Consumption

Since the onset of this global pandemic, the home broadband bundle has significantly been changed. Most consumers are adopting a stand-alone broadband service and not bundling it with Pay-TV or home phone or even their mobile phone. Why is this happening? Researchers say with another recession looming, people are watching all of their pennies.

With people working from home (WFH) and driving less, Out-Of-Home (OOH) media has been clobbered. Revenue projections for the Billboard industry show it will be down over 19% in 2020, compared to radio (down 13.7%) and local television (down 12.4%), according to MAGNA. Before COVID-19 hit, OOH was one of the fastest-growing and most stable linear media channels. Zenith thinks that OOH revenue will be down even more, predicting it to be down 25% in 2020.

Nieman Lab writes “Radio listening has plummeted. NPR is reaching a bigger audience than ever. What gives?” And the answer is, 2020 is the year that NPR will make more money from underwriting on its podcasts than it will from its radio programs.

Follow the Money

Local radio is very dependent on Main Street, but Main Street is in the cross-hairs for defaults, bankruptcies and evictions due to COVID-19.

Much like NPR is experiencing with its online products, retailing is becoming an online activity with American consumers. Economists knew that many cities had a retail footprint that was too big for the local consumer economy to support. COVID-19 merely accelerated things.

In fact, COVID-19 has created a quantum leap for e-commerce in 2020. What was projected to take place over years, has been compressed into a few months.

The United States Census Bureau reports that in the second quarter of 2020, e-commerces retail sales in America rose 31.8% from the first quarter and were 44.5% above the same period in 2019. The Census Bureau says that compared to the share of total retail sales, e-commerce sales grew as much in three months as it had over the past five years.

We are living a period of rapid technological change. Columbia Business School economist Laura Veldkamp says, “We are changing the way business is getting done, we’re changing the way we’re shopping and the way we’re eating – we’re changing the way we’re having meetings.” She points out that:

“the pandemic, like the Depression and World Wars I and II, is fundamentally altering people’s tastes. Some businesses will be left behind, as consumers get accustomed to videoconferencing instead of commuting, and buying groceries and other goods online instead of braving stores, malls and restaurants.”

Unemployment Tsunami Ahead

Economists are worried what’s ahead when it comes to unemployment in America. They see exponential growth in claims for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program and a weakening U.S. labor market. The PEUC has grown from 27,000 people on April 11, 2020 to 1.3 million as of August 1, 2020. Worse, the number of PEUC recipients has stayed at over 1 million people for four straight weeks and has actually been increasing each week.

“The real tsunami is coming,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “My guess is at this point hiring in the industries that have been hit hard is going to abate.” Plus we know that United Airlines plans to furlough 3,900 pilots, Delta 2,000 pilots and American Airlines are alerting their employees to furloughs of 19,000 companywide.

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index declined in August for the second consecutive month hitting a new pandemic low. Consumer optimism, along with their financial prospects also declined. Both are continuing on a downward path.

The Long Road Back

Economists see a long road back for the United States economy. A National Association for Business Economies (NABE) survey of 235 members July 30-August 10, 2020 showed that 60% predict that it will not be until the second quarter of 2022 (or later) that our economy may finally rebound to where it was in 2019, pre-COVID-19.

Economy Rebound

The Party’s Over

When you’re having a good time, it’s hard to call it a night and leave a party. Sometimes it’s due to FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and other times, it’s because no one likes to see good times come to an end.

The Oracle of Omaha – Warren Buffett, puts it this way:

‘They know that overstaying the festivities — that is, continuing to speculate in companies that have gigantic valuations relative to the cash they are likely to generate in the future — will eventually bring on pumpkins and mice. But they nevertheless hate to miss a single minute of what is one helluva party. Therefore, the giddy participants all plan to leave just seconds before midnight. There’s a problem, though: They are dancing in a room in which the clocks have no hands.’

Commercial broadcasters, by and large, have enjoyed the radio broadcasting party of the 60s a little too long. So many of the programming models haven’t really changed since the days when I was still a disc jockey, yet the world has changed, and changed exponentially.

Radio broadcasters, like NPR, that have embraced a vision of where media consumption is headed, are seeing their investments paying off.

Those that haven’t changed, are finding today’s environment extremely challenging.

Local radio’s fortunes have always been tied to Main Street, not Wall Street.

COVID-19 has disrupted Main Street’s business model.

The old rules don’t apply any longer, but, we don’t really know yet if this is another giant bubble or the future of our world.

Realizing that the time horizon for answers could be two years out, one wonders, will you be able to survive till we have the answers?

 

*A military term defined as F’d Up Beyond All Recognizability

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Radio’s Moment in Time

Fleming

Sir Alexander Fleming

Like it or not, we’re making history. 2020 will be a year studied by future generations when it comes to, what to do and what not to do, when faced with a global pandemic.

History only gives us two prior events that don’t even come close to what we’re going through today, the 1918-1919 flu pandemic and the 2008 financial crisis. COVID-19 is so much more than either one of those for a multitude of reasons.

1920 Commercial Radio is Born

Following the two-year 1918 flu pandemic, commercial radio would be born in November 1920 with the licensing of Westinghouse’s KDKA in Pittsburgh.

Beside radio, the list of inventions that would shape America in the 1920s were the automobile, the airplane, the washing machine, assembly lines, refrigerators, electric razors, instant cameras, jukeboxes and television.

TV wouldn’t really take hold until after the end of World War II.

Transistor Radio

In the 1950s when TV invaded American homes, and pushed the radio out of the living room, there were many who prophesied about radio’s demise. What would give radio new life was the invention of the transistor radio and the placement of radios in the dashboard of automobiles.

One of the songs of my youth was by Edwin Starr, a song called “War.”

War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again, why’all

War, huh, good god
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing, listen to me

While I can’t say I disagree with the inhumanity of war, saying it was good for “absolutely nothing,” is to not acknowledge the volume of technology we enjoy today that was developed as a direct result or evolved from military conflict.

War accelerates technological developments on a global scale.

Penicillin

One of the most important inventions of the 1920s was the development of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming, a Professor of Bacteriology at St. Mary’s Hospital in London. Sir Fleming’s studies of bacteria led to the creation of an antibiotic that kills bacteria and prevents them from growing and multiplying.

Because Sir Fleming wished to get penicillin into the hands of as many of the sick who desperately needed this antibiotic, Fleming never applied for a patent.

One sometimes finds, what one is not looking for. When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I suppose that was exactly what I did.

— Alexander Fleming

Ironically, it wasn’t until after the bombing of Pearl Harbor that mass production of penicillin would occur. By D-Day in 1944, penicillin production had been ramped up to produce enough of the antibiotic to treat all the wounded in the Allied forces.

Prioritizing People

If history teaches us anything, it’s that Americans win when policy makers prioritize people. The GI Bill for example, gave returning veterans a chance to acquire skills, and seize educational opportunities that would have been difficult for them to pursue on their own.

Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines and its first CEO, built his airline on the principle of prioritizing people. Forbes wrote:

For almost 30 years we’ve been asking, “What if you could build a company that is as human as the human beings in it? What if you could create a culture that inspires passionate people to come to work fully awake, fully engaged, firing on all cylinders because they know they are doing epic work?” 

What if you could create a culture that inspires people to come to work, fully engaged, firing on all cylinders?

Herb did it.

Kelleher said, “I’d rather have a company bound by love than a company bound by fear,” and for 46 consecutive years Southwest Airlines growth and profitability showed what that can produce. Sadly, Herb Kelleher passed away at age 87 in 2019.

If there’s any industry that’s been hard hit by COVID-19, it’s the travel and leisure industry. So, how is the current management of Southwest handling this business crisis? On July 26, 2020 Southwest management announced it will not furlough or lay off any workers on Oct. 1, the first day it is allowed to, per its CARES Act terms saying, “We have no intention of seeking furloughs, layoffs, pay rate cuts or benefits cuts through at least the end of the year.”

Where Are We Headed?

No matter what business or industry you’re in, we’ve reached that moment in history where it’s time to focus on where we want to go and not where we’ve been.

The COVID-19 global pandemic is a war on our health. Like military conflicts, it is causing the world to change at an accelerated pace.

The challenge for all of us is to seize the moment and not be afraid to reimagine every aspect of our lives. How and where we live, how we educate the next generation, what our business models should look like, and how we embrace diversity and talent on a global scale. It’s our moment in history to let go of the past.

100 Years of Commercial Radio in America

2020 marks the 100th Anniversary of America’s Radio Broadcasting Industry. In the 1950s, television forced radio to re-invent itself and become the industry that many people, like myself, grew up with and made our career.

I’m sure the radio people of the Golden Age looked down their noses at how radio was changed by my generation, but we created a communications  product that reached virtually every American.

COVID-19 and the internet are forcing radio to do that once again.

As Walt Disney famously said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

What’s your dream for this moment in time for radio?

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Radio’s GEN-Z Challenge

GEN ZI recently sat in on the Edison Research webinar about people born between 1996 and 2012, known as GEN-Z.

If you read about this webinar in the radio trades, you would have learned that 55% of these young people listen to AM/FM over-the-air radio. What’s not to like about that?

The reality was, this daily radio listening was only to Over-The-Air FM radio, none of these GEN-Z people ever mentioned listening to AM radio. That’s still a positive, right?

It is, if your only focus is on the immediate future, not future trends.

Generation Z

Today, people aged 8 to 24 make up over 65-million Americans. They are the first truly digital natives, not having known a world without full digital access to content. GEN-Z people are also often called “ZOOMers.” They would rather create their own content than curate other people’s content.

Edison Research points out that Generation Z has only known a world where everything is ON DEMAND, and it’s the growing up in an ON DEMAND world that makes ZOOMers a challenge for OTA radio.

ZOOMer Trends

  • Their smartphones are the center of their media world.
  • 53% of ZOOMers listen to audio streaming daily.
  • They spend 98% more time than the rest of the population watching videos and listening to music on YouTube.
  • Spotify is their go-to music streaming service.
  • Their radio listening is mostly in the car, some at work, but none of it occurs in the home.
  • If they listen to OTA radio, it is on a device that only receives OTA radio signals, not with a digital streaming device.

When Edison Research ran clips of people in this age group talking about their media habits, it was clear FM radio wasn’t their first choice, but the fact that it was available in the car they were riding in or it was playing on a radio that everyone listened to while they were working.

Things Radio Can Do to Attract ZOOMers

Edison suggested that these programming ideas might be a way to attract the GEN-Z audience:

  • News & Information is important to GEN-Z, it’s their social currency.
  • Remind ZOOMers that radio is available on their digital streaming device.
  • GEN-Z wants to change the world, their local communities for the better and OTA radio could be a catalyst for helping them do this.
  • Surprise and delight ZOOMers with your content.

This last point is really about engaging the listener, and showing them you really care. In reality, 74% of your listeners probably don’t care* if your FM radio station disappears, because they don’t think you really care about them. Radio needs to create shared experiences for this age group. Radio needs to show they care.

Shared Values and Shared Purpose

Christian broadcasters and NPR both understand the shared values and purpose of their listeners and base their programming decisions on them. These broadcasters understand that their mission is not to attract everyone to their programming, but to build a loyal audience with those who share their vision of the world.

Using the Edison Research on GEN-Z, how can your radio station inspire and empower the ZOOMers in your community?

How do you learn what the shared values and purposes of the GEN-Z listeners are?

Ask them.

Form a GEN-Z advisory board to learn what’s on their minds and what their vision for the future is. Be willing to focus every aspect of your radio station on what’s important to THEM.

Change doesn’t begin with a slogan, it begins with shared values and purpose, which then inspires people to come together and create a world that is better than they found it.

 

*based on book “Know What You’re For” by Jeff Henderson

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Would You Like to Participate in Radio Research?

nielsen familyNuVoodoo does some really wonderful research about radio listening. They particularly focus on reaching people who are most likely to keep a radio listening diary or wear a Nielsen Portable People Meter, aka PPM.

During their last webinar, a slide came up quickly in the jam-packed presentation that made me choke on my coffee. It showed how small the pool of radio listeners is that would participate in Nielsen Radio ratings research. An astounding 82% say they would never wear a PPM device and even more listeners say they wouldn’t keep a ratings diary. Ratings Likies 2020

I Was a Nielsen Family

When I was a radio broadcaster, it wasn’t unusual for Arbitron Ratings to ask me about keeping a radio listening diary for a week. Each time I declined because I was actively working in radio.

When I was a broadcast professor at the university in Kentucky, I was approached about keeping a television ratings diary and Nielsen said that being a broadcast teacher was not a disqualifier, so I said “yes.”

I knew that the experience of keeping a ten-day television viewing diary would be one I could share with my students in covering the topic of radio/TV ratings. I was thrilled to be a “Nielsen Family,” even though that thrill quickly dissipated once the survey diary and instructions arrived.

The few dollars Nielsen sent to me with the materials seemed small potatoes for the amount of information they wanted to extract from my viewing habits.

By the end of the ten days, I was sure I’d never want to do this again, and it made me sad because I was a person who should be passionate about doing such work.

A Relative’s Family Wore PPMs

A member of my family living outside of Boston was asked to participate in PPM radio research. The rewards being offered enticed them to say “yes.”

The members of the family ranged in age from 44 to 6.

I remember looking at this 6-year old playing on his swing-set and thinking, Boston radio 6+ radio ratings depended, in part, on little kids like this. It sent a chill down my spine.

Well, the family grew tired of participating very quickly. In the nutshell, they didn’t feel the inconvenience was worth the small reward paid for wearing the PPM devices.

They said the experience hardened them from ever participating in future radio or TV ratings research, besides now they rarely listen to radio anymore with Spotify being the family choice for streaming. The Spotify App keeps track of each member of the family’s listening habits, serving up just what they want to hear.

Ratings Likelies: Rare & Vital

In late June 2020, NuVoodoo fielded their sixteenth Ratings Prospects Study and they write: “we drilled down to the small segment of radio listeners likely to accept a meter or diary from Nielsen. As has been the case in every past NuVoodoo study, when we model for the subset of respondents who would say ‘yes’ to Nielsen, the opt-in rate even among our already research-inclined sample is staggeringly low – with the percentage of likely ratings respondents who spend an hour or longer with radio each day even rarer still.”

That’s pretty disturbing to hear.

Share of Ear

Then the news breaks that COVID-19 has tipped the consumer listening habits to digital streaming. Now 53% listen to on-demand/digital devices versus 47% who listen to linear/non-digital devices, like AM/FM radio. Edison Research began tracking audio consumption on digital devices in 2014 and now, only six years later, people over the age of 13 spend more time with these devices than traditional OTA radio.  Digital Devices Cross 50%

It’s another case of the inevitable happening anyway, but COVID-19 is causing changes to occur on an accelerated time frame.

Edison Research also found in their latest Infinite Dial research that new music seekers are using YouTube for music discovery versus AM/FM radio, 68% to 46%.

Dan Ariely Explains

Dan Ariely is a psychology and behavioral economics professor at Duke University. I first became aware of Dan’s work with his book Predictably Irrational.

Dan explains that “the interruption of everyday life has been an experiment showing that habits aren’t just desires; they’re behaviors cued by reminders in our environment. When we change the way we interact with our environment, a lot of seemingly ingrained habits fade away. Some of them we are better off without, like thoughtless consumption and spending.”

Since the pandemic more people who used to commute to work, began working from home. The AM/FM radio cue for listening was their vehicle’s dashboard radio, but since they were spending less time in the car and more time at home, the device for audio consumption used in the home now became dominant.

While one hopes that once people begin to commute to work again, if that even happens, the old routines – including listening to the car’s radio – might return.

However, many companies, especially the high tech ones like Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook, are moving to a permanent WFH (Work From Home) model.

Dr. Ed Cohen

One of the most recent high profile layoffs was that of Dr. Ed Cohen from Cumulus as its VP for Ratings and Research.

Radio Ink asked him about the future of AM/FM radio to which he responded:

“It’s a question of whether (the radio industry is) cutting bone and muscle rather than fat. If the radio industry continues to cut, can we put our best foot forward to not only keep current listeners spending as much time with the medium as they have in the past, but can we also convert light listeners to spend more time with radio? Commercial radio is not a charity and faced with the revenue challenges of (COVID-19), layoffs and furloughs are inevitable, but listeners don’t understand that and don’t likely care. They want to be entertained and informed. If they perceive a degradation of what they expect from us in a world of increased competition from other sources (streaming, podcasts, etc.) some will go elsewhere, accelerating a downward spiral. I hate to sound pessimistic about a medium where I’ve spent nearly my entire career (even my Ph.D. dissertation was about radio) and have no claims to be Nostradamus, but that’s the logical conclusion. I hope I’m wrong.”

Sadly, Dr. Cohen, I think you’ve got it right.

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The Times They Are A Changing

Bob DylanIn 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

 

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Furloughs Turning into Permanent Job Losses

Furloughed PermanentlyBIA Advisory Services conducted a rather insightful webinar at the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic. While every media sector was predicting huge downturns in sales revenues, what struck me most were comments like, ‘but radio sales executives are the most pessimistic,’ or ‘23% of radio sales people don’t feel theyEeyore & rain cloud will be employed by the same company in six months.’

Why were radio people so gloomy? Is it because the radio industry attracts Eeyores or because radio people were being the most realistic?

Furloughs

Shortly after the global pandemic shut down the world, companies started talking about furloughs for employees. All types of industries were issuing press releases about how they planned to furlough “x,” “y,” or “z” number of employees.

Now by definition, a furlough is supposed to be a temporary layoff. It certainly sounds much less benign than being told you are terminated, fired, riffed or axed. Furloughs gave people hope they would soon return to work and a lifestyle of the way it was. But was that being disingenuous?

I remember when I was a manager in Clear Channel, the company’s top management would tell us to never let a good emergency go to waste. In other words, use the emergency as a cover to do things you already wanted to do, but could now do much more quickly, using the emergency as the reason.

“For a lot of those furloughed workers, a non-trivial number will have no job to go back to, because the company they worked for will have failed or will need fewer workers than they used to,” says Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve economist.

An article in Forbes, quoting an Associated Press story put it this way, “Call it realism or pessimism, but more employers are coming to a reluctant conclusion: Many of the employees they’ve had to lay off in the face of the pandemic might not be returning to their old jobs anytime soon. Some large companies won’t have enough customers to justify it. And some small businesses won’t likely survive at all despite aid provided by the federal government.”

Entercom Converts Some Furloughs into Layoffs

This was the headline in late June in RadioInsight. How many furloughs were converted or how many markets were affected, is not known.

Radio Business Reports carried the first news of this occurring inside Entercom back in April. RBR quoted Entercom Communications President/CEO David Field’s memo to employees which said, “We are doing everything in our power to minimize the number of layoffs through shared sacrifice across the organization, but we will still need to eliminate or furlough a significant number of positions.”

And Entercom was not alone in having to take a serious look at its business in light of the quick and sudden changes brought on by a global pandemic with no vaccine and no treatment options.

Poynter on Newsroom Layoffs, Furloughs and Closures

In an article, Poynter has been updating regularly, sadly admitting that it’s “getting hard to keep track of the bad news about the news right now. But we have to. Here’s our attempt to collect the layoffs, furloughs, and closures caused by the coronavirus’ critical blow to the economy and journalism in the United States.”

At the end of June 2020, here’s what Poynter had for the impact on radio journalism:

You can keep up with the Poynter updates by clicking HERE

Radio’s Advertising Lifeblood

mom & pop shopYour local radio station, like your hometown newspaper, depends on local businesses and their advertising dollars. Eighty to ninety percent of their ad revenues come from local businesses, those small “mom & pops,” as we like to call them.

So, when I saw this headline in The Atlantic,The Small Business Die-Off Is Here,” my heart went into my throat.

Annie Lowrey writes, “The great small-business die-off is here, and it will change the landscape of American commerce, auguring slower growth and less innovation in the future.” What Lowrey tells us is that the small and mid-size businesses had less than two weeks’ worth of cash on hand making it impossible for them to cover rent, insurance, utilities and payroll for any sustained amount of time.

Many business owners have found help from Uncle Sam to be too little, too late. Every Closedday we see another local business decide to close down permanently rather than sink further into debt.

Lowrey writes, “The short-term effects of this disaster are clear: When businesses liquidate, they lay off workers, who spend less in their local economies, making other businesses weaker, necessitating further layoffs. Business failures thus act as an accelerant in a downturn, making temporary damage permanent. This is a central reason why many economists do not expect a sharp, V-shaped rebound to the current recession, but a long, slow, U-shaped recovery.”

AARP on What Comes Next

In the June 2020 edition of AARP Bulletin Abraham Madkour, Sports Business Journal, writes “I don’t see any timeline where athletic events have packed stands. Nobody wants to be around 75,000 people.” So, sports radio stations are going to be really content challenged, which means listener challenged, which translates into advertising challenged.

AARP goes on to say the Saturday night dinner and a movie is now on the endangered list as is your local mall, department stores, and most other retailers. It’s an “extinction event” for local media ad dollars,” says Ken Doctor, media analyst, who adds, “In a world where nobody is going out, age-old diversions are going bye, bye.”

There’s No Place Like Home

Turns out the safest place to be, is in your own home.

WFHPeople are adapting to working from home, home schooling their children and doing things like baking, learning to play a musical instrument, streaming their audio, video and print content. Our habits are changing and it’s quite likely they will become permanent.

“It’s hard to guess the depth of the downturn, but it will be the worst since the Great Depression,” says Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

Permanent Changes

Crystal balling the future is always a risk. No one really knows what lifestyle changes will become permanent and which ones will slowly fade away.

I tried to get some sense of permanent change following the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919 and found there was little to be gleaned because that pandemic broke out during WWI leading into a roaring twenties, followed by a Great Depression, and then WWII. It really gives us little information about the impact the pandemic ended up having because other events trumped its effects.

Broadcast media didn’t begin as a commercial entity until after the pandemic was in the rear view mirror, so there’s no way to tell what the impact might have been. The Asian Flu (1957) and Hong Kong Flu (1968) killed about 2 million and 4 million people worldwide during the 20th Century, but the disruption to our daily lives doesn’t even live in my memory.

If nothing else, COVID19 is and has been a disruption to Earth’s global village economically. Axios reports that a research report from UBS predicts that 100,000 brick-and-mortar U.S. retail stores will close by 2025, in a trend that started before the pandemic and has accelerated amid coronavirus-related shutdowns.

In 2017, as the radio industry news was filled with employees being RIF’d (Reductions In Force), I wrote an article to help people deal with being let go entitled, “Is Your Iceberg Melting?” You can read that HERE

Beyond COVID19

So, what might a media future look like?

Frederick Filloux asked his college journalism students for their thoughts and I will summarize them for you here:

  • Smaller, staff-owned outlets where employees are multi-talented and master a whole palette of tools like data-driven storytelling, video production, infographics and a deep proficiency in social media.
  • Rethinking the ownership and the revenue models. Audience centric business models, but not ad-supported ones. Frederick’s students believe that the advertising supported business model is outdated. The future will involve carefully vetted sponsorships.
  • Explanatory media, that is fact-checked and establishes itself with an expertise against misinformation. These students say, expertise is urgently needed in today’s media world.
  • Print is over. Tomorrow’s media students believe that anything printed embodies the ancient world. COVID19 is only accelerating its demise.

I think COVID19 is going to hasten a rethink about all ad-supported media. Traditional media, born of advertising, will be greatly challenged.

Based on the recent findings of Gordon Borrell, it already is.

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Good Money After Bad

Air Canada (2)Would you invest more money in a company that takes your money and won’t refund it during a global pandemic, instead preferring to hide behind policies designed for the way things used to be before COVID19?

I think not.

The Travel Industry

Let me share with you two stories that happened to me recently involving our 2020 travel plans.

These stories involve an airline and a cruise line. While we realize that both of these industries are being dramatically challenged, the way they handle the short-term will most surely impact their long-term survival.

Royal Caribbean International Cruise Lines

My wife and I planned to visit the only state in the United States neither of us had ever been too before, Alaska. We made plans to cruise to Alaska from Vancouver, BC.

Before our cruise, we would fly to Nevada for my oldest son’s wedding, then drive up to Montana to visit my wife’s daughter and family, to be followed with a drive to Washington state to visit another daughter and family.

On the 4th of July we planned to Amtrak from Washington state to Vancouver, BC and board our cruise ship for a weeklong trip to Alaska. We made plans for off-shore excursions during the cruise and paid for everything in advance.

We planned to fly from Vancouver, BC to Washington, DC to get back home.

Then COVID19 hit and we had to cancel everything.

Amtrak refunded our money, the off-shore excursions company refunded our money, the hotels along the way all accepted our cancellations with no fees, but Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines wouldn’t refund our $500 deposit.

How do you think we feel when they send us new offers to take a cruise with them?

Air Canada

Air Canada was the airline we had selected to fly back home from Vancouver, BC when our cruise returned to port. We paid for business class tickets to get seats with a little extra room. Total cost for two tickets, paid-in-advance on February 5, 2020, $1,185.38.

We booked directly with the airline on their website.

Then on March 10, 2020 we receive notice from Medicare saying that the “CDC is advising older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney diseases, are at a higher risk of serious illness if they contract the COVID19 virus.” That “means that most people with Medicare are at a higher risk,” they wrote.

“Your health, safety, and welfare is our highest priority,” wrote the Medicare email.

It went out to spell out activities that we should not engage in:

  • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces with limited air circulation.
  • Defer all cruise ship travel worldwide, particularly if you also have underlying health issues.
  • Avoid situations that put you at increased risk, including non-essential travel such as long plane trips.

But Air Canada doesn’t recognize any of this as a valid reason that I would then go to their website and cancel our two plane tickets on March 23, 2020. Instead of offering a refund, they said we could have a travel voucher to use good through March 30, 2021.

How do you think we feel when they send us new offers to fly with Air Canada?

How do you think this makes us feel about even wanting to visit our neighbors to the north?

COVID19 Closed Border

Currently the border between America and Canada is closed. We couldn’t even get to the Royal Caribbean cruise ship if we wanted, nor could we board an Air Canada plane in Vancouver.

That’s something I don’t remember ever happening in my lifetime.

Would it be fair to say these are extenuating circumstances that call for forbearance of rules regarding customer refunds created before the COVID19 global pandemic?

How Much Is a Customer Worth?

What companies often forget is the lifetime value of a customer when they make decisions in the short-term. Repeat business is the way you build a business.

Sadly, the above mentioned companies won’t be seeing us beating a path to their door.

But worse, they’ve now made ALL cruise lines and ALL airlines suspect about their business practices.

Guilt by Association

I learned this lesson from one of my clients, an AAMCO Transmission repair shop. He told me that a lot of people considered transmission repair places to be underhanded. Stories about putting saw dust in the transmission to temporarily solve a problem and make a quick buck instead of doing the actual work of repairing it.

He said when any transmission shop cheated a customer in anyway, it reflected badly on all transmission repair businesses.

I never forgot that lesson when I became a radio station manager.

Storm Center

When I managed a cluster of radio stations for Clear Channel Radio in Sussex, New Jersey we sold an annual package to our clients that gave them immediate access to our airwaves and website to inform their customers of their reduced or changed hours of operation, due to a snow/ice storm, or if they would be closed completely. It was a solid revenue source for my radio stations and appeared as a line item in my budget.

It took a lot of extra manpower to staff our storm center handling calls from listeners and businesses and getting everything broadcast on our four radio stations and their individual websites.

Then the Clear Channel RIFs came along. (RIF = Reduction In Force) I was told by my regional manager that the company’s new automated online system would replace the need for all those people and not to worry.

When the first storm hit, the system crashed. It happened again during the second storm of the season too. I gave our IT people in New York City a tongue lashing, which got me an angry call from my regional manager telling me to stop calling the people in New York and bothering them with my problem.

I never called New York again.

Instead I walked down the hall to my business manager and told her to refund every dollar our clients had paid us to be a part of our storm center and composed a letter to go with the refund checks saying that due to unforeseen circumstances, we could not deliver on what we had promised. Our company’s new automated system had bugs that were being addressed but that I had no idea when they would be fixed. However, we would still do our best with our limited staff to air their cancellation notices and then post them on our websites at no charge.

I didn’t lose a single advertiser, and proceeded to take this lemon of a situation and turn it into lemonade.

Customer Service

People don’t care what you say your customer service policy is. All the flowery language in the world will never camouflage the actions you take in response to a customer’s problem.

Everyone knows what the right thing to do is, in any given situation.

Best management advice I can share with you is, just do the right thing.

P.S.

When it came time to review my quarterly results against my budget, my regional manager asked why I had gone from $30,000 to zero in storm center revenue. When I told him what I had done, you can imagine he was none too happy about it.

However, our revenues and bottom line for that year both exceeded our budget, proving to me you can never go wrong when you do the right thing.

 

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I Want It Now

I want it nowGrowing up telling mom or dad that I wanted something now, got the usual response of “you will have to work for it” or “you’ll get it when it’s ready.” Learning that good things come to those who wait was part of my maturing process.

But not any longer.

Google

I remember when I wanted to know about something, I either had to spend some time going through our family’s World Book Encyclopedia or take a trip to the library. But not any longer, I just Google it.

Alexa

I’ve been able to stream radio around the world for years, but it never became easier than when Alexa entered my world. Now, anything I want to know or hear, I simply ask Alexa, and that little genie in my Echo serves it up. My wish is Alexa’s command.

FOX TV

Remember when we used to have television seasons? Every fall, I couldn’t wait for TV Guide to arrive to plan out my TV viewing strategy.  ABC, NBC and CBS would introduce lots of new shows every fall and it was a big deal.

Then FOX changed things up while working to become America’s fourth television network. FOX began introducing new shows during the summer, and winter break, while ABC, NBC and CBS were showing re-runs.

Now new television programs are a year-round affair. Gone are pilots, re-runs and the fall season being the only time networks introduce brand new shows.

Netflix

But the most dramatic change to the introduction of a new television series happened five years ago when Netflix started releasing an entire season’s worth of shows, all at the same time. Netflix now gave viewers a choice in how you could watch a new season. You could watch on a weekly basis, watch a new episode every night, or binge watch the entire season.

Binge watching became the preferred method.

Disney+

Which is why I was surprised to hear Disney+ announce that it would be releasing its new shows an episode a week. History has shown with many different products and services, that you can’t go back to the way things used to be. I wish the mouse house good luck.

Knowing Your Audience

Netflix spends a lot of time trying to understanding what their subscribers want and like. They’re adamant that releasing an entire season all at once won’t ever change. They cite two reasons for this:

  • TV viewers have moved away from appointment viewing in droves, preferring to watch shows ON DEMAND, often by binge watching, and
  • 2) Netflix has found that people tend to watch only one show at a time. In other words, once a Netflix viewer finds a television series they like, they will watch all the episodes of that program before moving on to another show.

Netflix knows a happy customer remains a paying customer.

Reflecting on my own Netflix viewing habits, I would have to agree that I’m hooked on the concept of ON DEMAND television viewing and when I start a Netflix TV series, I watch the entire series, usually several episodes a night, until I’ve finished it. I’ve watched Downtown Abbey that way twice now.

Radio vs Podcasting

GoldsteinIs there a lesson for radio broadcasters from what I just shared about television viewing habits? I think there is. Programmer Steve Goldstein puts it this way, “Traditional radio – by design – is a lean-back business. Podcasting is a lean-in business.” That perfectly describes the difference between Netflix (lean-in) and broadcast (lean-back) commercial television.

These changing media habits are not just a temporary thing.

These changes in how people want to access and use media are the future, and we can’t wish the past back, no matter how much we might want to.

Goldstein says a podcast needs to be “thumb stopping.” By that he means the listener doesn’t exit the program and move on to something else with a press of their thumb.

Because of push button pre-sets, radio stations know all too well how easy it is for car radio listeners to change stations when something they don’t want or like comes on. Today, it’s in the car where most broadcast radio listening takes place.

Sadly, radio operators aren’t acknowledging this reality in the digital world.

Mad Men

Matt Weiner, the creator of the Mad Men television series that played on A & E, said that if he ever approached Netflix to run one of his shows, he would try to convince them to release the episodes on a weekly basis.matt weiner

It’s the same kind of thinking old timers in radio might suggest when they talk about how to make radio great again.

What would Netflix tell Mr. Weiner if he pitched his idea of releasing his programs a week at a time?

“He would lose,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s content chief.

Radio should think of this reality as its “canary in the coal shaft” moment.

 

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Thank You Jason Jennings

jennings

Photo by Barbara Ries

In 1979, two major life-changing events occurred around the same time. One, I got married and two, I left the programming, operations, and on-air side of the radio business to enter radio sales. Both would change my life forever.

Before I ever set one foot on the street to sell a radio ad, my new company’s owner would send me to sales training. The trainer was Jason Jennings, and when I finished the day with him, I could not wait to get out on the street to begin selling radio advertising.

Jason William Jennings

Jason was born on May 31, 1952 in Ishpeming, Michigan. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Detroit. His politics back then were listed as Republican and his religion Lutheran.

I didn’t realize that when I first met Jason to undergo radio sales training, we were the same age, 27. He was so self-assured, confident and in total command of the room. He told everyone to take off their wrist watches and be prepared to take notes. I remember filling up my note book with what he was telling us.

What most amazed me was he taught for an entire day and everything he shared was stored in his mind. Not a single note did he ever refer too.

Only recently have I learned that while Jason and I started off as Republicans, we both were now progressives in our political views, we are both of the Lutheran faith and both aged 67.

Music was also a part of our lives, Jason played the viola and I the trombone.

AVI Communications, Inc

I met Pat “Spark” Shaughnessy at a radio conference back in the 90s. We were sitting next to one another and he introduced himself. That led to hanging out during the meetings and forming a friendship by the time the conference ended. Pat invited me to review a new radio sales training video program he had just finished with Jason Jennings. He sent me the entire program and I would watch every second of it and read the workbook materials. I then sent Pat a multi-page document with my thoughts.

Years later, when I was working on an advanced radio sales course for my university’s School of Broadcasting and Journalism, I contacted Pat to see if I could purchase two copies of the Quantum Sales Training Broadcast System for my students.

The program by now had been bought for thousands of dollars by over 600 TV stations, 2,000 radio stations and several hundred cable systems. Today, one copy of the series sits in the WKU main library and the other copy in the school of broadcasting.

The basics of the program, written and hosted by Jason, are timeless. I’ve used the DVD on Negotiation in sales training at all of the radio stations I’ve managed and in my introductory sales classes at the university.

LinkedIN & Facebook

I believe it was through LinkedIN that Jason first reached out to me to reconnect. More recently, Jason asked to be friends on Facebook. I’m embarrassed I didn’t ask him first. I believe it was because I so looked up to him as a mentor and felt asking would be a bother. Jason obviously didn’t feel that way.

Over time, I learned we were in concert on so many things, like what’s important in sales, management, politics and life.

A Better Tomorrow

Jason really cared about people. Somehow this man who was named among the twenty-five best speakers in America by the Nationwide Speakers Bureau, a bestselling author and media consultant always found the time to drop me a note and wish me well. I’m sure I was not the only one Jason did this to.

During his keynote addresses, it was normal for Jason to ask the audience “How many of you want your tomorrows to be better than today for you and your family?” He knew how to tap into our universal human desires in a real and genuine way.

“Ensure your heart is in the right place with a genuine desire to help highly principled people reach their full potential,” was how Jason’s podcasting co-host, Dale Dixon, defined Jason Jennings’s purpose in life.

Selling is Like Doctoring

In life, there are some phrases you come in contact with that become a part of you. When seeking to know what an advertising client was expecting from his radio campaign, Roy H. Williams taught me to always ask, “How will you measure success?” From Zig Ziglar I learned, “You can get anything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

From Jason Jennings I learned, “Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.” In other words, before you can begin to advise any client what he needs to do to improve his business you first need to learn, where it hurts, what’s going wrong, what’s the breakdown that’s causing business to languish.

For me, Jason’s phrase spoke to my unending curiosity. I loved asking clients lots and lots of questions; about their life, their families, their business, then using what I learned to create unique, one-of-a-kind advertising programs to increase their business.

Are Radio Groups Mis-Training Sellers?

Back in October of 2012, my radio friend Barry Cohen wrote an article for Radio Ink taking the radio industry to task for the lack of radio sales training. Barry wrote, “When I started selling radio advertising, the first thing my sales manager did was hand me one of Jason Jennings’ books, which I promptly ‘devoured.’ As I moved to each station, my managers continued to give me the good stuff, exposing me to the likes of Chris Lytle (who just turned 70 this month), Irwin Pollack, Pam Lontos and, of course, RAB sales training materials.”

For many of us, Jason Jennings was one of a handful of training professionals that radio people held in very high esteem.

Don’t Let Radio End Up Like Yahoo!

In August of 2016, I wrote a blog article based on one of Jason’s “Game Changers” podcasts. I applied the lessons Jason learned from his analysis of why Yahoo! disintegrated to the radio industry. “Don’t Let Radio End Up Like Yahoo!” was the fourth most read article on my blog in 2016.

In reviewing that article’s advice, it strikes me that this is how Jason Jennings lived his own life.

  • Know what you’re all about
  • Have a set of guiding principles
  • Don’t use a business like a personal piggy bank
  • Don’t try to be all things to all people
  • Don’t copy the competition

Jason Jennings was an original who pursued perfection and achieved excellence.

I will always be grateful to Jason Jennings for giving me a solid foundation upon which I was able to build a successful radio and teaching career.

A global community of sales and management professionals are saddened by Jason’s sudden and unexpected death this month from a ruptured aorta aneurysm.

We will always be grateful for all he taught us.

 

 

 

 

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