Category Archives: Sales

Is Radio Biting Off More Than It Can Chew?

caravelle radio broadcast stationThere are lots of items in the news these days about what the radio industry should be doing. Streaming, podcasting, smart speaker accessible etc. The one thing I hear little talk about is, improving the core product and focusing on what the listener is seeking.

The Radio Ecosystem

If you think about it, the radio ecosystem, AM/FM radios, have not seen any real changes in decades. Oh, there was the introduction of HD Radio – introduced around the same time as Apple introduced the iPod (R.I.P. 2001-2014), but listeners never really understood the need for it. HD Radio was embraced by commercial broadcasters when they learned they could feed analog FM translators from HD Radio signals and have more FM radio stations in a single marketplace. This was hardly listener focused and actually chained the radio ecosystem to old analog technology.

What IS Radio?

In the beginning, radio was a way to wirelessly communicate with other people using Morse Code on spark gap transmissions. Guglielmo Marconi built a radio empire on this technology.

David Sarnoff, a skilled Morse Code operator and a Marconi employee envisioned a “radio music box” and wrote a memo about developing a commercially marketed radio receiver for use in the home. It wasn’t until after World War I, when Sarnoff proposed the concept again, this time in his new position as general manager of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), that it would see the light of day.

Sarnoff would demonstrate the power of radio by broadcasting a boxing match between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier. In just three years, RCA sold over $80 million worth of AM radios, and not soon after created the National Broadcasting Company (NBC).

Federal Radio Commission

America’s first attempt at regulating radio transmission was the Radio Act of 1912, that was enacted after the sinking of the Titanic. This law didn’t mention or envision radio broadcasting.

As radio broadcasting began to grow in the 1920s, then Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover would begin the process of trying to regulate the limited spectrum that everyone now wanted a piece of.

The Radio Act of 1927 was America’s first real attempt at regulating radio broadcasting. The Federal Radio Commission (FRC) was then formed by this act.

It should be noted that the FRC operated under the philosophy that fewer radio stations, that were well funded and provided live original programs, were better for America than a plethora of radio stations providing mediocre programming. It was an idea that the major radio receiver companies championed.

Federal Communications Commission

In 1934, the Congress took another attempt at regulating broadcasting (radio & TV) as well as all the other forms of communication that now existed. The Communications Act of 1934 created a new regulatory body called the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). By 1934, radio broadcasting had evolved into a highly profitable business. Broadcast educator, Fritz Messere, writes: “Many of the most powerful broadcasting stations, designated as ‘clear channels’ were licensed to the large broadcasting or radio manufacturing companies, and the Federal Radio Commission’s adoption of a rigid allotment scheme, under General Order 40, solidified the interests of the large Broadcasters.”

The biggest and most well-funded broadcasters have been favored since the very beginning. What kept things in check until 1996 was the limit on the number of AM, FM and TV stations a single company could own.

Telcom Act of 1996

Those limits would evaporate with President Clinton’s signing of the Telcom Act of 1996. Radio, as America had known it, would be over.

Now, for the most part, a single owner could own as many radio stations as their pocketbook could afford. Lowry Mays and Red McCombs, founders of Clear Channel Communications, would grow their portfolio of radio stations to over 1200 from the 43 radio stations they owned before the act was signed.

In 2003, Mays testified before the United States Senate that the deregulation of the telecommunications industry had not hurt the public. However, in an interview that same year with Fortune Magazine, he remarked, “We’re not in the business of providing news and information. We’re not in the business of providing well-researched music. We’re simply in the business of selling our customers products.” (Mckibben, Bill (2007). Deep Economy. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. p. 132.)

Radio Zoning The FCC is now considering whether to further loosen up the ownership limits of radio and TV stations in America. FCC Attorney John Garziglia recently wrote:

“If radio stations could be erected like fast-food establishments and grocery stores, with no numerical limits imposed other than a businessperson’s risk tolerance, it would be difficult to argue for FCC-imposed ownership limits on radio. Indeed, a regulatory agency enacting numerical limitations on restaurants and grocery stores would likely not pass legal muster.

But there are widely-enacted municipal limitations on just about every type of local business. The limitations are called “zoning” – the permitting or prohibiting of certain uses in certain areas to protect the character of the community.

The FCC’s radio ownership rules can be thought of as a kind of radio zoning. In the same way as land-use zoning protects a community’s character, the FCC’s ownership rules permit or prohibit certain radio station combinations protecting the amorphous concept of the public interest.

With land-use zoning, communities maintain a distinct character, livability, aesthetic, and economic success by not bowing exclusively to the profit motive of land developers. Allowing several or fewer owners to own virtually all of the radio stations in the country would doom the specialness of our radio industry.”

 

I think John makes some excellent points and I would encourage you to read his complete article HERE.

Biting Off More…

Radio operators today can’t properly staff and program the stations they already own. What makes them think that will change if they own even more of them? Most radio stations are nothing more than a “radio music box” run off a computer hard drive, an OTA (over-the-air) Pandora or Spotify.

Former Clear Channel CEO, John Hogan, introduced the “Less Is More” concept when I worked for the company. While it actually introduced more on-air clutter, not less, the idea was neither new or wrong.

If owning more radio stations was the answer in 1996, then why in 2018 are we worse off than we were then?

Why was Jerry Lee able to own a single station in Philadelphia and dominate that radio market?

Why are many locally owned and operated radio stations some of the healthiest and most revered in America today?

Radio not only needs zoning on the number of radio stations a single owner can control in a market, but the total number of radio station on-the-air in a market. And it needs radio stations that are neglected to be condemned like property owners who let their land go to seed.

The FRC wasn’t perfect, but the concept of “less is more” served America well for many decades. Fewer radio stations that provided high quality, live programming, operating in the ‘public interest, convenience and necessity’ and by virtue of that diversity of ownership, provided diversity of voice and opinions, as well as healthy competition.

 

19 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

Automation Killed the Radio Star

BugglesRemember when the rock group, The Buggles, introduced a new cable TV channel, MTV (Music Television) with the song “Video Killed the Radio Star?” That was August 1, 1981. Here’s how Mark Goodman introduced the channel over 37-years ago. CLICK HERE 

What Killed MTV?

By the early 90s, MTV was looking to boost its audience ratings and introduced a trivia game show called “Remote Control.” It attracted more viewers than its music videos, so MTV created “The Real World” in 1992, television’s first unscripted reality show.

These new programs were attracting a new generation to MTV and also dooming the channel’s original concept of 24/7 music videos.

So, MTV didn’t kill the radio star, but something else did.

Consolidation, Computers and Cash

Ironically, it would be the radio industry itself that would kill the radio stars. Those talented men and women that made a couple of turntables, a few cart machines and a microphone work together and created real magic. What many liked to call radio’s “theater of the mind.”

After the passage of the Telcom Act of 1996, a massive and swift consolidation of the radio industry took place. Radio was very attractive to Wall Street due to its fat bottom line and year-over-year revenue growth.

They say you make money in radio station ownership at the time you buy the station, not when you sell it. In other words, the die is cast at the closing of the purchase. Consolidators were so eager to buy up radio stations, they over-paid. iHeartMedia and Cumulus, two of the country’s largest radio owners are poster children for this practice as they work their way out of bankruptcy.

In an attempt to mitigate this problem, computers and voice tracking were introduced across these radio station empires allowing them to drastically reduce their air staffs. The very people that were the bridge to the listeners and advertisers were the first to go.

All in the name of sending more cash to the bottom line and paying down crippling debt.

What Radio Stations Promoted BEFORE Consolidation

WHDH Radio PersonalitiesRadio used to really promote its greatest asset, its radio talent. WHDH in Boston promoted itself as having “New England’s Finest Radio Entertainment 24 Hours Every Day!” The “Big 5 on 85” print ad featured Jess Cain, Fred B. Cole, Hank Forbes, Bob Clayton and Norm Nathan, as their air staff, and never mentions what kind of music they play, or news they featured or anything else the radio station did. WHDH was not alone in doing this. Every radio station promoted its talent line-up. Radio air talent WAS the reason people listened.

George Johns recently wrote that when he bought his first radio station (K103 in Portland, OR) that he knew he had to have Craig Walker as his morning man. Unfortunately, Craig was already on the air in Portland at the #1 radio station, KGW. Geo pitched Craig a job with K103 for more money and said he was willing to wait out his one-year noncompete contract to get him. George Johns said his financial partners thought the deal was too expensive and so Geo took out a mortgage on his Coronado, California home to guarantee the money personally.

Did George Johns gamble pay off? Yes. On day one. Craig Walker premiered at #1.

Can you feel the love radio once had for its air talent?

Non-Competes

Which brings up another radio industry problem, the non-compete contract. Have they hurt the radio industry’s growth and innovation?

Boston’s Route 128 corridor used to be the center of technology in the 60s and 70s. In the 1990s, California’s Silicon Valley took over that title from Massachusetts.

Why did Boston’s tech companies lose to those in the Silicon Valley?

Boston was a collection of high tech companies, like Wang, DEC and Data General competing against one another. They kept everything in-house and were vertically integrated. They had employee non-compete contracts. If you left your firm, you were looked upon with great disdain.

Silicon Valley, on the other hand, built an ecosystem. They shared everything. People were free to move between companies, and did. And everyone was still considered part of the family.

Value Chains versus Ecosystems

The radio industry operates like a value chain. Radio’s big consolidators are driven by efficiencies.

Accenture Strategy published a study that found that ecosystems are a “cornerstone” of future growth in a 21st Century world, a way to increase revenue. Ecosystem companies thrive on making connections, lots and lots of them.

The broadcast industry has pushed away from so many chances to collaborate and in so doing lost a competitive advantage.

What is Radio’s Most Valuable Asset Feeling?

Don Anthony’s Morning Show Boot Camp (MSBC30) collaborated with Jacobs Media Strategies to produce the first ever “Air Talent Questionnaire: How Radio DJs View Their Industry.” Some of the takeaways were disheartening to hear. Such as:

  • Most of the shifts where DJs got their first jobs are disappearing

  • Many DJs are not air checked and that lack of attention appears to impact attitude

  • Many DJs have feelings of angst & insecurity; many others are struggling financially

If radio connects with listeners through its air talent, then just these three items ought to give every radio station operator pause.

How to Win the Triple Crown

Diane Lane with Secretariat

I just watched the movie “Secretariat.” In 1973, Big Red, as he was nick named, became the first Triple Crown winner in 25-years, at a time when many thought there would never be another. “His record-breaking victory in the Belmont Stakes, which he won by 31 lengths, is widely regarded as one of the greatest races of all time,” writes Wikipedia.

What struck me, was what Secretariat had, that the other horses did not, a loving caretaker, a loving trainer, a loving jockey and most of all, a loving owner. Big Red was surrounded by people who genuinely loved and believed in him.

Great radio stations are filled with people like that.

I’ve always believed that what happened in the halls of my radio stations were transmitted out, over-the-air, to the listener. We transmitted so much more than just the music we played, the news we delivered, and the entertainment we provided. We transmitted an intangible spirit that was contagious and attracted loyal listeners.

And we do that when we love, appreciate and take care of our most valuable radio asset, our air talent.

32 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

Radio’s Money Problem

Abandoned Radio StationFor the radio listener, your next break is all that matters. Does it speak to your listener? Does it have relevance to your listener’s life right this second? How do you know?

Homogenized America

With the growth of fast food establishments, big box stores and online shopping, one might think that America is now homogenized. That we’ve become a “one size, fits all” society. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Defining Generations

Before we discuss what specific age group goals are, let’s first define those groups.

  • Millennials (ages 18-34)
  • Generation X (ages 35-52)
  • Baby Boomers (ages 53-72)
  • Greatest Generation (ages 73 and older)

I’m part of the Baby Boomer generation, so let me speak about a group that I personally know something about.

Boomer Goals

Harris Poll surveyed 2,002 American adults to learn what we want as we get older. The number one thing was to travel abroad (57%). I know that travel is #1 on my list and that’s why this spring I set out with Sue on a cross-country trip across America that racked up 11,175-miles on our Honda Accord.

The next bucket list item the Harris Poll found was that American’s want to take up a new hobby (52%). In my case, that has manifested itself by working on my blog and volunteering at my church.

The other items on the list were tracking one’s health using a wearable, joining new social circles, living abroad and participating in extreme sports (28% to 3%). What these things all say is that growing older doesn’t mean we have to stop having fun.

Boomer Priorities

I really can identify with what the Harris Poll found as the top priority of aging Americans, spending more time with friends and family (62%). Previously my radio and teaching careers had been my primary focus for over 50-years, but not any longer. Now, being a grandpa is Job One.

Other priorities we have as we age, is the desire to seek out new experiences (51%), which explains our desire to travel and see more of the planet. To travel, one must be healthy and so health and wellness (51%) is also a priority.

Aging Positives

Americans agree that as we age we gain wisdom (65%) and experience (62%). Which begs the question, why do  companies seem to undervalue their senior employees or try to unload them with offers of early retirement and buyouts.

Other positives of growing older are that we feel more trustworthy, independent, are more comfortable in our own skin and feel more in control of our lives.

How Old is “Old?”

I think the answer to the question “How old is old?” has always been a moving target depending on the age of the person being asked that very question. The Harris Poll found that Millennials think old is 67, Generation X thinks it’s 72, Baby Boomers think it’s 79 and the Greatest Generation think it’s 82.

Usually the day after my fitness class, I think it’s my current age.

“Between now and 2029, one Baby Boomer will turn 65 every eight seconds,” says management guru Tom Peters. In his new book, The Excellence Dividend, Peters says “Most firms seem clueless – or worse, even seem to turn their back on the opportunity (of serving this huge population).”

Radio & “the Oldies” Market

Tom Peters is pretty adamant about what companies need to do to serve this segment of the American population.

  • Do a stem-to-stern assessment of the skills, assets, and culture that are needed to serve this market
  • People aged 50 or older have 47-times more net wealth than households headed by a person under age 35

It appears that some companies have done this and are enjoying the profits of their efforts. SiriusXM’s Q3 Conference Call saw that company’s CEO Jim Meyer telling analysts that audio is thriving like never before saying “the entire pie of audio consumption is actually growing.” Net income is up 24%, margins are up 40% and they plan to increase their dividend to investors.

Willy Sutton robbed banks, he said, because that’s where the money was.

The money is with the Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation, the very population that was raised on radio.

I’m not saying every radio station needs to cater to this senior segment. Obviously, if radio is to be relevant to the generations following the Boomers, it needs to offer programs that are relevant to this age group too. However, in my travels around this country I’ve heard a minuscule number of radio signals appealing to the money age groups. In my opinion this is a missed opportunity, for the radio industry’s future and its current economic stability.

Another Place, Another Time

I started my radio management career back in early 1980, still in my twenties, as the general manager of an AM daytime radio station that programmed Al Ham’s “Music of YOUR Life.” Next to Rush Limbaugh, Al Ham’s music format was the next best thing one could program on an AM radio station to attract the older audience of that time.

Our FM station in that AM/FM cluster was programming the current top hits of the day, and between us, we pretty much covered all the demographics. The hardest part of attracting new advertisers to my daytime radio station, was convincing them to try it. Once they did, they quickly became regular advertisers because the people we attracted to our programming had the money to buy everything our advertisers sold. My company president always liked to say, “money makes honey,” and my success with this little 1,000-watt daytimer led to my promotion to market manager in Atlantic City running a news/talk AM radio station and a 50,000-watt FM Bonneville Beautiful Music radio station. Both stations were programmed to an older, well-heeled, audience. We were a million dollar cash flowing property.

The Time is NOW

Tom Peters pretty much sums up radio’s action plan by saying, “Cut the B.S. Can the excuses. Forget the fancy reports. Get moving now. Get the job done. On this score, nothing has changed in 50-years, including the maddening fact that all too often a business strategy is inspiring, but the execution mania is largely AWOL.”

Pay attention to the culture inside your radio operation. IBM’s turnaround CEO Lou Gerstner put it this way, “culture is not just one aspect of the game – it is the game.”

And finally, train your people.

“Training is any firm’s single most important capital investment.”

-Tom Peters

21 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

The End of Retail Business

Going Out of BusinessIs the retail industry dying?

Stores that I grew up with, like Toys R Us, Sears, K-Mart, and Radio Shack are either in bankruptcy or out-of-business. Other retailers are reducing the number of locations to become more profitable to their investors.

The local retailer finds themselves even more challenged to deal with the likes of Walmart and Amazon.

Radio Lives on Local

The prescription for the radio business is to focus their programming on their local community of license. In other words, be VERY local in everything they do.

If the radio station you listen to could be transplanted into another city without changing a single thing about their programming, other than their weather forecasts and traffic reports, then that radio station isn’t really local.

If, on the other hand, you drive into a community and you have no idea what the people on the air are talking about or who the people they’re talking about are, then you have come upon a LOCAL radio station that is serving the people of their listening area.

Local Retailers

In the smaller markets I’ve managed radio stations in, we didn’t really do much business with those big box retailers. Sadly, in most cases, after the grand opening schedule and remote broadcast, they pretty much stayed away from local radio.

The local businesses that lined the main street, or were located in a strip mall or populated the surrounding small towns, were the life-blood of a local radio station.

As Walmart and Amazon strip away the ability for these small merchants to make a living, radio’s business base is likewise being decimated.

21st Century Retailing

Retailing is being disrupted. While some retailers are closing, we also see companies like Apple, Amazon and even Coca Cola investing in building new brick and mortar locations.

The change that’s occurring according to Greg Satell is that “the primary function of a physical store is not to drive transactions, but to service and support customers.”

In other words, retailing is being reimagined.

Radio Reimagined

Radio is giving up its major strength by not having live, local personalities on the air 24/7. Successful small retailers are winning because they engaged in their community and are part of the community’s fabric. They are owned and staffed by dedicated people who believe in super-serving their customer base.

We are living in a time of too much automation and algorithms.

The moves being made by the Apples, Amazons and Cokes to get closer to their customer base by having local people serve their local community is an indication that the pendulum is starting to swing in the opposite direction.

Radio cannot ignore this change in the wind.

Radio needs to unlock the enormous potential of people serving people.

Radio’s Why

A couple of weeks ago, I got a lot of people talking when I asked “What’s Radio’s Why?” What it can’t be any longer is, “we’re #1” or “we have the most listeners.” Nobody cares.

There are more radio stations on-the-air in America, than at any time in the history of radio. Ironically, there’s less choice of formats to listen to and there are less people working per station today as well.

It’s time for radio stations to define an audience for each station and then super-serve that audience. The radio stations who’s audiences are the most dedicated and passionate will be the winners, not the ones with possibly a larger, but passive audience.

Just as each station’s audience is clearly defined and targeted, businesses that are seeking those same people will become just as defined, and a win-win business relationship can be built and sustained.

As I lived through the consolidation of radio and the automation of tasks, I felt that the radio industry applied technology to many of the wrong areas of the business. The air staffs were the first folks to be eliminated in favor of voice-tracking and automation. The main radio station phone line, the listener’s first point of contact, was automated instead of having a live person to greet the caller.

The radio industry eliminated, through technology, the very points where the “rubber meets the road.” The people serving people point.

The Human Connection

I own a lot of Apple gear. I didn’t buy any of it at an Apple store. I bought it online. My iPhones from Verizon. My other gear online from Apple.

What the Apple stores mean to me is a chance to go in and play with the equipment, to ask questions and, like when my MacBook Air crashed, to have a place I can go and have it repaired, almost overnight.

The Apple stores are my human connection to Apple.

The radio industry was built on the human connection. Radio’s air personalities were constantly promoted, in print, on billboard, on television and they were always out and about in the community being highly visible. During consolidation, radio lost its way due to non-radio investors who only saw the money-making benefits of cutting costs to widen margins. Once this “Best Practice” type of thinking wormed its way through the whole broadcast industry, those benefits were quickly marginalized.

Values Shift, Not Disappear

“The businesses that thrive over the long-term,

not only see where value is shifting from

but where value is shifting to and race to get there.”

-Greg Satell

This is radio’s wake-up call.

Is anybody listening?

23 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

It Was Always a “Good Day!”

harvey_ozy_1When I started in professional radio, 51 years ago this week, there was a gentleman broadcasting that captivated my attention, his name was Paul H. Aurandt. The radio audience knew him better by his middle name, Harvey; Paul Harvey.

He broadcast six days a week, just like all radio personalities did back in those days. It was a time when all radio was delivered LIVE. Paul Harvey was heard over the ABC Radio Networks with his News and Comment week day mornings and middays. His Saturday noon-time broadcasts were extra special broadcasts that were always sure to surprise and delight his audience of as many as 24-million people a week. Paul Harvey News was carried by 1,200 radio stations in America, plus 400 American Forces Network stations broadcasting all over the world.

Page 2

The first commercial break in each broadcast was clearly announced with the words, “now page 2.” And it caused me to turn up my radio and give Mr. Harvey my full attention as he told me about another great product that he personally used. The ad copy, just like the news and comments, were all crafted by the mind of Paul Harvey.

I bought my BOSE WAVE radio due to Mr. Harvey telling me how wonderful music sounded coming through its speakers and baffle system design. It started me on the path to owning several BOSE products as a result.

Paul Harvey News had a waiting list of sponsors to get on his program. In 1986 his News & Comment broadcasts were rated #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5 in network radio programs when he was the focus of a CBS 48-Hours broadcast commemorating Paul Harvey’s 70th birthday.

Bob Sirott did the profile piece and it showed Paul Harvey as few ever saw him. I encourage you to watch the segment on YouTube by clicking HERE 

Paul Harvey News

On April 1, 1951, ABC Radio Network premiered Paul Harvey News and Comment. His Chicago based broadcasts were often called “the voice of the silent majority” or “the voice of Middle America.”Paul Harvey (2)

Paul Harvey was making so much money for ABC, they added a third daily broadcast to the schedule on May 10, 1976 called, The Rest of the Story. These broadcasts were written and produced by Paul’s son, Paul Harvey, Jr. for its 33-year long run.

While Paul and his son maintained this entertaining feature which was based on true stories, not all critics agreed, including urban legend expert Jan Harold Bunvand.

I know from my own personal experience of the two times Paul Harvey included stories based on my hometown of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, that Mr. Harvey played fast and loose with the facts of the events to tell a good story. It made me wonder how all the other stories I heard might have been so “massaged.”

Iowa

In 2000, I was managing a cluster of radio stations for Connoisseur and Cumulus. We carried Paul Harvey on my 100,000-watt KOEL-FM. It was the only thing, other than local news in morning drive, that stopped the flow of the best in country music.

I remember being in my car at the time Mr. Harvey’s noon-time broadcast came on the air and hitting the scan button to hear Paul Harvey News and Comment on virtually every station my car radio stopped on. In media, that’s called a “road block,” the same program or advertisement, broadcast at the same time on multiple radio or television stations.

$100 Million Dollar Contract

In November of 2000, Paul Harvey had just inked a new 10-year contract with ABC Radio Networks when a few months later he damaged his vocal cords and had to leave the air. It wasn’t until August of 2001 that Paul returned to the air waves, but only with a reduced clarity and vocal presence in his voice.

I remember this very well as I was now back in Atlantic City running a cluster of radio stations, and my AM radio station WOND-AM1400, was the Paul Harvey radio station for South Jersey.

I had been cajoling Mr. Harvey’s secretary in Chicago for months before he lost his voice for customized promotional announcements to be voiced by Paul Harvey to promote his daily broadcasts over WOND radio.

One day in the fall of 2001, a reel-to-reel tape came in an envelope from Chicago addressed to me. It contained my customized, Paul Harvey voiced, WOND announcements. I was thrilled, but just a little disappointed when we played the tape due to the hoarse, raspy sound of Paul’s voice when he recorded them.

Before the end of 2001, Paul Harvey was back to full vocal dynamics.

Touched My Heart

It was after watching the Bob Sirott piece produced for 48 Hours a second time and then sharing my personal Paul Harvey memories with the love of my life, Sue, that I found myself choking up and tearing up about the heartfelt emotional impact that this gentleman from Tulsa, Oklahoma had made on me.

Using only wire copy and his manual typewriter, Paul Harvey crafted a broadcast of words that vividly created in the mind of the listener exactly what he intended. His full vocal range, the power of the dramatic pause and dynamic inflection completed his radio magic, what most like to call radio’s “Theater of the Mind.”

Could you imagine Paul Harvey doing podcasts?

I have no doubt that they would have been as popular as the original SERIAL podcast was from NPR.

Paul Harvey didn’t use any music or sound effects.

Paul Harvey created great radio, that was welcomed into homes all across the globe by his great writing ability and vocal acting talents.

Paul Harvey (3)

Harvey receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005

Good Day

Paul Harvey died on February 28, 2009 at the age of 90.

Three weeks after his death, ABC Radio Networks cancelled the entire News and Comment franchise.

At the time of his death, he had less than two years left on his 10-year contract.

Paul Harvey called himself a salesman, not a journalist, newsman or anything else. He loved his sponsors saying “I am fiercely loyal to those willing to put their money where my mouth is.

He never would have promoted his broadcast as “commercial free,” as he understood that this free, over-the-air medium called radio, was a powerful way to move product for his advertisers and that it was those very folks that paid all the bills for him and the ABC Radio Networks.

Imagine that, radio ads that were as cherished to hear as the rest of the broadcast itself.

That’s the definition of “GREAT RADIO.”

14 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

What’s Radio’s Why?

WHYSimon Sinek says people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Watching the live streams of the 2018 Radio Show sessions and reading all of the reporting on the meetings in Orlando this past week, left me asking the simple question: “What’s radio’s why?”

College Kids on Radio

The RAIN Conference in Orlando put four college kids from the University of Central Florida on stage and asked them about their radio listening habits.

Spoiler Alert: They don’t have any radio listening habits.

These four students said things like “radio is obsolete,” “there’s no need for radio,” and “it’s very rare that I listen to radio.”

To these kids, radio doesn’t have any “why.”

What does?

YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify…in other words things that stream what they want, when they want it.

Write The Wrongs About Radio

George Johns and Bob Christy are getting together to write a blog aimed at fixing radio, by writing about the things they hear radio is doing wrong.

“(Radio) has to evolve to be relevant in today’s world,” they write. “There has been almost no evolution in radio (and) what George and (Bob) want to do is challenge radio to evolve and become relevant again.”

They write the  3 basics of great radio are: 1) be professional, 2) be interesting and 3) be entertaining.

The 25-54 Demo

Fred Jacobs wrote about the fabled radio demo of 25-54, also known as, the “family reunion demo.” It never really existed, except as a way for an agency buyer to get the C.P.P. (Cost Per Point) down for a radio station they really wanted to place their client on.

You would have thought as the number of radio signals increased, that the variety of programming choices would have too, but the reverse happened. Radio offered less choice of programming and music formats. As Fred writes, “broadcast radio surrendered its Soft AC, Smooth Jazz and Oldies stations to SiriusXM and streaming pure-plays.”

Millennials are not kids. I know, both of my sons are part of the millennial generation. They are both well-entrenched in successful careers and raising families.

The college kids referenced earlier are part of Generation Z. And those kids don’t know (or care) what radio even is. They don’t even know what life was like before smartphones. And smartphones have really replaced just about every other device Millennials and Boomers grew up with.

Norway Turns OFF Analog Radio

Norway is a country of about 5.5 million people. Norway turned off their FM signals almost a year ago and went all digital using DAB+. So what’s happened to radio listening in Norway?

Jon Branaes writes, “Norwegians still choose radio when they think it’s worth choosing. Radio has not lost our biggest fans but the more casual listeners.”

Norway has also seen FM listening replaced by internet delivered radio, which grew significantly after turning off analog FM signals. They expect smart speakers to contribute to even more of that type of listening in the future.

The Takeaways

Radio first needs to know its “WHY.” Then it needs to communicate it, clearly and simply or suffer the consequences.  Bud Walters of Cromwell loves to say, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” Until the radio industry figures this out, getting new people to listen (or former listeners to return) will be a challenge.

“FM is not the future. DAB+ (digital broadcasting) can keep radio relevant in a digital future of endless choices.” But Jon Branaes adds, “Radio must respond with its core strengths – being live and alive, useful and present in listener’s lives.”

20 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

Mister Radio

mr rogersI didn’t grow up watching “Mister Rogers Neighborhood.” The television in my family’s house was connected to two different antennas that each picked up a single television station. One TV station was affiliated with the NBC television network and the other with the CBS television network. My childhood mentor was Captain Kangaroo. Bob Keeshan’s broadcast was on commercial television, so I was also exposed to products such as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid, where the “sugar, sugar, sugar…is already in it.” Sad, that I remember that sell line over 50-years later, more than any other lesson taught by that show.

Fred Rogers

I think I really became aware of the impact that Fred Rogers’ telecast made on children when in 2003 my oldest son Chris called me and said, “Dad, today’s a very sad day, Mister Rogers died.”

But my quest to learn more about this man really came about when I viewed the documentary on Netflix called “Mister Rogers & Me: A Deep & Simple Documentary Film.”

“I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex.”

-Fred Rogers

Deep & SimpleDeep & Simple

Fred Rogers learned of this concept from a friend, mystic, activist and author in Durham, North Carolina by the name of Bo Lozoff. Bo wrote a book titled “Deep & Simple.” I bought a copy of the book from the Human Kindness Foundation, which Bo and his wife Sita founded. I wanted to read about the three core tenets of a deeper life that inspired Mister Rogers.

$20 Million Testimony

rogers-pastoreOn May 1, 1969, Fred Rogers appeared before Senator John Pastore’s Senate committee to explain why they should continue to fund PBS (Public Broadcasting System) for another term at a cost to the taxpayers of America of twenty million dollars. If you’ve never seen Mister Rogers’ testimony, I encourage you to stop, and take a moment to view it now. Click HERE

Spoiler Alert, Senator Pastore gave PBS its $20 million funding.

Be Real

What Fred Rogers did before the Senate hearing, was the same thing he did on his TV program, in interviews and in life. He was himself. He was being real.

His truthfulness and sincerity were never in question.

2002 Dartmouth Commencement Speechdartmouth-rogers

In May of 2002, Fred Rogers was invited back to his alma mater, Dartmouth, to give that year’s commencement address. It was powerful in its deep and simple message. Here are some of the things he said that day, that I feel have importance to the radio broadcasting industry.

Mister Rogers told one his favorite stories about the Seattle Special Olympics, where nine contestants, all of them physically or mentally disabled, were to run a 100-yard dash.

The starting gun fired and all of them began to run. One little boy stumbled, fell and hurt his knee. He began to cry. Hearing him cry, the other eight children turned around and ran back to him. They picked him up, linked arms and all joyfully crossed the finish line at the same time.

What makes this story so powerful, Fred Rogers told the graduates, was that

“Deep down, we know that what matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What really matters is helping others win, too. Even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then.”

Radio used to operate with this everybody wins type of esprit de corps, a feeling of pride, fellowship, and common loyalty, to its staff, its advertisers and its community of license.

You Are Unique

Fred told the graduates that day that each one of them is unique and special. No one will ever be like them.

Radio stations used to be unique and special when I was growing up. DX’ing (listening to distant AM radio signals via the night skywave) was a cornucopia of theater for the mind. Every station was unique. Every radio personality was special. To not listen to any one of them left the radio listener with a sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

Choices

Fred Rogers said that he was very much interested in choices.

“What it is, and who it is, that enable us human beings to make the choices we make all through our lives. What choices led to ethnic cleansing? What choices lead to healing? What choices lead to the destruction of the environment, the erosion of the Sabbath, suicide bombings, or teenagers shooting teachers. What choices encourage heroism in the midst of chaos?”

Radio has been constantly faced with choices over its nearly 100-years.

When television was born, radio chose to move in new directions and created new kinds of programs that would engage the next generation of listeners.

“What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

-from Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince

What’s Essential About Radio?

In the 21st Century, who’s asking this question? What’s essential about radio today? What’s essential about the people who broadcast over your radio station?

Fred Rogers told those Dartmouth students that commencement day, they were graduating because of the people who helped them become the people they are.

“Anyone who has ever graduated from a college, anyone who has ever been able to sustain a good work, has had at least one person, and often many, who have believed in him or her. We just don’t get to be competent human beings without a lot of different investments from others,” said Mister Rogers.

bill gableThis past week, news spread that Brother Bill Gable had died. For many of us, it was the time he broadcast over The Big 8 – CKLW out of Windsor-Ontario, Canada that endeared him to our hearts. His best friend, Pat Holiday shared a story about what made Brother Bill and the rest of the air personalities at CKLW essential radio listening. Pat wrote:

“Each day on CKLW the big deal was the show opener. We’d all try to outdo each other. No, ‘Hi…how you doing?’ stuff. It HAD to be larger than life. We’d all do our best to do some crazy or funny or amazing thing to set the tone for the rest of the show. Something mesmerizing. So much that you’d think, ‘Holy shit that was great. How am I going to top that?’”

This is in such stark contrast to what we hear over the radio today.

George Johns shared a blog post from his radio friend Bob Christy that was titled “It’s Over…” The blog was written by Bob after he had spent a couple of hours listening to New York City’s #1 radio station. You can read the complete blog article HERE 

The essential element for most radio listeners, the air personality, was throttled to four mic breaks per hour. Worse, the personality sounded uninterested according to Christy and the only local story he shared was ripped off the internet.

Bob ends his post by asking, “So is it fair to judge a station by listening to one break or for ‘only a few hours,” hell yes it is. The audience will give you one shot, you better be ready and make it count.”

Won’t You Be My Listener?

Radio has choices. It will either work to become essential in people’s lives again, or it won’t. Will it continue down the path of being shallow and complex, or return to its roots, being deep and simple? Great radio is more than anything you can see, hear or touch. Great radio is community and companionship. Great radio is LIVE and engaging to its target audience.

Great radio is created by dedicated radio people who spend every waking hour focused on delivering great radio.

I wish for the people in today’s radio industry to possess the wisdom, strength and grace to make the choices the industry needs, to make it the best radio it can be, going forward.

 

 

 

7 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales