Great Expectations

OR FMI read with great interest the five part series by Matt Bailey on “The Alexa Effect.” In the 5th and final installment Matt shared what he called the “radio weapon Spotify will never have.” What is it? The radio personality. He wrote:

 

  • “A radio personality can tell you the backstory of a breakthrough artist that makes you want to hear her work.”

  • “A radio personality can point out that crazy line in the second verse to stay tuned to hear.”

  • “A radio personality can engage you to smash or trash a song on the station’s social media.”

  • “A radio personality can give you the chance to be among the very first to hear a new song by a star artist.”

“A radio personality can add context that will make listeners excited to hear a song that otherwise would simply be weird and unfamiliar. It’s a deeply personal and emotionally engaging weapon no algorithm can match. When we stifle their voices and their role in introducing new music simply to avoid potential tune-out, we might win a few tenths of a point in the PPM battle, but we will lose the new music war to Spotify.”

Consolidation & Voice Tracking

I don’t disagree with Matt, but I lived through the ramifications of the Telcom Act of 1996 and the consolidation of radio stations, along with the rollout of voice tracking.

Clear Channel called it “Premium Choice,” and we were told it would replace our local personalities with big market talent.

I watched in market after market as radio personalities, who were like members of the radio listener’s family, were sent to the unemployment lines. Relationships that took years, even decades to establish, wiped out in an instant.

Early Media Expectations

I grew up at a time when the family television set received a signal from a couple of antennas on the roof. We had two channels, which meant we received two television networks, CBS and NBC. If you wanted to change the channel, you had to get off the couch and change it. There was no remote control.

Our radios had both the AM and FM bands, but I remember wondering why. I often scanned the entire FM band to hear nothing at all with only the AM band picking up radio signals.

My early media expectations were two TV channels and AM radio stations. The radio provided a lot more variety, plus I had a radio in my room and our family had a single TV located in the living room. I controlled my radio, my parents controlled the family TV.

Media Expectations Change

In time, I would come to expect television to be in color, to be connected to a cable and have a remote control to easily change the multitude of channels I could now receive, from the comfort of my couch.

Radio would expand to the FM band and a whole new type and style of radio was born. The one thing that connected AM and FM radio was the radio personality. Every station had them and the decision to listen to one station over another was because of the radio personality.

In fact, I wrote an article on the power of the radio personality back in 2015 entitled “We Never Called It Content.”

I wrote this article after reading about the latest round of “forced retirements” in the radio industry.

And if you thought this type of downsizing was only occurring in large radio metros, the movie “Corporate FM” told the story of how in the 80s, ninety percent of mass media in America was owned and controlled by about fifty different companies, but after the Telcom Act of 1996 it was down to just six corporations.

New Media Brings New Expectations

Let’s fast-forward to today. I cut the cord on cable TV two years ago and all of my television viewing is streamed. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sling TV and YouTube provide me with more hours of television entertainment and information than I could ever have time to watch, and I’m retired.

Amazon Echo provides me with all of my audio entertainment and I do mix it up between stations via TuneIn and the pureplays like Pandora and Amazon Music.

I also read a lot and subscribe to several online newsletters that all link to the original source of the material.

Which leads me to this conclusion, my calendar age did not cement my media habits. They’ve been fluid all of my life.

My 21st Century Great Expectations

  • I expect NPR to open up my world to things I should be aware of, that I might not have been. I expect them to also provide me with more depth to the stories in the news. I expect them to have all of this posted online for almost immediate access. They don’t disappoint.
  • I expect my television viewing to be On Demand and commercial free.
  • I expect my music listening to match my mood and be there by simply asking Alexa to play my favorite channels when I want to hear them.
  • Finally, I expect I’m not alone in these “21st Century Great Expectations.”

Rewound Radio DJ Hall of Fame

On Saturdays, I enjoy asking Alexa to play Rewound Radio so I can hear another fabulous radio personality featured in the weekly “DJ Hall of Fame.” The other weekend they featured WOR-FM out of New York City and the air personality was Johnny Donovan. OR-FM air checks are all in stereo and the music mix has plenty of variety. It was a time when Music Radio 77 – WABC dominated the world’s airwaves on the AM band. But the one thing I notice in these weekly trips down memory lane is how integral the radio personality was in the total program. They were a constant companion. They really were radio’s “secret weapon” to attracting faithful listeners.

The question I ponder often is, was this period of radio history akin to the vaudeville period of theater. It filled the right hole at the right time but won’t ever be coming back again.

I welcome your thoughts.

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Still On the Beach

Royal-Decameron-950x530

New blog article coming Sunday, May 19th, about

“Great Expectations”

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On The Beach

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Don’t worry, be happy.

A new blog article coming Sunday, May 19th.

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Mind the Small Stuff

Booking.comSue & I are taking a vacation and this blog will be on hiatus for the next couple of Sundays while we’re traveling. That got me to thinking about travel, and hotels, and the like.

What’s Most Important in Booking a Hotel Room?

Expedia Group put this question to consumers, and the answers, in this order were, price, guest ratings and brand value.

For years I was a valued member of a big hotel chain. I had worked myself up to Gold status. I never even looked at another hotel chain. I had their App on my phone and many times, my phone served as my room key in addition to keeping all of my stays organized. Until…

How to End a Customer Relationship

Then Sue & I were using some of her time share points up in Virginia Beach and I wanted to treat her to an elegant dinner on the beach. I found the highest rated restaurant in Virginia Beach and reserved an ocean window table for our meal one evening.

When we had made our dinner selection, we noticed a dessert that sounded intriguing so, we ordered it at the same time we ordered our meal, as it would take 20-minutes to prepare.

Is Everything OK?

Frequently throughout the evening different people in this elegant restaurant stopped by our table to see if everything was OK or if we needed anything. I wasn’t surprised, as this restaurant was operated by the same big hotel chain that I was a gold member with. I expected nothing less.

Till it Wasn’t

When we had finished our meal, our waiter came over to see if we wanted dessert and we said, we ordered dessert at the time we ordered our meal. “Oh, that’s right,” he exclaimed. “I forgot. I’ll be right back.”

And then we sat there for what would seem like a lot longer than 20-minutes, and for what would turn out to be a dessert that was terrible.

By now, the restaurant was filling up with people who were attending an office Christmas party and we just wanted to leave. We settled our check for several hundred dollars and proceeded to get our checked coats and our parking ticket stamped.

And Then It Just Fell Apart

As we pulled up to the garage parking attendant to hand in our parking ticket and parking voucher, the attendant informed us another $10 was due. I said that the restaurant had picked up our parking and that the voucher was supposed to cover our parking fee.

The attendant said the voucher was only good for two hours of parking and it was now twenty minutes past three hours’ time.

I asked if he could call over to the restaurant and get a waiver, but the attendant said he didn’t have a phone to call them. So, I put my car in park and turned off the engine and proceeded to get on my cellphone to call the restaurant.

First, I was told the manager was not on duty tonight and there was no one there who could help me. Then, I was told that on-duty manager was busy and could not come to the phone. When I called back the third time, I reached a person who said they were the manager but they could not come across the street to help me with my parking ticket. The fact that we had just spent several hundred dollars in their restaurant, that I was a gold member or the reason it took us over three hours to dine was their fault, seemed to make no difference.

By this time, parking attendant’s manager came into the booth to hear what my problem was and why I was parked with the engine off in the only exit lane at the parking garage.

This Virginia Beach city employee reached into his own wallet and paid the parking fee and opened the gate. I told him, I did not want him to do that, but he said he wanted to be sure we had a good experience in Virginia Beach and wished us a Merry Christmas.

100% Satisfaction Guarantee

First, I have a lot of praise for the City of Virginia Beach and whatever training they provide to their employees in building good relationships with tourists. However, that big hotel chain never ever provided any real satisfaction in my later email encounter with the problem I had at their restaurant property and with their employees. They really missed the mark in delivering on their “100% Satisfaction Guarantee.”

The result was in 2018, I booked more hotel nights in one calendar year than I’ve ever done in my life. Sue & I did a cross-country road trip that covered over 11,000-miles in eight-weeks. And this year, we’re doing even more traveling, because sightseeing has become our new passion in life.

However, that big hotel chain didn’t see a single dollar, all because of a $10 parking ticket. Everything for our cross-country trip was booked through Booking.com and this site has opened our eyes to better prices, real-time guest ratings and introduced us to new brands.

It’s ALL Small Stuff

I learned early in my radio career that no matter what, keep the listener and the advertisers happy. Even if you know that they are wrong, treat them as if they are right.

Why?

It all comes down to the lifetime value of a customer. One transaction is minuscule when you think of the big picture and return business.

In radio, keeping the listener happy will show up in what they tell their friends, post on social media and what they do when they participate in a ratings survey.

Keeping the advertiser happy means enjoying repeat business for years to come. Good radio advertising is about building a relationship that delivers a win-win outcome. Plus, it’s harder to develop a new radio advertiser than to keep a current one.

My purpose in sharing this story was not to cast aspersions on a major hotel company, but to take from this situation a learning moment to make you successful in your media career.

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Fin d’une Époque (End of an Era)

Notre Dame on fireOn this Easter Sunday morning, I’m still processing the pictures etched into my brain of Notre Dame Cathedral, in flames. This 856 year old church, is the most visited structure in Paris, eclipsing the Eiffel Tower.

Like many people around the world, I sat in front of a video screen watching the efforts of 400 French firefighters trying to contain the inferno.

In a world that seems out-of-control, the raging flames destroying this icon seemed like a metaphor for our lives.

“Built in the Gothic era, destroyed in the social-media era.”

-Rachel Donadio, The Atlantic

This quote by Rachel resonated with me because it made me think of some similarities between the radio industry and the history of this great cathedral.

A Short History of Notre Dame

Notre Dame was a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture. It was built in the middle ages with the structure largely completed in 100-years. It would take another 100-years to see the cathedral take on more of the shape we had most recently known.

Over the centuries, Notre Dame would be badly damaged, first by the Huguenots, and then again during the French Revolution. Napoleon would order the church’s restoration and hold his coronation there as Emperor in 1804.

By the 19th Century, Notre Dame was again half-ruined inside and badly battered. It was even used as a warehouse, and there was talk of just tearing it down. A novel by Victor Hugo titled “Notre-Dame de Paris” (published in English as “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”) would bring the cathedral new attention, and in 1844 King Louis Phillippe ordered the church’s restoration.

Notre Dame would survive two world wars, but during the 20th Century the cathedral would be battling air pollution and a lack of interest in funding the maintenance of this aging structure.

In late 2010s, it was estimated that $113 million in renovations was needed to preserve the cathedral. Only late last year had work begun on the spire.

A Short History of Radio

Radio was a communications masterpiece. The spoken word and musical art forms of radio broadcasting would spread knowledge, culture and entertainment like the world had never seen.

Commercial radio born in 1920, would quickly become the must have device in every American household. It was the “Golden Age of Radio.”

Radio was first challenged by the birth of television in the 1950s and the migration of its talent and programs over to TV. Like Notre Dame, there were many who thought radio had come to an end and that television had replaced it. But radio broadcasters with vision, renovated radio broadcasting from its block programming and national broadcast networks into a variety of formats that would be curated by the radio personality, known as the Disc Jockey or more simply the “DJ.”

Radio was now in what would be called its second “Golden Age.”

Like the great cathedral of Notre Dame, radio would be challenged by its own particular battles over its life. Things like the 8-track tape, cassette tape, compact discs and the ubiquitous CB radios of the 1970s, all these challenged radio in a place it had long enjoyed dominance, the automobile.

As Rachel Donadio so prophetically observed, radio and Notre Dame were seeing their own type of destruction in a social-media 21st Century world.

Money for Disasters but Not for Maintenance

One of the things we have learned from the fire at Notre Dame is that while it was near impossible to find donors to fund needed maintenance and restoration of the cathedral, the disaster of April 15th has secured hundreds of millions of dollars for the full restoration of this great iconic church.

I’m sure that Notre Dame will be restored to a glory even greater than before the fire.

Radio & Cooking Frogs

On the other hand, radio isn’t going up in flames. There will be no live, continuous television coverage of radio’s destruction. Most people don’t even realize there’s a problem. 9 in 10 people still are counted as weekly radio listeners.

Radio’s situation is more akin to the way you cook a frog. Throw a frog into a pot of boiling water and it will immediately jump out, but put the frog in a pot of water and slowly raise the temperature and the frog will be cooked without realizing it.

Radio’s Restoration

My heart sinks as I read how important the radio personality is to the future success of the radio industry, and at the same time read about how decades long radio people are being eliminated with job reductions on almost a weekly basis.

If all radio stopped tomorrow, people would spring into action to save it, just like they are doing for Notre Dame.

Radio, like all local, independent media, plays a vital role in our lives, our democracy, and our future.

Can you feel the water getting hotter?

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Seniors & Technology Adoption

old hands using high techTraditional habit patterns used to be that as people grew older, they grew into the same habit patterns as their parents. Things like reading a newspaper, watching the evening television news, becoming involved in their children’s schools, the community and listening to radio. But new research says, those patterns have been upended by what else but, the internet.

Connected Seniors

Perhaps the fastest growing segment of new users on Facebook are seniors. Over half of the people aged 50 to 64 use Facebook, but people over 65 have almost doubled their use of Facebook with now over 32% of them on the social media juggernaut.

It may be why younger generations are moving to other social media platforms, to get away from us oldsters.

You Can’t Turn Back the Hands of Time

Pew Research says seniors who become engaged in social media say they would find it very hard to give up. I’m one of those seniors and yes, I would find it hard to give up. How about you?

Social Media, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) helps seniors to remain independent. Adoption of new technology by seniors goes against the conventional wisdom that only the young want the latest new thing, but these shiny, new, high tech devices attract kids of all ages; even us “big kids.”

Us Baby Boomers were the biggest market segment for all of my life. Only recently have Millennials outnumbered us, but expect Boomers to change the concept of retirement and technology use. Broadcasters take note: Once people discover new technology, it’s unlikely they will return to the days of old.

Social Media Addiction

I don’t remember anyone ever sending out alerts about radio or television addiction, but with social media the world is seeing addictive properties akin to alcohol, tobacco or drugs.

Consider that the average adult now spends nearly 2 hours a day on social media. We can access it on our home computers or away from home on our smartphones. Of the 3.1 billion social media users globally, it’s estimated that almost 7% have a social media addiction problem. This form of addiction is defined as “a proposed diagnosis related to overuse of social media, similar to Internet addiction and other forms of digital media overuse.”

71% of us now sleep with or next to our mobile phone. I know I do and it also is my alarm clock. Worse are those people who check their social media before going to sleep or wake-up during the night to check their social media, estimated to be about 45% of us, making getting a good night’s sleep challenging.

Maybe even more alarming is the fact that 90% of drivers say they use their smartphones while driving. Half to check social media while behind the wheel. (I DO NOT) And according to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, 9-people are killed and more than a thousand are injured daily by people using their smartphones while driving.

I can’t think of any reports of people suffering the same amount of death or injury listening to their car radio. Can you?

Apple even now tells me how much my weekly screen time is on each of my Apple devices in an effort to make me more aware of how much time I spend with them. I can even set-up my devices to force me to limit my time with them. That’s how different these platforms are from the traditional media of the 20th Century.

If you’d like to do a deep dive into “The Future of Well-Being in a Tech Saturated World,” here’s a link to a long report on all of this by the Pew Research Center.  Click HERE

Reader Question

I share all of this for radio broadcasters, the first social media, to consider the challenge of today’s new communications media. It’s addictive. Broadcast not so much.

A reader wrote to me asking this question: ‘Was radio the dominant media because it truly was a companion or because it was pre-internet, consumers had a lot fewer choices for basic full service information and music?’

Reaching Our Time Limit

Back in the early 90s I was living in New Jersey and AT&T did a presentation for my Rotary Club on a future of infinite capacity in communications. Just to be clear, these scientists defined “infinite” as having more transmission capacity through their wires than they could conceive of what to transmit over them.

I remember asking the question if the future was going to make available so much media product, how would a viewer or listener know what to consume? The answer they gave me was, ‘the media would pay the listener or viewer to listen or watch their program.’

It feels to me like we’re approaching that point in time now.

What are your thoughts?

 

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You’re Not Talking to Me

DAKRSkVkQwumvq7Zd9aTUwI sat on a webinar the other day and when it ended the first thought that crossed my mind was, they’re not talking to me. Their demographics in the study capped at 55-years of age. Really? No one over 55 matters to radio or to radio advertisers?

65+ People

Then I read this World Economic Forum article that was headlined, “For the first time ever there are more people over 65 than under 5.” Think about that for a moment. Economists point out there’s widespread consequences for productivity, inflation and global growth by this demographics shift, to which I would add, consider the impact on ad supported media.

65+ People are Renters

While millennials are buying homes – if they aren’t weighed down with student loan debt and minimum wage level jobs – seniors are becoming renters. People 65+ are empty nesters and find they simply don’t need a McMansion and all the work/expense that goes into living in one. I know that’s certainly been the case for me when I sold my home in 2003. I have been a renter since. Renting is much more economical than owning.

Market Watch reports that Americans will find they will need to spend nearly $9,400 in “hidden costs” to own and care for a median-priced home, based on the latest analysis from Zillow.

Millennials Abandon Brick & Mortar Stores

Tethered to their smartphones and comfortable with buying online, those millennials aren’t necessarily the best customers for their advertisers that radio might have thought.

Millennials are the largest generation in American history, and their shopping habits are worlds away from those of their parents. Thanks to the rapid pace of digitalization and new shopper-friendly tools, like browser extensions and voice assistants, retailers must be ready to embrace significant change.

PR Newswire, March 19, 2019

Only 18-months ago, research indicated that millennials were still going to brick & mortar stores, but that’s changed dramatically, and in a very short time. You can download the full report HERE.

$164.55 a Day

Jessica Dickler reporting on CNBC writes, “Between housing, food, cellphone bills and other expenses, Americans shell out $164.55, on average, in a given day.” Punching that number into my calculator, I quickly saw that’s over $60,000/year, but averages are funny things and you can be sure ‘your mileage may vary.’

Putting that number aside for a moment, we find that the bulk of that money is spent on housing. That fabled ‘American Dream’ can be a boat anchor on the pocketbook.

While seniors are moving from being home owners to renters, you might be surprised to learn how similar the senior household expenses are to the average household according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Item

Food
Furniture
Major Appliances
Small Appliances
Household Textiles
Apparel
Transportation
New Vehicles
Old Vehicles
Health Care
Drugs
Entertainment
Insurance
Other ExpensesTotal
Senior Household

$13,432
​$401
​$196
​$88
​$113
​$1,640
​$7,781
​$2,052
​$1,611
​$2,416
​$467
​$2,060
​$4,055
​$4,093$40,817
Avg.  Household

$14,403
$460
​$200
​$81
​$108
​$1,870
$8,354​
​$2,055
​$1,904
​$1,758
​$266
​$2,142
​$4,505
​$3,956​$42,631

Source: Advertising Age’s American Demographics, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure survey. (1) Includes social security contribution (excludes health insurance, which is classified as health-care expense).

Not all that different, is it.

And far from that other analysis of the average adult spending over $60,000 a year. So why aren’t more radio companies focusing at least one of their radio signals on seniors?

Retirement Epiphany

All my life, the focus was on planning for and saving for retirement. I’d like to say I did everything right, but the reality is far from that.

The great wealth destroyers are divorce, moving and changing jobs.

In my personal life, I’ve gone through two divorces. As the radio industry was dramatically changed by the Telcom Act of 1996, I would spend a decade moving around the country about every two years. That communications act also found me changing companies with just about every move too.

The final chapter of my working life, as a university professor of broadcasting, gave me seven years of stability and an opportunity to save as much as I could for retirement.

Now I’m retired. The goal is no longer to save for retirement, but to spend in retirement. My wife and I are in good health and taking zero medications, which affords us the opportunity to spend on our new found passion of traveling. Spoiling the grandkids, eating out, and redecorating are also high on our list of things to do. I’m sure we’re not alone.

The irony is, the radio media seem to ignore us. And they do so at their peril.

We’re retired, not dead.

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