Tag Archives: Advertising

Oh, The Insanity

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) submission to the Federal Communications Commission for the FCC’s 2018 Quadrennial Regulatory Review is eye-opening.  You can read it for yourself HERE. It left me shaking my head.

The NAB told the commission that “’local radio stations’ Over-The-Air (OTA) ad revenues fell 44.9% in nominal terms ($17.6 billion to $9.7 billion) from 2005-2020.” Local 2020 digital advertising revenues by stations only increased the radio industry’s total ad revenues by $0.9 billion bringing them to $10.6 billion.

The NAB’s solution to the problem is for the radio industry to become more consolidated.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over

and expecting different results.

-Albert Einstein

Say What?

Back in the mid 90s, the radio industry was telling anyone who would listen that the problem with the state of radio broadcasting in America was that the industry was made up of little “ma and pa” radio stations/groups which could not scale and if the ownership caps weren’t lifted the radio industry would perish.

Excuse me, but I’ve already seen this movie and how it ends. So, why would doing more of what didn’t work, result in a different outcome.

The Media World Has Changed

I don’t think anyone would contest that the media world we live in has changed dramatically since 2005. Facebook, the world’s largest social media company with over 1.84 billion daily active users, opened its doors on February of 2004. YouTube began in 2005 and Twitter in 2006.

Google, the dominate search engine on the internet, began in 1998 and internet retailing behemoth, Amazon, began in 1994.

The new internet kids on the block that dominate our day are WhatsApp (2009), Pinterest (2009), Instagram (2010), Messenger (2011), SnapChat (2011) and TikTok (2016).

The Top 10 internet companies at the end of 2020 raked in 78.1% of the digital ad revenue ($109.2 billion).

All Ad Dollars Are Green

While we like to break money spent on advertising into distinct categories like digital media, traditional media etc. the reality is the total number of advertising dollars is a finite number and in the end you can’t tell a dollar from digital from a dollar from analog advertising.

“You can’t handle the truth!”

Colonel Jessup

(played by Jack Nicholson in the 1992 film “A Few Good Men”)

Since 2005, many young entrepreneurs have created a better mousetrap to capture those advertising dollars. No one ever made a regulation or a law that prevented the radio industry from doing what any of those internet companies did. The passenger railroad industry never thought of themselves as being in the transportation business but only the railroad business. That’s why it found itself challenged by other means of people transportation, namely the airlines.

The radio advertising industry was born by entrepreneurs that learned how to create a product that attracted a large listening audience, which in turn enabled them to sell audio advertising to companies wishing to expose their product or service to these consumers.

Unfortunately, we found ourselves challenged by new media competition. Initially, it was television, but transistor portable radios, along with car radios, allowed our business to reinvent its programming and flourish once again.

With the advent of the internet, radio was caught flat-footed.

If that were its only problem.

Radio Stations (2005-2020)

In 2005, America had 18,420 radio signals on the air.

  • 13,660 AM/FM/FM Educational radio stations on the air
  • 3,995 FM translators & boosters
  • 675 Low Power FM stations.

By 2020, those numbers increased to 26,001 radio signals.

  • 15,445 AM/FM/FM Educational radio stations
  • 8,420 FM translators & boosters
  • 2,136 Lower Power FM stations

18,330 vs. 26,001

That’s a 41.8% increase in the number of radio stations.

While radio folks were busy trying to steal radio advertising from the station across the street or consolidating with their former competition, the internet folks were focused on selling more advertising. From 2005 to 2020, the sale of digital advertising grew from $12.5 billion to $139.8 billion. That’s an increase of 118.4%.

But during that same time, radio grew its digital advertising footprint by $0.9 billion.

Quantity vs. Quality

When radio regulation began in America under the Federal Radio Commission (FRC) the decision was made by that regulatory body to focus on the quality of radio programming versus the quantity of radio stations they allowed to broadcast. Only people or companies with the economic capital to operate a radio station in the “public interest, convenience and/or necessity” would be allowed to obtain a radio broadcast license.

I believe you could say that the radio industry’s downfall began when we ceased worrying about quality and went with the more signals we license, the better for radio listeners mantra.

Sydney, Australia

Sydney is a major city in the country of Australia with a population of 5.312 million people. There are 74 radio stations on the air in Sydney.

By comparison, Los Angeles (America’s second largest city) has a population of 3.984 million people and 158 radio stations serving its metro.

In July 2021, radio revenues in Sydney were up 11.3% year-on-year according to Milton Data.

The Benefits of Pruning

Gardeners know that pruning is the act of trimming leaves, branches and other dead matter from plants. It’s by pruning a plant that you improve its overall health.

A beautiful garden is one where the plants have been trained to grow properly, to improve in their health/quality, and even in some cases to restrict their growth. Pruning is a great preventative gardening and lawn care process that protects the environment and increases curb-appeal.

The irony of gardening is, the more fruit and flowers a plant produces, the smaller the yield becomes. Pruning encourages the production of larger fruits and blooms.

Why do I share this with you?

I believe that everything in the world is interconnected. You can’t for a moment think that what makes for a bountiful garden would not also make for a robust radio industry.

Today’s radio industry is so overgrown with signals and other air pollution, that it has impacted its health.

Doing more of the same, and expecting a different result is insane.

It’s time to get out the pruning shears.

Less Is More

I believe that the way to improve the radio industry in America, to have more advertising revenues to support quality local services including news, sports and emergency journalism, along with entertainment by talented live performers, is by reducing the number of radio signals.

AM radio is the logical first place to start.

Elsewhere in the world we are seeing that not only the AM band being sunset but the analog FM band as well. The world has gone digital.

American radio has one final chance to get it right by correcting for past decisions, hurtful to radio broadcasting, in creating a new and robust digital broadcasting service.

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Profitability Depends on Repeat Customers

The radio advertising business is all about its ability to deliver both reach (the number of people who will hear your advertisement) as well as frequency (the number of times a listener will hear the same advertisement). Radio, for all of my life has been the medium for delivering the best frequency for an advertiser, but in today’s world, it now is also the best for delivering reach.

Pierre Bouvard, my first Arbitron sales representative and today the Chief Insights Officer at Cumulus Media/Westwood One, calls AM/FM radio the soundtrack of America’s recovery and spending resurgence.

Relationships

When I started out in radio sales, my first goal was to start making friends with each business person I called on. I used to say to myself, “If you can’t make a sale, make a friend.”

People do business with people they know and like, it’s first step in building relationships with your advertisers.

Advertising is an Investment

Patience is at an all-time low, so the problem in today’s fast-paced world is everyone wants things to happen immediately.

When you’re dealing with people and human nature, things move at their own pace.

Farmers know when they plant a crop, they won’t be going out the next day to harvest it. Likewise, when you put an advertiser’s message on the radio, it will take time to grow in the mind of the consumer. Done correctly, a business can be harvesting sales 52-weeks a year.

Great Radio Ads

Great radio advertising can benefit the listeners of your radio station in addition to growing the business of your advertisers. Great ads speak about the customer’s wants, needs and desires.

Getting Referrals

Make money for your advertisers and they will be happy to refer you to other local business people who could benefit from your radio station’s audience. And unlike cold-calling (knocking on doors of people you don’t know), a referral is like getting a foot-in-the-door. It’s golden.

Fair Prices & Excellent Service

Studies have shown you don’t have to have the lowest price to attract repeat business, fair prices will do.

Combine fair prices with excellent service and you have a winning combination for building repeat business with your customers.

Your goal as a radio sales person should be to become a sustaining resource for your customers. A person who they call first when they need help with their advertising or promotions; a person they can trust.

You Can’t Do It Alone

Everyone in your radio station that comes in contact with your listeners and advertisers impacts the future relationship your enterprise will have with each of them. Everyone needs to be engaged in delighting your listeners and your advertisers.

It takes a team effort to be successful.

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Best of the Blog 2020

It’s been my tradition on the last Sunday of the year, to look back at the year that has just past and share with you the Top 5 Most Read and shared blog articles of the past 52-weeks. Maybe you missed them or perhaps you’d like to read them again.

To date, I’ve published 334 articles that have been viewed over 218,000-times around the world.

Most Read Article of 2020

COVID-19 and the global pandemic completely obliterated our 2020 travel plans. But in November, we decided we could just as easily isolate ourselves in a mountain cabin as in our own home and so we traveled to Mount Airy, North Carolina, more affectionately known as “Mayberry USA,” the home town of Andy Griffith.

While there, I discovered the most unique and historic local radio station; WPAQ. Radio in Mayberry USAwould become 2020’s most read blog article.

Sue, (my wife and the editor of this weekly blog) and I are big fans of “The Andy Griffith Show,” TV’s second most popular sitcom behind “I Love Lucy.” Mount Airy embraces the spirit of Mayberry, a time when the most important question of the day was what the special was at the diner.

Read why this article touched the hearts of so many HERE

Second Most Read Article of 2020

Even before COVID-19 would turn radio furloughs into permanent layoffs, the radio industry was eliminating people. What were called RIFs (Reductions In Force) back in 2009, were now being called “dislocations.”

The article, Dislocation is the New RIF would see the most comments of any I had written in 2020 and come in as the second most read and shared article of the year. It was published on January 19, 2020.

Read why the radio industry, so many of us fell in love with and made a career of, is melting away HERE

Third Most Read Article of 2020

Let’s face it, radio sellers have always had to be the best in the business. You couldn’t see, touch, smell or taste radio advertising, it could only be consumed by the ear. But the power to plant the seed of an idea through the ear, can be the most powerful of all the senses when used correctly.

That’s why, when Nielsen announced in 2021, it would only list radio stations in its reports that subscribed to its service and not the audiences of the entire radio market of stations. I along with many others, felt that buying radio advertising would become much more difficult. It’s why I wrote Why Make Radio Advertising Harder to Buy?

Read more about Nielsen’s new “Subscriber First” policy that begins in a matter of days from now HERE

Fourth Most Read Article of 2020

The fourth most read and shared article of 2020, I didn’t even really write. What I wrote about was a simple poem written by Kitty O’Meara, dealing with the 2020 global pandemic, that was being widely shared on social media and labeled as something written about the 1918-1919 global pandemic and how history was repeating itself. My article was a takeoff on a radio feature Paul Harvey made famous, called “The Rest of the Story.” I know you will enjoy this wonderful poem by Kitty titled And the People Stayed Home.”

You can read it HERE

Fifth Most Read Article of 2020

Sue and I are baby boomers. We grew up with radio. I made it my career. So, when our city’s 911 Manager stated, “people don’t listen to radio anymore, but they’re really into social media,” and the head of the British Broadcasting’s Radio division said “radio, as we’ve always known it, has lost the faith of listeners,” I knew I had to write about it in an article titled Where Have All the Baby Boomers Gone?

Sadly, the radio industry continues to jettison the very people that connect its stations with the listening audience, the radio personality.

You can read the article HERE

Most Read Articles, Period

Two of the articles I’ve written over the past five years continue to garner traffic. They are “SiriusXM Radio is Now FREE” and “The Day the Dumbest Idea Invaded the Radio Industry”.

I actually updated my article on SiriusXM, when I read about the incoming 2021 CEO’s plans to consider offering some ad-supported channels that would be receivable by all SiriusXM radios and would not require a subscription. You can read that follow-up article HERE

The record holder for any of my articles, all 334 of them, continues to be “We Never Called It Content”. Over 3,500 people read and shared it the day it was published on Sunday, September 6, 2015 and to date, just shy of 5,000 people have read it and 68-people have left a comment about it. Read it HERE

Why I Blog

I blog for broadcasters, educators and students. I blog to provide media mentorship and to pay-it-forward to the broadcasting industry that I have been a part of for over 50-years. I’m grateful for the more that 164,000 people from all over the world who have visited this blog (https://DickTaylorBlog.com) and have read an article that caught their interest.

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Thank You for reading, next week I will begin my seventh year of blogging with all new articles.

Together we can all learn from one another by sharing our experiences, knowledge and wisdom. Feel free to contribute your thoughts to the discussion in the comments section. I read every one of them.

Happy New Year!

Dick & Sue

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The Better Advertising Mousetrap

Ralph Waldo Emerson is said to have coined the phrase: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” When it comes to advertising, social media has built the better mousetrap, and you and I are helping them to improve it every day.

The Social Dilemma

There’s a new documentary on Netflix called “The Social Dilemma” about how social media is impacting our lives, and is truly eye-opening. I encourage you to watch this documentary if you subscribe to Netflix, but especially if you’re in advertising and marketing. In fact, it would pay you to subscribe to Netflix just to view this documentary; it’s that important!

This blog won’t be about many of the important social issues raised in the documentary, but instead I plan to focus on how traditional media, like AM/FM radio broadcasting, is fighting a battle for advertising with the internet companies that isn’t a fair fight. Broadcasters are in essence coming to a gun fight, wielding a knife.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to regular readers of my blog, because back on February 25, 2018, I wrote an article titled “Radio Has an Addiction Problem,” that quoted MIT professor Sherry Turkle’s 1995 book “Life on the Screen, Identity in the Age of the Internet” saying “computers don’t just do things for us, they do things to us, including ways we think about ourselves and other people.” Turkle said that computers weren’t just a tool, but were sneaking into our minds and changing our relationship with the world around us.

Monetizing Social Media

Social media quickly realized that in order to sustain itself it needed to monetize its service. Google’s search engine business was a Silicon Valley marvel for not only harnessing the power of the internet but simultaneously building a revenue engine that grew right along with it. Tim Kendall, now CEO of Moment, was one of the early people at Facebook, charged with coming up with a way to make money. He said that he decided that the “advertising model was the most elegant way.”

Advertising

The advertising business has always been about selling exposure to the people who use the product. Newspapers sold access to its readers, radio sold access to its listeners and television sold access to its viewers.

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted;

the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

-John Wanamaker

Businesses have always wanted to get the biggest bang for their advertising buck, but realized that in the world of advertising, there were no guarantees, that is until social media came along. Mel Karmazin, former broadcasting and satellite radio CEO put it this way when he met with the founders of Google: “You’re messing with the magic of sales.”

Jaron Lanier, who wrote the book “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now,” explains that what social media is doing more effectively than traditional media is “changing what you do, how you think and who you are…it’s a gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your behavior and perception.” It’s similar to a magician performing slight-of-hand tricks, and making you believe things that aren’t real.

“This is what every business has always dreamt of, to have a guarantee that if it places an ad it will be successful. That’s (social media’s) business, they sell certainty. In order to be successful in that business you have to have great predictions. Great predictions begin with one imperative, you need a lot of data.

The internet has given us a new kind of marketplace that never existed before, a marketplace that trades exclusively in human futures. Just like there are markets for pork belly futures, or oil futures, we now have markets that trade in human futures, at scale, and those markets have produced the trillions of dollars that have made the internet companies the richest companies in the history of humanity.”

-Shoshana Zuboff, PhD, Harvard Business School

Author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism”

“Any sufficiently advanced technology

is indistinguishable from magic.”

-Arthur C. Clarke

Getting Your Attention

Every company whose business model is to sustain itself through the selling of advertising is competing with other companies for your attention. Traditional media is competing with every social media company to get as much of your time and attention to their platform as they possibly can. Remember, when you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.

The advantage social media has over traditional media is their development of persuasive technology. It’s designed to intentionally apply to the extreme behavior modification in the user, and cause them to take a desired action. It does this through the use of positive intermittent reinforcement, just like a casino slot machine lures you into thinking the next pull of the handle will release its fortune. Social media works to create an unconscious habit, programming you for a deeper level of control than you even realize is happening.

Social media has learned how to exploit a vulnerability in human psychology, which even when you know how it works doesn’t inoculate you from its power to change you.

No longer is social media a tool we use, but is a tool that uses us, creating this technology based environment designed for mental addiction through psychological manipulation.

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

illegal drugs and software.”

-Edward Tufte

Most concerning about this change is that it’s being driven by a technology that’s advancing exponentially. In contrast, our human brain has not really advanced at all over the same period of time. The rate of change is beyond our human comprehension, even for the very people who are designing and building these computer networks.

“The race to keep people’s attention by social media isn’t going away. Our technology is going to become more integrated into our lives, not less. The AI’s (artificial intelligence) are going to get better at predicting what keeps us on the screen.

How do you wake up from the matrix when you don’t know you’re in the matrix?”

-Tristan Harris, Center for Humane Technology Co-Founder

“Whether it is to be utopia or oblivion

will be a touch-and-go relay race

right up to the final moment…”

-Buckminster Fuller

Today, the internet is a more efficient way to sell our attention to advertisers.

Now you know why.

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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.

Screen Shot 2020-06-30 at 11.21.16 AM

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The Birth of Radio in America

Early Radio ListeningWhen World War I ended, it didn’t go unnoticed what a powerful role radio communication had played in the outcome. Led by the General Electric Company, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) was formed in October of 1919. With guidance from the federal government, RCA brought together GE, Westinghouse, and AT&T to develop the radio broadcasting industry in the United States.

In the early 1920s, no one knew what radio might become. RCA would be the entity to coordinate the manufacturing and sales of all radio receivers. They held all the patents from GE, Westinghouse and AT&T and it was RCA that would authorize others to use these patents to produce radio receivers, as well as collect and distribute the royalties to the patent owners. GE, Westinghouse and AT&T could manufacture equipment for their own use, as well as build and operate their own radio stations.

The Interstate Commerce Commission

Initially, the regulation of radio broadcasting fell under the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). In 1920, interest in broadcasting ranged from amateurs to experimenters and businesses. Some talked, some played music, and some began broadcasting news of local interest and weather reports. In an effort to bring some order to what had become a chaotic broadcasting environment, the ICC decided to place amateur broadcasters into the less desirable air space, below 200-meters, as well as restrict the type of broadcasting they could air. Amateur broadcasters had to agree that their radio stations could no longer air weather or market reports, music concerts, entertainment, speeches, news or other similar information. The ICC would begin to issue a new broadcast license on the 360-meter band for radio broadcasters that would be licensed to provide such services. All the members of RCA, including RCA itself, would begin to build radio stations. Westinghouse would be the first to establish one of these new radio stations, with their own inhouse amateur radio enthusiast Dr. Frank Conrad, and what became KDKA in Pittsburgh on November 2, 1920. Westinghouse followed this station with WBZ in Springfield, Massachusetts and WJZ in Newark, New Jersey.

However, Westinghouse management quickly realized that merely providing a superior broadcast service, which would create demand by the public to buy the new radio receivers they manufactured, would be futile if their broadcasts were harassed and interrupted by uncontrolled amateurs disrupting their ability to be heard.

Quality vs. Quantity

The ICC now had a new problem on its hands. Broadcasters interfering with other broadcasters, and what kind of culture should America’s new, growing middle class, be hearing through their radio sets? Since the decision had been made to not have radio be government controlled in the United States, broadcasters said they needed the government to regulate radio in order to help establish order and control.

Westinghouse proposed a solution to the ICC, to create two classes of commercial radio service.

Broadcasters on the current 360-meter band would become Class A broadcasters and a new service on the 400-meter band would be reserved for Class B broadcasters.

In order to qualify as a Class B broadcaster and receive higher power authority (500 to 1,000 watts), the licensee would need to never play phonograph records on the air, or any other kind of recorded material. Class B broadcasters would only air live talent and performances. Such a requirement would insure the public was receiving radio entertainment that was unique and original and not available on any other radio station.

The new license would also mean that only wealthier and more established organizations would be able to afford to operate radio stations under these new conditions.

Westinghouse’s concept, having government and business working together, was a way to “improve” radio broadcasting through restricting it to “responsible” parties without stepping on anyone’s First Amendment rights as to what a radio broadcast should consist of.

The Radio Act of 1927

This act laid the foundation for what radio broadcasting in America would be for the next several decades. The first being that radio broadcasting would not be open to everyone, but restricted based on quality. The feeling being that Americans would be better served by a few quality broadcast radio stations, rather than a plethora of mediocre ones. The new act also introduced the hard to define concept of “operating in the public interest.”

Radio, unlike newspapers or the movies, was to become a government regulated medium, with decisions about quality and public interest being made through an alliance of government and private interests.

And it was with the Radio Act of 1927, that America decided that radio broadcasting would be a commercial medium operated in private hands. Radio would support itself through the selling of advertising.

Today’s Radio Marketplace

From June 1927, when 705 commercial radio stations were on-the-air in America (all on the AM band and most with transmitter power of under 1,000-watts) to June 2019, we now have 25,819 radio stations (21,209 FM / 4,610 AM) with transmitter power up to 100,000-watts on the FM band and 50,000-watts on the AM band.

The concept of quality over quantity is certainly no longer the guiding principle.

The Ad Pie

As I read about how radio revenues are doing, I’m struck that both public and private radio broadcasting companies are reporting that local advertising revenue is dismal for Q2. However, major radio stations that enjoy eating from the national trough, saw this category of advertising as their only bright spot for radio ad revenue.

While digital revenue is hoped to be a new area to grow advertising revenues for radio broadcasters, the reality is that Facebook, Google and Amazon are already gobbling up about 90% of those dollars, so how fertile is this area for broadcast radio?

Reading comments being made about radio advertising conditions, I was struck by what Beth Neuhoff, CEO of Neuhoff Communications had to say when Radio Ink asked her, “what are local advertisers saying about the economy?” She responded by saying: “Local advertisers seem less focused on the economy and more concerned about over-saturation of the competitive landscape.”

It’s something that I believe the radio industry should be just as concerned about when it comes to OTA (over the air) broadcasting.

Gone are the days when putting another broadcast station on-the-air is a license to print money. People who aren’t use to quality, always will chase quantity.

quote-quality-is-more-important-than-quantity-one-home-run-is-much-better-than-two-doubles-steve-jobs-51-96-69

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Where Have All the Salespeople Gone?

emptydeskFact: the number of people working in the advertising industry is in decline. What makes this noteworthy is that America has been in an economic expansion.

For the past thirty years, advertising jobs have grown in line with the economy, why not now?

I See/Hear Lots of Ads

In my youth during the 60s/70s, it was estimated that the average American was exposed to around 500 ads per day. Those were the days where advertising was delivered by what we now quaintly refer to as “traditional media;” newspapers, magazines, billboards, radio, television and direct mail.

In today’s world of smartphones and internet, digital marketing experts estimate that the average American is exposed to somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 advertisements per day.

With this explosion in advertising, why are salespeople disappearing?

Google It

Or Facebook it. Or Amazon it.

In reality, the world’s largest advertising companies are these three technology giants and they have realized virtually all of the growth in digitally based advertising.

Programmatic Buying

The advertising business has always been one based on building relationships, be it directly with the business owner or with an advertising agency. Programmatic buying eliminates these relationships by the use of algorithms. This allows for the placement of more advertising, on a variety of platforms, with the need for fewer people.

The downside of programmatic buying is that a company’s ads may be placed in low-quality or even offense editorial material. That’s been very troublesome for advertisers.

The High Tech/High Touch Pendulum

Throughout my broadcast career, I’ve watched the pendulum of change oscillate between a communications industry that is “high touch,” aka people talking to people, to one that is “high tech,” aka machines/automation talking to people. This pendulum oscillates on a fairly regular cycle between the two extremes.

Maybe we’re close to the apex of the pendulum swinging in the direction of high tech, and it will be moving back toward a world that demands people interacting with people again. We’ve been here before.

Digital Truths

In the current generation of digital media, we know that two things are true:

  1. No one is looking for more ads
  2. High Quality Content Rules

So, what’s the answer?

Every form of media needs to look in the mirror at itself and be honest about its advertising content and the quantity of ads it’s running. (Note: Running more low quality ads was never a solution to making your budget number.)

Whether we’re talking about the songs we program, the banter of our personalities, the content of our talk shows or the quality/content of our ads, it’s ALL important in a world where high quality content rules.

Media sales today is more about building partnerships than transactions. It is one where consistency and trust are the foundation upon which today’s sales professional becomes a sustaining resource to the businesses they serve.

Human Relationships

Advertising is influencing and influencing is fueled by relationships.

Whether it’s the relationship between an air personality and the audience, or the sales professional and the client, there’s real value in building human relationships and partnerships.

The airline industry today could save as much as 35 Billion Dollars employing the use of pilotless planes. But according to Fortune “54% of passengers refuse to board a remote-controlled plane.”

Representative

I know I’m not alone when I call a company for help and find myself frustrated having to deal with an automated voice system. Very quickly I find myself yelling over and over and over “REPRESENTATIVE.”

Are we approaching the age of algorithm burnout?

We will always opt for a real live human to work with, over a digital one.

That’s why there will always be a job for media sales professionals who are both knowledgeable and emotionally intelligent.

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The Great Ad Hack

great-hack-netflix-1564144457The other evening, I watched the Netflix documentary “The Great Hack.” It chronicles how big tech is taking our data, that we freely give away online, by both making money with our information and manipulating us.

The documentary makes one realize there’s a lot for us to be worried about.

 

Data Privacy

In an internet connected world, do we have any secrets? Everything about us is being stored, as we share our information via social networks, our credit card companies, our banks, our medical services – just about everyone we interact with online.

During the course of the documentary, professor David Carroll tries to see his data points as collected by Cambridge Analytica. Spoiler Alert: Professor Carroll wins a lengthy court case to obtain his data points. Cambridge Analytica never produces them but instead paid a fine and plead guilty for failing to do so. Not producing the data points was more important than revealing what they knew about Professor Carroll and giving the world an inside look at what they know about each of us.

Now Cambridge Analytica is liquidating to prevent anyone from ever seeing the data points they collected on anyone.

Our data privacy has always been important, but we’ve traded our privacy for speed and convenience in our internet connected world. The documentary points out that collecting and using our data points is a trillion dollar business that last year saw data surpass oil in value, making data the most valuable asset on earth.

The Persuadables

What Cambridge Analytica did was target people whose minds they felt they could change for the purposes of winning elections for their clients. In the military, such a tool is called Black Ops or False Flag tactics. Its psychological warfare used to induce confessions or reinforce attitudes and behaviors favorable to the user’s objectives.

Cambridge Analytica knew they didn’t need to change everyone’s mind, just a critical mass of people to achieve their client’s objectives.

Why did they do it? They wanted to make money, lots and lots and lots of money.

Advertising is Propaganda

The advertising “mad men” of Madison Avenue came from the propaganda operations of the United States military during World War Two. They took what they learned and applied it to selling cars, refrigerators, homes, soap etc. Great advertising seeks to persuade the reader, listener or viewer to buy a product or use a service.

Is it any surprise to anyone that as social media was born, these same methods would be applied to this platform, only on a level that was not possible through traditional media?

“These platforms that were created to connect us are now being weaponized,” says Carole Cadwalladr, investigative reporter for The Observer newspaper. “It’s impossible to know what is what, because nothing is as it seems,” she adds.

Tech Giants Crush Ad Market

Sara Fischer writes in Axios that the big tech companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon are consuming more advertising revenue than most other ad supported media combined. The reason? They have our data points and know how to effectively use them to get us to do what they want. You can read Sara’s full article HERE.

The eMarketer and Zenith Media data as graphed by Axios Visuals really shows where things are headed. (see below)

Screen Shot 2019-07-30 at 3.36.05 PM

Can Traditional Media Win?

The playing field today is so unlevel, it begs the question, if traditional media – newspapers, magazines, radio, television – can even have a fighting chance to win advertising dollars.

As a consumer, do you think you stand a chance to not be influenced by the tech giants when they are using your own information against you?

I encourage you to go deeper in this subject by both watching the Netflix documentary “The Great Hack” and reading Sara Fischer’s column “Tech Giants Still Crush the Ad Market Despite Looming Threats.”

Then I hope you will share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog article.

The future of our world is being shaped by the lack of data privacy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Ho, Ho, Ho…Go, Go, Go

Job CutsSadly, it’s that time of the year when radio station budgets are being finalized and staffs are being cut before the start of a new year.

Hubbard Radio’s Chicago VP/GM Jeff England recently told the trades, “As technology evolves, we have to look for ways to use it to our advantage. The difficult decision to reduce staff is an effort to remain competitive in a very challenging environment.”

General Motors

The large radio companies are faced with the same challenges that America’s large car companies are faced with, a rapidly changing marketplace.

GM’s CEO, Mary Bara, announced that General Motors would be shuttering seven plants around the globe to focus on increasing production of new electric vehicles. More than 14,000 GM workers will be out of a job as the company laid them off without any warning.

An outraged GM worker told the press, “You’re going right into Christmas. You’re looking for a celebration and that’s not there now.”

Sadly, I’ve known lots of radio people who can identify with how the workers at closing GM plants feel. I am one of them, as Clear Channel showed me the door without warning, just before Christmas 2009.

What makes these plant closings so impactful to their communities is not just the GM workers out-of-work, but the additional downsizing in the support businesses in those communities and elsewhere. As many as seven more people, for every GM worker, could see their jobs eliminated at businesses such as food services, retailers, healthcare, etc. All the businesses that broadcasting depends on for advertising.

Focused on the Future

Mary Bara, in a statement, said of GM’s decision to close some of its plants, “The actions we are taking today continue our transformation to be highly agile, resilient and profitable, while giving us the flexibility to invest in the future. We recognize the need to stay in front of changing market conditions and customer preferences to position our company for long-term success.”

Is this any different than what any other industry, including broadcasting, needs to be doing?

Top Tech Trends for 2019

I just sat in on a Juniper Research webinar about the “Top 10 Tech Trends for 2019” and it was mind numbing in many ways.

I try to stay up on the latest trends, but I must admit I needed a second browser window open during their presentation to understand what the heck they were talking about. They were using terms like chatbots, loot boxes, RPAs, RCSs, etc.; like these were common everyday terms.

Here’s what I learned about tech’s future as it may impact radio and broadcasting:

  • Digital, blockchain, robots, voice assistants, 5G wireless and artificial intelligence (AI) are where everything is headed.

Intel is working with China’s Alibaba (an internet service that connects buyers with sellers) to develop artificial intelligence to enhance EDGE computing power in the internet of things. China is a huge market for American companies. In the case of General Motors, they didn’t build car assembly plants in China to ship those vehicles to America, they built them to sell vehicles in China. In the first nine months of 2018, GM sold 2.7 million cars in China compared to 2.6 million cars in all of North America.

Amazon’s digital voice assistant, Alexa, will be deployed in more devices. Currently voice assistants are in 9% of the households worldwide according to Juniper Research. That percentage is even higher in developed markets and VA’s will become a service-led market going forward.

5G wireless will enable RCS (Rich Communication Services) that will compete with services like Facebook messaging and is expected to bring people back to messaging directly via their smartphones, due to a more vibrant, media-rich platform. RCS is the successor to SMS text messaging that we now use.

Digital Advertising in 2020

Salesforce Research in their latest insights into the new era of advertising and media buying report says that:

“Consumers and business buyers receive more messages, through more

channels, then ever before. Cutting through the noise requires advertisers

to deliver hyperpersonalized messages that resonate at the individual

level. Now, advertising is undergoing a transformation — the biggest

revolution since the launch of digital ads in the 1990s — driven by data.

 

To effectively reach audiences and interact with them in a smarter, 1-to-1

manner, advertisers must connect and make sense of a myriad of data

sources. Of course, achieving this requires a shift in dynamics; advertising

and marketing can’t live in vacuums. Technology can’t be an afterthought.

The winners in this new era will coalesce the right teams and technologies

to harness data, more precisely track their efforts, and measure progress

to evolve their strategies at the pace of the consumer.

 

Dominant channels — and thus budgets — are shifting, too. Increasingly,

advertisers will rely on major platforms under the Google and Facebook

umbrellas to deliver their messages. And success isn’t measured only by clicks and impressions, but also lifetime customer value.”

Salesforce says that advertising and marketing are converging, and that the same team now performs both functions and shares the same budget. Companies now are over the tipping point (57%-59%) internalizing their ad spend decisions for Facebook/Instagram and Google search. 94% of companies now use Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) data to target their advertising. The main benefactors of this change are Facebook and Google, with an estimated 66% of digital ad spend going to just these two.

Click HERE to get your copy of the full report from Salesforce.

Strategy, Tactics and Radio’s WHY

I asked the question in the fall of this year, “What’s Radio’s Why?” I asked that question because it often appears that radio is employing lots of tactics without first having a grand plan; a strategy.

GM and Ford both see a future where SUVs, trucks and electric vehicles will be their primary focus. Ford plans to eliminate all but two of its car lines and GM announced that it would be terminating many of its car models too. Both of these car companies have a future strategy, and I would contest, have found their “why.”

In order to have a profitable strategy for radio, the industry must first answer what its WHY is,  and that it fits into the needs, wants and desires of a 21st Century listening audience.

 

 

 

 

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Repeat Customers Are Key to Profitability

welcome backThe radio advertising business is all about repeat customers. Radio’s power is its ability to deliver both reach (the number of people who will hear your advertisement) as well as frequency (the number of times a listener will hear the same advertisement). Radio, for all of my life has been the medium for delivering the best frequency for an advertiser, but in today’s world, it now is also the best for delivering reach too.

Relationships

It all starts with building relationships with your advertisers. People do business with people they know and like.

When I started out in radio sales, my first goal was to start making friends with each business person I called on. I used to say to myself, “If you can’t make a sale, make a friend.”

Advertising is an Investment

The problem in today’s fast-paced world is everyone wants things to happen immediately. Patience is at an all-time low.

When you’re dealing with people and human nature, things move at their own pace.

Farmers know when they plant a crop, they won’t be going out the next day to harvest it. Likewise, when you put an advertiser’s message on the radio, it will take time to grow in the mind of the consumer. Done correctly, a business can be harvesting sales 52-weeks a year.

Great Radio Ads

Great radio advertising can benefit the listeners of your radio station in addition to growing the business of your advertisers. Great ads speak about the customer’s wants, needs and desires.

Getting Referrals

Make money for your advertisers and they will be happy to refer you to other local business people who could benefit from your radio station’s audience. And unlike cold-calling (knocking on doors of people you don’t know), a referral is like getting a foot-in-the-door. It’s golden.

Fair Prices & Excellent Service

Studies have shown you don’t have to have the lowest price to attract repeat business, fair prices will do.

Combine fair prices with excellent service and you have a winning combination.

Your goal as a radio sales person should be to become a sustaining resource for your customers. A person who they call first when they need help with their advertising or promotions. A person they trust.

You Can’t Do It Alone

Everyone in your radio station that comes in contact with your listeners and advertisers impacts the future relationship your station will have with each of them. Everyone needs to be engaged in delighting your listeners and your advertisers.

It takes a team effort to be successful.

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