Tag Archives: Al Ries

Choice Paralysis

57 channelsI sat in on Radio World’s presentation about “Digital Sunrise for AM Radio” hosted by editor-in-chief Paul McLane. The webcast lasted almost two hours and was technically informative.

The question Paul kept asking the presenters about going all digital on AM, was a question he hears numerous people asking him, “has the horse left the barn?” In other words, has the world moved on and does anyone really cares about AM radio anymore.

But that’s not the question that was running through my mind.

Too Many Choices

We live in a world with infinite choices when it comes to audio & video entertainment. Twenty-eight years ago, Bruce Springsteen released his song “57 Channels and Nothing’s On.” The lyrics are very telling of the condition we find ourselves in today.

I bought a bourgeois house in the Hollywood hills
With a truckload of hundred thousand dollar bills
Man came by to hook up my cable TV
We settled in for the night my baby and me
We switched ’round and ’round ’til half-past dawn
There was fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on
Well now home entertainment was my baby’s wish
So I hopped into town for a satellite dish
I tied it to the top of my Japanese car
I came home and I pointed it out into the stars
A message came back from the great beyond
There’s fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on
Well we might’a made some friends with some billionaires
We might’a got all nice and friendly if we’d made it upstairs
All I got was a note that said “bye-bye John
Our love is fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on”
So I bought a .44 magnum it was solid steel cast
And in the blessed name of Elvis well I just let it blast
‘Til my TV lay in pieces there at my feet
And they busted me for disturbing the almighty peace
Judge said “What you got in your defense son?”
“Fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on”
I can see by your eyes friend you’re just about gone
Fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on

It’s not unusual for people to spend an entire evening going through the program guide on Netflix only to finally retire for the evening having not watched a single program. We’ve all done that.

On just Netflix alone it was estimated in 2015 that it would take a person 34,739 hours to watch everything available on the streaming service. I’m sure that number has grown considerably when you consider in 2019 Netflix introduced 371 series and movies to view.

Add to Netflix more television streaming services like Amazon Prime, Hulu, Apple TV+, Disney+, YouTube and it means choice is not the TV viewer’s problem, it’s choice paralysis. (And maybe also how to pay for it all.)

ALL DIGITAL AM

The question running through my mind about investing in building out an all-digital AM radio service in America is, “why?” When I scan the AM band now, I can hear the same talk shows on station after station. The FM band is no different when it comes to everyone doing the same type of programming.

It has me humming Bruce Springsteen’s song in my head, only with a lot more channels of programming attached to the “nothing’s on” part.

Digital AM seems to be the answer to a question, that listeners aren’t asking.

Less is More

Many businesses fall into the trap of thinking that more products equal more sales and radio certainly can be accused of falling into that trap.

HD Radio was designed to offer a higher quality broadcast signal for AM and FM radio stations. FM station owners didn’t really get interested in HD Radio until they learned they could feed FM translators with HD2, HD3 signals and put more FM analog signals on-the-air in their market.

I learned that the all-digital AM service offers the opportunity for an HD2 signal that could feed another FM analog translator.

What Al and Laura Ries tell us from their research is how this strategy of adding more and more choice becomes a trap and can lead to negative consequences in the long term.

Just One Thing

In media sales, we try to have our clients identify what one thing makes them special and unique. What makes their business so different that consumers will want to come to them instead of their competitors. You may know this process as finding a business’s “unique selling proposition.”

One Good Reason

Back in the day, 66-WNBC put up a billboard that gave radio listeners one good reason to turn their radio dial to 660 AM. It simply said “If we weren’t so bad, we wouldn’t be so good.”

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This one simple sentence captured the essence of both Don Imus and Howard Stern. It was this radio station’s one good reason to listen. It was this radio station’s one good reason to advertise on it.

And speaking of one, I was told by the WNBC Sales Manager that it only took one commercial on Howard Stern for an advertiser to see immediate sales results.

That’s the power of a unique brand.

Misplaced Priorities

Radio had a choice to make in the last decade, to either develop unique powerful brands localized to the marketplace the FCC licensed them to serve, or build out more signals with programming that was virtually hard to tell apart from one another. Unfortunately, the radio industry chose the latter and as a result has turned the business into a commodity.

Something for everyone equals nothing for nobody.

Economics defines a commodity as goods or services that have fungibility, or in other words something the marketplace treats as everything being nearly equivalent to each other, with little regard for who produces it.

This is why radio sales people will often hear advertisers says things like “all radio stations sound the same, now let’s talk about your spot price.”

Perception is reality.

Or should I say that the listener and advertiser’s perception is accurate with the reality today being all radio stations do sound the same.

Elections & Radio Listening

I read an article the other day that said what changes the outcome of any election is turnout. That the way someone wins an election is by getting people, who normally sit it out on the couch, engaged and out to the polls. It’s not getting people to switch party affiliations.

I think radio may have a similar problem.

For the radio industry to be growing again, what radio needs to be focused on, and investing in, are its people and programming, not putting more signals on the air with nothing to hear.

 

 

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The Problem with Too Many Choices

57I’m not a shopper. I admit it. Shopping for me is work. When I do shop, I like places like Costco because while they offer choices, they don’t offer so many as to overwhelm. I like stores that do the “heavy lifting” for me and give me a selection of the best to pick from.

Less is More

Al and Laura Ries write in “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding” that many businesses fall into the trap of thinking that more products equals more sales. This type of strategy is a trap and can lead to negative consequences in the long term.

Apple’s Quest for Simple

When the iPhone7 finally was released, everyone was talking about the missing headphone jack. The 3.5mm audio output port is 19th century technology. It doesn’t allow the highest sound quality to be transmitted. It is a way for water to invade the electronics of the iPhone. It takes up a lot of space. It adds a level of complexity where having the lightning port do this function or better yet, wireless transmission of audio to a set of AirPods, makes more sense.

Steve Jobs put it this way:

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Give Me One Good Reason

In media sales, we try to have our clients identify that one thing that makes them unique and special. What makes their business so different that consumers will want to come to you instead of anyone else. You may have heard this stated as finding a business’s “unique selling proposition.”

Ten Reasons Are Not Better Than One

The problem is that often it is hard for people to give just one reason. Instead they offer lots of reasons. This adds complexity. When you become burdened with lots of choices, you tend to avoid making any choice at all.

In the book “The Paradox of Choice” author and psychologist Barry Schwartz tells the story of very memorable jam study by psychologists Mark Lepper and Sheena Lyengar. The study compared the amount of jam sold if consumers were given either 6 varieties of jam to choose from or 24 varieties. While the table with 24 varieties attracted more people, the table with only 6 varieties saw thirty percent of the people buy a jar of jam versus only three percent who bought a jar when confronted with a choice of 24 jams.

One Good Reason

There was a great billboard in New York City that promoted AM66-WNBC’s drive time personalities that has stuck with me since the one and only time I saw it. It gave one reason to listen to this iconic radio station. It simply said “If we weren’t so bad, we wouldn’t be so good.”

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This one simple sentence captured the essence of both Don Imus and Howard Stern. It was this radio station’s one good reason to listen. It was this radio station’s one good reason to advertise on it.

Something for Everyone = Nothing for Anyone

Variety is a word that used to come up in radio station focus groups so often that many radio stations began to brand themselves as “Variety Radio.” It was an attempt to appear to be offering something for everyone.

The Better Way

If you want to be more effective, be specific versus general. Use words that have color, create mental pictures and surprise the listener. Don’t use two words when one will do. Tell your own story, the one no one else can tell.

Choice vs. Complexity

In the end, we all like to think we have a choice. But if the number of choices becomes too great, then complexity is introduced into the decision process. Complexity produces paralysis, whether the choice is a product, a service or listening to one of your radio stations.

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