Tag Archives: Amazon

Radio Has an Addiction Problem

listening_to_radioHave you heard the latest? People are addicted to their smartphones. “We now see smartphones as dangerous for young minds,” writes Jean-Louis Gassée in a Monday Note.

More than 30 years ago MIT professor Sherry Turkle postulated that computers weren’t just a tool, but were sneaking into our minds. In doing so, they would change our relationship with the world around us.

Smartphones are Mobile Computers

Turkle would continue her thoughts on this subject in a 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 our ways we think about ourselves and other people.”

Smartphones plus Social Media

When our mobile computers are married to a social media site like Facebook, things get really sticky. Sean Parker, a founding partner at Facebook, wrote about the problem after he left the company saying, “[Social Media] literally changes your relationship with society, with each other…It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it is doing to our children’s brains.”

Time for Apple to Build A Less Addictive iPhone

The NY Times published an article by Farhad Manjoo that made the case for a less addictive iPhone. Can you imagine someone writing that broadcasters should be making TV or radio less addictive? That watching too much TV or listening to too much radio might be bad for our brains.

Broadcasters today find they have a different problem. They have lost the addictive luster of the past.

The Amazon Addiction

“For many businesses, Amazon is simultaneously a sales channel, a potential service provider and a competitive threat,” says Forrest Research. For broadcasters, Amazon is attacking our retail advertising revenue, by undermining the very businesses we sell to. Today Amazon is the go-to website for retail search, surpassing Google.

Trying to compete with Amazon is a retail challenge. The very retailers’ broadcasters depend on for their revenue.

Retailers measure how well they’re doing by their bottom line.

Amazon is all about increasing top line sales growth. (Wall Street hasn’t demanded Amazon to be profitable yet.)

See the problem?

Trying to beat the Amazon model is a race to the bottom with pricing for our advertising customers.

Free shipping, two-day shipping, lowest prices, biggest selection, customer ratings etc. are among the things making Amazon addictive.

People Made Radio Addictive

Over the years, radio has had personalities that made the medium addictive like Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, Dan Ingram, Larry Lujack, Robert W. Morgan, Jess Cain, Dale Dorman, Paul Harvey and many more.

Once upon a time, music formats could be addictive, but today’s access to streaming audio is challenging that beachfront.

Alexa Doesn’t Know My Local Radio Station

My local radio stations are called KISS (WKSI-FM) and WINK (WINC-FM). When I ask Alexa to play either KISS-FM or WINC-FM, I get the Los Angeles KIIS-FM or the WINK-FM licensed to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

When I asked Siri the same questions, she couldn’t help me play anything. Siri told me, “Sorry, Dick, I can’t help you with that on your iPhone.”

When your branding is not unique, these new consumer voice activated devices don’t have a clue what you’re trying to ask them. They either make their best algorithm guess or just throw in the towel.

Broadcast Station Call Letters

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) solved this problem early in broadcasting by assigning each broadcast station its own unique call letters, but broadcasters abandoning those identifiers for branding like Kiss, Froggy, Hot, and others, that are duplicated all across the country, is now a problem in a voice activated world. But it’s not just the brand not being unique, the programming is likewise just as non-unique.

Don’t Be Generic

No one ever became addicted to a generic.

Addiction stimulates parts of the brain that trigger craving and longing, that release habit-forming, feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins.

Your iPhone does that for you.

You voice activated smart speaker does too.

Broadcasting is show business.

Which do you think stimulates the part of the brain that causes addiction? The show part or the business part?

Answer that question correctly and you’re on your way.

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The Power of the Human Voice

The Last Jedi

Finn, Rey and new character Rose in Star Wars: the Last Jedi Credit: Press

I recently saw the latest Star Wars movie “The Last Jedi.” It was powerful in many ways, not the least of which was because it was the final film for actress Carrie Fisher, who was excellent.

In film, the way to connect with the theater goer is with close-ups of the faces of the actors. It’s powerful and we respond, as human beings, to another person’s face.

When radio was born, people could not see faces, and the connection radio listeners would make would be with people’s voices.

Radio People’s Memories

I belong to a bunch of radio groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. One of the things these groups have in common is a desire to have things be the way they used to be, like they were when they were growing up. (Spoiler Alert: Ain’t gonna happen)

The other thing that they share, is that the memories everyone has that are the most vivid about radio, are about the people’s voices they listened to.

What made their favorite radio station(s) so loved, were the personalities.

What Makes a Voice Attractive?

In the early days of radio, microphones and everything they were connected up to, to transmit the human voice, were by today’s standards, pretty crude. Men with deep, strong, resonating voices were preferred for traveling through the ether.

As technology improved, other voices entered.

Listeners would now find themselves attracted to people who sounded more like they sounded. Research shows that the reason apparently is because it makes us feel like we’re part of a certain social group.

“The voice is an amazingly flexible tool that we use to construct our identity,” says Dr. Molly Babel, a linguistics professor at the University of British Columbia.

Is a Pleasing Voice More Attractive than a Pleasing Face?

When we hear an appealing voice, our feelings of attraction are heightened. Attractive voices cause us to perceive those individuals with more pleasing personalities.

So, while the real emotion in movies is transmitted via close-ups of the face, on the radio it is the human voice.

So, which is more dominate? A face or a voice?

Turns out, researchers tell us, that “the effects of vocal attractiveness can actually be stronger than the effects of physical attractiveness when each dimension appears alone” (Zuckerman et al., 1991).

Alexa, Siri, Cortana

I’m sure the power of the human voice was not lost on Amazon, Apple or Microsoft as they developed their AI digital voice assistants.

My fiancé Susan gifted me an Echo Dot for Christmas. (I already have been using Siri on my iPhone.) The ease with which it sets up and you begin using it, is remarkable. It quickly becomes a member of the family.

When going to bed our first evening with Alexa in our home, Sue said “Alexa, Good Night.” And Alexa responded with “Good Night, Sweet Dreams.”

Sue came into the bed room walking a cloud beaming how real, how sweet, how comforting it made her feel.

And I knew exactly what she meant.

Anyone who has one of the devices will too.

Radio Voices

The power of the personalities on your airwaves are critical to your station’s future success in 2018. How do their voices make your listeners feel?

It can happen in many different ways.

Let me offer a couple of examples: It can be via stationality like the JACK format, (done very well in Nashville) or it can be like the voices and style cultivated by NPR.

It just doesn’t happen by accident.

It takes planning and continuous execution of the plan.

The Battle for Attention

In the end, every form of media is battling for attention.

And to paraphrase the lesson taught in “The Last Jedi,” radio needs to stop trying to defeat what it hates about the competition and save what it loves about radio.

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Radio’s Serenity Prayer

Serenity Stained Glass Window

 

In everyone’s life, there are trials and tribulations.

During a particularly trying moment in my life, I found comfort in Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer.

 

Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things, I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

The prayer is actually made of three parts: 1) accepting things that can’t be changed, 2) courage to change the things that can be changed, and 3) wisdom to know the difference.

So how does that apply to those of us in radio broadcasting?

Somethings Never Change

I’m sure, like me, you’ve been reading a lot about the future of radio and all the changes it faces on the horizon of 2018 and beyond.

It can be overwhelming.

But I fear that too many in radio are too focused on changing the things that are beyond our control or are working hard to change the things we believe we can change, and are missing the bigger opportunity, the things that won’t change.

In my long radio career, I’ve seen the consistency of radio’s power to make a difference in a community.

I’ve also seen the number of radio stations on-the-air multiply like bunnies, and the number of radio pre-sets on a car radio expand to 30, but the number of favorite radio stations a person has remains at about three. And one of those three favorite radio stations will dominate with over 80% of the time spent listening to radio.

Nielsen confirms this is still the case.

“I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.”

– Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO

Radio’s Constants

Great radio will always be about the listener.

Great radio personalities will be great entertainers and a friend to the listener.

Great radio will not only serve listener needs but also their wants and desires.

Great radio will be dependable, in good times and bad.

Great radio will always be about community and companionship.

Great radio will always be surprising and unpredictable.

Great radio will attract listeners who don’t want to miss out.

Great radio adds value to everyone it comes in contact with.

Invest in the Future

Jeff Bezos is a very rich man.

Jeff began Amazon in his garage in Seattle twenty years ago.

Jeff bought the Washington Post with his pocket change and infused it with a new spirit by focusing on a newspapers’ constants.

Bezos says the way to invest in the future, is to identify the constants of people who use your product or service and build on them with relentless focus.

For Amazon it’s lower prices, and speedier delivery for example. Do you see either of those going in the opposite direction, with respect to consumer expectations, in the years ahead?

And so, it is with radio.

The very constants that made radio great for nearly one hundred years will continue into the next century. The secret is not to take your eye off the ball.

“When you have something that you know is true,

even over the long term,

you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”

-Jeff Bezos

Radio needs to live one day at a time, enjoying the special place it holds in people’s lives.

Radio needs to accept the hardships, knowing they will lead to a better place.

Trust that if you focus on the radio constants, the future will be alright.

Or as Bezos put it in Forbes, “Successful businesses are those that continue to find ways to best fulfill core needs. Does our business fulfill one or more core human needs? Are we meeting that need in the most effective and efficient way possible given the changes in technology and people’s expectations?”

(Hat Tip to John Frost’s Frost Advisory #390 for the inspiration)

 

 

 

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The Era of Stand-Alone Electronic Devices is Ending

111It was 10-years ago this past Thursday that the iPhone went on sale. On that fateful day, I was using a company issued Blackberry Pearl. It was such an amazing upgrade from my old Motorola flip-phone that I got a couple of years earlier.

Cell Phone Evolution

It was 1983 that Motorola introduced the DynaTAC 8000X Advanced Mobile Phone System. It was with the DynaTAC in his hand that Michael Douglas told the world “greed is good” in the movie “Wall Street.”

This phone could make and receive calls from almost anywhere. But that was it.

I never had one of those phones, my first cell phone was a bag phone that sat in the front seat of my car with a wire running out of a rear window connected to a magnetic antenna on my car’s roof.

Only six years later, the Motorola MicroTAC 9800X would become the first truly portable phone. Having this phone was a real advancement as it now fit onto a belt clip and went everywhere I went. However, I was still using a Palm Pilot to keep track of my calendar, contacts and other notes and a Nikon Coolpix to record radio station events for posterity.

In 2004, I got my first Blackberry and in 2007 I upgraded to a Blackberry Pearl.

None of these phones really changed my life other than they got better at making and receiving calls, sent & received text messages and company emails could be sent and received. I still relied on other single use devices to do the other things in my life.

My 1st iPhone

One of my problems with iPhones were how big they were. I grew to love the size of my Blackberry Pearl and didn’t want to go backwards to a larger phone. (Later I would learn it was the huge cases people put their iPhones into that made them so large, not the phone itself.)

My second Apple device, after my iPod Classic, would be an iPad2, purchased in November 2011. I wasn’t sure why I needed one, but since I was teaching at a university to the next generation of broadcast students, I thought I needed to stay up with the technology.

I quickly fell in love with my iPad and realized I now knew how to fully operate an iPhone.  So, in January 2012, I purchased the latest iPhone that had just come out, the iPhone4s. The iPhone4s was actually more compact than my Pearl and I would store it in a leather sheath just as I had with my Pearl.

The iPhone4s WOULD change my life!

The Beginning of the End

The day that Apple introduced the iPhone4s – October 4, 2011 – was one day before the death of former Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs. The “s” stood for Apple’s new voice assistant Siri. (Siri would not be the first intelligent personal assistant but would be the one that would start a new round of innovation giving birth to Amazon’s Alexa and the Voice Activated Devices I wrote about last week.)

Equipped with my new iPhone4s, I quickly converted my entire contact file from Palm to Apple. My calendars – both personal & professional – were converted to my iPhone and iPad. My Nikon Coolpix began to gather dust as all of my pictures would be now taken with my new iPhone4s.

Being new to the Apple ecosystem, I signed up for the iCloud and iTunes match to connect my PC, iPad and iPhone all together. I was surprised to learn that many Apple devotees didn’t use these internet connected systems. But then I didn’t realize they only came on the scene a few months before I got my first iPhone.

Very quickly my iPhone4s replaced my camera, my video camera, my Palm Pilot, my cassette recorder, my note pad, my desk calendar, and even my iPod Classic. It became my way to email, text and make calls. My landline phone was discontinued the day I got my iPhone4s.

My unlimited data plan allowed me to stay connected to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Search. My phone became my resource for breaking news and if severe weather were imminent it would immediately alert me of pending danger.

Would bad weather cancel classes? My iPhone4s would alert me of any delayed opening or closing.

Very quickly my iPhone4s became one of three things I would not leave my house without: those being my wallet, my car keys and my iPhone.

Noteworthy is that Apple has made privacy “a fundamental human right” and is the only consumer-oriented technology giant with a business model not based on sucking up tons of personal data in order to target advertising to consumers, writes the Economist. In fact, this online business magazine says “the end of stand-alone electronic devices, however slick, is coming to an end.”

The End of Single Skill Students

What I’ve seen change in just the last seven years as a broadcast professor are the needs of the broadcasting industry in terms of what they want graduating students to know when they enter the workplace. In a word, EVERYTHING!

They need to be equipped with the “Swiss Army Knife” of skill-sets.

They need to be able to write for broadcast – online web-pages – social media, take pictures, take & edit videos, record & edit audio and so much more. Where once each one of these tasks was a single skill, today’s broadcaster needs to be able to it all. Much as we require of our electronic devices.

Cutting the Cord

When my laptop died, I replaced it with a MacBook Air. When it was time to replace my desktop PC, I bought an iMac. My iPhone4s has been replaced by an iPhone7 (that has as much memory as my MacBook Air) and AirPods. And when I moved to Virginia, I “cut the cord” on cable TV and went with AppleTV.

Everything is tied to the Apple ecosystem – iCloud, iTunes Match and to each other.

What I still enjoy using are my BOSE Wave Radios (I have two of them), my Garmin GPS and my car radio.

However, I know that my students have no such need for anything other than their smartphone.

And they are the people who will determine the future of broadcasting by the choices they make.

For radio the game will be less about numbers and more about attracting and engaging with a specific audience by super-serving their needs, wants and desires to such an extent they will find you on whatever device they choose to listen on.

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When TV Disrupted Radio

97I grew up with TV.

Essentially, we were “born” in the same year.

I don’t remember a time when TV didn’t exist.

TV was supposed to put radio out-of-business. It was the “great disruptor.”

Why TV Didn’t Put Radio Out-Of-Business

While I loved my TV shows and even remember planning my life around TV GUIDE and the new fall shows, I still fell in love with radio and wanted to be a radio personality since elementary school and my first Zenith transistor radio.

Radio for me was never about Jack Benny or Groucho Marx or Amos & Andy or radio dramas like Orson Welles “War of the Worlds.”

Radio was exciting execution, engaging personalities and the best of new music from all genres.

Radio was addictive because it was so engaging.

Disruption Knows No Loyalties

It’s reported that as this decade began only 67 of the original Fortune 500 companies were still in business. Welcome to the 21st Century of Disruption.

The reality in today’s world of accelerating change is that the very success that rockets a company to raving success usually becomes the dagger that runs through its heart when the market environment shifts. Then new firms take over and former leaders fade into the history books.

The business truth is eventually every business sees its model fail.

Radio’s New Business Model after TV

Can you imagine a more difficult time than when TV swooped in and stole all of radio’s programs and talent? It was a time when people said things like “The last person to leave, please turn off the lights on your way out.”

It was a dark time for radio.

But not for all.

Only those who couldn’t see their way past the way it had been.

New broadcasters were quick to develop new formats.

1965 saw the birth of BOSS RADIO in Los Angeles with Bill Drake & Ron Jacob’s 93-KHJ.

At the same time 1010-WINS in New York would pioneer the all news format and everyone would know the phrase “You give us 21-minutes and we’ll give you the world.”

These new broadcasters would be the ones that inspired me to want to be a radio guy.

The Transistor Radio

Radio took advantage of the transistor radio. The youth of my day would all want a transistor radio of their very own and radio owned the youth generation.

The Car Radio

As we grew older and bought our first car, the car radio was a MUST HAVE accessory.

Movies like American Graffiti would romance the glory of the young and their radio.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

Today’s 21st Century finds radio with a new disruptor, the internet. It’s not a new product but an ecosystem.

Amazon and Walmart sell many of the same products and are quite competitive on price. The big difference is Walmart is a brick and mortar ecosystem and Amazon is internet based.

For radio to compete the industry needs to have a vision for how its product fits into a complex network of components, systems and user experience.

That’s the 21st Century radio challenge. (TV faces the same challenge.)

Today’s radio must seamlessly fit into a listener’s life on any platform the listener uses.

Disruption will crash and burn any business model that wants to hold onto the past.

Disruption will clear a path for those who are innovative, nimble and responsive to a changing marketplace.

For those broadcasters, the opportunities are limitless.

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What Amazon Could Teach Radio

76aI can’t think of a more competitive marketplace than one that offers infinite choice. This is the marketplace that Amazon operates in. It’s called the internet.

So how is Amazon doing?

Exceptionally well.

Why?

Customer Focus

The Motley Fool writes that Amazon’s secret weapon for success is just a handful of core principles with the leading one being to “focus relentlessly on our customers.”

Jim Collins, author of such great books as “Good to Great” and “Built to Last” created the strategic framework that Amazon uses known as the “flywheel.” Here’s what that looks like from Amazon.com via Benedict Evans

76

The beauty of this concept is that while it takes a lot of effort to put everything in motion, once it is moving it develops its own momentum that contributes to future growth. Much as I learned in my college physics class about Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion. These things are really universal and when you can connect the dots, magic happens.

Christmas 2016

You’ve probably heard by now about how merchants did selling stuff for Christmas. The forecast for 2016 was one trillion dollars to be spent; an increase of 3.6 to 4% over 2015.

So with that kind of spending on the table what we see is Macy’s, Sears and Kohl’s among other retailers reported flat or down sales for Christmas 2016. Macy’s, Kmart and Sears announcing store closings as a result.

Amazon meanwhile reported its best holiday season yet, shipping over one billion items worldwide.

AMAZON Christmas 2016

To give you a better idea of how strong Amazon’s Christmas sales were in 2016, let’s look at the Monday before Christmas. Slice Intelligence reported that Amazon sold 49.2% of items purchase online.

For the 2016 Christmas season, Amazon ended up making 38% of all online sales followed by Best Buy at 3.9%, Target at 2.9% and Walmart at 2.9%.

Customer Focus Rules

When you focus on your customer relentlessly, you organize your whole organization around a single goal and insure that everyone stays focused on that goal 24/7.

Your radio station(s) have the power to do what other media services can’t do, be live and local delivering entertainment and information that can’t be obtained from any other source.

One of the big advantages Amazon had this Christmas was their Prime 2-day delivery. It meant that Christmas shopping procrastinators aka most of us men could shop closer to the big day.

You might have read or seen that Amazon is working on delivery by drones and delivery services shorter than 2-days. Amazon appears to be thinking about owning its own delivery supply chain eliminating the need for UPS or USPS.

So how much time has been devoted by you and your people to customer focus? That means your listeners and your advertisers.

Once per year?

Once per month?

Weekly?

Daily?

So what’s stopping you?

 

 

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History’s Technology Rhyme

Transistor Radio, Car Radio and Rock & Roll

Transistor Radio, Cars & Rock ‘n Roll

I’ve written before how history never repeats itself, but usually rhymes. So when I was reading an article in the NY Times about “Tech’s ‘Frightful 5’ Will Dominate Digital Life for Foreseeable Future” it hit me. Here was how history was rhyming when it came to communications. Fasten your seat-belt, this will get bumpy.

What this article’s author Farhad Manjoo wrote was how Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft (others include Netflix in this mix) came along at a perfect time to roll up their user base. They were in the right place, at the right time in other words.

Geoffrey G. Parker, a business professor at Tulane University has co-authored a book called “Platform Revolution” where he explains how these tech companies were able to ride the perfect wave of technology change – that being a decrease in the cost of IT, an increase in connectivity and the introduction/fast adoption of mobile phones.

And when it comes to advertising, these companies are in the right place to leverage digital marketing and enjoy most of the benefits of this growth area as well. In fact, since there is a sense that these major digital companies will receive most of the online advertising monies, traditional media – like radio & TV – could see advertising monies return to them.  Let’s hope that happens.

So, where’s the rhyme in this story? Well consider this other time in communications history when television burst onto the scene after the end of World War Two in the 1950s. Radio, a lot of people thought, would cease to exist. Radio’s stars, programs and advertisers, to a large measure, jumped into television. Radio had to find a new act.

Radio was in the right place, at the right time for the birth of three things when TV came along; the transistor radio and the car radio. Both of these technology advancements would be the savior of radio along with one other important development; rock ‘n roll.

Radio was in the perfect place to ride the baby boomer youth wave of rock music, cars and transistor radios. Television grew in large measure by scarcity, only two or three television networks and few TV stations.

When broadband came along, that scarcity factor went poof. Radio now sees its dominance in the car being challenged by a digital dashboard.

The newest radio format to have come into existence – all sports/talk – is now 29 years old. Clearly, innovation in the radio world has stalled.

The good news is radio in America has more reach than any other form of mass media. The bad news is it sees annual erosion of its TSL (time spent listening). This can be fixed. To do this, radio needs to address the very factors that are causing its TSL to erode.

The thing most often heard from consumers about what they dislike about radio are its commercials. Yet, commercials don’t have to be a tune-out factor. No one tunes out the Super Bowl when it’s a blowout because they want to see what other clever commercials might still be coming on their television.

Most radio stations long ago did away with their copywriters. These masters of the spoken word who can craft a story about businesses need to be enticed back into the radio business at every radio station.

The number of commercials in a break needs to be reassessed by the radio industry as well. You can’t kill the goose that lays your gold revenue egg and expect it to continue to lay you golden eggs.

Bring back personalities. They not only sell the music (the record companies need you!); they sell your station and through live reads, your advertisers’ products and services.

Those who remember Paul Harvey News & Commentary will tell you that page two (his first live read commercial) was always something you turned up the radio for. I remember reading Paul Harvey brought in more money for the ABC Radio Network than everything else they did. And everyone loved Paul Harvey’s commercials and bought the products he talked about.

I think retired CBS Radio President Dan Mason said it best when he said this about radio:

“Without community and companionship, we have nothing.”

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