Tag Archives: Atlantic City

NOT the Music of MY Life

112I read the transcript of the interview Mark Ramsey did with Gordon Borrell about how radio advertisers are less interested in audience and more interested in a buyer. It got me to thinking about my own radio sales experiences over my career.

Live by the Numbers, Die by the Numbers

Anyone who sells in a rated market has probably heard that phrase about what happens when all you sell are your ratings numbers. But what happens in unrated radio markets? How do these folks sell?

Cash Register Rings

Early in my radio career I landed my first general manager position at the age of thirty. It was as GM of an Al Ham formatted “Music of YOUR Life” thousand watt AM daytimer with no pre-sunrise or post-sunset authorizations.

In a market with no audience ratings measurement what we did was create a fan club for our listeners. We then created a fan club book of the names and locations our listeners lived. This book included state representatives, mayors, major business owners and even television & movie stars. It was a pretty impressive foot-in-the-door and helped us to close many sales.

But the way we measured the impact of our advertisers’ radio commercials were in cash register rings. That’s the real measure of R.O.I. (Return On Investment) for local owner/operators.

Does Anybody Really Listen to THAT Music?

I remember calling on the manager of our local Agway store as if it were yesterday. Rick Hurd was his name and he was about as old as I was at that time. He loved contemporary music and the big band selections my station played were definitely NOT his “cup of tea.”

“Does anybody really listen to THAT music?” he always asked. I said “YES, lots of people do and they are the very people who own the big country estates that you should be doing business with.”

After lots of weekly calls, Rick Hurd gave me my opportunity to show what my radio station could do.

Tell Our Advertisers You Heard About Them on “The Music of YOUR Life”

A key component of my marketing strategy was to air on a continuous basis how important it was for listeners of my radio station to tell our advertisers they were listening. We did this in a variety of ways and made sure to keep this type of messaging fresh.

Shortly after Rick began his Agway store advertising on my radio station, I stopped in to see how it was going. He said, “Dick, I still find it hard to believe that anyone enjoys the music you play over the radio, but WOW are those folks ever vocal and passionate about your radio station.” “I hear about your radio station at least once an hour from customers, some of whom I’ve never seen in the store before,” he told me.

How Many Listeners Do You Need to Be Effective?

I won’t ever know how many listeners we had to that radio station, but I do know how many were in our fan club.

The “secret sauce” of our marketing was making sure our audience understood how important it was for them to tell our advertisers they were listening and that they loved our programming and that in order to keep it on-the-air, they needed to patronize our advertisers and tell them what brought them into their place of business.

Bonneville Beautiful Music

Based on the sales success I had with an AM daytimer, my company’s President/CEO promoted me to general manager of his newly acquired Atlantic City radio stations. The AM station was a thousand-watt full-time news & information station and the FM was a 50,000-watt Bonneville Beautiful Music formatted radio station. Both stations appealed to a senior audience.

Atlantic City was a rated market and so Arbitron Ratings were important, especially for the advertising agencies out of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore etc.

But what we really sold was the quality of our audiences and we worked very hard to build personal relationships with all of the buyers.

As general manager, I often went on out-of-town trips with my director of sales to call on the people who bought the advertising. We constantly heard “we’ve never met anyone from any of the radio stations in Atlantic City before.”

Relationships are VERY important in the radio business.

And as Simon Sinek likes to say “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Age Wave

Another factor I employed in talking about the quality of our audience and the tremendous buying power they wielded came from the research of Dr. Ken Dychtwald that he conducted during the period of 1973 to 1979.

In 1986 Dr. Dychtwald coined the term “Age Wave” and formed a company to consult companies on how to market to a mature market.

I devoured Ken’s book and used it to market my Atlantic City radio stations to advertisers.

Key Factors to Consider

The Age Wave http://agewave.com/ website lists four key factors that will reshape supply and demand as the boomers move into maturity. The two that radio should be considering how to leverage are:

  • Boomers will have increasing amounts of discretionary dollars (for many) over the long-term as a result of escalating earning power, inheritances, and investment returns
  • Boomers will undergo a psychological shift from acquiring more material possession and towards a desire to purchase enjoyable, satisfying, and memorable experiences

The future is filled with challenges and opportunities, but then that’s always been the case for those who could see them and were willing to roll up their sleeves.

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Relevancy

82I am a trombone player. Or maybe I should say “was” as it’s been quite a few years since I picked up the horn. Growing up, I knew that was the instrument I wanted to play. Out of all the instruments in the band, trombone was the one that caught my attention and was relevant to me.

76 Trombones

Meredith Wilson’s Broadway smash “The Music Man” is one of my all time favorite musicals. Can you guess why?

In that production, Robert Preston knows to be successful in selling band instruments “you gotta know the territory.” In fact, all of the carpetbaggers knew this. In “The Music Man” the song “Rock Island Line” establishes the rules of selling on the road. In other words, you had to know how to make what you were selling relevant.

And then I heard someone say RADIO

Alan Mason is a programmer that I’ve known for years. I subscribe to his weekly “Mason Minutes” and was thrilled to see Alan promoted to President of K-Love and Air1 as this New Year began. Alan actually assumed his presidency before Trump did.

Alan’s minute recently told the story of celebrating his birthday in a crowded restaurant. You know the scene, you hear lots of conversations but you’re not really paying attention. When Alan said he heard someone say “RADIO” and he heard that clearly.

“It’s funny how our minds are attuned to filter out almost everything except what’s relevant to us. We can be in a crowded ballroom buzzing with people and still hear our own name. It gets our attention and pulls us in,” Alan wrote.

Frost Advisory

I also subscribe to John Frost’s weekly “Frost Advisory” and John must have been as taken by what Alan wrote as I because he made it the subject of his programming memo this past week. John wrote about his friend Eddie who needed to get a passport photo. He went online and found a place all the way across town. It wasn’t until he was on his way home he noticed a camera store near where he lived that took passport photos. He never noticed, because getting a passport photo had no relevance to Eddie, until it did.

Radio Ads

And that’s the way it is with radio ads. The listener never hears them until something that’s relevant to them speaks to them.

Sadly, radio programmers no longer have a say in what commercials air on their radio stations.

I was a general manager before becoming a broadcast professor and even I had lost control of what ads would be placed on my radio stations by (at that time) Google.

Google did a deal with Clear Channel and would insert ads they had sold on all of the stations in my cluster between 2am and 3am in the morning. I wouldn’t even know what they had sold until I heard it on-the-air driving into the station.

I heard ads for restaurants advertising their lunch special for that day and the restaurant was over three hours away from my coverage area. I heard ads out-of-phase air on my AM station in the cluster that were 30-seconds of dead-air. (Out of phase ads means the left and right channels of audio cancel each other out on an AM mono signal.)

Bonneville Beautiful Music

When I moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1984, WFPG-FM was a Bonneville Beautiful Music station. Bonneville had strict guidelines about what content could be added to their music presentation and that included commercials.

Atlantic City’s biggest car dealer did the loudest screaming radio ads you’ve ever heard. We dearly wanted their business but not those screaming ads.

It took lots of meetings but we finally convinced the owner not to “wear a t-shirt to our black tie” radio station over-the-air presentation. We would be the only radio station in Atlantic City to have specially created ads that would perfectly fit the musical content of our format.

I don’t hear that happening on any radio station today.

Relevancy

Today, money talks and nobody walks.

Radio stations appear to take every ad that comes through the door.

When you consider the volume of ads airing on stations these days, one or two ads in that cluster than aren’t relevant might lose the listener’s ear or worse, cause the station to be changed.

WAVV in Naples, Florida is a station that marches to a different drummer. It plays music the owner enjoys and the sound is so unique it can’t be heard anywhere else. It’s why the station doesn’t stream. You have to listen to it over-the-air on your FM radio. But what makes WAVV golden in my book is that the commercial breaks are just as carefully watched over as the music. The ads are about things that listeners attracted by the music will also enjoy. Be it theater, dining, travel, clothing etc.; it’s all relevant.

John Frost ends his article by writing “We throw a bunch of stuff at the wall without using the precise filter of relevance. Start with the listener and work back. What does she care about RIGHT NOW?”

Unless the program director is given the authority to approve every element that goes on the air and insure that each goes through the relevancy test, your product is compromised.

Is what I wrote relevant to your radio station?

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Out, damn’d spot!

28Lady Macbeth says this line in Act 5, scene 1. The line has made for ironic jokes and marketing schemes. The Bard’s lady, where the blood spot becomes dyed into her conscience and where the king and queen persist in imagining that physical actions can root out psychological demons, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is an exposition of how wrong they are.

This all came back to me when I read about former CBS Radio President Dan Mason speaking at Radio Ink’s Hispanic Radio Conference in March about how many radio spots should run in a typical hour of radio programming; his answer was 8 to 10 units. Whereas the typical radio station these days is running 14, 16, 17 (or more) units every hour and Mason says that’s probably too much.

On Twitter Radio Ink tweeted “Is Dan Mason correct? You should be playing 8-10 units per hour.” I tweeted back “YES.” To which Dan Mason tweeted back “@DickTaylor @RadioInk not easy to execute in today’s environment but this is the goal we have to work toward!” And to which I then responded, “@radiodanmason @RadioInk Agreed. No one ever said it would be easy. But moving in this direction needs to be the industry goal.”

Then the next day Radio Ink printed this headline as their lead story “We Would Pay More For Shorter Stopsets,” from ad agency executives Blair Overesch and Jeff Chase of Walz Tetrick Advertising in Kansas City. Their clients include the World Champion Kansas City Royals and Dairy Queen. They bemoan how their clients become lost in long horrible-sounding commercial clusters.

The Birth of the Radio Ad

When the commercial radio was born in 1920 the only way operators of radio stations could figure out to support the expenses that came with running a radio station was by the sale of radio advertising. They copied the model of newspapers and magazines of that time. And here we are almost a hundred years later and nothing has really changed in this business model, except the birth of the Internet. The Internet of Things (IoT) has been the big disruptor of just about every business model.

Look Outside Your Industry for New Ideas

It’s said that Henry Ford came up with the idea of the automobile assembly line when he visited the meat packing plants of Chicago. There he witnessed how cows were disassembled. It was done on a disassembly line. And so the story goes that Ford had an “Ah hah moment.”

Radio needs an “Ah hah moment” when it comes to its business model. But what could it possibly be? Where would we go, as an industry, to find this new business model? Not in the world of ad supported media, that’s for certain.

Casino Gambling & Changing Business Models

Casinos in America started in Nevada in 1931. New Jersey would be the second state in America to legalize casino gambling in 1978. So for almost half a decade, Nevada – Reno & Las Vegas – had a monopoly on this type of gambling activity. New Jersey would also enjoy a boom from casino gambling during the 80s and early 90s as the seaside resort saw a new casino opening up every year. Casinos made money on gambling. Period.

What changed was the wave of states legalizing casino gaming all across America in their search for new revenue sources. Vegas and Atlantic City would find that trying to live off of just gambling handles was quickly eroding. Their business model was being disrupted.

The Most Profitable Resort in Las Vegas

Can you guess which Las Vegas casino makes the most money? It’s not located in the heart of the “The Strip” where thousands of visitors walk by every day. It’s actually Wynn Resorts.

Billions of dollars move through Las Vegas every year. Casino operators do everything they can think of to have visitors gamble away as much of their money as possible while they are in Vegas. But Wynn changed the casino business model for his properties. Steve Wynn decided that with the explosion of casinos across America, he needed to move in a new direction. He needed to become less dependent on high rollers sitting at gaming tables for the bulk of his revenue. Non-gaming activities at Wynn’s Wynn & Encore Casinos account for 67% of the company’s revenues.

Focused On the User Experience

Steve Wynn is totally focused on the visitor or user experience when he builds a casino. He gives his full attention to every detail. This type of focus can be seen in the Bellagio, a casino Steve Wynn built over 16 years ago and has since sold. It’s number two in revenues in Vegas.

Becoming Less Dependent on Advertising

The smart radio operator will take a chapter from Steve Wynn’s playbook and move their stations off of full dependency on the ad supported business model. Steve Price at Townsquare Media appears to be doing just that with ad supported radio at the hub of their strategy. Price said he wants Townsquare to be the largest local digital content business, the largest live event business, and the largest digital marketing services business in their radio markets. Chairman and CEO Steven Price says, “We believe our diversified strategy remains sound, demonstrated by the stability of our local advertising business and the outsized growth in our other businesses.  In addition, we further diversified our business, with approximately half of revenue now derived from sources other than the sale of terrestrial radio advertising.”

Monetizing a Media Company Beyond Advertising

It’s not about throwing the baby out with the bath water. Steve Wynn didn’t abandon gambling. In fact, Steve Wynn makes more money than every other casino operator in Vegas by doing everything just a little bit better than his competitors – both in Vegas as well as elsewhere. He just unhitched his properties from total dependence on gambling revenues. I believe Steve Price is pursuing a similar path as Wynn with his media company. I believe that Townsquare can run 8 to 10 radio ads in an hour and make money. Moreover, make money for his advertisers by putting them in a radio spotlight and increase TSL and audience ratings by making his listeners happy with the proper balance of advertising and entertainment. Done in this way it is a win-win-win.

What’s your plan?

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Memories of Pinky

PinkyShortly after I arrived in Atlantic City to begin my 13-year run as general manager of WIIN/WFPG, I would be interviewed by Atlantic City Magazine about some of the changes I was making at the radio stations.

WIIN was a news station with a five person news staff, a full-time sports director, even a plane in the sky over the South Jersey Shore doing traffic reports in season. WFPG was the iconic Bonneville Beautiful Music formatted radio station with an hour I.D. that many remember for the sound of ocean waves, sea gulls and buoy bells. During my interview with the magazine I was asked about Pinky and his WOND radio show Pinky’s Corner, to which I replied something to the effect that he wasn’t on my radar and what he did made no difference on my operation; basically a one-liner in a much longer story on South Jersey radio.

By the time I arrived in South Jersey Pinky had been doing his radio show longer than I had been sucking up oxygen as part of the human race.

Sunday morning November 1st I woke up to the news that Pinky had passed away Saturday night at the age of 88. He had retired only earlier this year after heart surgery in May had caused Pinky to call in sick for the first time in his 57-year radio work history.

I have so many memories of Pinky.

As a competitor I remember calling on advertisers that told me they bought ads in Pinky’s show so he would never say anything negative about them. Hard to argue with that reason. I remember Pinky broadcasting his radio show by the cash registers as I was checking out with my groceries at the supermarket. I remember the time when Pinky was without a remote location sponsor to do his show from, so he took the latest technology – a bag phone – and hopped in the back of Atlantic City police cars and did his radio broadcast live on patrol, the kind of thing that COPS does on TV.

My radio career would take me to the Midwest and one day my office phone would ring and it would be Howard Green, the owner of WOND, home of Pinky’s Corner. Howard said to me “Dick Taylor, what would it take for me to get you back to Atlantic City and working for me?” I said, “Make me an offer.” He did. I took it. I returned to Atlantic City.

Because Pinky always did his radio show from a remote location, he was usually never in the radio station broadcast center. One day, I saw Pinky walking towards my 3rd floor corner office. I said “Hi Pinky,” to which Pinky said “I have no confidence your ability to manage this radio station,” then turned around left. It’s always nice to receive that kind of positive encouragement from your team when you start a new job.

I would learn those words were due to that Atlantic City magazine article of over a decade earlier. Pinky had an incredible memory. He remembered everything. He even did his radio commercials from memory for his clients who sponsored Pinky’s Corner.

When we were approaching Pinky’s 45th year on-the-air, I conspired with his remote sponsor to throw a big 45th anniversary celebration surprise party during his live radio show. The casino folks agreed and it was a surprise that I’m sure Pinky never expected to have occurred on my watch.

Another thing I remember about Pinky was that during my time as the WOND manager, Pinky wouldn’t say the call letters or the frequency of the radio station. No matter how I cajoled Pinky he would not change his ways. I commissioned a research study of the people who listened to Pinky’s Corner and found that 60% of the people who listened to Pinky every day did not know the call letters of the radio station his show was broadcast over. But I still couldn’t change Pinky’s mind.

Frustrated I went to the company owner, Howard Green, and asked for advice. Howard’s response was priceless. “Don’t ask me” he said. “Pinky one time had t-shirts made up with his picture drawn on them and the words ‘Listen to Pinky’s Corner’.” Howard said when he saw them he said to Pinky “Pinky, you didn’t put the call letters or the frequency of the radio station on your t-shirts.” To which Pinky replied “and you didn’t pay for the t-shirts.”

Since Atlantic City uses unaided diary recall I decided to put the WOND call letters in every station break and between every commercial during Pinky’s Corner I could squeeze them into. Then Howard Green became ill while on an ocean cruise, lapsed into a coma and died. The next day I turned on Pinky’s Corner to hear what Pinky would say about his friend and employer of over four decades and what struck me most was that Pinky was saying the station call letters everywhere. And that would continue from that point forward. I guess I’ll never know the reason why that change occurred.

I’m happy to say that Pinky and I became friends, who respected one another’s abilities and love of the radio business. I always enjoyed seeing him on my annual trips back to Atlantic City for the New Jersey Broadcasters Association conventions.

For so many people in South Jersey, they don’t remember a time when Pinky wasn’t on their radio. He truly was one-of-a-kind.

Thank You Pinky for making WOND, like the slogan said, “Radio You Can Depend On.”

WOND LOGO

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