Tag Archives: Facebook

Where Have All the Baby Boomers Gone?

Baby BoomerBill Thomas, a media and branding idea expert and broadcast & radio veteran (@BillThomas), shared a link on Twitter to an Ad Week article about three brands that bought ads in Super Bowl 54, targeting the 50+ demo. It’s not surprising, as the author of the article points out, that this is the age group that is most active and ready to spend online. Any guess on what the three brands are, that were targeting this Baby Boomer age group? Do you think it was iHeartMedia, Cumulus, and Entercom? Stay tuned.

Citizen Insight Academy

The City of Winchester holds a Citizen Insight Academy annually, and I signed my wife Sue and I up for the 2020 edition. We’re only nine weeks into this 16-week program and Citizen Insight Academyit’s been illuminating learning about our city and the way it operates. The other evening, we had a session with the city’s Emergency Management and E-911 departments.

You can imagine my reaction when the head of the E-911 department began her talk with “People don’t listen to the radio anymore, but they’re really into social media.” She went on to say how she grew up listening to the radio but how other forms of communication, like social media, have replaced that habit. Much like smartphones have replaced people’s landline telephones.

She told us that most calls into the city’s 911 switchboard come from wireless phones versus landlines. The percentage was something like 75% wireless to 25% landline. I myself have been a cellphone only household for over a decade, and our class of 35 had only about four people who still have a landline.

Traditional Radio Stations Have Lost Faith of Listeners

If I thought our city’s 911 Director was tough on radio, the BBC’s head of radio and education, recently said “Radio as we’ve always known it, has lost the faith of listeners.” He explained that “where once it was everything, now it is not. In fact, for many listeners, it is no longer their default.”

BBC Chief

BBC Radio Chief, James Purnell

In 1920, when commercial radio service began in America, you were lucky if you had a single choice for wireless communication. In many localities, you might have only had radio service after sunset via the AM skywave phenomena.

As more radio stations came on the air, Americans began to develop a radio habit. Radio listening was something we did while working, riding in the car or while we were at play. It provided the audio accompaniment to our lives. But everything’s changed. Now radio stations need to create an experience that earns a place in someone’s day.

NuVoodoo on Media Addictions

I wasn’t surprised to see NuVoodoo releasing some data from their latest research that shows all age groups today are addicted to their Smartphones. But what caught my eye was how Millennials, Gen X and Gen Z groups were more addicted to a favorite FM or AM radio station than Baby Boomers.

NuVoodoo Addiction to Media 2020

Which got me to thinking, why were the very people who grew up with radio and few other choices, be the age group least engaged with the medium today?

Boomers Know Great Radio When They Hear It

Real Don Stelle

The Real Don Steele

Baby Boomers grew up during a time when great radio personalities dominated the airwaves. Broadcasters like Harry Harrison, Robert W. Morgan, Larry Lujack, Dan Ingram, The Real Don Steele, Ron Lundy and so many more filled our lives with information, entertainment, community and companionship. It was a time when radio stations had local news teams, great promotions, exciting radio jingles, stationality and air personalities. Personalities, so important in our lives that we wanted to meet them more than the recording artists that created the music they played.

Radio for Baby Boomers isn’t like that anymore, so they’re moving on.

The boomer generation now embraces smartphones, smart speakers and social media with a vengeance, taking all their dollars to spend right along with them. Baby Boomers hold around 70% of the disposable income in the United States and they make up 50% of sales for all consumer package goods.

The Big Three

So, who were the media companies that want to gain a larger share of the 50+ demo? The ones that know that Baby Boomers are the most active and ready to spend their dollars online?

Google, Amazon and Facebook, that’s who.Facebook Amazon Google Logos

Facebook advertised during a Super Bowl television broadcast for the very first time in 2020. They hired as pitchmen, Chris Rock (54) and Sylvester Stallone (73). Both men are iconic celebrities and are part of this powerful consumer demographic, the 50+ audience.

Meanwhile, radio continues to jettison the very people that connects them with their local audience, the radio personality.

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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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Radio Knows What to Do

Munster RadioRon Robinson is a Canadian radio curmudgeon that writes a weekly column in Radio Ink. A recent column asked the question, “Will More Data and Tech Help Radio?I thought I’d take a go at answering this question in this week’s blog.

Spoiler Alert: The Answer is NO

Radio seems to be awash in data and tech, more is not what’s needed. Radio knows what to do but isn’t doing it.

Education that is not put into action, is simply entertainment.

Likewise, having too much information can be as useful as not having any information. Moderation is the key to everything.

People Listen to Radio

I have no doubts that people are listening to radio. Unfortunately, the proliferation of radio stations has fractionalized any one radio station’s listening audience. Gone are the days of big double digit shares of listening to any radio show or radio station.

Nobody cares if your radio station is #1. (They never did.)

Are Your Listeners Responding?

For the advertiser, it’s always been about cash register rings. That’s the ONLY audience measurement they ever cared about.

To accomplish driving this metric, means an investment in the copywriting process. It means advertising representatives who know how to find each advertiser’s unique characteristic that will become their story. It means having relatable communicators who can tell the story in a way that engages the listener and inspires them to action.

I personally have been studying why people do the things they do for over three decades. And have been a disciple of Roy H. Williams aka The Wizard of Ads for almost as long.

Any radio person serious about getting their advertiser results should be investing in their people’s education at the Wizard Academy.

Social Media

I’ve been writing this blog for almost five years now and post it to different social media platforms. Looking at the metrics about where readers come, from #1 would be from Facebook. Facebook not only comes in first, but what comes in after it, is far behind in impact.

I’m thinking that your local advertisers may be experiencing something similar if they’ve used Facebook to promote their business.

Technology

I began streaming music when living in the greater New York City area and WQCD – CD101.9 FM dropped its smooth jazz format. In my radio career, I launched two different new smooth jazz formatted radio stations and fell in love with the music and the artists.

To take a break from monitoring my own radio stations, I’d turn on CD101.9.

When they left the air, I was forced to go online and find a streaming smooth jazz station. So, in essence, the radio industry by removing this relaxing format at station after station, forced folks like me to go elsewhere for their music fix.

You Can’t Go Back

In my many travels, I’ve had the opportunity to hear a couple of OTA smooth jazz radio stations that brought this format back. I found them hard to listen to. Here’s why, they are cluttered, and the streaming smooth jazz channels I enjoy are not.

Much in the way that Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube have made television clutter free viewing, streaming audio via my Amazon Echoes has done the same thing for my music listening.

Anyone who’s had a car with an automatic transmission, won’t want to return to the days of shifting, or has had a car equipped with air conditioning won’t buy a car without it.

It’s Innovation Time

Radio needs to do what others are not.

The successful radio stations of the future will be ones where their people are 100% focused on its content, and nothing else. They will be niched to satisfy a defined audience so perfectly, that those listeners will find little need to go anywhere else.

They will be people communicating with other people, live in real time and with relevant content.

Fred Rogers put it this way, “L’essential est invisible pour les yeux.” (What is essential is invisible to the eye.)

More data and tech won’t take radio to the next chapter.

People will.

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Seniors & Technology Adoption

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

Connected Seniors

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

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

You Can’t Turn Back the Hands of Time

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

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

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

Social Media Addiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reader Question

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

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

Reaching Our Time Limit

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

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

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

What are your thoughts?

 

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Is Radio Prepared for The Future

Radio & CobwebsIn a lot of ways, the future is here, now.

All of the things we knew were coming back at the turn of the century have become reality.

But the radio industry continues to try to adapt.

Great Companies Don’t Adapt, They Prepare

When I saw that headline on a blog article by Greg Satell two years ago, it resonated with me because it made me realize that the radio industry wasn’t prepared for the 21st Century. It was trying to adapt the past to the present and hoping that it would sustain them going into the future.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to create the future by focusing on the present.

“The truth is,” writes Satell, “that companies rarely succeed by adapting to market events.”

“Firms prevail by shaping the future…but it takes years of preparation to achieve.

Once you find yourself in a position where you need to adapt, it’s usually too late.”

-Greg Satell

Marconi & Sarnoff

Each generation has its great innovators, so It’s always a challenge to say who makes a greater contribution to changing the world.

Marconi gave us the wireless, a one-to-one form of communications that transformed the world.

Sarnoff innovated the radio as a form of mass communication, giving us a one-to-many instant communication service of news, entertainment and advertising supported radio.

What we can be certain of, each person who creates the future is one who overflows with boundless curiosity.

Investing in Research

All of the Big 5 Tech companies (Amazon, Facebook Microsoft, Google and Apple) invest heavily in research. Each of them, in their own way, has made themselves indispensable from our daily lives.

Recently, a daily newsletter I read called “While You Were Working,” asked its readers which of the Big 5 Tech Companies they could survive without. Here are the results of that survey:

Which Big 5 tech company do you think it would be easiest to live without?

Facebook  70.71%
Apple  14.14%
Amazon  7.35%
Microsoft  5.74%
Google  2.06%

Probably not surprising that Facebook was the choice folks said they could live without by a wide margin.

For five weeks, Kashmir Hill, a writer for Gizmodo, decided to see how she would deal with giving up today’s technology by blocking one of the Big 5 from her world. In her sixth and final week, she decided to go cold turkey and blocked them all. How did that go? Well I think the title of her article said it all, “I Cut the ‘Big Five’ Tech Giants From My Life. It Was Hell.”

Hill compared her experience to that of an alcoholic trying to give us booze. And that life without them makes life very difficult as we are so dependent on them.

I’m not sure any of us really understands how married we are to these Big 5 Tech Companies or how hard it would be for us to give up even one of them, let alone to give them all up.

Listening to Radio

One of the interesting side-bars of the article Hill wrote was that by not having Alexa, Spotify audio books, podcasts or other such services on her Nokia feature phone, what she could receive, unlike with her iPhone, were radio broadcasts and that allowed her to listen to NPR while doing her daily run.

But how sad that listening to radio only seems to be an option when all other options are eliminated.

Investing in the Core Product

Some of the differences between the Big 5 Tech companies are what non-core areas they invest their research money into, like self-driving cars. The one thing they all take very seriously, however, is plowing the lion’s share of their research budget into their core competencies.

In my sales class, I used to tell my students that people don’t buy half-inch drill bits because they want them, they buy them because what they want are half-inch holes. In other words, you will be successful when you invest your time solving your customers’ problems.

Radio Research

Most radio research dollars are spent on one thing, audience measurement. Unfortunately, that’s research that studies the past performance of a radio station, not the present moment. Virtually no radio research money is spent on preparing the ground for the future.

We all know that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next big thing. Alexa, in your Amazon Echo, is the perfect example.

How is the radio industry preparing its employees to acquire the skills they will need to excel in an AI world? Artificial Intelligence is a force that will impact the communications industry in the years to come.

Broadcasting has been living off of its seed corn for too many years, while the technology industries have been focused on solving our customer’s problems by investing in them for years, even decades.

Broadcasters can’t create the future by continuing to focus on the present.

Innovation, will require investment in research that, imagines new possibilities.

 

 

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The Past is Not Prologue

200px-Duck-Rabbit_illusion

Thomas Kuhn used the duck-rabbit optical illusion, to demonstrate the way in which a paradigm shift could cause one to see the same information in an entirely different way.

One of my favorite weekly reads is Tim Moore’s “The Midweek Motivator.” You can sign-up for Tim’s weekly wisdom here.

This past week, Tim wrote about how people inside radio stations are asking him, “is radio failing?”

Now Tim’s a student of history, and he responded with “If you care about history (because the past is prologue) here’s the simple truth: some large groups are faced with debt loads that will either force bankruptcy or massive reorganization.”

Tim’s analysis about how America’s two largest broadcasters dug huge debt holes that can’t be re-filled by current operating revenues is spot-on. With radio, like a lot of businesses, it’s a matter of buying it right from the get-go. Start out upside down and most likely you won’t have a good day.

A system that is over-reliant on prediction through leverage, hence fragile to unforeseen “black swan” events, will eventually break into pieces.

-Nassim Taleb

Technology

Crystal balls are hard to come by but my tea leaves are leading me to believe that mass mediated communication is confronting more than just debt loads. What we are also dealing with is “paradigm paralysis.”

Radio’s leaders are holding onto a set of beliefs and views that radio is invincible.

Thomas Kuhn coined the term “paradigm shift” in his influential book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” in 1962. The business world adopted this terminology of “paradigm shift” to describe a profound change in a fundamental model.

Paradigm paralysis, on the other hand, is the inability or refusal to see beyond the current models of thinking.

Let Me Share a Story

John C. Harrison told this story at the First World Congress on Fluency Disorders held in Munich, Germany in 1994. See if you see a parallel to radio and the advent of satellites, streaming, podcasts, and smart speakers.

In the late 1940s a man walked into a laboratory of a major photographic

manufacturer in America to demonstrate a new photographic process.  But

he didn’t bring along a camera or film.  He brought along a red box with a

shiny steel plate, a charging device, a light bulb and a container of black

powder.  The picture he created was faint but discernible.

 

“But where’s the film?” they asked.  “Where’s the developer?  Where’s the

darkroom?  Why, that’s not really photography!”  And so, the company

passed up an opportunity to acquire the process for electrostatic

photography, or xerography…a process that has grown into a multi-billion

dollar industry.

 

Why did they pass up such a great opportunity?  Because the people who

saw the process were suffering from PARADIGM PARALYSIS.

 

Call Me an Outsider

Joel Barker wrote a book called “Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future.” Joel says that anyone who develops a new paradigm is often labeled an “outsider.”

Truthfully, when you’re running a cluster of radio stations, you don’t have time to think let alone take a step back and look at things with a fresh eye. I know. I’ve been there.

What teaching and now blogging have given me the opportunity to do is listen to everyone talk about the prevailing paradigm of radio broadcasting, in all of its subtleties and contrast it, to what I’m witnessing taking place before my eyes and ears by the end users of mass media.

And what I sense may be happening, is the radio industry being on the verge of a “black swan event.”

Black Swan Events

Credit card companies, who amass tons of data on their customers, still managed to miss the huge financial crises in housing back in 2007-2009.

When a tidal wave struck Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, the predictive model used to calculate how high the protective wall should be built, provided for a 20-foot wave. Yet, the wave that struck the plant was 24-feet high.

AIG, an insurance company in the business of predicting risk, missed seeing the financial collapse that bankrupted them.

Digital Advertising

Now Facebook is dealing with a black swan event over their data breach by Cambridge Analytica. Only this black swan could have major implications for how digital advertising is bought and sold in the future. The UK and Europe will put in place in May 2018 the “General Data Protection Regulation,” that will protect their citizens’ personal data or offending companies will suffer stiff penalties and fines.

So, what the Facebook story is doing, is making its two plus billion users aware of such massive collection and abuse of our data, but the fallout from this breach of trust will impact the ad supported business model of everyone in the digital advertising world.

30% of American Homes Don’t Have a Radio

Edison Research and Triton Digital’s annual “Infinite Dial” research just produced this astounding statistic. Close to a third of America’s homes no longer have a radio set in them.

Many people see smart speakers as the way back into the home for radio. But are they really?

Cable TV & Over-The-Air (OTA) TV

In the beginning, cable television was called “Community Antenna Television.” The concept was simple, TV stations were primarily located in big cities and the suburbs couldn’t receive those TV signals. So, antennas were placed high on mountains and cables would carry the signals received to homes in the valley.

TV operators loved this back then. It was like getting a power increase for no money.

Ah, but remember, there’s no such thing as a “free lunch.”

As the cable industry grew, channels such as ESPN and CNN and The Weather Channel were born and would compete with OTA TV.

Then along came streaming video.

Netflix

At the end of March 2017, one year ago, Netflix surpassed cable TV with its number of subscribers. And if you were to add up all the other streaming video services available to today’s television consumer, the lead over cable wouldn’t be a couple million viewers, but tens of millions.

What happens when a household begins subscribing to these advertising free channels? They find it almost impossible to return to ad supported ones.

Smart Speakers

Now we circle back to the smart speakers, Amazon’s, Google’s, Apple’s and Microsoft’s for starters. Instead of a handful of audio choices, the smart speaker delivers an almost infinite choice, and many, advertising-free.

When you put a prime rib steak next to hamburger and they are both the same price, which do you think most folks will choose?

The smart speaker lets you customize your favorites, much like the pre-sets on your car radio does. I’m willing to bet that the average consumer will end up with about 3 to 5 favorite audio streams they spend the bulk of their listening time with.

In fact, Nielsen’s Total Audience Report released in the second quarter of 2017 said that 87% of OTA radio listeners spent their listening time tuned to one of their three favorite radio stations. And 58% of that time was spent listening to just one station, what Nielsen calls their 1st Preference or P1 station.

Why would we expect this number to grow with the advent of smart speakers?

Goldstein’s Words

I think Steve Goldstein summed it up best in his recent blog when he wrote, “Commercial radio should put down the hammer and stop searching for nails. As they think beyond the stream, they will see how people are using audio media these days and create on-demand solutions in-sync with the vast opportunity of the exploding Smart Speaker universe. On Smart Speakers, the listeners are asking for it.”

 

 

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What I Learned About Being a General Manager

48I loved being a general manager of radio stations. It wasn’t the job that first attracted me to radio however; it was to become a disc jockey. From as far back as I can remember I wanted to be a DJ on the radio. My first radio microphone was made out of tinker toys. Then I got a Caravelle (pictured) transmitter for Christmas from Santa Claus and I took to the air waves.

I started in commercial radio when I was in the 10th grade in high school, getting my FCC 3rd Class Radio-Telephone Operator Permit. Due to my age at that time, I needed to get a work permit. The Massachusetts employment office that issued those types of permits for underage workers asked me what type of employment I would be doing. I told them, I’m going to be a DJ. They didn’t have a category for DJ in their book, so they wrote “Talent” on my work permit and sent me on my way. I never mentioned that I would also be taking transmitter readings every half hour standing next to a 1,000-watt broadcast transmitter. If I had, they would never have issued me a work permit, as that environment would have been considered to hazardous for a person who was only 16 years old.

As I look back on it, it almost seems ironic that I could have a license to operate a commercial radio station, but my mother would have to drive me to work and pick me up because I couldn’t get a driver’s license to operate an automobile.

In time, I would learn that what I really wanted to do in radio was not be the person who was the product, but the person who ran the whole enchilada; also known as the general manager. To get to that lofty office, I would need to leave the air and programming and go into sales.

Once in sales I quickly rose through the ranks to sales manager, station manager and finally general manager. Yes, at the ripe old age of 32, I was a general manager in Atlantic City, New Jersey; the world’s famous playground.

Lessons Learned

So what did I learn almost three decades later? A career is not a sprint, but a marathon. You never know everything you need to know. Every day is a learning experience. That your attitude becomes the attitude of your employees, so keep it positive.

Success

Like making a baby, you can’t speed up the process of success in life. It takes time. Repetition is key. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers wrote it takes about 10,000 hours of repetition and practice to master anything.

While Radio Ink Magazine named me one of the best general managers in radio before I left the industry to become a broadcast professor at a university, I would find that I would learn even more about my craft trying to teach it to others. So today, I think I’d be a much better general manager than when I took a sabbatical to enter teaching.

Love

They say if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. That was true for me about my radio career for over four decades and it’s been just as true for my teaching these past six years. But here’s the big take away: You can love your career, but it will never love you back. So you have to make time for the things that do love you back like your family. I may have been a hard working, successful radio general manager, but I never missed any of the special moments in my boys’ lives as they were growing up.

But the real credit goes to their mother. She made the decision to be a stay-at-home mom – the most important and difficult career choice on the planet – and the credit for the successful men both of my sons turned out to be, goes to her.

Marriage

Sadly, while I tried to be a good dad and a good radio general manager, I probably was lacking in the husband department. The mother of my sons and I would divorce. My life was not in proper balance. Don’t let this happen to you.

Stay Curious

When you’re starting out, you are very curious about how everything works. You’re like a sponge trying to soak it all in. Don’t lose that curiosity. Always pitch in and do whatever needs to be done. Always listen to the ideas of others; it might surprise you how much they know. Make every day a new day to learn and grow and be better than you were yesterday.

Management

When you manage people, unlike things, know that each one is different. Each person is an individual and there’s no “one size fits all” approach. Celebrate your people’s victories, benchmarks and life events. Empower your people to not need you. Compliment in public, correct in private. Compliment in a note, correct face-to-face.

Listen

You were born with two ears and one mouth. Listening is what you should be doing twice as much as a general manager. Just because you’re the GM doesn’t mean you have all the answers. You don’t. Collaboration is the 21st Century Skill Set. It’s been my experience that often the answers to the problems confronting my radio stations were inside my own workforce. As manager, it was my job to get the answers out of them.

My Boss is a Bastard

This is a tough one. You never really want to work for a boss who’s an S.O.B. But sometimes family obligations put you in that uncomfortable position of just having to tough it out until you can make a change. I tell my students when we go over case studies of employees working for a bastard that unlike now – when they are students with no other people they are responsible for – it seems like it would be easy to just walk away from a terrible employment situation, but when you have a mortgage, car loan, kids etc. you can’t. But what you can do is begin you job search and get out of there as soon as you can. Bad work relationships are toxic. Don’t stay in one.

It’s About More than Work

New managers sometimes have a hard time understanding why everyone isn’t as dedicated as they are to their job. But often, the reality is, your employees have lives outside of their workplace and those lives aren’t always smooth sailing. Each of us has a finite emotional capacity. So if their home life is stealing more than 50% of their emotional capacity, it leaves less capacity for the office. So if one of your best employees is suddenly under-performing, explore what’s going on in the rest of their life and how you, as their manager, can help them through this rough patch in their life. People will never forget how you made them feel when they needed your help and understanding the most. Even better, when that rough patch is over, you have one of the most empowered and dedicated employees now on your team.

Does Everyone Share the Same Mission?

Every company has a “Mission Statement.” Most are too long and rarely remembered, let alone embraced and understood by every employee. And that’s a BIG problem for you, the general manager.

There’s an old story about President Kennedy visiting the National Aeronautics and Space Administration complex when he stopped and asked a person cleaning the floor what his job was. The person said their job was to put a man on the moon. Now that’s a focused workforce.  What would your people say they do in your radio station if someone were to ask?

Don’t wonder what the answer is, ask your people. Get everyone on the same page.

Facebook

The world we live in today has blurred the lines between our work life and our home life. Our computers, tablets and smartphones now mean we are always available to our employer and always able to connect with our social networks. So should you ban Facebook? I was asked do to that once by one of my employees. My response was “no” I would not ban Facebook. And here’s why: First that person got all their work done and done correctly. That person was available to me at any time 24/7 if I needed something fixed regarding our program logs. If I could invade their home life, if necessary, then their home life could invade my work place.

The good news is recent research has shown that employees who take social network breaks online are more productive than those that don’t. Everyone needs to take a break and refresh to continue to perform at the highest levels they are possible of achieving.

Sales people are known to take a break after a lot of “No’s” and hit some golf balls at the driving range to refresh and get back to closing sales.

Personal Ethics

You know right from wrong. Never let any work place or manager compromise your personal ethics or values. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. And if that “duck” doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Take a stand. Speak up, especially if you’re the manager because your people only have you standing between them and the top management of your company.

Failure is Learning

Want to learn more, fail more often and more quickly. Sounds counter-intuitive but research has proven that failure is all part of the way we learn. We only eliminate the unsuccessful paths by finding out if they lead us to success or not.

I had the opportunity to visit the Thomas Edison laboratory in New Jersey. A sign in the lab where Edison had invented the light bulb had this Edison quote: “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” Don’t fear failure. Learn to take risks.

Management vs. Leadership

In the end, what you really want to become is a leader. What’s the difference you ask? Peter Drucker says it best:

Management is doing things right;

leadership is doing the right things.

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Don’t Let Radio End Up Like Yahoo!

49I just finished listening to Jason Jennings’ podcast about how Yahoo went from being a company worth $120 Billion to its sale to Verizon for $4.8 Billion. I think the wisdom that Jason shared is very applicable to the radio industry’s journey through consolidation since the Telcom Act of 1996.

Jason says the selling of Yahoo is like a train wreck; you don’t want to look, but you just can’t help yourself. I know many who’ve said similar things as Wall Street invaded radio with its goal of “increasing shareholder value.”

So how can radio learn from Yahoo’s mistakes? What are the lessons Jason shared that apply to radio? Let me share with you the Top 5 Lessons of Yahoo:

#1) Know What You’re All About

Yahoo never really defined itself and the revolving door of CEOs contributed to this with each one bringing a different vision – or no vision – to Yahoo. Or as Jason puts it, the company didn’t have a purpose; they never knew what they were all about.

As radio was deregulated and its original mission of serving the public interest, convenience and necessity was abandoned, nothing replaced radio’s reason for existing except for “increasing shareholder value.” Not surprising as radio people were replaced by Wall Street investors.

#2) Have a Set of Guiding Principles

Radio’s guiding principles were first established by the FRC (Federal Radio Commission) and then by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). Under President Ronald Reagan – and his government is best that governs least approach – radio’s deregulation began. President Bill Clinton would open the flood gates of consolidation with his signing of the Telcom Act of 1996.

With no guiding principles, investors were free to move in all directions; and they did, buying up not just radio stations but many of its manufacturers and service providers for radio.

It’s like the old saying, if you don’t know where you want to go, any road will take you there.

#3) Using a Business like a Personal Piggy Bank

Radio investors and many top radio executives began using radio as a personal piggy bank, only taking care of themselves and focusing on the immediate quarter with no long term vision, strategy or investment. Too many just lined their pockets and left.

#4) Trying to Be All Things to All People

Jason says “great companies stick to their knitting. You can’t be all things to all people.”

Radio was originally about serving their community of license via over-the-air broadcasting. It delivered local news, local sports, local community events, local bands and more by local radio personalities who lived in the communities they served. It was focused like a laser beam on local, local, local.

#5) Don’t Copy the Competition

Radio today is trying to copy Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music and others. Radio today is trying to also copy YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and SnapChat. Radio is trying to copy just about every other business advertising model and without any guiding principles has been economically treading water.

Yahoo’s SVP Brad Garlinghouse wrote his infamous “Peanut Butter Memo” in October of 2006 that pleaded with the company to narrow its focus and clarify its vision.

Brad felt that Yahoo was spreading its resources too thinly. Business Insider recently wrote “This internal memo from 10-years ago shows Yahoo still hasn’t solved its biggest problem.”

If Yahoo had a culture problem, radio by way of mass consolidation had an even bigger one. First, as Wall Street money flowed in and radio stations were bought up, each of those stations represented its own culture that would need to merge into a larger culture. Then these new larger radio groups would try to change the culture from a local scope to a national scope. National radio personalities like Ryan Seacrest, Rush Limbaugh and many others would replace local personalities. National radio contests would replace local ones. Live and local for the most part would soon only appear in the history books on radio.

Culture is created at the top. Over the last twenty-years, radio’s consolidation has seen a revolving door of top leadership. The culture of radio has been a moving target for both industry professionals and listeners alike. Culture is built over time. There is no “quick fix” for building culture.

Absent a company culture, what fills the vacuum is one of everyone for themselves.

Now twenty-years later, there are signs of new growth as people who believe in live and local, and operating in the public interest, convenience and necessity are entering the business.

In many small markets, this way of operating never got sucked into the vortex of consolidation.

Even some of our country’s biggest radio companies are focused on getting back to the core principles radio was built upon.

Radio, the first broadcast transmission system to reach a mass audience, almost 100-years later is still the leading way to reach a mass audience.

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