Tag Archives: Nielsen Audio

It’s Groundhog Year

Admit it, 2021 doesn’t feel like anything more than “2020, the Sequel.”  

In addition to COVID-19 continuing to mutate and spread around the world, we are getting ready for another Senate Impeachment Trial. We did flip the calendar, didn’t we?

Crossroads

Bruce Mehlman is a Washington, DC attorney who publishes some very insightful PowerPoints. His latest is titled “Crossroads.” I encourage you to take a moment to review the entire slide deck, but if you’re time challenged, here are some key points that Bruce makes. I think you will find these very encouraging.

Reasons for Hope

Bruce found 20 Hopeful Headlines You May Have Missed

Digital Transformation is Accelerating

Mehlman points to nine areas where accelerating digital transformations will improve the world:

  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Government
  • Research
  • Cities & Retail
  • Workplace
  • Wellness & Fitness
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Transportation

The biggest challenge facing us is not COVID-19 or the Economy or even China, but TRUST. When it comes to media, 56% of Americans believe “journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations,” and that should be very concerning for any media professional.

If people don’t trust us for giving them the straight story when it comes to news, what makes you think they will trust our advertisers?

For an ad-supported industry, TRUST is tantamount, which is why last week I wrote about the trust problem with “Subscriber First,” Nielsen Audio’s new policy of only releasing the ratings of subscribing stations to the radio trades. You can’t trust what you see, because you’re not seeing all the stations impacting a radio marketplace. You can read that article by clicking HERE

Recommendations for Leaders at the Crossroads

Mehlman makes five excellent suggestions for the leaders of any business or industry:

  1. Communicate Directly, Truthfully & Often Business is now more trusted than politicians or media outlets thanks to pandemic straight-talk. TRUST begins with telling the truth.
  2. Support Constructive Leaders It’s time to stand up for people who are doing the right thing, stop treating responsible and irresponsible players like they are equals. It’s also important that we engage those we hope to change.
  3. Leverage Your Power Business has become the “4th branch of government” according to Axios. We need to take responsibility and own the impact we’re making on society and not do things we know to be wrong or bad, because we want to put a dollar in our pocket. You have power over what programming you put on your airwaves, and the people you endorse. Set a good example for others by the way you run your business by championing causes that will make a positive difference in your community.
  4. Lead By Example Modern media and politics reward outrage, division and sanctimony rather than pragmatic problem-solving. It’s way past time for change!  The documentary “The Brainwashing of My Dad” shows the power we wield. As media companies we need to demonstrate the value of cooperation with others in creating a better world.
  5. We’re All In This Together Doing your part is no longer enough. Societal and global risks threaten to overwhelm our system, demanding collective action. Sometimes you need to go outside of your lane.

I encourage you to click on this link and see the full PowerPoint slide deck that Bruce Mehlman has thoughtfully prepared. You will find it HERE

“Don’t give them what you think they want.

Give them what they never thought was possible.”

Orson Welles, actor, director, screenwriter & producer

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Subscriber First or Buyer Confusion?

In November of last year, I wrote a blog titled “Why Make Radio Advertising Harder to Buy?” It was inspired by articles in all the radio trades on how Nielsen Audio was no longer going to provide buyers with any data pertaining to non-subscriber radio stations through their ratings service. It would be as if these radio stations had vanished from their markets.

That sounded pretty scary!

Winchester, Virginia Nielsen Audio Ratings

Well this week, the latest Nielsen Audio Ratings for my radio marketplace were released and it was startling.

Was it possible that the only radio stations impacting the Winchester, Virginia radio market were owned my iHeartMedia or was something missing?

Winchester, Virginia Eastlan Radio Ratings

The answer, as I’m sure you guessed, something IS missing, all the non-subscribing radio stations that put a signal into the Winchester metro don’t appear.

Eastlan Ratings has committed to showing ALL radio stations in its radio listening reports.

The first thing you notice is that iHeartMedia doesn’t have the #1 radio station in the Winchester Metro, Centennial Broadcasting’s WINC-FM/WXBN-FM has that position and by almost five share points.

Nielsen vs. Eastlan vs. Arbitron vs. Birch

Over the years, as I studied the different ratings services, it gave me some sense of how they differ.

When I managed WFPG-FM, a Bonneville Beautiful Music formatted radio station in South Jersey, Arbitron’s diary methodology was very good at finding the older adults that enjoyed this music presentation. When Birch decided to measure the market, their telephone methodology found all the young adults that enjoyed album oriented rock. As you might have guessed, I never purchased a Birch Ratings Report.

When Arbitron and Eastlan measured the same radio market, I noticed they were both good at reporting listening to the dominant, high powered radio stations, but what made Eastlan different than Arbitron was finding listeners of small niche radio signals that never made it to the pages of the Arbitron report.

When Nielsen Audio took over Arbitron, this sampling methodology remained unchanged.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

It seems that the song the big radio owners were singing when announcing the change to “Subscriber First” was Don’t Worry, Be Happy. But when I read the trades, I saw radio advertising buyers were anything BUT happy.

Agency buyers said they expected the ratings reports they bought to be an accurate representation of the market, but if reports don’t show the non-subscriber stations, then those ratings become basically useless.

Nielsen Audio has said that agencies can get all the stations IF they pay more for respondent level data (RLD), according to published reports. But will they?

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

-Mike Tyson

Left Hook

With the start of a brand new year, it appears the first punch has been landed. Non-subscribing radio stations have been erased from Nielsen Audio’s Topline Data, the data used by the radio trades like AllAccess Music Group, Inside Radio, RadioInsight, Radio Ink, and Radio Business Reports. For radio lovers, like me, these published reports are totally useless.

Winners & Losers

The reality is that even if everyone pays to have access to the data, only the very top performing radio stations will enjoy the benefits. Often any station not rated number one or number two – will be paying for data that in the end only helps the market’s “big dawgs.” For many stations, it’s paying big money for nothing in return.

Radio Ad Sellers vs. Radio Ad Buyers

Radio ad buyers want to know who’s listening to what, and when, and for how long etc. And early indicators are showing radio buyers, as a group, are none too pleased with this change. Sadly, the people who appear to have never been consulted about this change, were, radio ad buyers.

“How am I doing?”

-Ed Koch, Mayor – New York City 1978-1989

One of the things I told my broadcast sales students was something I learned from Mayor Koch, if you want to know how you’re doing, ask. Mayor Koch was famous for asking people everywhere he went, “How am I doing?” They told him. And he listened. That’s how he was elected to three terms as New York City’s mayor.

Customer Unfriendly

With the country still in the grips of COVID-19, the timing for this change comes at an especially bad moment for the radio industry. Instead of increasing transparency of radio’s impact, it’s making it opaquer.

Might an unintended consequence be for advertisers to try another medium to advertise in that gives them more consumer engagement data?

E-Commerce Usage Explodes

COVID-19 has seen an acceleration of E-Commerce adoption by consumers of all ages. Everything from essential goods to holiday gifts are being bought online, which McKinsey & Company, an American worldwide management consulting firm, says compressed ten years of E-Commerce adoption into three months. Part and parcel with this change is a massive shift in consumer behavior, the type of shift that historically used to take decades to occur. These changes were already in motion before the onset of the global pandemic, but COVID’s impact was like hitting the fast-forward button.

Consumer behavior is moving in the direction of convenience and speed, should radio station operators think it will be any different for the behavior of buyers of advertising? If it gets harder to figure out what a market’s true listening habits are, if it takes more money, more elbow grease to get to the bottom of the audience estimates, do you think they might opt for a new direction?

Ad buyers have never had more choices. Once they invest their ad dollars in a new directions, they may never return.

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

Illegal drugs and software.”

-Edward Tufte

My good friend and expert radio researcher, Charlie Sislen at The Research Director, poses more questions about the impact this change will make for both subscribers and non-subscribers in his blog and asks: “Is it Nielsen’s primary job to deliver data that properly reflects all radio listening in a local market OR to increase its profits for their parent company and shareholders?”

Read Charlie’s thoughts here: https://researchdirectorinc.com/2021/01/nielsens-war-on-non-subscribers/

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Sunday, January 21, 2021 2:30pm EST Update: Alert readers of the blog have told me that the link I posted no longer works. Apparently, Charlie has removed this article from his blog. Here’s a link to an Inside Radio story about what Charlie wrote (and also includes this same link to Charlie’s now removed blog article). http://www.insideradio.com/free/unintended-consequences-for-radio-subscribers-flagged-in-new-nielsen-policy/article_be6bf0dc-61ff-11eb-8410-3bbaf52569cb.html

I included to a link to what Charlie Sislen had written, because I found his insights to be very informative.

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Best of the Blog 2020

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

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

Most Read Article of 2020

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

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

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

Read why this article touched the hearts of so many HERE

Second Most Read Article of 2020

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

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

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

Third Most Read Article of 2020

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

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

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

Fourth Most Read Article of 2020

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

You can read it HERE

Fifth Most Read Article of 2020

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

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

You can read the article HERE

Most Read Articles, Period

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

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

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

Why I Blog

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

FREE SUBSCRIPTIONS

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

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

Happy New Year!

Dick & Sue

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Why Make Radio Advertising Harder to Buy?

The headline in Radio Ink proclaimed, “No More Free Ride For Non-Subscribers.” It was a news story about how Nielsen Audio was no longer going to provide buyers with any data pertaining to non-subscribing radio stations through their ratings service.  It will be as if these radio stations vanished from their markets.

Ratings Gathering Costs Money

I can understand the perspective of both Nielsen Audio subscribers, as well as Nielsen itself as an audience ratings provider. If there weren’t subscribers there would be no money to pay Nielsen to gather this data in the first place. Subscribers don’t wish to see those radio companies not paying and then enjoying the benefits of data gathered. Likewise, Nielsen wants to be able to garner the biggest bang for their ratings gathering dollar by trying to force all radio operators to be a participant in the process.

So, on the surface, why would anyone object to this change coming in January 2021?

Winners & Losers

The reality is that even if everyone pays to have access to the data, only the very top performing radio stations will enjoy the benefits. Stations placing out of the top five or ten– often any station not rated number one or number two – will be paying for data that in the end only helps the market’s “big dawgs.” For many stations, it’s paying big money for nothing.

Nielsen vs. Eastlan

In those markets where both Nielsen and Eastlan measure radio listening, we see all the stations in the Eastlan report’s cover page giving a total radio listening perspective for that  market, but with a Nielsen Audio report, we only see subscribing stations. In 2014, Nielsen ceased reporting non-subscribing radio stations from the “topline” numbers it provides to the radio trade publications and newspapers.

For anyone who grew up in radio, having radio stations that are impactful in their market not be listed seems sacrosanct; like not seeing 650AM WSM appear in the ratings for Nashville. When this became Nielsen’s policy, I stopped looking at their ratings reports, since I knew they were incomplete and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Eastlan Ratings, on the other hand, includes every radio station in their topline numbers in every market they do audience measurement. However, if anyone wanted to drill down the data to a more granular level, then they would need to subscribe to the report, and that seems fair.

Of these two radio ratings companies, I find Eastlan’s philosophy to be more valuable to the radio industry and the selling of radio advertising.

Subscriber First

Nielsen is calling their new policy “Subscriber First.” But will the result be a positive for Nielsen subscribers if it makes radio advertising more difficult for people to buy?

Radio ratings are, after all, only estimates. Estimates of what people ages 6 and older are listening to on their radios, smartphones and other audio devices.

Unlike my subscription to Netflix, Amazon Prime, PBS, or The Washington Post, where I am actually counted as paying for a service that I receive, radio ratings are attempting to estimate listening based on a small sample of people, and then extrapolate those results as the habits of an entire marketplace population.

Radio listening estimates  are not perfect, and as a radio manager, some of my radio stations have taken a “ratings bullet” and seen a precipitous drop in reported listening, even when nothing in the market changed to cause such a drop. History taught me that patience was in order and that things would return in the next ratings period; which they always did.

Radio Station Owners vs. Radio Advertising Buyers

It’s radio’s buyers who really want to know who’s listening to what, and when, and for how long etc. And it appears that radio buyers, as a group, are none too pleased with this change in ratings reporting. I’m reading quotes like “as a long-time client, not being consulted before a final decision was made is quite troubling,” and “ we feel like we will no longer be receiving the data we originally contracted for – a full view of radio listening in measured markets.”

Radio station owners, on the other hand, feel that non-subscribing radio stations should not have anyone know the true impact their radio station is having in a measured market. Those stations should be made to “pay to play,” or simply disappear.

Customer Friendly?

It seems like the timing of this change could not come at a worse time for the radio industry. With so much of its business impacted by COVID-19, making radio’s reach more transparent instead of opaque should be the order of the day.

I’ve read that Nielsen estimates two thirds of its agency subscribers won’t have access to any data regarding non-subscribing radio stations. Might these agencies just also cease being subscribers to radio ratings? Is this really the direction we want things to head in?

I think not.

Nielsen’s change, from my vantage point, will potentially reduce the level of confidence buyers will have about buying radio advertising. It’s a path of erosion that could negatively impact the entire radio industry.

The Better Advertising Mousetrap

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

I wrote a blog article on social media’s ability to manipulate our attention, wants and desires for the benefit of their advertisers. It should give any radio broadcaster pause. You can read that article HERE

The reality is, today the internet is a more efficient way to sell our attention to advertisers.

When radio makes buying the medium more difficult, buyers have other choices, and once they invest more heavily in them, they may never return.

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

illegal drugs and software.”

-Edward Tufte

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Would You Like to Participate in Radio Research?

nielsen familyNuVoodoo does some really wonderful research about radio listening. They particularly focus on reaching people who are most likely to keep a radio listening diary or wear a Nielsen Portable People Meter, aka PPM.

During their last webinar, a slide came up quickly in the jam-packed presentation that made me choke on my coffee. It showed how small the pool of radio listeners is that would participate in Nielsen Radio ratings research. An astounding 82% say they would never wear a PPM device and even more listeners say they wouldn’t keep a ratings diary. Ratings Likies 2020

I Was a Nielsen Family

When I was a radio broadcaster, it wasn’t unusual for Arbitron Ratings to ask me about keeping a radio listening diary for a week. Each time I declined because I was actively working in radio.

When I was a broadcast professor at the university in Kentucky, I was approached about keeping a television ratings diary and Nielsen said that being a broadcast teacher was not a disqualifier, so I said “yes.”

I knew that the experience of keeping a ten-day television viewing diary would be one I could share with my students in covering the topic of radio/TV ratings. I was thrilled to be a “Nielsen Family,” even though that thrill quickly dissipated once the survey diary and instructions arrived.

The few dollars Nielsen sent to me with the materials seemed small potatoes for the amount of information they wanted to extract from my viewing habits.

By the end of the ten days, I was sure I’d never want to do this again, and it made me sad because I was a person who should be passionate about doing such work.

A Relative’s Family Wore PPMs

A member of my family living outside of Boston was asked to participate in PPM radio research. The rewards being offered enticed them to say “yes.”

The members of the family ranged in age from 44 to 6.

I remember looking at this 6-year old playing on his swing-set and thinking, Boston radio 6+ radio ratings depended, in part, on little kids like this. It sent a chill down my spine.

Well, the family grew tired of participating very quickly. In the nutshell, they didn’t feel the inconvenience was worth the small reward paid for wearing the PPM devices.

They said the experience hardened them from ever participating in future radio or TV ratings research, besides now they rarely listen to radio anymore with Spotify being the family choice for streaming. The Spotify App keeps track of each member of the family’s listening habits, serving up just what they want to hear.

Ratings Likelies: Rare & Vital

In late June 2020, NuVoodoo fielded their sixteenth Ratings Prospects Study and they write: “we drilled down to the small segment of radio listeners likely to accept a meter or diary from Nielsen. As has been the case in every past NuVoodoo study, when we model for the subset of respondents who would say ‘yes’ to Nielsen, the opt-in rate even among our already research-inclined sample is staggeringly low – with the percentage of likely ratings respondents who spend an hour or longer with radio each day even rarer still.”

That’s pretty disturbing to hear.

Share of Ear

Then the news breaks that COVID-19 has tipped the consumer listening habits to digital streaming. Now 53% listen to on-demand/digital devices versus 47% who listen to linear/non-digital devices, like AM/FM radio. Edison Research began tracking audio consumption on digital devices in 2014 and now, only six years later, people over the age of 13 spend more time with these devices than traditional OTA radio.  Digital Devices Cross 50%

It’s another case of the inevitable happening anyway, but COVID-19 is causing changes to occur on an accelerated time frame.

Edison Research also found in their latest Infinite Dial research that new music seekers are using YouTube for music discovery versus AM/FM radio, 68% to 46%.

Dan Ariely Explains

Dan Ariely is a psychology and behavioral economics professor at Duke University. I first became aware of Dan’s work with his book Predictably Irrational.

Dan explains that “the interruption of everyday life has been an experiment showing that habits aren’t just desires; they’re behaviors cued by reminders in our environment. When we change the way we interact with our environment, a lot of seemingly ingrained habits fade away. Some of them we are better off without, like thoughtless consumption and spending.”

Since the pandemic more people who used to commute to work, began working from home. The AM/FM radio cue for listening was their vehicle’s dashboard radio, but since they were spending less time in the car and more time at home, the device for audio consumption used in the home now became dominant.

While one hopes that once people begin to commute to work again, if that even happens, the old routines – including listening to the car’s radio – might return.

However, many companies, especially the high tech ones like Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook, are moving to a permanent WFH (Work From Home) model.

Dr. Ed Cohen

One of the most recent high profile layoffs was that of Dr. Ed Cohen from Cumulus as its VP for Ratings and Research.

Radio Ink asked him about the future of AM/FM radio to which he responded:

“It’s a question of whether (the radio industry is) cutting bone and muscle rather than fat. If the radio industry continues to cut, can we put our best foot forward to not only keep current listeners spending as much time with the medium as they have in the past, but can we also convert light listeners to spend more time with radio? Commercial radio is not a charity and faced with the revenue challenges of (COVID-19), layoffs and furloughs are inevitable, but listeners don’t understand that and don’t likely care. They want to be entertained and informed. If they perceive a degradation of what they expect from us in a world of increased competition from other sources (streaming, podcasts, etc.) some will go elsewhere, accelerating a downward spiral. I hate to sound pessimistic about a medium where I’ve spent nearly my entire career (even my Ph.D. dissertation was about radio) and have no claims to be Nostradamus, but that’s the logical conclusion. I hope I’m wrong.”

Sadly, Dr. Cohen, I think you’ve got it right.

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Radio Is the Load Bearing Wall of Audio Media

Rich TunkelRich Tunkel of Nielsen Audio delivered this message at the 71st Annual NJBA Conference and Gala in Atlantic City, New Jersey along with this slide (see below).Nielsen Audio Media Reach

Tunkel pointed out that when it comes to total media usage in America today, the ten and a half hours of daily media use has remained unchanged year-over-year. However, Nielsen is seeing shifts in what and how media is being used during the day. The big increase is in the use of internet connected devices, with almost seven out of ten homes now having a device capable of streaming audio content.

RADIO is King of All Audio Media

92% of adults in America today listen to radio each week according to Nielsen’s Q3 2018 survey. That’s more than twice the reach of streaming audio on smartphones It’s almost five times the reach of podcasts, and virtually six times the reach of satellite radio.

Yes, there’s more competition for the ear than ever before, but broadcast radio is “the load bearing wall of audio media.”

I love that description!

A load bearing wall in a building is the one wall you can’t take down without having the entire structure collapse. And so, it is with reach via the medium of audio. If your advertising buy doesn’t include radio, you’re missing the masses with your message.

Nielsen’s New Research on the Impact of Radio on Light TV Viewers

When it comes to reaching America’s light TV viewers, radio dominates. (see below)radio_reaches_light_TV_viewers

Light TV viewers are most of us in today’s world. We are commuting, busing our kids and grandkids to their activities, leading active lives ourselves and are now spending less time home in front of the tube.

Rich Tunkel showed a real-life demonstration of how taking an advertiser’s TV budget and diverting 50% of it to radio, the advertising campaign increased its reach by over a 100,000 people without increasing the dollars the advertiser spent. In this case it was a 45% lift in reach.

I’ve known Rich for years and have never seen him deliver more impactful data on the power of radio advertising.

‘Nielsen Media Impact’ brings together consumer media behavior information data Nielsen Media Impactacross TV, digital, and print media into one easy to use planning interface. It’s a product that should have everyone in radio sales salivating to get their hands on.

Radio #1 in Reach

Reach, for the advertiser, has never been more important. Radio’s 92% reach of adults in America is unchanged year-over-year and that’s a statistic worth shouting about, especially with huge losses in reach of television and newspapers.

Radio’s ability to reach the masses is why Proctor & Gamble has returned to radio as a major advertiser since the summer of 2017. Over the course of the year in 2018, P&G virtually tripled its radio advertising. 2019 could see P&G become radio’s biggest advertiser.

Why Radio

One of the panelist’s on Rich Tunkel’s NJBA panel was Stuart Burkhoff. Stu is the Senior Director of Media Strategy and Planning for Altice USA (4th largest cable provider in the US). He shared with the audience why radio is important to him using a clever acronym called RADIO, which stands for:

 Relevant

Authentic

Delivery

Impact

Original

Radio is relevant for all kinds of people, whether they want sports, news or entertainment. Radio has authenticity with listeners because of its radio personalities who are stars in their communities and have earned their love and trust. Radio delivers an advertiser’s message with impact, and radio is the original, it’s the audio medium that’s been around for almost a hundred years and still works. In fact, radio may be entering its finest hour.

Each of Tunkel’s panelists stressed the importance of the local radio personality to powerfully deliver their message and endorse the product. Radio personalities have never been more important to advertisers.

In today’s world, reach continues to be the most important factor when deciding which medium to use to get an advertising message out.

Radio is the undisputed reach & frequency leader.

It’s the…

Load Bearing Wall of Audio Media.

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What Is Localism?

117I read with interest what the new Radio Board Chair of the National Association of Broadcasters, Randy Gravley, had to say in a Radio World interview about what he saw as the issues of concern for the United States radio broadcast industry.

The Most Pressing Radio Business Challenges

On the top of Randy’s list is the rise in streaming services. He feels for radio to be competitive it needs to be on as many platforms as possible but also needs to be delivering content not available elsewhere. It goes back to a real dedication to localism.

What IS Localism, Anyway?

I thought I would go to the flagship radio station owned by Tri-State Communications Inc. based in Jasper, GA to find out. Randy is the president and CEO of Tri-State Communications Inc.

The “Home” page says WJLA 101.1 FM is your source for up-to-date news, sports and community announcements. There was no mention about the radio station being available on any platform other than over-the-air. Likewise, the “About” page tells us that they can be heard in 18-counties in the tri-state area of Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. It also says: “Our signal, which remains constant (unlike AM radio stations that lower the power at sunset and sunrise), reaches our target audience of those thirty years old and older.”

I’m sure all AM broadcasters will appreciate that kind of talk. NOT.

The closest thing I could find to “localism” was that WLJA has a “dedicated, award winning staff with over 150 years of combined broadcast experience” and that they “cover all of the local news from our listening area.”

Local News

So, I went next to the “NEWS” page, which features a drop-down menu of “Local, Sports, Music.”

I started with the Local News and saw that the city of Woodstock was having an eclipse viewing gathering. NOTE: I’m reading this local news on August 31st about an event that already happened on August 21st between 1 and 4pm. I also learned that I could tour the new Northside Hospital Cherokee on Saturday, April 22nd from 10am to 2pm.

Is this an example of localism done right?

Local Sports

The “Sports” page did give me the high school football schedule, but other than a list of sponsors, nothing else.

Local Music

The “Music” page was a list of the “Top 30 Gospel Request Time Songs for 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013.” But it appears these songs are the favorites from a national database not one compiled locally by the radio station.

There was no mention of any local gospel or country groups or any information about where this type of music might be enjoyed locally in live venues.

Local Sales

It was time now to see how the radio station sold itself to local advertisers.

In big red type is said “Home to over 38,000 listeners at any given moment!*” That sounded impressive, but there was that “*” at the end of the statement. The asterisk qualified that claim with the following information: “*As rated by ARBITRON 2007 county by county coverage in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.”

OK, there are some immediate problems with that qualifier. First, it’s 2017 not ten years ago. Second, Arbitron has been gone since September 2013 when it was purchased by Nielsen and re-branded as Nielsen Audio. Other data is sourced as of 2008.

All of these things were found on the radio station’s “Sales” page.

Everything was station focused and not advertiser focused. (Or listener focused)

The sales information didn’t scream “localism” to me. It also offered no information about advertising opportunities via streaming.

In fact, I can’t find on any page anything about being able to hear WLJA 101.1 FM over the internet or via any of the platforms that Randy says are now so critical for radio broadcasters.

Apologies to Randy Gravley

When I started to write today’s blog, I never intended for it to come off looking like a “hit job” on the newly elected Radio Board Chairman. So, I want to apologize to Randy for how negative this article became.

But he’s not alone.

And that’s radio’s BIG problem.

We know what the issues are. We talk the talk, but when it comes to walking the talk, well that’s not happening.

Welcome to radio’s “Kodak Moment.”

Smartphones

77% of all adults in America today say they own a smartphone. That number was only 35% six years ago.

But if you’re looking for the smartphone’s impact on the future, 92% of 18 to 29 year olds today own a smartphone.

Suffice it to say, if your business model doesn’t work on a smartphone, ‘fuhgeddaboudit.’

The NEW Localism

I think the new localism is whatever a person wants, when they want it. Localism no longer means a geographical area. Localism means shared interests.

When a radio station or other mass medium markets itself as being “something for everyone,” it really is saying it’s nothing for nobody.

The future of mass media is reaching the smallest possible viable audience to earn a decent R.O.I. (Return On Investment)

Welcome to the Communications Revolution

What we are seeing in mass mediated communications is a revolution. Like the other worldwide revolutions (Agricultural, Industrial) the impact of this information-driven economic revolution will be enormous.

Unlike the world’s revolutions of the past, this one will explode with exponential speed.

You can see it happening with artificial intelligence (think Alexa or Siri), robotics, self-driving vehicles etc.

Traditional Radio Faces Grim Future

And on August 30, 2017 came a study by Larry S. Miller, Director of the Steinhardt Music Business Program at New York University that says radio is faced with a paradigm shift. He outlines why radio must adapt to the rise of digital.

I know that the NAB and Nielsen have already come out with their side of the story regarding this report by Mr. Miller.

But maybe instead of throwing stones, we should stop living in our own glass houses.

Radio CANNOT survive doing things the way they’ve always done them.

If technology doesn’t seem like magic

It’s probably obsolete.

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The Winner Takes it ALL

108Everything old is new again. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase. “Everything old is new again” was the title of a song in the movie musical “All That Jazz.” Part of the lyrics to this Peter Allen/Carole Bayer Sager song include:

 

Don’t throw the pa-ast away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again

I might fa-all in love wi-ith you again

VADs

While I haven’t heard anyone call them this yet, I may be the first, I’m sure in time they will be referred to in this way, Voice Activated Devices.

You probably better know them as Amazon’s Echo, Google Home or Apple’s HomePod.

Amazon was first into this territory followed by Google and now Apple (their device will be available later in 2017). Microsoft recently announced they have partnered with Harmon Kardon to put the MS VAD “Cortana” into a smart speaker system. Harmon Kardon is a division of Samsung.

Fred Jacobs blogged about them in a recent article titled “Are Voice Commands the New Hi-Fi?” (Hi-Fi was introduced with the 33-1/3 discs introduced by Columbia 69 years ago this month – June 20, 1948.) In his article, he quoted Spotify’s Ian Geller who said voice commands allow people to “engage with music in ways they haven’t since the Hi-Fi stereo system became available.”

Fred feels that these new VAD’s are a “true moment for the radio industry – a chance to bring radio back to homes in a big way.”

The Old That’s New Again Part

As I study these new gadgets, I see a problem for radio of its own making, branding.

The radio I grew up with was very creative and prolific at branding itself with its listeners. It had to be because of the way radio ratings were conducted, either by aided or unaided recall. Billboards, bumper stickers, TV ads, t-shirts, putting your call letters and frequency on just about everything, everywhere it could be seen.

From virtually the beginning burning your call letters into the brains of your listeners was paramount.

Consolidation and PPM (Personal People Meter) would take the need to brand – or so the new Wall Street stakeholders thought – away. Consolidation did this through many signals in the hands of a few operators and the need to cut costs. Arbitron’s (now Nielsen Audio) PPM device did it by recording “listening” even when the listener was totally unaware of where the music or talk programming was coming from.

The new Voice Activated Devices now require a person to KNOW exactly what it is they want to hear when they say the activation words, like “Hey Alexa” or “Hey Google” or “Hey Siri” followed by a specific request.

Unaided recall is back.

Wi-Fi, Hi-Fi & Being Connected

While these new VADs maybe the new “Hi-Fi” for a 21st Century world, they require Wi-Fi to connect to the internet and their respective clouds.

While many of us today take access to a broadband connection for granted as our parents did a landline telephone line, many people in America were not so fortunate. Poor people or people in very rural areas depended on assistance from the Federal government to connect them up to a wired telephone line because private companies found doing so very unprofitable. The Universal Service Fund (USF) was established to provide the funding. Everyone who had a phone would pay a tax to help wire America.

As the need for internet broadband became as necessary in a 21st Century world as a phone line did in the 20th Century, the tax would continue to provide this telecommunications service in the United States.

To read about all of this more detail, click here

Various Ways to Listen

Public Radio in America is leading the way with directing people with the many ways they can be heard. A good example is WBAA AM & FM from Purdue University. Their “How To Listen” tab on their website informs the listener how to listen to their stations over-the-air, streaming online, via their App or via a Voice Activated Device.

This last VAD page also tells listeners how to listen to NPR One using voice commands, such as “Alexa, play NPR One.”

BRANDING Your Radio Station is IMPORTANT

Using a VAD is a return to the days of unaided recall for the radio industry. The need to brand your radio station is critical in a Voice Activated Device world.

How is your KISS, FROG, HOG, JACK etc. different than other such brands all over the world? How will your VAD know which one you want to hear?

Might the return of unique and one-of-a-kind FCC assigned call letters come back into fashion?

Coleman Insights just released a study on Public Radio that shocked programmers with the fact that fewer than one in four radio users can call to mind any Public Radio station.

It’s a Winner Take All World

When the elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers is an old African proverb. It means that the weak get hurt in conflicts between the powerful.

Today, the powerful are Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple and Samsung. Each one having their own voice assistant it hopes will dominate the field.

Our 21st Century technology is altering the structure of competition in America as never before. It encourages more monopolies, a “Winner Take All” world.

Natural monopolies are not new. Utilities are an example, but they were heavily regulated. The natural monopolies created by the internet crush competition and that could negatively impact the American economy. Internet innovation moves fast, the Federal government moves very slowly and regulation won’t stop them from occurring.

You can’t order from Amazon on Google Home. You can’t access your favorite iTunes podcasts on Amazon’s Echo. Each device requires a subscription to their music library, unless you request over-the-air radio streamed into your VAD.

War Chests

Apple as of May 2017 had cash reserves of $256 BILLION. In fact, Apple, Microsoft and Google own 23% of all U.S. corporate cash outside the finance sector according to Moody’s.

iHeartMedia is still wrestling with over $20 BILLION of debt. And Cumulus maybe even worse off.

Their challenges are not those of the entire radio industry and money is not always the determining factor in innovation. A perfect example is how the Wright brothers beat Samuel Pierpoint Langley in the race to create powered controllable flight. Langley had the financial support of the United States government and failed while the Wright brothers succeeded using their own resources from their bike shop.

Crisis

The Chinese language uses two symbols to represent the word crisis. One symbol means “danger” and the other means “opportunity.” 109Radio has been here many times in it’s almost 100-year history before.

Smart operators are already speeding down the path of opportunity.

Are you one of them?

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Radio’s Best Feature

96The one constant in life is change.

What makes our world different than the world we grew up in is the rate of change in technology.

Adoption rates for technology over time according to the U.S. Census,  shows us that it took about 45 years for 25% of Americans to adopt electricity, 35 years for 25% of Americans to adopt the wired telephone, about 32 years for 25% of Americans to adopt radio, 25 years for TV, 15 years for personal computers, 12 years for mobile phones, 8 years for the internet and about 5 years for 25% of Americans to adopt smartphones.

Nearly nine in ten Americans today are on the internet and 77% of Americans now own a smartphone according to Pew Research.

K.I.S.S.

Most people who have any sales training at all know all about “KISS.”  Some say it means “Keep It Simple Stupid” and others will tell you it means “Keep it Short & Simple.”

But either way the message is the same, keep things simple.

“You have to work hard to get your thinking clean and make it simple.”

-Steve Jobs

Quite possibly our biggest challenge in the 21st Century is to keep up with the rate of accelerating change.

The More Things Change, the More They Are the Same

I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase uttered more than once in your lifetime. Every generation has thought that the rate of change was beyond their ability to cope.  A couple of centuries ago Henry David Thoreau told his contemporaries to “Simplify, simplify, simplify.”

Technology – especially information technology, the basis of our social networks – is speeding up exponentially. The famous Moore’s Law predicted this for computer chip development.

Exponential growth rate is an evolutionary process.

In his book “The Singularity Is Near” Raymond Kurzweil showed how civilizations advance through building on the ideas and innovations of previous generations, a positive feedback loop of advancement.

Each new generation is able to improve upon the innovations of the past with increasing speed.

Kurzweil wrote in 2001 that every decade our overall rate of progress was doubling, “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st Century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).”

Only 17 years into the 21st Century and it feels like Kurzweil nailed it with his prediction.

It Still Takes 9 Months to Make a Baby

While it’s true so much of our world is uncontrollably speeding up, we are still human beings and we still pretty much move at the same pace biologically as we always have. Technology doesn’t transform our human nature.

Our need for love, touch, companionship and community will always be part of our humanity no matter what technology brings.

Radio Reaches 93% of Adult Americans Every Week

The latest Nielsen Audio research reports “radio leads all other platforms when it comes to weekly reach (93%) among adult consumers – and with new insights available to compare radio to other platforms on a regular basis, it’s clear that radio is an integral part of media consumption for millions of Americans.”

Great radio makes a human connection, engages its community and is a companion.

Radio’s best feature in a world of complex technology is that it’s simple to use.

It’s that simplicity I believe that makes it the #1 media favorite.

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What Can Radio Do That Other Media Can’t?

87I’m writing the follow-up to last week’s blog article while comments are still flowing in but I sense I have enough of a cross-section of comments to draw some conclusions; over fifteen type-written pages of comments to date. Not all commenters actually post their thoughts on my blog, but instead post them on the various social media platforms where they came in contact with my article. I try to monitor as many of those as possible to gauge the feedback on any week’s article.

Theater of the Mind

Quite a few people wrote that radio’s big advantage is that it’s “Theater of the Mind.” Unfortunately, so would streaming radio and podcasts if they so chose to utilize it. Podcasting does this quite effectively with shows like Radio Lab, Serial, Revisionist History and others. In fact NPR takes all of their segments from their highly rated programs like Morning Edition and All Things Considered and makes them available as podcasts. They are very fast at getting these segments posted online too. Lightning fast.

A lot of retired broadcasters seized on the “Theater of the Mind” advantage not realizing the extent that podcasting is doing this and how fast the podcast world is growing in audience and revenues.

Besides, truthfully, how many commercial radio stations these days do you know actually employ any “Theater of the Mind” these days. That whole concept was born from the days when radio did live dramas and that was last heard with the CBS Radio Mystery Theater that I remember running as a young lad back in the 70s.

Radio is everywhere, wireless and free

This might have been an advantage a couple of years ago, but is it still? Streaming audio is wireless, is pretty ubiquitous and now with many carriers free. T-Mobile has no data usage for quite a few streams. Plus audio streaming doesn’t use all that much data.

I’m on Verizon and gave up my unlimited data plan when the bill was climbing north of $100 per month. I switched to a plan that gives me unlimited talk and texting with one gigabyte of data per month for $50 per month. I was told by Verizon that based on my current usage that I wasn’t even using a quarter of a gigabyte per month. As I thought about it, my phone is either on my home WiFi or the university WiFi most of the time and operating very little off of cell towers for data.

However to test out how much data I’d use on a 15 hour drive from New England back to Kentucky I decided to stream radio through my iPhone4S to my car’s sound system. What I would learn was surprising in many ways.

First, I still used very little of my one gigabyte data plan. Second, I heard seamless audio with virtually no buffering and third, the audio fidelity was fabulous. The one thing I did find was how HOT my iPhone got continuously streaming like that.

Now remember, I started out in Massachusetts and drove through New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and West Virginia to get back to Bowling Green, Kentucky. That’s quite a drive and going through Maryland and West Virginia I went over lots of mountainous terrain. I did lose the signal going through tunnels, but that was about it (I also lose radio signals in those same tunnels).

So again, this is no longer radio’s advantage over other options. The people who wrote this was radio’s advantage maybe are not aware of how much things have changed. I know I was.

Radio allows you to multi-task

One respondent actually wrote his response as his own blog article on his site. In it he wrote that

“with today’s tech, radio and television can each DO almost everything the other can do, and they (do) more than the rest of the media types. The division between radio and TV is blurring…both can be just as fast, just as inexpensive. Periscope anyone? You, too, can be a serious broadcaster.

They could be the same except for ONE thing – audio-only format supports productive multiplexing. Doing two things at once. Listening, perhaps LEARNING, maybe just being entertained, WHILE doing some mindless-but-necessary task at the same time.

I cannot watch TV and hammer a nail.

I cannot read the newspaper while mowing the lawn, can’t look at photos or TV while driving a car, can’t appreciate that profit curve while taking a shower.

I CAN “get things done” and, simultaneously, listen to the radio or a podcast. I can, for all practical purposes, MULTIPLY myself. Literally, accomplish more in the same amount of time and with the same “effort.”” (Note: bolding and emphasis were the respondent’s)

That person was on a role until he got to the last paragraph. It was here that he wrote “or podcast.” I would add “or streaming” as well. Heck, I’m listening to my favorite Smooth Jazz streaming station while writing this article. Smooth Jazz helps me to think while I’m writing.

So while radio has always been the multi-tasking medium it no longer holds that as singular medium that can deliver that advantage.

Provides Information during Emergencies

Several writers said that cell phones are useless when the battery dies and that battery powered radios can run for a long time. I would agree. But I see a couple of problems here. How many people still own a battery powered radio and use it often enough to make sure the batteries are fresh?

Plus from the radio operator’s point of view, they can’t stay in business if the public only tunes to them during an emergency. I ran a news and information radio station and we did a study to find out why our ratings weren’t better than they were. We found that people depended on us only in times of emergencies or breaking news. Otherwise, they went to their favorite FM music station and not our AM information station. The format was changed to something else after we read the report in search for something that could sustain itself.

Worse, since many stations are syndicated, voice-tracked or automated in some other way, they often aren’t as quick to the draw in fast arising emergency situations.

My Verizon connected iPhone goes off no matter where I am with emergency information based on where I’m located.

Plus when it comes to things like weather alerts, school delays or closings, those messages quickly come into my iPhone to alert me. My university police department often sends out emergency messages about an active situation on campus.

So this is yet one more area that radio finds it has some strong competition.

What Can Radio Do that My Smartphone Can’t?

One reader thought the better question would be “What can radio do that my smartphone can’t.” Another phrased the question this way “What can radio do that other media won’t?”

Then maybe this person’s observation was most poignant:

“They all properly answered your question by stating what radio CAN do. But it should be noted that radio, as an industry is dismally failing to do the very things it is capable of doing.”

Why is that?

Many pointed out how our country’s largest radio companies are mired in huge debt and that prevents them from doing the very things that could take radio into the future.

While Nielsen says 93% of Americans over the age of 12 listen to radio every week, others were quick to point out that one only needed to listen 5-minutes to any radio station during the course of the week to be counted.

So what’s the answer?

Live & Local

This was mentioned by many. Then quickly followed up with, but my stations aren’t.

While the industry is quick to make this claim, the number of signals broadcasting today that are doing just that are appreciably much less.

Community & Companionship

Dan Mason said at a radio talent institute that the power of radio was community and companionship and that without both, it wasn’t really radio.

When I got into radio, owners were proud of their radio stations and took excellent care of them. They lived in the communities they were licensed to serve and that made all the difference.

My family for many years celebrated special occasions at Howard Johnson’s. People are always amazed when I tell them that. But, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story is that this Howard Johnson’s in Williamstown, Massachusetts was owned by the Brundage brothers. And they would both be in that restaurant every hour it was open. The parking lot was always full and you waited in line for a table. Everyone knew that the only similarity this place had to any other Howard Johnson’s was its orange roof. The Brundage family was proud of their restaurant.

Friendly Ice Cream used to make its store managers part owners of their restaurants and Friendly’s were always well run no matter where you happened to visit one in New England. That all changed when the company was bought by Hershey and they replaced owner/managers with salaried ones. It’s a scene all too familiar to many radio people I’m sure as the Telcom Act of 1996 changed the ownership landscape of the radio industry.

Now I don’t’ want you to get the idea that all of radio was perfect back then, the industry had its share of rotten apples to be sure, but you’ll find them in any enterprise.

WKDZ, Cadiz, Kentucky

I was in Nashville in September 2016 with some of my students for The Radio Show. The big dinner featured many station and personality awards. One that was justly deserved went to WKDZ in Cadiz, Kentucky. WKDZ won “Small Market Radio Station of the Year 2016.” Beth Mann is the owner/GM of WKDZ. All Beth wanted to do since the time she started working at that radio station as a child was own it. When the owners decided to retire, they sold it to their general manager at that time, Beth Mann. 88

Now winning such a prestigious award from the National Association of Broadcasters is a pretty awesome thing. But WKDZ has won Small Market Radio Station of the Year more than once. They won in 2002, 2013 and 2016. I fully expect them to win it again and again.

If you want to know what radio can do that other media can’t or won’t, then you need to take a car ride to Cadiz, Kentucky and visit this radio station. If you want to know more right away, then visit their station’s website: www.wkdzradio.com

WKDZ has that HERE and NOW energy many readers of this blog say they miss in radio. WKDZ has that audience engagement. WKDZ is LIVE & LOCAL & COMMUNITY & COMPANIONSHIP and so much more.

In fact, in a state like Kentucky where we are blessed with a plethora of local radio operators that are engaged, live, local, community and companions to their service area for Beth Mann and her radio family to rise above the rest makes her story all that more amazing.

After living in the Blue Grass State these past seven years I can also attest to how outstanding the state’s broadcast association is too. The Kentucky Broadcasters Association (KBA) is the gold standard for state broadcast associations.

Relevant

Summing it all up, radio needs to have a heartbeat. It needs to be LIVE & LOCAL & COMMUNITY & a COMPANION to the listener. But most of all, it needs to be RELEVANT.

Define who your audience is and then super-serve them 24/7, 365.

We know what to do.

Now we just need to do it.

 

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