Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Negative Advertising

If you haven't checked out the Houston country battle lately, it's time to do some listening and thinking about what you'll hear.

For several years on KKBQ/Cox PD Johnny Chiang has been saying things like:  “We play the most music guaranteed in Houston, KILT plays the most commercials, up to 15 just last hour! We are the new 93Q.”

Now, something new on KILT/CBS PD Mark Adams' imaging:  “Did you know the other station talked about KILT 28 times yesterday? [Various mock announcer voices] Yesterday, in the 12 noon hour, Kilt played… In the 4 o’clock hour, Kilt played… Friday morning, Kilt played… Kilt played… Kilt played… [V/o] Wow. WE don’t even talk about us that much!

It's a political year.  Barack is already talking about Mitt and Romney is responding in kind about Obama nearly every day.

We all say we hate negative ads and yet, admit it, just as I do, you love watching Frank Luntz conduct focus groups for Fox News which will take what real people say, whether factual or not, and turn them into effective messages which get votes.

The difference, of course, is that an election is one day when a candidate needs specific people to be passionate enough about an issue to take a specific action.

Let's watch the Houston numbers in the coming months and see what these new tactics do to real listening, in addition to perceptions, which drive elections and diary ratings but do they impact actual usage, 24/7 too?

Obviously, Johnny and Mark appear to think they do!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Asking Listeners The Ultimate Question

A&O's annual "Roadmap" online perceptual has tracked the key question brands have been asking their users for many years - how satisfied are you? - for years and country fans normally rate their favorite station extremely high in "very" satisfied. 

Now, perhaps there's an even more relevant benchmark to track in this social media age.

This year, Jacobs Media in their annual Tech Survey took a chapter from Owen and Brooks' book, "how likely are you to recommend the station to a colleague or a friend?"

Fortunately, the news is quite good.  Country format listeners rank #2 (55% said yes) behind contemporary Christian (71%!) to do so nationally.

Now the question remains - will your audience recommend you to their friends?

Will you be above or below average?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

1 + 1 = 2

1.  For the last two summers, Alan Burns shared topline results of his detailed study of CHR and AC female listeners.  There's a TON of actionable info in the studies (click on Alan's name to download them), but one factoid screamed at me from his results on morning usage and priorities.

There's a direct co-relation between folks to start their day very early in the morning with radio and heavy usage of radio throughout the day.

2.  Now, Fred Jacobs and his team are sharing data from their 8th Annual "Tech Survey," (click to read MediaPost's recap of some highlights) and 57% of core radio listeners start their day with another medium or gadget rather than turn on a radio at home or in the car!

Television is a close second to turning on a radio at home. The 18-34s are more likely to engage with email or Facebook for this “First Occasion” of the day and country radio's core is actually more likely to start their media day with television than with their favorite radio station.

Fred says, in the MediaPost article “... the data from the study suggest that focusing on connecting emotionally and meaningfully with listeners is radio’s best avenue toward remaining relevant and vibrant in the face of new digital competition...”

The emotion I am feeling as I add those two reports together in the Spring 0f 2012:  fear.  I hope you are too!

Your morning team spends their morning talking on the radio so most likely they will be the last to notice this trend.

Managers and programmers:  watch your own family and friends as they start their day.  Add 1 + 1 for your morning show before it's too late.

EARLY morning radio isn't being interactive, topical, informative or social as other media options are for our heaviest-users.

Local TV stations showcase their morning shows in their marketing, looking a lot like the marketing for radio "used" to be.  When have you marketed the benefits of your morning package as the best way to start early morning?  I'm betting that it has been a long while.

Albright's axiom:  "We used to do that" is the epitaph on the tombstone of dead radio stations.

A big thank you to Jacobs and Burns for pointing to the handwriting on our wall.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Doing things no one has ever done before increases impact.  But, of course, it can also be a little scary when you go into the GM's office and get asked "where has this worked before?", so kudos to...
  • CHAT 94-5 Medicine Hat for not doing the traditional "what would you do for Garth" or "be the 9th caller" or "win when you hear Garth" contest and instead crowd-sourcing the contest and letting listeners decide how to give the prizes away.
  • Froggy 92.9 Santa Rosa emailed today with a subject line which got my attention right away.

And, then when I opened it based on that atypical subject line, I was not disappointed.

I will be listening at 7 am, I promise you.

Oh, and about that crowd-sourced contest:  Mike Doll, APD/MD says that since Big & Rich, Dierks Bentley and Craig Morgan will be playing the Medicine Hat stampede this summer and the station will be overwhelmed with concert ticket giveaways (lucky listeners!) they wanted to do something totally creative with already-completely-sold-out Garth in Calgary which is why they got listeners involved. 

"Response has been huge and it's only day 1.."

Ask if I am surprised.

Radio's Role In The Push Up The Chart

Q:  I was just reading your blog about charting in the 30's and I'm a little confused as to if you're for or against it?  Do we stick with a song in hopes it picks up?  I feel like I end up hanging onto a song too long just because it's floating in 30's.  There are songs where I jumped on it early and waited and waited and it never took off.  Now, it's in the 20's but I'm not getting any requests or feedback that would suggest I put it back in.  What to do?

A:  I would be slow to add anything but things you until you absolutely believe will make it to the power rotation and then try to stay with them as long as you can - until the promotion team walks away from them OR your local research on them looks weak.  Drop them as soon as you see one of those indications.

It's a waste to add things and familiarize your audience with them only to drop them, so of course be as selective as possible.

Did you see M O'M's great blog on this yesterday (Country Artist Discovery Matrix: Who’s “New” Varies by Demo)?  The younger and more female your target, the faster and newer you can be.

If you want 40+ and especially men, then wasting time on tunes that you don't know if they will make it or not which stay stuck in the high 20s and 30s is going to hurt you. 

Missing the boat on one or two every great once in awhile means you're probably doing it exactly right, but if you find yourself dropping four or five songs every month and then adding more new ones that you also end up dropping in another month, you're probably moving too fast for the tastes of the majority of your audience, hurting both cume and TSL.

Monday, May 21, 2012


As someone who had actually been consulting for at least a decade longer than Rusty, thanks to an opening at Drake-Chenault in Los Angeles where I learned what Bill Drake, Jim Kefford and Denny Atkins considered the right way to work with radio stations, I had a front row seat to Rusty's start, first as a winning and creative Program Director and then as a consultant.  He reinvented the business and took the art of working with country radio to a level no one had ever done before.  The proof is in the success and sound of his radio stations, of course, but it's also in the depth of the relationships he forged.  His knowledge and spirit were infused in everything he did.  I loved him and his family, respected his abilities and as someone who probably competed with him directly in more markets than anyone over a 25 year period, I have to say that there is a big hole in my heart today and in country music radio.  He lived his life in so many positive, caring ways that have made him a role model for hundreds and hundreds of people.

That legacy, of course, lives on in all of us.  He coped with the loss of two of his children in such a loving, courageous way.  He not only taught us how to program, to win in the ratings, to build what became the largest country consulting business in the history of our format, but in the end, he taught us all how to live.

In Heaven today, I am sure that Rusty Walker is regaling the Angels with his endless supply of wonderful tales of radio wars.

Rest in peace, old friend.

Charting In The 30s

They call radio's music decision-makers week after week, pushing the "projects" they are working like boulders up a steep incline.

This is the part of the chart where songs and artists get stuck and almost all of them ultimately run out of time and budgets for the promotion it takes to go much farther.

Why would anyone expend the money and energy on the extremely long shot these folks are taking?

Here's why:

15 months ago Kip Moore showcased for A&O clients at our annual pre-CRS seminar.  It's taken more than a year, but it looks like this could be the week he notches his first #1 single.

Congrats, Kip!  You give every aspiring future star hope.

It's been exciting to see so many newcomers topping the charts in the last year.

Indeed, there's "something about a #1," making the travails along the way, the long odds against you, worth it all.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Where You Can Shine

Another Jay Trachman treasure (click to learn why I occasionally reprint these wonderful articles which Jay wrote weekly for more than three decades):

I had a fascinating discussion with a person who works for one of the satellite programming companies. He suggested that well-done satellite syndication can "sound" as local as necessary, through the use of devices like pre-cut liners, and insertions of local information.

When I replied that "liners" don't make a station sound local, his response was, "Just how local do you want it to sound?" The weather is local, the PSA's are local, the news is local -- how much more do you need? He went on to point out how, if local-ness is any standard, they must be doing it adequately, because they're beating dozens of stations in market after market.

I can't argue the point. It appears that well-executed non-local radio will beat out poorly executed local radio almost every time. But I also believe, on a level playing field, comparing top-notch satellite radio with top-notch local radio, the local will win -- provided they sound local.

Local does not mean simply repeating, six times an hour, "Jayville's home-town radio!"

It does mean that most of what the jocks talk about should be derived from what's going on in their lives in the community today. It means that most personality raps should be written by the personality him/herself.

It means the personality should live in the community, should involve himself in local activities as much as he can, should read the local section of the paper every day, should participate in the life of the area.

It means the station should try to have air-staff show up at events (paying for their time when appropriate), and that the programming department must have a way of systematically informing the jocks of what events are coming up and what artists are performing locally.

One of the simplest things you can do is to stick your head out the window at least once an hour. Does it look like rain? Is it clearing up? Are there still a few leaves left on the trees? Californians: does it look like "earthquake weather?" Midwesterners: tornado weather? Does today remind you of some Christmas past? These go beyond the forecasts, and make you shine as a person involved in the town.

When reading the paper, don't just skim the front pages; read the births, marriage announcements, "community calendar" features and even the ads. Is someone holding an event, but didn't bother to inform your Public Service Department? Don't ignore them -- talk about it in an informal way. "I see the Rotary Club is getting ready to pick out next year's crop of exchange students... I have a friend whose daughter is in France this year, through the Airport Rotary Club, and from her letters, it's like she's been 'adopted' in a foreign country. I wish I'd gotten mine involved in something like that..."

Remember, the purpose of local content is not to "inform," but to Share. To get the listener to respond by saying, "Hey, me too." Your observations while driving, while shopping, while raising kids in the local schools -- these are all things nobody based outside the town can have. Share your responses, and over a period of time, you'll give your listener a sense that you're keyed in to what's going on in his or her life.

The station benefits when the entire staff is actively supporting this. I remember doing a very successful bit after a salesman came in during my show one morning and said, "You should see the jam-up on Shaw Avenue! They're re-painting the traffic lines in the street, and it's backed up all the way from Fashion Fair to the college..." That's not just a traffic report, that's a universal and a commentary on life in my town. "They always pick the worst possible times to re-paint the lines, right?" And with that, the phones began lighting up, with half a dozen calls from listeners with similar experiences, or suggestions.

No satellite could have done it.

What they can do is talk slickly and interestingly about the music, the artists, the season, their own lives and responses.

But the main area where they're unable to compete is "today, right here."

You can.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


San Diego's #1 radio station is also the market's only country station these days and it would be wrong to conclude that the only reason Lincoln Financial's San Diego team has had four straight up PPM monthly trends is because they're now the only country station in town after a protracted battle for country leadership.

Certainly, TSE for any station normally goes down when it has a direct format competitor and quickly goes UP when a passionate cume has only one choice for their favorite music and KSON has certainly benefited from that too.

However, a big chunk of the credit has to go to John & Tammy, who left Madison, WI, just eleven months ago after convincing KSON management that they knew what to do to win in this very clever video.

Take notes, aspiring personalities.  They promised they could do it and now, the proof is in and they did it.

Very impressive!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


That's what leads Big Research's monthly "What's Hot/What's Not" data for May.

Why do I look forward to this monthly missive?  Not only is it great grist for talk-abouts, but they even write your lines for you:  "Move over, Iron Man…the team of heroes from Marvel’s The Avengers prove to be no match for “IT” nonagenarian [and one of my favorite Girls], Betty White. DIY projects also sit atop our list this month (and – interestingly – much hotter with women … #mustaddtomyhoneydolist). Avengers’ Scarlett Johansson is a hit with the younger crowd, while those 35+ pick the Kentucky Derby as their winner. What’s Not? While the popularity of the colorblocking trend has doubled from when we first asked about it one year ago, it appears that the latest floral prints or a jean jacket are more on-trend with consumers."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sales Per Spin?

I give Atlantic/Warner Music Nashville credit for coming up with some new math to attempt to convince country radio to do more with teen talent Hunter Hayes.

You can't blame them, since the majority of local listener testing involves between 30 and 35 songs and Hunter ranks #31 or #32 on this week's major country radio spin charts, which means Hunter isn't even being tested at most stations.

Don't like the chart number for your artist?  Create a new chart.

But, here's the problem.  Raw sales numbers give no indication of which station's listeners are buying a song, and thus perhaps they may work for CHR to a degree as a format that's set up to play the most popular songs regardless of genre.

Country radio, on the other hand, is set up to attract and hold onto a specific set of listeners who agree on a unique set of musical and non-musical values.  If programmers get it "right," our carefully-targeted "tribe" will spend an above average amount of time, compared to other formats, with their favorite station, which best reflects their tastes and preferences.

Big props, WMN and Hunter, for the impressive sales.  Maybe they are even a good sign for future growth, but it also might be that the fact that some country radio stations spun his song last week and that it simultaneously sold fairly well is pure coincidence, having no relationship to one another.

Those sales could also be due to social network buzz and Hunter's youthful fans telling their friends, having nothing at all to do with country radio airplay.

On the other hand, WMN's custom chart correlating country radio spins in the last seven days and music sales got me to blog about it, adding to the buzz, which is never a bad thing.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to wait to see how folks who use my radio station rate a song before spinning it very much regardless of how well it sells.

My job is to get as many of them as possible to use my radio station as much as possible, not to sell records, in spite of the fact that it's very rewarding when both things happen at the same time.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Lowest Week Of 2011 For Radio Usage

Every year BBM/Canada publishes a Radio Data Book which provides an overview of national, provincial and local radio tuning based on the latest fall radio survey and the previous four fall surveys.

This reference book provides a picture of radio tuning habits, both during the most recent calendar year and over the past five years.

The new one came out last week and "week 18" of 2011 was the lowest week of the year.

What happened during that week, which I originally thought was April 22-30?  Good Friday, followed by Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, but an anonymous commenter below (says) IS the Christmas and New Year's Holidays (see my reply, below too).

A great reminder about PPM ratings:  what THEY were doing trumps everything WE were doing.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How To Win

Create a powerful brand, imbedded with powerful benchmarks which drive regularity.

Build cume constantly.

Execute as cleanly as possible, maxing your usage.  You can't do it without powerful personalities who create great content which they leverage on multiple platforms, but do it in very entertaining and tightly-edited, yet original and "sticky" occasions.

Innovate.  Entertain.  Be bigger than life.

Turn usage into passion, by creating memorable listening experiences.

The hits are the hits.  Get the music right.

Find and support great talent who understands and reflects the values of the target using interaction and engagement tools that are available to everyone in fun, involving, unique and personal ways and then ask yourself every single day "what ELSE can we do" to drive loyalty, regularity and usage.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

If I Could Change One Thing

The Country Radio Format would be even more successful if we responded to our own music research and listener tastes.

I wish our owners would budget realistically (5-10% of gross revenue goals) for marketing and rely less on promotional partnerships with music promoters to do station marketing.

The pressure for increasing margins makes this a pipe dream, however, except for a very few, extremely unique owners. 

Their success proves that this formula still works very well (especially so as most other stations don't do it).

Pros/Cons Of Flipping To Country

Is the current leading country station sounding a bit dated?

Are they sitting on their laurels and not in touch with today's listener tastes?

If so, go for it.

However, many markets outside the top 50 now have three or more country stations and in those places one more station is only going to fragment and decrease the available shares.

Competition is always good for the listeners, as the shares in Minneapolis demonstrate.

CBS' BUZN @102.9 (the former WLTE) launched right after Christmas and debuted with a five share 6+, while incumbent Clear Channel's K102 has been defending aggressively and in that first month increased from a six to a 6.7, repeated that in it's second month and has further increased to a 7.2 during March, while "KMNB" settled 5.3-5.0-4.9 6+ in the wake of the battle thus far.

Unseating an incumbent is seldom cheap or easy to do.

Monday, May 07, 2012

No Matter What Metric You Choose, Country Radio Is BIG And HOT

Radio Ink's Ed Ryan asks:   Over the past year has Country music improved, declined or stayed the same and why?

The image of country's music and artists is better than ever.  We now have an entirely new generation of superstars compared to just three or four years ago, which is very exciting.

However, as always happens when the door opens for new music, clones and soundalikes are also proliferating so right now there are another 15-20 artists whose songs seem to be stuck on spin charts in the high 20s and 30s, as radio as usual can only make room for so many at a time.

As a result, the difference in listener research on the best of the best compared to the "average" is greater than ever right now.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Probing The Presidents

This Friday in Vancouver, I am moderating "The President's Panel" at the 65th meeting of the British Columbia Association Of Broadcasters.  Again this year, they have an amazing slate of impressive speakers and presentations.

Further proof of the pace of change affecting the media business:

A month ago I figured that most of our discussions would center around Bell Media's multi-billion dollar (just the RADIO assets are valued at more than a billion dollars) acquisition of Astral Communications which was announced as a continuation of the company's "four screen strategy."

I had been planning to talk to the executives about what their companies plan to do in the wake of that.

Then came the even more recent news that Vista Radio, with new backing from Westerkirk, is buying the Haliburton group, adding Haliburton’s 24 Ontario stations to fill in a geographic hole for Vista, which owns 38 stations in British Columbia, Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

Just last week,  Rogers Broadcasting announced its intent to acquire Métro14 Montréal (CJNT), enabling Citytv to expand its footprint in Quebec.

Almost immediately Citytv announced an affiliate agreement with the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group that will deliver Citytv programming to new audiences on a long-term basis on all three of Pattison’s television stations in Western Canada.

Is everyone else going to have to get bigger or go home?

I'll try to get your answer to that on Friday.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Finally, Something GREAT On "TV"

Up to now, Arbitron's YouTube video page has had such riveting topics as: 

 .. and any video which starts with a full-screen shot of 44-year radio vet Miami-based Bob McKay, you know, is not going to be the next Pixar blockbuster.

Finally, there's something there really worth watching and sharing with your sellers and clients, Country Radio Today (click to see the video highlights from the 2011 edition of Arbitron's Radio Today - view the entire Radio Today report (pdf) here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Why Breakfast? Why AOPrep?

Have you wondered why this is called "The Breakfast Blog" and why the domain name is "aoprep"?

Custom Channels' John Bradley asked that question yesterday and when I told him, he recommended I blog the answer I gave him.

Many years ago, now Cox/San Antonio Y-100 morning guy Jeff Roper when he was PD/morning host at CBS' WSOC/Charlotte suggested that if I set up a blog for morning show sharing, he'd moderate it.  Of course, we had no aspirations of competing with the venerable big dogs of morning show sharing sites, Bitboard, Radio-Online and RadioStar.  This was before Don Anthony took Morning Mouth from paper to online resource.

Sadly, at the start, Jeff and I were very active (as you can read if you go back into the archives to the very beginning) but we ultimately found that morning people were delighted to read and use the things WE posted, but seldom contributed very much.

So, I started making use of this space as a place to write things that fit that original purpose but as people commented and I watched the web metrics, I noticed that the most popular posts were opinion pieces about ratings, research, tactics, strategy and country music.

I just happened to love thinking aloud about those things, so that's what I started to do.  That was eight years ago.

The moral of this tale:  you often start in life in one direction and then things change on you and slowly you find yourself going in a completely different one.

As long as your passion and honest perspective shine through as you react to real life, success will follow you as you go.

At least, that's my story. 

What's yours?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


I am not a fan of playing requests.

Sure, today's listener expects control over all of their media, but radio is not a jukebox and it seems to me that training the small number of listeners who will endure the difficulty of calling a radio station request line when it's so easy and convenient to txt, connect via multiple social media or email is destined to hurt both your cume and TSL.

Curate everything, and think of every song as well as every item that goes between the tunes as CONTENT.

If someone asks for a request, challenge them to give you a great story about why that song or artist means so much to them right now, what will happen if you do play it and air that without the boring "can you play a song for me, sure, what would you like to hear, where are you calling from, who is this, I'll try to get that one on for you, thanks for calling, what's your favorite radio station" crutches.

Now, having said that, I am going to "play a request."

When Steve Holstein asks for something, he gets my attention.  He does mornings for Saga in Champaign, he produces one of the best prep services money can buy

From: Steve Holstein
To: Jaye Albright
Subject: Do you recycle your blog posts?

I just found a link to this old blog post of yours and wondered if you recycle. Some, like this one, are good enough to repost every so often, in my opinion.

Yeah, I know.  I should have demanded to hear "the story" behind his request, because you know it has to be verrrrrry interesting, but something tells me that when you re-read the post he's asking me to recycle, you'll probably have your own stories about why it's important to bring back every once in awhile.

So, here it is (click to read it again and again): 

Your Station's Promo Inventory Is Finite