Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Car Won't Start So Let's Drive Somewhere

A Wall Street Journal article yesterday by Hannah Karp claims that the number of music-streaming services is set to explode next year, as record labels have warmed up to the idea of renting consumers access to a vast collection of tunes, rather than selling them individual albums or songs.
  • "The percentage of the population that uses these is still really small. There's a long way to go before you saturate the market."  -- Frank Johnson, chief executive of Seattle's MediaNet Digital that they say will help bring more than 50 new streaming services to market next year.
  • "Fans of country music, blues and jazz, classical and opera have been particularly underserved by streaming services so far, as has the casual music listener—the person who really just wants a button and doesn't want to make a playlist."  -- Vickie Nauman, president of 7digital, hoping to bring at least three more services to market next year.
Is it possible that due to caps on bandwidth and increasing costs imposed by consolidating carriers and royalty fees that those small numbers mean that streaming has peaked and consumers are happy with their current sources of music?

Could it be that there's not enough "long tail" in music to make the smallest niches worth doing via stream, given the built-in costs?  Are the lovers of unique types of music not available to the mass audience willing to pay more than the average person?

The completely optimistic article fails to mention those possibilities.

Investor beware.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Can You Top This?

Thanks to Brent Lane in Pensacola for some inspiration on the power of great social posts:

15,861 "likes" is certainly impressive, but look how many Facebook estimates saw the post!

Can YOU top this?

I hope so. 

It's "the" game we're all in.

Friday, December 27, 2013

How Much Influence Should You Tube Play In Music Decisions?

Jay Bedford, Program Director|Music Director|Morning Host at 1035 The Eagle/Sydney shared this fascinating factoid:
"So here are our five Power Currents for this week ... 5 of them ... and the corresponding number of views on YouTube ... plus one more song!

3.9 million views ... Blake Shelton ... Mine Would Be You
3.5 million views ... Chris Young ... Aw Naw
2.9 million views ... Tim McGraw ... Southern Girl
2.4 million views ... Robby Johnson ... South of Me1.2 million views ... Miranda Lambert ... All Kinds Of Kinds
1.1 million views ... Zac Brown Band ... Sweet Annie"

He asks:  "Should these figures have an influence? Those are amazing stats for an unknown guy from Quebec that is not play listed on any major radio stations. (Song is not Canadian content even though the artist is Canadian.)"

My reaction, after being intrigued, impressed and watching the video, is that streaming and downloads are a lot like sales figures.

I want to know more before deciding it's right for my radio station.  It would be interesting to see the location of the hits and views/listens to see how many are from your local area compared to the others.

Callout and online testing are still my major criteria for this reason, even over mScore tracking.

You know they are your heavy users, and even their age and gender cell, so you can target what we choose to play, but goodness knows this is certainly a great sign, among the many emerging stats that radio needs to stay aware of as listeners find new ways to discover new favorites.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Live Tweeting Life

I have been attending what was once called "The Consultants' Fly-In" as far back as before when Dwight Douglas was a rock consultant loudly and publically pushing for better representation of young males. 

Trust me, I know it seems like the issue is still unresolved, but that was a long time ago.

So, when I had to miss this years it was so great to see both of my partners in attendance with a large presence among the other experts who were live Tweeting during the event.

It made me feel almost as connected as being there and it was a comfort knowing that Mike and Becky were on hand and aggressively representing our clients' interests as powerfully as ever.

What if there was a #yourtownthismorning?

Would you have a large, consistent and live presence on it in real time?

I know Mike O'Malley and Becky Brenner will be there.  I'll be looking for you too!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Line

The fact that Clear Channel (and other radio companies using syndication/networks) sometimes use "actors" as callers never came as a surprise or a concern to me when it was revealed years ago.

Creating "skits" for play on the air to increase the entertainment value seems perfectly fair game to me, since it's all about creating an experience for the listener.

As long as you don't promise on the air that "every caller you hear is real."

That's why the KISS 108-Miley Cyrus flap is a different matter for me at least.

Deceiving listeners is beyond just bad PR.

It's bad business.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Rest In Peace, Superjock

Legendary “Superjock” Larry Lujack, a Radio Hall of Famer and one of broadcasting’s all-time greats, has died of cancer at 73.

I got the news from lifelong Chicago media reporter Robert Feder.  "He had been battling esophageal cancer for the last year and was in hospice care in Santa Fe, New Mexico, when he died Wednesday."

Someone at Wikipedia knows how significant his life was to many voices you hear on radio and TV today and they already have his bio updated with the news and his storied career.

There are many, many brilliant Lujack quotes that will live on in the content of the personalities he inspired and motivated with his bigger than life, always entertaining, never boring, totally unique character:
"Advice for buying a used car: Before you even test drive it, turn the radio on. If all the buttons are set to rock stations, it's gonna need a new transmission."

“What do you say to a kid who wants to be a disc jockey when he grows up?  You can’t do both.”

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The mScore On The Year's Top Songs

Tom Taylor "Now" passes along a gem from Nielsen Client Conference/Jacobs Media Summit in Baltimore, Media Monitors President/CEO Philippe Generali's analysis of the mScores of 2013’s biggest songs

The measurement visually indicates whether a particular tune, gauged against PPM reports, is keeping listeners or not.

"The Anatomy of the Year’s Top Songs" studied the airplay and listener radio usage for  776 songs of all current-based radio format.  Generali terms the averages over the year:

Compared to the other formats country competes with new songs appear to have a slower adoption curve and they seem to burn out faster.

The averages of all country format tunes mScore followed in 2013 peaked in appeal after 31 weeks of play but then seem to rebound as they moved to recurrent categories and ultimately decline as usage-drivers.

Among the country hits tracked in 2013, Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel” is what Generali calls "a record company’s dream."

*  Listeners to Christian contemporary stations were the most interested in new songs in the first weeks after they were introduced on their local stations. After that, the songs’ mScores get much less “sticky.”

*  For rhythmic CHR, the real hit songs tend not to burn for quite a long time. But Generali’s advice was for mainstream (not rhythmic) CHR was “use caution.” That fits other recent research about the desire of top 40 listeners to stay current and seek the “new.” 

*  In the regional Mexican format, the mScore line is steady – if they like it at the beginning, they continue to like it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"That's A (Not) Good Question"

You're interviewing someone famous and after you ask them something they respond "that's a good question."

Translation:  "I have had media training and thank you for asking one of the questions they prepped me for and this is what they recommended that I say to every interviewer who asks them.  I appreciate your asking it because now I don't have to think or get off my prepared script of the things I want to get into every interview I do."

Advice:  If you can't come up with fresh questions that make your subject have fun, think and get off of their prepared verbiage, at the very least pre-record your interviews off air before you run them and edit out the canned phrases like "that's a good question."

The interview isn't being done to make you feel better about yourself. 

It's supposed to entertain and engage your listener.

Monday, December 16, 2013

In Canada, Average Is Getting Better

It's the time of year for making lists and checking them twice.

Among the year end rankings that A&O&B's music statistician Michael O'Malley creates is a Cancon ranker of Canadian content music based on how it performed in listener research.

In 2013, 140 current hits were rated by Canadian country radio fans.
  • Nine of the top 50 were Cancon (18%), down from 16 in 2012, 12 in 2011 and 11 in 2010
  • 30 of the top 100 were Cancon (30%), flat from 31 in 2012, down from 37 in 2011 and 36 in 2010
  • 24 of the BOTTOM 50 in the 2013 tests were Cancon, down from 30 in 2012, 32 in 2011, 34 in 2010
Congrats and thank you to the the (largely independent) artists and producers of Canadian content songs for doing a better job of bringing up your averages by creating fewer tunes that never rose from the bottom of the research rankers.

There was a time in Canada when there was a cottage industry designed to make Canadian content music that radio was "required by law" to play.

Pleasing listeners while also satisfying regulators is better for all of us!

Fewer songs testing down at the bottom (and, maybe even, the top too) improves the overall averages and that is a step in the right direction.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Does Your Listener Know You're Interested?

International social media analytics firm Brandwatch's just-released report on radio listener Twitter activity in the U.S. and U.K. points out:
"Radio stations do not tend to reply to the comments aimed at them, seldom engaging with listeners at all." 
  • Celebrity culture is a main driver of conversation, with over a quarter of all listener mentions relating to celebrity news, interviews or songs.
  • Radio stations act upon this trend, with 41% of radio stations directing @interactions at celebrities and 32% towards brands.  
Would listeners like us better, telling their followers and friends about us in more positive ways if more of our Twitter conversations were listener-based? 
  • The use of competitions as part of a social strategy was generally a successful tactic
  • Of all personalities’ personal tweets, only 5.5% were about their radio station.
  • Sport stations are the most social on Twitter, using @mentions to talk to their audience much more frequently than other genres.
Negative discussion centered around stations can gain rich insights from this social data, helping them understand which content works best.

Over the period analyzed, 1% of the conversation was negative. Although a seemingly small number, it accounts for 3,200 mentions, very few of which were responded to.

32% of social customers expect a response to a complaint within 30 minutes. Research by Nielsen demonstrates that 71% of consumers who experience a quick brand response are likely to share that with others.

To get the full picture you can download the full report for free here.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Brand Depth

What drives big ratings success?

Major companies like McDonalds and Burger King, Apple and Microsoft, Coke and Pepsi, GM and Mercedes, etc. research various attribution categories to shine major light on pinpointing consumer perceptions in their respective industries and who their customers really are.

Building far above average rating shares that completely dominate a market aren't as simple as figuring out how many different listener perceived needs one radio station can fill, but thanks to two-decade-old data from Todd Wallace's Radio lndex "Winning Positions 2014" report it's certainly very possible to see how "owning" many programming attributes it took for one station to build a four book average #1 11.5 12+ share and a cume rating of 25.

This battle, of course, continues today, though under different owners that operated the two of them back then when the country format held more than an 18 share of total radio listening.

Wallace says "I believe one of the most useful and actionable displays is what we call a Perceptual Mosaic for each station, whereby all of the perceptual questions are collected and presented in rank-order form.

"This provides an interesting look at how the audience perceives how effective each station is in delivering each position.

"Because the questioning process includes the words "if any" ("Which radio station, if any, do you think plays the most music?"), each mosaic sums up the factors which are truly most important to the listener (as the specific attributes apply to each station)."

Hopefully, this report sparks a few new ideas on ways you can use attribution research to zero-in on positions that can make a difference in your battle(s), showing where you're hot and not.

If you'd like a free eight page report documenting Todd Wallace's Radio lndex "Winning Positions 2014" Attribution Research, Email-him and mention A&O&B.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


In 1992. KNIX/Phoenix had a yearly four book average market-leading 11.5 share, driven by a 25 cume rating.  Arbitron estimated at the time that more than one in four people who listened to radio used KNIX, which had a very strong competitor in KMLE, whose cume rating was a more normal 15.8 and average quarter hour 12+ share was a yearly average 7.0!

How did KNIX engineer such powerful market shares in spite of having a really good competitor?

Normally, it's almost impossible to get a totally unbiased, data-driven answer to that question in real time because the owners, managers, programmers, consultants and researchers with the perspective to know the answer are bound by confidentiality since an ally in one situation may be the competition in another.

Phoenix-based researcher-consultant Todd Wallace has done hundreds of perceptual research projects throughout the U.S and Canada but because they are conducted exclusively for just one client in a market, he still cannot share that confidential information with anyone else. 

Back in the 90's, several of the biggest radio stations in Phoenix subscribed to a syndicated version of his "Radio Index" service which provided weekly ratings tracking and a series of Positioning Questions covering all manner of subjects, 44 different viewpoints, including an Annual Report which summarized all of the monthly PQ's sizing-up the entire radio marketplace (with a sample size of over 15,000 completed interviews each year).  Fortunately, two decades later, he is now able to share those results.

Though the numbers and market situations are dated the principal remains useful in helping you gain some perspective on great ways to examine the audience at large and in-target.

At the time, KNIX dominated three non-music positions - not just in the minds of the country audience, but with all radio listeners!

In fact, in this major market with many very aggressive broadcasters, KNIX did what it took to give away huge prizes, cash and contests so that no other station came close.  Their lead with "best DJ's" and "most involved" wasn't as incredible as their ownership of best contesting, but even in those two images they were head and shoulders above not just their direct competition, but all other radio stations with the entire listening audience.

Ponder this as you plan to 2014:  what might you do to dominate key usage-drivers?

If you'd like a free eight page report documenting Todd Wallace's Radio lndex "Winning Positions 2014" Attribution Research, Email-him and mention A&O&B.

Monday, December 09, 2013

It's Not The Content That's "Sticky"

JRfm/Vancouver PD Mark Patric nominated this "Waking Crew Best Call Of The Morning" in a recent coaching session:  "So good! (click to hear the mp3)

The fact it's a guy. 
The fact he knows so much about the Waking Crew and what they talk about and their personalities.
The fact he knows this relatively new song from a local act so well!
The fact he took the time to write this parody.
The fact he was brave enough to do it.
The fact he pretty much nailed it 'live' on the spot."

The glue in sticky content isn't your character either.

It's those power-packed times when the listener feels like your character is HIS or HER character!

When that happens, you have super-glued them to both your best content and authentic character.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Improving Your Country Station's TSL: Are You Targeting A Bit Too Young?

Exactly one year ago, Scarborough research highlighted the fact that what the company calls "heavy" users of radio are significantly more likely to use the Internet as a source for entertainment than Americans who listen to less radio.

90% of Heavy Radio Listeners in Scarborough's research are between 18 and 64 but there are noteworthy generational differences.

Some formats, of course, have no choice in which generational cohort to target, but since country music preferences don't seem to fragment until our listeners get over 55 (see my post on this) and it's possible to target all three demos between 25 and 54, here's another reason to really understand 35-44 and not get drawn too quickly toward under 30!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


It's terrific to see Nielsen so quickly releasing studies putting radio in a cross-media light (ie., A Loyal Companion: Radio Remains a Great Way to Reach Local Consumers).

Before celebrating the average daily time spent listening of AM-FM radio in 2013 of two hours let's also dig into their archives from the Arbitron days for a historical perspective.

Of course, a decade ago all of the data was diary survey based so comparing "then" to "now" is apples vs oranges, since if we had national PPM data in 2003 cumes would have been higher and hours tuned would have been lower given the differences between top of mind measurement vs actual usage tracking.

Nonetheless, it's worthwhile just between friends to contemplate the biggest change in radio over the decade:

It would be an oversimplification to focus solely on the 30% loss of time spent listening to all radio documented by our largest ratings company over those ten years, but it's clear that this is no time to be complacent about usage of our medium.

All of us who create today's "radio" are in a battle against time!

We are in a fight for every minute, every listening occasion, every day of our users' increasingly precious time - by giving them more and better than their other choices.

Or the trendline over the coming years will continue to be a downhill slide.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

It's Time To Support "Our" United Way

The Broadcasters Foundation of America has launched its "2013 Holiday Giving Campaign." 

If charity begins at home, it's important to remember that this cause is OUR home and ask fellow broadcasters to spread the word about the mission of BFA to those who may need its assistance, and encourages donations and memberships.

Often a last refuge, the Broadcasters Foundation has helped broadcasters and their families remain in their homes and made it possible for retirees to afford life-sustaining medications.
"The goal of the Foundation's Board of Directors is that no broadcaster's cry for help should ever go unanswered," stated BFA Chairman Phil Lombardo. "Requests for aid have more than doubled over the past few years and more come in every day. Next year, we will disburse over $900,000 in financial assistance, a 100 percent increase from five years ago.  The pace of incoming donations is lagging behind the requests for aid," added BFA President Jim Thompson. "Our grant recipients are our colleagues -- individuals who we have worked with and whose lives have been devastated by unthinkable circumstances. Aid from the Broadcasters Foundation can be life-saving, in many cases. I ask every broadcaster to consider making a donation or becoming a member."

Over the past 65 years, the Broadcasters Foundation has distributed millions of dollars in aid to hundreds of broadcasters who lost their livelihood through a catastrophic event, debilitating disease, or unforeseen family tragedy. Most recently, BFA provided emergency grants in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Clutter Or Companionship

Another Jay Trachman treasure:
They're an Adult Hit FM station, traditionally a market leader, but recently newcomers have knocked them out of the top slot, down to #3 in their target demographic. Their main competition has a reasonably appealing morning man, followed by continuous music during the day.  Our station, which is intelligently programmed and research-oriented, also sees weakness in the 25 to 34 cell of their target. They have a good morning team, and personality through the day.

How can they get the #1 spot back, and increase their younger numbers?

The conventional wisdom is, make the morning team (somehow) better, and then cut back on the talk throughout the day. Will that do it for them?

Some will say "yes."

Not me.

How come?

Several reasons...
  • First, if this station has a good reputation as a personality outlet -- and it does -- then that's what should be built on, if the position is at all salvageable. In focus groups conducted for the client, "too talky DJs" was one of the most-mentioned negatives for the station. Interestingly enough however, of the other stations they asked people about, the "too talky" negative was roughly equal for their competitors.  I would not ask a station to give up something they have the potential of doing well, to make themselves more like others who do it poorly.
  • Second, if the competition's strength is continuous music, then that's the last thing you want to imitate. One of the most basic principles of marketing warfare is: You don't make a frontal assault on your enemy's main strength. You either attack from your own position of greatest strength in a flanking move around the enemy, or if that's not possible, you wage "guerrilla warfare" by defining a small, uncontested niche, and pouring all your strength into it. It helps if you're attacking in an area where the opponent can't fight back effectively, without weakening his own position.
  • Third, while continuous music might increase their numbers in the younger portion of their target (and it might not), it could also damage them in the one demographic where they're reasonably secure: the 35 to 49 cell. These listeners are presumably content with the programming as it stands.
So, my answer is to examine their current strength -- a lot of music, with real humans in between -- and look for ways to enhance that on air. They also need strong, effective marketing and promotion to remind former listeners that they're still there, and better than ever.

My part of the job is to help the air staff communicate more effectively.

"Too much talk" can mean exactly that -- but it more likely means that what's being said often isn't worth hearing. That's why the listener views it as "clutter."

Can their personalities be taught to make their words count?


Follow the basics of raps, prep your bits before you air them, and it's rare that you can't commit entertainment in twenty or thirty seconds.


1. billboard.
2. elaboration.
3. response, or kicker.

Always, always, always, know what your kicker - your final sentence, your emotional pay-off - is going to be, before you open that mike. Pretty simple stuff.

Everything you say on the air should be directed at someone -- your "real" listener (not the station's "target" listener).

Nearly all you talk about should focus on your life and your listener's life, at home and in the community, and what's going on this day.

If you can do that without blabbing on endlessly, and make sure your raps are each designed to "reach" the listener -- ultimately to make him feel like you're a "friend" of his, then your talk won't be perceived as clutter, but as companionship.

Easier said than done, certainly. It takes plenty of prep, a fine sense of your personal listener's presence, and a never-ending awareness that Time Matters.

Finally, I'm advising them to pay more attention to their commercial content.

I believe this is a major weakness in adult-formatted stations today. Anything you're spending 20 to 30% of your time in is perceived as a significant part of the "programming."  Thus: the commercials have to be worth hearing, not just for the message, but for the delight of listening.

Funny - they don't think that's at all unusual with TV spots; how come we settle for so much less on radio?

If all the competition is selling is tons of music, then your attack must be based on everything else.

It can be done; it's more complicated than just playing "more music" in a row... But the rewards will justify the effort.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Is It "Beginning To Sound A Lot Like Christmas"?

It has been seven years since Edison Research was tasked by the Country Radio Seminar to ask country listeners about their preferences in non-stop Holiday tunes (click the charts to enlarge them).

When it became obvious that the decision on what to do on a country radio station was so highly polarized on a national average basis, perhaps driven somewhat by religious preference, CRS stopped including the question in the national format tracking studies because every individual market is so unique, depending not only on theology but also many other factors ranging from how many country stations slice up the pie, the age of the market, if you can afford the luxury of going six weeks without playing any new music so that in January you must completely refamiliarize your core with all of the country hits that came out since mid-November,  whether other format stations like Christian AC or mainstream AC fill the void, etc.

This week, Billboard's midweek Top 40 and Country update publications provided a reminder that 70% of the country listeners that participated in those CRS studies have now aged into the next older target cell and 45-54 seven years ago is now largely 55-64.

Writer Rich AppelThis year top 40 has been gifted with new and original songs from at least two core artists, Kelly Clarkson (“Underneath the Tree”) and Ariana Grande, who’s taken a page from Bieber’s playbook and releasing a new song each week for four weeks, two of those being originals. Republic Records executive VP Charlie Walk feels the four-song strategy for Grande, fresh off her new artist of the year win at Nov. 24’s American Music Awards, fills the void for top 40’s audience.  “There haven’t really been many contemporary artists putting out modern holiday music, and in the digital space we’re able to move quickly to bring it to Ariana’s massive fan base in time for the season.”

The CHR programmers Appel interviewed while noting that "Christmas begins with CHR" worry that even the best-known traditional Christmas favorites don't fit between the hits of today.

Journalist Phyllis Stark focused her attention on a country station in a market where two of the city's three country stations target younger, leaving the upper-demo one to go all Christmas again this year:  When KFKF Kansas City, Kan., flips the switch on Thanksgiving Day at 2 p.m., it will become the second country station this year to go all-Christmas, following KEGA Salt Lake City’s similar flip on Nov. 22. And like KEGA, this will mark KFKF’s third year stunting with all holiday music, a move that has generated huge ratings gains.  Other than its St. Jude Radiothon Dec. 4-5, KFKF will be churning out the holiday fare nonstop.

As country's target straddles both of the larger population groups on either side of the smaller Gen X cohort the decision of how much Christmas music to play at all and when to do it is making stations who target 18-44 more like Hot AC and CHR in this regard, while that seven year old research on it probably still holds true for you if your station's target resembles a traditional mainstream oldies based AC and is now largely 40+.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Tagging Country's Positioning

In the wake of my last two posts (Do You Own A "Tag" Or A "Position? and Making A (Position) Statement), what is the current state of the country format's efforts?

To find out, I monitored every country radio station in the top 25 markets.  Here is how all of those country stations state their positions in 2013:

Many define themselves by Era
  • Today's Country, My Country
  • New Country, The New..
  • New country.  Always a great song, your workday station
  • New country..
  • (brand) country, new country
  • #1 for new country
  • The new (brand).. country's hottest hits.  The new generation of country
  • new country first
  • the best new music   an I Heart Radio station
  • more country ..  the 90s to now
  • New country and (area's) all time favorites
  • The 90s and more ..  the greatest country from the 90s and more
  • (city's) best country variety - from the tried and true to the brand spanking new
In competitive situations, Quantity is sometimes used
  • More music now  (brand name) Country
  • More country now
  • (brand name) Country More country now
  • More of (city's) best country
  • Another extra long music sweep ...  30 minute music sweeps  every country song's a favorite
  • Commercial free music (brand name)
  • the most commercial free country   more back to back songs   (city's) most listened to country station
  • another whole hour of music   the most music  XX-minute music run
  • the new (brand)  52 minutes of (brand) country
The current fad is positioning on a colorful Music Brand (almost always an animal, usually a Bull - or is that a lemming? - these days)
  • (WOLF, Cat, Froggy, The BULL. Coyote) country  A new breed of country station
  • (area's) New country leader
  • #1 for New Country
  • The biggest stars .. (state)-bred .. (brand)
Or a City Brand
  • (city's) Country Station
  • (city's) #1 for New Country
  • if it's country in (area small town), it's (area) country
  • (city's) new country leader
  • (city) country
Only a very few still use a "Position" in the country format's historical sense of the word
  • Great country (frequency)
  • real country  my country station  commercial free country
The key questions I hope managers and programmers seriously consider:

Does the average listener understand, relate to and remember .. let alone care about all of this verbiage?

And, before you push out another sloganeering "tag," shouldn't you find out what you are famous for in the mind of your user and make sure you do that a lot?

Making A (Position) Statement

Is your "position" in your market what you say it is?

Legendary programmer, manager and consultant Neil Gallagher told RBR a story a couple year ago about a battle in Las Vegas which answers that question:
There once was an A/C station that dominated their major market.  They had the best music images in the city. They were well known for presenting the grandest, most desirable contests and promotions with the most expensive and desirable prizes.  They had the highest rated morning show with the city’s most popular radio personalities.  They had an enormous database of at-work listeners that they worked religiously. They were the area’s dominate television and outdoor advertiser, presenting creative messages that tested extremely well in focus groups and articulated their benefits creatively and succinctly and in an extremely entertaining fashion.  They had the most aggressive street presence in the city, appearing at virtually every event in the entire region with an imposing fleet of stunning vehicles.  They owned the weather and traffic information images with their helicopters in the air, immense cellular phone reporter network and the market’s top television station’s popular, experienced and attractive weather reporter appearing frequently throughout every hour of the morning show.  They were the poster child for being a wildly successful, dominate radio station. 

They had very deep pockets allowing them to fend off any attack someone might contemplate. But they also had one very small “Achilles Heel” – a lack of strict discipline in music programming.

They were not alone in the format as there was a relatively new-to-the-format station in town that was very strategically oriented – and more disciplined. 

Both stations used extensive strategic research.  Both stations played similar “Power” and “Secondary” songs. Both played “Lunar” rotation songs for variety. It was this third category that was the narrow point of attack for their competitor.  Both stations had different philosophies on how to present Lunar songs: the dominate station would play the newer releases they thought everyone would enjoy and a wider variety of gold that received less airplay over the years while their new competitor played songs that were well established from considerable air play over the years.  Most radio station music programmers were tired of hearing these songs as they have been played to death in the minds of the music directors and they rationalized that listeners felt the same way. 

Here’s where the competitor’s focus and discipline paid off big time.  
At the dominant station, the average “like-a-lot” and “like-some” totals of the newer songs and wider selection of Lunar gold records played was 20.  This is because the newer songs hadn’t had time to establish yet and the “fresher” oldies based songs, though less tired, did not have as much passion with the audience.

On the new competitor station, the average “like-a-lot” and “like-some” totals was 40. In spite of the fact the programmers felt extreme discomfort playing those songs (feeling the songs were completely ‘burned’), they had the discipline to trust their instruments (research) and the laser-like focus to continue to attack on this narrow gap.

The Lunar songs were twice as popular on the competitor as on the dominant station (40 compared to 20 “like-a-lot” and “like-some” totals.)  Lunars were approximately 35% of both station’s playlists.  That meant that overall, the competitors music was 17.5% better than the dominant station's on average (50% of 35%.) 

The luxury casinos on Las Vegas Boulevard were all built on a 6% spread.  Within a few years attacking on this narrow distinction, the competitor took over the lead in the format by a margin of over 2 to 1.  In fact, the former dominant station continued to lose audience to the newcomer and left the format a year later in major defeat.

Lest you think this was some weird anomaly, consider this information that The Research Group’s leader, Bill Moyes sent out to their clients in the mid-1980s. 

The following phenomena are still true today:

  1. The average listener makes their decision on whether you will be their P-1 radio station based on the first 15 to 20 minutes or so that they listen.  So every quarter hour of your programming has to be great.
  2. Of all the different things that would influence a listener to become a P-1 of the station, music is the most important (in a talk based radio station, the equivalent would be the information relevancy and desirability).
  3. The image “playing the best songs for your taste” correlates 3 times as much in forming P-1 status than does having a “fun morning show” or playing “lots of music”.
Remember: nothing kills great advertising like a bad product.

Both stations no doubt hammered "the best music" as their tag, yet it took listeners just one quarter hour to figure out for themselves which one was better.

This is why it's now pointless, if it ever was, to mindlessly repeat a slogan over and over.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Do You Own A "Tag" Or A "Position?"

Like Randy Lane (writing in Radio Ink), I was also nodding my head at Geoffrey James' Inc Magazine article, "Forget Your Tag Line. It's Obsolete:"
Jingles started in the early days of commercial radio and continued to be popular as a branding technique through first decades of commercial television.  Jingle-writing was big business; pop star Barry Manilow famously got his start as a jingle-smith.  Today, though, jingles have almost disappeared.  That's partly because broadcast ads, which used to be 60 seconds long are now much shorter (often 15 seconds or even 5 seconds long) leaving less time for a jingle. But there's another, more cogent reason for the disappearance of the jingle: they don't work any more.  At best, they sound like bad imitations of popular songs; at worst, they sound corny and retro. The same thing is happening with the corporate tag line. Such tag lines are intended to encapsulate and clarify the essence of a brand proposition as with Apple's "Think Different" or NBC's "Must See TV." The problem with tag lines, though, is that they tend to sound like generic corporate speak. For example, Sony's recently launched "Make.Believe" tag line is supposed to inspirational, but could describe any company.

If you buy that, as I do, it's hard to disagree with Lane too:
Requiring air talents to bark out tag lines every time they open their mouth is wasting precious time. Time that could be better spent delivering a hook headline to instantly engage the audience. You don’t want to waste even a nanosecond when the average attention span is down to nine seconds, according to one study.  Saying “The Best Mix of the ‘80s, ‘90s and Now” first, every talk break, will be rattled off ineffectively at best by most air personalities. Tag lines have become meaningless commercial noise to most listeners. We have moderated many focus groups and have been surprised to find that the majority of respondents could not recall a radio station slogan even though it had been pounded for years every break.

That's why when I hear a personality mechanically saying the same words with the same inflection every time they open their microphone, I first attempt to get them to vary that autopilot inflection pattern.  If they have become so habitual in their delivery, I echo Lane's advice and tell them to just stop it and brand the interesting, informative, entertaining content they prepared, since that's their most obvious definable difference as a "voice on the radio" anyway.

It you don't have lots of songs I really love which are connected by engaging things I care about to say, all the tagging won't work anyway, even if it is delivered beautifully.

Meanwhile, just because "tag" self-marketing doesn't work anymore does not mean that you can win without a believable "position" in the mind of the listener.

And, the art today is subtly imprinting your unique, unduplicated position without resorting to techniques which no longer work to positively brand, such as hard sell and irritating in-your-face repetition (which is still one of the two ways we remember things, but they may just remember how repulsive you are if you over-use it)?

Rees and Trout's four decade old rules (click the link for a refresher course) have not lost their impact when done creatively and believably.

7Up is still the uncola.  Avis may actually be #1 today, but in our minds they still "Try Harder" because they are #2.

Compared to the campaigns highlighted for their ongoing success from back when Jack and Al's book first was published 26 formats and editions ago, "Best and Most Country," "Continuous Country Favorites" and "New Country And The Legends," given the excellent vantage point of history, probably never were "positions" embraced by listeners in the first place. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

There Ought To Be A Law

There are some things that our advertisers do that are illegal and then there are others that should be.

In both situations, it's the listener who gets punished when programmers fail to police these instances even before a fine comes the radio station's way.

Things every creative director needs to be on the lookout for every day:

1.  End dates for copy.  Nothing sounds less "live and local" than a spot for a Thanksgiving Day Sale on the day after the holiday.

2.  Updates.  Every time-dated spot or promo must have a "tomorrow" and "today" version.  Would anyone tell a friend "sale ends November 20th" ON November 20th?

3.  Sirens.  No, it's not illegal to broadcast one on radio, but has anyone not been in a vehicle when one came on, felt deceived after pulling over to the side of the road, realizing they could have caused an accident?  Surely, there's a more original and creative way to command attention than this hackneyed gimmick.  Let's protect the ears and traffic safety of our listener and offer to make something better for the brand, gratis.

4.  "The first listener to get to (remote location) wins..."  Actually, this one could get you sued if someone causes a collision after speeding up to get your prize.

5.  Anything that contains "prize, chance and consideration."  But, you knew that. 

I wish we'd handle numbers 1 through 3 as strictly as we do that one by using the phrase "I can't let you do that."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Riffing, Radio And Restraint

When you're extremely talented at something it's very tempting to press your advantage and show off a little bit.

Nashville-based performance coach Tom Jackson advises his clients not to just do a carbon copy of their hit when on stage, but to change someone's life by creating a larger than life experience

Nail that In front of a live audience and you get immediate positive feedback, perhaps a standing ovation.

That can make it very tempting the next time you are in the recording studio to overdo it in the same way, but a savvy hit record producer will ask you to tone it back down, create a more intimate and personal experience, one that can be listened to for a thousand times, becoming more potent which each listen.

Great radio personality isn't a stage performance. 

It's one to one and time is precious.

The difference between good and great on radio is not how long you can do the things you are best at, but how quickly.

No matter how large your radio station cume is, it's best to reach it all - one at a time.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Going Native

First, I want to get the sick joke that occurred to me when I saw Inside Radio's top story:   "Radio deploys digital to meet ‘native’ demand."

The moment local casino gaming was legal, radio was all over native advertising!

That out of the way, I have to say that I am skeptical of this "new trend" in advertising when it comes to radio.  Even the Wikipedia definition of it has been up since May (
"this article may document a neologism in such a manner as to promote it. Please add more reliable sources to establish its current use and the impact the term has had on its field...") and I am still waiting for one of the proponents to comply in spite of many, many giddy articles and posts about its potential.
Finally: "The Urban Legends of Native Advertising" makes these key points about this ad fad:   
  1. It's not new.
  2. Not any brand can do it.  You are not Nike.
  3. Putting your logo front and center may kill the impact.
I am not ready to quote Tonto in response to anyone experimenting with new revenue concepts, but before radio sales execs go very far down the native path, I hope they compare this stealth new tactic to the much more effective multiplicity of tools already proven in our kit.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why Radio Needs A Song Writers Chart

You could tell from my last post:  I don't think David Ross' new songwriters top 60 chart should be used as a source of content on the air.


When a song becomes a hit - which is to say that it's "a favorite, a song I like a lot and if it came on radio, I'd turn it up" - it no longer belongs to the writer. 

Now, it's owned by the listener, each one of whom has her own personal meaning to its message and story.

I don't watch music videos for that reason. 

They make the meaning of songs too literal, changing the perspective from the one inside my head to someone else's and it's almost always "less" than it was when I first heard it, projecting my own personal video on the screen inside my imagination.

Radio's power comes from intimacy and theater of the mind. 

The best music takes full advantage of that.  It is the basis of the art great songwriters practice better than anyone.

That is why all of the music business - including radio - needs a song writers chart. 

There's a lot to learn from those folks who rank at the top.

They possess a list with a lot of secrets worth studying.

A great performance by a sensational artist of an average song simply won't perform as well as an average singer doing a mediocre version of a simply terrific song.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Do You Know Who Ashley Gorley Is?

If you're a recording artist and you don't, you better catch up right now on David Ross' latest innovation.

If you talk on the radio, it's very tempting to interview song writers, relate and listen to their stories and try to educate the listeners who love the songs about this side of the music business they know and care very little about.

My experience, based on PPM usage data and well as longer term diary ratings:  listeners tune out when the content turns to things and people which don't relate to their interests.

We're not in the education business.  We're in the entertainment biz.

If you want to know more about Ashley Gorley, go to Wikipedia.

Certainly, there is no topic or person that a great communicator can't present in an interesting and relatable way, but counting down the top 60 song writers on the air would be too much inside baseball for most of us.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Local Radio Is Getting Close To Billing As Much As Newspaper

At least we're growing.  And, clearly, they are not.

The local radio market is growing, albeit at a more moderate pace than it once did, by expanding its offerings to off-air platforms, providing a wider range of listener experiences and advertiser opportunities, according to the firm's new state-of-the-industry report. "Local Radio Stations Profiles and Trends for 2014 and Beyond" provides a comprehensive view of the industry based on the long-term research and analysis conducted by BIA/Kelsey for its clients and the industry. 

According to the new BIA/Kelsey report, the five biggest local advertising categories for radio are: retail (18.0 percent of total radio industry revenue), financial/Insurance (17.0 percent), restaurants (14.5 percent), automotive (14.0 percent) and technology (10.0 percent). BIA/Kelsey says local radio generates over 10 percent of its advertising from these five different groups of advertisers. And, the report says local radio receives 14.3 percent of all advertising spent by finance and insurance companies and 12.1 percent of all advertising spending by restaurants.

Perhaps we should wait for RAB to issue their quarterly radio revenue trend report later this month  (here's the latest one), but I think it's safe to say this:  focusing on national business growth or online development won't make up for a lack of a solid local sales presence.

Monday, November 11, 2013

While You Are In A Giving Mood, Mr. Nielsen...

Thank you so very much for the wonderful gifts last week at the Affiliates' Advisory Country meeting.  More stable data, larger samples, allowing all online-terrestrial simulcasts to show up and not just subscribers as well as better in-station monitoring of PPM encoders all have to cost you money and are all long overdue and appreciated!

May I respectfully suggest you do one more thing that will actually save you money?

Stop suing and thus alienating your prospective customers and instead resume the practice of making 6+ and/or 12+ top line data for all of the radio stations in your quarterly "top line data" releases.

Yes, if a rep is dumb enough to ignore the copyright notice and walk into a client with a print out, trying to sell their station using it, go ahead and take them to court.

But, if someone is simply tracking format or station trends with no intention of profiting from the info, please lend a hand to students of radio and start releasing ALL of the top line data to the trades.

That way, both we and you can see the benefits of your very positive moves on everyone's sample.

And, if someone wants to pay a bonus for performance based on 12+, what's the harm?

There is so much info available to any subscribing station both for programming purposes and for sales, a station ignorant enough to try to get business off of a 12+ ranker and nothing more is going to be punished on the streets and you don't need to pay expensive lawyers to rub salt in their wounds.

Thank you, your friend,


Thursday, November 07, 2013

Will The Country Format Ever Fragment?

It was exactly 25 years ago at the Country Radio Seminar when researcher/guru John Parikhal predicted that the country format was about to fragment into two equal branches, mainstream and classic.  Instead, about a year later, a guy named Garth and seven or eight other exciting new artists emerged as "the class of '89," painting over the cracks that had started to show.

If you read my last four posts which show that by playing the right songs and artists it's still possible for a country station to cobble together the optimum coalition that spans from teens to leading edge boomers you might think that country radio still hasn't fragmented.

You'd be wrong.

We just hadn't looked old enough as yet.

55+ country partisans are clearly not happy with the direction that even the biggest hits of today have taken.

That's more than a third of today's country radio audience.

So, yes, country will fragment.  It will happen the day someone finds media buyers and advertisers willing to pay for 55 and older.

Meanwhile, for the average country radio station today, they remain the huge segment of our audience that no one is willing to pay for, but savvy buyers who ask our sellers to pitch on 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 know that they get for free!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Common Threads

The key to broadening the appeal of a format with a target as broad as country radio is finding the songs that drive loyalty for as many age and gender subgroups as possible.

The lower the "difference" number, the less the polarity among these highest rated hits:

I get concerned when I see a difference greater than 10% when comparing cross tabs. 

Aldean and Eli Young, for example, highlight a potential incompatibility if the target includes both 25-34 and 35-44.

Meanwhile, it appears that 25-34 and 45-54 may be more alike in their tastes with these songs this week than 35-44 is.

If you don't look at all the target cells individually and compare them, you'd be missing something important.

In certain very competitive situations, even standard demos are too wide as generational cohorts age year by year from one cell to another.

(More) 35-44

How many demos can a country station super-serve?

Top of the 18-24 ranker:

The highest "favorite" scores of all four demo cells for the ones they love.


Slightly lower positive passion levels, but still impressively strong.


Four of the five top songs are the same as the younger cells, as Blake Shelton sprints to the line in the center 35+ cells.


The upper end of the target's ranker looks a lot like the other three.

So, perhaps 18-54 is a target demo when it comes to the most popular songs?

How many demos can we super-serve? 

When it comes to our biggest hits:  at least four of them, thankfully!

Monday, November 04, 2013

It's Not Just How Many, But Also Which Ones

In 2000, almost one in five of the average country station's listeners was between 35 and 44.

Now, Nielsen's "Radio Today" reports that the format's 25-34 (15 to 15.4%) and 45-54 (19.9 up to 20.1) cells have grown in our audience comp as 35-44 slipped to 14.7% - due to the small size of Gen X compared to both the Boomers and Millenials in the general population.

Is that part of the reason the format's share of 35-44 listeners also dipped from the previous year? 

I think it would be if a station hasn't updated its callout screener to account for the generation creep that's been happening over the last decade!

Thanks to Cornerstone Research's Analyst, I compared scores of the best-liked new tunes 25-39 vs 40-54 to show what I mean.  It exaggerates the upper and lower edges of our audience and minimizes the opinions expressed by those right in the middle where we should still be aiming our arrow:

There was a time when most major country stations used callout that was targeted 50/50 25-39 and 40-54, 60% female and "60% core with 40% other core as found in nature."

If your station is still doing it that way, it's time to rethink your research plan.  That's especially true if you have moved from callout to online testing to your own station database.

Certainly, looking at the data that way continues to highlight the generational differences between the oldest and the youngest of your listeners 25-54, but splitting 35-44 in half understates their opinions.

That effect is amplified by the fact that if your station mirrors the national averages it's likely that the 20% of your database that was 35-44 in 2000 is now ten years older.  That makes it more important to look at today's smaller 35-44 folks' input on your music discretely compared to the larger numbers on both ends of our demographic scale.

Meanwhile, further complicating today's country targeting is the emergence of 18-24 and even teens into our cume (and music research).

Who wouldn't want as many younger listeners as possible? 

It's certainly possible to justify calling today's country format age target 18-54 (or even older!), yet dealing with five or six generational cohorts' attitudes, values, lifestyles - let alone music preferences isn't targeting, it's hosting a family reunion.

I want to consider some challenges that presents - and solutions - tomorrow in this space.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Country Will Be Huge In 20 Years. BUT....

... are we going to be moving slowly downward 25-54 and 18-49 year after year between now and then, as leading edge boomers age out of 25-54 and Gen X moves into the middle of it?

It's worth studying both Census Bureau population projections as well as Nielsen's annual Radio Today historical trends to stay ahead of the curve.

More than half of the country radio audience today is over 45.  The country radio format's 35-44 composition percentage has been slipping for the last decade as Gen X has aged into that demo cell right in the center of our target.  (click the link to see Westwood One/Denver VP/Programming John Paul's prescient post and stats on this)  "It could get real ugly" between now and then, he says.

Fortunately, country still ranks #1 18-24. 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54 in 2013:

Last week,
Inside Radio talked to a number of smart programmers managing to beat the national averages:

  • Keeping 35-44 year-olds tuned in isn’t an issue for “93Q” KKBQ-FM, Houston.  The Cox country station was tops in the demo in September.  More often than not it’s the station’s best-performing demo.  PD Johnny Chiang attributes that to a carefully balanced music mix that’s big on common denominator records. “You have to go by what the song sounds like and the lyrics still matter a lot,” he says. “The biggest advantage country has over every other format is how the music and lyrics connect with the audience.”  Keeping country radio a family affair starts with the research, he and other programmers say.
  • Entercom country “106.5 The Wolf” WDAF-FM, Kansas City PD Wes Poe says the station keeps Millennials and Gen X-ers satisfied by testing its music across the wide 25-45 demo.  Consultant Jaye Albright says it’s important for country stations to include men and upper demos in their research — not just younger women. “I would target 22-44 so you don’t get dragged too young and blow off upper demos,” she says. “The 35-44 demo has the potential of being country listeners for the next 20 years.” 
  • Clear Channel EVP of programming Clay Hunnicutt says country radio continues to have broad demographic appeal and that it has attracted 18-34 year-olds organically. “We have to convert them, not target them,” he says. “I don’t want to make someone like me.  But if they’re coming to the party, I really want to show them a good time.”
So, what's the big deal?

To overcome the smaller proportion of 35-44 in both the general population and country's audience comp, the format must increase it's share of both Generation X and Generation Y listening above current levels.

The national country format average share 35-44 was up from 2011 to 2012 from a 12.2 to a 12.8, but then slipped to a 12.6 this year. 

The majority of country stations tracked by Nielsen this year cut a smaller slice of a shrinking pie. 

Turning that slight dip around by the time the next annual format report emerges in 2014 will lay the necessary groundwork for both a solid medium- and long-term future.  

Failing to do so will mean we'll need to wait for the average age of 18-49 and 25-54 to come down, which census data forecasts won't happen for a decade.  

Getting it "right" between now and then requires targeting more discretely than the standard ten year demo cells, growing new coalitions based on more than the mix of age or gender that worked for the format in the past.