Wednesday, January 29, 2014

We Are SO Smart

I went with that headline instead of just stealing the one atop the Country Radio Seminar's latest press release:  "Young Country Fans Use an Average of Five Different Social Media Sites" because "we are so smart" is what Mike O'Malley, Becky Brenner and I said to ourselves after seeing this yesterday:

Where should Country radio engage with its new generation of listeners? Everywhere and at once.  A new study on Country listening and media usage among 12-to-34-year-olds shows that the average number of different social media sites used by that demographic is an impressive 4.4. But 12-to-34-year-olds who listen frequently to Country music are even more prone to be using multiple social media sites simultaneously, an average of 5.0.

Edison Research’s “Understanding Country Radio’s Next Generation of Listeners” is the newest research on the music and media habits of 12-to-34-year olds. The full survey will be unveiled February 19th at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville by Edison’s Larry Rosin and Megan Lazovick, along with Jayne Charneski, an expert on “Millennials.” A follow-up session will be held February 20th.

Edison surveyed 1,550 12-34-year-olds, including nearly 900 respondents under age 25.   In addition, Edison conducted face-to-face interviews with Millennials about their attitudes towards Country music, Country radio, and music listening and media habits in general. Those interviews will be unveiled for the first time at the Country Radio Seminar presentation. 

The average number of social networks used is the number that respondents said that they used “actively or occasionally.”

“Broadcasters are at widely varying places in their social media efforts, and acknowledging the need to engage with listeners and potential listeners does not always translate to having a strategy,” says Edison Research president Larry Rosin. “Knowing that young Country fans are on even more networks than their already savvy peers means that Country needs a wide-ranging social media strategy that goes beyond ‘like us on Facebook.’ We look forward to helping guide broadcasters craft that strategy at CRS.”

That process already started long ago at A&O&B. 

That's why we hired Jacobs Media's Lori Lewis to help our clients navigate the future.  It begins publicly at A&O&B's Pre-CRS Seminar February 18 in Nashville, where you will want to hear Lori's presentation, part of our best client seminar EVER.

RSVP for 2014's 2/18 client seminar now (click)!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Jay Trachman wrote many wonderful Talent Tips for his "One To One" readers - some of radio's most-famous personalities over more than three decades.  My goal continues to be to since his 2009 death to keep his influence and memory alive by occasionally reprinting his classics:

"He'd do okay here, if only his ego didn't keep getting in the way." If you're like me, you've heard that a few times in your life, and once in awhile, about yourself. You're probably aware that people with weak, rather than strong, egos tend to become performers. (The ones with the strong egos become salesmen.)

There was a fascinating article about strong and weak egos in the New York Times which I think is worth Sharing because it offers some insights to the performer's mind...

Here's what Dr. Paul Ornstein of the U. of Cincinnati said at a conference on narcissism: "Self-esteem depends on how well-developed your sense of self is. We're all exceedingly protective to the extent we feel vulnerable."


The great psychiatrist Alfred Adler said: "The deeply narcissistic person feels incomplete, and uses other people to feel whole."

Anyone we know?

The Times said, "Up to a point, narcissism can help a person be more successful and happy, but in more extreme cases it causes serious problems in relationships and careers."

Ever have any of those?

Then they displayed a chart comparing "healthy" versus "unhealthy" narcissism. I'd think of it as "strong ego" versus "weak," but you'll find stuff in here that's familiar...

Healthy: Appreciates praise, but does not live for it. Unhealthy: Has an insatiable craving for adulation. Needs praise to feel momentarily good about self.

Healthy: May be hurt by criticism, but the feeling passes. Unhealthy: Is enraged or crushed by criticism, and then broods for long periods.

Healthy: Feels unhappy but not worthless after a failure. Unhealthy: Failure sets off feelings of shame and worthlessness.

The dumbest thing I could do at this juncture is to point to the "unhealthy" ones and say, "Don't be like that!"

That's about as helpful as saying, "Just be yourself!"

 More on this topic tomorrow.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Beatles, Robots, Weddings and More.... Oh My!

Steve Graham wrote that headline, not me, as he noted that Kacey Musgraves did very well at The Grammy's with two wins, while Taylor Swift walked away empty handed:  "It was an interesting night at the Grammy's.  Some are calling it the best in years while others are talking about the performance of Willie Nelson, Kris Kristoferson, Merle Haggard and Blake Shelton as the highlight of the night."

It was so good to see Paul McCartney and Ringo together too and it was a mix of new and old for sure.

It's hard to question, with 29 million folks watching, Darius Rucker as Best Country Solo Performance with "Wagon Wheel" and while fans of country music on the radio might have expected different "Best Country Song" winners than Musgraves' "Merry Go Round," Kacey's "Same Trailer Different Park" was certainly deserving of "Best Country Album" and is just the bill of fare those normally-eclectic-when-it-comes-to-country music Grammy voters usually choose over "hits." 

It's rewarding to see Kacey and her label get a nice spike in sales today after the TV appearance.

More of a head-scratcher for me was "From This Valley" by The Civil Wars for Best Country Duo/Group Performance in the wake of the year Florida Georgia Line just had.

Macklemore &  Ryan Lewis had to wait for Grammy to give them their due too and I join Duane Doobie in being amazed that they got the Grammy award for best new artist – "as if they just suddenly appeared magically overnight."

Perhaps FGL needs another year of multiple #1's before those strange Grammy voters - who always seem to dislike awarding commercial successes - take note?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Has Country Radio Reached The Christmas Music Tipping Point?

"One last listen to the 2013 Holidays" (report) serves up one final piece of Christmas pie and makes it clearer why upper-demo targeted radio stations post such astronomical shares each December.

Overall terrestrial radio listening appears to be going down in PPM measurement during the same period, so it seems that getting a bigger slice of a smaller pie is at least part of what's happening.

I have used these charts before and I apologize for trotting it out again, but it's a good time to ponder how country radio users felt about the tactic seven years ago.

Back in 2005 and 2006, Edison Research did a massive national online database study for Country Radio Seminar and asked country listeners about it.

Kansas City in 2013 was a case study of what we may see more and more of in 2014.  The older-targeted country station was up after jingling musical bells, while the other two - targeting under 45 - were also both up and ranked in the market's top five, by carefully not doing the same thing.

As that 2005-2006 study showed, the decision for country programmers on whether to cavort with elves and Santa's helpers or not has always been a difficult one, but it's going to be even tougher - and important to know who else is going to do it - in the coming year.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

So What Else Is New?

Radio isn't getting its fair share of marketing dollars and not only is that costing US money, but it's also making all traditional ad buys inefficient.

That's the conclusion of a ThinkVine study released this week.

Mark Battaglia, CEO of ThinkVine, said the miscalculations stem from brands relying on outdated marketing mix techniques or previous years' plans that don't take rapidly changing consumer behavior into account.  "Many marketers have started using big data to improve their campaigns, but very few are taking advantage of consumer data to optimize their marketing spend and determine the best media to reach their targeted audience."

The report says that instead of putting 19% of their budget to radio, it should be 26% for maximum impact and efficiency.

Sadly, radio receiving short shrift from media buyers is really nothing new.

Maybe some day, radio sellers will stop focusing on converting radio buys from one station to another and start looking outside traditional "radio money" for revenue.

Until we sell radio's effectiveness against other media, the trend will continue. 

We are our own worst enemy.

Monday, January 20, 2014

MLK Day Must Have Been A Slow News Day For Radio's Trades

NAB's Dennis Wharton, fortunately, was quick to add some facts to the fury:  “If the charge is that local radio plays popular music that listeners enjoy, we plead guilty."

In about three weeks each and every A&O&B client will know precisely how many of their listeners use Pandora and all other media choices at their fingertips and how satisfied their average listener is with their favorite radio station, thanks to Roadmap 2014.  If you're an A&O&B client, don't miss this free opportunity to get facts and stats to guide you in the coming year!

Weekly callout, online testing, other innovative music tests and mScore tracking are among the many tools that take the guesswork out of programming decision-making you should be using if you have concerns about your potential audience's music preferences.

You can literally ask a large number of your listeners whether they are tired of hearing a song on the radio, whether they'd like to hear it more, less or about the same.   Track this over many weeks, follow their guidance and watch repetition complaints go down and time spent with your radio station increase.

This isn't a new idea.  Radio has proven its effectiveness for more than 30 years.

Music sales numbers mean a lot to you if you're an artist, a publisher or a record company, but I hope my radio competition uses them determine their music rotations.  I'll test them with my target audience and beat them every time!
Finally, the only reason I'd be concerned about what Bill O'Reilly makes use of to get his music when he wants it would be if you know that he had previously cumed your radio station.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Young Country Fans Are More Likely To Consume Broadcast Radio

At a time when broadcast radio is increasingly challenged for younger listeners, there's good news for radio from younger Country fans.

12-to-24-year-olds who say they listen frequently to Country music are significantly more likely to have listened to FM radio in the last week than the 12-to-24 demo overall. But 12-to-24-year-old Country fans are also more likely to use other types of audio as well.

Hopefully, you saw that headline which received a lot of coverage in all the trade media.  Megan Lazovick's Edison Research press release on the newest research on the music and media habits of 12-to-34-year olds contained a few other juicy info-tidbits as well, some of which didn't get the coverage the headline received:
  • 12-to-24-year-old Country fans listened to “traditional FM radio” more than the demo overall, but their other audio usage was also disproportionately higher as well, including listening to personalized online radio such as Pandora.
  • While the amount of listening to FM is higher than the amount of personalized online radio listening, 12-to-24 Country fans were more likely to have listened to personalized online radio in the previous week than all 12-to-24s.
Edison surveyed 1,550 12-34-year-olds, including nearly 900 respondents under age 25. In addition, they conducted face-to-face interviews with Millennials about their attitudes towards Country music, Country radio, and music listening and media habits in general. Those interviews will be unveiled for the first time at the Country Radio Seminar presentation.

“Even as their choices expand, Country listeners of all ages have often been among the most loyal to broadcast radio, and 12-to-24-year-olds are no exception,” says Edison Research president Larry Rosin. “This study shows, however, that with the strength of today’s Country music, Millennial listeners are eager to consume it on many platforms.  We hope our CRS presentation will give programmers the tools they need to maintain their advantage with younger listeners.”

The full survey will be unveiled February 19th in Nashville by Edison's Larry Rosin and Megan Lazovick, along with Jayne Charneski, an expert on "Millennials." A follow-up session will be held February 20th.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Country Music Radio Has About Ten Years (Before It Falls Off A Cliff!)

For the coming decade the prospects of the country format look extremely bright:  very solid with 15 and up and as long as we can continue to forge a passion-driven coalition between Millenials, Gen X and the Boomers we should experience stability and 18-34 growth (graphic from Nielsen Radio Today 2013).

Then, it happens.

We will hit a demographic cliff as the large group of folks who are under 15 today that Frank N. Magid Associates started two years ago to call "The Pluralist Generation."

While no one knows exactly what will happen in the next 20 or 30 years, Magid's research (click for a pdf executive summary), coupled with current events and societal factors, allows us to project significant societal trends that will play out.  

Today's country audience is anything but ethnically diverse.

Inevitable change is the founding reason Plurals is the right name for this generation. 

It’s not just relevant to what’s happening in society currently, or how they are as children now,  the name Plurals reflects what lies ahead, for them, and all of America.

Plurals, as members of this generation will be known, are:  
  • America’s last generation with a Caucasian majority
  • Beginning to reflect the Gen X parenting style in their mindset
  • Existing in the most diverse social circles
  • The least likely to believe in the  “American Dream”
  • The most positive about America becoming more ethnically diverse
  • Affected by blended gender roles
The group-oriented style of Boomers reversed the latchkey kid trend with an unprecedented focus on the well-being of Millennial children at large (e.g., the development and implementation of after- school programs).  

The current transition to the individual-oriented parenting style of Xers is chronicled is today’s headlines (e.g., parent trigger laws and picketing schools about peanut allergy policies).  

Male and female Plurals seem to be already affected by this environment.  Girls aged 8 to 15 have greater expectations in obtaining a college degree, helping others live a better life and changing the world.  They care more about their grades at school and getting feedback from parents and teachers to help them do things better. 

How will the rise of the public, crowd-sourced voice affect the way Plurals view mainstream media sources? 

Will their openness to diversity create demands for more diverse representation in programming and advertising?  Will video content piracy wars (e.g., SOPA) be their equivalent of what Millennials experienced with music (e.g., Napster)?

Will the easy access, even by the youngest Plurals, to devices that enable fast and continuous communication change the way they learn to communicate?  As the Communication Lifestyle spreads and is adopted by young Plurals, will schools and businesses have to make accommodations?      

They, as have generations past, will bring changes in Education, Religion, all Media and Business, Communication and Politics.

FAST FACTS:  The Pluralist Generation, a.k.a. Plurals 
  • Current Age: 15 and younger 
  • Born:  1997- present*
  • Size:  ~68 million
  • Ethnicity: Caucasian  54%, Hispanic  24%, African-American  14%,  Asian  4%, Other  4%
* Magid Generational Strategies™ has not yet determined the ending year for the Pluralist Generation.  Societal factors arecurrently being evaluated and birthrate data for 2010, 2011 and 2012 is not yet available.  An improving economy and an expected rise in birthrates will likely signal the start of the next generation – and end of the birth of Plurals. 

Country programmers have roughly a decade to learn about what Magid terms "The First Generation Of The Twenty-First Century."

Unless we get it right, it's likely that as those young folks come into our target horizon, the cohesiveness between today's country youth and our 45+ cells will start to break down driven by polarity over diversity issues.

This is yet another reason to begin to focus now on relating universally, understanding and engaging Millenials and Gen X while at a point in generational history when we have the luxury of the strong TSL of Boomers too.

There May Be Cooler Soc Nets, But Here's Why You Must Be On Facebook

- Pew Internet & American Life 2013

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Time To Toss Borrell's New Report In The Trash?

My first look last week at "The Future of Legacy Media: With 5 Years of Digital Disruption Ahead, What Happens Next?" set my hair afire.

Nice chart, but the researcher seemed to ignore radio's move to PPM measurement five years ago as a possible cause in "time spent" going down!! 

They completely missed, it seems, that the move also helped radio's reach more than double as "phantom cume" was finally accurately captured with the evolution from memorability measurement to actual usage.  Borrell equates "value" with "time spent," ignoring other factors like radio's cume growth and very competitive cost. 
Medialife's Diego Vasquez read it last week and recaped radio's headlineAs long as cars are made with radios, there won’t be much decline in radio industry ad volume, but there won’t be much growth either. Unless the federal government decides to grab bandwidth, the industry will stay about where it is for at least the next five years.

Now that an appeals court has struck down the FCC's Net neutrality rules, Borrell had better rethink their forecast.

Analog radio and IBOC digital radio:  while we all wait to see how much the giant companies who control our digital bandwidth want to charge everyone for it, legacy audio media's slogan for now and the foreseeable future remains "listen all you want... it's free."

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Past is Prologue

Today's guest blogger:  SCBA's Thom Callahan:

You need not have an advanced degree in investing or have Wall Street insider information to see a trend that is so obvious, if we would only spend 10 minutes to really look at it.

2013 was a great year for Radio stocks with most publicly traded Radio companies doubling and/or tripling their 12 month performance. These stunning Radio stock increases can only be attributed to 3 key factors; a greatly improving ad revenue environment, a higher dividend to shareholders, and the realization from trading houses and investors that the ad supported, local Radio model works very well after all.

Why did it take these “experts” so many years to come to the same conclusion all of us in Radio knew all the time? Perhaps we need to understand that it takes most businesses a very long time to become established, profitable, and worthy of the public’s trust, like Radio has.

If the past is prologue, as suggested by William Shakespeare, then perhaps we need to be more cautious on what the financial/media experts are calling the “next big thing”. It is very difficult for any new medium to compete against Radio in the long term which makes investing in companies looking to compete with Radio a very risky proposition.

Here are just three glaring examples of why betting against Radio is a very bad investment decision. 
Let’s go back a few years, specifically to Feb 2, 2000. On that date, the experts were predicting that Sirius/XM would “crush Radio” and just like sheep, investors rushed to buy the stock, which on that date, traded at an inexplicable $59.90 a share. As we begin 2014, the Sirius/XM market share for listeners is barely 11% nationwide and their stock opened this week at $3.49. That is a brutal 94% loss in stock value since its inception. Also, if Liberty Media buys up the rest of the company as reported this week (it owns 50% of the shares now) it is widely known that stockholders will take another unfortunate hit as Liberty Media is a cable company with no long term interest in the Satellite music business other than acquiring its cash flow at bargain basement prices. Think under $3.00 at least.

Strike one for the “experts”.

Now let’s look at another “internet darling” from the more recent past. While Groupon was never a direct threat to Radio, it was treated like the next “big thing” from the “experts”. Based on all of its outstanding press and the “experts” strong buying signals, Groupon was supposed to revolutionize the coupon business and redefine the shopper’s experience for bargains. In fact, some suggested that Groupon posed a threat to Radio as the ROI would be more attractive than Radio commercials.


Well, Groupon Stock traded at a robust $20.63 per share in 2011, and by the end of 2012; the stock plummeted to $4.86 a share, but to its credit, has rebounded somewhat in 2013 and closed the year at $11.77. This is due primarily to “an evolving business model” that has nothing to do with its original premise. This still represents a nasty stock decline of 43% for Groupon since its inception.

Strike two for the “experts”.

Feeling a bit apprehensive about “expert predictions”? Well, you should be.

Pandora’s widely overvalued stock price and its “darling status” among the “experts” and the media still can’t get this company to grow. In February 2013, its webcast metrics as reported by Triton Digital recorded 1,918,000 visitors as being logged in to its URL with the average time spent listening recorded at 36.6 minutes.

From February 1, 2013 through October 1, 2013, visitor levels are slightly down to 1,891,982 with a more ominous indicator of the time spent listening loss down to 35.4 minutes. That’s a .3% loss in average time spent listening yet no one is reporting that. Can you imagine the reaction from the “experts” if Radio lost .3% of its national listenership in less than 9 months?

Once again, we must look to Pandora’s stock prices as the past is indeed prologue, at least as far as stock value is concerned. The Pandora investor has had a bumpy road to say the least. Pandora stock debuted in June 2011 at $18.91 and remained at that mediocre level for the next 2 years and 3 months. Finally, the stock started to move up on September 3, 2013 to $25.13, and began to show some financial life. It then went back and forth for the next 3 months and opened this week at $33.40. It has taken Pandora two and half years for its stock to rise by only $14.49 a share and only by $6.96 since October 3, 2013. How come?

Well…maybe everyone is starting to understand that this unprofitable business model cannot sustain itself over the long term, no matter how many Radio sales people they hire to prop up short term revenue gains. Remember Google’s attempt to hire Radio sales people for their misguided attempt in Radio “remnant” inventory?

If this is the next “digital darling” to watch, why has it taken 27 months for its stock to make any appreciable climb? And why has Pandora lost .3% of its average time spent listening in less than 9 months? Could it be that just playing music, with no local or human connection, is just not enough for the average listener?

Strike three for the “experts”.

If you are looking for a safe investment with decades of sustainable growth and value, I suggest you avoid all the “experts” and return to making money on your investments.

The stock we are recommending for the short and long term is called Radio and it has withstood and ultimately conquered every supposed audio replacement for the past 70 years.

If the past is prologue, history readily proves that Radio will be a great investment for many decades to come.

How many shares would you like?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Negotiator

He's not William Shatner, but for people like A&O&B clients he may be even more fun, enlightening and entertaining when he speaks to our annual client get-together in Nashville.

Attorney James L. [Jim] Varnell, who for the past 42 years his wide-raging law practice (all the way up to the bar of the United State Supreme Court) has encompassed all types of trials, agreements, negotiations, entertainment law, the concert business, talent contracts with major radio groups and networks.

Jim in his usual tongue-in-cheek, yet straightforward, manner lists as his most significant career achievements:
  • running a paper route with Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall and his 2 brothers in Sewanee, TN., in 1951; 
  • playing a flawless bass guitar at a Seattle festival with members of Garth Brooks' band in 1998;
  • and escorting songwriter Dean Dillon to George Strait's bus at a Knoxville, TN., concert in 2005.
He promises to make use of at least a dozen great country songs as the thread to tell stories of his experience, while sharing many of the lessons he has learned as he has dealt with major celebrities, promoters, agents and all facets of the music business.

Albright & O'Malley & Brenner will present our 20th annual Pre-CRS seminar Feb. 18 at the Ford Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame

This is your formal invitaton to these yearly sessions on personal career growth, important topics facing Country radio and even new music from sponsor Republic Nashville. 

A&O&B's 9th annual perceptual study "Roadmap 2014" will show country P1 trends in music, digital consumption, social networking and more.  

The full agenda and presenter list will be announced over the next few days.

Please come! RSVP here 

No, you won't need a Jim Varnell to negociate your way in to this private meeting, since admission is free to A&O&B clients as well as anyone else not in a competitive situation with A&O&B stations.  

And, since it's at the Country Music Hall of Fame, you do NOT need to be registered for CRS to attend (though of course we hope to see you at Country Radio Seminar as well)!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Your 2014 Marketing Priorities In One Info-Graphic

Thanks to ExactTarget for putting it so clearly.  (click the link to download their complete report on the data behind it):

No matter the size of your marketing team or programs, you need to decide what 2014 holds for your strategy. Use these recommendations to help lead the conversation in your radio station over the coming year:

1.  Focus on listener/user/customer engagement.
• Map their journey to understand at exactly what points your customers, online users and listeners engage with you.
• Develop a plan around how you manage those engagement touchpoints and think through how you could improve each.

2.  Develop a clear data strategy.
• Take inventory of the data you have today and the data you need to collect.
• Create a plan to collect that data over time and across multiple listener interactions—because asking for a lot of information at once can be a barrier to engagement.

3.  Consider your channel options.
• Use this report to compare the channels you’re using to the channels other marketers are using.
• Form a strategy around your presence on those channels—whether you flock to the most common channels or you choose to stand out by using an underutilized channel (like mobile).

A 2014 Wish That Even 12-24 Listeners Don't Seem To Want Radio To Grant

Country Aircheck Weekly features some fun and serious wishes from members of our community.

It's worth a read, but I have bad news for Curb Dir./National Promotion Mike Rogers who speaks for many in the music marketing community:  "My wish for radio is that the door will open for more opportunity for female artists. You can see it start turning that way now, we just need that door to open a little wider."

Note that even 12-24 country fans' list of top four favorite artists, as I posted yesterday, contains only one female and four guys.

All of the 12 to 24 year olds' ranker of the favorite four was just the opposite:  three females and one male.

Bad news for Mike, I fear.  Programmers certainly want to access that cume of all younger listeners, but more important to us is to keep the country core among them happy by playing their favorites.

Good news for us:  12-24 tastes among country music radio fans look quite similar in this regard to 25-49.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

She's "Carrie-ing" Our Younger Demos

NBC must have done a bit of research of their own before they gave Carrie Underwood some "Dough Re Me" last year.

An early look at just-fielded research conducted by Edison Research for next month’s Country Radio Seminar indicates that Carrie is the most popular artist with young both people in the 12-24 demo who like country music and is also the most popular country artist among all 12-24s.

“Understanding country radio’s next generation of listeners” finds favorable 12-24 ratings for these artists among the young folks who said they like country music:
  1. Carrie Underwood:  82%
  2. Tim McGraw:  80%
  3. Blake Shelton:  78%
  4. Luke Bryan:  75%
Among all 12-24's:
  1. Carrie Underwood:  48%
  2. Kelly Clarkson:  44%
  3. Taylor Swift:  43%
  4. Tim McGraw:  40%
Edison leaked some advance data to Tom Taylor, noting the study “comes at a time when country radio has received unprecedented listening from younger audiences, with higher-than-ever 18-34 listening and surprising strength among 12-to-17 year olds.  The youngest fans show surprisingly mainstream and diverse tastes.”

Edison’s Larry Rosin and Megan Lazovick, along with Millennials expert Jayne Charneski, will present at CRS in Nashville on February 19. Interested in attending? The $499 “regular rate” ends next Monday, January 13. (click to register)

Monday, January 06, 2014

Milking That "Outdated Research" One More Time

Seldom do I post data that A&O&B clients saw a year ago and get as much response as I have to my previous article.

Folks have called, posted and emailed positing numerous theories as to why country radio's "satisfaction" scores have trended downward for the last two years and "willing to try a new radio station" has trended up (though both remain at levels many other formats would envy!):
  • The music isn't as good as it was two years ago?
  • Too many irritating commercials?
  • Too much repetition?
  • Over-reliance on voice-tracking and not enough 24/7 engagement?
  • Weak digital outreach?
  • Lack of marketing?
Here's my take, for what it's worth.

Of course, all of that are challenges we need to work harder on, but so do all other radio formats too and they are hardly unique to country radio.  I think a large factor is simply generational shift, aging out folks from our target who might have accepted a "we talk/you listen" broadcast approach.

It may be that we're not worse that we were one, two, three years ago.  It's just that today's listener simply demands more from us.

Going back to doing what we did in the past won't solve the problem.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

It's Time For Your Annual Checkup

For the ninth year A&O&B client stations across the USA and Canada will be inviting their listeners to take a test.

When the results of "Roadmap 2014" are available in about a month, it will be the individual radio stations getting their grades by core listeners.

The study goes into the field this week in over 90 markets in the US and Canada and the national trends will be revealed at A&O&B's annual Pre-CRS 2014 client seminar.

Satisfaction levels last year were highest with 35-44's and lowest, though still very good, with 25-34.

Reliance drives behavior.  Measures of listening like loyalty, time spent listening, core vs fringe and tune in occasions are all driven by a feeling of regular daily reliance on a personality or radio station.

Importance, an internal realization a personality or radio station has become valuable to the listener drives perceptions which can drive that behavior. 

These "average" levels in Roadmap seem to have peaked three years ago and appeared to be trending downward for the last two years.  Each individual station performs uniquely of course and knowing if you're better or worse than average is a crucial success factor.
  • How much do listeners rely on your radio station this year?  
  • How important in their lives is it?

Switchability of the average country radio listener seems to have gotten easier and easier little by little over the last five years.

There's only one way to reverse those troublesome trends and that is to know what they are.   A&O&B is committed to measuring them again right now. 

Invite your listeners to be a part of this annual exam.  If you want to learn how, let's talk soon

Your 2014 ratings depend on it.

Friday, January 03, 2014

2014 "Facts Of Life"

Country radio must fight for Gen X's time if we hope to continue to grow at the amazing rate we have done in the last five years in the coming decade.

Generation X
and Millennials are related (parents and their children) but you don't reach them both in the same ways.

The three generational cultures that we serve today are all aging, altering their priorities.

Change is accelerated for 18-34, but 35-44 tastes appear to be more stable as social network trends indicate.

Linking all of 2014 generational cohorts:  "immersive experiences"

Gen X feels more stress.

They worry that their "high hopes/tough relaity" lives won't be as good as their parents.

Many are moving downtown and most country format historical hot zips are in the suburbs.  We have some geo-targeting mining to do.

The Workplace is changing
, requiring fresh at work listening tactics.

They were more materialistic as teens than their children are today.

Listener expectations are not one size fits all.

What are you planning to do in 2014 to hold onto the young females who came our way in the last five years while increasing loyalty with 35-49 men and women as well?

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Hiring An Employer

Jay Trachman had a way with words.  That's why I treasure his memory and try to reprint one of his evergreens at least once a month.  Read and learn:

"How do you know if a station is a good place to work? Especially if it's across the country? There is a station in this market which is notorious for hiring people, then letting them go just short of the time when they'd be able to collect unemployment. How does one go about avoiding traps like that?" 

Almost everybody takes at least one or two jobs which they later regret. Because of our nature as performers, we're inclined to "fall" for anyone who appreciates us. To anyone who picks me out from a crowd, I'm willing to give the benefit of a lot of doubts. That's a plus, but it can mask a lot of minuses. Here are a few guidelines which may help you to minimize the risk.

There is almost no way you can know all you need to about a station without visiting there. As a rule of thumb, beyond entry level, I would not go to work for an outfit more than 200 miles away that was not willing to fly me in for an interview, feed me and put me up at a reasonably nice motel. Far from just ego-massaging, this is your earliest, most powerful indication that this management places importance on talent, and is willing to spend some bucks to get the best. Sign up with a station that pinches pennies on interviews, and you can bet they'll do it on salaries, raises, and everything else.

One thing we often forget to do, unfortunately, is to "interview the interviewers."

In a sense, you are hiring them as your bosses.

A few questions are in order.

"How's your turnover rate here?" If they don't offer contracts, "What is your policy on raises?" "Do you have a promotion budget?" "Do you believe in using the 'red phone' to correct a jock's mistakes during his/her show?" "Does the station pay for DJ materials, such as prep services?" (Another small item, monetarily, but symbolic of that all-important question: how important do they consider their talent?)

I have a tendency to judge people on an intuitive basis, shortly after I meet them. In social situations, it causes me problems.

In an interview, never.

I've found that the subtle signs which tell me, "He is not being completely honest with me," or "I bet in a pinch he could be treacherous," always seem to come true over the long run.

Sure, it's hard, when you're being brought in as the "fair-haired boy" (or girl).

These people have chosen you, and it's not easy to think negatively about them in the face of that. But in my experience, if you don't ask the hard questions -- of them, and of yourself -- you'll live to regret it.

At every opportunity you get, whether falling asleep or waking up in your motel room, or driving with the PD to lunch, listen to the station.

Do the jocks sound like they're enjoying themselves? Or are they mostly on auto-pilot? Do they sound like they're important to the operation, or are they all interchangeable ciphers?

The equipment: is it a "toilet"? Is the studio "held together with Scotch tape? Or are the boards and decks at least modern and in good working order?  State-of-the-art equipment won't make this a good place to work, but an ancient facility in disrepair makes another strong statement about the importance of programming to this company.

Above all, don't make any decisions on the spot.

Remember, the boss is probably a salesman. He's gotten where he is by being good at getting others to make the decisions he wants. You need time for the glow to fade, to sleep on what's just happened to you, and to review it in the cold light of day.  48 hours, minimum.

If offered a contract, don't be pressured into signing it on the spot. "I'd like to have my lawyer take a look at this before we finalize it."

Any honest businessman should respect that; he or she wouldn't do it, either.

Conversely, don't you go home on a "We'll let you know," and start calling the next day. If they want you, they'll call -- believe me!

I keep coming back, in my mind, to the overwhelming knowledge of how difficult it is for me to say "no" to people who like me. Yet I know, inescapably, the importance of rational judgment in this kind of situation.

Don't make the critical decision until the glow has faded. Take your time.  Be careful. And don't be afraid to say "no."

If these people like you, then surely there must be others out there, too.