Written Jan. 24, 2011 in Content + Marketing with 0 Comments
I fly a lot, and have done so for the better part of two decades. I remember the days when the domestic carriers used to provide meals as a standard practice. Today, food on short-haul flights has disappeared completely (I suppose peanuts are "food," technically) and are increasingly only offered as a paid option on longer flights. We have grown to accept this, because the airlines have largely chosen to compete on price, not value. We have a new "floor" for service - and today, when an airline chooses to offer what would have been considered barely adequate 15 years ago, we are pleasantly surprised. We are, however, literally a captive audience. The airlines maintain control over a scarce asset - rapid transit over long distances - and we have little choice but to accept the each new low as a necessary evil; the status quo to which we are resigned.
This is not necessarily what the market desires. It is, however, what the market has become accustomed to. Therein lie the seeds of opportunity. Conventional wisdom dictates that the domestic carriers, as they are currently structured, cannot be competitive if they both meet price expectations AND serve an edible meal on flights. The airlines, saddled with enormous capital overhead, accept this conventional wisdom. The airports, on the other hand, jump the gate, so to speak. Airports all over the U.S. are gradually upgrading their food offerings to include gourmet box lunches, upscale eateries and healthy grab-and-go snacks. These are opportunities lost by the airlines, but gained by airports and other savvy entrepreneurs. Nature abhors a vacuum.
The same is true with the media. This month, broadcast radio giant Clear Channel began quietly laying off local news journalists. I say "quietly" only because the news hasn't made the headlines as much as some of their previous bloodlettings, but it appears to be the first move in yet another round of consolidation, centralization and cost-cutting for America's largest radio company.
It's easy to criticize Clear Channel, as well as a host of other radio, TV and print "institutions" that have been rapidly abandoning local content in favor of centralized content factories. Indeed, when traditional media began to rapidly consolidate in the mid-1990's, the FCC held a series of public hearings for communities to voice their discontent over the failure of local broadcasters to adequately serve their communities of license (and, in case you didn't know this, radio stations don't "own" their frequencies. We do.) If you'd like to make your vocabulary more colorful, you could do worse than study some of the more passionate comments in the transcripts of those hearings.
Today, there is very little local content on radio. Local news coverage (especially in markets out of the Top 20) is nonexistent, and as a percentage of content, the overwhelming majority of what passes for 'local' on these stations are the advertisements and the weather. The FCC never really did finish what they started with the localism initiative, but a good clue can be found in this editorial from last week by FCC Commissioner McDowell, in which he noted:
...all of us should be asking why the [FCC] needs to devote scarce time and resources to reviving any old localism rules at all. Broadcasters today face a level of competition for audiences that was unimaginable 40, 20 or even 10 years ago. They must adapt to meet the needs and desires of their communities if they want to stay alive...The Internet alone makes a mockery of the notion broadcasters have power to act as “gatekeepers” to wield “bottleneck control” over news, information or entertainment programming. That old notion is the premise upon which the original localism rules stood, but a fondness for history is not a good enough reason to steer the FCC’s rules back in time – and in the wrong direction.In other words, don't look for the FCC to 'enforce' localism. Broadcasters will provide it if and only if it makes good business sense. Today, it does not make good business sense. When traditional media companies served as the gatekeepers for local news and information, that information had a certain value driven by scarcity. The Internet has thrown a significant spanner into that works, and the ability to distribute and access this information cheaply has inspired an entire generation of gate-jumpers and obviated the need for printing presses and broadcast towers.
Today, according to Pew, the Internet has jumped Radio and Print as the main source of news for Americans, and TV's #1 position is in jeopardy. Indeed, while TV is number one overall, the Internet is essentially tied with TV amongst college grads, and both cable and broadcast news programming have seen sharp declines.
Because the costs for disseminating information have plummeted, the tower-and-printing-press models for news and information are now operating at a competitive disadvantage. Indeed, when corporate lobbyists for traditional broadcasters go before Congress and argue that they can't remain competitive AND provide a full suite of local news and information services, I believe them. Their towers, and their debt service, hang about their necks like Coleridge's albatross.
So local media has settled to a new bottom. They cannot make money with local content, so we have grown accustomed to non-local content - music, NPR, Rush Limbaugh, whatever. It's the new floor. An empirical view of this would lead you to believe that one cannot make money providing local news and information. I don't believe this. What I do believe is that existing terrestrial broadcasters cannot make money providing local news and information. This is not the same thing as saying that local news and information cannot be monetized. To the contrary, the appetite for local news - in markets from Kaline, Texas to Wichita, Kansas - remains as strong as ever. What is needed, more than ever before, are the gate-jumpers. If you saw the existing market as the potential market for a local news/information media outlet, you would convince yourself that there was no such market - after all, your newspaper is failing, your TV station rebroadcasts Friends, and your radio station is nearly 100% non-local.
What many local broadcasters are today, in fact, are middlemen. Whether they rebroadcast music, Sean Hannity or All Things Considered, the vast majority of radio properties (public and commercial) in this country are in the business of rebroadcasting other people's content. They are, to be blunt, middlemen. The Internet punishes middlemen - ask anyone who worked as a stockbroker or a travel agent in the '90s. There's no future in this.
What this might lead you to believe is that local content is not lucrative. You can't make money staffing a local news service, with reporters and competent editors. You can't make money focusing on local music. You can't make money with content provided from local sources. For traditional media, as long as they constrain their thinking to their presses and towers, this is true. And, since so many of the inputs we have in local markets come from these sources, it's tempting to believe that local programming is a dead end. I don't believe this is true. The fact that your local radio station, with its enormous infrastructure costs, onerous debt service and crippling overhead can't make it work, doesn't mean that you can't make it work (or, frankly, that they couldn't, if they thought more like entrepreneurs and less like broadcasters.)
In short, we've settled for the bottom in local media. We've grown comfortable with the received wisdom that local news and information are not lucrative. After all, we have all of this data that local media sources are failing. What I would suggest, however, is that empirical data is not the whole story. This is what thinking outside of the box really means. Gate-jumpers focus on the problem - the fact that the desire for local content remains strong, even as the providers of that content continue to weaken - and recognize that the diminishing amount of local content is not a result of weak demand, but weak suppliers.
This is what restauranteurs and entrepreneurs recognized in the airline industry - just because the carriers can't make money serving food doesn't mean that people aren't hungry. They jumped the gate. There is still a tremendous demand for mass appeal local content - music, news, information, etc - and I'm not even talking about niche content. As traditional media sources abandon even the lowest common denominator local content, there is a natural tendency to think that it can't be lucrative - otherwise, they'd be doing it, right? But the reasons why they can't do it (physical capital, bad debt, overextension, and unimaginative management) are not good reasons. Now is a wonderful time for new media content creators to fill that gap - again, a gap created by fiscal irresponsibility, not by lack of demand - and create mass appeal content. Empirical evidence would have you settling for niches. Thinking things through, however, might open up other possibilities for gate-jumping that might not have been possible even 5 years ago.
Remember - data isn't evidence until you pass judgement. Prior to that, it's information. If you avoid making assumptions about what empirical data suggests, your mind is open to what it does not suggest. Gate-jumpers look at the constraints of airlines - and media companies - as opportunities. Go and do likewise.
Written Oct. 17, 2010 in Advertising + Internet Radio + Marketing with 0 Comments
Until this week, I'd never gone to a radio station's half-off page.
It wasn't that I hadn't been asked. Half-off couponing is a big part of radio's Website and sales strategies these days, and is getting more on air-time accordingly. Listen to a station's Webstream and if you're lucky enough to hear anything other than hardsell PSAs inserted in the stopsets, it will likely be for the half-off page.
Half-off couponing seemed like a slight vehicle for so many of radio's hopes. But was that only because I had never looked? So I went to the half-off pages on our local stations. The exercise was complicated by the limited number of stations directly targeting Northern New Jersey, several of which (like our non-comm Jazz outlet or Christian AC) don't seem to do couponing at all.
The first station was a local AC outlet. I clicked through to the restaurant deal of the week. It was a new Mexican restaurant one town over from me. We'd actually been looking for a new Mexican restaurant. This one sounded worth trying. I didn't buy the coupon because it was $50 for a $100 certificate - more than we usually spend at a Mexican restaurant (and more than the mostly $25 for $50 deals I saw elsewhere).
An area Rock station's site had a neighborhood Italian restaurant an hour away. It also had a lot of retail that was too far away or not of interest. And for a Rock station, it also had a lot of day spas and nail salons and not many "guy" sponsors - there was one gaming option, however.
Another area AC station: There are a lot of Websites where the deals are probably too prominent, but here the deals require a lot of scrolling down the homepage. The restaurant deal comes from the same provider as the separately owned stations I'd already looked at. Another neighborhood Italian place that was too far out of range.
Finally, another Hot AC from about 45 minutes away: There were a bigger selection of deals here - comparable in variety (if not quite in depth) to a Val-Pak coupon mailer with the same sort of hit-or-miss ratio of things that you might actually use to things that weren't relevant at the moment. There were tubing passes and tuxedo rental. The one I would have used was the two-for-one certificate at a dry cleaner - if it had been in the area.
I also looked at the Websites of my New York P1 and P2 stations. One didn't seem to do couponing. One had a big cluster-wide program, but most of it was local restaurants and retail. There were some unusual offerings here: botox, plastic surgery, tattoos, and $500 worth of rent at a rent-an-office suite for $250. None of the cluster's many national and regional sponsors were represented, making me wonder if stations are only thinking of these deals as a way to sell something to the local retailer who can't afford a traditional campaign, or if larger advertisers have been asked and have no interest.
The good news here is that going through the coupons wasn't quite as overwhelming as, say, paging through an envelope full of Val-Pak where, even if some of the categories are of interest, it's easy to glaze over before you're halfway through. But, so far, the payoff ratio was lower. But I did get a new Mexican restaurant, maybe, out of it. And I will be telling them how I found them.
Written Aug. 19, 2010 in Marketing with 0 Comments
I am a huge believer in email marketing - it works for us, and I know it works for radio. Still, the continuing growth of both social networking and mobile internet access has had an impact on email that radio marketers would do well to study. As we spend more of our online time engaging in social networking activities - and spend more of our Internet time in general on smartphones (not tethered to a desktop), the ways in which we interact with email have changed irrevocably. What this means is that email is no less important (it's critical), but how, when and where people consume email has changed forever - and radio needs to be sure it adapts to those changes.
For a deeper look at what this means to your station and your own email marketing efforts, I invite you to read this post, "Thinking Critically About Email Statistics." I wrote this recently as a guest post on the Blue Sky Factory blog, but it certainly has implications for broadcasters. By the way, if your email marketing efforts aren't meeting your expectations, I highly recommend contacting the folks at Blue Sky Factory - they are leading the way right now in terms of social media integration, deliverability, and best practices for email marketing. We get nothing for saying this, by the way, but if you tell them I sent you I might get a beer out of it :) .
Written Jul. 2, 2010 in Internet Radio + Marketing + Mobile Media with 0 Comments
It's only 2 p.m. on Friday, but it's already been a pretty good holiday weekend in terms of the number of format changes in significant markets: Clear Channel has flipped '90s Alternative WRXS Columbus, Ohio, to '90s-based Gen-X radio and Active KYRK New Orleans to Classic Rock as "The Brew." Univision has installed Latin Urban "La Kalle" at KRGT Las Vegas, in case you were wondering if that format had outlived the regggaeton boom. And Atlantic City gets a dance/rhythmic outlet this evening when WJSE Atlantic City, N.J., drops Alternative to become WWAC (Wild 102.7).
But three of the most publicized format changes of the weekend are not taking place on terrestrial radio. Early this morning, Buckley unveiled a New York-targeted Country stream, WOR Country (The Elephant); their announcement of the pending station prompted the owners of KKGO (Go Country 105) Los Angeles to launch a similar New York-targeted stream, due to arrive tomorrow morning. And Talk host Tom Leykis has launched Indie rocker New Normal Music--promising music from only the last 12 months.
So despite Leykis' protestations on New Normal's Website that his stream shouldn't be compared to anything as mundane as radio, it is interesting to see Webcasters (even those with connections to terrestrial radio) opting to launch on what has traditionally been radio's biggest format change holiday. Then again, part of what made July 4 such a big changeover date was the promotional opportunities it represented. So how long do we have before somebody flies a banner over the beach telling listeners to tune their smartphone to the new pureplay?
Written May. 14, 2010 in Content + Marketing + Research with 0 Comments
I have always been amazed when we'll show data to American commercial radio stations and up on the screen will pop the call letters of the local NPR affiliate and the local manager will say: "Who is that?"
Well, take a look at the graph on NPR's Research Department's blog "Go Figure" here. For the public radio stations that run "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", the trend is endlessly up.
I have commented before how NPR has essentially stolen the college graduates from commercial radio. While commercial radio is doing phony phone calls, these stations are providing literate, informative, and yes - entertaining radio that everyone in commercial radio should be looking at.
At least, we should know their call letters.
Written Apr. 15, 2010 in Advertising + Marketing with 0 Comments
Anybody remember "The Million Dollar Homepage"? It was a neat promotion--a one-off lark that netted its creator a pretty tidy sum. These sorts of things are fun for contests, or a special one-time promotion.
Most of us see the Million Dollar Homepage as carrying the joke to its ultimate, hysterical end. Sadly, many radio sales managers see the Million Dollar Homepage not as terrible warning, but as a pretty good way to make the quarter.
Presented without comment: http://abbrv.me/bEvOqP
Written Feb. 9, 2010 in Marketing with 2 Comments
Most of you have email databases, and you regularly touch those databases with messaging about events, contests and promotions. How do you measure success with those efforts? In the early days of email marketing, we'd look at gross opens, clicks, bounces and unsubscribes. Social media has changed all of that, and as a result email marketing is far from dead-it is actually a potent activator for your own personal networks and the networks of your listeners.
One of the keys, as the smart folks at Blue Sky Factory have learned, is that the throwaway "Forward to a Friend" at the bottom of your email needs a subtle tweak. By changing that to "Share with your Network," and hooking it up with API's to share content from your email across social networks, your email database can suddenly develop exponentially more power. After all, you may forward something to a couple of people, but if you share something with your Facebook friends, or Twitter followers, then you've added a real force multiplier.
So you could potentially reach several times as many potential listeners (or site visitors) by activating your listeners' personal networks and encouraging them to share your content. With great power, however, comes great responsibility. That responsibility is to create shareworthy content, and that content is almost never about you or your station--it's about your listeners.
So what constitutes shareworthy content? Marketing Pilgrim's Andy Beal alerts us to this University of Pennsylvania study on the most-shared content at the New York Times. Turns out it wasn't the funny stuff, the entertainment news, or your Rock 105 Buzz Babe. No, it was content that created awe. The transmission of emotions, feelings that result in palpable changes in how people feel or perceive the universe, was the single most important factor in instigating content sharing.
Pretty tall order. It turns out that the best way to get this sort of content is to create it--and by that I mean literally create those awe-inspiring moments. Leaving deeper footprints. That means using your marketing and promotions budgets to help people, to create lasting change in your communities. Do that, and tell those stories, and your content will transcend your email database.
And you'll do some good in the process.
Written Jan. 20, 2010 in Content + Marketing + Research with 3 Comments
That said, I do think it is telling us a lot about radio brands. We have long seen, even in diary days, that complex branding is challenging. Ask any station that was "Howard Stern all morning, [fill in format name] all day." They could seldom get the second half of the story to attach itself.
One of the real surprises of PPM has been stations with 'no morning show' turning out to be highly competitive in morning drive. What are they doing instead? Basically, what they normally do. Whether it is Soft AC's playing familiar favorites, or all-news-all-the-time stations delivering 'Traffic and Weather Together Every Ten Minutes', stations that stay in format all 24 hours seem to be strengthened by their consistency.
Of course there are morning shows doing remarkably well in PPM. But by the same token a lot of stations that weren't getting much action in mornings with the diaries (especially Soft AC) are doing way better with passive measurement.
Sadly, these findings have put a lot of talented morning performers 'on the beach.'
But isn't this maybe what we are being told: Maybe when you are the Classic Rock station people really want Classic Rock no matter when they tune in. And if you are the Big Morning Show station...maybe you should be the Big Midday Show station and the Big PM Drive Show station too. Maybe the industry should be re-deploying its fired shows into stacks on one station, instead of the history of them being spread around on each, all competing with one another.
If studying radio for 22 years has taught me anything, it is that brands matter. Maybe PPM is telling us this. Whatever that thing you are famous for might be -- maybe you should be "All that, All the time."
Written Jan. 5, 2010 in Content + Marketing + Terrestrial Radio with 3 Comments
When Bob- and Jack-mania took hold five years ago, our friends at Entercom did a version of Adult/Variety Hits that often enforced the "we play everything" mantra more zealously than a lot of their counterparts. Some Adult Hits stations were grounded in the late '70s and '80s with just a little bit of everything else for plausible deniability. Stations like WSMW (98.7 Simon) Greensboro, N.C., and WMKK (93.7 Mike FM) Boston seemed to cover a wider span of years with a deeper center.
Now there's WNTR Indianapolis, formerly the Track, returning to its one time My 107.9 handle, but adding the positioner "We Play Everything You Want" and making more of a virtue than ever out of being aggressively broad. Unlike the format's first-gen stations, there's more of a '90s Rhythmic Pop component here. But there's also more '70s Soft AC than you might hear on comparable stations. It's (Dallas' "Platinum 96.7" + "Movin'") x "Bob-FM." And then some.
And although crosstown WJJK (Jack FM) has long abandoned both the "playing what we want" format and Jack's initial eclecticism for a more mainstream Classic Hits approach, WNTR is heavily emphasizing the listener-driven/request angle with drops like "call now and pick out the next song" or others to the effect of "don't blame us, it was a request." There's also a list of three "core values" on the Website and on the air: "We play the widest variety in Indianapolis"; "We listen to you"; "We play everything you want."
And while wacky attitude drops are part and parcel of this format, the liner about taking off your shoes at airport security and having holes in your socks actually preceded "Double Dutch Bus," which does have a line about having holes in your socks.
Here's the station today, just before 10 a.m. It's actually less provocative than some of the stretches I was hearing a few days ago -- to the extent that you can say that about an hour that includes "Blame It On The Rain" (which did ignite the expected discussion among inhabitants of Edison's third floor), "Mmmbop," and "Double Dutch Bus." But you can tell that this is going to be a personal favorite of a lot of industry people for a while -- particularly those who grew up in the late '80s/early '90s and are waiting to hear their songs again.
If you haven't yet signed up for Sean Ross's "Ross on Radio" from Radio-Info.com, be sure to click here!
Keith Sweat, "I Want Her"
Verve, "Bittersweet Symphony"
Bobby Brown, "Don't Be Cruel"
Police, "Don't Stand So Close To Me"
Cher, "I Found Someone"
Milli Vanilli, "Blame It On The Rain"
Cars, "You Might Think"
Dire Straits, "Sultans of Swing"
Montell Jordan, "This Is How We Do It"
Kenny Loggins, "This Is It"
Earth Wind & Fire & Emotions, "Boogie Wonderland"
Blind Melon, "No Rain"
Frankie Smith, "Double Dutch Bus"
Lisa Stansfield, "All Around The World"
Written Dec. 15, 2009 in Advertising + Marketing + Technology with 2 Comments
eMarketer's Geoff Ramsey posted his Seven Predictions For 2010 yesterday, and while I generally eschew soothsayers (say that five times fast!) these predictions make so much sense, and affect you and your stations so directly, that they are an essential precis for thinking about the next 12 months and beyond.
I won't recapitulate all of his bullet points here, because you should read his article at the source. I will, however, point out that there are two ways to read these predictions if you are a radio pro. One, of course, is pessimistic. Spending on traditional radio is going to continue to erode. It isn't going back to where it was, and it isn't going to go up again--ever. I know there have been some claims from radio executives to the contrary, but I have to side with eMarketer here. The dollars allocated to traditional, terrestrial commercial radio advertising have seen their high-water mark.
Geoff also predicts that the traditional interruption model of advertising is going to erode further, and he's clearly on the mark there. Commercial TV has already reacted to this by adapting their content to Hulu and other online services. The channel is different, the expectations are different and consumers are less and less willing to make the trade-off of attention for "free" programming when the average Internet user now has not only the means but the will to circumvent irrelevant messaging. This means that for radio, as for other mass media channels, selling spots alone is not going to monetize your content sufficiently. Stations that do not adapt to this (the time to take proactive steps is long past) will simply go dark. There is no "rule" that says your market is supposed to support 50 stations, or even 20 terrestrial stations. In the coming few years, these markets are simply going to contract. That's the writing on the wall.
I said there were two ways to read these predictions. The second way--the way I prefer to read them--is optimistic. Geoff notes that while dollars allocated to media ad buys are imploding, content consumption is exploding. This is truly a golden age for content consumers, who now have more ways to filter and aggregate relevant content than ever before. In past years, only those of us on the geeky edge of the stick programmed our own Internet content experiences to seek out relevant content chunks and skip past irrelevant, valueless messaging (like uncontextualized advertising). Today, the tools the average online consumer has access to are doing that filtering for them. This is going to continue to dramatically increase, not decrease, the amount of online content consumed, and also increase consumers' satisfaction with that content. Geoff notes that technology is driving content to become more distributed, personalized, and contextualized. Consumers can no longer be expected to come to the mountain (that's you); they now expect the content to be distributed across multiple channels and sources to come to them. Content producers that create relevant content, tailor it to various interests and preferences, and distribute it in a platform-independent way, will gain the valuable time and attention of consumers, and they in turn will develop deeper and deeper relationships with content producers that can be monetized well beyond a screaming :60.
For the radio industry, those that concentrate on the atomic units of online content and work to make those units targeted, well-distributed, and relevant will claim their share of the ever-increasing spend for online marketing. That, for a radio industry prepared to rethink its core offering, is the optimistic part of Geoff's predictions. Consider this: ten or fifteen years ago, my "network" was NBC--Seinfeld, Fraser, Friends--you remember. Today, my network is my friends--those I've met, and those I follow online--and I trust that network to filter my content for me. That means all the content I receive in a given day has already passed some kind of bar for engagement, trust and relevance. That's table stakes today. Making your content sharable and personalized isn't the future--it's the current cost of doing business.
I think the hardest thing for radio to wrap its head around, however, will be the decreasing importance (though it's silly to say death) of reach. Reach was king when media was inefficient--when the only way we could reach 1,000 was to blast to 100,000. The Internet changed that game irrevocably. Discrete, targeted chunks of relevant platform-independent content now reach 1,000 when 1,000 of the right people filter that content in--and they are much more satisfied with that content, as it becomes less and less cluttered with irrelevancies. For radio, the economics of "wasting" 99,000 impressions with every message are catching up. The Internet punishes waste. Measuring reach is becoming less and less relevant, and (despite media's current infatuation with the term) even engagement's star will wane as it's held to the stronger light of providing tangible value for advertisers.
What is radio's value? Same as it has always been--its ability to put butts in seats, showrooms and restaurants. As the power of the tower fades, Radio's ability to move consumers has never been stronger. You've only got to heed the call.
Written Oct. 20, 2009 in Marketing with 0 Comments
It was one of the great promotions of 2003 -- further proof that Europe and Australia were miles ahead of the States when it came to contesting. In Top 40 Key 103 Manchester, U.K.'s "£20,000 Says It's You," the station read a private investigator's clues to the identity of somebody in the market, and listeners had to figure out if they were the one being talked about.
"£20,000 Says It's You" didn't immediately come to North America. "The Fugitive," another import, got all the publicity. But Canada's Newcap has now done the contest, now known as "Is It Me?" on two stations, Country XL96 Moncton, N.B., and now top 40 CIHT (Hot 89.9) Ottawa. Hot has already had one winner and is now giving clues for the second round, which range from "the subject has a cell phone" and "the subject has short hair" to "the number four is significant for the subject." Contestants have to be the first to call when a new clue is given.
Written Sep. 11, 2009 in HD Radio + Marketing + Music Industry + Technology with 2 Comments
I wrote a few days ago about the new iPod Nano, and the killer combination of FM Radio and video capture that could make the new iPod a vibrant, participatory platform for radio stations to engage younger listeners. Here's another thing to think about. For almost a decade, radio has treated iPods and other MP3 players like the proverbial elephant in the room--all too aware that they had become an integral part of their listeners' lifestyle, but too afraid to acknowledge their use, lest they encourage listeners to migrate further away from radio and towards the retreat of the little white earbuds. But widespread distribution of this Nano (and make no mistake, like past iterations of the Nano, it's going to sell a bajillion units) could possibly have other unintended benefits for the industry as a whole.
Here's one: tagging. Previously relegated to the HD Radio minors, song tagging now gets its shot at the big leagues. Stations that talk about new music, should talk about tagging new music, whether you see a dime of those purchases or not. Can you imagine some scenarios where the kind of clickstream accountability that Google enjoys might be useful to demonstrate for radio? Even more specifically, can you imagine some upcoming licensing battles in which a clear demonstration of radio's power to sell music might be helpful? The Internet may have usurped much of radio's new music discovery position, but new music discovery on the Internet leads merely to music..ahem..."acquisition," while tagging leads to purchasing. The genie may be out of the bottle on torrents, peer-to-peer and other popular means of downloading free music, but if radio has a role in driving legitimate music sales, lets see it once and for all by talking about and encouraging tagging on the air, whenever possible. Let's sell some of these new iPods for Apple (as if they needed help) and let each new device serve as a portable purchase meter (or PPM for short--trademark pending) to demonstrate the power of radio as a new music platform AND a driver for purchasing behavior.
Not only will this help the radio industry prove its point regarding music licensing, it will also serve as an example of the tactical power of radio to drive purchases, period. You might dismiss this, and point out that the majority of listeners won't own one of these iPods, and that the numbers wont be all that attractive. Not at first, no. And maybe not ever. But life rewards action.
Written Sep. 8, 2009 in Internet Radio + Marketing with 0 Comments
Okay, two notes about the apparent legislation, passed a year or so ago, that every radio station homepage must be dominated by five rotating panels, thus ensuring that a station's major promotion may not be evident until the listener has spent at least a minute on the site.
1) If you are going to have five rotating panels, please make sure that you have five rotating panels' worth of stuff worth talking about, unlike the smaller player in a medium-sized market who I encountered this afternoon basically rotating five generic station billboards. Nothing screams "we have nothing going on at our station" like having the panels when you don't need them.
2) The rotating panels now contain most of the station concert announcements. Perhaps that's why when you Google "radio station concert," your top matches include New York's public radio WNYC, Greece's Orange 93.2, an article on the flooded WBCT (B93) Grand Rapids, Mich., concert, Christian KCMS (Spirit 105.3) Seattle, and the long-defunct KZLA Los Angeles.
Written Aug. 26, 2009 in Blogging + Content + Marketing with 0 Comments
For many content-heavy web sites, the home page is not necessarily the main landing page--the page a visitor first sees when they get to your site. As an example, for our web properties our landing pages are more likely to be a page of content from a research study, or a blog post we've written, than our actual "home page." This is because people are vastly more likely to get to our web site by clicking through from a search engine or from a link on someone else's site than they are to get to us by typing edisonresearch.com into their browser. When you reconceive your web site in this fashion--that the home page may not be the first page a visitor comes to--you can open yourself up to loads of possibilities and also free yourself of limiting beliefs regarding what has to be on your home page.
I've spoken before at numerous conferences about flipping the funnel--how a well-constructed radio station web site should have hundreds, if not thousands of pages of content all focused on single content topics, each one serving as a line in the water--more lines, more chances to catch a fish. If you don't think you have the resources to do that, you're right--you can't do it tomorrow. But over time you will get there--our web properties have over 7,000 individual pages of content, and it's not like we have an "Interactive Division!" Having lots of single-topic, content-rich pages helps in two ways. First, it's the key to search engine optimization: Google needs to know what a page is about, and if it seems to be about many things at once, a search engine correctly parses the page as "not very useful" to people searching for a given key word or phrase. Secondly, it helps you--the radio station--know a little bit about the visitor. After all, if a listener comes to your home page, you know nothing about them--and normal web users are unlikely to volunteer much beyond an email (if that) to a radio station. But if a vistor comes to your web site as a result of typing in a specific search query ("great places to see live music in Austin") and they come to a page on your site that is about live music in Austin, you know a fair amount about them--you know they like live music, they are looking to go out, and they either live in or are coming to Austin. This kind of listener/user information is gold, and is the key to really unlocking the value of your web site.
Currently, most radio station web traffic is driven by on-air mentions--"visit our home page and..." But what exactly do you want them to do when they get there? Do you want them to sign up for your VIP club? Click on a promotion? Click on an advertiser's ad? Most the time, the answer is "all of the above," which generally leads to the user not taking any action, and not exploring the site. Because most stations don't know exactly why the visitor has come to their site, most stations try to throw everything at once at the page, hoping something sticks. Hope is not a strategy, however. So many radio station home pages are gunked up with myriad offers, ads and promotions that it's almost like they are trying to "score" on the first date. But online relationships are like offline relationships. You gotta take me out to dinner first!
Better to think of your home page as a welcome page, not as the transactional hub. Actions that you want listeners to take are better off on discrete pages devoted to that specific action. If your home page is relieved of the burden of having to be all things to all people (i.e., a broadcast solution) it is free to be re-imagined and repurposed as an invitation--an entry point to explore further. I generally focus on positive examples, not negative ones, but in this particular instance a comparison is helpful, so I'll leave you with this, a tale of two landing pages.
Page 1 -- What does this page want you to do? When you do it, what does the station know about you?Chances are, you either wanted to listen to the station (easy enough) or explore the artist currently playing (can't miss that!) Either way, you are a click away from getting what you want, and that click tells me a bit more about you.
Page 2 -- What does this page want you to do?
Less clear, and it gets worse as you scroll down (if you ever would).
To my mind, there is only one website in the world that can truly get away with being all things to all people on the home page, and that's my old friend Crazy Arngren (make sure you click the image to bask in its true, epic scope.) Hovercraft, anyone?
Written Aug. 12, 2009 in Internet Radio + Marketing with 4 Comments
UK-based Absolute Radio (who we're proud to work with) is teaming up with 20th Century Fox and Spotify to help promote an upcoming movie using a co-branded microsite where listeners can upload playlists of their favorite romantic (or breakup) songs. This is a win for all involved, and not just because it represents another online revenue success story for a radio client. If you haven't yet heard of Spotify (which has yet to launch in the US,) you soon will--as Jennifer Lane notes, they are well-funded and well-placed to occupy a potentially gigantic spot in the online music space.
Spotify's premise is to provide listeners with on-demand streaming of individual songs and playlists--essentially, to be able to listen to pretty much any song you want, whenever you want it. As broadband becomes essentially the next FM, technology has finally reduced the friction in this space to nil, and Spotify's overall user/listener experience is fantastic. Though you can't yet use Spotify in the States until their licensing is sorted out, where there's a will, there's a way.
Setting aside Fox and ShortList (who are also part of this promotion,) the collaboration between Spotify and Absolute is not only beneficial for both parties, it is a glimpse into how music radio--online and off--can continue to remain relevant in a world where ubiquitous, free music is a commodity. Certainly Spotify gets another promotional crack at a mainstream audience (this is their second big movie sponsorship) as they continue to position themselves abroad as a potentially dominant player in online music. Absolute, on the other hand, benefits from the association with Spotify and exposes their personalities (DJ's Christian O'Connell, Geoff Lloyd and Jo Russell will be involved) to Spotify's user base. The movie itself ('(500) Days Of Summer') is likely to be a big hit as well, which doesn't hurt. But what really excites me about this collaboration is the emphasis on the playlist--sharing, swapping, creating and adding value to user-generated playlists AND radio station-developed content.
We've got nearly 10 years' worth of research (beginning with Edison's groundbreaking Web Content Study from back in 2000) that clearly states what listeners are looking for from a radio station website. The number one answer, then as now: playlists. Listeners want to know the artist and title of not only what just played, but what has been played over the past hour, day or week. The playlist is the real 'content' of a music station--the carefully balanced, crafted and selected sequence of songs designed to fit a mood or fulfill a brand promise. And radio does this sort of thing very well.
Spotify allows listeners to create and share playlists, which puts it in the enviable position of being the next 'mixtape' for a generation of music fans. But Spotify has the same problem so many other online music sites have (which I wrote about elsewhere): when free music online is a ubiquitous commodity, it is essentially valueless on its own. Spotify, like Pandora, Imeem, Last.FM and others, has built a novel way to truck wheat. Unless that commodity is packaged in such a way as to add more than the intrinsic value of a clump of songs (that is to say, zero value) then they will not be able to command the premium advertising and subscription rates they will need to recoup their investment and become a going concern.
The answer is to add value to the playlist and package it in a way that is truly meaningful to a listener. There are two ways to do this--add context, and add curation. The Absolute/Spotify collaboration does both, by allowing listeners to share stories associated with their playlists AND by having the Absolute DJ's submit their own hand-crafted lists of the best relationship songs. One great song after another is simply not enough to stand out as a distinct offering--but having a talented personality like Absolute's Christian O'Connell give you a well-designed playlist, and the meaningful story behind it--well, that's been the stuff of compelling music radio for almost 50 years.
So, on the one hand, Absolute gets to link itself to another rising star in the online space, but on the other, gets the opportunity to demonstrate the real value of its offering, skill and personalities to become a real differentiator for their sponsors, for Spotify, and most importantly themselves.
Written Aug. 10, 2009 in Marketing + Social Networking with 4 Comments
...comes from Country consultant Bob Barnett, who posted this on his Facebook page today:
Why is it that most people's Facebook pages are more interesting and compelling than their station websites? Crazy that folks are creating/developing/sharing better content on social networking than teams of talent can/are at the station level?! This just feels like it's more interactive, informative, entertaining, personalized, AND interesting than virtually ANY radio site I've visited.
Isn't that just the greatest observation? Think about your own interactions with Facebook, and how much you look forward to having new status updates, photos and funny videos shared with you by your friends and connections. The answer to Bob's question is simple in one sense--people connect with people, not with brands (or stations) except in very rare occasions (as Larry has pointed out in the past, I'm also sick of posts that end with "let's all be like Apple!")
Expecting your radio station website to inspire the kind of sharing behavior/content creation that the average Facebook page exhibits is a tall order, unless your people are engaged and connecting with listeners. Relationships start there. Driving traffic to your website, however, does not necessarily have to be the only end game of that relationship. Your real business is to develop those relationships and use them to deliver results for advertisers. If your morning crew spends a lot of time building connections on Facebook and then uses that social clout merely to drive people to your homepage, you'd better have a pretty great homepage if that transaction is going to mean anything. Otherwise, that constant barrage of promotional messages and station 'announcements' is going to get pretty tedious, pretty fast. If, however, your morning crew is using their powers of social persuasion to fill up your local auto dealer's showroom, or your local club's Ladies' Night, then it's pretty easy to justify all that time spent on Facebook.
So I'm going to 'see' Bob's great question and raise it with one of my own: how can your programming, promotions and on-air talent use the power of social networking not just for self-promotion (and by self, I mean that to include the station) but also to serve as a bridge--a connector between consumer and advertiser--and let the quality of our relationships with listeners become the fulcrum for genuine competitive advantage, both for your station and its sponsors? Love to hear some of your ideas here in the comments. And for more this topic, I hope you'll also attend my session at the NAB Radio Show in Philly this year on putting the power of Facebook and Twitter to work for your station. Hope to see you there!
Written Aug. 4, 2009 in Marketing with 1 Comment
Today's big news in the radio world is that Radio Shack will be 'rebranding' (although apparently not officially changing its name) as "The Shack." Already the blog posts are flying about how this is another sign of radio's dinosaur status. And while the negative publicity is the last thing radio might need, isn't this just an acknowledgement of two truths: Radios have been nothing more than a tiny part of what these stores sell for decades, and Radio Shack is in desperate need of an image update having nothing to do with 'Radios'.
Several similar re-brand attempts come to mind. Pizza Hut just a few weeks ago announced that they will be referring to themselves as "The Hut." (Do they work with the same agency as Radio Shack? And for what it's worth the Pizza Hut decision led Conan O'Brien to comment that Long John Silver's is now going to call itself "The John".) I also recently read an article about the successful rebrand of "Trenton State College" to "The College of New Jersey." About twelve years ago their research determined that the name was holding applications and the school's reputation back -- Trenton State didn't connote the leafy, suburban environment it has (sad to say), so they dropped the "Trenton" bit and became "The College Of New Jersey." The article portrayed the rebranding as 'phenomenally successful'. Applications and the school's academic reputation are up significantly since the re-brand -- but, of course, it is otherwise the same school.
Similarly, the Trenton Times newspaper long ago became "The Times (of Central New Jersey)" and the Newark Star Ledger long ago dropped Newark from its name in an attempt to be branded to all of the New York suburbs and ditch the negative images they perceived to be associated with Newark.
Of course, the counter-example to all this is the continuing success of the Carphone Warehouse in the UK. A full 15 years after the "Car Phone" became functionally extinct, this remains the 'mobile phone superstore' that "The Shack" is now hoping to become.
And, because I'm a cockeyed optimist, perhaps Radio can take a bow with these name changes. Where did those who recommended "The Shack" and "The Hut" doubtlessly find their inspiration? Perhaps from radio stations called things like "The Mix" and "The Peak" and "The Mountain" and "The Band" and .....
Written Aug. 4, 2009 in Content + Marketing with 1 Comment
Nik Goodman tips us to a wildly creative use for your signal: mosquito repellent! Nik's Austrian client (and our client as well!) Kronehit recently embedded an inaudible tone at 14,850 hertz in their signal, which is meant to replicate the frequency of a buzzing female mosquito. Theoretically, this repels other female mosquitos, and they won't come near the sound. Now, I'm no entomologist, and who knows if this actually works or not, but there is no better way to be the station heard at outdoor festivals and other public venues than to bill yourself as the station that keeps you from getting bit! PPM markets especially should take note--this is a far more creative idea than less talk, more music.
Congrats to our friends at Kronehit for finding a novel way to create (or, in this case, deter) a real buzz.
Written Jul. 24, 2009 in Internet Radio + Marketing with 0 Comments
I was on the Website for an Active Rock station in a small midwest market this morning. Suddenly, the banner ad changed and there was an ad for a Latin music concert. At first I thought it was a local show in that market --which has a considerable Hispanic population, and where there used to be a Latin station in this same cluster. Then I realized it was for a New York area show, co-sponsored by Univision's WQBU and WADO.
Individually targeted ads are a fact of life on the Web, of course. Sometimes they can get a little creepy (e.g., sending a condolence note on Gmail and having an ad for a florist materialize). But even if you're used to customized ads, seeing a New York-targeted ad on a station site 2,000 miles away is still a violation of expectations. (If I wanted a New York experience, I would have gone to a local station, right?) And, like the florist ad, it's a more overt reminder that you are being directly targeted.
Written Jul. 21, 2009 in Content + Marketing + Social Networking with 0 Comments
Clive Dickens tipped me to a report today that the creators of 'Rock Band' will let rockers upload their own tracks. This is a trippy idea, and one that adds a refreshing burst of creativity to a genre that has already surpassed fighting games and first person shooters in popularity amongst teens. The ability to upload and sell user-submitted creations for the Rock Band system will no doubt engage teens, tweens and pretty much anyone that can play an instrument.
Of course, actual real-live bands are pretty good candidates to submit their tunes to Rock Band, and chances are your local market has its fair share. Which brings me to my $100 idea of the week: creating a social network that makes sense for your station. With at least one widget provider reporting that sharing on Facebook is more popular than sharing by email, the importance of becoming involved with the social web should be obvious for radio stations--sharing begets discovery begets trial. Radio, however, can't replicate Facebook; it shouldn't even try. There are social networking plays that do make sense for radio, however, and tapping into local passion for local music is surely one of them. Creating a web property that allows fans and bands alike to share tracks, playlists and gig reports seems like a natural move for a station looking to bolster local engagement, music credibility and also produce a hub site that is a natural for focused, niche advertising of clubs, restaurants and music merchandise. Engaging the bands themselves will naturally raise the visibility and credibility of the site for fans of local music, so any station interested in the concept would do well to court the local music scene by finding a way to contribute and add value.
Which leads me back to Rock Band Creator. I was intrigued by the idea of uploading user-generated tracks to Rock Band, so I naturally looked up exactly how it is done. Turns out, it isn't easy--check out the instructions! At a minimum, it requires proficiency with multi-track mixing and editing with a digital audio workstation. Guess who has that--your production team! It would be trivial to build a social component to a local music website that allows listeners to vote on bands and tracks, with winners getting their track prepared and uploaded to Rock Band for them by your station. Since the tracks will be available and promoted for sale on XBOX Live, part of the deal could be a mention for your station or site in the track notes for the song, and you'd certainly want to plug the local market/origin of the band there as well. Actually getting a local track accepted to XBOX Live that your station helped to prepare and promote gives you something wonderful to talk about on the air, by email and online, and over time could enable you to create a credible, authoritative destination site for local music--without having to play it on the air (though, would it kill you?)
So, there you go--not fully baked, but what do you expect for Free? Good luck!
Written Jul. 17, 2009 in Content + Marketing + Research with 7 Comments
I have made this point for years, and no one ever has taken it seriously. Now, with radio struggling, and the record industry struggling just the same, I'm going to try it again.
If we want to help music radio -- stations should shorten the songs. If we want to help the music industry -- music companies will help radio stations by sending them shorter versions of songs.
I'm sure many reading this are saying "Huh"? And I know of course that this alone can't solve all our problems. But think about it.
Over the last forty years, the average length of pop songs (or country songs, or most rock songs etc.) has grown from a tight two minutes to an ungainly four. This has effectively cut in half the number of songs played per hour. Actually, it's worse than that of course, because spot loads have grown over the years too.
So what is the net effect? Vastly fewer songs are played. Radio stations get killed for not having enough variety. Music companies can successfully promote fewer songs, and the pool of what can become a hit is shallower. Way fewer novelty songs are played, because there is simply no room for them, thus radio is less fun.
Four minute songs have created a vicious cycle where fewer, safer songs are played more and more because they are the only ones that can rise to the top. Having risen, they just keep playing as recurrents and gold.
Music companies should think of what they send radio stations as 'trailers' for the full song that appears on CDs or as downloads. "Want to hear the whole, long version? Go to..." Radio stations should be thrilled. Shorter songs means they can play more songs, have more variety, please everyone. Stations should cut their older songs down in length at the same time.
I am aware that there was some kind of effort to market a Top 40 with shorter songs last year -- I'm honestly unaware of what happened with that. But regardless...we need this to happen. And frankly, how many times do we need to hear John Meyer sing "Say What You Need To Say" in one song? The version played by radio has this lyric FORTY times. Could we live with twenty?
So Radio and Record industries...what do you think? Anyone with me for this radical approach?
Written Jul. 8, 2009 in Marketing + Social Networking with 1 Comment
Several years ago, I attended a talk by Zephyr Teachout, who directed Howard Dean’s Internet operations during his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination. By now, most of us are familiar with Dean’s success at turning an Internet-based, grassroots organization into a formidable database of over a half million online supporters. What was most surprising to me about this session was Teachout’s revelation that she was essentially a Luddite when she joined the campaign. The Internet was viewed as a means of “opening up the problem” (her words) of mobilizing Dean’s supporters to the supporters themselves. Rather than attempt to control the online community they had built, Teachout and the rest of Dean’s Internet staff allowed it to grow in an entirely organic (and chaotic) fashion. In doing so, they were able to create an incredibly rich community that continues to thrive long after the official “campaign” has ended.
The real secret to their success lay in identifying the true evangelists within their ranks, and empowering them to organize their own communities and campaign efforts without interference. The campaign’s blog and online tools became an infrastructure designed merely to enable connectivity, and not to “broadcast” messages from authorized campaign representatives. By fostering a genuine interest in allowing people to connect (rather than be marketed to), the Dean campaign was able to build tremendous trust and credibility with their wired supporters. Of course, there is a certain risk of letting the inmates run the asylum here (and there were some frightening, off-topic excursions on the campaign’s official blog), but the campaign trusted their most ardent supporters to be supportive—and they responded with passion, creativity and vigor.
Building an online database like this is an enviable achievement—and a daunting task. The Dean database was powerful precisely because its members were given power; however, there is more to it than that. They were also passionate about the cause—a central touchstone around which the community could rally. If your radio station is generating that kind of passion, you can stop reading right here. Otherwise, you face two challenges—who to motivate, and how to motivate them.
In Jon Berry and Ed Keller’s book, The Influentials, the authors argue that one in ten Americans are opinion leaders, subtly and overtly guiding the discourse and choices of the other 90%. They advocate courting these “influentials” and also tracking their changing wants and needs for future marketing campaigns and new product introductions. Now, if you have ever done focus groups for your radio station, you have seen at least one manifestation of the ‘influentials”—often, they are the people who attempt (either consciously or unconsciously) to “hijack” your groups by strongly asserting their opinions and monopolizing the conversations. A skilled moderator will, of course, regain control of such a session, ensuring that all viewpoints are heard and weighted equally. There is a danger in being too even-handed about this, however. Often, in our zeal to capture the opinions of the “silent majority,” we tend to give less credence to the opinions of these peer group dominators. Since it is tempting to view them as “poisoning” the focus group, we sometimes discount their opinions as “not representative” of the mainstream.
There is a tacit assumption here that the opinions of the peer group dominator alter or suppress the “majority” opinions of the less vocal participants. But what if the latter group doesn’t actually have strong opinions one way or the other about your station? What if their opinions are not being suppressed, but actually informed by the behavior of the one-in-ten who take a strong position? I once worked with a program director in a large market who insisted that the people who hijack your focus groups should be allowed to do so—after all, if they are willing to put it all out on the line in front of a group of strangers, they will certainly not hesitate to express their opinion about your station in their workplace, before co-workers who simply don’t feel as strongly. If one motivated person in an office feels strongly that “Sunny 104.5” is the best station to listen to at work, then maybe, for all intents and purposes, it is. If you can win the hearts and minds of the one-in-ten who care about what is on the radio, maybe you win the war.
So, who are these people, and how do we reach them? These are the people who light up your phones and send in faxes—often, however, to complain. They complain that you play too much Michael Bolton, or not enough Metallica. They complain that you took “Carlos and the Chicken” off the morning, or that you don’t play enough local artists. In short, there is often no unifying theme to these calls other than to express dissatisfaction. Clearly, a database of malcontents with no shared positive direction is not the Eightfold Path to direct marketing nirvana.
You might naturally wonder if a community could be built around the artists on the station. If a rock station, for example, could build an online community enabling fans of Nickelback to chat, share stories and swap files, surely listeners would sign up and agree to be put on the station’s mailing list. After all, Napster was little more than infrastructure to enable connectivity (like the Dean blog) and it managed to attract 25 million registered members. There are two problems with this approach, however. The first is that it is unlikely that there is any one artist on your station that would generate the kind of unified, positive energy that the Dean campaign tapped into. What happens to that database when Nickelback disappears from your playlist?
The second, and more insurmountable problem is your station’s lack of credibility or traction as an online resource for information about artists. That train left the station some time ago—I already gave you the link for Nickelback. There just simply isn’t room on your listeners’ mental shelves for another Britney Spears online community, when they are already posting at www.britneyspears.com, www.britney.com. www.britney-spears.com or www.britney.org.
If artists are not an effective way to build an online community, how else might a station tap into its “influentials” in a positive and empowering way? Certainly there is the talent angle— a Facebook page for your morning show, or reaching out on Twitter, etc.. Not every station has this option, of course. There is, however, another solid core of individuals who call your station frequently, send you emails, and almost never complain. Yet this group is demonized almost as much as the focus group bullies previously discussed. In fact, some programmers have a special name for these people—yes, I am talking about the “contest pig.”
You already have a database of these people—they are not necessarily P1’s of your music, but they enter every contest, listen at 9:00, 2:00 and 5:00, and are in the habit of writing down song titles of the last 10 songs played. I have been involved in several projects that utilized station databases for research purposes, and in most cases there was an effort to “clean” the database of “CP’s” before handing it over to the recruiters. I am certainly not suggesting that you allow “CP’s” to drive your station research—no minority group should ever be overrepresented in a valid sample. But there is no reason not to make use of these names in other, new and exciting ways. Instead of seeing the “CP” as swine, we should view them as pearls—the “one-in-ten” influential who is motivated by a positive (love of contesting and station promotions) and not a negative.
Many radio stations demonize the contest-lover (I hereby retire “CP” for all time) because they are in the database for the “wrong” reasons. They may not love the music on the station, and they certainly should not be overrepresented in things like callout or music testing. But is there really a “wrong” reason to love your station? Because if you really do own the contesting position in your market, make no mistake—these people do love your station. I have seen it in countless focus groups—respondents may love or hate certain artists or jocks, but when someone says “I love it when they give away a trip a day!” does anyone usually counter that? The only things people might complain about in relation to contesting are clutter issues—and those are execution problems, not a manifestation of anti-contesting fervor.
So, let’s return to the idea of an online community. Your station may not be able to build a credible and vibrant community based around 50 Cent, but not only could you “own” online contesting in your market, you could also build a genuine, valuable service for your listeners—especially the “one-in-ten” who are likely to spread the good word. See, there are active online communities for contest and sweepstakes players, but they aren’t especially compelling. Google a few and see what I mean. Nothing against these sites or the folks who run them, but since they derive their revenue from online advertising, often the entire site looks like one gigantic, annoying pop-up ad. Contest lovers must—and do—fight through a lot of barriers to content in order to sign up and benefit from these sites. But since your goal is (or should be) to cultivate an active, passionate online community (and not sell pop-ups for Spyware removers) you can and should do better.
What if your station built an online portal for your contest-loving listeners—one that not only informed them (and automatically entered them) into your own promotions, but also contests and promotions for other businesses in your market? Or even nationwide? Or (he swallows hard) rival stations? What if you used SMS to send registered community members text messages telling them that their name was just called on the air, and they had 96 minutes to call in and win? If your station built a compelling, content-rich portal for listeners to become aware of, enter, and even track their entries to various contests and promotions, I guarantee that these influentials would feel a genuine passion for your station. What’s more, they might tell a friend. Not only do you get an active and passionate online database, you also get the ultimate expression of brand loyalty—they will spread the word.
Again, let me be clear about one thing—programming your station to please the contest lover is just as dangerous as filling your music test with only P2’s—you run a tremendous risk of losing the plot, as my friends in the UK would say. But let’s stop demonizing the contest…enthusiast, and find ways to tap into this tremendous reservoir of passion and goodwill. Remember, successful online communities are true exchanges of value. Very few listeners actually win anything from your station. But if your station’s web site alerted me to another contest that I knew nothing about, and provided me with the tools to enter and even track my entries, I would derive value from that exchange whether I won the thing or not. And I might even tell a friend. From such small steps, revolutions are born, even if they end with a blood-curdling scream in Iowa.
Written Jun. 29, 2009 in Marketing with 5 Comments
I love how all the blogs about radio add to the vitality of discussion of our industry. I love how this blog allows we researchers at Edison Research to add to the conversation. But it's time to stop, or attempt to stop, one of the most useless assertions that are endlessly made on these blogs: "We should be more like Apple."
Now don't get me wrong. No one has more admiration for the genius of Apple and Steve Jobs than I. The innovation, insights, and design advancements they have brought to the world will be rightfully discussed and noted for centuries. And everyone should be inspired by what they have done.
However, it's just too easy, and essentially useless, to point to their latest advancement and say: "See Radio? This is what YOU should be doing."
First of all, Apple is a hardware company. The blog posters are scolding the 'software' providers -- radio programming companies. And while radio is more consolidated than it once was, it still can't provide the same solution, (like an iPod or iPhone) in every market and throughout the world.
And another thing. In America radio is being listened to by more than 90% of all people -- Apple with all their distribution and all their power is 'owned' by maybe 30% of the public (adding together their computers, iPods, phones and anything else). Apple can make billions serving its fraction of the public. Radio can't.
So yes, Radio, admire Apple. Be inspired by them. But no, it's not going to be easy for us to "be like Apple."
Nor can we 'Be like Google,' 'Be like Amazon,' or 'Be like Sun Tzu' or 'Be like the US Military' or 'Be Like Starbucks' or 'Be Like WalMart' or 'Be like Any Other Company Or Entity That is Succeeding Right Now.'
And frankly, attempting to model our solutions on other businesses and other industries doesn't have the best track record for radio. Using McDonalds and IBM as models led both to consolidation (which doesn't seem to have saved the industry) and to some of the other ways radio has struggled.
So, while I know we don't have all the solutions here either, we promise not to just point to successful entities and say: "Be like them."
Except Barack Obama. That's who radio should be like. We should "Be Like Barack Obama!"
Written Jun. 18, 2009 in Content + Marketing + Research with 1 Comment
I was discussing the merits and demerits of Nielsen's entry to the American radio ratings market the other day, and I mentioned that one obvious negative is the once-per-year ratings plan for the 51 smaller markets that Nielsen is launching.
And while the "if I get a bad book I have to wait a year for a new one" is clearly a negative, it got me to thinking about the 'old days' of shorter ratings 'sweeps' months.
Back in the days before continuous measurement was launched in America's bigger markets, radio stations went, well, crazy during the rated periods. Big contests, big guests, the morning and other shows were of course never on vacation. Tons of television advertising attempted to hype that month or quarter, along with billboards, direct mail, telemarketing....the works.
Now, with no individual month or quarter being the 'crucial' period, it allows radio operators to treat each month the same. And in this case, it allows for a sort of 'mutual non-proliferation pact' among the stations these days...no one advertises because no one else does.
I confidently predict that in those 51 Nielsen markets, stations will go back to doing SOMETHING during the one, annual, short ratings sweep. And, at least THAT will be good.
Written May. 28, 2009 in Content + Marketing + Terrestrial Radio with 3 Comments
Tom Taylor had a great piece in his daily Radio-Info newsletter lamenting the fact that guys like Richie Balsbaugh are disappearing from radio. I couldn't agree more. Richie--and the whole Pyramid team--believed in talent, in spending money to make money, and in continuous listener feedback. I didn't come from a radio background, so when I started doing research for Pyramid back in 1994 I just assumed that's how radio was done. You cannot cut your way to growth, and Pyramid made meaningful, strategic investments in big events (like the KISS Concert), big talent, and significant amounts of research. Most of all, however, what owners like Richie knew was that his stations were not in the 'content' business. Anyone who puts pen to blog is in the content business. Pyramid's stations were in show business. That distinction, above all others, made those stations larger than life and important to their local communities. Tom writes today that "you can't help thinking [Balsbaugh] might've found a way to keep from cutting the talent and marketing budgets at WNUA." I firmly believe that. I'm still too young to get all cranky about the 'good ole' days,' but I can tell you that, one cut at a time, we have come very, very far from 1994. Death by a thousand paper cuts generally comes one cut at a time, and you never notice how much blood you've lost until it's too late.
Written May. 21, 2009 in Content + Marketing with 1 Comment
WMFS-FM in Memphis flipped today from Alternative to ESPN Radio. It points out the increasing "AM-itization" of the FM dial, and leads to the confident prediction that ESPN Radio will find a home on FM in every market of America before long.
So, if you are a locally produced AM sports talk station, you need to ask yourself how competitive you can remain when someone flips to ESPN Radio on the FM. Yes, you are likely talking a lot more about the home team -- but they are in the mall with all the foot traffic.
And if you are a struggling FM music station...do you want to grab this opportunity before anyone else does?
Interesting times we live in, indeed.
Written Mar. 12, 2009 in Content + Marketing with 0 Comments
One of the sobering things we learned from our recently completed Edison / CRB National Country Research Survey was this statistic: one in five respondents had someone in their household lose their job in the last six months. As many in the radio industry have also lost their jobs (and many more afraid of losing them in the future), the industry should have little trouble empathizing with the plight of our listeners. This year, we see ample evidence--not just in this survey--that people are concerned, and even scared, about what the coming months hold for the economy, their jobs, and their families.
We also learned in this study that Country is widely viewed as an important part of American life (84% agreed with this statement), and that Country was widely viewed as a "family-friendly" format. Facts like these point out the credibility Country has with listeners and the importance that the format really has with its most passionate fans. We also noted that these Country fans were going to spend less--a LOT less--on music, travel & leisure, and other discretionary expenditures. You don't have to be the Amazing Kreskin to predict that in the markets we surveyed and all across the US, people are going to be 'cocooning' close to home this summer. Yes, the "staycation" is likely back with us, and families will be scouring the papers--or your website--for things do around town and close to their communities.
Put all of this together, and it becomes clear that this year, Country has more than an opportunity; it has an imperative to leave deeper footprints in cities and towns all across America. Now is the time for Country programmers and marketers to put everything they do through one additional filter: does it help people? It is not enough this year for promotions to grow cume, or increase awareness. Sure, giving people a laugh in the morning or free Taylor Swift tickets are all part of this, and integral to your brands. But promotions have to genuinely help people this year, and if local stations run everything they do through that additional lens, the right choices this year will be refreshingly clear. Country has the credibility and image to really plant a flag in local communities as a steady companion, a reliable friend and as a touchstone for friends, families and neighbors.
For more, download the 2009 Edison / CRB National Country Research Survey.
Written Feb. 28, 2009 in Marketing with 0 Comments
"Click to continue." Those three words led to an 8.5% increase in click-throughs in email marketing campaigns, according to a MarketingSherpa in-house test. I love little optimizations like this that can move the needle, a few percentage points at a time. Their biggest take-away was to think outside the box in terms of what needs to be tested--but your take-away should be to *test*! Your databases are incredible assets--it is well worth sending a hundred emails here, a hundred there, to see what triggers and influences conversion with your audience.
Written Feb. 6, 2009 in Marketing + Terrestrial Radio with 4 Comments
With the Neilsen/Cumulus Sticker Diary soon to make its debut stateside, it may be of interest to American radio broadcasters to learn of a recent related issuefrom the UK.
While Neilsen does not do the radio ratings in the UK -- the entity that does (RAJAR) also uses an aided-recall sticker diary system.
As many people know, in the late summer of last year, well-known national Rock station Virgin Radio was bought and as part of the deal the name had to be changed. It became "Absolute Radio."
When the Rajar report for the fall came out a few days ago, Absolute had numbers well off from those of Virgin. Did people turn away because they were loyal to Richard Branson's famous brand name? Well, perhaps, but far more likely is that the aided-recall sticker system could not handle such a change.
The method there is to have respondents flick through 62 (!) index cards and find the names of the stations they listen to (and then the stickers are placed into the diary). Absolute was saddled with a card that said "Absolute Radio (formerly Virgin Radio)".
Now imagine flicking through so many cards. Do you think your eye would travel over to the "formerly" part? Or would you just flick past the unfamiliar "Absolute" before you would even get there?
Well, it turns out we can prove the situation -- the ratings period started two weeks before the name change! And, guess what, the numbers dove dramatically while the station was still called Virgin. The problem lied not with themselves but with the cards.
All other data produced for Absolute implies they have at least as many listeners, or more likely MORE listeners than before the change. They are serving more streams, their database has grown, other research shows increases; the ONLY downer is from Rajar. And while aided recall might sound like a boon to a station's chances, in this case with unaided recall, responents would likely have said "Virgin" and Absolute could have gotten their credit.
So our two lessons: 1) Don't believe any reports that Absolute's listening is down, only that Rajar's measurement shows less listening; 2) If you're in a Cumulus/Neilsen sticker diary market, be certain to finish off any name changes/format changes WAY before your once-a-year diary drop.
Written Dec. 8, 2008 in Content + Marketing + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
We've previously noted that much of mainstream music radio failed to capitalize on (or even just reflect the interest level of their listeners in) the 2008 Presidential Election. By stark contrast, there's Inner City's heritage Urban AC WBLS New York which has ran promos in the days after the election saluting the President-Elect and identifying the station as "Where Barack Loves Soul." WBLS has also added a front-page-of-its-Website link to transition team news. And it has dubbed its upcoming station show, "The Yes We Can Holiday Jam."
Written Nov. 2, 2008 in Marketing with 0 Comments
Whatever the outcome of Tuesday's election, NBC political director Chuck Todd gave every General Sales Manager in radio something nice for the sales kit on Friday when he suggested on MSNBC's First Read that Obama's momentum in "states with heavy driving populations (like Florida and Montana, for instance)" is a function of that campaign's heavier radio spending. Todd adds, "It's taken Democrats years to realize that radio is not a wasted media effort. Bush dominated Kerry on radio in '04 and, well..."
Written Jul. 28, 2008 in Content + Marketing with 0 Comments
There are probably some Top 40 program directors who would have liked some advance notice that Chris Brown's "Forever," their No. 3 song at this writing, was always intended as a jingle for Wrigley's Doublemint Gum -- the exhortation to "double your pleasure, double your fun" turning out to be more than just another random R&B/Hip-Hop allusion plucked from 40 years of pop culture ("I like the Whopper/[bleep] the Big Mac"). Broadcasters might have given some thought to whether they wanted to provide Wrigleys with free spots.
But probably not. Radio has never complained before about the various product placements in songs before, even after the suggestion a few years ago at one industry panel that artists start charging for shout-outs only momentarily raised eyebrows. Nobody in radio worries about playing the iTunes jingle when they play Coldplay's "Viva La Vida"; indeed, being part of an ad campaign has been one of the label promotion person talking points for new songs for the several years now.
As labels look for more revenue sources, the success of "Forever" is likely to spawn more placements. Will listeners mind? They've been indifferent for several years to the proliferation of product plugs in movies and TV although various public interest groups and the consumer press have been working harder to make a public issue of it this summer. The irony is that radio itself is still struggling with the sponsorship-instead-of-spots model, although many in the industry expect to see it take hold eventually.
One does wonder here what would have happened if the music industry had somehow been successful in pushing through a performance royalty for broadcast radio. Would the confectioner or label exempt radio from paying for the privilege of airing their commercial? Does it plan to do the same for the Internet and satellite broadcasters who do currently pay performance royalties?
And no matter how succesful the campaign may be, "Forever" will never be the best product placement for a Wrigley's product. That would still be "Juicy Fruit," the 1983 R&B classic, minor pop hit, and eventual Notorious B.I.G. sample from Mtume, in which the chewing gum (along with Good 'N' Plenty) got a shout-out for free (as far as we know). In that different time, the Wrigley's folks might not even have appreciated the song's PG-13-rated double entendre, although it probably would cause little corporate consternation now.
Written Jul. 8, 2008 in Content + Marketing with 0 Comments
Interesting on-line ad on one of the industry sites for Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" this week that tells an interesting tale about how songs break these days. Instead of call letters or most added, these are the stories cited on the song's behalf:
* No. 1 selling album (and over 1 million scanned);
* No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 single;
* No. 1 Clear Channel on Demand;
* No. 1 Sneak Peak of all time for Clear Channel online;
* No. 1 largest AT&T Blueroom response ever at CBS Radio;
* No. 1 biggest iTunes campaign in history;
* No. 1 largest audience audience in the history of the Today Show's concert series.
And yet, there wouldn't be an ad on AllAccess.com if the intent weren't to keep the song going at radio (it's 28 - 26 today at Mainstream Top 40, but up nicely in spins in a clogged part of the chart). More proof that even when a record creates a story outside radio that radio is the ultimate goal.
Written Jul. 3, 2008 in Advertising + Content + Marketing with 0 Comments
It's hard to believe, but it has been two years since I wrote a response to Chris Anderson's "The Long Tail : Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More", and particularly to respond to Anderson's assertion that the the "hit" was dead in the era of long-tail economics. Back then, I maintained that the hit was far from dead--it was just different. Surely in the past two years we have seen not only the Indiana Jones's of the world continue to be hits, but the Halos and the Guitar Heroes become new ones as well.
Now, two years later, we are beginning to see some challenges to Anderson's model. The Washington Post featured an article yesterday entitled "Study Refutes Niche Theory Spawned by Web," which details a Harvard Business School professor's attempt to verify or refute the impact of the "long tail." Professor Anita Elberse discovered that not only are the hits still the hits, but her research suggests that the Internet actually makes them bigger.
To his credit, Anderson praises Elberse's work, and I think the real answer is not that one or the other is right, but that surely the game has changed. The hit is far from dead--but I think the smartest thing we can say is that we have entered the "Post-Hit" era (and not the Anti-Hit era).
The real story of the Long Tail, to steal from Fareed Zakaria's excellent new book, The Post-American World, is not the "fall of the west," but the "rise of the rest." It's not that the hit is dead--far from it. But the non-hit, the long tail propositions, have as much claim to page one of your Google Search results as anything else. The hits now have some increased competition from aggregations of niches and customized, on-demand entertainment like podcasts, but what doesn't kill the hit will only make it stronger. In a post-hit world, would-be blockbusters cannot assume that a mass-media ad blitz will carry the day. As social media tools proliferate, word-of-mouth becomes more important than ever.
All of this means that if you create media that is truly worthy of being a hit, you have more ways than ever to get the word out. But increasingly in the "Post-Hit" world, a Super Bowl ad won't save a piece of crap. As the Internet provides long-tail players the ability to market and distribute content on a wider stage, the "hit" has to work just a little bit harder, and be a little bit better. In a content meritocracy, the consumer wins.
Written Apr. 21, 2008 in Marketing with 0 Comments
Much has been made about the new "retro look" of the Radio Heard Here campaign. The kerfuffle over the logo reminded me of this video we saw about John McCain's age:
Check out the first thing they list: John McCain is older than FM Radio!
Written Mar. 26, 2008 in Marketing with 0 Comments
Like a lot of people, I hated those aggressive Mitsubishi radio spots with the sardonic gadfly spokesperson. Then, like the GEICO ads, I started to come around on them. And when I began hearing them a few weeks ago, for what seemed like the first time in a few years, I actually briefly found them refreshing again.
The operative word here is "briefly." After a few days, I became weary of the campaign again, to the point where I'm now willing to dismiss having enjoyed it as Stockholm Syndrome. And now comes word from Ad Age that Mitsubishi is breaking with its present ad agency.
Written Feb. 8, 2008 in Marketing with 0 Comments
Do read the rest, especially his thoughts on what can't be copied. Those are the things that everyone reading (and writing!) this blog have to think about, each and every day.
Written Feb. 4, 2008 in Internet Radio + Marketing with 1 Comment
If that Star Registry thing isn't going over as well on Valentine's Day anymore for you, Triple-A WMVY Cape Cod, Mass., is offering the chance to give a personalized music channel. "Music fans design the playlist from our special love songs collection, we customize the player with their names, give it its own URL, show them how to access the player on blogs, sites or e-mail, and make it available to the world for a month," writes the station's Gary Guthrie. The player is available for a minimum donation of $50 to the station's Friends of MVY organization.
Written Jan. 21, 2008 in Content + Marketing with 1 Comment
I was listening to Public Radio the other day and there was an interview with one of the many engineers in this country who is trying to build a car that doesn't run on gasoline.
The questioner said: "Do you think Americans are ready to give up their gasoline-run cars?" His answer: "I've never heard anyone say that they are loyal to gasoline. People love their cars, and they love the freedom and mobility and experience they provide. No one loves gasoline." He said the last word with something of a snort.
And while I suppose people at Exxon or Shell might disagree, of course he is right.
Which made me consider: "Are people loyal to radio?" Well, not really. I would guess that very, very few people are loyal to the actual piece of hardware in their dashboard or on their nightstand. Similarly, no one is loyal to the frequencies. You won't hear anyone say: "No matter where I am and no matter what I do, I'm a 102.7FM guy through and through."
In many cases, radio is simply a channel through which a different loyalty is expressed...we certainly know the intense loyalty that many people feel towards individual musical artists. There's a reason we so often put the artists on the billboards or in the television commercials -- THEY are the true source of the loyalty.
Of course many people are loyal to specific morning shows, talk hosts, or myriad other elements of radio programming. But of course that is the point. It is the content, the programming that is the car. How you consume that programming, the device, the frequency -- they are simply gasoline.
Written Nov. 26, 2007 in Marketing with 0 Comments
Courtesy of Techcrunch comes this video produced by the Singapore Media Development Authority to bring attention to their tech and media industries. It features top executives pulling a Karl Rove and doing some rapping to prove their hotness:
OK, it was too long by about 3 minutes, but after I had a good laugh or two it struck me that these middle-aged executives were actually passionate about their jobs--you couldn't not be and do this video. And passion is a remarkable thing--it's usually contagious. Even if all you do is communicate that passion to potential listeners, buyers and advertisers, you've done your job with a viral piece like this. Laugh at the bad lyrics--you are supposed to--but admire that passion.
So, get creative, y'all--can do, rock on and you don't stop.
Written Nov. 7, 2007 in Marketing with 1 Comment
I was listening to some Seattle radio recently and came across two of my long-time favorite promotions, both of them dating back to when I was still in college and following the business through the trades and airchecking.
The first was "Thanksgiving On The Mayflower," which I first encountered on WBZZ (B94) Pittsburgh in the early '80s, and which became a staple attention-getter for many years. In its original incarnation, it usually consisted of giving a local family a Thanksgiving diner on a Mayflower moving van. The new one on KBKS (Kiss 106.1) has morphed into a variant on "Stuff a Bus," with members of the morning team camping out until listeners fill up the moving van with food donations. WOLX Madison, Wis., and the Cumulus/Montgomery, Ala., stations are also doing similar versions of the promotion, with no apparent catering involved.
The other old favorite was hearing KCMS (Spirit 105.3) Seattle's "Family Name Game," which has made its way through a number of Christian ACs lately. I first encountered it as "Family Fortune" on Mike Joseph's Hot Hits WCAU-FM Philadelphia around the time of their sign-on in fall '81. The WCAU version was to give the surname that was going to get a cash call later in the hour. The KCMS version is a call-in and uses first names--announced in advance on the Website. Listeners are eligible if anybody in their family has that first name. (KCMS, by the way, sounded great, and it was clear why they had become a major ratings success story for Christian AC.)
I'm always happy to see promotions directors and program directors come up with great new promotions, of course, but it was good to hear these two again. "Name Game," which was sort of a forerunner to the monstrously effective "Birthday Game," has always been a favorite and I'm surprised it's not used more.
Written Nov. 1, 2007 in Marketing with 0 Comments
The short answer--nothing. In fact, I am pleased to see that radio is beginning to embrace qualitative research again, a trend that I hope continues. Still, I come across many GMs, consultants and PDs that are hesitant--even dismissive--of focus group research. Some of this, I believe, is confusion with the generally DIY Listener Panels that have become popular post-consolidation, which can be a useful marketing tool, but are not so great for insight. And it is insight that is needed in the radio industry. A strategic survey can tell you the "what," but only good qualitative can tell you the "why.'
I wrote about this issue a couple of years ago (before we started The Infinite Dial), and upon re-reading it today thought it deserved dusting off. I hope you find it valuable:
At the NAB in San Diego this year, I had the opportunity to attend a panel entitled: “Research – Luxury or Necessity.” I went for a variety of reasons, but mostly to get a sense of the kinds of questions programmers had about research and its uses. That, and the title of the panel itself—I doubt that Procter and Gamble’s $150 million dollar consumer research budget is viewed as a “luxury item.”
One thing I noted was a continuing lack of regard for that most humble of research tools, the focus group. In the early 90’s, I spent almost half of my time as a researcher conducting focus groups, interviews, and other strictly qualitative research projects. Many of the old Pyramid Broadcasting stations, for example, not only conducted regular, scheduled focus groups, but also budgeted for 2-3 days of individual interviews each year that added an additional layer of insight to our understanding of each station’s brand and resonance. In the previous decade, I probably moderated 500 focus groups and interviews. This decade—not so much. There has been a marked shift in our industry away from professionally moderated focus groups (and qualitative research in general) and towards adding qualitative questions into quantitative projects such as strategic studies (and, to a lesser extent, music tests). This may save a little money (and in the grand scheme of things, let me emphasize a little) but is wholly inappropriate for identifying the kinds of issues that focus groups excel at unearthing.
There are many in the industry who claim that focus groups are misleading, not actionable or flat out unreliable. It is true that focus groups are completely useless to answer questions like “what,” “when” or “how many.” Only a statistically reliable quantitative survey can provide that kind of decision support. Yet strategic studies are categorically incapable by themselves of answering the most crucial question—why. Now wait a minute, you might argue, of course a strategic can answer why—all I have to do is ask a “why” question, provide a number of multiple choice answers, and the “winner” is the right answer. But where did you come up with the choices? Most of the potential responses in such questions are provided by “brainstorming” sessions with programmers, consultants and yes, researchers. Rarely does the voice of the customer drive this process. Without the insight that only a qualitative project can provide, it is entirely possible that your team might identify an issue, devise a possible explanation, and confirm this explanation in a perceptual study—and be wrong.
Let me give you an example from the consumer products industry—which, by the way, spends 70% of its research budget on qualitative research. There is an apocryphal tale still told in the hallways of Betty Crocker (well, now General Mills) about the launch of their one-step cake mix in the 1950’s. The mix was launched with great fanfare…and promptly flopped. How might they (and you!) have discovered the reason why? One way might be to brainstorm with your staff, consultants and others to come up with a list of potential reasons. I came up with these four:
2.Didn’t turn out right when I baked it
4.Not Interested in Package Mix/Only bake from scratch
You might come up with others. If you were to then field a survey and ask homemakers of the 50’s why they didn’t repurchase the cake mix after an initial trial, you would probably see a lot of answers 1, 2 and 4. Answer 3 might, in fact, be correct, but that would be exactly the sort of thing that only additional qualitative research could really determine. Answer 4 might be a popular choice—though considering the fact that our sample had already bought the product once, it might be a trifle dishonest and more aspirational/idealistic than real. These 1950’s housewives with their new Cuisinarts and Prefab homes were interested in timesaving convenience products; after all, this was the decade that gave birth to fast food. That leaves 1 and 2 as easy alternatives—if you can’t really be specific about what troubled you with this cake mix, it is all too easy to reply “it tasted wrong”, or “it didn’t taste as good as my homemade cake,” etc. If you were the marketing executive or consultant who suspected that the cake didn’t taste “homemade” enough, and you saw this hypothesis confirmed in a quantitative survey, you would assume that you had a handle on the problem and go back to the drawing board with different recipes, more expensive ingredients or different flavors.
Luckily for Betty Crocker, they did not follow this course. Instead, they conducted a series of focus groups (some of which involved observing women as they baked the cakes) before they did any quantitative research, just to make sure that the consideration set for the “why” questions were customer-driven, and not internally generated. What they learned was fascinating: women felt that the mix was too easy—by simply combining the mix with water and throwing the lot in the oven, consumers took no pride in the results—and even felt a twinge of guilt when they presented the cakes to their doting families. Betty Crocker tested this hypothesis in subsequent research, of course, but they wouldn’t have known the right questions to ask without the focus groups. It is important to reiterate here that focus groups do not produce answers—at least, not the quantitatively definitive kind that programmers need. They do, however, ensure that we ask the right questions, and provide critical insight into quantifiable results. Based upon this crucial psychological insight into their customers’ attitudes and behaviors, Betty Crocker altered the cake mix by removing the dried egg product and “requiring” the cook to crack an egg and beat it into the mix. This subtle change increased the “workload” of the cake mix, but made it feel more like baking.
Focus groups, when done correctly, absolutely work as advertised. They are also extremely cost-effective. So why have they fallen into disfavor in the radio industry? I can assure you that the consumer products industry still conducts thousands of group interview projects every year. Even companies that have decreased their budgets for traditional focus groups (P&G and General Electric, for example) have done so only to transfer that budget to online qualitative studies; in other words, they are still doing plenty of “groups,” they are simply doing them on the Internet instead of in shopping malls and office parks. Radio stations, however, are doing fewer groups than ever—which is ironic, because the focus group was originally developed by Robert Merton in 1941 at Columbia University’s Office of Radio Research—to test radio programming.
What has changed? For one thing, I think a misunderstanding of qualitative research has gradually led to unrealistic expectations. For instance, on more than one occasion, I have heard GM’s and PD’s comment after a particularly lively group that the results contradict what they have seen in their perceptual studies or in the questions they tack onto their weekly callout. This is hardly a valid indictment of the methodology. As I mentioned earlier, focus groups are for “why,” while perceptual studies are best for the other “w’s”. The same questions should rarely be asked in both; rather, the insights of one should shape the questions of the other. Also, the reason we do focus groups is because most consumer perceptions are far more complex than we can possibly capture with a necessarily reductive quantitative survey. In 1994, Daniel Wight, a Senior Researcher at the University of Glasgow, studied the opinions of adolescent boys as they relate to the opposite sex. In individual interviews, the boys expressed sensitive, sympathetic portraits of their opinions on girls, while in subsequent focus groups their opinions exhibited considerably more “machismo.” In contrast, a second group began with focus groups first, again expressing fairly chauvinistic views, and ended with individual interviews, in which they maintained the macho views expressed in the focus groups. In a purely quantitative world, both cannot be right: if one study says adolescent boys are sensitive to women while another says they are not, one study must be wrong. There is, however, a bit of a Heisenberg principle at work with this data. Wight’s study went on to show that both conclusions were right—the issues being grappled with were far too dynamic and complex to be reduced in this fashion.
Now, you might read the study quoted above and conclude that we should simply be doing more individual interviews, not focus groups—again, however, the observations of both methodologies are valid in this context, and understanding one without the other can lead to tragic results. I have also heard some in this industry (and even, more specifically, in the research industry) express a preference for individual interviews. The differences between the two are not inconsequential—and neither is superior to the other. Individual interviews are best when the goal of the research is to understand the particular individual in question—for instance, in Frederick Taylor’s early studies in the (then) nascent field of management science, it was crucial for him to thoroughly understand each individual worker involved with the manufacturing process, so that he could establish relevant benchmarks and optimize workflow.
Interviews, however, have a few drawbacks (as well as significant strengths). I have heard others tell me that “you get more” out of individual interviews. It may be true that you hear more data from each individual respondent, but “quantity” in this case may not produce as much relevant data as a focus group—particularly with “low involvement” products. I am sure that Johnson & Johnson once tried to conduct individual interviews about hand soap, but there is only so much any one person can say about hand soap. By the third repeated probe of “other reasons why you bought Dial” I can guarantee you that the respondent is just making things up in the hopes of pleasing the interviewer (call it a research version of the Stockholm Syndrome.) Interviews are also dramatically more dependent upon the guidance of the interviewer—opportunities to directly or indirectly bias the results are rife—while focus groups are best when the moderator asserts himself or herself as little as possible into what should be an organic discovery process. It is this process that generates 90 minutes of discussion on hand soap—or your afternoon drive jock.
Focus groups have weaknesses, like all forms of research, but as a tool to generate qualitative content on a specified topic of interest, they are without question a sound means of exploring complicated issues of consumer behavior. It is this latter point that I would like to end on. The issues raised in focus groups are complex. Sure, the points of view expressed about your station may be simple—even monosyllabic—but any focus group worth its salt can quickly move beyond the surface and get to the reason behind the reason. Too many groups stop at the first road sign—“variety,” for instance—without continuing to put the pieces together to get at the basic human need that drives the particular attitude or belief that your listeners have constructed about your station. I can assure you that the housewives in those 1950’s Betty Crocker focus groups didn’t tell the moderator that their self-esteem was damaged by serving those cakes to their families—but that is exactly what a skilled team of researchers was correctly able to conclude by mapping the linguistic and paralinguistic cues discerned from the focus groups with subsequent quantitative studies.
Radio focus groups vary wildly in quality, with many running the gamut from merely unhelpful to dangerously misleading. There is a certain “DIY” quality to focus groups (“I moderated the last one, why don’t you do this one?”) that springs from confusion with what I consider to be an entirely separate tool, the “listener panel.” (I think the latter are a great way for station personnel—particularly those who do not touch the product every day, or rarely interface with the listeners—to truly capture the zeitgeist of the “product” that we as broadcasters sell everyday. Listener panels, however, should be conducted in addition to, not in lieu of, rigorously sampled, methodologically sound focus groups.) Now, moderating a focus group is certainly not brain surgery, but I will tell you as a former (and current) student of consumer behavior that there is an extensive toolkit of techniques (e.g. experiential analysis, metaphorical analysis, laddering and even hypnosis—) that a trained and experienced moderator can choose from, depending on the specifics of the job at hand. Putting the respondents at ease so that they find themselves in a comfortable situation to express themselves is only the beginning—often, the “no bad answers” atmosphere can lower respondents’ common sense barriers, compelling them to agree with opinions they do not actually share, in the hopes that others in the group will extend them the same courtesy. The trained professional is able to recognize this phenomenon—and naturally orient the group to produce more genuine responses.
In short, a proper focus group has as many—if not more—moving parts than does a strategic study. For your next focus group, you should insist that your moderator do more than simply provide a “list of topics,” or discussion guide—you should really grill him or her on how they plan to crack the complicated nut that is the radio listener. I am certainly happy to speak with anyone about how you can get the most out of your focus groups. If you have had poor experiences with focus groups in the past, I hope you will reconsider before you reject the methodology outright. Radio can expect many challenges in the months and years ahead. Ignoring the voice of the customer is no way to meet them.
Written Oct. 23, 2007 in Content + Marketing with 7 Comments
A few days ago we commented on this site about the first Jack-FM in the UK, and how its stream comes up immediately when one launches the site. [Alas, the Jack stream won't work for Americans -- the stream is blocked from American IP addresses].
This has led to a lively discussion among many of our radio friends -- why do we support this practice?
First -- let me discuss the most common reasons I hear about why it should NOT be done:
1) People tell us they get annoyed when unasked-for audio pops up on a web site:
This may be true in certain situations. When you go to the site of a hotel and a string quartet starts playing to show you how elegant the place is, that is annoying. But our research has shown that by far the biggest reason people go to a radio station is to listen to your station. Why are we making that act any more difficult on the Internet than it is on a radio? It seems hard to believe that many people who venture to your site would be surprised or angered by hearing audio. They are going to the site of an "audio entertainment" company!
2) It is expensive:
Fair enough. You have to pay to serve each of those streams. But otherwise you are sacrificing potential listenership? Which is more "expensive" in the long run?
3) Your stream should not be served unless people sign up for your "frequent listener club":
We've dealt with this earlier, here. The stream should be one thing, the benefits of joining a "VIP Club" another. I should not have to give you my social security number or have to submit other information for the privelege of listening to the stream. The stream should be perceived as no different from the over-the-air signal. Isn't the goal of radio to get people to listen to it?
Finally -- as electronic measurement proliferates, we will want to get every last instance of listening recorded. Why take a chance on someone coming to your site and failing to listen to your station?
Written Oct. 17, 2007 in Marketing with 3 Comments
Seth Godin notes an interesting exchange between a college student and his professor on the supposed existence of Viral Marketing, and notes that (despite the professor's position) that Viral Marketing is NOT the same thing as Word of Mouth. I certainly agree with that, but I am not sure that I am willing to settle for Godin's distinction that Viral Marketing is a compounding function, and word of mouth a decaying function. I think it really depends on what your position is on the function of "Marketing" in the firm. It is true that an ideavirus, as Godin puts it, spreads through a population logarithmically, not linearly, and does so with little post-launch effort on the part of the marketer. I also agree 100% that "constant harassment of the population" does not make something 'viral;' you cannot will an ideavirus into propagating.
Where I disagree with Godin is in his implication that Word of Mouth is ephemeral (he notes that it "amplifies the marketing action then fades, usually quickly") or somehow inferior to unleashing a true ideavirus (which he equates to "Winning the Lottery.") If your vision of the Marketing Function is to increase awareness, then perhaps I could get behind these characterizations. But if your definition of Marketing is the ongoing process of moving people closer to a "sale," then I am not so sure.
Missing from Godin's equation is the means of transmission. With viral marketing, it's easy come, easy go. Someone passes a meme, link or funny video to me, and I pass it along to my distribution list. Maybe I have been moved to action, maybe not--but I have transmitted the message. The message is meant to be independent of the messenger, and is propagated on its own merits.
Word of Mouth, on the other hand, relies much more on the ethos of the messenger. If a friend tells me to try a certain restaurant or product, I probably will. But I can be a complete teetotaler and spread a funny video from Budweiser. In the first case, though my friend may have only influenced a handful of people, those people may be closer to the sale, which is the point of marketing in the first place. The Internets are loaded with 'ideaviruses' that became the hot pass-around links of the summer--but can anyone remember the products or services they were marketing, or more importantly, did anyone buy them?
This is not to suggest that Viral Marketing is somehow inferior to Word of Mouth marketing--merely that they address the consumer at different points along the customers' decision-making continuum. And in that, I agree with Godin--they are different.
Written Oct. 3, 2007 in Content + Marketing with 0 Comments
A tip of the cyber hat to Nik Goodman, for his post on naming morning shows to give them an identity before they even open the mic. His client, Radio 100FM in Denmark, just launched a new morning show called Farvel seng – jeg elsker dig!, or "Goodbye Bed - I Love You!" Nik has a few other good examples in today's post on the topic. With shows and programs becoming increasingly more important to staying relevant and powerful on the Infinite Dial, giving shows a brand personality that doesn't sound like "Billy and Beanbag" or "Carlos and the Chicken" seems like a pretty good idea to me.
There is, however, a strict moratorium on The Breakfast Club.
Written Oct. 1, 2007 in Marketing + Social Networking with 2 Comments
Radiohead's new album comes out next week, and it won't be in stores. It might be on radio, but it needn't be, really. They are giving the whole thing away as 'donationware' on their web site--pay whatever you think its worth. If you want it for free--done.
The best band in the world just hit three birds with one stone:
* I don't need to go into detail on what this means to the labels.
* It challenges iTunes and their monolithic pricing model, which the labels have long railed against to little effect. This move, combined with the NBC situation, may provide enough disruption to allow other software vendors with more flexible pricing models to cut into iTunes.
* It also affects the radio business. We have already seen in at least one recent study that radio now finishes second to the Internet as the place to discover new music (and in the recent studies where this is not the case with the total, it is for persons under 30.) With no 'scarcity' in the Radiohead model, there will be no need to go to radio to hear it first--or hear it at all.
Most significantly, on Oct 10th, I have no doubt that Radiohead's web site will be the most visited music site on earth. You can't fight Radiohead (or the Master Chief). The process of music discovery is now a social mechanism--where the solitary listener used to rely on radio's "tastemakers," they now rely on like-minded individuals (either known or unknown), with these interactions facilitated by the Internet. The "Event" is also more important: just as Prince's recent giveaway of his CD in London spurred a series of sold-out concert dates (where the purple one presumably made back the money from his "loss leader") so too will the upcoming Radiohead tour be one of the biggest "events" of the coming year. Music is discovered and now increasingly transacted at 'events,' whether they are online or out-of-home or both. When I am at a party being "curated" by a DJ, and can get the song he just played beamed to my MP3 player or phone, that is the new model of music discovery.
While Apple will be damaged by this disruption to the iTunes Music Store model, they also know the importance of the "social", as evidenced by their deal with the biggest music retailer on earth, Starbucks. The new wifi functionality of the iPhone and Touch iPod will make Starbucks the curator and transactional facilitator of new music (whether it really is 'new' or just 'new to you.') and Apple will continue to get a piece of that.
And what does all of this mean to you? Here are three things you can do today:
* Build social networking into your web properties--but social networking that makes sense, not just a replica of Facebook. Social Networking around music already lives elsewhere for 12-24, but in formats like Country and Smooth Jazz, where new music is incredibly important for older adults, opportunities abound. Even in formats like Classic Rock, there are loads of opportunities to socialize around the best opening riffs, or the 10 All-Time Worst Song Lyrics.
* Find the arbiters of music taste online--and hire them. Let them talk a little, even. Let them ADD VALUE to your product.
* Become the podcast home for local, unsigned bands. Give them studio space and production facilities and send their fans to you to download podcasts of their shows, demos and singles.
Radio at the local level has little room in its budget to drive wholesale change until the group heads drastically change the model from the top down. But there is no need to wait when all of the things I just listed can be done for practically nothing today. You may not have the money to bring your website completely to 2007 standards today, but wikis are free and half-built by your listeners anyway, so why not build one this week? Or call our friends at Libsyn and start getting your podcasts online today, like WMMR's Preston and Steve have been doing for ages.
No matter what is happening to your budgets, remember that the tools to compete are all out there, and are generally either free or pretty darn close. I'm happy to pitch in, or use your own web staff. In either case, there is no need to wait, and no time like today.
Written Sep. 24, 2007 in Marketing + Technology with 0 Comments
Tomorrow is one of the most widely anticipated days in the lives of many a
12-35 12+ boy. Halo 3 hits the shelves, for those with enough foresight to pre-order it, anyway. Active rockers, Classic Rockers, Young Country even--this one is too big not to talk about. In PPM markets, you'll see the carnage firsthand when you get the weeklies. Since huge chunks of your male (and possibly female) audience are going to be camped in front of the tube for the foreseeable future, you may as well work with the Master Chief instead of against him. There's still plenty of time to put together a commercial-free Halo listening party to be the soundtrack to the destruction of the Covenant--or maybe the Top 20 ass-kicking songs of all time with live Halo 3 party drops. Don't underestimate this one, folks--this is as big a 'hit' as the ole' Long Tail is likely to see in some time.
Oh, and Larry--I am not feeling very well. I think I will be out sick tomorrow.
Written Sep. 21, 2007 in Internet Radio + Marketing with 2 Comments
I clicked on "listen live" and was startled to see that in order to listen to KGSR one must join its frequent listener club, and give them ALL of the following information: First Name, Last Name, Email Address, Phone Number ( ! ), Street Address, City, State, Zipcode, Date of Birth, and Gender! Yes, in order to listen one MUST give 10 pieces of personal information -- and wince through the possibility of getting phone calls at home etc.
I suppose one could lie about all these things, but at minimum you have to put in your correct email address, because in order to listen one must THEN wait to get a confirming email with a password, and then go BACK to KGSR's site, enter that information, and then FINALLY have your opportunity to listen.
Now KGSR is a truly great radio station. But who is going to give them so much information for the privelege? It is as if they are trying to inhibit listening. And perhaps that is indeed the goal.
By comparison, one can go to Kurt Hanson's Accuradio, click on your station of choice and immediately listen. Go to Pandora, type in the name of your favorite artist, and you immediately hear a song by that artist.
If 'terrestrial' radio hopes to have any chance at all to compete on the Internet, doesn't it have to be immediately available? You turn on a regular radio and hear a station INSTANTANEOUSLY. I'd love to see the stats on how many people click on "Listen Live" on the KGSR site, get asked for all that info, and then click away.
Radio -- take your stations out behind the bars of building "frequent listener clubs." Instead, let me listen to your station and then compel me to join the club through offers and benefits that can't be resisted.
Written Sep. 17, 2007 in Marketing with 0 Comments
"Click to continue." Those three words led to an 8.5% increase in click-throughs in email marketing campaigns, according to a MarketingSherpa in-house test. I love little optimizations like this that can move the needle, a few percentage points at a time. Their biggest take-away was to think outside the box in terms of what needs to be tested--but your take-away should be to *test*! Your databases are incredible assets--it is well worth sending a hundred emails here, a hundred there, to see what triggers and influences conversion with your audience.
Written Sep. 14, 2007 in Marketing with 0 Comments
Some years ago I was doing focus groups in Chicago for a radio station and discovered that we were sharing the facility that night with the marketing team for a major adult beverage company. It turns out that they were testing a new alcoholic beverage (professional courtesy prevents me from revealing more) and were gauging reactions to the taste, packaging and messaging. What impressed me at the time was the fact that they were bringing in what was, by all appearances, a completely finished product--the bottle design was fully realized, the beverage was brewed and ice cold, and the ads all printed--yet the 'product' didn't even exist outside the walls of their company or that focus group. You never would have known it, however, by looking at the bottle. They had put time and effort into a fully-realized prototype, because you can't be sure about a product by hearing a description of how it tastes--you have to taste it, see it, smell it and feel it to really know for sure.
That was ten years ago. Since then, I have done hundreds of radio station focus groups. Almost all of them have been to take the temperature of an existing product, and very few have been to explore a potentially new, untried format. For those that explored the latter, not one of them provided the potential audience with the same kind of fully-realized prototype that those beverage marketers came up with for their focus groups. Instead, we resort to 'descriptors,' 5-song montages and vague concepts. Of course, anything we bring into a focus group is, by definition, an inadequate proxy for what a consumer might encounter in situ in the real world. But I'd love to see this kind of prototyping done more often in radio, and I will continue to push for it more and more with my clients. You have loads of creative folks in your production departments--why not let them strut their stuff for research purposes?
And the beverage? It was a mixture of ginger ale, vodka and pure evil. It never made it to market--and that, no doubt, saved them a fortune.
Written Sep. 10, 2007 in Content + Marketing + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
It's one of the year's most interesting press releases. This morning, Vallie-Richards-Donovan consultant Greg Dunkin announced that heritage AC WBEB (B101) Philadelphia would "incorporate" the Fresh FM brand, which would now be "incorporated into the [station's] programming and marketing." In doing so, the heritage AC powerhouse becomes the second "official" user of the name, following WWFS (Fresh 102.7) New York's successful January debut.
That announcement, of course, set off buzz around the industry that B101 had "gone Fresh." As of today, anyway, B101 is still called B101 and very much sounds like B101--there are still at least two '70s titles an hour (and sometimes more) on the station, which still goes as far back as 1967's "Brown-Eyed Girl." The "fresh" word appears several places on the Website. On-air, Edison's Larry Rosin reports hearing it several times in one break. But I tuned in a few minutes later and went for a half-hour without hearing it. "Most music" and "soft rock" still remain the dominant images on the station with a mix of other images also present ("five in a row," "great songs to sing along to,").
We'll revisit B101 in a future blog post. But here's B101 from 2:50-3:25 p.m. this afternoon:
Billy Joel, "She's Got A Way"
Gloria Gaynor, "I Will Survive"
Cyndi Lauper, "Girls Just Want To Have Fun"
Del Amitri, "Roll To Me"
Kelly Clarkson, "Behind These Hazel Eyes"
U2, "With Or Without You"
Mariah Carey, "Hero"
America, "Sister Golden Hair"
Elton John, "Your Song"
Written Sep. 10, 2007 in Marketing with 0 Comments
I'm not usually so big on simply linking to articles found on the web, but I did find this interview with Chief Marketing Officer-types from HubMagazine.com quite fascinating. I especially find useful the comments by the Hotel guy on why he likes radio promotions because they are measurable. But the biggest reason I think I reacted to it is how it shows the perspective of this kind of 'radio customer'. They don't care about media, they care about what sells their product. And they aren't 'out to screw us' as I so often hear, they just want to be able to measure the results of their expenditures. Find the PDF of the article here.
Written Aug. 14, 2007 in Marketing with 0 Comments
Valleywag reports today that NBC is finally admitting they made a mistake purchasing iVillage, noting in particular this important little nugget from NBC's Beth Comstock:
"You assume in the beginning that a mention on the 'Today' show will drive tremendous traffic, but it's not that easy"
In other words, it isn't enough to just mention your radio station's website over and over on the air--it's gotta be its own dog. There will soon come a day when you are committing as many resources to your website as you are your on air signal. So, you know that money you've been putting aside for a rainy day...?
Written Jul. 30, 2007 in Content + Marketing + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
We suggested a few months ago that WCRR (Country 107.3) Rochester, N.Y.--the commercial-free market rimshotter that Clear Channel recently launched to flank format leader WBEE--would probably end up doing some sort of sponsorship deal along the lines of sister KZPS (Lone Star 92.5) Dallas.
Last week, that idea came to fruition as the station rebranded itself as Labatt Blue Country 107.3. Seems like you could have a lot of fun with that idea, but so far the Labatt mentions are minimal, both on the station's Website and on-the-air. As heard Friday and today, Labatt is getting a mention in roughly every other produced drop on the station (and in keeping with the formatics heard on many Clear Channel stations) that works out to roughly every fourth song. In most cases, the mentions are as simple as "Labatt Blue Country 107.3."
Also interesting to note that the station--at least as heard on line this morning--is not commercial free anymore. At 12:26, a spot for a local lawyer's office was heard.
It's early days, so far. But the station recalls the early days of the now-defunct WWZZ (Z104) Washington, D.C.'s McDonald's Morning Show, another concept that was never taken quite as far as it could have been--perhaps because of the negative publicity that accompanied it in the industry. One wouldn't want every station to be an advertorial, but this one is a natural--so why not do more with it?
Written Jul. 23, 2007 in Marketing with 0 Comments
I am pleased to see the radio industry starting to take a bit more interest in qualitative research, a subject I am particularly passionate about. That's why I am pleased that Arbitron has funded The Bedroom Project, an honest-to-gosh piece of ethnographic research from our friends at Jacobs Media. Fred wrote about it today, and I am normally not a 'rip-and-read' kind of blogger, but anytime I see radio delving into qualitative research to gain insight, I have to give some props.
Ethnographic research is nothing new--in fact, this sort of in situ consumer observation has long been de rigueur in the consumer products industry. I went to a Marketing Research Association conference a couple of years back that spotlighted some of the ethnographic work done by Tide and other household brands designed to see how people use the product, not just hear them describe it, and the amount of insight they gained into things like no-drip bottles was astounding. I love conducting focus groups (I've done 13 in the past 3 weeks alone!) but ethnographic research is a perfect tool to gain insight into products or services that people tend to take for granted, or use as a utility--products like toilet paper, detergent and--for many--radio. By observing interactions with the product we place less stress on the respondent to articulate product distinctions and to essentially do our work for us by attempting to be specific about behaviors and attitudes ofwhich they may only be partially aware. There is, of course, always a kind of Heisenberg Principle at work in ethnography, but you really can't shake that in any kind of research.
I'd love to see radio do more of this kind of work--especially now with the advent of PPM and the importance of radio in public spaces. Observing a garage, or an office, for instance, would tell us more about how and why radio gets selected and consumed in the workplace than a hundred strategic studies. Edison keeps up on the state of the art for ethnography and other qualitative techniques through our membership and participation in the Advertising Research Foundation. If you are interested in learning more about current theory and past practices of this technique, their Journal for Advertising Research is a great place to start.
Written May. 16, 2007 in Internet Radio + Marketing with 0 Comments
Lance Venta posted a comment to my earlier post on Radio 104.5 that bears a quick revisit. He is right, of course, that viewed through the lens of PPM in Philadelphia, Radio 104.5 might not need a top-of-mind brand to be a cume magnet--by playing "one great song after another" and remaining jockless it might slip under the radar and "stealth" its way to a respectable share. Still, my points about its Internet brand are still valid.
The more sinister issue is this: if we react to passive measurement with passive branding, will we be adding further fuel to radio's relentless retreat from the passionate edges of the bell curve (as further explicated by Fred Jacobs, Mark Ramsey and other folks who care about the future of the medium) and concomitant 'ascent' to that curve's mediocre middle?
Written May. 16, 2007 in Content + Internet Radio + Marketing with 45 Comments
Clear Channel blew up Philadelphia's 'Rumba 104.5' today in favor of Adult Alternative outlet "Radio 104.5." I won't comment here on the product, which I will leave to my programming bretheren, but in an era where co-opetition with Internet properties is demanded, this brand is distinctly success-proof on the web. There are three reasons why this brand was just not fully baked to compete on the Infinite Dial:
- The brand is too generic--it means absolutely nothing in terms of attitude, behaviors or benefits (or if it supposed to say something in a kind of anti-branding way, I don't get it)
- 'Radio' as the integral brand identifier is not just non-descript, it constrains the ability of the brand to leave deeper footprints
- '104.5' is a meaningless Internet brand
A much better execution of this is DC's The Globe, which is a brand equipped to compete both on the air AND over the web, which is the right answer.
I have mixed feelings about calling Clear Channel out on this one, as I worked on that frequency for several years throughout the 90's, and it's been a tough nut to crack, from Star to The New Sound of Philadelphia, from Alice to Sunny. But there is no gettting around this fact--in a time when brands MUST resonate online as well as off, this one fails to inspire.
Written Apr. 24, 2007 in Marketing with 0 Comments
With the conversion of Classic Rock KZPS Dallas to Classic Rock/Country/Americana hybrid "Lonestar 92.5," Clear Channel becomes the latest broadcaster to try and replace the traditional spot sales paradigm with sponsorships and the integration of advertisers and content (think "American Idol" or "The Apprentice"). Edison VP of music and programming Sean Ross gives a First Listen to the new station. And you can also link to previous Ross On Radio columns on Classic Rock/Country hybrids and replacing spots with sponsorships.
Written Apr. 11, 2007 in Advertising + Marketing + Podcasting with 0 Comments
Our recent study on Podcast listeners continues to generate lots of great feedback around the Interwebs. BusinessWeek focused on the "modest" revenues for podcasting at the moment, while Pronet Advertising (a great resource for online marketing, by the way) pointed out the highly desirable demographic being reached by podcasts. Some have challenged the "low" numbers for video podcast consumption by pointing out stats like comScore's recent report on US Video Streaming, which is a fine report--but is apples to oranges as far as our data is concerned.
Let's consider audio podcasts for a moment. It is true that audio podcasts are a form of online audio--but not all online audio can be correctly thought of as a "podcast." The rising tide of online audio does indeed lift all ships, but the actual behavior of downloading an audio podcast and saving it to listen to later is markedly different than leaving Pandora on in the background to stream your favorite music while you work.
The problem is one of metrics. Podcasters have little recourse but to use the same types of "reach and frequency" metrics that mass media providers have relied upon for years. This results in a currency of "downloads" that does podcasters a tremendous disservice, in my humble opinion. Clear Channel Online can measure and credibly claim almost 1 million unduplicated listeners per week to their online streams. There are two issues with similar measurements of podcasts. One is that there is no agreed upon metric--read this post from Adam Curry and the subsequent comments and decide for yourself if Podshow generated 12,000 or 52 million "download requests," whatever they are. The second problem with measuring downloads or "download requests" is that this metric is woefully inadequate in terms of capturing the level of engagement that a podcast listener has with the content. If I have a classical station on in the background for 6 hours, does it equate to my downloading and listening to Podchestra? Common sense says "no." In fact, advertisers and marketers are increasingly more sophisticated about the measurement of engagement.
Next week, the Advertising Research Foundation will be hosting its big annual convention, Re:think 2007, and we'll be there as well, giving a talk on the measurement of experiential marketing. Engagement is more than just a buzzword--there is a serious effort on the part of Edison and all of the other members of the ARF to craft a metric and methodology to place engagement where it belongs in measuring brand impact. If I download and listen to Leo Laporte's "this WEEK in TECH" podcast and listen to it in its entirety while driving to pick up Sam at daycare, I have done more than 'download,' I have engaged with the brand, with Leo as a credible host, and even with the sponsors of the show, who are generally more relevant to me (in that context) than anything I might hear on mass media. That's worth more than a "download."
Podcasting is not a replacement for other forms of reaching audience--it is a valuable tool in the context of a complete media mix. The continuing evolution of the engagement metric will provide a more equitable way to equate lower traffic, but higher involvement media such as a podcast alongside higher traffic channels such as broadcast radio and TV. In the end, I agree with noted podcaster Michael Geoghegan that the success of the medium should not be pinned on the success of the term podcasting. Nor should it be pinned on the number of downloads a show does or does not spark. What matters for marketers is the level of engagement, consumer trust and brand involvement a consumer has with a podcast. The combined market of audio and video podcast consumers now stands at 16% of the country, and it is a valuable, marketable and highly lucrative demographic. There's a real market there--but podcasters have to be a little smarter, work a little harder and exploit the unique advantages and benefits of podcasting to get there.
Watch this space for more on engagement in the weeks ahead.
Written Mar. 12, 2007 in Content + Marketing + Podcasting with 0 Comments
NBC recently announced that they were engaging in a bold little experiment with The Office. Basically, to try and juice up viewership for reruns, they are borrowing a little "Web 2.0" and doing a mashup of existing content by marrying two previously seen episodes plus previously unseen deleted scenes into what they are calling "newpeats." In an era where those of us with DVR's rarely miss shows we care about, it is easy to see why re-runs have lost a bit of their charm. After all, I never miss Battlestar Galactica--but I have never watched it on its new home on Sunday Nights, either.
Whether or not this works for NBC, this is a great idea for your morning shows to drive increased web traffic and also provide content for podcasts that are sponsorship-worthy. Putting yesterday's show, or even highlights from the show, up on your website is just the first step. To drive real traffic, you gotta do some work. Here are three quick ideas for "Newpeats" of your morning show:
- Package up several weeks worth of a popular benchmark (prank calls, for instance, or the "Five O'Clock Funnies") into a monthly "Best Of" podcast ("sponsored by Cingular Wireless, Now Part of the New AT&T," of course!) Lots of listeners tune in to certain shows only to hear certain benchmarks--providing an archive of just that content, packaged up for more convenient listening, is a no-brainer way to extend your brand, increase mindshare and monetize podcasting.
- Try "Re-Contesting" - if your morning show features a popular trivia show (e.g., "Battle of the Sexes") splice 4 of them together with sponsorship drops after each, then put a new stealth contest at the end of the content requiring listeners to list things named earlier in the podcast to win a new, podcast-only contest. Sell the whole thing to whoever sponsors your current contest feature to mine a little extra revenue, and provide some off-air lovin' to your "contest aficionados."
- Tell a local story. Every show has its time to "leave deeper footprints" with a given local issue or important news story--why not take just the best, most relevant segments to that story and edit them together into a new piece? If your station spearheaded an effort, for example, to provide support for families of soldiers currently serving in Iraq, you might capture all the best moments of your efforts--the great interviews, the memorable phoners, etc--and memorialize them in one podcast. You could provide a donation link right next to it on your website and talk it up on the air.
Those are three I thought of in the shower--there are loads of variations on this theme. The real take-away is that you have lots of great content that no one ever gets to hear, even with recycling, that could be repackaged both to make it "new" and to acknowledge that people podcast content so they can get the stuff they like, without the stuff they don't, and get it when it is convenient for them. Remixing your content into "newpeats" is a great way to respond to consumer inertia in this regard, extend your "virtual TSL" and open up new sponsorship opportunities.
Written Feb. 23, 2007 in Content + Marketing with 1 Comment
..and are becoming an increasingly larger part of Country's cume, according to a great factoid recently posted by Jaye Albright. We think so too, which is why we are delighted to be presenting the results of a landmark new study on the topic at next week's Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. We're particularly proud of this study, which combines the results of a new, original national quanitative survey with one-on-one interviews, census data, and (of course) an analysis of what it means in the world of Arbitronics.
We will also be presenting some strategies for Country broadcasters to take what they have learned and do a better job in reaching this important group. How are we doing now? Well, here's a teaser--55% of the Hispanic Americans we surveyed who live in markets with at least one country outlet have no idea there is a country station in the market. Clearly, one thing we will be talking about next week is how to ask for the order.
Written Feb. 22, 2007 in Marketing with 0 Comments
Kudos to Chrysalis for finally taking this step and launching a major cross-promotion campaign for London news station LBC using the massive reach of their sister station Heart 106.2. Last year I spoke at the Radio Academy’s marketing and promotions conference, and got a chance to hear a whole bunch of hypothetical campaigns during a session on maximizing cross-promotion opportunities. Some of these were great, some whimsical--and at least one, clearly prophetic.
So now Heart 106.2 will be actively driving news-seekers to LBC in some very clever ways, and I urge cluster managers here in this country to grab some airchecks and do a little ‘free-thinking.’ While the stations in a typical cluster here are a bit closer together than they are in the UK, that doesn’t mean there aren’t loads of creative ways to promote each other and find new meanings for “synergy” besides reducing head counts. Television (notably ABC/ESPN and NBC/CNBC/MSNBC) has done a good job with this over the years, and I think there are loads of opportunities to do the same in radio.
Written Dec. 7, 2006 in Advertising + Marketing + Technology with 0 Comments
Written Dec. 3, 2006 in Marketing with 0 Comments
Jaye Albright posted a great piece on her blog a few days back called "Getting On The "Brand" Wagon" about the danger of monkeying with a successful brand (especially just because some trendy research suggested it!) Jaye's advice--"be what you are, intensively"--harkens back to what my old boss Frank Cody used to tell me--"if you can figure out what people expect you to be, and then be that thing, you will be successful."
In her article, there is a quote worth revisiting:
The concept of researching brand loyalty is based on a truism - the average person will listen to three radio stations per week. Arbitron and BBM researchers claim that 96% of all radio listening is encompassed by these three positions on the average radio listener's hierarchy of usage. PPM usage data has shown that the average listener actually visits more than twice as many radio frequencies in the average week.
The interesting bit, to me, is the last sentence, which we have certainly observed to be true in our PPM analysis work. Most of the Branding Gurus in our industry duly read their Godins, their Long Tails, their Good to Greats and Pursuits of Excellence, repackage, reexamine and revise these insights (along with their own) to glean the relevant wisdom for radio (which is not necessarily easy--I mean this with respect), and go on to help their stations win--in a diary world, that all works fine.
But what about when PPM hits your market, and the success metric is no longer what stations people recalled listening to, but what stations people actually listened to? Some people smarter than I am will correctly note that this will make strong brands even more important, to encourage listeners to choose your brand to listen to out of a crowded consideration set. But the consideration set for the average listener (in terms of terrestrial radio) is not getting more crowded--they aren't getting the PPM memo. Instead, that second choice, second favorite soft AC that usually gets buried by the market leader's big "Live In It To Win It Birthday Key In The Glove Box" extravaganza contest might turn out to not be doing so bad, after all, despite brand awareness measures that might say otherwise.
All this really means, of course, is that different measures yield different results. "Brand Awareness" and some of the other tried-and-true measures of a station's health will continue to be measured, of course, but just as PPM will change some of the answers, so too must radio stations and their research partners change up the questions. Edison currently sits on the Advertising Research Foundation's Experiential Marketing Council, which is currently in the midst of a significant study to develop a metric for events and promotions that factors in engagement, along with awareness, reach and frequency. When consumers are exposed to as many brands as we currently are, reach, frequency and awareness don't tell the whole story. What advertisers really need is a measure of emotional involvement--not just "have you ever heard of brand x" or "have you seen this spot," but are consumers engaged on a more visceral level? Are they actively "co-creating" the meaning and experience of the brand (note--this is not "consumer generated media," but engagement can certainly lead to that behavior)?
I started with a Frank Cody quote, I'll end with one--"people don't fire their friends." Or, one could add, stop listening to them. When you start to think about your strategic studies and other bits of market research next year, be sure you are thinking beyond awareness--and thinking about measuring engagement. Don't be afraid to monkey with a classic brand if universal awareness hasn't translated to emotional engagement.
Written Oct. 4, 2006 in Advertising + Marketing with 0 Comments
Wired News reports today that the number of monthly visitors to websites for U.S. newspapers rose by almost a third in the first half of 2006. Yes, the dead tree part of their business has fallen--substantially in some cases--but the get-our-brand-and-advertising-in-front-of-eyeballs part seems to be doing just fine. So while the newspaper itself may be in its decline, the "newspaper business" seems to be doing pretty good.
One of the most interesting components of this rise in online newspaper readership is a significant increase in 18-34 year-old readers. There is an encouraging lesson for radio here--though a market may only be able to naturally support one newspaper and a couple of dozen radio signals, there is no FCC spectrum to be bought on the web--radio stations have just as much right to it as anyone else, whether they use it to stream their station or just connect local eyeballs to local advertisers, which remains radio's strength. Winning in that business seems like a pretty good growth investment to me.
Written Sep. 12, 2006 in Blogging + Internet Radio + Marketing with 5 Comments
In just 3 days, Internet-only alternative station WOXY is going dark. I can absolutely feel their pain, having been a partner in another Internet radio play back in 2001 that also ran into the crippling paradox of 'Net radio--the more listeners you have, the faster you go out of business. As it was with Puremix, so it is with WOXY--while Internet radio usage is significantly more widespread than Satellite radio or even the iPod, making money from a pure Internet radio play is still a tough nut to crack.
WOXY had a significant presence in the Alternative community, and its site was the home of one of the most active message boards in all of radio. My wife's graduate students all listened to WOXY nonstop in lab, and I also listened to it a fair amount. So who killed it? The short answer is--I did. So did my wife's graduate students. And, statistically speaking, pretty much anyone else reading this who ever listened to WOXY. Because chances are, you didn't pay to subscribe, and neither did we.
America has seen a lot of alternative rock stations go by the wayside over the past 18 months, and prevailing wisdom has it that the 18-34 year old male has pretty much checked out of the system--ditching land lines, not filling in diaries, etc.--making them essentially invisible as far as ratings (and, thus, advertisers) are concerned. Perhaps passive measurement will bring with it a resurgence in formats that cater to this demographic. We see this when we conduct surveys in markets with underperforming alternative rockers--we know more people are listening to them than the diaries show, but if they don't play the game, they don't count.
So I am sure that there are lots of voices out there who are quick to excoriate Arbitron for their apparent failure to accurately measure the 18-34 year old male. What WOXY teaches me, however, is that the 18-34 year old male has to take some responsibility for this, as well. After all, WOXY has one of the most active user communities of any station on the web--just troll through their message boards and see--and yet hardly any of them ponied up a few bucks a month to subscribe. So for those of us who left WOXY on all day while we worked (and in the case of my wife's graduate students, even left it on overnight after they had gone home for the day) without paying for it, all we did was kill it quicker.
So we can hope that the coming dawn of passive measurement restores some balance to the force. But the "free lunch" mentality of the Internet means that even passive measurement of Internet radio doesn't mean that Internet radio has sussed out a revenue model yet. WOXY had a tremendous, loyal and passionate community--but despite all that love on their message boards, WOXY couldn't convert love into gold.
So, how do you create, sustain and monetize a rabid community of fans on the web? I hope you'll join me at the NAB Radio Show next week, when one of my panelists will be WOXY's GM, Bryan Jay Miller. Ask the man himself--and learn from his valuable perspective.
Written Aug. 10, 2006 in Advertising + Blogging + Marketing + Technology with 0 Comments
It has been almost a year since I wrote about the importance of radio station blogging, and radio has still been extremely tentative about dipping its collective toe into this vital form of communication (and its complement,consumer generated media.) For many stations, their reticence to enter the blogosphere is not only understandable, it might even be prudent. Rest assured, however, that blogging is not going away, and it has profoundly changed the landscape of "customer service," public relations and even altered the very soul of some companies (Microsoft being the most obvious example).
So, here we are in 2006, and you are thinking about it, or would at least like to know more. Where should you look? Well, we put our heads together on that very issue, and have assembled a fantastic panel at this year's NAB Radio Show in Dallas. The panel is entitled "Opening The Kimono: Harnessing the Power of Blogging" and it will definitely be lively, informative--and just might provide the impetus for you to think about your station in an entirely new (and potentially profitable) way.
The title of the panel does not refer to a mid-panel wardrobe malfunction, or anything more suggestive than "social networking." Instead, "Opening the Kimono" is all about making the crucial, first decision about launching a blog: how transparent do you want to be? Blogging requires a willingness to let the listener peek behind Oz's curtain (to mix metaphors) in a way that you might not be comfortable with (yet). Salting your blog with canned marketing messages and press releases is a fast path to irrelevance--only a truly open and honest two-way discussion has any chance of building relationships (and creating traffic). Opening that kimono might be difficult, but we have assembled an excellent group of guides.
Leading off the panel is the Founder/CEO of Weblogs, Inc and current GM of AOL's Netscape site, Jason Calacanis. If you want insight on monetizing your blog, harnessing the power of consumer generated content and how AOL is tackling some of the same issues you are, Jason is the goto-guy. He will also be speaking at the Jacobs Media Summit on "The Future of Media," so if you come away from that talk with questions on how to make some of his ideas tangible and concrete with your station's website, you will want to stick around for this panel.
Also speaking will be Anil Dash, who is a Vice President at Six Apart, the leading company in the business blogging space and developer of the software behind many of the blogs and websites you probably already visit everyday. Six Apart's hosted TypePad service is used by thousands of popular blogs, and their flagship software product, Movable Type, has powered this site and the main Edison Media Research site for two years. Anil has been an "A-List" blogger for many years, has some radio in his background, and is one of the most engaging speakers on technology and trends you are likely to hear at the NAB this year.
Bryan Jay Miller, the General Manager of Internet-only WOXY will also join us. WOXY is just beginning to dip their toe into blogging, but they already have an extremely active message board community that should be the envy of any broadcast radio station. Bryan has built an impressive brand on the Internet--without the benefit of broadcast airwaves--and has done it thanks in part to fearlessly engaging with their audience and valuing their online feedback. Bryan's insight into community-building online (and where to take it next) will prove invaluable to this discussion.
Finally, if there is one thing that I would like you to remember about this panel, it is that this will not be a panel to only send your "tech guy" to. This is a panel for everyone concerned about building a brand on the Internet and monetizing your content. The issues behind deciding when, how and if to blog are big issues--50,000 footers--and should involve PD's, GM's GSM's AND Webmasters. I hope to see you all. As always, we welcome your comments here, or just pop me a note if you have any questions.
Written Aug. 2, 2006 in Advertising + Marketing with 0 Comments
For now, YouTube is the best way to reach 18-34s with viral marketing. Period. With radio marketing budgets sliced to the bone, there may be no more efficient way for radio to create some viral buzz than with an edgy video campaign. Certainly, individual stations can take part, and harnessing the creativity of your listeners is one way to get started. But viral video marketing might also be a great way for the industry to create some buzz around HD with some really edgy and even controversial online-only spots. The biggest knock on radio amongst the 18-34 YouTube crowd isn’t the fidelity of the signal, or even the spotload--it’s their perception that radio is not creative, is too repetitive and has lost its role as the arbiter of music taste. Investing in a YouTube-distributed campaign (that listeners might Digg) is a great way to combat the “cookie-cutter” perception by pushing some boundaries.
Want some inspiration? Here are some of my favorites:
Prince of Persia (have a strong stomach!)
And my current favorite:
Can a commercial make me switch to Folgers from Starbucks? That one came pretty close.
Written Aug. 1, 2006 in Content + Marketing with 1 Comment
Written Jul. 17, 2006 in Content + Marketing with 0 Comments
Jeff Schmidt wonders if radio station execs have jumped the shark with all the dull-sounding-male names for Adult Hits stations. I can't disagree with him there--while "Jack" has a certain edge to it (anyone else remember the hugely popular You Don't Know Jack trivia games?), Bob kinda makes me think of this, which didn't fare too well.
Names can be invested with a lot of character. My wife, Miriam, is always telling me that her name will probably go the way of the dodo soon, but it's certainly no Mildred, or Hattie! Name a station Mildred, and you can almost hear it in your head (but you won't like it). Name it "Jane," however, and you aren't quite so sure (apologies to the Janes out there, be ye Russells or Does).
Satellite Radio isn't immune, either, with its Freds and Ethels. While Ethel has a fairly pure connotation (and it isn't alternative rock, either, XM), Fred has too many potential contexts to be considered a 'great' name. (Durst? Flintstone? Schneider? MacMurray? that Basset Hound?) What is a great name? Well, it should instantly convey to its target demographic the values of the brand. I think "Jack" does that, but I am not so sure about Doug, who stole my date to the prom and now works at a hardware store.
Now, you may not be able to name your station 'Oprah,' or 'Madonna,' but I bet we can do better. So, I cracked open my baby name book, crossed out the Harolds and Beatrices, and came up with a few random suggestions--see if you can hear these in your head:
- Brooklyn (I know--I am a Beckham fan...)
- Homer (for an edgy sports station!)
- Duff (aahhhh....my old friend, beer....)
- Charlene (who could be a Country chic, but has also been to Nice, and the Isle of Greece)
- Creampuff Casper Milquetoast
and of course, my favorite Tom Waits lyric/Beautiful Music station,
Written Jul. 11, 2006 in Internet Radio + Marketing with 1 Comment
Philadelphia's WXPN (a non-commercial station operated by the University of Pennsylvania) announced a rather novel deal today with Y100rocks.com, the continuing web presence of now-defunct alternative rocker Y100, which was switched to gospel over a year ago. In the deal, XPN will devote 10 hours of on-air programming per week to alternative rock, to be hosted by former Y100 PD Jim McGuinn, and WXPN will also host "Y.Rock" on the Internet under the umbrella of WXPN's online brand.
Since WXPN is ostensibly non-commercial (though heavily sponsored) this represents a unique marriage on another level, as well. WXPN expects that donations will cover the expenses of the new venture, while Y100rocks.com will presumably benefit from increased traffic and site revenues.
There are several interesting things to note about this announcement. First, public radio is becoming increasingly aggressive with listener acquisition/aggregation, moving from "serving the needs of our listeners" to actively trying to capture "loose bodies" like the disenfranchised former Y100 listeners, who were not likely to have been listeners to WXPN's 35-54-focused format. Also, according to Roger LaMay, WXPN's GM, "It also gives [them] a station that's going to appeal to Penn students," which seems like a good idea for a station that has heretofore been geared to those students' parents more than anything.
There is a podcasting component to this venture, as well, which is an area where public radio (especially NPR) has been able to leapfrog over their commercial counterparts due to the fact that they own the rights to more of their content. We certainly know from our research that consumers want more control over their media, and public radio's natural advantages here may help them to reverse their recent (slight) downward trend after over a decade of solid growth.
The move is also a reminder that Internet Radio and Terrestrial Radio can work together without cannibalizing each other, though it certainly helps XPN that they don't have to play the ratings game. While you can understand the reasons why the two primary commercial rock operators in Philly didn't try this, by avoiding cannibalizing themselves now they have perhaps lost out on the chance to piggyback onto a reasonably valuable Philly-area brand and find new ways to capture the increasingly elusive 18-34 year-old male. We know from telephone studies that these listeners are out there, and they do listen to alternative/active rock--they just don't fill out diaries like they should. The coming advent of PPM may change that, and Philly's commercial operators (most notably--Radio One, who gave up the brand in the first place) may regret having passed up the chance to plant a flag with this format.
Execution, of course, will be everything. Sometimes these brand marriages work when they make sense, like the Starbucks in your Barnes and Noble, or that Eddie Bauer Edition Ford Explorer. Other times, they end up looking like the Arthur Treacher Kenny Rogers Miami Nathans Grill and Coffee bars you see on the turnpike.
Written Jul. 11, 2006 in Internet Radio + Marketing with 0 Comments
The WXPN/Y100 marriage is also an interesting way of acknowledging that Y100, for most of its life as terrestrial modern rocker WPLY, was really the next generation of Triple-A. Having evolved from an Alternative/CHR-hybrid, WPLY never fully embraced the hard rock that became an issue for so many modern rock stations. For most of its life, it had a healthy gold library and some sort of Dave Matthews Band presence, even after the softest of the softer music finally came off the station.
Five years ago, when Modern Rock was at its crunchiest and rappiest, and Triple-A's traditional base was starting to age, many Triple-A PDs hoped that they could become the new "true Alternative" format. That's why today's Triple-A chart is Gnarls Barkley at No. 1 and the new Tom Petty at No. 2. And why the Fray, Raconteurs, Keane, and Death Cab for Cutie co-exist with the new Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris song, and with Jackson Browne oldies. To some extent, Modern Rock made it harder for Triple-A when it added more gold, backed off the rap/rock, and started playing Keane and the Raconteurs itself. But in Philly, nobody has come along to replace WPLY directly. So perhaps showcasing Y100 music in this manner makes it easier to segue from the new Thom Yorke into "Fountain of Sorrow."
The WXPN announcement, by the way, does not address WXPN's HD-2 channel. (Nor could I find mention of one on the WXPN homepage.) It seems like bringing back Y100 would be a pretty good way to get a certain group of listeners to ante up for HD Radio. Of course, if you're depending on listener donations, perhaps you don't want to divert their $300, but if that's money that would otherwise go to satellite radio, it might still make sense.
Written Jul. 10, 2006 in Marketing + Technology with 2 Comments
I recently finished reading Wired editor Chris Anderson's new book,“The Long Tail : Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More” (Chris Anderson), which sprung from his original, highly influential Wired column of the same name (and also from his widely-read blog.) There has been, of late, considerable reaction to his latest offering on The Rise and Fall of the Hit.
I'm not sure I agree with Anderson that the hit is dead, and I am not alone. Valleywag pointedly offers up a link to Gnarls Barkley's “Crazy” for its readers to use as a soundtrack to the article, and Mark Ramsey notes that lots of folks went to see that Pirate movie. The comment that makes the most sense to me, however, comes from KFOG's Jeff Schmidt, who notes on his blog the following:
The Long Tail isn’t so much about the DEATH of HITS - but about their marginalization within the larger totality - about the rise of OTHER.
Bingo, Jeff--the hit isn't dead--but the economics of the “misses” have changed dramatically.
The old scarcity model for content has changed, and now it is entirely possible to tap into markets heretofore constrained by geography. The fact that DL Byron can build a business like Clip-n-Seal almost entirely through the power of blogging is testament to the power and veracity of Anderson's perceptions about the long tail. Being right about the tail part, however, doesn't make him right about the head. As Jeff correctly notes, OTHER is big, and viable. But we still gravitate towards hits--we still need hits.
There is no better evidence of this than Technorati founder David Sifry's fascinating regular posts on the state of the blogosphere. My favorite: February, 2006, a brief, yet important analysis of the number of blogs in the “magic middle,” a lucrative chunk of the Long Tail. Devotees of Anderson's theory will (correctly) point out the number of blogs in the long tail of the graph at right--the blogs along the far right side have millions of readers, though no single blog has more than a few dozen. Check out, however, the left side--tell me there aren't some hits in there!
The fact is, that even in this age of blogs there are hits, and big ones, too. Most people, in fact, will have read about Anderson's Long Tail theories on one of several big hitters in the blogosphere or in mass media. While the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post were the top three most linked-to news and media sites in February (from the Technorati chart at left), a few blogs also snuck in there as bonafide “hits” at the fat end of the tail (Boing Boing, Daily Kos, Engadget and PostSecret). One thing I think this shows is that the age of the “hit” is far from over.
What is happening, however, is another stage in the continual cycle of disaggregation and reaggregation espoused by folks like Francis Fukuyama in “The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order”. Society (and, its great mirror, the media) continually disaggregate from old norms, values and cultural benchmarks, but society doesn't disintegrate. Instead, it reaggregates around new norms. Is the “hit” dead? Well, maybe the blockbuster movie ain't what it used to be, but I would call MySpace and Grand Theft Auto hits, wouldn't you?
Written Jun. 29, 2006 in Marketing with 0 Comments
Recently I have been thinking a lot about EMail marketing (see How to Behave on a Date, and Getting Past First Base, metaphors I have promised Larry never to use again). While some companies seem to always get it right, many continue to stumble at the gate. With so many competing media channels vying for our attention, it is critical that radio stations learn from both past successes and mistakes of others.
Mistakes happen--no company, big or small, is immune to the occasional gaffe or misstep. Often, customers can learn as much, if not more, about your brand from how you recover from these mistakes as they do from the mistake itself. Here is a recent example I got in my inbox:
VIP Invitation to the EMail Insider Summit
I would like you to be our guest for the 2006 Email Insider Summit. As a Summit VIP, the cost of your airfare, hotel accommodations and conference registration will be paid for by MediaPost.
The Email Insider Summit Advisory Board has identified you as a senior level marketer or agency executive decision maker within your company. You are among a select few to whom we are extending this special VIP opportunity.
Well, sign me up! After much cajoling, I convinced my wife that maybe she, too, would like a weekend at a spa in Scottsdale, and we could make a little holiday out of it. Seconds after she agreed, however, I got this:
Register Now for the EMail Insider Summit
We apologize if you received an email from MediaPost earlier today inviting you as our VIP guest to the Email Insider Summit. That email was intended to be sent to a list of 50 top brand marketers in the industry, that have already agreed to attend the event. The email below is the email that you were intended to receive. If you would like to be a part of the inaugural Email Insider Summit please read below about the summit and how to register. Again we apologize for the confusion and inconvenience that error may have caused you.
Register now for MediaPost’s Email Insider Summit so you can surround yourself with the most-thought provoking minds in the industry as they school you on the new modes of enhancing your email marketing campaigns.
Not only was I not going to Scottsdale on someone else's nickel, I wasn't a "top brand marketer" or VIP after all! Not being the most secure egg in the carton, I went into a deep funk over this, but came out of it seconds later with these three tips for recovering from your mistakes, may they be few:
- First, if you are going to send an immediate apology (and you should), then put the apology in the subject line of the email. Don't put a "call to action" there like "Register now..." You screwed up--be upfront with it. I will not be registering for the EMail Insider Summit--why should I? I am going for free as a VIP!
- Second, I didn't need to know that the mistaken email was intended for 50 top brand marketers in the industry, and therefore not for me. I am not delusional enough to think that I was in that top 50 before the email, but if your intent is to apologize, don't tell me that I wasn't intended to get the VIP invite because I wasn't good enough. Just tell me you made a mistake and sent me the notice by accident. That would have covered it just fine with me.
- Third, if you have to issue a mea culpa, then just send me an apology--end of story. Admit your error, say you are sorry, and (if warranted) make amends. Do not follow your brief apology with a canned sales pitch to purchase your goods or services (in this case, 6 more paragraphs trying to sell me a ticket to this conference). It seriously devalues the apology.
Written Jun. 29, 2006 in Marketing with 0 Comments
In the last 24 hours one person from our company did a station visit and we got a new set of data back. Both slammed home a point that the radio world seems to be missing: Awareness is no longer free.
It is not that long ago that merely changing a format came with so much attendant publicity that within weeks a majority of a market would know about the new station. There were so few choices, or so the marketplace felt, that the existence of a new one was a major big deal.
On the station visit, the representatives of a station that is about 15 months old were bemoaning that the cume of their station quickly zoomed to 46,000 (in their target demo) and has since receded to 35,000. When the Edison employee asked about external marketing, he was told: "We haven't ever done any external marketing." Encouraged by a good first book, they apparently figured the rest of the market would get on board soon.
In the other situation, the data showed a station, also about a year old, with only 50% aided awareness in their target demo. AIDED awareness. Again, it's not that long ago that aided awareness in the target for pretty much ALL stations was well north of 80%.
With an infinite dial, word of mouth can only get you so far. But you are no longer going to reach a commercially viable place depending on word of mouth. Just as radio cuts its external marketing budgets farther, the non-marketing strategy is failing worse than ever.
Written Jun. 21, 2006 in Marketing with 1 Comment
Southwest Airlines trades under the symbol 'LUV,' and for good reason. Here is a nifty piece of database marketing that required nothing more intrusive than my zip code, and a little 'situational awareness' on the part of their marketing team!
Written Jun. 21, 2006 in Marketing + Podcasting with 0 Comments
I presented highlights from our major new Podcasting study (watch this space for more on this) at the Corporate Podcast Summit yesterday. There were lots of surprising little tidbits on podcast consumers, but here is a pretty basic one to chew on: 48% of the people who have ever listened to a podcast are women. Now, it may be the case that the people producing podcasts are more male (or not) but podcasting is a lot more female--and family--friendly activity than you might have guessed. Content, of course, is the main reason for this--and the convenience of podcasting has made the channel into a popular one amongst both busy moms and harried Web Administrators (and harried moms who are web administrators.) I have talked about Mommycast before in the pages of USA Today, but here is another great family friendly podcast from Whirlpool. Yes, Whirlpool--makers of the washing machine in your utility room (fairly likely, actually, since they also recently purchased Maytag.)
Audrey Reed-Granger from Whirlpool spoke at the summit about how their podcast, The American Family has grown over the past year. They began with just 800 downloads in their first quarter, but are now at 700,000 per quarter with no advertising and almost no conceivable way to get to the podcast from Whirlpool's home page. How? Word of mouth--because the show is good. They have a number of basic tenets for the site--among them, no advertising (EVER), no appliance tips, and really nothing about their products at all--as Audrey said, Whirlpool spends a ton on advertising already; you can't watch a soap opera in this country without seeing a Whirlpool/Jenn-Air/Maytag ad. Instead, the show is about the family, presented in what Audrey called a "Charles Kuralt" style. Clearly, lots of American Families appreciate the American Family. What a fantastic (and low cost!) way to build your brand by focusing on your core values, not your dryer.
Written Jun. 20, 2006 in Marketing + Technology with 0 Comments
Yesterday I used dating as a metaphor for building an online database, and consequently, a relationship with your listeners. There is another aspect to relationship building online that bears a second look. Relationships are built over time. On the Internet, this manifests itself in the form of a series of transactions--value exchanges--between you and your customers.
Before joining Edison, I worked with a behavioral marketing agency that specialized in crafting compelling messages based upon customer profile information. Our customers consisted solely of companies in the life sciences or in financial services. Why? Because our system would only work if we had a rich mine of customer data, and we quickly learned that people will only provide that data if they believe that, in exchange, they can improve their health or their finances. Those are certainly the only two online services that I would ever provide things like my spouse's name, or even my SSN, because those services improve the quality of my family's financial and physical health. Even with projects like pharmaceutical compliance programs, however, we also learned that you couldn't ask for the order all at once--and you couldn't ask for anything personal unless there was a customer-centric justification for it.
We never asked for too much information at any one time, and each request was directly related to a value exchange that was meaningful to our client's customers. When your broker asks for your age, it is because they need it to plan your retirement portfolio, and you need them to do it right. You don't hesitate for a second. Why would I ever even give a radio station my age, however? I might check a box to indicate I was 18 or older, or something along those lines, if I felt that was a reasonable request to win a prize. But just because your station would like to know how old its listeners are doesn't mean we have to tell you! Radio stations have to be cognizant of the shared experience of the Internet--when I sign up for something on 90% of the sites I frequent, I need only give my email address and sometimes my name--that is it. When I give up my email address, I understand that I might be marketed to, but I give it in exchange for what I perceive to be the value of the site or service. Few Web 2.0 services today ask for my address--because there is no justification for it.
That is why I hate to see radio stations with VIP/Listener Clubs like this one. It is doubtful I would ever give much past my name and email address to a radio station on the first date, and even after a long relationship I would never give them my Social Security Number! Again, "working a database" is a horrible term for relationship building. I might let a radio station get to first base with me, but you will have to buy me a lot of dinners to get further. And I will never, ever let you get past third--believe that.
Written Jun. 19, 2006 in Marketing with 0 Comments
This week's Entertainment Weekly, with Superman on the cover, has a little feature called "100 Sites to Bookmark Now." It can be read here.
In it, the magazine named their 25 favorite entertainment-oriented Web sites, and then asked the writers of that site to pick three that they like.
While most of the picks relate to movies and gossip, some prominent members of the Infinite Dial make appearances. In particular, the You Tube guys, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, are clearly like-minded with us, selecting Pandora, Woxy.com, and Last.fm. NPR.org also gets a shout-out.
Written Jun. 18, 2006 in Marketing with 0 Comments
A while back, Fred Jacobs posted an article on his blog about the importance of station email databases. I couldn't agree more--building a relationship with listeners is crucial. Of course, this particular resource is not a "secret weapon" or unique selling proposition for radio--scads of online radio competitors also have databases, and many use them quite well indeed. That makes radio's efforts in this realm all the more crucial, since the barriers to entry for building an online community are quite small--look at MySpace--but the rewards are immense.
Some radio stations do a fantastic job building and maintaining their database. For example, a few months ago Edison published the most recent results of our yearly survey of Country partisans for the Country Radio Broadcasters annual CRS show. The sample for this survey comes directly from radio station databases, and despite the fact that we only added a couple of new stations to the survey this year, the response rate nearly tripled--from 11,000 in 2005 to about 30,000 this year. Yes, there was certainly same-station growth for these databases, but that alone cannot explain our surge in responses. Some of the credit also has to go to the individual stations--and how much lovin' they give their database listeners.
If listeners gain no positive value from inclusion on a radio station database, they are pretty unlikely to "answer the call" and help the station out by completing a reasonably lengthy online survey. As we watched the returns every day at Edison Master Control, we could tell very quickly which stations were doing a great job and which ones have an opportunity to improve their EMail marketing efforts. For example, WCOL in Columbus blew us away with the turnout and passion of their email database. Though Columbus is market #38 in Arbitron, they pulled in 2-3 times more respondents in the first 24 hours than some larger market stations did in a week. I talked to John Crenshaw, WCOL's PD, about this, and his advice was pretty straightforward--"we really do go out of our way to only send email of value." Clearly, for this Clear Channel property, "less is more" does not only apply to spotload.
We are all inundated with SPAM--I run my email through my GMail account just to tap into their awesome SPAM filtering algorithm, and I am frightened to report that I typically get between 3 and 4 thousand SPAM emails a month. If I am going to sign up for a radio station's website, there had better be a crystal clear value proposition for me. "We Want To Hear Your Voice" is just not strong enough, neither is "keep up to date with all our promotions/contests/etc." Offering me pre-sale opportunities to buy concert tickets is of some value, certainly, and that sort of thing is a great start. But think about all the ways you can add value to your listeners' lives, whether related to the format/station or not. Do make sure that you have, in fact, provided value over time before you ask your listeners to reciprocate. I can only assume that WCOL's high response rate is due to the fact that the station does not abuse their database, and that their mailings are welcomed, not immediately turfed, because they do in fact provide value that is tangible and appreciated.
The best analogy is to think of your emails as a date. Does your station send flowers and candy? Offer to meet her mother? Pick up her dry cleaning? Or do you just drop by at 2 am, possibly drunk, and forget to flush?