Written Nov. 18, 2010 in Mobile Media + Social Networking with 1 Comment
Larry Rosin posted an interesting factoid on the Edison blog about the decline in teen phone usage - for actually talking. As the graph below illustrates, the amount of time teens reported talking on the telephone has declined 40 minutes per day since 2000 - a drop of 38%.
Why this is so should be obvious. Today, over 80% of 12-24s have their own mobile phone. According to the same study referenced above (the Edison Research American Youth Study 2010), texting is by far the dominant mobile activity among young Americans, with Internet browsing, games and social network usage also widespread:
The fact that mobile social network usage is so high, by the way, should also come as no surprise, given the fact that the vast majority of younger Americans are using social media to connect with their friends - in this study, three-quarters of all 12-24 year olds use Facebook alone.
Some of this shift is attributable to the economics of mobile usage - as younger Americans cut the cord, they find their talk minutes rationed, but today's smart- and feature-phones allow 12-24s to send potentially hundreds of texts and dozens of social networking updates every day at minimal cost. Increasingly, however, the sense of real-time connection is what is truly driving this behavior - witness the physical manifestations of anxiety that withdrawal from constant, ubiquitous contact with peers can cause (ever left your phone behind and felt the panic?)
All of which leads me to this finding. Take a look at this data, showing the percentage of 12-24s who have communicated with a radio station using various means of contact:
Here, when we asked 12-24 year-olds if they had ever communicated with an AM/FM radio station (or one of its DJs) using various communication platforms, we see that the number one answer by far is the telephone at 22%, with texting, Facebook and Email well behind at 7-8%. If you saw this graph in isolation, you might conclude that AM/FM radio should continue to focus on phone interaction - call-ins, request lines, etc. If you look at this in the larger context of how young people want to communicate in 2010, however, there is only one way to read this data: broadcast radio isn't communicating with its younger listeners they way they'd rather be reached.
Given the ubiquity of text messaging in this demographic, the fact that texting isn't number one by a significant margin is nothing short of a communications failure by broadcast media in this country. If you are in the radio industry, and you are attempting to cater to younger demographics, it isn't enough to simply talk about SMS, or add Facebook as another channel. Radio stations - and their personalities - have to live in these channels, authentically, to reach mainstream 12-24s in America.
Of course, radio stations will continue to run phone promotions, and listeners will continue to call in - but the 12-24s who are calling in are becoming increasingly less representative of the middle of the bell curve. The next time a DJ plays a song and reports that "the phones are going crazy," they might be closer to the truth than they realize.
Written Sep. 9, 2010 in Blogging + Podcasting + Social Networking with 0 Comments
Next month, I will again be attending Blogworld in Las Vegas (Oct. 14-16), which is now the largest gathering of new media content creators and social media practitioners in the world. If you have ever wanted to learn more about getting your station's blog up and running, effective Facebook strategies, or what the heck to Twitter about, there simply is no better one-stop education than attending all three days of Blogworld, for FAR less than a consultant would charge you :)
I'll be making a special presentation at Blogworld this year on Podcasting, which will go a bit beyond the scope of our traditional consumer research presentations. I'll be presenting some updated figures on Podcast usage, but also taking a look back through five years of trended data, advertising research and best practices to give attendees a comprehensive, analysts-eye view of where Podcasting is today, and more importantly where it's going.
Pretty much anyone I could recommend to you as a new media/social media resource is going to be at Blogworld. Even if the conference fee comes out of your own pocket (likely the case, for our readers here), it's a damn good investment. It's a great chance to get out of your silo, clear your head, and come home with dozens of actionable ideas. And, if you do come as a result of reading this post, hunt me down. I'll gladly buy you a beer (or suitable beverage of your choice).
See you there?
Written Apr. 26, 2010 in Internet Radio + Social Networking with 3 Comments
In this year's edition of The Infinite Dial, our cross-platform study on radio's digital future, we noted three distinct factoids:Pandora is by far the most widely recalled brand in online radio
Facebook is by far the most popular social networking Web site
The Internet has nearly caught Radio for music discovery
Now mull those factoids over in light of what we recently learned from F8, Facebook's developer conference. Last week's series of announcements regarding Facebook's new Open Graph initiative will be talked about for years to come, but their impact upon radio will certainly be felt this year. The most important development as far as the Infinite Dial is concerned is Facebook's pending integration with Pandora. Essentially, Facebook has created a giant "like" button for the web, and is closing the loop on all the data associated with expressing preferences online.
Consider this: the next time you visit a website equipped with these tools and express an opinion, Facebook will capture this data, whether you are on Facebook or not. I wrote a few days ago on Social Media Today about just how sinister this development could be, especially in the hands of a company that has already stumbled several times on the issue of privacy, but lets set that aside for a moment, since you and I both know most Facebook users simply don't care (yet.) What is fast becoming true for Facebook users is that "searching" and "browsing" are being replaced by links from friends. Search engines are already preparing for the next generation of search - prioritizing links from your network - and Facebook has jump-started the process by making your friends' "likes" around the web part of their social graph, and your social data stream.
As the ReadWriteWeb piece I linked to above notes, if you are a site that is built around proprietary social tools, like Last.fm, you just got served. In other words, if your path to revenue was monetizing a social network around books, or music, or anything else, you are going to be faced with the prospect of forcing your users to "like" things twice (maintain profiles on your site as well as Facebook) which only the hard core fan would ever do. Facebook has made things easier for users, but a whole lot harder for competitors.
Now, if you are Pandora, and you aren't built around monetizing social interactions, you are in a position to essentially make a deal with the devil. Pandora hands over the reins of user suggestions to Facebook's Open Graph, and in exchange, when people share links on Facebook about songs or artists they like, those links are increasingly likely to be Pandora links. Facebook captures the data, Pandora captures the ears. And the more you integrate the two from a listener/user perspective, the easier the whole thing gets and the richer the experience. Again, setting aside the privacy implications, for most people this integration is going to be a good thing.
Take all of this together, and the future for online radio (both for terrestrial broadcasters AND for online-only streamers who are not part of this master plan) just got a little murkier. With the near-total commoditization of music online, playing music is essentially like trucking wheat. The only way to grow in that business is scale. Having already leapfrogged everyone else on mobile phones, Pandora is set once again to leapfrog its rivals by getting in bed with what is increasingly everyone's home page on the Internet. As shared links to "liked" songs become the new currency of music discovery online, Pandora and Facebook may have just done an end run around everyone in the online music space, and there probably isn't anything you can do about that.
I don't like ending a post here on such a down note, but I've noted several times in this space that jukeboxes - online or terrestrial - are a race to the bottom at this point. With the confluence of the web's most popular social networking site AND most popular online radio service, music discovery in America has reached another inflection point. For broadcasters of all stripes, the future will likely be increased (online) consolidation, cooperation with former rivals, and of course aligning yourselves with Facebook's own rivals (Google, for now). It also wouldn't hurt to accelerate your plans to load up those wheat trucks with something besides music...
Are we connected yet on Twitter? Click here to follow Tom Webster
Written Apr. 20, 2010 in Social Networking with 1 Comment
I was recently asked by a journalist if I knew of any radio stations that were doing a particularly good job with social media. Before I could answer that, I had to come to terms with what my definition of "a good job" really was. I think it comes down to this: there are three levels of engagement with social media as far as a radio station is concerned.
1. Broadcaster. This sums up most of the social media efforts I have seen associated with radio stations, and I'm not knocking this, per se. You are broadcasters. You are good at broadcasting. Twitter, at least as it is used today, is primarily a broadcast platform. So there are certainly a lot of you using Twitter, Facebook and others to "push out" messages about your station.
2. Sharer. The next level of engagement involves sharing content with your listeners (and others) that isn't necessarily related to your station ("selling your dumb stuff," as Chris Brogan articulates it.) Becoming a sharer means putting yourselves genuinely in the shoes of your listeners (not the shoes of your PD or GSM) and passing along links, coupons, information, concert dates--whatever might add value, whether it's station-related or not. Your being a sharer is not only more valuable to your existing listeners than broadcasting, it's also the best way to pass the Turing Test for potential new listeners and followers.
3. Breaking the "Fourth Wall." Here, ultimately, is where my definition of "doing a good job" in every sense of the word lies. Once you get beyond broadcasting, and even sharing, you start to have conversations--not just replying to those who 'call your name' on the social web, but joining in on existing conversations about your community--wherever those conversations are being held--and adding value where ever you can. In theater, the "fourth wall" represents the imaginary wall between performers and audience. This "wall" is typically not breached, but when it is--when the actors directly address the audience--the audience becomes more than just spectators, but willing participants and co-conspirators. Do it right, and they'll even become your friends.
People don't fire their friends.
Written Mar. 25, 2010 in Social Networking with 0 Comments
I was honored to be asked to co-present a webinar on social media strategy with Triton Digital's Jim Kerr yesterday (for those who missed it, it will soon be archived here.) In my part of the webinar, I presented a section on developing policies and structure for the four broad "buckets" in which social media interactions can fall, and how to develop a differential strategy for each. Essentially, this means thinking about how to fill in this matrix:
I was thrilled to get a lot of positive comments about this matrix after the webinar, so I wanted to expand on those thoughts and help you fill in the holes. Since this is really applicable to all of Edison's client base, I've put my thoughts on A Simple Matrix for Social Media Engagement up on our main Edison blog. I hope you'll read them and contribute some of your own thoughts. How do you think about getting your station prepared to engage online? Let us know!
Written Mar. 16, 2010 in Social Networking with 0 Comments
Last week I wrote about what to listen for on the social web and how to use social media monitoring to go beyond brand mentions for your station and gain deeper insights into your product and how it is perceived. If you have some method for listening to the social web, you might have run into another sort of problem--no one is talking about you.
Don't panic. Certainly, conversational velocity is an important social media metric--the more people are talking about your station online, the more your station matters online. You can't, however, assume that people will just start talking about your station. First, your station has to matter, somehow, to a body of listeners. That in itself is no easy feat. But let's assume your station does, indeed, matter. The next step is to ask for the order.
In previous years, the impulse was to try and "host" these conversations--to drive people to your website and comment on your message board or blog posts. The web is a bit more complicated--and wonderful--today. Those conversations are distributed, atomized and spread across the social web--there is no "hub and spoke," there are only spokes. You can't change this behavior, but you can change your strategy.
The advent of more robust, capable social media listening tools means that you can monitor and respond to these conversations everywhere and anywhere, so you should encourage them everywhere and anywhere. Reward the behavior! The next time you run your "Top 9 @ 9," ask your listeners to review the songs or rate the whole show on their site, on your site, or wherever they share content--your job is to find them, not make them come to you. Tell them you are listening, and reward these conversations through contests, prizes or other means of recognizing and celebrating these online discussions. Pick some conversations at random--positive or negative--and surprise your listeners by rewarding their passion. Encouraging online discussions about your brand (again, negative or positive) and responding to them is the new "tell a friend" mechanic. The great thing is, encouraging and rewarding these conversations scales far greater than asking a listener to "tell a friend." Inspire their passion, and they'll literally tell everybody.
Still, you'll need to be brave--you may not like some of what you hear. But having passionate, heated conversations about what your station needs to do to improve is a gazillion times better than deafening silence.
Written Mar. 10, 2010 in Social Networking with 0 Comments
Listening to Facebook, blogs, message boards and Twitter for mentions of your station is easy. There is certainly the tactical aspect--responding to individual complaints, thanking people for listening, etc. But that only scratches the surface.
For example, I took a look at the last 300 mentions of WHTZ in New York (Z100) across all platforms of the social web, using some of the listening tools we use for clients here. Why Z100? Because people talk about Z100. If your social media listening "ears" don't pick up any conversations about your station, you don't exactly have a social media problem--you have a more sinister issue. Let's set that aside, however, and look at these 300 Tweets, posts and comments.
Of those 300 messages, I noticed the following:25 Mentioned Elvis Duran (connect with him on Twitter!)
23 Mentioned Taylor Swift
28 Mentioned Adam Lambert
48(!) Mentioned Justin Bieber
The most commonly used phrase was "Jingle Ball"
Also discussed with Z100: WKTU, WBLI, WFAN
Can you make any grand strategic pronouncements from this data? Maybe.
Can you come up with some ideas to engage with fans and followers on social media platforms? Definitely. Can you get a sense of what kinds of promotions Z100 should be targeting exclusively to the social web? Most assuredly.
There's even more information buried in there--sentiment, music styles, even what these listeners are doing when they aren't listening to Z100, and why that matters.
Never forget the powerful message of one of the best books ever written about the social web (The Cluetrain Manifesto). The conversations about your brand are happening all over the Internet, and thanks to our increasingly always-on, always-connected mobile media lifestyle, they are always happening quite literally under your nose. What are these conversations telling you? "You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention." So, here's a friendly kick in the keyster from yer pal Tom--listen, engage, learn and iterate.
Written Feb. 22, 2010 in Social Networking with 0 Comments
Opinion Research Corporation just came out with a study of the sources consumers trust for buying information. At the top of the list, chosen by 59% of respondents, was personal advice from friends and family (NOT social network "friends," who appear well down the list). TV News or other broadcasts were chosen by 40%, search engines at 39% (and growing) and radio came in at 20%, just behind direct mail. Messages or posts on social media sites were near the bottom, chosen by 18 percent (but significantly higher on the younger end, as you might imagine.)
Thinking in silos leads you to believe that this is yet another study diminishing the importance of radio. But, as this blog has made the case for many times in the past, you aren't in a silo. You may not have a TV station, but you have every right to search traffic, online ads, message boards and many other channels. What the connected digital economy of 2010 is teaching us that the right answer to what to try, is "everything." I see very little, if any, content marketing done online by radio stations--but an article about a local business or service is a clear opportunity to upsell a client, and another line in the water to attract a prospective customer to your client's door via search.
There simply isn't enough content on the majority of radio station websites to be interesting enough for humans--let alone search engine spiders--and the key to almost all of these potential fishing lines in the water is text content--whether that content is distributed on social networking sites, your station's blog, article marketing or in metadata wrapped around your online audio and video offerings. Without putting the creation of text content at the forefront of your digital strategy, you're needlessly playing in one silo--when you could be playing in the whole barnyard.
Written Dec. 14, 2009 in Social Networking with 0 Comments
That's the default behavior.
The trouble is, Facebook tricked you. By simply clicking through and agreeing to everything, you basically opened up almost everything that was heretofore private in your profile--your relationships, spouse/children, personal pictures, religion, politics, etc.--to people you don't know and may not want to know (as did your children, if they also clicked the defaults.) Facebook did this for one reason, pure and simple--to expose your information to search engines and increase overall page traffic and ad impressions at your expense.
If the default response to their email was to keep your information private and only viewable by your friends, this would be just another incremental scheme to eke out a few more pennies per page from those who decided to opt in. But anyone who maintains a profile on a social networking site is well accustomed to these notices and is used to the convention that the default behavior should be to maintain the status quo, not to change it by opting in to reduced privacy. By playing on the human tendency to just click through those "boring" terms of service messages to get to playing Farmville or whatever, Facebook has crossed the line into actual evil--really. I'm not exaggerating here (remember Facebook Beacon? Google that and tell me this latest ploy was a harmless "oversight.")
So, I'm deleting my account in one week--if we are friends in real life, we're still friends. If we are friends-who-haven't-met-yet, I'm still around on Twitter, here (of course) and sundry other places--I'm not hard to find. I hope you'll stay in touch--and I also hope you'll realize that sites like Facebook do come and go (MySpace, anyone?) and none of them are really all that important in the grand scheme of things. I don't need Facebook, and you don't either. I'm not dispensing advice here, and not advocating pulling your station's fan page or anything like that--I wouldn't presume to judge anyone who decided to stay on Facebook. But I'm voting with my feet. I'll see you elsewhere in 2010.
Written Nov. 16, 2009 in Social Networking with 5 Comments
I am a big fan of Greater Media CEO Peter Smyth's monthly column, From the Corner Office. It would be wonderful for the radio industry if all of broadcasting's top executives were out there, passionately telling their stories to both external and internal audiences. I've also had the pleasure of working for several Greater Media stations over the years, and have always come away impressed with their vision and commitment to local talent.
In this month's column, Smyth asks a crucial question about social media: is it a hobby, or a business? On the one hand, he clearly notes that "the listeners' world is changing, and we cannot be afraid to change ours to keep pace." On the other, he openly wonders that if the "midday talent friends people on Facebook [and] the night jock Twitters every 20 minutes [it may show] great personal initiative, but what does it do for the station’s relationship with the listeners?"
Smyth doesn't definitively come down either on the side of hobby or business, though references to "gizmos," practicing golf swings and manicuring front lawns seems to tip his hand somewhat. He is absolutely right to note that "If we keep adding [new social media tools] without specific goals or focus, we end up with a patchwork of gizmos, none of which is innovatively or consistently utilized in support of the overall station brand. What can happen is that staffers pursue their individual passions and hobbies but lose track of the station’s goals."
So, is social media a hobby that drains valuable time from already-overworked employees? Or is there a clear path to turning social media into revenue for broadcasters? The answer to that one, like so many other interesting business challenges, is "neither." No one yet has the answers in social media--I sure don't. But I know that the act of relating to our listeners where they are today--building relationships online through the tools and platforms our listeners are using--can never be a fruitless activity.
The confounding issue here is getting caught up in the tools; the "patchwork of gizmos" Smyth refers to. Will Twittering make it as a mainstream behavior? Dunno--maybe, maybe not. Will Facebook be around forever? What does last forever? (Ask MySpace). Bill Gates famously questioned Google as a business back in 2003--think he'd like a mulligan on that one?
Sure, the tools may come and go--quickly. But here is what I do know--regardless of the suite of tools in use at any one time, the desire for people to connect with people online isn't going away. Ever. Sites and services may come and go, but social media as a window into human business is not going away. Not to have a strategy for this tectonic shift in consumer behavior is not only not "skating to where the puck is going," it's refusing to skate to where it is. Almost half of all Americans have a profile on at least one social network--and building a profile isn't just simply visiting a page, it's actually doing a little work! Facebook had almost 130 million unique visitors last month. Today, one in four page views on the Internet is a Facebook page. Social media isn't the future. It's the now.
Social media is not just the key to conversational marketing, it's the key to building deeper relationships with listeners, and we need to do that in order to leverage those relationships into action for our advertisers. With Facebook, and not Google, fast becoming the Internet's home page, radio cannot afford to just wait this one out. Conversations between middle of the bell curve Americans--moms and dads, grandparents, your listeners--are taking place today, every day, on social media sites. If radio doesn't make social media engagement a business priority today, the industry risks further online irrelevance. Is the path to profitability clear? No. But that isn't stopping Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and thousands of other social media sites from building relationships now and becoming the arbiters of the game. In a year's time, any smartphone-equipped American will be able walk down the street and ask their phone where they should have lunch, and be treated instantly to a myriad of opt-in, hyperlocal offers from advertisers eager to cut out the middleman--that's you. Social media is the key to having those customers engage with you, and retaining your role as drivers of traffic, sales, and bums in seats.
All of that idle frittering away of time on social networks should have clear purpose, however, and in that Smyth is right to question how radio's people spend their time. But the answer is not to dismiss these activities, it's to develop a clear social media strategy--now--and to pursue it vigorously. The relationship is currency, and every idle tweet contributes to that relationship, either positively or negatively. The industry cannot respond to that by closing the channel. Human business in 2009 is all about your listeners and your advertisers being able to connect with your station--whenever, and wherever they choose, not you. I've noted before in this space that the incremental time cost of adding one more social network or social media tool is negligible thanks to all the web services out there to help with managing updates and profiles. Which ones should radio place its bets on? All of them. Listeners expect to be able to find you wherever they are, not where you are blasting. Social media broke the snow globe of traditional broadcasting, and the flakes aren't going to go back into the glass. It's up to radio to chase after every one it can, wherever they may fall.
It'll be hard work, and radio certainly doesn't have a head start. So, we can continue to ask the hobby vs. business question, or we can recognize that it's a false choice, and act now to build relationships online. For me, that's my hobby...and my business.
Written Nov. 3, 2009 in Content + Social Networking with 0 Comments
It's a familiar fact for radio people that format changes are sprung not just on listeners, but on staffers as well, and that jocks rarely get a chance to say goodbye. As the St. Louis Post Dispatch points out in an intriguing bit of enterprise this week, Facebook has changed that, allowing the personalities of Urban KATZ (the Beat) St. Louis to post their goodbyes as status updates.
And what did the Beat jocks write? "Just want to thank you for all your years of love and support over my radio career!" "I want to THANK everybody for all the kind words and support." "I have no hard feelings and I thank God for the opportunity." Only one former staffer went as far as bemoaning the state of the format: "We were puppets [to] a system. Years and years of non-support (bootlegging, etc.), has finally caught up. Urban radio is suffering all over."
Facebook could, I suppose, make personalities more diplomatic overall; a potential employer is able to see those comments. But it's worth noting that, in any event, these are not exactly the kind of comments that managers worry about when they decide to keep outgoing personalities far away from the mic.
Written Oct. 16, 2009 in Internet Radio + Social Networking with 2 Comments
Many people reading this know the hard way that it is genetically impossible to stop being a radio person just because you're not on the air at that moment or worse, not working.
So it should come as no surprise that John Lander, longtime morning host at WBMX (then-Mix 98.5) Boston and KKBQ (93Q) Houston is still doing a morning show . . . .on his Facebook page.
Looking at Lander's Facebook posts for the last three weeks, a handful are snapshots from his life, but there's also a lot of topical material and one-liners. And today, there's impossible trivia: "65% of women say theyhave to do this once per week, even though they don't want to."
I'm a big fan of John Lander as a morning man and a programmer. So I hope someone lets him do this on the radio again in the near future. But as we see smaller percentages of the audience using radio in the morning, it does make one wonder. If an increasing number of people are getting their services from the Internet -- news, sports, weather, entertainment news -- what would happen if the other rituals of the morning show could be codified into a few Tweets or Facebook postings?
Written Oct. 9, 2009 in Social Networking + Terrestrial Radio with 2 Comments
Trick question. Yesterday, I watched a panel at the Inbound Marketing Summit (#ims09) discuss getting past the "social media hype." Panelists included Brian Solis, Chris Brogan, Jason Falls, Paul Gillin and CC Chapman, all respected voices in social media. At the end of the session, panelists were asked to give a last word of advice for companies seeking to adopt or enhance a social media presence. For the most part, the responses were fairly tactical in nature--not wrong, mind you, just tactical. "Be Human." "Be Helpful." "Be Transparent." We've heard these admonitions numerous times, and they certainly sound reasonable. But what does it mean to you--to a radio station--to be "human?"
The answer, of course, is that a radio station isn't human, or helpful--its people are. Asking whether or not your station is ready to embrace a social media strategy is really asking whether or not the culture of your station or group embraces its humans, and whether or not those humans are empowered to transfer that love to their listeners.
It struck me watching this panel that not every station is going to engage in social media the same way--rather, each station has its own culture, its own level of comfort with transparency, and will find its own way to engage in social media. The key is to try--anything and everything--and see what resonates. Some efforts might fail. Chris Brogan has said that a blog is not a kitten--don't be afraid to kill it off. But don't be afraid to try it, either.
One thing that definitely works is a differential approach to all of the various outposts for social media. You already have a "broadcast" platform--that big tower--so using the various platforms to "tweet out" to followers is, at the very least, an inefficient way to use social platforms. Twitter is great as a listening platform, and as a way to extend invitations to engage, while Facebook allows for deeper engagement and community contribution. Platforms like Foursquare and Brightkite might be great mobile social outposts for jocks doing remotes and live appearances. There's no shortage of sandboxes to play in.
What is best for you? I can't answer that--only this guy would prescribe one approach for everyone. What you can do, however, is educate yourself on the various platforms and how they work, and see what feels right for you--in other words, in which platform(s) do you feel most comfortable and human?
Since it's your humans (and not your "station") that will be the touchpoint of those interactions, why not ask them? At the NAB Radio Show recently I watched a panel of some of today's best air talent talk about some of the ways they interact with listeners. I was particularly impressed with Sheri Lynch, co-host of the syndicated Bob and Sheri show. As a resident of North Carolina, the show's home state, I have long known that Sheri is extremely smart and talented. So it was unsurprising to hear that she is indeed very savvy with social networks, and has developed her own Facebook strategy that is actually quite brilliant.
Sheri never promotes her Facebook page to listeners on the air. She may talk about the show's presence, or her blog, but not her personal Facebook page. Instead, she lets listeners find it on their own (not all that hard to do) and treats it like a special place, something more personal and private that only "select" people stumble upon. Of course, she knows full well that her "friends" on Facebook include lots of listeners, but because her Facebook presence is treated like a "secret garden" of sorts, she can use it for more personal musings/photos/videos and let her listeners feel like they have an even more special, deeper relationship with Sheri than the general listening public.
I was blown away by this. Is this the right idea for you? Only you can be the judge of what is and isn't comfortable. What impressed me about this was the amount of careful thought Sheri had given her use of this particular outpost, and how this wasn't a tactical decision at all--it was all part of a shrewd differential communication strategy to engage listeners on multiple levels. So how should the Bob and Sheri show use social networking to engage listeners? Maybe the answer is to ask Bob and Sheri.
How should your air talent engage their listeners online? I bet they already know, or at least have a clear sense of what feels right--and no one can ever know that better than the talent themselves. After that, it's a simple matter to find the right tools and platforms to allow them to express themselves however they feel comfortable and most human. So, is your station ready to engage? The better question is: are your people ready to engage? Why not ask them? If they are, they are.
Written Sep. 11, 2009 in Music Industry + Social Networking + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
Going to the NAB (or at least going to be around Philly Sep 23-25)? Interested in radio's digital future? I can think of at least two places you need to be to join in and help lead the dialogue. First, I hope you'll join me on Wednesday, September 23rd, at The Digital Meetup (registration required), which will take place at The Phoenix Rooftop Deck near the convention center. This is a fantastic networking opportunity and your chance to exchange ideas with some really smart people (scroll down the main invitation page to see the attendee list) including, hopefully, YOU.
Also, Kurt Hanson is bringing the RAIN east--or, at least, the RAIN Summit. I've been fortunate enough to attend the last two RAIN Summits in Las Vegas, and bringing an abbreviated edition of this wonderful forum for Internet Radio to the NAB is a great idea and a welcome addition to the slate of events that week in Philly. The event will be held on Thursday the 24th at the Hard Rock Cafe next to the convention center. More details are available here.
Finally, I'd love to connect anytime with you. If you want to meet up--either professionally, or just socially--at the NAB, I'll be there all week, as they say in the lounges. Hit me on the Twitter or text/call me at 919-260-0228. I'll be on a social networking panel on Friday morning (which I hope you'll attend!) but would much prefer some actual, you know, old-fashioned networking to learn what you are doing and how your station is seizing its place on the Infinite Dial.
Written Aug. 24, 2009 in Social Networking + Technology with 0 Comments
I'm often asked by some of our radio industry readers how to get started with social networking and learn the ropes, so to speak, of connecting with listeners online. I'm far from an expert--and, at this stage of the game, I'd distrust anyone who says they are!--but I can share one thing we've done here at Edison that has proven more successful than I initially hoped.
The tactical "hows" of social networking are easy, and chances are many of you already know them--I see you on Facebook. There are also the strategic "hows" (and the "whys") that are not so obvious. Engaging listeners online, whether it's through social networking sites or even through blog comments, requires a certain level of transparency and committed participation to really work. That "transparency" can't be faked--if you don't have it, you can't play the game. Letting your listeners in on the processes--music meetings, programming decisions, coverage of local issues--all has to come before you can start talking the transparency talk.
One way to dip your toe into that kind of transparency is to start with a sandbox--a protected environment, behind your firewall, in which to "practice." Today, especially with the rampant morale problems many budget-crunched radio stations are experiencing, internal transparency is equally important to (and a prerequisite of) external transparency. As managers, you know the importance of effectively communicating policy changes, layoffs and other realities of broadcasting in 2009 to the troops--but one-way communication is so two-thousand-and-late. If you are not ready to have employees--air talent, sales talent, promotions, etc.--touch your decision-making process, then you aren't ready to engage listeners either.
Many stations do this through email, but email is actually a poor place for this sort of communication--CC and BCC are poor proxies for dialogue, messages have to be duplicated for various responses, and email repositories are private, ephemeral entities that vanish when employees do. Here at Edison, we've been experimenting with a kind of private Twitter, an enterprise microblogging service called Socialcast. If you are currently posting to Facebook, you know how to use Socialcast--basically, it's just a protected, company-only social networking site to which employees can post short status updates, files and links--and comment on the posts of others.
I wasn't sure how this would work at Edison, but so far I've been very encouraged. It's become a great source for learning about what others are working on, sharing resources to help with projects, and even the odd funny video or two (if you try and restrict the communication, you basically put up barriers to usage). All of the wisdom, resources and knowledge that used to walk out the door at 5:30 is now stored online, tagged and searchable by future users. It's less intrusive than IM, more "social" and mine-able than email, and it's just fun to use.
Depending on your management style, you might find your employees are more or less willing to express their opinions about the day-to-day operations of your station, group or cluster. But it's a first step. In the process, you'll do more than simply improve employee relations and retention of company information, you'll also identify the "sharers" in your organization--the folks who might best represent your station AND your listeners in more public forums. The talent is there--you probably already have people in the building who know all you need to know about social networking--it just needs to be identified, encouraged and trusted. Sandbox services like Socialcast are great for all three.
Finally, a personal note--there are a lot of "gurus" out there in social media, but no one can manage your online reputation and engage listeners better than you. Social media is about sharing, not broadcasting. This post has been about something that worked for us, I hope it works for you. And if you've found something that works for you, share it here in the comments or connect with me on Twitter. If this blog is not about you, then we're doing it wrong.
Written Aug. 17, 2009 in Social Networking with 2 Comments
In research conducted by Edison and others over the past few years, two things about mass media have become increasingly clear: your audience has never trusted you less, and has never needed to trust you more. As cynicism about the media continues to filter its way into mainstream consciousness, more and more news and information seekers are building their own filters--becoming their own "program directors"--and assembling their own customized media channels around fragmented sources they trust. One of the interesting things about "trust" in 2009 (as opposed to 1979) is that "trusted" doesn't have to mean unbiased. Trusted simply means transparent--I don't care if there is a bias, as long as it is transparent, out in the open, and I can process that information how I choose.
I get my news most nights from Brian Williams and the NBC Nightly News. Brian is a trusted source for me not only for his cool, measured and unbiased presentation of the news--I trust him because I feel like I know the guy behind the suit, thanks in no small part to the show's blog, The Daily Nightly. In the blog, Williams and other contributors detail the process of the news--and why certain stories are heavily reported, while others may appear to have been given short shrift. Williams doesn't lose his objectivity by taking sides on an issue, but he does come off as a passionate, thinking and feeling human by being passionate and transparent about the news process. In short, BriWi is a trust agent for NBC, and NBC Nightly News generally gets my attention because of him.
The obvious trust agents for your station are your on-air personalities, but there are other sources of trust (and magnets for listener cynicism) at work off the air, as well. With "corporate" the most frequently used prefix to "radio" by an entire generation, the cynicism about how radio stations select and rotate music has never been higher. I have written here in the past about opening up your weekly music meeting to listeners, and it seems to me that there is no better way to establish your music/program director as a trust agent than by making this heretofore opaque, black box process a more transparent exchange. The parallels to "The Daily Nightly" are obvious here--listeners (especially millenials) may not agree with your decision to play or exclude a given song, but if they can see the passion, the heated exchanges, and the integrity behind those decisions, than your station has gone a long way towards rebuilding some of the trust that "corporate radio" has lost over the past decade.
"Trust Agent" is such a great term that I really wish I had coined it. That honor, however, falls to Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, who just released their book, entitled (appropriately enough) Trust Agents. I just got my pre-order copy over the weekend, and it's a keeper. If you are looking for a concise, actionable primer for using social media to bank a little karma with your listeners, I can think of no finer guides than Brogan and Smith. I got the chance to meet Chris Brogan while speaking at his company's Inbound Marketing Summit in San Francisco earlier this year, where I was fortunate to hear some of the latest thinking and best practices in social media marketing and strategy. Brogan's site alone is a vast treasure trove of best practices, smart thinking and practical tips to navigate the waters of social media, but if you want the short course, this book is what you are looking for.
And, as always, in keeping with Edison's spirit of kaizen, what can we do to serve as trust agents for you? We're always open to topics, critiques and suggestions. Post them here, or pop me an email. You can trust me to get back to you.
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. 5, 2009 in Social Networking + Technology with 0 Comments
New research has been released in the last few weeks about the state of illegal downloading and what drives "music pirates" to flout the law. In two separate studies, the news is more promising than it has been in years and may cause record companies to take a new look at how to battle this ongoing threat.
According to a recent study by Britain-based The Leading Question, a media and technology research agency, music piracy seems to be on the decline, at least in the UK. This January 2009 study shows that 17% of music fans are file sharing on a regular basis (defined as at least once per month), compared to the 22% that were doing so in December 2007. Teenagers actually had the biggest drop in file sharing. In December 2007, 42% of 14 – 18 year olds engaged in file-sharing, compared to only 26% in this latest research.
The research suggests that the move away from file sharing is directly related to an increase in audio streaming, especially for teens. Sites like Pandora and YouTube offer easy to use, free music services that allow would-be downloaders to legally get their tunes. This concurs with our own data showing that teens are frequent users of streaming audio sites and services. While pirates are still dabbling in illegal sharing, they undoubtedly are doing it less with these free streaming sites.
Coincidentally, a separate report released by the US-based research company Interpret shows that illegal downloaders tend to be hard-core, passionate music consumers who are not unwilling to pay for music--they just gravitate to more unconventional means. Compared to those who buy CDs, they are more likely to buy music through games such as Guitar Hero and through other gaming consoles. These pirates also favor individual songs rather than entire CDs. The study also reports that illegal downloaders are 50% more likely than CD buyers to have listened to music on a social networking site.
These findings from both studies are indicative that illegal downloaders will get their music anywhere they can. So what are the record companies to do? For starters, they should concede that music piracy will always exist in some way, shape or form and they will never succeed in abolishing it. But more importantly, they need to get to these pirates “on their own turf” through gaming and sites like Facebook and Twitter and present alternative means to sample, download and yes, purchase music
This piracy war will continue but the playing field is definitely changing and the ball is back in the court of the record companies. Let’s wait and see what their next offensive will be. Any bets?
Written Jul. 23, 2009 in Social Networking with 1 Comment
CNBC recently reported that the Explosion in Social Media has failed to create many jobs--at least, so far. While there are some consultancies and services out there that absolutely add value, most companies are finding, as Sawhorse Media CEO Greg Galant quips in the article, that "you can’t spend money on Twitter even if you wanted to." Most companies are simply shifting existing personnel over to fill social media roles, and since social media really only requires effort and strategy (as opposed to making a "buy"), more and more companies are finding that making the effort on Facebook, Twitter and FriendFeed is a very effective and cost-efficient means of building customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Considering the low cost of participation in social media (for me, it's about 45 minutes a day, give or take) and the potentially high rewards, it's really a no-brainer to get involved. With most companies not making outside hires to fill social media roles, and with radio budgets in particular slashed below the point of sustainability, no one is taking the community manager/social media outreach coordinator position at your station. No one, that is, except for you. The best part: the only qualifications you need to be an effective social media presence for your station are passion, enthusiasm, and a genuine desire to connect with your listeners and others who are talking about your brand.
I know it's very easy, given the likely state of your station's financial picture, to lament the good old days, complain about what is happening to the industry, make up funny names for your CEO and focus on the various missteps and wrong turns your station, cluster and/or company have made over the past 5 years. You may not be in a position where you think you can do much about your company's failed digital strategy, and you probably won't be getting a spiffy new website anytime soon. But when it seems like there is nothing you can do, nothing makes you feel better than doing something. Life rewards action. Here's something you can do, at any level--you now have permission. How can I help?
Written Jul. 22, 2009 in Content + Internet Radio + Social Networking with 2 Comments
It's not quite as much of a bug-a-boo of mine as bad PSAs, but I've often found stations' on-line experiences to be diminished by those stations that have not yet found a way to keep their internal jock notes from showing up in the "now playing" area of their streaming media player. While I personally enjoy knowing that I'm hearing "slow to fast jingle 7" between the songs, it's a little like spotting the boom hanging down at the top of a movie frame. It gives the impression of a station not entirely in control of its content. And I just know that one day I'm going to see some jock note like, "Only take female contest winners" make it to the Web.
So I have to commend Hot AC/Classic Hits-hybrid KRXY (Roxy 94.5) Olympia, Wash., a favorite station of mine which is streaming again after the best part of a decade. Roxy did something so simple that I'm surprised that I haven't seen it anywhere else. When they played their lunchtime "speedy CD" song, the "now playing" display both showed the correct answer and gave the winner's name and town.
So if a station has somebody (likely the jock) making sure the correct winner name gets posted on the Web, what else could stations do in real time with the media player? We're already training our jocks to provide a steady stream of Tweets and Facebook postings through their shift. And we know that listeners appreciate the "now playing" window. And we're trying to teach listeners to watch the player during our streaming stopsets to click through to advertisers.
So why not provide extra real-time content? Song and contest teasers? More facts about the music? An apology for the lame PSA now playing on the Webstream? (Sorry.) Plugs for other cool things on the Website. Many listeners have something better to do with their time than watch the media player at work. Then again, many clearly don't. And like those Tweets or Facebook postings, it's a place for the kind of humor that some (but not all) of us miss hearing on the air.
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. 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. 26, 2009 in Social Networking with 0 Comments
As consolidated radio runs more and more from remote hard drives, it's worth noting that today's social web is running in exactly the opposite direction. Take Twitter, for instance. If you have a positive or negative experience on Southwest Air, let @southwestair know on Twitter. You will get a response, and that response will be human. In fact, @southwest air is a real, bona-fide person with a vibrant personality whose "job" is not to endlessly tweet ads for Southwest, but to continue providing that Southwest Luv to their passengers online and off.
Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang noted today that humans don't scale. If you read Owyang's blog, or follow his prodigious output on Twitter, you might wonder how he keeps up with it. The answer, according to Owyang himself, is that he doesn't--"the wheels are falling off!" I don't think they've fallen off for Owyang yet, but his message is clear. Keeping up with social media is work, just like maintaining your network of personal and business relationships is work. Social media doesn't 'automate' interaction. Instead, it provides tools to help you maintain your relationships and make your interactions richer, but it doesn't scale. It isn't supposed to, really, if you keep to the spirit of social media.
Everyone has their own Dunbar's Number, and social media may help you to augment that, but make no mistake--you can't just sign up for Twitter and blast out promotional messages all day long and call that "social networking." People connect with people, and people want to know there is a real person behind that avatar.
How this ties into radio should be obvious. If your programming is automated and piped in from servers unknown, don't expect to do the same with your social media outreach. Won't work. If you can't put a thinking, feeling, real human being behind your social media efforts, don't bother--you'll get found out pretty quickly. Your social media presence can be an outstanding conduit of local information, music information, viral videos, etc.--but it must be a two-way conduit, or your efforts will absolutely fail. I wish I could tell you there was a magic social networking button, but there isn't. You, your air talent, your marketing team and even your sales team have to work, listen and learn. You can't automate that.
Written Jun. 16, 2009 in Internet Radio + Social Networking + Technology with 6 Comments
Earlier today, Norway-based Opera released a preview version of Opera Unite, which incorporates innovative new technology into the latest version of their eponymous web browser software. After playing around with it a bit today I've come away quite impressed--especially by its potential as a interface to media.
Opera Unite basically connects browsers to browsers without using client-server technology. In other words, if I want to access media on one computer from another, as long as they are both running Opera Unite they are connected without any intermediary or third-party server. While these sorts of connections have been possible before, they haven't been built into the browser, and haven't been very easy to use. The promise of Opera Unite is that, one day very soon, my parents could fire up their browser and look at new pictures of their grandson on my machine without needing IT support or using yet another login at yet another third-party file/photo sharing site.
For the purposes of this space, the real paradigm shift lies with Opera Unite's media technology, which lets me play music from my home computer on my Macbook Pro using only a web browser--and also lets my friends do the same. OK, that's not revolutionary--but that isn't the end of the vision. Imagine, as Opera's Lawrence Eng has, that I could play a song on my browser, and all my friends could hear it at the same time while browsing the web. Then imagine that Opera Unite Jukebox, as Eng paints it, allows me to put 10 songs into a "queue," and 9 of my friends to do the same. What we've just created is a true, participatory radio station--the ultimate manifestation of bringing your CDs over to a friend's house and having a listening party. Throw in the ability to vote for/rank songs and comment, and you have the radio station of tomorrow.
The trick here for broadcasters of today is not to "beat" this--you can't beat personalized radio--it's to join this. The best way to join is to be one of those 9 friends. As I've written in this space before, social networking connects people with other people, not stations or brands. If you are a music station, the time is now to brand or re-brand your air talent as credible arbiters of musical taste. The fleeting, short-term rewards of the PPM jukebox aside, you cannot out-jukebox the Internet. It's time to find the voices in your community that are knowledgeable and influential on music and give them a platform--regardless of their "jock skills"--and reclaim radio's place as an important platform for music discovery. These voices don't necessarily have to be local--my first "arbiter of taste" was Rock Over London's Graham Dene--but they have to be real people with the freedom to take chances and open the mic again.
Today, when I want to learn about new electronic music, I ask my friend Mike. When I want to learn about new Indie rock, I connect with my friend Chris MacDonald at IndieFeed. These two have earned their place on my Opera Unite Jukebox because I trust them to steer me to the good stuff. Music broadcasters need to stop worrying about the short-term vagaries of PPM and start finding the folks like Mike and Chris in their market who can speak authoritatively about a genre and make informed recommendations to an audience the likes of which no algorithm or database has yet to touch. For music broadcasting to survive, it can't continue to "install formats." Radio has to fundamentally rethink how it connects with listeners, and how it can serve as the intermediary between listeners and advertisers. People will never connect with jukeboxes.
Written Jun. 4, 2009 in Social Networking + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
Chris Brogan wrote a wonderful piece today entitled Audience or Community that I'd strongly recommend to our readers in the radio industry (and if you are trying to sort out best practices for using social media for external and internal communication, I highly recommend subscribing to Chris's blog and email newsletter.)
Broadcast radio is in the business of building audience, but "audience" just doesn't cut it online. As I recently presented at the Inbound Marketing Summit in San Francisco, more than one in three Americans (and a majority of Americans 12-34) have a profile on at least one social networking site. These stats, coupled with the enormous growth in 35-54 adoption of services like Facebook, are clear indicators that your "audience" is looking for something completely different online: community.
What's the difference? Brogan offers a simple, yet powerful distinction:
The only difference between an audience and a community is which direction the chairs are pointing.So, how can broadcast radio stations spin those chairs around online? It would be foolish to try and replicate Facebook, as I've written in this space before--but there are myriad ways to foster community and engagement online that make a good deal of sense for the broadcast radio industry.
Here is one simple, yet powerful idea: open your weekly music meeting to your listeners. You don't need anything fancy for this--no web integration, no fancy-shmancy chat application, no consultant required. You don't need to spend a dime. Just hold your music meeting live, each week, on Twitter: append a hashtag (like #WXYZMusic) to your tweets, and talk about the songs you are considering adding or dropping and why. Use a Twitter client like Tweetdeck or Twhirl (or simply go to search.twitter.com) to search for that hashtag, and start conversations with the listeners that reply. Be sure to promote your Twitter account and the weekly music meeting time on the air, and--here's the easy part--listen. If you get a body of passionate Tweeters fighting for a song or artist they believe in, reward that passion. If the song fits the format, why not give it a few spins? Don't forget to Tweet when you are playing it to let your listeners know that their feedback really counts.
Taking chances on songs and artists that your listeners on Twitter are passionate about will go a long way towards translating that passion to your online--and on air--efforts, and help to turn your audience into a community. You have nothing to lose here--either you are doing music research and can quickly verify whether or not that chance was rewarded, or you aren't doing music research--so who are you to argue with your listeners anyway? Sure, holding public music meetings on Twitter will be good for PR and give your station a temporary buzz, but that buzz will only be self-sustaining if you actually transform your station into a listening entity, and not just a broadcasting entity.
Spin those chairs around.
Written May. 29, 2009 in Podcasting + Social Networking with 1 Comment
At the very least, the Twitter top 99 chart now appearing on We Are Hunted is diverse. It's a chart where not only do Blink-182's "What's My Age Again" and Black Eyed Peas' "Hey Mama" show up, many years after their last airplay, but so do Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" and Smiths' "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out," despite never having really been radio records.
What else? Eminem's "We Made You" at No. 1; lots of teen pop (both Miley and Hannah, Jonas Brothers, Taylor Swift), some classic Alternative and a lot of Classic Rock.
We Are Hunted's Nick Crocker tells Read Write Web that the chart is calculated by "sampling Twitter throughout the day looking for tweets that indicate someone is listening to or playing music and analyzing these tweets in our semantic engine." RWW takes that to includes tweets of Blip.fm and Last.fm activity.
There are a few obvious limitations here. One is what people are going to announce they listen to in public. If I had to Tweet something from my iPod right now, it would be "Head On" by Jesus & Mary Chain, but it took six songs before I found one I was willing to admit to in a public place. You also have to wonder if "What's My Age Again" is a potential bringback for radio or merely a title that makes for funny Tweets. And how many mentions did it take to put Simon & Garfunkel's "Cecelia" on the chart at No. 83? That could shake your confidence in the data daily.
There is also no age (or other demo) data of course. So the only evidence, anecdotal, you have that this represents the younger audience that radio's research often excludes, is in the eclecticism that you often hear attributed to younger listeners. But it's fascinating to see "Stairway to Heaven" and "Poker Face" living on the same chart somewhere.
Written Apr. 17, 2009 in Internet Radio + Social Networking with 0 Comments
...is not enough. Certainly, many broadcasters should already know this, but one of the slides we presented in yesterday's Infinite Dial presentation underlines this observation pretty clearly:
What this slide shows us is the percentage of Americans who own/use each listed device or platform who say that this device/platform has had a "big impact" on their lives (4 or 5 on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being "no impact.") The big, obvious takeaway here is the 47% of mobile phone owners who say that these devices have had a big impact on their lives--more than twice as high as the similar measurement for AM/FM radio users, iPod users or satellite radio users. It is worth focusing on the bottom of this chart, though, and there is a lesson here for terrestrial broadcasters streaming their content AND for pure-play internet broadcasters--make content that matters.
Today, flexibility, control, and personalization are just part of the cost of doing business. Merely having an engine that plays "one great song after another" does not erect a strategic moat around your business plan, nor does it protect you from being one bad song away from losing audience. True, there are some online contenders out there that have a strategic advantage by dint of a markedly superior interface, or a noticeably superior personalization or discovery engine, but most online radio of the music variety consists of stream after stream of jukeboxes--if one goes away tomorrow, there are a thousand to replace it.
Content producers online need to make media that matters in order to nudge this score up--and it is important to nudge this score up, because it will be in the recognition of online radio's importance to the lives of consumers that will lead to successful monetization strategies and effective brands. If there is anything that social media has shown us, it's that people connect with people. And if you are producing online radio of any kind, you cannot forget that. One of my favorite focus group questions to ask in a media project is the "epitaph question" -- if (station/brand) went away tomorrow, what would you miss most about it? It's personality and passion that provide the easy answers for respondents here--if they struggle to answer, then you won't be missed when you go.
Written Apr. 1, 2009 in Social Networking with 1 Comment
I've had it on my to-do list for a while to write a primer on how radio stations can incorporate Facebook as a listener touchpoint, but now I don't need to--Jerry Del Colliano has written a great article on Facebook strategies for radio, and I highly recommend it.
The key with Facebook (and where I have seen some notable stations go horribly wrong) is that the core units of Facebook are people, not brands or stations. I connect with people, and I am interested in people. I am not interested in your station, per se, but in a personality that represents your station. This means having digitally literate managers, like Mark Edwards, from CBS in St. Louis) or passionate, connected air talent like Helen Little at WLTW in New York.
If you represent your station in ANY capacity, either in programming, marketing or on the air, it is no longer acceptable in 2009 to be digitally illiterate, or pass off online interactions to others. "I don't use the computer" or "the intern does that" will not help your personal brand (and in times like these, that and your job are your biggest assets!) The key is to just be yourself. You don't need to (nor should you) use Facebook as a 'promotional' tool. Just log on and be yourself. Find your passion, and communicate it effectively. Friends will follow.
Want to learn more? My friend Jim Tobin (who runs a social media agency down where I live in NC) wrote a great book on using social media called "Social Media is a Cocktail Party: Why You Already Know the Rules of Social Media Marketing. I highly recommend the book--in essence, if you know how to behave at a cocktail party, then you already know what to do on Facebook. Just be human, relatable and authentic. And don't drink too much.
Written Mar. 11, 2009 in Content + Social Networking + Terrestrial Radio with 1 Comment
When news breaks, today's net-savvy consumers instantly turn to their own trusted sources--traditional news outlets, blogs, message boards--and become their own 'editors,' discarding what is not credible (or doesn't fit their synthesized model) and incorporating the rest into what they deem is 'true.' In all cases, they require grist for the mill, and that grist has to be immediate. This is why Matt Drudge has so many page views--not so much from the sheer numbers of unique users (though he has those) but from those users constantly hitting 'refresh' to find out what is happening right now.
They do this, because Drudge has successfully created the expectation that he won't miss anything, so neither will you. Radio used to have that expectation, and for many stations still does--on the air. But what does your website look like after a few (hundred) browser refreshes? When something big is happening in your town, when does it make it onto your website? That night? Tomorrow? Later in the week?
You don't need a 'news department' to fulfull the immediacy expectation, and you shouldn't have to wait for the 'webmaster' either. What you should have is a website with a modern, user-friendly content management system, and judicious integration with social bookmarking, tagging and 'immediacy' tools like Twitter. You can do this--a WHOLE lot cheaper than you think--and you must do this. The web has a whole different set of expectations, and while more may be asked, much more is given. I'm glad to help.
Written Feb. 13, 2009 in Internet Radio + Mobile Media + Social Networking with 0 Comments
This is pretty cool: Twisten.FM. If you have used Twitter for any length of time, you know that while the constant river of 'tweets' can be entertaining (and distracting), the real power of Twitter comes from unlocking its search capabilities (search.twitter.com). The ability to search for keywords and phrases important to you, your station and your listeners--and then to subscribe to those search results--is a fantastically powerful way to tap into the zeitgeist of the ever-growing community of Twitter users and to stay on top of trends that haven't even happened yet.
Twisten.FM leverages the power of Twitter search by honing search results only to what people are listening to. By aggregating results from some of the many services that post what you are listening to on Twitter, Twisten provides a real-time dashboard of what your friends and followers are listening to. The service allows you to play the songs being 'tweeted,' tag them as 'favorites' and even send them to someone else.
For now, Twisten is simply a very-well executed scrolling playlist of what your friends are listening to. However, Twisten was developed by Grooveshark, a social music community with a number of compelling features for sharing and listening to music, and I think Twisten's real future lies in its potential to create "friend radio" networks--just as Pandora or Slacker allow you to create custom stations by adding your favorite artists, I can see a day when Twisten allows users to create streaming radio stations by adding their favorite Twitterers--the folks on Twitter who have earned their place with a given tribe as an arbiter of musical taste--and creating a little more space between those little white earbuds for shared experience.
Are you on Twitter yet? You should be! Follow me at webby2001, and tell us what you are listening to. I'll be listening, and so will others...
Written Aug. 18, 2008 in Content + Social Networking + Technology with 0 Comments
I was very pleased to see the inclusion of a wiki in Bonneville's new website for The Sound in Los Angeles. To find it, roll over "Be It" in the menu, and select Sound Wiki (or heck, just click here). The wiki runs on the MediaWiki platform, which is the same engine behind Wikipedia, so there is plenty of power under the hood. I love the idea of having a wiki on a radio station website, but before you commit to throwing one up on yours, you need to figure out what kinds of content your listeners will be motivated to create, and whether or not your listeners will perceive your wiki as the most logical place to do that.
If you are asking your listeners to build profiles and engage in the same sorts of social networking behaviors that they are already participating in on Facebook or MySpace--good luck. Those sites do this better than your station possibly can. But if you are looking to build listener-created content based upon your music or your local community, then you have a play. The key is to do it in a way that does not force listeners to replicate an existing behavior, but plays upon everyone's natural urge to tell stories.
Let's examine this in the context of The Sound. Most of the pages in their wiki are about the artists that are played on the station. However, the station has taken the liberty of "pre-populating" the artist wiki pages with content from Wikipedia. Let's set aside the appropriateness of simply recopying Wikipedia content aside for a moment. What a fully-fleshed out page of content like this says to the reader/listener is this: "read me." The art, heart and soul of a wiki, however, is a page that says "write me." "Write Me" is engaging and asks for a commitment from your audience that is instantly rewarded. Changing those pages and telling their stories is the "pro quo" they get for the "quid" of signing up to your station database to gain the privilege of making those edits.
In the case of a fully-formed page about David Bowie, the average listener is going to see this page and be intimidated by it--what more could they possibly add? The "super-fan" might be motivated to comment, but are just as likely to do so on Wikipedia, where these sorts of artist biography pages belong, and to write you nasty letters for ripping Wikipedia off in the first place. Encouraging content contribution on a wiki is as much about structure as it is subject matter. In the case of the former, the key is to provide enough boilerplate content in the form of a template to encourage your audience to easily change it (no one likes to tackle a blank page) but not so much as to be a deterrent to contribution.
Subject matter, however, is even more important. Your station cannot possibly "own" David Bowie on the Internet--you probably don't even "own" him in your market, in the grand scheme of things. The entries on Los Angeles music venues are perhaps more promising, but the average listener doesn't know or care about the history of its construction. They do, however, have stories to tell--seeing Black Sabbath for the first time, getting laid in the parking lot, getting arrested at the Night Ranger show (presumably for attending it), etc. Sharing those stories is a logical purpose for a radio station wiki, and a nobler cause than simply as repository for venue history. You don't need to replicate Wikipedia (or even remotely resemble it). Start modestly, as an online cork board for sticky notes about great concerts your listeners have seen or other truly personal remembrances of the various venues in your market. Eventually, your listeners will engage with you, with each other, and even with some well chosen, carefully placed sponsors that make sense and are relevant to the page or topic.
Having said that, a big BRAVO to Bonneville for designing a website that doesn't look like Yahoo, circa 1999. Good, clean designs are not "decorations," they are conduits to your content.
Written Aug. 5, 2008 in Podcasting + Social Networking + Technology with 0 Comments
If you are in the business of New Media, you really should be at the New Media Expo next week in Las Vegas. This event has really grown into a fantastic conference (this is its first year in Vegas) and I will be speaking on the topic of the efficacy of podcast advertising--who is listening, who is buying, and what podcast content creators can do to get more of both. My talk is at the end of the day on Friday, of course, so once again my big bucket o' data will be the last barrier to cocktail progress for most of the attendees. With that in mind, I'll be concise!
Look me up there, or pop me a note on Twitter if you'd like to meet. With speakers ranging from Gary Vaynerchuk of the enormously popular Wine Library TV to the marketing VP behind Blendtec's "Will It Blend" (which prompted me to buy one!) it will be a fantastic conference with loads of ideas, networking and maybe a little of that Edison statistical magic at the craps table.
I'll also be speaking in September on the topic of podcasting at the NAB Radio show. I get lots of questions from broadcasters about podcasting, specifically who is making it work and how they are getting paid. Between now and then I'll be interviewing some of the industry leaders here in this space so you can read and see for yourself the power of downloadable media and how you can make it work for your station. More soon!
Written Oct. 16, 2007 in Content + Social Networking + Terrestrial Radio with 4 Comments
When wireless broadband finally brings The Infinite Dial to my car, the stations that get a button will be a lot different. I'll have a regular choice for obscure classic rock (Suburban Phoenix's KCDX), my Country station will be KEEY (K102) Minneapolis, and my replacement for New York's Jack-FM will be one of the original ones from Canada (although I still have to decide between Vancouver and Calgary).
But my first button for Top 40 will be still be my local Top 40, WHTZ (Z100). Covering the radio business from New York--a market that doesn't always have the best-in-category of any given genre--has been frustrating over the years. But I've generally been happy with Z100 over the last decade. Z100 emerged as the market leader in New York's last diary Arbitron ratings yesterday. And they deserved to.
Here are some of the things that Z100 does right:
* Even in market No. 1, where they would certainly be entitled to be conservative, they find their own hit records. And while it doesn't happen as often as some industry folks might wish, they will occasionally play songs that are not on any other reporting Top 40 station.
* They pay a lot of attention to pop culture. Z100 is usually the first stop (and always among the first stops) for Radio Disney artists on their way to the mainstream, from Hilary Duff to Vanessa Hudgens to the Jonas Brothers to Miley Cyrus, whose "See You Again" is in rotation only at Z100 and XM-20.
* It makes good use of library material. During its late '90s success, Z100 was a Top 40 station that did several music tests a year. It reportedly has returned to library testing recently and has been filtering in a lot of unusual titles. And somehow it gets away with "Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls and "Ayo Technology" by 50 Cent on the same radio station.
* In fact, Z100 uses both current and library testing the way most of us would like to see them used--to intelligently take more shots on music, not fewer.
* They do a good job of associating themselves with new platforms (a lot of the on-air real-estate now is going to the station's social networking site, the Z-Zone).
* Z100 makes good use of benchmarking during the day. There are as many regular features between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. (the hours when I tend to hear the station most) as most morning shows.
* They have made better use than most of Clear Channel's new presentational austerity without sounding sterilized by it. (It usually feels like some thought went into the cold segue between the first and second record of the hour, for instance.)
Written Oct. 15, 2007 in Content + Social Networking with 0 Comments
Here is a great example of 'leaving deeper footprints,' a phrase I first heard from Scott Shannon 15 years ago. If you have never ordered shoes from Zappos, you are missing out on the best customer service on the web, and this blog post from a Zappos customer epitomizes why.
Leaving deeper footprints is something great stations do on a regular basis. One of the best places to find them in Country radio is on Jaye Albright's blog--she makes a regular point of celebrating the great things that Country radio stations do everyday for their communities. What are some of your favorite radio examples? Post them here--I bet this thread could crash our servers, and I hope it does.
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.