My skills do not really include much of a feel for marketing.  Oh…I can evaluate it – but so can my vacuum cleaner – so I tend to avoid marketing topics.  Too easy to be the dummy in the room.

BOffice Conflict Picut I couldn’t pass commenting on this truck board I  walked by last week.  The combination of Office Depot and Office Max (you’re forgiven if you missed the merger) is apparently moving business to being ‘personal’ rather than just business (I guess).  This strikes me as a really low bar campaign.


  1.  In what way does this new combination (presumably Office Depot if the URL is correct) make buying pencils and paper reams personal, warm, fuzzy and intimate like a warm fire on a cold winter night?
  2. The ‘cooler-than-cooler’ business dude seems to be disregarding his computer in search of what?  Maybe a personal relationship with an HP printer?  Wouldn’t you too rather be wandering the Office Depot aisles than actually working…?
  3. Does anyone care what the branding of the new organization is?  We all drop by the most convenient outlet with little awareness of any difference in the stores – certainly not enough to create any real passionate consumers.
  4. We can’t all be about relationships in marketing – as much as the genius’ in marketing would want us to.  Office Depot needs to add some other value for consumers – but a personal relationship with my office vendor?  I don’t think so.

So much marketing blows through us.  Left to right. In one ear…out the other.   Nothing sticks.  A campaign that was based on ‘who gives a shit we just merged’ at least would be both true and memorable.  But as I said, I don’t often comment on marketing campaigns.

So Different. So the Same.


Jerry 2

Jerry Del Calliano

Along with good friend Bill Wolfenbarger of Jodesha Broadcasting in Aberdeen, I just returned from Jerry Del Calliano’s New Media workshop in Philadelphia.  The focus was on those rascals, the Millennials.
Let me distill what millennials are looking for down to what I took away from eight hours of pretty intense conversation.  And unlike most seminars this one was small and intimate with lots of audience participation.

  1. Authenticity – just look at their response to Bernie Sanders.  He’s the most authentic candidate in the field.
  2. Quit saying.  Just be. – They don’t like hype though that’s like not liking commercials. What else would they say?  “I love hype!!”  Not likely.
  3. Build consensus NOT confrontation – millennials will not likely to be as ‘in-your-face’ though this may not be the case in parts of New Jersey or New York.
  4. Dreams – they have more purposeful dreams – more socially tied to good deeds than the financial dreams of Gen Xers and Boomers.
  5. Fun!  – They want to be the ones that are fun to be with.

Let’s see…how different is that from what the boomers or GenX would have said?   I’d argue –  not much.   Every generation is idealistic and wants to change things (and few love listening to commercials)…and they do change things.  Millennials will be no different.

Radio is challenged to serve these young millennials.


Time to Come Home..?


An acquaintance of mine is involved in a home merchandise group…about 150 stores around the country.  In 2013 they had a drop of about 250,000 customer visits.  A decline they attributed to bad weather, poor holiday timing and some questionable merchandise mixes. Those rational made everyone comfortable until they saw a 600,000 customer visit decline in 2014.

That’s anecdotal, true…but it’s no secret retail is struggling.  The Gap closes 150 stores.  Radio Shack is gone.  Nordstrom records same store traffic declines again this year.  Best Buy is hanging on by downsizing.  JC Penny is…well those were self inflicted, but you get the idea.  Retail as we’ve known it is in trouble.

It took just four years but The Wall Street Journal reports that November/December store traffic declined from 40 billion to 17.6 billion between 2010 and  2013.  Shopping patterns have changed in dramatic ways – and the power of retailers, large malls and even established brands are in deep dive.

The reasons – online shopping, changing demographics and even satiated consumers are secondary to my point here.

It’s time for radio and retail to be reunited.  WHY?

1)  Radio delivers customers at the last possible minute.

Abandon mall

Coming soon to a retailer near you…?

2)  Radio can effectively sell the ‘experience’ of shopping retail…still a compelling story.

3)  Radio uniquely can create demand where none exists.  That’s why it’s become so important for event promotion.  Using radio creates demand among consumers who didn’t know about a product or service previously.

4)  Radio is intrusive.  Spots, endorsements, live events, and drop-ins all create awareness intrusively.

5)  Radio still has the reach – 90%+ according to Nielsen every week listen.

I’m certain that the Radio Advertising Bureau is on this nationally – but it’s also time for local radio to get in front of local retail management.   Even the big box retailers and franchises listen to their local management – well, the smart one’s do.

Radio created consumer brands in the 30s.  Radio sold a bonanza to retailers in the 60s and 70s.  It’s time for retail to come home to radio.

WTF is Digital to Radio?


What does ‘digital’ mean?

Make it stop!

All we hear is radio has to be digital. Our analog signal is dead – or dying rapidly and we have to make the transition to digital.

But what does that mean?

Streaming? HD radio? Banner ads on our websites? Social media interaction?

These are thoughts…

1) Radio has a long tail and will continue to develop revenue and results. The growth won’t be there but radio isn’t in a death spiral.

2) Local clients will be buying digital display and video advertising programmatically and if your radio station isn’t selling them you are not doing yourself or your clients a favor.

3) Radio has been in the content development business. So far no one has developed a very viable local model for this – streaming costs, staffing and creative development all is too expensive for small/medium markets. Maybe it’s time to rethink that process – get out of the content business on digital platforms and see #2 above. Your clients only care about getting results and reaching their customers.

4) Get used to tighter profit margins – digital is more like traditional retail. Lucky if you get 50% and 30% is more likely.

5) Number 4 above is the reason radio doesn’t do more effective digital sales – but they miss the opportunity to sell digital out-of-market (tourist boards for example), be relevant to their clients and develop cross platform marketing.

Just like newspapers put radio stations on the air early in the 20s and radio put TV stations on in the late 40s we’ve all been there on the leading edge of digital media. Now we just have to define what it means to our stations and how to best serve our clients and communities with these new products.

Star Trek…

Captain James Kirk would often refer to ‘engaging’ in battle…I don’t think it was original – in fact it sounds a bit Churchilian.

Captain James T Kirk

Captain James T Kirk

In media we hear the pundits recite that social media is about engagement. True enough,  but as radio broadcasters we are trying to figure out how to add to that engagement. If you are about to fall asleep…sorry, it’ll be short and worth it.

Radio is the original engagement medium – and to some degree – local TV news was at one time. So when we launch radio station websites, we forget. We have already engaged the audience. We just need to CONTINUE the engagement when they get to our website.

Everything from polls (do they still do those?) to Facebook posts continue that relationship…but we don’t have to have compelling content to begin with. We are engaging with our audience on-the-air. The website simply enhances and supplements.

Drive listeners to your web for whatever, but don’t worry that the website must stand on it’s own as compelling content.

Olive Garden

Earl Pitts is famous for saying something makes him so mad he wants to… (fill in the blank).The original Nash

My favorite is when something irritates him around  Christmas he’s so mad that he wants “…to feed a partridge Exlax and sit under a pear tree.”

Anyway what makes me mad…. Cumulus has just bought another FM station in New York city (now WRXP or Nash).  And prior to the inevitable switch from Harold Camping to country  they  feinted with a rotating format every day.  Which I think is the equivilant of showing up at a new Olive Garden to be greeted with a Vietnamese menu on Tuesday, Mexican on Wednesday and Eskimo tapas on Thursday before they settle into their Italian menu on Friday.

Regardless of the success of the previous audience, all radio stations have an audience.  Why would you blow them away without at least letting them sample your new format.  And wouldn’t Cumulus have prefered to have the hundreds of thousands of cume listeners to WRXP vocalizing ‘they went country’?   Word of mouth is still the most compelling medium – so next time you change format, just do it and maybe some of those folks will find they like your new format and help spread the word.  And even those who curse you will spread the word.

Another dust biter…

It’s all a bit too much. The influx of music players, iPods, downloads and YouTube has really usurped radio’s place in the music exposure hierarchy. Add to that the uncertainty of performance royalties that radio seems destined to pay the record companies.  Then there is the decline in teen listening which presages the diminished impact of radio on the next generation.

Music radio is in trouble.

AM News Moving to FM Band

So today another FM station begins simulcasting it’s AM News/Talk brethren, WSB, the big Cox talker in Atlanta.

Just as Top-40 created a rebirth of radio in the 50s – FM rock created an entirely new series of formats and business models in the 70s – now we’ll see news and talk migrate to FM at a rapidly increasing pace. And we’ll also see the continued deterioration of both the value and audience level of AM stations.

A prime example is KNRS – Clear Channel’s talker in Salt Lake City recently moved to FM – replacing a long time AC format. The audience largely moved – but the former KNRS AM – a big signal at 570 now barely shows any audience and has removed another reason to listen to AM radio.

Cox is smart to stay ahead of the curve in Atlanta…we’ll see much more of it in the months to come.