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.


No Static at All…

Hey – keep this one short , simple and without static.

Jeff Smulyan at Emmis has lead the fight to get FM radios on mobile phones. His first major deal – after 5 years of battle – is with Sprint. And he’s asking stations to contribute in total $15M worth of time…about 5 units per week.

Let’s rock with this.

The solution isn’t perfect – but as data rates rise – the timing might be.

Most listeners will struggle with the difference between a streamed audio and the over-the-air signal but that’s up to us to educate them on the difference. When they begin to see how expensive data is on their phone bill – maybe we’ll see some real change in behavior.  When ESPN is talking about subsidizing data plans for heavy users, we might be on the brink of something.

So let’s just get behind this…run the damn spots (I hate barter too) and let’s see what happens when 30 MILLION phones can listen to FM radio.  Jeff has taken heat for a thankless job…and this is a great start to keeping radio relevant.

FM radios on your Smartphone…a good start.

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.

Apple 1984 TV Spot Got It Wrong

Break the system – 1984 Apple TV spot

As if you hadn’t noticed…it’s now Apple that represents ‘the grey unwashed masses” that sat before the droning dictator in their classic 1984 TV commercial ( )  .  At the time IBM and the growing PC platform was the target of Apple’s sledgehammer.

Seems rebelling against Apples extraordinary style, functionality and tactile feel would be crazy.  But someone will…for sure, someone will.

Radio – working better than ever

Radio still works here.

Maybe the best proof that radio is remarkably relevant and alive is in small markets.  So maybe the issue in big markets is they are TOO big.  The audience doesn’t have that same connection when millions of people are scattered over hundreds of square miles.  Those listeners really live in their own smaller markets – a neighborhood…a subdivision…a smaller suburban community…often about the same size as a small market.

We urge many of our small market clients to voice their own commercials.  Yes…it sounds a bit hokey…a bit small market.  But these spots are effective, because everyone in town knows “Wild Bill” Grange at Grange Ford.  Listeners relate to their neighbors and friends on the radio.

Should radio deconstruct to be relevant in major market again?  Hey – I’m just askin’…

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.

Isn’t it time we Made some money…?

It was an aside…but a buddy at an NBC affiliate recently told me, “Yeh…we do about 3-4% of our revenue from digital media (his phrase not mine)…but most of it is accounting.  I’m not sure how much we really sell that is pure digital media…”

Value add in hot markets

As an industry, both radio & TV stations have struggled to make money with ‘new media’ – too often it’s a value add necessary to get share or even on the buy.  Radio has had ‘promotions’ thrown in for years…and TV has had spin or trips…now it’s new media that polishes the buy. 

I don’t want to hammer the reasons or castigate anyone for narrow thinking – because in truth it’s pretty daunting. 

The list from loyalty marketing to mobile and social media could all be their own business units and no one has the time or resources to do that.  Furthermore, the business has been collapsing around our ears – and while the slide has stopped, it wasn’t new media that hit the brakes.

A couple of  thoughts…

1) Step away from the station!  Not all marketing solutions have to be portaled (newly invented verb) from your website.  Most stations have websites as cluttered as a fishing dock at an Alaskan marina on opening day.

2) If you’re going to be in the content business – better make sure it’s unique. That’s not easy – most TV stations have the same news -but, for example,  at KOMO (Seattle) and KATU (Portland)  TV they are developing local neighborhood content that is often user-generated.  That’s unique – and they are making some money from it…also unique.

3) Please keep it simple.  Most of your audience are Luddites – embarrassed they don’t know more about technology.  This is particularly true outside of the tech islands of San Jose, Austin, Chicago, Boston and Seattle.  Think about the audience in Amarillo and Evanston….

4) Whatever you do – make it work on the web before you take it mobile.

5)  Bring someone in who knows the ‘new media’  business on an interim basis…this is TOTALLY self serving , but it’s a strategy more stations are looking  at as they realize it IS time to make some money. 

Good hunting…