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JacoBlog - Jacobs Media's Blog: The Post Apocalyptic Stern Universe (or The Reality for Former Howard Stations)
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Fred Jacobs is President of Jacobs Media, a media research and consulting firm. Jacobs Media clients have included CBS Radio, Premiere Radio Networks, Citadel, Greater Media, MTV Networks, Playboy, Amazon, Electronic Arts, NPR, Sylvan Learning Centers, and Taubman Malls. Learn more about the company here.


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August 2011

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Jon McGann

Main Entry: 1hab·it
Pronunciation: 'ha-b&t
Function: noun

settled tendency or usual manner of behavior
a : a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance b : an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary

Like many Programmers, I have been watching with interest over the last 7 months how Howard Stern's move to Sirius would affect both terrestrial and satellite radio and morning show listening. In fact, here in Baltimore, CBS choose to go with a DC-based show, "the Junkies." While it's too early to tell if it will work, they certainly did not fare well and definitely no better than the other hosts who have filled Howard's shoes (if one could actually do that).

While there have been many angles written about EVERYTHING that is Howard, Roth, Carolla, and Rover, I have yet to read anything about how Howard's move reflected our need to make our morning shows and stations a "habit" for the listener.

Please don't misunderstand, Howard's show is a content-driven show that is often superior to the competition. However, listeners made Howard a "habit" as much or more than a "have to" show. Case in point is the content of the final few months of his CBS time (marginal content), and the relatively small amount of his audience that migrated to satellite to hear him. While the number was great for Sirius, considering the promotion from the company, Stern himself, and the incredible amount of press, the amount of new subscribers was small compared to his daily terrestrial audience.

My point is that Howard was "habit", not "have to". We would like to believe that our stations are these "must have" destinations when in the reality of our listeners lives, what we really need to become is "habit", realizing that we just have to have them "most" of the time they listen to radio. That will win the game. I don't want to diminish the role of quality content, personnel, marketing and promotion, it's just that we need to realize it for what it is and Howard's case is a shining example.

We really have to continue to focus on the well-known practice of branding a quality radio station and then realizing it will take some time to make the station "habit". How many times have we said that a station could play Polka music for 4 months and still get a "5" share? It's because it's "habit" to listen to that station, even if all the "crucial elements" are gone.

All of us usually use the same toothpaste, have the same kind of coffee, buy the same underwear, choice of beer etc. It's because it's become habit. There are probably better buys and more quality underwear than what we purchase, but In our busy worlds, we simply don't have time or desire to try new stuff, and it does mean that it takes a great deal to make that change of habit. I remember my dad only using tooth"paste" because the tooth"powder" was finally removed from the store. Toothpaste was much better in cavity prevention than powder but powder was "habit". If we are trying to change a "habit" then we have to realize it will take time, and we have to emphasize that to our staffs and ownerships. Experts say it takes approximately 21 repetitive, consistent (daily), actions to make something "habit".

For image sake, let's disband the quarter-hour mentality and take a larger view...does each 21 day period, (about 1/4 of a book) give a brutally focused representation of our stations? Is it consistent and compelling enough to become a "habit"? In our quick turnaround world we cannot forget consistency and compelling content, both on and off air, for the long haul, not just to support some kind of "campaign".

What I'm really trying to share is that all the aspects of a quality station still are crucial to attract the listener. But isn't our real battle to become "habit" realizing that "must have" doesn't really exist anymore in our disposable, multi-faceted and integrated technological world?

Let's make our stations our listeners' "habits". Just food for thought...

Jon McGann
Program Director
WZBA - 100.7 the bay
Baltimore's Classic Rock Station

Greg Gillispie

WJFK developed a plan mid last year to move our midday show - actually 10a-1p - to mornings upon Stern's departure. And prior to doing middays, The Junkies did nights and also mornings at WHFS. In all dayparts they achieved success.

Of course, everyone was skeptical about what would happen when we moved The Junkies to mornings. We had no illusions of grandeur. We told clients the show would take its listener base to mornings from middays.

And The Junkies took a like amount of listeners to mornings. Granted, that does not make it the same share as it was, but it is a foundation on which to build.

Additionally, unlike many other markets, The Junkies only dropped 3 rank positions from Stern's fall rank - 9th from 6th 25-54A and 4th from 1st 25-54M.

The stations that relied so much on Stern are suffering the greatest losses. That's what happens when you put all the proverbial eggs in one basket, regardless of the format.

For all intents and purposes, changes in morning drive at the former Stern stations is almost like being a new station. And in the case of WJFK, outside of its name and PM drive show, it is a new station. You'll have to call or email me if you want the scorecard.

As I said before, this book is the foundation of now and the future. There is nothing to compare it with from the past. Ask me at the end of the year how WJFK is doing. I'll betcha it will be much better than others in the post-Stern era.

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