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.
Rock music promoter Paul Yeskel passed away a few days ago. I did not know Paul very well, but all of the programmers we work with always spoke highly of him. Long-time Rock programmer Ted Edwards provides us with some nice words about Paul.
I got the news about Paul on Sunday like all of you and have been sitting on this message and a chance to reply since. I tired to compose something a number of times but got so thoughtful I just couldn't write anything that said what I really wanted to until now. Paul and I go way back, almost to the very beginning and since that time he has been a constant in my life as we had both managed to stay in this ever changing business. He had been able to persist and thrive as he possessed everything necessary to do so when so many of our friends had not or had chosen to move to other adventures. A sharp intellect, experience, attention to detail, passion, knowledge, curiosity, willingness to change as the times did with a unique ability to see where things were going and to accept them, great communication and networking skills, courage and above all friends. He had many, many friends and I think the primary reason was he was genuine. Genuine in all the right ways. Honest, sincere, caring, consistent, loyal and compassionate. I have found that genuine is a quality that is all to rare in our related fields. I have had the valued experience in my career to have lost jobs that made me of great importance to business associates and saw way to many of these "friends" disappear as soon as the job did, and then come back with great enthusiasm when the next job showed up. But not Paul. No matter where I was, what I was doing or not doing Paul was always a friend. Always took my call. Always asked how I was doing... and meant it. Always sought me out when new opportunities to work together came along. I miss him today and will, in no matter how many days are yet to come. It is times like these that remind me how fragile and wonderful life can be and how rare truly genuine people are. Paul was rare and if one's life can be summed up by how many friends they had at their passing then Paul was a huge success in this life. I have no idea what happens once we pass from this life but whatever or wherever it is I hope I get to see Paul there and tell him what his friendship meant to me. I hope he knew that and I like to think he did. God bless the life that was Paul Yeskel. It was a privilege to have been part of it.
Arbitron's preliminary release from RADAR 95 will make you think. All told, 233 million Americans listen to radio weekly. And 95% of Adults 18-49 with a college degree and a yearly household income of $50,000+ still tune in.
So how can a medium with this kind of reach be struggling so mightily? Just asking.
The Onion does it again. You've no doubt seen their satires and parodies of everything from politics to sports. Now it's radio. Check out their recent send-up of a typical DJ break, and then contrast it with our Keith Cunningham's recent piece in R&R about how jocks will need to modify their approaches in a PPM world.
Clearly, there are aspects of PPM that will unfortunately lead programmers down the path of eliminating interruptions and content in the hope of creating a seamless listening environment. But at what point does consistency begat predictability which begats boredom which begats turnout?
Here's Keith Cunningham's article from R&R:
Jacobs Media morning show and talent development specialist Keith Cunningham, who works in the trenches with jocks every day, isn’t sure that air talent jobs have changed all that much with the Portable People Meter. While “jocks need to be more ‘sticky’ than they ever have been,” he says, the “PPM, as we all know, is showing us a lot of things, but at the root of it—as it pertains to jocks—it’s an extremely strong reminder that the role of a jock is critical. And as boring as it sounds, the triedand-true fundamentals need to be better than ever in a PPM world. I know that’s not breaking new ground or exciting to anyone, but that’s the truth.” That said, Cunningham offers three fundamentals that he says should be top-of-mind with on-air personalities, whether or not they continue to be in a diary market for the next several years or have joined the PPM world.
Forwarding Audience To The Next Quarter Hour
“Saying things like ‘Green Day is next’ or ‘We’ll be right back’ is the kind of crap that is just not going to cut it. It’s been a lazy crutch for many years, but there are still an awful lot of jocks that are not effectively forwarding or recycling the audience to the next quarter-hour or next hour. PPM will show that it’s all about what is coming up next. It’s not about what has already happened or what some people may have missed. “If you’re a jock on a music station and you say, ‘I’ve got Nirvana and Pearl Jam coming up next; don’t go anywhere,’ that is old-school, clichéd, uninteresting radio. There’s nothing compelling or unique about that. There are a lot of sources out there that have Nirvana and Pearl Jam, not the least of which are personal MP3 players. So a jock would be better off saying something like this: ‘Hey, you want the new Radiohead music for free? I’ll give you the URL and all of the details in a few minutes.’ At least in that regard, the jock is trying to set an appointment for a few minutes from now, and they’ll be giving the audience some information that they can use.”
Better Show Prep
“PPM will clearly punish those that aren’t prepared. And while that may sound harsh, every second of airtime should count in these days of endless choices. Jocks can’t think they can just wing it all day long or lose grasp of the big picture. They need to realize that radio is truly entertainment and they’re disrespecting the listener’s time. “Even if it’s just a speed break, jocks should be scrutinizing themselves by asking ahead of time if they can say something in a more compelling manner.”
More Effective Marketing
“PPM loves listening events. In order to create them, where there is a critical mass of audience, stations and jocks need to more effectively market their events. If there is a big guest coming up on tomorrow’s morning show, it has to be promoted with enormous frequency to really turn it into a listening event. A lot of stations think they can just promote their morning show every other hour. But think about when you’re watching your favorite prime-time TV show. How many promos do you see for the news coming up at 11 o’clock? “Another tip: If there is a special weekend coming up, don’t start promoting the old way: late on a Thursday or early Friday. Do it farther out and make it an event and start promoting it on Monday or even the weekend prior. If listening is as truly passive as PPM makes it out to be, our frequency of mentions needs to increase to get someone to act.”
What do you do when you're a venerable old brand, being bombarded with stiff competition from just about every front? That's what Kraft Foods is faced with as they continually have to remind consumers about their legendary Maxwell House brand, in the face of Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, and McDonald's, all trying to out-coffee the market?
You go retail. That's how Kraft put together a great promotion for Maxwell House over Thanksgiving weekend. To launch their new reformulated java (now with 100% Arabica beans, whatever that means), they paid tolls on some of America's busiest highways, as well as set up kiosks in high-profile malls around the country for free sampling. And best of all, they did it over a weekend where they were bound to generate some buzz and media coverage.
Radio often finds itself in a similar situation. We are perceived and re-positioned as "old media," up against everything from satellite radio to iPods. Yet, radio has the power within its own geographies to hit the streets and do grassroots listener campaigns. Just as the big-name politicians know, as they run around the corn fields and diners throughout Iowa, you get to make some big-time impressions by just pressing the flesh.
Of course, Maxwell House ads are running on TV, but in the midst of all those other commercials, this retail approach is another great example of how smart street marketing leads to great word of mouth. Drink up.
Today's blog was guest written by L.A. consultant and fashion guru Dave Beasing.
It’s often said that new trends start on the coasts and move inland. If so, you’ll be interested to know that holiday shopping here in LA has taken on a decidedly Rock 'N' Roll feel. New stores in my mainstream, middle class neighborhood include chain outlets for Urban Outfitters and Royal Dutchess, plus boutiques carrying tight-fitting Rock & Republic and True Religion jeans, gritty Ed Hardy and Monarchy T-shirts, and blink 182 drummer Travis Barker’s Stars and Straps clothing line. One store here even sells duplicate reprints of T-shirts worn by iconic Rock stars during their concerts in the '60s and '70s (photographic proof included with purchase). Dr. Marten’s, the work boots of choice in Seattle during the Grunge explosion, were recently spotted on the catwalk at LA Fashion Week.
Does fashion’s Rock look mean the music is on an upswing? Maybe, maybe not. Consider that The Ramones have now sold more T-shirts with their name on it than records. Arturo Vega, who designed their logo and still gets about 10 licensing requests a week, admits to an Australian newspaper that “the people buying the shirt don’t know the band. It’s sad.” Or, as the Stanford Daily puts it, “If you are wearing a T-shirt that says ‘rock star’ or ‘punk,’ you aren’t one.”
Whether music and fashion influence the other – a “chicken or egg” issue – is never certain. But with Guitar Hero III and Rock Band video games flying off the shelves, plenty of pop culture trends are encouraging to Rockers. Sure beats another Christmas of baggy jeans and bling.
I would love to see HD Radio work. I really would.
But in order to "break" a new medium/gadget in this new millennium, it's going to take clever tactics, brilliant strategy, and on-target execution. These are qualities that have been in short supply since the Alliance was formed. Another Christmas comes and goes, and the celebration over a half million radios sold is about as meaningless as a big defensive lineman celebrating after a sack in a game his team is losing by five touchdowns.
And the newest campaign that evidently launches on Alliance stations on New Year's Eve - and set to run for all of first quarter - stunned me. You can go to the HD Radio Alliance web page, and check it out for yourself. Just click "Commercials" from the home page, scroll down to "Click On Your Contract Name" and sample the 10 different spots they have posted. Or, if you're an Alliance station, walk down to your Traffic department and take a listen.
In a sort of snarky approach, the campaign features a humanized radio talking to his owner about why HD Radio product is so attractive and not worth the bother. But in the process, traditional radio is repositioned as old-fashioned, repetitive, and lame.
Why does the Alliance feel they have to market HD Radio by selling against AM/FM Radio? (Of course, those are the same stations that are expected to invest millions of dollars of their precious air time running these commercials.) On top of that, it's questionable whether this campaign clearly extols the benefits of HD Radio, especially to those who are already confused. You have to hear these commercials a few times before you really get a basic understanding of what they're trying to accomplish, while they throw AM/FM Radio under the bus.
Why isn't HD Radio positioning against the subscription model of satellite radio or the 99 cents a song iPod? That would make sense because HD Radio could potentially be postioning its variety and free attributes. Instead, like everyone else these days, these ads take shots at traditional AM/FM broadcast radio. If I heard David Rehr's "2020" initiative correctly, I thought it was all about combatting trash talking radio, and being proud of what the medium has to offer.
Listen to them yourself and tell me I'm wrong.
One of the key philosophies here at Jacobs is encouraging clients to use their databases to better understand and serve their audiences - whether it's listeners or advertisers. As we've learned in the past decade, web polling is a great tool for doing just that, and part of the basic idea behind the NeoRadio concept was giving listeners a seat at the table.
As a part of that process, a great tool is something that we refer to as "Research as marketing." The idea is to survey listeners, determine their preferences, show them the research that leads you to making a programming change/improvement, and then making it happen. In this way, programmers aren't mysteriously or unilaterally changing up the station. They make it clear the audience is very much involved in the process.
Case in point: Buffalo's 97Rock and Christmas music. Of course, this is always a tricky issue for Rock stations, and we are bombarded with the same questions, year in and year out. What are the best songs? When should I start playing them? How many holiday songs should I play an hour? What about on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?
Not that he doesn't trust our opinion, but programmer John Hager takes matters into his own hands, by giving his loyal listenership a starring role in the process. For the second consecutive year, he literally tested all those great (and not-so-great) holiday favorites. And he included several questions about how much and when these songs would be most desired on 97Rock.
But the key to getting the most out of this process is that he shows the results of the survey on the station's website, allowing the audience the opportunity to see the findings and buy into 97Rock's course of action with Christmas music. It's a great way to learn more about the audience, answer important programming questions, and make the audience feel very important in the process. Check out the results by clicking here.
In Tom Taylor's great daily emails (Taylor on Radio-Info), he makes the point that all of radio may end up paying for "the perceived sins of Clear Channel." All of that negative press about voicetracking, pay for play, corporate playlists, and macho corporate behavior have probably led to this new FCC proposal that will force full-time live staffing.
A couple of key points. First, Clear Channel was tone deaf to the criticism - for years. This is how negative perceptions are allowed to form, grow, and fester - when you're not in touch with your brand, and the actions of your executives. By the time Clear Channel figured out they had a PR problem, the perceptual toothpaste was well out of the tube. Even today, consumers and Congressmen alike refer to the "Clear Channelization" of radio.
Second, is having to staff radio stations on a full-time basis such a bad thing? Of course, everyone inside radio is horrified by the prospects of having to actually pay for night and overnight DJs. (Given the hundreds and hundreds of blowouts in this month alone, voicetracking during middays and afternoons has gone up as well.) Perhaps if broadcasters are forced to staff their stations around the clock, they will finally have to integrate younger people into the mix - an element that is so sorely lacking at most stations today. And as radio veterans know, some of them will have good ideas, some of them will go on to program stations, and some of them may actually invent new formats, new web applications, and new business models.
Jeff Smulyan stated in Tom's same edition that radio will need to reinvent itself. Finally, the veil of denial is being lifted and CEO's are beginning to start talking the talk. But to walk that walk, the industry needs new blood. There will not be a successful reinvention if radio's plan is to simply slash staff and expenses as its main antidote. For a change, the FCC may actually be doing radio a favor it never intended to do.
We saw it loud and clear in this year's Jacobs Media Tech Poll III. Most listeners simply haven't actually heard HD Radio and/or don't know anyone who owns one. Unlike XM and Sirius, available through car rental companies, it is actually difficult to sample HD Radio without going into an electronics store. And consumers don't typically buy something unless they know someone who owns one and/or they've experienced it themselves.
You hit 'em where they live. And these days, it's shopping malls. XM Canada has the right idea, working with a company called the Pop Up Retail Group. The latter is a Toronto-based company that sets up kiosks in shopping centers so that consumers can sample XM while they're out shopping.
At this juncture for HD Radio (content aside, of course), it's about sampling. And a billboard isn't going to make you run out and buy a product. Checking it out for yourself at a mall? Priceless.
Two headlines on a slow pre-holiday Tuesday:
So, on the one hand, the FCC passes the measure allowing media companies to own both a newspaper and a radio or television station in the same market. And on the other, Clear Channel brooms its entire staff in their Modern AC in Lancaster, CA and has replaced it with a simulcast of KIIS-FM/Los Angeles. (By the way, their sister station, KVVS, is already simulcasting KIIS-FM, so Lancaster must have a Ryan Seacrest thing.)
Ironic, is it not, that both of these stories broke on the same day.
So what part about this FCC decision is good for listeners, good for communities, good for radio - and based on past performance - good for broadcasters?
In a recent CNNMoney article, Electronic Arts CEO, John Riccitello, outlined some of the lessons he's learned during the past ten years since he took over that mega-gaming empire. If you didn't know better, you'd think he was talking about radio.
1. Embrace change even if it costs a lot. Riccitello talks about how the big three TV networks sat back and watched cable eat their lunch. He claims that even though gaming comprises $31 billion in annual revenue, it needs to re-evaluate its entire architecture: "In the next five years, we're all going to have to deal with this. In China, they're giving games away for free. People who benefit from the current model will need to embrace a new revenue model, or wait for others to disrupt it." He sounds a lot like Jason Calacanis, explaining to Summit 11 attendees in '06 that it was time for the radio business to "surrender" - and come up with a new model for revenue generation.
2. Don't let detractors define you. In his world, it involves allowing the media to paint the picture that games are too violent. In our world, it's the media buying XM and Sirius' PR that broadcast radio is yesterday's entertainment. As David Rehr pointed out in his "2020" speech, radio has to re-take control of its own message.
3. Admit your mistakes. We live in a culture where it has somehow become impossible to take credit for bad decisions, whether it was invading Iraq, or in Riccitello's case, coming up with a failed interactive thriller game back in 2001, Majestic. He realizes that in order to grow, learn, and benefit from the process, he had "to admit my mistake and move on."
4. Put your trust in visionary people. In spite of Majestic failing, Riccitello hung with creator Neil Young, and it paid off brilliantly when the latter put together EA's Lord of the Rings deal. He puts faith in game developers (that is, programmers) because he realizes the importance of creative content in the gaming biz.
Madonna and the Dave Clark Five are among the 2008 inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Do you think perhaps the concept is getting somewhat watered down? In another year or so, I may finally get over the fact they're located in Cleveland and not here in the real rock capital, Detroit.
This past week provided us with another "radio petri dish" in the form of the Led Zeppelin reunion show at the O2 arena in London. Agree or disagree, but I would submit this was the biggest event in Rock n' Roll in at least the last two decades.
So how did Rock/Classic Rock radio deal with this once-in-a-lifetime concert? Did stations step up, work hard, and enjoy the halo effect this event provided? Or did they simply mail it in by just barely acknowledging the concert with just pedestrian on-air features?
Well, a number of stations and personalities took advantage of this opportunity, and did some incredible things. The Bone in San Francisco sent listeners to the concert. And notably, the station used its website as a social networking tool to evoke the emotion of the Zep reunion in the form of listener memories of the band.
97Rock in Buffalo was all over the event, utilizing the heritage and knowledge of their veteran airstaff to virtually take listeners to London (yes, a little "theater of the mind"), including a "concert echo" broadcast of the show's set list in very close to real time. Their website also contained Zep videos - under the banner of "I Can't Quit YouTube." Yes, there are great alternatives, even if you don't have tickets to give away.
WCSX here in Detroit took a different approach, sending their morning show - J.J. & Lynne - to the show, providing their audience with two great shows from London (interviews with everyone from Ann Wilson to Paul Rodgers to Steve Winwood), along with atmospheric video blogs. It was great radio to finish off the fall book.
Finally, KISW programmer Dave Richards made the trek to London himself. Below is a link to his story of his love affair with Zeppelin and Rock n' Roll, and his sojourn to the O2 Arena in search of the Zeppelin "holy grail." Dave's passion, energy, and imagination are on display here, speaking volumes about the mega-impact of this event. If you were ambivalent about this concert before Monday, you won't be after reading Dave's journal.
But on the other side, many stations simply missed this incredible opportunity. Incidentally, it all occurred during the last week of the last month of perhaps the most important ratings book of the year. Yet, as an industry friend of mine noted, many stations didn't even acknowledge the event on their websites, and barely on the air. In other cases, Classic Rockers sent listeners to the show, but failed to update their sites as the events unfolded. As he noted from perusing Mediabase on Monday, many music logs looked like they might have been scheduled two weeks before. There simply wasn't any extra Zeppelin content. As he pointed out to me, a new definition of "In Through The Out Door" may as well have been "Out The Door At 5."
Let's face it - a major problem/challenge facing Classic Rock stations is the ongoing need to keep these stations sounding current. While there's no denying the greatness of the music, the reality is that these stations can become stale if they aren't nurtured, and energized on a regular basis.
But the good news is that there's no shortage of high-profile ways to do this - if stations are aggressive and smart enough to seize the opportunities. Yes, Zeppelin was the mega-event of the year, but what about everything else? Like the new movie featuring the many faces of Bob Dylan, I'm Not There. Or involving the audience to discuss what song Tom Petty will lead off during the Super Bowl halftime show next year. Or perhaps it's a flyaway to the Clapton/Winwood - Blind Faith reunion concert in New York.
Talk to the parents of young kids, and they'll tell you that one of the biggest challenges of this season's holiday shopping trips isn't crowded malls or finding the best deals. It's locating safe toys for their children.
Broadcast radio is under fire in so many different ways, but no medium or gadget does a better job of helping out communities than local radio. This is where radio shines the brightest. We hope you can help.
This week's announcement that Bubba the Love Sponge is returning to commercial radio (on WHPT/Tampa and WFYV/Jacksonville) will elicit the usual response - from happiness to shock to dismay. After all, Bubba's "shock jock" persona always generated lots of talk and buzz.
At the same time, radio personalities are being let go, left and right, in markets big and small. In what can only be called a "radio recession," many owners and managers are clearly concluding that highly paid personalities - especially in so-called music dayparts - just aren't worth the freight. Thus, big names are hitting the streets at a particularly crucial point in radio's lifespan.
R&R/Street Talk's Kevin Carter has been lampooning Clear Channel's term for this talent exodus - "Re-expression." One of CCU's managers defined the thinking behind these firings in this way: "We are re-expressing our assets to achieve greater results." How's that for double-speak, but as Carter and everyone else on the content side knows only too well, it's not funny. And it is beginning to say volumes about how this business is mortgaging the future in order to "re-express" better results this quarter.
Content is a two-way street, and it's clear that while the Talk format is healthy, music jocks could become an endangered species if revenues don't turn around. It's a challenge that both talent and management must meet. For ownership, radio cannot slash its way to success by cutting research, marketing, and talent. There are just too many great and diverse media choices available to every American consumer.
But talent has to step up, too. The clichéd "4 and out the door" will not get it done in this environment. Jocks have to get out of the studio, make appearances, participate in revenue generation, learn new skills, and in many cases, redefine their roles in radio.
Hats off to Jay O'Connor, Bob Neil, and the Cox Tampa team for bringing Bubba back to the airwaves. Music no longer creates buzz on the radio, but personalities sure do. But beyond these big, bombastic, headline-grabbing returns to broadcast radio, what IS radio's long-term plan for personalities?
Leave it to Warner Music CEO, Edgar Bronfman, to ruefully look back at the past several years and realize how shortsighted the record industry has been. Lauding Apple - especially the iTunes and iPhone innovations, Bronfman explained to the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress Conference in his keynote: "We used to fool ourselves. We used to think our content was perfect just exactly as it was. We expected our business would remain blissfully unaffected even as the world of interactivity, constant connection and file sharing was exploding. And of course we were wrong."
But the sound bites that jumped out at me were when Bronfman admitted the music industry "moved at a glacial pace" and "inadvertently went to war with consumers." And yet, the lawsuits against teenagers who have engaged in file sharing continue as the entire world of artists, managers, and techies moves away from the labels. Ask any teen or twentysomething about how they feel about record companies, and you'll get an earful.
And what about the war the labels have been waging against broadcast radio over the past year, first by attempting to "de-explain" the relationship between airplay and sales/brand building? And more recently the Performance Tax folly against radio stations?
Leave it to Little Steven to take a major step designed to engage young people to appreciate Rock and its rich history and heritage. While it's great that video games like Guitar Hero glorify the music, or that TV programs like CSI and half the commercials we see use Rock music as their soundtracks, our friend Steven Van Zandt has a new initiative that you should know about that takes Rock right to America's classrooms.
Steven's plan is to create a 40 chapter course (DVDs, CDs, web) for all of the U.S.'s middle and high schools - at no charge. The idea is to teach about the roots of Rock, and the course actually has the blessing of The National Association for Music Education. Working with Scholastic to make sure the course meets all the guidelines, Steven is in the process of enlisting rock journalists and players to participate.
It's interesting that in the midst of a youth crisis for both broadcast and Rock radio, the solutions could come from some unlikely sources - the video game industry through games like Guitar Hero and now Rock Band, as well as initiatives like this one from Steven. As the struggle continues to keep young Americans interested in both radio and Rock, this is a venture that every Rock radio station should and could support.
As more and more young people in America begin to discover the roots of Rock and its rich heritage, it benefits all of us working inside and on the fringes of the music business. Steven lives by the Lou Reed credo that his "life was saved by Rock n' Roll." As he has done during the past several years, he continues to turn the tables and make an important contribution.
Rock on, Little Steven.
Newsweek.com has announced it will launch a weekly web TV show about politics, produced by the former producer of MSNBC's Hardball, Tammy Haddad. As Newsweek struggles with its ad page revenue (down nearly 9% through the first three quarters of '07), they are turning more and more resources to the digital space. After all, they have the content, and are simply responding to where consumers are moving.
Another example is the San Diego Times-Union, owned by Copley Newspapers. They've launched two Internet stations, one that streams talk show hosts, as well as a channel totally devoted to local San Diego music, Amplify SD.
Traditional media is getting the message loud and clear, and their corporate bosses are removing the handcuffs. More and more are investing in digital content, and specifically, video efforts. Radio simply has to get on board this fast-moving bus and to do so, needs to develop talent that can translate its great audio content into video streams. More and more, stations that have launched CGM contests are finding to their pleasant surprise that there are incredible young "craftspeople," skilled in video production and editing, living in their markets. And the cost of launching webcams, and providing video of station events can be very reasonable. Every time we post a "photo album" on our websites, we're sending the message to listeners that radio just doesn't get it.
As revenues flatten out or drop - despite great ratings - radio needs to invest in digital content, just like other traditional media have discovered. Newspapers and magazines have learned the hard way, and are painfully making the transition. There's no reason for radio to wait as long, given what we can learn from our friends in print.
Another day, and another "big" satellite radio announcement. This time, it's XM Led, a channel devoted to Zeppelin that will be on the air through the beginning of May. The press release sounds tasty, as the channel will contain many cool Led Zeppelin features.
Why wouldn't the HD Alliance or even broadcast companies devote HD2 channels to various artists and groups (like XM and Sirius do) depending on concert tours and other events? In the past year on the Rock side, it would have made all the sense in the world to devote channels to the Police, Springsteen, and now Zeppelin. Or maybe even a "Summer of Love" channel, dedicated to celebrating all things psychedelic from 40 years ago.
These are the types of basic, simple, timely, and topical programming ventures that could generate some much-needed buzz for HD Radio. No one is going to devote media coverage for an HD2 "80s Channel," but one that is all things Zeppelin could have resonated in a big way.
If HD Radio has a prayer of working, it won't be about selling radios - it will be about creating and producing content that consumers want or that can stir their imaginations, and get them to wonder what it would be like to have all those extra channels.
If we're serious about making HD Radio a success, it is truly time to "Get The Led Out."
Buffalo's John Hager talks about how Led Zeppelin was essentially the "bumper music" for Monday night's great NFL game between the undefeated Patriots and the upstart Ravens. It's a testament to the timeliness of the upcoming Zep show and the power of Classic Rock.
And if that wasn't enough, the NFL announced that Tom Petty will be doing the halftime show at Super Bowl XLII in February. That means that since the Janet Jackson debacle, three of the four Super Bowls have featured Paul McCartney, the Stones here in Detroit, and now Petty.
Maybe that's a little something all of you Classic Rock sales managers might want to mention in the next get-together with your reps. Or a little tidbit to toss out at the next media buyer who tells you the format's getting stale.
If voice tracking didn't finish off overnight DJs, the hours themselves may kill you. It sounds like a bad morning show bit, but there's research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer that indicates working the graveyard shift may increase the possibility of contracting cancer. It apparently has to do with the light-dark schedule. Animals that have their schedules switched grow more cancerous tumors. Evidently, women who work these hours have a greater tendency toward breast cancer, while the prostate cancer rate is up with men who are stuck in overnights.
By the way, workers who "flip shifts" - sometimes work days and sometimes work nights - also appear to be at risk. So, if your overnight shift somehow hasn't been eliminated by voice tracking, better sharpen those skills, and find a way to break into the daytime hours.
So what does all this mean? And where should it go from here? We don't know the real ramifications of Arbitron's PPM delay. Hopefully, they will be able to make good on their promise to improve the sample representation. They have to. But that will not affect why some formats look good and others look not-so-good. And the net effect in the ad community, specifically in markets where PPM was coming, is immeasurable. And what impact will all this "noise" about PPM’s legitimacy have on ongoing commerce in Houston and Philadelphia where PPM ratings continue to be generated?
And isn't that the bigger picture? No one disputes the concerns that are being expressed about PPM sample and panel size. Like any new product, there are going to be bugs, and Arbitron needs to be proactive in identifying and solving problems.
But there are mechanisms in place - specifically, the Advisory Council - where protests can best be lodged, without all the media fanfare and explosiveness we've been seeing. Like it or not, we're all in this together - radio companies, Arbitron, advertisers, and the industry at large. In too many situations we're working in, "great rating books" have not been translating into "great sales." Too many Top 5 25-54 stations aren't making budget because the old rules no longer apply. The radio business has a real problem: being perceived as a legitimate medium in the new digital millennium. How we're regarded by the ad community is critical at this juncture, and this controversy is not working to radio's benefit. We need to fix the problem, not the blame. It's in everyone's best interest.
So, we’ve heard the explosion. Now let’s wait for Arbitron to make good on its promise to get this right. And then, we can get going, figure this thing out, and start making some money on what is still a great business.
Full disclosure: We have conducted research for Arbitron in both '06 and '07.
I have hesitated to write a blog entry about the PPM debate until the dust settles. But it appears that every day, new developments continue to occur. So, to add to Mark Ramsey's recently-posted great blog entry about PPM, here are a few thoughts...
1. PPM ratings will not look like diary ratings. And isn't that the point? I don't know about you, but I am so tired of looking at monthly diary "extraps" where strongly established morning shows (that are essentially the same, day in and day out) have a 3 share in July and an 11 in August. But there it is, again and again, and many radio execs, managers, salespeople, and advertisers continue to react to these rollercoaster, inexplicable ratings inconsistencies. The PPM numbers that I've seen in Philly more clearly reflect reality as we know it. Talk to PDs and GMs in Philly. They'll tell you that, by and large, the PPM numbers they review each week/month are a much closer reflection of what they're programming, or hearing on the competition. No excuse for low samples here, but PPM is a much closer approximation of what's coming out the speakers.
2. In PPM, there are winners and losers. And the numbers will often be different than what we're used to seeing in the diaries. But isn't that to be expected? How much of the protests we're hearing about PPM are legitimate complaints about sample size and MRC accreditation, and how many are sour grapes about how certain formats just don't look as good in PPM? When there's a rules change in any sport, teams, players, and strategies are going to be affected. And who really thought the way formats performed in the diary were "real” anyway? In PPM, respondents can no longer "vote" for their favorites. Measuring real exposure/listening to radio is a whole new game, and every format will have to adjust accordingly. PPM is a game-changer, and the great players will figure out how to make it work for them. Sometimes, reality truly bites.
3. What is the net effect on the advertising community? I blogged about this some weeks back, and continue to ask the question about the larger issue of radio's image among advertisers and how this controversy has the potential to further destabilize radio's financial foundation. Radio has serious perceptual problems to begin with. This Arbitron PPM outcry creates even more doubt about whether radio truly gets it when it comes to electronic measurement. Tom Taylor has a great piece that provides perspective from an agency point of view. It appears that the advertising trade press and many agency types are willing to be patient and expect there to be bumps in the road with PPM. They've been through this before with Nielsen, and don't seem surprised at all by these growing pains. But the bottom line is that they want electronic measurement and strongly imply that it will have a positive impact on revenue.
4. Arbitron has to get it "right." Industry leaders putting pressure on Arbitron are correct - as complicated as the PPM rollout is, they must solve these problems. Radio execs are paying the bills, and have every right to expect this new service to be legit, from top to bottom. And in this regard, the issues are daunting, especially when it comes to the 18-34 problem/issue. Jacobs Media was the first to statistically identify the "cell phone only" problem a few years ago, when our first Tech Poll showed the alarming percentage of young Rockers that had dumped their landlines. PPM methodology represents an improvement over the diary, but it's not enough. If young formats are to be counted fairly, different methods of locating/enticing 18-34s will have to be implemented. Our business needs youth formats to become more viable in the worst way. They are the lifeblood of the radio industry, and yet, measuring this audience is an immense challenge. It is very expensive to integrate "cell phone onlies" into any research format, but every attempt needs to be made to bridge this gap and provide these consumers with the chance to be in the panel. This is the top issue for PPM. It took some cajones for Arbitron to suck it up, shut it down, and hopefully, get PPM fixed. Perhaps they should have seen it all coming, but the bottom line is that they’ve taken their bath, it is costing them dearly on Wall Street, and now they just have to make good on the deliverables.
5. We can’t go backwards. It is fortuitous that Arbitron had diaries running in NYC, but if anyone thinks that there’s any sense in running parallel ratings – diaries and PPMs – think again. The diary as a ratings-gathering tool is hopelessly flawed, primitive, and out-of-step with the digital world. The diary needs to be replaced by electronic measurement, pure and simple. This is about making PPM work – and doing whatever it takes to make that system viable and reliable.
6. Broadcasters are pissed. It's been a tough year, and '08 isn't projected to be any better. All of us have seen the results of the anger, at times splattered in many different directions. These are the times that truly try souls, to poorly paraphrase Thomas Paine. How radio reacts under times of duress will say a lot about our ability to redefine and re-energize our business. Will we panic or will we hunker down and figure out strategies that can transcend the new digital realities? In this confusing and depressing environment, Arbitron is an easy target. PPM is more expensive at a time when many stations are throwing employees out the door. And when Arbitron's numbers aren't on the money or broadcasters perceive arrogance, it's easy to pile on.
So what does all this mean? And where should it go from here? Check back tomorrow for those thoughts.
Full disclosure: We have conducted research for Arbitron in both '06 and '07.