Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The time has come for a new radio music format called SAC. Southern Adult Contemporary.

SAC would encompass music from acts like Florida-Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Taylor Swift, and any other act that pretends to be country but is not. Heard the new Jason Aldean song last night. Farthest drum track from country in history.

I have been saying for years that much of today's so-called "country" is just Adult Contempo with a southern drawl. This format would take care of that. It's not pure pop, it's not country in the least. So it would be it's own thing: Southern Adult Contemporary.

That would serve to assist country radio into (smacks forehead) becoming country again! It would expose country fans to new artists who do indeed perform true country music, and who are currently blocked by this bro-country crap that has kidnapped the country charts for the last couple of years.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

While taking a break to come inside from mowing, just tuned into Cubs baseball on WGN. Announcers Jim Deshaies and Len Kasper are having fun, inserting music clips (mostly 80's stuff, I missed the beginning of the game but am sensing a theme) into the broadcast.

They've had fun with Rick Astley, Nena, and a couple of other 80's acts, and Kasper has cleverly worked song titles and band names into his play-by-play.

I'm all for guys doing things outside the box during broadcasts of sports, and it's really not distracting from the game, which makes it even better.

Good job by Len and Jim, it's entertaining!

Monday, August 4, 2014

If you can't spell it, don't put it online.

Radio stations...and TV stations...have tried very hard to embrace the internet as a way to reach more listeners/viewers. As I discussed before, specifically for radio, a website is only viable to a small market station when it is for a news/talk/information station.

As such, if you are going to put your news content, local obituaries, sports, and other information on the website, take the time to spell the words correctly, and use proper grammar in the process.

Sounds pretty obvious, one would think. But one of the unfortunate side-effects of this wonderful thing we call the internet has been the revelation that there are so many "educated" people who have been exposed as unable to spell or form a proper sentence in print.

I'm not talking about the general public here, I'm talking about radio and TV reporters and broadcasters, and those responsible for not only reading that news but also then putting it on the internet. In the case of television, they do a solid job of checking their work and presenting it online free of error, for the most part. Good work by them!

But as I scour radio station websites from around the country, it is appalling to see so many mistakes. It is not limited to news and sports stories, either. Many times, I have found errors in ad banners or tiles that they've sold to sponsors! Misspelled words, run-on sentences, poor grammar, lousy punctuation, and the overall appearance that the guy you listened to read the news this morning really isn't very smart, nor is the salesperson who designed your online ad.

That needs to be changed, radio. I have tried to correct people on radio discussion boards in the nicest way possible, and am immediately hit with "ooh, look out, it's the grammar police" or "it doesn't matter how you spell it if you're only saying it on the radio". They defend their mistake with nonchalance at one end and trying to bully their way out of it on the other.

I say bullshit to your bullying. Learn how to spell. Be a professional. If you have content on the web, make sure it is presented with correctly spelled words and proper punctuation. If you can't do that simple thing, ask for help from someone in the building who can. Either that, or just keep doing what you're doing and not care about it, and see how that goes next time you apply for a position where the employer actually does care about it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A little over a year ago, I read an article that polled people on what they do, after they hear a song they like, to find more information on either the song or the artist.

Google and Yahoo searches made up 51% of the responses, direct YouTube searches made up 23%. And 10% went to the website of their local radio station. In other words, 5 out of 6 people interested in finding out more about a song or singer or band go to the internet to find out more, before they look anywhere else.

Another 10% said they don't do any kind of searching, they just like the song and that's all they care to know. 4% said "something else" and less than 1% said they "go to television for the answer".

That last statistic is very enjoyable to radio music programmers. In 1981, MTV claimed they were going to eliminate music radio stations. Ha! The only thing MTV - Music Television - has eliminated music from is their OWN TV station.

But beyond that, I also found it interesting that "going to the radio station's website" ranked right alongside "we don't care to find any info". Through the years, I've worked for people who actually put more time into their website than into their radio station. They say people use the internet more than they use radio. Sure, if you're just talking about "the Internet". But it's WHAT they do on the internet that matters more than how much time they spend. The most successful use of a radio website is news, weather, sports, and other information. Not music. You can drive people to your website to listen to a high school football broadcast, they are not going to go there to read a bio on Brantley Gilbert that you pulled off of Wikipedia or CMT...they are just going to go to Wikipedia or CMT and do it themselves.

Unless you actually own Google, Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, or a few other lesser websites just below the "big 4", you're not going to survive financially on the income from your radio station website, and that DOES include websites for news/talk stations as well as those who play music. 

Twenty years of working with radio websites has proven one thing to me: You cannot sell it ahead of the radio station itself. The website can compliment the radio ad sales as added value, but to just sell "the webpage" and not the radio station? Not gonna happen. If you work for a company that still believes their "internet income" will surpass their radio station sometime in the near future, go somewhere else. Go somewhere that still sells radio spot advertising time first, and uses the website solely as an add-on. Go to a place that concentrates on SELLING RADIO, and not one that puts more importance on tile ads or banner ads on a website. You work in radio. Concentrate on radio FIRST, not the station's website.

As a matter of fact, you are better off building a busy Facebook page for your station, and better off working with an outside company on building an online store for your station. Both of those will be discussed in tomorrow's blog post.

My advice to small market radio? Eliminate the music station websites completely. If you have a news/talk/sports station, keep a website. Music station? Don't need it. Rely on facebook. Save the money and save the time.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Dumbest Thing On Radio

There are a lot of things that can be improved on radio. As I've said before, there are also many things that are already done quite well in radio.

But the one that drives me bonkers as much as any other single thing is this:

"The Best of Today And Your All-Time Favorites"

Well, what the holy hell else would you play?

"The So-So Stuff From Today And Songs You Really Didn't Care About From Years Past"?

I was taught very early in my radio career that it is a huge mistake to use a lot of words without really saying anything important. You want to keep things concise and relevant to the listener in the shortest number of total words possible. I have stuck to that mantra throughout 35 years of being on air. Does that mean you cannot do a two-minute "bit" or give a one-minute explanation of something coming up promotionally? Of course not.

But it does mean if you've got nothing important to add, don't say it. Don't talk just to hear yourself talk. Sadly, you can hear people like this - those that love to hear themselves talk - on a station or stations in every city in America.

You would think, however, the very same advice consultants give you regarding what YOU say would also be followed by THEM when they help you create the imaging and the signature lines to describe your radio station.

"The Best of Today And Your All-Time Favorites" is a typical consultant copout. It says nothing. It makes no statement. It is bland. It is boring. It is painfully obvious. Above all, it is careful. I hate careful radio.

Make a statement. Be something. Define yourself and be different. Without naming names, I can name off the top of my head five markets where BOTH stations playing the same format of music (in this case country music) say the SAME THING. "Today's Best Country And Your All-Time Favorites".

Wow. Ooh. Thanks for giving me such a compelling reason to listen to your station instead of the other one. Said no one ever.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Looking for input today.

What are the reasons, in your opinion, that make Infinity (Comcast) so obsessed with making people take "home phone service" as part of their myriad "Triple Play" packages?

I got an offer from them by mail this week that showed how I could get a CHEAPER package than what I have right now if I would sign up for the latest "Triple Play" package. I called them to express interest, and told them I was interested in the offer, but the home phone service wasn't necessary. They said the offer was then not valid unless I took the home phone service.

I suggested I was saving them money, time, and equipment if they didn't have to install the service and I just agreed that I was a new "Triple Play" customer if someone asked. They refused. So I don't get it. I have cable and internet now with them, why the absolute insistence and scary obsession with me taking home phone service? I haven't had a home phone in years, don't need one.

Someone try to clarify it for me, because to me, it's just ridiculous.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A majority of Radio Consultants who work with medium and large market stations prefer and espouse a very tight playlist. By that, I mean they narrow the number of songs a given station plays down to as short a list of song as possible.

Without going into all of their "research" (which is biased from the start, that's for another post), I have had consultants tell me the following through the years:

"...While programming a market-leading station, I was told to keep the playlist as tight as possible, keep it careful, only play the biggest hits, don't give the listener a chance to search the dial by playing a "weak" song..."


"...While programming a station number 2 in the format in it's market and trying to topple the top station, I was told to keep the playlist as tight as possible, keep it careful, only play the biggest hits, don't give the listener a chance to go back to the leading station by playing a "weak" song..."


Exactly. In other words, no matter which consultant I've worked with (and I have worked with a total of five, two big names and three "medium" names), I was told I had to have a smaller playlist than the other guy. I once said to one of them...hmmm, we're up against Consultant B (one of the others I had worked WITH) and he's telling his PD that very same thing. How small is too small? Should I just play the same song over and over again?

Either way, the tight playlist is, frankly, bullshit. It's too careful. It's risk-free. It takes no chances. And I don't like that style. When people say "they play the same thing over and over", they are usually listening to a tightly-listed station. Full disclosure, of course, will reveal that listeners say that even if you are programming a big playlist. But that's a good thing. Why? Because they are obviously listening for longer periods of time, and that's good for your advertisers, which is the BOTTOM LINE of a successful radio station.

If a station is rotating their A songs (hottest 5 or 7 or 9, depending on the consultant) every 2 hours or less, and you're rotating your A songs every 3 to 4 hours, and people are "hearing them too much" on YOUR station, they are listening longer.

I prefer a large playlist, for many reasons, that I will get into at length in the future. But I will end this post with this anecdote:

A well-known consultant made the argument for a tight playlist by telling me on his own blog that "the average person only has 300 songs on their I-pod, that is why you only program your best 300 songs!", and he was pretty cocky about it.

I replied, "show me two people with the same 300 songs on their I-pod and I'll program a 300-song playlist." He never responded. Subsquently, I was not allowed to comment anymore on that blog.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nothing says "country music" like Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop!


Just a quick rant...it drives me batty when I skim through the dial and see mismatched programming. CMT...Country Music Television...should they be showing "Beverly Hills Cop" or "Bruce Almighty"? What do those movies have to do with country music? I'll answer that...not a damn thing.

Now, when they air "Reba" or a reality show hosted by wrestler Steve Austin, well, you can get the connection at least a little bit. Oh, and you still can find music videos on "Country MUSIC Television". Yep, everyday between 2am and 6am. Sheesh, what lunacy.

And CMT is not alone. What the hell are "Railroad Alaska" and "Dirty Jobs" doing on Animal Planet?

How about "Pawn Stars" or "Pawnography" on a channel named The History Channel?

Do the people that run these networks drink all day, or do you think it's just drug induced?

Television, make some sense, will you please?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Technology can be a great money saver for Small Market Radio, but at some point you have to weigh the savings of expense against the quality of the return and wonder if it's really worth it.

Case in point: Out of market news and weather services. While managing stations in a very small market, I was inundated with calls offering the delivery of "high quality, large market-sounding news" or "big market-sounding weather" from services in a larger city, and it would be a way for me to "eliminate cost" like having a local news man or having staff take time to produce ever-changing weather forecasts.

My experience: Some of the news voices that I sampled were decent, but the work provided to get them simple things like pronunciations of small area villages and towns, or names of local politicians, etc. was time wasted when a local news person already knows them. Your local news person also can get to meetings and get his/her face in front of key city officials and business community leaders where an out of town service obviously can't. That proves to be invaluable when people start to realize you aren't "in the community" as much as you could be.

Yes, in some cases in the samples sent, the sound of the news WAS "big-market", very good news voices reading your local content, and in some cases they gather the content themselves. Some services let the local station gather the content, and they would then just produce the newscast. Cost varies depending on how much service you get, and in some cases it is indeed a cost savings over a local news person, and the quality is then the only issue: Is it better news delivery than what I have? If the answer is yes, then the only question that remains is how you're going to keep a local presence in the community without that local news person. Sure, you can have the GM and sales people and maybe even some of the on-air announcing staff cover local events, then you have to go right back to: is the money saved worth the time spent by others?

For weather, it was a far worse experience. The voices on many of the samples heard from various services were either too young sounding for what was desired, or just plain terrible, even if the way the content was delivered was efficient. The time saved by not having to worry about whether or not the forecast was updated by your local staff is offset by the loss of quality and the ridicule the station takes when very, very poor radio voices are frequently heard on your radio station.

The stations I recently managed were part of a company that hired such an outside weather service. We were "sold" on the "cost savings"...it is a barter arrangement, costing the stations only airtime for the network commercials, and we were "sold" on the advantage of having weather experts delivering our forecasts via FTP so that we would never have to touch it or take time to produce or input any of the forecasts sent.

First, there's no real cost savings, as producing weather forecasts are part of the regular staff's duties, you're simply taking away a duty that doesn't take much time out of their day anyway. Secondly, the delivery is indeed slick. The service in a far-away city logs into your server and inserts the forecasts, it becomes fairly "hands-off" for your local staff.

But for every decent sounding forecaster you get, you are stuck with people who aren't ready for radio at best, and some that never will be. If the quality of the sound of your radio station is important, you do NOT want a voice that should be training on overnights delivering your weather forecasts at 7am or 4pm, prime drive time.

General Managers and Executives that care about the sound of the station should do whatever they can to avoid such a service where you do not have the say in the voices that deliver the information over their radio station, and those who do not - and sadly, there are far too many in the business today - are doing more damage to their company and stations than they are good.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Post number 1...starting small.

I don't want to get into the real important media-type stuff until there are actually some people here to discuss it, so we'll start with things I just want to rant about but cannot fix.

If one watches sports television, most directly ESPN, then one might get the impression from watching this particular network that the National Basketball Association consists of one player (LeBron James), two or three markets (New York and whatever team LeBron is leaving or going to), and about 300 bit players in several other bit cities that do not matter as much as the afore mentioned Super LeBron and The Big Apple.

They think it draws them "ratings", and the powers that be force feed Mr. James and any move the New York Knickerbockers make to we, the viewers, thinking we breathlessly await this information. Some of us, sadly, do. But they are not sports fans in the sense of "Knowledgeable Sports Fans". Knowledgeable Sports Fans are what we in radio call "P1 listeners". By that, we mean the people most likely to listen loyally to our radio station.

ESPN risks alienating more of their P1's each time they bring up LeBron. Currently, they don't appear to care. Their tunnel vision sees this as what people want. Instead, ESPN is making the same mistake NASCAR made when it alienated it's own P1 fans to cater to a new crowd when a young star named Jeff Gordon came on the scene. NASCAR is now in decline. Crowds and interest are down. Everything they learned in building themselves into a formidable challenge in popularity to the four "major" pro sports in the U.S. has been lost, and it all started with the mistake made to cater to the "new crowd" that came aboard in the 1990's. The "new crowd" was never as loyal as the original P1 fans, and the P1 base has reduced in size accordingly due to what they feel was a change in priority by the leaders of the sport.

This will happen, and is happening, to ESPN. This, btw, has nothing to do with "age" of the viewer. There are just as many 45-year old casual fans, fans who only follow a sport because they see this LeBron character on commercials and might casually care where he had lunch today as there are 14-year old Knowledgeable Sports Fans who seek information on all aspects of a particular sport or league, and do not appreciate coverage limited to a small fraction of the league's performers or teams.

There have always been "the hottest tickets" in every sport for every generation. Transcendent athletes like Mickey Mantle and Brett Favre and Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky, and legendary teams like the Bill Walsh 49'ers, or the 90's Chicago Bulls. But never before (and ESPN has been around since the late 1970's) has the network narrowed it's focus so much and put so many minutes of airtime into so few teams and players.  MJ coverage was never as time-consuming on Sports Center as LeBron coverage. What the 49'ers or Cowboys were doing was always important, but did ESPN report EVERY day from their training camp as they did last year with the New York Jets? And the Jets? Why? But that's another story.

Whether it is an interest in lowering expense, or corporate laziness, or whether they really believe people are only interested in what LeBron watched on TV last night, or which undrafted free agent made a great impression in Jets camp today, ESPN has lost it's way. The ratings and interest in ESPN will both wane, so long as their focus and coverage is so narrowly based.