Monday, December 21, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
- Bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate that would require TV stations to keep the audio level on commercials the same as regular programming. The sponsors claim significantly higher audio levels on the ads is not in the public interest. Once again, I am thankful our representatives are concentrating on important, life-changing issues. Next I would like to see them deal with billboards with scantily-clad young ladies, direct mail pieces with compelling messages that make them stand out from the bills in the mailbox, and songs I don't especially like getting played on the radio.
- There is a report in the broadcasting trades about a study that shows consumers are weary of all the technology that has invaded their media world. Tired of having music everywhere, instant connectivity, news at the tips of their fingers and such, they are likely to revert to ancient technology...like broadcast radio. I say it again: finding solace in such studies is nothing more than whistling past the graveyard. Adapt, revise, innovate...and most importantly, be creative!..or, well, die.
- A study by Duke University says advertising spending will begin to recover this coming year to the tune of a 1.1% increase. But the bulk of that will be in on-line marketing (9.9%). Traditional advertising will decline by 1.1%. For anyone in the ad biz, this is no surprise at all. Ads go where the customers are. And more so than ever, where the accountability is. If the advertiser is able to target potential customers down to the nth degree, and only pay for those who actually become customers, why would he continue to spend most of his budget on media that sell exposure, not customers? And that are measured by rudimentary methodology?
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
No! Stuff has happened since I started typing this post. Big stuff. But it will have to wait. I've been busy traveling and promoting a couple of books I wrote under the pseudonym Jeffery Addison. And doing final edits on WAR BENEATH THE WAVES, my new non-fiction book that will be out in early April 2010. And starting a novel that has been rattling around in my head for a while yet. And checking on a movie project on one of my books that will--please!--be announced early next year. And squeezing in some ham radio activity when I can. And, of course, trying to stay ahead of the behemoth that is my day job at Education Corporation of America.
There are topics I want to address as I sit here and listen to the lifeless "all-Christmas-music" radio stations. Or learn more about the radio ratings head-butting between Arbitron and Nielsen. Or read of several medical breakthroughs...still anticipating one that will make life much better for someone I love very much, just as her newly-discovered meds are already doing.
But that will have to wait. I've got commercials to produce, collateral to design, books to write, and fellow amateur radio operators in exotic countries to talk with.
But if I don't talk to you in the meantime, have some especially great holidays. That's an order!
Don Keith N4KC
Monday, November 2, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Things is changing!
Is that a good or a bad thing? I think the answer is, "Yes."
What do you think?
Don Keith N4KC
Friday, September 4, 2009
All this popped up again with the ubiquity of the cellular telephone--which is, don't forget, simply a radio transceiver--and most people began spending far more time with that little device clamped to the sides of their heads. They work in a frequency range that does show some evidence of doing some serious cellular rearrangement. But all studies seem to indicate that at the low power levels used by most such devices, there is no real danger. Until people suddenly start bleeding from the eyes and turn into something out of the movie I Am Legend. Or brain cancer is as common as sunburn.
Here's a humorous example of what can actually happen. We hams know all too well how a stray bit of RF getting into a poorly designed device can build mightly walls between neighbors.
What do you think? With the massive increase in the numbers of devices using radio frequencies, from wi-fi to cell phones to broadband over power lines, do you wonder if you will suddenly grow a horn in the middle of your head and start speaking in Martian?
Or start getting the SyFy Channel on your bridgework?
Don Keith N4KC
Sunday, August 30, 2009
A U F
U U F
U U F
The author is Bill Munsil, K1ATV, from Flagstaff, Arizona. Am I a geek because I think this is hilarious?
Don Keith N4KC
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
If you doubt that Facebook, Twitter and other "social media" are fundamentally changing society, look at this:
Hey, want to send your name to Mars? Free? Simply follow this link, enter your name, and hit "Submit" and your name will be encoded on a chip that is going to Mars in 2011:
So much going on out there in the cyber-world, so little time...
Don Keith N4KC
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
- Some radio stations are refusing to air ads for those who would raise radio's royalty payments to writers and publishers. And some are refusing to play songs by artists who are speaking out, saying radio should pay more. This is getting ugly. Music royalties are dwindling because folks are not buying records/CDs. Records and CDs with a bunch of songs they don't really want, but for which the writers and publishers got their penny or penny-and-a-half simply for being on the same album with the song they do. No more. People download the MP3 of just the song they desire to own. Record stores are shuttering their doors (though I saw an intersting story on NBC Nightly News about how people are starting to buy vinyl albums again, mainly just because it's suddenly retro and cool). So how do writers and music publishers make up that lost income from folks who bought their songs without really wanting to? Charge radio more for the privilege of playing their music on the air. Radio yelps, "Whoa!" They say if they did not play those songs on their air, nobody would know about them and would not even know to go download them. (Weak argument since most stations play very little new music..."the best of the 70's, 80's and 90's!") And besides, radio is hurting just as badly as the music industry. If they have to pay much more money for the right to play songs on their air, they may just have to pull the big switch and send their licenses back to Washington. Complicating the deal: stations typically pay based on their revenue. Radio revenue is down. Songwriters and music publishers are starving.
- The stand-off finally attracted the attention of "Big Brother." The Federal Communications Commission (the agency that grants broadcasters their license to transmit) suddenly decided this week to wade in and take a look at the situation. August or not, that sent a chill up the spines of broadcasters. But can the FCC tell radio stations which songs they can and cannot play? Or which advertising they have to run and which they don't? Well, they already do when it comes to political ads, but could car dealers suddenly pop up and say radio is refusing to run ads for the revenue-strapped auto industry unless the poor dealers are willing to pay the ad rates the stations demand? "They're hurting," the FCC might say. "Give them lower rates. After all, we...the federal government...own a share of some of those carmakers, so let's give them a break." Brrrrr. Shiver!
- Minority radio station owners apparently think nobody feels their pain. They have complained long and hard and sought FCC intervention in their spat with Arbitron, the company that measures radio station listenership. Arbitron has new technology, you see, that is supposed to be much more accurate in determining who is listening to what station, when, how long, and such. But when they began using the device in some markets, hip hop, urban, and Latino stations saw their ratings drop. "It ain't right!" they shrieked. Never mind that the ancient measurement device used before was suspect (The diary! A #2 pencil and a little paper booklet! People were asked to keep a diary of what they listened to! To write down the stations they punched in on the radio on the way to work during rush hour traffic! Billions of dollars have been spent for advertising based on who people remembered to write down in a diary over a week's time!). The old diaries showed those type stations had more listeners than they probably really had for a number of reasons beyond the scope of this rant. Nobody wants to hear, "Put something on your air that more people want to listen to, why don't you?" No, the minority broadcasters first went to state attorneys general, and they got sympathetic ears in New York and Florida. But those guys have no jurisdiction at all and can only create a lot of smoke and fire. That despite the fact that Arbitron blinked in New York and made a few concessions they were probably going to make anyway. Next, the broadcasters went to the FCC. There are still rumblings there, but if anybody can figure out what that agency's realm has to do with a publisher of copyrighted, syndicated data, then please enlighten me. Data that are universally accepted as the currency of buying and selling advertising on the radio by advertisers, ad agencies, and 95% of the radio stations in measured markets. Now, the wounded broadcasters are appealing to President Obama. That's right. They are asking the leader of the free world--a man who has a few things on his mind, like the economy, healthcare, wars in Irag and Afghanistan, global terror--to intervene because their ratings are lower when listening is more accurately measured. Silly!
- And now, maybe the silliest of all. The little device Arbitron now uses in many markets is called the Portable People Meter, or PPM. They ship them to families who agree to carry them for a period of time and they are able to quite accurately tell which radio or TV station, or other source of audio such as Internet streaming, they are exposed to. (Note I did not say "listening to." That's a whole other can of worms, and it's just too dang hot.) So what happened was that several of the devices didn't make it to the intended panel members' home and ended up for sale on eBay. Yes, you, too, could have bought your own PPM to amaze your family and friends. But somebody beat you to them. A guy named Randy Kabrich, a radio consultant who has been uber-critical of Arbitron and the PPM since day one...sometimes justifiably so, sometimes not. He says, since he owns them now, he is going to dismantle the devices and see if they work as well as Arbitron claims. See, Arbitron has not been very forthcoming about their technology...for several reasons. First, of course, they don't want any competitors (and they suddenly have a very big one in Nielsen, the TV folks, who are moving into radio) to know too much about how the gizmo works. But who knows? Maybe there is something inside the little case that gives Kabrich and the black and Latino station owners ground to stand on. It's shaping up as a big PR problem for Arbitron (who let their long-time and very, very good PR guy go last year) and its new CEO. Silly as the "eBay PPM" incident is, it will be interesting to watch through the haze and humidity of the Dog Days of August.
Gracious me! Note that all this silliness relates to technological change. How people get their music. Who makes money on the songs that are written, performed, sold, played on the radio. Whether stations can play what they want for whatever reason and sell advertising to whomever they damn well please. How audiences are measured. Whether the FCC or state attorneys general or President Obama have any reason at all to even consider getting involved in all this heated, sunbaked mess.
Pass me another cold beer and I'll sit back and watch all this play out. It's better than any re-run sit-com you might catch on TV right now!
Don Keith N4KC
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
** Even though Madonna has the most-recent career, Michael Jackson has the youngest fan base, followed by The Beatles (Elvis has the oldest fan base).
Friday, July 10, 2009
PPM tracks exposure to stations, but Arbitron says it's cracked the code to measuring listener engagement. CEO Michael Skarzynski says they've developed a prototype which "couples" exposure to engagement. The development may be a way to quiet PPM critics. Some Black and Hispanic broadcasters believe the drop in ethnic station rankings is a measurement of exposure -- not station affinity. Skarzynski told the House Judiciary Committee yesterday they'll release the new engagement tool later this month.
PPM, by the way, is a passive device carried by panel members recruited by Arbitron. It "listens" and logs encoded audio from stations and web sites so the device knows what the panel member is hearing. Not necessarily what they are "listening to," but still it is about as close to real audience listening measurement we have seen yet.
Fly in the ointment: the PPM is showing dramatically lower listening to ethnic stations than did previous methodology. Some claim the other forms of measurement--keeping a listening diary, doing random telephone calls--allowed ethnic groups to "vote" for "their" stations, not to necessarily accurately report their true listening. There is no "voting" with the PPM. It can only hear what the panel member is hearing.
I cannot imagine what Arbitron has up its sleeve. But here is why YOU should care.
Electronic media has almost always been priced on ratings. So many dollars per rating point (one percent of the population) and the like. But as media becomes more and more diffused, the value of an audience is not in its numbers but in its makeup, its tendencies, its propensity to do certain things predictably. And in the media’s ability to make them do those things for the benefit of advertisers. If my radio station can deliver 3,000 people who will likely eat at a particular restaurant, it has far more value than another station that can deliver 50,000 people, none of whom will ever eat there. Using the old model, the station with 50,000 sets of ears could command the highest rates for its commercials and probably got the bulk of the advertising.
Now, if we could just deliver data about “predictable propensity,” and the software to make a compelling case, we’d have something. But it has to be as compelling as “lowest cost per point” once was.
How does this affect YOU? Advertisers support programming and media and stations that move widgets down at the store. If media effectiveness is not measured properly, ad money goes to the wrong media or station or programming. And those media, stations, and programming stay around, even though they are not necessarily what you or your peers want to read, watch or listen to. And the "good" ones go away because the "power" of their audiences--if not their numbers--are not getting reported accurately.
It impacts you in many, many more ways, too, but this is a blog, not a doctoral thesis.
But Lord help us all if Arbitron does some statistical mumbo jumbo, like weighting ethnic listeners higher than the rest of us, just to appease those who claim the PPM is somehow being unfair to stations that serve them. Nielsen is facing the same criticism, primarily from Hispanic TV stations, and could be forced into the same sort of audience measurement witchcraft.
If it ain't accurate, it can't be believed. And if it can't be believed, data have no value. So why bother?
Friday, July 3, 2009
And that is the point, one I hope I can make rationally and without screaming at the keyboard.
Now I am not advocating starting a world war to stoke the economy. I'm just saying the reason the government spent all the money it could print in the 1940s and things actually got better was that the money went for SOMETHING. I make the same argument about the space program. The money does not end up buried in a big hole on the moon. It goes for things that are created--tangible things that go for wages at many levels down the chain and that gets recirculated. The guy who works the machine on the production line that stamps out o-rings for the rocket ship has a job and makes more money so he buys a house, a TV, a car and sends his kids to college, all of which keeps the money circulating. Or he invests some of it in stocks, bonds, mutual funds or CDs so the money gets reinvested to modernize a factory or add equipment or open a new plant somewhere so more people can be hired.
Yes, some of it went to the automakers who have factories producing something tangible, made by people who earn wages, but it will likely be used to pay down debt, modernize plants so fewer workers will be needed to make cars that consumers have already proved they don’t want to buy. To buy advertising to try to convince us we want that dog car. To meet pension obligations so those retirees who left after 20 years of service...at age 40...won't have to go back to work, God forbid.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Are there exceptions to this? Oh, of course there are. Arbitron has (and has always had) many great employees. And most of them are fully aware that they work (or worked) for a company whose arrogance fit it like a patent-leather cat woman suit.
So it comes as more than a bit of surprise to find that things appear to actually be changing at Arbitron, and that those changes seem to be very much for the better. New CEO Michael Skarzynski is employing the ancient management dictum that, “a new broom sweeps clean” as he blows out position after position, and replaces the departed with dreaded “outsiders.”
I doubt the “new attitude” is totally due to any sweeping changes from the guy with all the consonants in his name. I think they feel the threats, finally, from a plethora of sources: the general malaise in the radio biz, Nielsen entering the radio-audience-measuring business, inadequate internal technology, lukewarm acceptance of the PPM, and more.
I hope they make it, though, and not just because I still have some friends there. Accurate research benefits everybody except bad radio stations. Research from multiple sources using different methodology will give different results. The “man with two watches” thing. But I still think the PPM is as close to accurate as anything we are likely to get anytime soon. And it has the capability of measuring anything that makes a noise.