Monday, December 29, 2008

Number one with who counts -- LISTENERS!

Back on November 12, I posted a note about how radio listening is down for commercial stations but National Public Radio affiliates are actually growing nicely. Now comes word that the new Portable People Meter developed by my old company, Arbitron, shows something very interesting in Washington, DC, a major radio market.
The number one radio station between 7 PM and midnight in this big media center is not the local hit music station, not the news/talk or the urban/rap station. No, it is a listener-supported, non-commercial contemporary Christian music station, WGTS-FM.
How can that be? How can such a narrowly-targeted station beat all those other consulted, researched, promoted, fire-breathing monsters?
I'm not that familiar with WGTS, and it is definitely NOT the kind of station I would typically listen to, but after visiting their web site and listening just a few minutes to their stream, I think I have a good idea. Anyone listening or visiting the web site who falls into the group for whom the station is intended instantly feels like he or she belongs. They probably feel that this station "belongs" to them. Everything is inclusive, not excluding. The pieces fit together. Listeners are invited to be a part of what they are doing.
There is an open invitation for listeners and visitors to design a billboard for the station, using the theme "Why I believe in God." People are invited to send video of their kids' Christmas pageants to share with others. There's a chance to choose a gift from a catalog to send to a child in Asia for Christmas. Of course, there are blogs, a chance to follow station personalities on Twitter and other social sites, and a high-quality station stream that does not require some kind of exotic player--just Windows MediaPlayer--or demands that you register to listen (there's an optional opportunity to give your email address if you want to be on the station's distribution list).
Again, it's not my kind of station, but I can readily see why the PPM shows it to be doing so well. They are not trying to reach "listeners." They are trying to attract participants...members of a club that a large number of people would like to join. And they are not doing anything any other radio station couldn't do.

Don Keith

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

And the biggest advertiser on broadcast radio is...

Are you ready for this? The biggest-spending advertiser on broadcast radio nowadays is not Coca Cola. It's not beer or fast food or on-line dating services. And it's certainly not auto makers.

It is...TA!

Yes, the biggest advertiser on radio is radio. That's spending to promote so-called "HD radio."

So you tell me: how much do you know about HD radio? Did you plan to give them as gifts this Christmas?

Could you tell me three things that make a new HD radio a good purchase?

I didn't think so. Obviously money well spent.

Don N4KC

Friday, December 12, 2008

Creating a relationship with customers

I often cite a blog I follow that is written by media researcher Mark Ramsey. He quotes quite a few marketing "gurus" and their takes on the business of radio and other media. Some are better than others. Some are unrelated to rapid technological change or are only peripherally relatable to media.

But in one of Mark's most recent posts, he quotes from an interview he did with marketing consultant and author Tom Asacker, who, in a few sentences, may have given the most profound formula yet for a radio station intent on attracting a large audience:

"You can't create larger audiences by trying to create larger audiences. You can only create larger audiences by trying to get deeper with smaller audiences.

Think about how to get deeper and make more relevant, valuable connections with individuals in a culture or a subculture.

Don't think about audience size. Think about the depth of the relationship and how important it is and how valuable it is. The more you do that, the bigger the audience gets."

I am convinced that the more choices people have for their entertainment, information and virtual companionship, the more they will gravitate toward those sources with which they can identify, feel a part of, while becoming a member of a community with similar likes and dislikes. It goes back, too, to my continual braying about how radio listeners, TV viewers, Internet surfers, book readers--all users of all media--are looking primarily for companionship. For a shared experience. A shared experience with someone with whom they feel comfortable.
It's as simple as a morning dee jay saying, "Gosh, I know how you feel after the (home team) lost the big game last night. Here's a song I pulled out of the stack, just for days like this. It made me feel better. I hope it does you, too."

Don Keith N4KC

Friday, December 5, 2008

God help radio and God help radio's customers

So I was traveling this week and got a free copy of USA TODAY on my hotel room doorknob (does anybody actually buy this paper?) Inside was a nice, colorful insert, urging me to give “the gift that fits.” (Here’s a link to the insert:

The piece says I should give an HD Radio to someone special this Christmas, not a gift card, a necktie, or a “re-gift.” It claims there are 100 different HD Radios and gives me a long list of manufacturers and retail stores. There is even a bullet-point list of various types of HD Radios that exist: alarm clock, table top, and portables, to name a few.

If I look hard enough, I finally see a few reasons listed for WHY I should give someone an HD Radio for a gift: more local stations, higher quality sound, and no subscription fee. That's it. Still, it seems the main reason is because 29 manufacturers make HD Radios and eleven retailers sell them.

I can’t help but ask several questions”

· What am I missing here? Why is the fact that people make and sell a product a reason why I should give it as a gift?
· Are the three value propositions offered on this piece enough to make that lucky giftee squeal with delight on Christmas morning? I’m trying to think who on my gift list is looking for “more local stations” or, for that matter, “higher quality sound” than they are getting already. Gosh, yes. My wife, my boss, my brother have all been telling me how much they would like more local radio stations! Thank you, broadcasters, for providing me the perfect gift!
· OK, so they want me to find “just the right HD Radio for your special someone” (honest, that’s what the copy says!). What is the point of this expensive print insert piece? Are they trying to drive me to a store or to a web site? It can't be that they want to give me any reasons why the HD Radio is such a spectacular gift. If they want to push me to the web site, they only list the URL once that I can find, and it is in a font and color I can hardly make out. And I don't see a compelling reason for me to "visit." How many people will actually go there to “print out a customized shopping list?”
· And finally, who are these guys trying to reach with this piece? Why USA TODAY? Of all possible placement or media, why USA TODAY?

Radio tells its customers that they are “marketing experts” who will help them sell their product or service. God help the radio industry and God help its customers!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ubiquitous free broadband -- it's coming, and soon!

USA TODAY says it, so it has to be true:
Free broadband for America has inched closer to reality: The plan, after two years of debate, is finally on the calendar for a full vote by the Federal Communications Commission.
Assuming the plan is approved at the FCC's Dec. 18 meeting, one of the agency's last before President-elect Barack Obama takes office, free broadband could become reality within a year.

That means not only your laptop but your car, your utility meter, your refrigerator (!) will be able to connect to the Internet from just about anywhere. Think about it. You can start your car, have your house warming up, check the roast in the crock pot, set your DVR to record that show you forgot about, 20 meter CW on your home rig and big antenna...all from your desk or while having an after-work drink with your buds.

The possibilities boggle the mind of a guy like me who has been alive in seven decades. I remember when we had three (THREE!) TV channels. When the only broadcast radio we could hear at night was Chicago or St. Louis. When mail had no "e" in front of it. When ordering Christmas presents out of a catalog meant a paper catalog, a money order, and a trip to the post office sometime in October.

What other possibilities does ubiquitous, instantaneous connectivity promise? What is the potential impact on how people communicate, how they get their entertainment, how they use media, how they live their lives? When your thermostat on the wall at home, your locker at the gym, your car, and your dog all have IP addresses and are accessible from any computer or handheld communcation device (no longer just a "cell phone" or "PDA")?

Take a deep breath and hang on!

Don Keith N4KC