Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Broadcast to save it from itself

OK, I admit I am ripping off Mark Ramsey yet again. But it's okay, since he is ripping off Bob Garfield of Advertising Age, the top pub covering the ad biz, and some truly chilling comments he recently made about the various advertising media. He actually uses the word "chaos!"

I like Mark's comments in response to Garfield's observations. He succinctly sums up what broadcasters in the radio game (applies to other media as well) need to do to change their way of thinking...and their way of doing business...before they fly this airplane right into terra firma (my thoughts in red):

1. If the supply of advertising avails online is infinite but the supply of advertising is not, then the only way to avoid having the cost of that advertising driven to zero is to create an environment that attracts advertisers because of its uniqueness. Unique brands, unique advertising concepts. The era of successful me-too brands and "this space available" advertising is over. (This should be made into a poster and hung on the walls of every station or group owner in America!)

2. Radio can move a lot of people to wherever they want to go. We will need to monetize their destinations, whether or not they are "our station's website." (You would be surprised how many people's idea of a station "web site" is pictures of the morning team and some streaming when they feel like it. Few know how to monetize it. I hear, "Yes, we'll throw in a banner ad on the web site...value added." Then they'll spout some useless junk about number of hits. Maybe, if they're really savvy, number of "unique" hits. But they get white around the mouth if I ask them to price response on a per-click basis. And they faint when I try to tell them their over-the-air inventory will eventually be priced based on the number of inquiries they send us. But it will. And soon.)

3. You need to be out of the "radio station" business and into the "local media company" business. Now is a time to recognize the roots of value for your company and to leverage that value. (Yes! Yes! Yes! Radio sales staffs for years have presented themselves as "marketing consultants," so long as whatever solutions they present to the advertiser includes a nice schedule on THEIR over-the-air radio station.)

4. We will need to recognize what makes our audience unique - one listener from the other - not simply what makes them alike. In the future, what makes each listener different is key to her value to advertisers and to your media company. How much each listener lets you know about them is critical to your ability to connect those listeners to marketers that interest them, and vice versa. (At risk of sounding like the guy who voices all those movie trailers: "In a time when advertisers can target potential customers right down to the individual...")

5. You need to embrace all manner of social media as an adjunct to the one thing no social media tool has in your absence: A loudspeaker with hundreds of thousands of willing consumers on the other end.

6. Our obsession with ratings and ratings methodologies is entirely misplaced, thus the importance of ratings per se will invariably decline. When I have lots of ways to reach thousands in my target audience - and most of those ways have precise metrics, not "ratings estimates" - then the number of ears you attract is less important than what you can do with them when you attract them. (I'm a "data guy" and understand the importance of some kind of metrics on which to base marketing, but I could not agree more with this point. Performance. Buyers on the showroom floor. Soda getting placed in shopping carts. My company at least getting Googled. That's what it is all about. Not #1 with left-handed midgets 18-49, 5-6AM, Monday through Wednesday.)

The radio industry needs to either grab a surfboard and take a ride on the tsunami or they will soon find out that they can't hold their breath for nearly as long as they thought.

Don Keith

Monday, March 16, 2009

Massaging oneself

No subliminal titillating message in that title! I continue to be amazed at the attitude of radio broadcasters and their trade publications who continue to please themselves instead of facing reality.
Especially when they tout things like "Radio Touches 234 Million." That was one of the headlines in today's INSIDE RADIO e-newsletter.

Look, I know any publication like INSIDE RADIO that depends on the medium it covers for subscribers cannot always tell it the way it really is. They must search for a kernel of good news among all the bad seed out there. The story that accompanied that headline:

"The latest RADAR report from Arbitron reveals the medium reaches more than 234 million persons (12+) during a typical week. That 92% exposure rate is steady despite growth of MP3 players. The report shows 89% of teens (12-17) also tune-in each week."

Well, whoop-de-damn-doo!

92% of the people in the country were exposed to radio in a typical week. That's based on what we call "cume." That's the data extrapolated from the number of diarykeepers or members of a PPM panel who listened to radio at least once, for at least five minutes, sometime during the period they kept a diary or toted a PPM. A person would have to be dead to not be exposed to at least that tiny sliver of radio. I ate lunch in a Subway today and had no choice but to listen to an urban AC station that played absolutely nothing I wanted to hear for the half-hour I was there, munching on my meatball marinara. I would never deliberately listen to this station. But that lunch entertainment made me one of those 92% who were exposed to radio.

This number comes at a time when the average amount of minutes a typical person spends listening to traditional over-the-air radio is fading faster than George Bush's legacy.

Nothing wrong with looking for a speck of good news. But does that speck blind us to reality at a time when reality is what we really need to face if we are to save this wonderful medium from itself?
Are we simply engaging in media onanism, making ourselves feel good about the way things are going?

Don Keith N4KC

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Social network overload...

Am I the only one who is starting to get a bit bleary-eyed at all the various social networking sites out there? I joined Plaxo and LinkedIn and several more of those business-oriented sites...ending up with accounts at some I never remembered joining and more than two accounts at others. When I get invites, I have to double check to see which account I got invited through or then I have a heck of a time getting the invite accepted. I'm always afraid I'll hurt somebody's feelings if I don't accept, even if I'm not real sure who the person is.

I finally gave in and put up a page on MySpace a couple of years ago, then promptly forgot about it. Frankly, I mostly wanted it there so search engine crawlers would find it and add me to search results. Then everybody told me MySpace was so "Windows 95" and I simply had to create a Facebook profile. A couple of weeks ago, I did that, and have actually had a few folks find me and request everlasting friendship. I have tried to oblige. How devastating is it if I deny someone?

Then, just this week, not just one but several people told me Facebook is over, over, OVER! Gee, it appears that if I join up with one of these sites, I am the kiss of death. A thriving online social network simply cannot stand the Don Keith mojo!

You MUST create a Twitter account, people inform me. So today, I go to Twitter, which seems to be based entirely on "What are you doing right now?" Not seems to be. That is exactly what they say their whole reason for being is: so people can tell other people what they are doing at that moment. Well, first, I am not going to be interested in divulging that information too often. In the spirit of honesty, my first entry was, "Joining yet another social networking website..."

OK, let's see if this one brings me hours of pleasant interaction with other "Twitterers." My user name is don_keith, since some claim-jumper named Don Keith obviously got the word about Twitter before I did. Drop by if you like. Surprise me. I can't see for the life of me the attraction of these kinds of things. Maybe I'm too old and curmudgeonly. Or maybe I just have not entered into these things in the proper spirit.

Of course, it remains to be seen if I even remember my password a few weeks from now.

Don Keith N4KC

(Lord help me!)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hither and Yon...

No, Hither and Yon are not a Borscht Belt comedy team. It just means I have not had a chance to post here in a few days -- dang day job! -- and wanted to make a few random observations.

First, I was reading an ad trade pub called BRANDWEEK, and they have an article about how the suddenly very popular sites Facebook and YouTube may be attracting millions of eyeballs, but they are not making the kind of money they should be with that accumulation of potential customers. They simply have not yet figured out how to capitalize on what they have.

Reminds me of when Google first appeared. With that beautifully clean home page -- the goofy logo and a search box -- I could not, for the life of me, figure out how they were going to make money. No banner ads. No cost to search. Are these guys nuts? Never occurred to me that advertisers would pay for positioning on those results pages. Or for clicks on those links. All that little model has done is turn advertising on its ear! See what kind of seer I am?

Related thought: radio and TV are having their own problems capitalizing their new technology. I've spewed at length here about so-called "HD Radio." One side benefit (?) of that technology is the capability of programming another couple of on-air channels. HDTV has the same thing. It makes any radio or TV station equal two or three radio or TV stations.

But none of them--radio or TV--have figured out what to do with all that potential. If you are radio and you program a variation of the format on your main channel (a country station puts "classic country" on one sub-channel and "rock country" on another), don't you just dilute your main channel's audience? Same with TV. You put re-runs on there of syndicated shows like Seinfeld or Jeopardy that you have on your main channel , if the syndicators allow such a thing, and it may just out-pull your 7 o'clock newscast!

And there is the tiny little problem of measuring the audiences on those additional channels. Nobody can do it. Stations are selling a pig in a poke. Or offering it as value-added without being able to verify they have any value whatsoever.

Quick. Tell me. Do the TV or radio stations in your market have any compelling content on their new sub-channels? Did you even know they had sub-channels?

Finally, one amateur radio note. I predicted when the FCC did away with the Morse code requirement for obtaining an amateur radio license, it would actually increase the number of ops who would use the mode. I think it is happening. Recent log submissions for CW contests have broken records for numbers of participants. I hear plenty of activity on the bands.

And who could listen to the CW pileups for K5D on Desecheo Island and declare that Morse is moribund?


Don Keith N4KC