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Archive for the ‘Arbitron’ Category

NY Radio Owes Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter’s final days as a Yankee boosted Sports Talk Ratings in New York. There’s not conclusive evidence in the article linked that it was entirely a Jeter phenomenon, but media aren’t allowed to post daily ratings and I suspect you can track the listening patterns directly to his farewell tour. Sure, no doubt NFL is helping these stations too.

But, taking the idea that Jeter’s final days drove ratings increases at face value; what are the lessons for radio here? That was the first question issued in Tuesday night’s sports radio twitter chat (#srchat). Refreshingly, there are many.

Play the hits. That was my first reaction along with @TimFisherOnAir. But there’s more to this than that.

 

Connecting with your community is paramount to success. Radio hosts must capture the passion, imagination, and conversation of the listeners and reflect it back to them. The “hit” is knowing WHAT to talk about, knowing HOW to talk about — the context — is what makes it resonate and stick with your listeners.

 

I agree with @bksportstalk that stories are powerful tools to drive listening especially when a community has a common or shared experience. Few hosts are telling great, compelling stories instead they just skip from fact to fact to fact leaving out the emotion, the details, and the arc of the story which are the most compelling parts.

 

@ChaddScott makes a great point here. Personalities drive ratings. Find the WHO in your stories and start from there. I used to work with a host who insisted all stories be pitched to him with this opening line, “There is this guy/gal who…” Stories about people are more engaging than stories about things. Stories about famous people provide a quick hook.

I’ll also add that the Derek Jeter story is one of legacy, celebration and at the very core; heroes and villains. Everybody enjoys a story about a hero or a villain. And Jeter filled both roles for New York baseball fans.

 

And the #1 Radio Story of 2013 is…

top 5Here it is. The Top 5 Larry Gifford Media blog posts of 2013. No surprise that new and social media resonated with readers. Readers were riveted by the poor judgment of colleagues in Atlanta and a little scared and confused by the ratings hit Talk Radio formats took in 2013. But, nothing captured the hearts and minds of radio folk more than the sudden death of radio’s Kidd Kraddick.

Rode Rec25. Five Apps All Radio People Should UseI realized the other day how much time, energy and money I’ve saved thanks to online, iPad and phone apps. I have more apps than I need, but some seem especially useful for radio work. So, from one radio guy to you — here are five apps that you may never have heard of that just may change your life or at least make you more productive and effective.

Nate Riggs4. How Radio Can Better Embrace Social Media A post from 2011 that still resonates today. “Don’t try to do everything all at once. Pick one thing that you’re going to do 110% and get really good at. If it’s a Facebook page invest your time and energy in building a community around that Facebook page and engaging in that community. I think it’s a perfect complement to radio, because radio is traditionally a push medium; we listen to radio.” – Nate Riggs

steve3. A Journey Into “Instant Unemployment” and How to Avoid It Three Atlanta talk hosts are fired following a poorly planned and executed “comedy” bit. The reality of the situation is, regardless of ratings or talent, most radio hosts walk up to and around the “line” everyday. They are the stunt actors of radio willing to dive off the top of a building, walk through fire, or wreck a motorcycle to get a laugh, to get some ink, and to increase ratings. And we love them for it. From time to time, they’re going to cross the line. It’s going to happen. PDs need to be there more of than time than not. Truth is some will lose their job (See: Dan Sileo) and some won’t (See: Rush Limbaugh).

rush-pubshot2. The Free Fall of Talk Radio

Talk stations are tumbling in the ratings and no one knows why, though there are many theories.

It’s political fatigue. It’s too repetitive. It’s too depressing. It’s too angry. It’s too boring. It’s humorless. It’s predictable. It’s not entertaining. It’s all commercials.

Former radio star, now internet radio sensation Tom Leykis chimes in, “Talk radio went from Rush Limbaugh’s bells, whistles, jingles and parody songs and everything to a line up of people reading bill numbers.” He went on, “It’s devoid of humor, entertainment value or mirth. These are not radio personalities.”

He wonders aloud if anyone in the radio business getting the message?

KiddKraddick1. Kidd Kraddick’s Last Selfless Acts

There’s really no way Kidd could have understood the impact he’s had on so many people and the radio industry in general. He even made an impact to radio friends around the world. The reaction on Twitter, Facebook, and coverage in news has been overwhelming. One listener credits Kidd for “restoring his faith and belief in FM radio.”

And I too have found myself caught up in it. I didn’t know Kidd, but I’ve respected him from afar and have never heard anyone say a bad thing about him. No one. Which, in this ego-fueled industry, isn’t just rare – it’s an anomaly. It’s the exception to the rule.

To honor Kidd’s legacy, I have extracted some of the rules of life and radio he’s left behind. These rules come directly from words and phrases used by his family of colleagues and listeners.

If you missed the rest of the countdown you can catch up on blog posts #25-16 of the year here, and #15 to #6 here.

Thanks for making 2013 so great. I raise my glass to you and wish you  a bright, ratings-filled, drama-free 2014!

Here’s a link to the Radio Stuff Podcast New Year’s Special which counts down the most listened to episodes of the year.

Counting Down the Top Posts of 2013 #15 to #6

LGM 2013 count down

As the New Year approaches we continue the 2013 Count Down of the year’s top blog posts (#25 to #16 here). Interesting to note, one of the blog posts below (#12) was written and posted in October 2010, yet still gets tons of traffic each year.  Another  (#15) was posted in May 2012.

#15 Brock & Salk Turn a Battleground into Common Ground

Despite being posted in May 2012, this post detailing the relationship and partnership of Seattle sports talkers Brock Huard and Mike Salk was popular, because Salk left the show for a gig in Boston this year.

#14 Does Internet Radio Value Radio More Than Radio?

Observations of a radio guy seeing signs of how the internet has hi-jacked the brand of “radio” that the industry has developed and earned through decades of blood, sweat and tears of building relationships with listeners.

#13 Recipe for a Paula Deen Parody

Oh, Paula Deen…

#12 Look Who’s Talking: Jim Cutler

Profiling one of the best voice artists in the world.

#11 The Producer Game Is Changing

I offer a response to a host’s open letter in Talkers about his producer and I offer 20 Tips on being a more effective producer.

#10 For Different Results – Change

In the wake of my resignation from KIRO Radio, I offer some observations. “Too often, I hear employees (hosts, producers, board ops, etc) want more, expect more, and demand more, but are unwilling to change to get it. There’s an overwhelming sense of entitlement in our business from the newcomers to the veterans…”

#09 Arbitron Panelist,”F— this!”

Real audio from a real panelist fed up with PPM.

#08 Wanted: A Passionate Disruptor or a Computer Literate Promo Assistant

One reason why traditional radio stations are having trouble attracting young, creative talent.

#07 77 Websites for Radio Hosts, Producers, Anchors and Reporters

A growing list of must-bookmark websites.

#06 The Keys to Sports Radio Success

The inspiration for this comes from a sports radio chat on twitter (#srchat). The question — what are your biggest pet-peeves of sports talk radio? — was posed to everyone on the chat including special guest Clear Channel’s VP of Sports Bruce Gilbert. I’ve taken their answers and turned-them-inside-out like a secret decoder ring to unveil the keys to sports radio success.

The top 5 posts of 2013 will be unveiled next week!

Arbitron Panelist,”F— this!”

“The first couple days I’m wearing this thing and I’m turning into radio just trying to get these points and then finally I said, ‘Well, f— this.’” - Former PPM panelist

PPM

How many times have you wanted to say ‘f— it.’ to Arbitron? Those were the words of a caller I will call “Joe” to the Tom Leykis Show on New Normal Network.

Listen to the comments in context here.

This is a taboo topic of conversation for terrestrial radio and it would disqualify a radio station’s ratings faster than you can push “scan” when the Kars-for-Kids commercial starts up. However, it was the Top Story on Radio Stuff’s podcast. (editor’s note: Arbitron emailed their responses to our questions, so we had a British bloke voice the answers on the podcast. It’s worth a listen for that alone.)

DISCLAIMER: As a programmer, I have praised Arbitron for measuring my genius programming with precision when ratings are high and cursed them when they dropped. (Certainly there must be a sampling error, no?)

ARBITRONADO2

Joe v. Arbitronado

So, I sent the audio from “Joe” to Arbitron’s Director of Programming Services Jon Miller and asked him what he thought. He says it sounds like things are working the way they should.

 “Arbitron has safeguards in place to help ensure the integrity of our PPM ratings. In this case, the panelist’s comments are a demonstration of some of those safeguards, such as calling households if their compliance in carrying the meter falls off.”

Caller Joe complained to Leykis:

man-141052_640 “I started getting all these phone calls. I’m thinking you know who the hell is this calling me? We’ll it’s Arbitron. So apparently this meter has something that can tell when you’re moving and when you’re sitting still. And so when I’m not moving, they’re calling me – pretty much harassing me about why am I not wearing the meter and they can’t get accurate ratings and I need to be wearing my meter. Well, after about two weeks of this, they called me and said, “You’re not wearing the meter!” and I finally said, ‘alright, fuck this. Send me a box and I’m sending all this shit back.’”

Miller wouldn’t go so far as to characterize the company’s behavior as harassment, but the calls are part of the quality control.

“Arbitron monitors compliance with its instructions, contacts households who aren’t complying and works with them to improve their carry habits whether through coaching or other incentives.”

The 2010 Broadcast Architecture study on PPM panelists talked to one woman who clipped her meter to a ceiling fan, Joe plopped it down in front of a radio, and I’ve heard that others have attached them to pets. So, Jon Miller, how do you know when a panelist is cheating.

“The PPM has a motion detector built into it allowing us to capture both the motion records and media exposure from that day. There are thresholds for how many hours of motion a day we require for our panelists to be counted in the days ratings, and the more they wear the meter the more incentives they receive.”

And then there’s sample size. It wasn’t brought up by the caller, but it is commonly heard uttered in anger and echoing through the hallways outside PDs offices.

“PPM’s sample sizes are designed to deliver the same level of statistical reliability as the Diary survey, but with less total sample. We accomplish that by surveying listeners for a much longer period of time (28 days in just one PPM survey month) compared to the one-week diary timeline. This level of detail, thousands and thousands of days of measurement across a single month, allows us to see so many granular things with PPM data that we just can’t with the Diary.”

Parting Shots

“If Arbitron is the standard in terms of traditional AM and FM radio then it’s a flawed standard.” -Joe the caller

Joe’s point would be more valid if he wasn’t just complaining that he wanted to earn the money without doing the work.

Jon offers some real valuable insights here for everyone in radio.jonmiller

“One of the most fascinating things I’ve seen over the 5+ years that PPM has been in use is how much and how fast listening habits are evolving and changing. Nothing stays static in PPM, and we’re finding that radio listening is dynamic. This continually motivates broadcasters to continue offering compelling content on stations with clear and strong brand images, so that they can cut through with listeners in an ever more crowded media world.”       - Jon Miller, Arbitron VP of Programming Services

Clear. Strong. Brands. Cut Through.

And I would add this:

“PPM isn’t perfect, but it’s all we’ve got.” – Larry Gifford 

Upon Further Review

We can’t force our ideal listeners to participate – it’s a roll-of-the-dice and sometimes you roll snake eyes.

Arbitron is weeding out at least some of the cheaters. Good.

We can’t know “true” listening behavior without NSA quality spy equipment and the violation of our listener’s constitutional rights.

Stations and panelists are both trying to game the system. Makes me wonder who Arbitron is gaming.

The sample size is what it is, unless stations want to spend even more ridiculous amounts of money to be told your station is still – awesome, sucky, irrelevant, vital – depending on the time of the month.

The success or failure of your station is in the hands of Caller Joe. Good luck.

The Free Fall of Talk Radio

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From New York to Los Angeles, in Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, and D.C. at big stations and small there is an alarming story unfolding in talk radio. Talk stations are tumbling in the ratings and no one knows why, though there are many theories.

It’s political fatigue.

It’s too repetitive.

It’s too depressing.

It’s too angry.

It’s too boring.

It’s humorless.

It’s predictable.

It’s not entertaining.

It’s all commercials.

The list of once great stations that have dropped out of the top ten reads like a radio station all-star line-up: KFI, WABC, WLS, WMAL, KABC, KIRO, WBAP. And it’s not a fluke (pardon the pun.) This is real. Arbitron is noticing it too.

“…for the first time since we began keeping our format records, it (news-talk) recorded two consecutive books below a 9 share, finishing at an 8.7 in July. Now summer is historically the lowest time of the year for News/Talk listening, and we will be keeping a close eye on the results as August and September approach, but it’s worth noting that the format’s summer shares have declined about 10% since 2011.”

– Tony Hereau, Arbitron Media Insights Manager

Down 10% in two years as a format in the 48 PPM markets?!

Editor’s note: I’m sure radio ownership groups understand and have lowered revenue projections accordingly.

THEY DON’T LIKE US, LEYKIS. WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?Tom Leykis

Tom Leykis, former radio show host now internet trailblazer at NewNormalNetwork.com, believes he was in the epicenter of the downfall of talk radio.

“It was in 1994.”

Leykis was a guest on Episode 13 of the Radio Stuff podcast (listen). He recalled broadcasting from the NAB the year his show was launching into syndication and everyone kept talking about a panel featuring talk radio consultant Ed Shane. As Leykis recalls, this was Shane’s message:

“It’s important, for your talk radio station to be successful, that everyone have the same opinion as Rush.”

Leykis takes it a step further.

“So in other words, the secret to Rush Limbaugh’s success was not his years of experience or his time as a DJ or the fact that he had great timing or was a good comedian, that he made good use of sound, but no, no, no – the reason for his success was that he was a political conservative.”

From there after, every station Leykis approached to syndicate his show would ask what his politics were. It wasn’t always like that, “Previously, they only cared, ‘do I get ratings? Will I help the station make money? Will I make noise?’ Suddenly I was being asked, ‘Are you a conservative?’”

Leykis believes that was the moment talk radio went from being a mass appeal format to being a niche format. And the problems with talk radio today stem directly from a consultant misreading the tea leaves.

Talk radio went from Rush Limbaugh’s bells, whistles, jingles and parody songs and everything to a line up of people reading bill numbers.” He went on, “It’s devoid of humor, entertainment value or mirth. These are not radio personalities.”

He wonders aloud if anyone in the radio business getting the message?

And he cautions up and coming talkers, “Don’t go to a radio station, because you’ll never be allowed to develop your talent. Develop a podcast, develop a streaming live show, develop your own product, and learn how to sell it and become an entrepreneur.”

OKAY, SO NOW WHAT?

Maybe it is political talk’s fault. I happen to believe it’s likely a perfect storm of new media, new listener expectations, new social and political attitudes, and a general fear in radio of taking risks and being wrong – in every department.

Here are a couple of steps I believe are necessary for talk radio to attract new listeners and remain relevant.

1. DEMAND SHOWMANSHIP

Talk radio needs more storytellers and fewer alarmists. Talent need to entertain, emote and put on a show, as much as they provide insight, deliver information and add context. Radio station leaders must support talent and encourage them to be amusing, insightful, emotional, apolitical, curious, experimental, and positive while giving them permission to fail. And fail hard sometimes — without fear of being fired.

2. FIND ANOTHER REVENUE STREAM

Radio stations need to stop abusing the listeners. The quality and quantity of radio’s commercials is appalling. I mean holy smokes gang have you tried to listen to an hour of radio recently? Effective immediately commercials that don’t meet your standards or match your brand should be rejected. Be the first guy in the room to say, “Hold up! That spot sucks. It’s not going on our air.” Be bold.

And – this will be even less popular – reduce spot loads. It’s time. Thanks to DVR, podcasts, Netflix, on-demand audio, and satellite radio spot loads seem to be worse than ever. Until recently people were accustomed to sitting through commercials or flipping back and forth between stations, because it was the penance you had to pay to watch your favorite TV show or listen to a kooky talk show host. Now radio is the last place on earth (with the exception of movie theaters) where consumers are forced to sit there while commercials are crammed down their throat.

No fast forward.

No more patience.

No more listening.

Just look at the growth of online radio, on-demand audio and NPR. So what’s that mean? Radio needs to figure out a dual revenue stream. The future of financing big radio is commercials and__________. You fill in the blank.

Editor’s note: If you say commercials and banner ads, I will scream.

BOLD PREDICTION

Talk radio isn’t going to die, but it is definitely going through a mid-life crisis. The next 18-months the entire format will be redefined, programmers will be less focused on gaming PPM and more focused on listeners, commercials will sadly still suck, and Rush Limbaugh will be replaced by someone else as the face of the format.

Four Things Hosts Can Do To Improve Ratings

I’ve been listening to a bunch of air-checks recently (see: Talent Session Summer Special) and based on what I’m hearing I want to share four ideas to improve your ratings. How will this improve your ratings? Listeners will find your show more valuable, more entertaining and worthy of more of their time each day and week.

Have a point.

imagesCAZSPZFXI hear many talk hosts who know they need to talk about the big stories; Weiner, A-Rod, etc., but not enough are providing a unique insight, perspective or clear takeaway for the listener. Know what point you want to make before you dive into the story and find the facts, details, audio, and guests that best support your conclusion. Use every tool you can to paint the picture you want the listener to see. As a host, you are a trial attorney… and the listeners are the jury. What are you going to say to convince them you’re right?

Solo hosts are not alone.

imagesCAU9SVWNAs a solo host, a three or four-hour stretch can seem daunting. Trust me, I know. I cut my sports talk teeth in Philadelphia hosting a show every Sunday in direct competition with Eagles play-by-play. Even I wasn’t listening to what I was saying. However, I learned a couple of tricks along the way to make sure you’re never alone, even when the phones aren’t ringing.

  • Talk to audio clips/direct quotes. This isn’t the same as “playing clips,” talking around sound or discussing what someone said. This is reacting to the sound in real-time and speaking directly to the newsmaker. You can yell at them, disagree with them, or even offer them advice.
  • Talk with your listeners. Pull them into your confidence, address them (as a singular “you”), be there for them, hear them in your head reacting to what you’re saying and acknowledge their argument for them. Create lists of things your listeners should remember about what you’re saying. “Here are three things no one else will tell you about Alex Rodriguez…”

Much of this involves some acting on your part, fully utilizing your voice inflection and intonation, and it takes quite a bit of preparation. However, when done correctly, it will be very impactful.

Listeners want the dirt. 35937_10151642319463982_1479812403_n

Do not shy away from sharing the colorful details of stories or digging up additional information to add context. So often, hosts brush over the fine points of a story to get straight to their opinion and then spend the next two hours and fifty minutes repeating their point. Do your research, read source materials, gather audio that helps tell the story you want to tell, be descriptive, provocative and pull the listeners into the world YOU are creating.

Be Curious.

This is an exercise in being 4-years-old again. Ask questions and seek answers. Ask why? Ask what’s missing? Be nosey. Do not take things at face value. Do not believe what someone else says about something – experience it for yourself. Believe your instincts and follow-up on them. Investigate. Probe. Discover. Uncover. Look at things differently. Test your hypothesis. Read between the lines. Look at what everyone else is taking for granted and look closer. Be present in life. Take better notes.

Hope it helps. Let me know how it goes for you.

Eight Things Pandora Will Do Now That It Bought A Radio Station

Pandora is buying a real radio station (article here); 102.7 The Hits in South Dakota. They have a theory that this puts them in the same category as iHeartRadio as it relates to affordable music rights fees. It may work. But, it got me thinking, what if Pandora started to act like a radio station?

Eight Things Pandora Will Do Now That It Bought The Radio Station 102.7 The Hits

8. Complain about Arbitron. Not once has Pandora.com shown up in the PPM data, the sampling must be off.

7. Update the logo. Keep it familiar, but leverage the Pandora name, but make it more “radio-y.” (notice no mention of the website)

pandora logo

6. Buy more banner roll. One sad logo isn’t going to cut it anymore.

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5. New Slogan:

OLD “Today’s Best Hits Without The Rap” (seriously, that’s the slogan. I didn’t realize my Mom was writing radio slogans. She’s always going on about “the rap” music.)

NEW: “If you like Nickelback….we are playing songs that are similar to them”

4. New 10×10 tent for the grocery store remotes. No radio station is complete without one.

10'-x-10'--POP-UP-TENT-X102_3

3. Understand Added Value. Give clients spots on Pandora.com at no charge in exchange for paying for terrestrial radio buys. This works, trust us Pandora, we know radio.

2.  Update the Bieber cutout. He’s much cooler these days.

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1. Use streaming audio for promotion! Make sure the web stream pushes terrestrial listening, otherwise it doesn’t count!

Okay, I’m cheeky and sarcastic. I know. But, it does make you stop think about why radio does some of the things it does. Evolution involves change and change is uncomfortable. To adapt and survive, radio is going to have to get pretty uncomfortable, pretty quickly.

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