I admit I was reluctant to read The Handoff, because I know how the story ends – with the untimely death of sports radio’s bigger-than-life ambassador, mentor, friend and programmer Andrew Ashwood. However, I am better for having pushed through.
This is a book about brotherhood, determination, vulnerability, passion, certainty, self-confidence, self-awareness, and one guy’s successful rise from high-octane, motivated, passionate stock broker to high-octane, motivated, passionate sports radio host.
Through his journey of excesses, friendships, and passions, we accompany JT (currently a host on Fox Sports Radio from 1a-6a ET, 10p-3a PT) as he comes-of-age over and over again. The reader witnesses his evolution into a man, a husband, a father, a friend and talk show host. We are there as John transforms into JT and we are cheering with his buddies when he earns the name “Brick.” It’s funny, intense, authentic, emotional and ultimately hopeful.
JT rips his heart open for examination allowing the world to peer into his dreams, doubts, passions, and feelings. From being elected president of his fraternity to moving across country away from his boyhood home and then again when he quits his lucrative stock broker job only to pay his way on the radio – you will be rooting for JT.
Somewhat surprising for a sports host known for his scratchy, bullhorn of a voice and for banging the phones, JT is refreshingly self-deprecating, self-aware, and reflective. Even though I knew how it ended, it was a captivating roller coaster of a journey. The book gives an honest behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to succeed in life and radio. You’ll be motivated by JT’s hustle and moxy, and feel the urge to reconnect with friends from the past.
One of the lessons Andrew passed along was to “make someone’s day.”
Reading this has made mine. Thanks JT.
“Whew! What a party.” - what nobody said after International Radio Day on August 20th.
Yep, you missed it. No worries, seemingly everyone did.
There was barely a blink of a mention on twitter, except relief from one host who made it through another day without being pink-slipped.
Well, they didn’t fire me so that’s good enough for me! RT @Airchecker: What did your station do for “International Radio Day?”
— Jennifer Thomson (@jtradiogal) August 20, 2013
Others were more blunt.
— Wes and The Goat (@wesandgoat) August 20, 2013
And then there was the vitriol.
Today is international radio day… Fuck the radio. Don’t wanna hear all dem damn commercials 😒
— Numinous Enterprises (@ohmanitsdinh) August 20, 2013
So, International Radio Day comes and goes. Again. I didn’t do anything either. But it does seem like a wasted opportunity. A little like being sooo busy saving the true meaning of Christmas that December 25th comes and goes and you don’t notice.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but it seems to me that if there’s already a day carved in the calendars radio ought to do something with it. In fact, there are two days; World Radio Day is in February.
Maybe we can pick a spot to set up a 10×10 tent or have the world spin a wheel.
“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
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?)
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:
“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.”
“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.
“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.
Maybe I’m too thin-skinned, after all I grew up watching TV turn the name Larry into a punch line (Larry, Darryl and Darryl — Larry the neighbor on Three’s Company — Larry Fine of the Three Stooges — Cousin Larry on Perfect Strangers – Larry David – and “Larry” the goofy guy in seemingly every TV spot in the 80s.) – but I have noticed a trend on TV lately and it has me wondering how radio has wronged so many TV writers.
Cartoons, sit-coms and dramas are all taking cheap shots at radio. DJ’s, talk hosts, producers — everyone is being bullied! (It’s a hot topic of discussion on this week’s Radio Stuff Podcast – click here and FF to 26:00 to listen)
I first became aware of the anti-radio trend in January when Rich Eisen guest starred on NBC’s GO ON! with Matthew Perry. Eisen congratulates Perry’s radio host character for…”being the number one host in a local market of a dying medium.”
I cringed, laughed and tweeted about it. And forgot it, until I was watching Curious George with my son. George is locked in a radio studio and somehow figured out how DJ. I instantly recalled the snarky remark by Eisen and thought, “hmmm.”
A monkey as a DJ? A little ”on the nose” for me as it comes to commentary about the industry, but it was the closing line of narration that slammed it home, “George was very proud of himself. He had run an entire radio station. Maybe someday he could even learn how to tie his shoes.” Listen: Curious George – Runs the radio station
Then (gasp!) Bob the Builder started taking jabs and mocking radio. Here’s DJ Mike Turntable (a nice reference for parents) who teaches a scarecrow how to be a DJ in two steps, “Just push this button right here and remember, when telling stories on the radio…BIGGER is WAAAAY better!” Listen: Bob The Builder – Easy Peasy
But, Bob the builder didn’t stop at mocking DJs. At one point a producer — who knows “lots and lots” about radio – is asked for an idea and responds by saying, “I’m the producer, I don’t actually have any ideas myself.” Listen: Bob The Builder – Im the producer – no ideas myself
But, wait there’s more.
ENGINEER: I lost the signal and trying to get it back. It’s not as easy as queuing up the next Van Halen track.
DJ: Now, why is it that engineers always act superior to DJs?
ENGINEER: Because we’re smarter, Phil.
And then there’s another scene (Listen: Under The Dome – not a news station) where the TV reporter confronts the folks at the radio station why they hadn’t reported the news that that they are all under a dome. The engineer responded, “we’re not a news station.” And so the TV reporter took control of the radio station. Sure, she did.
Yes, I know, mocking radio has been a favorite hobby of TV for a while now. But, WKRP and Newsradio always seemed to be kind, good-natured, eye-winking, send-ups of radio. Laughing WITH radio at its absurdities as opposed to laughing or mocking AT it. (LISTEN: WKRP in Cincinnati)
Radio – we’re not so bad, are we?
Maybe it’s time for the industry to hire a PR firm.
I am a pretty positive guy. But, put me in a room full of legacy (old-time) radio vets and it’s easy to get caught up in a cyclone of negativity when it comes to the future of radio. That’s why it’s so important to look outside yourself, your radio station, your format, and sometimes your industry to find out what CAN be done and how you can make a difference.
Tim Sanders (twitter: @sanderssays) is the former Chief Solutions Officer of Yahoo! and author of “Today We Are Rich.” Last month, he spoke to a group of radio folk at the Talk Media Conference in Dallas.
He was just the shot of ‘get-off-your-butt-and-do-something’ that I needed. I believe most leaders in radio needs to listen to more guys like Sanders who offer inspiration, preach innovation, and provide motivation. In his opening address to leaders of talk radio Tim affirmed what we all know, “the reality is there’s a lot of trouble (in radio).” But, he didn’t wallow in it, like many of us like to do. He pointed to Napoleon who defined a leader as someone who, “defines reality and then gives hope.” Hope is what has been missing from most of the discussions I’ve been privy to in regards to the future of radio. I’m going to try harder to be a provider of it.
Sanders insisted that the time is now for all of us to get busy. (my interpretation; stop talking about how bad things are going to be and how antiquated radio is — and start doing something about it).
Sanders is a real positive force. His advice assembled below for easy consumption is valuable if you’re a programmer, a talent, a producer, an account executive, sales manager, front desk receptionist, engineer or other…
Feed Your Mind With Good Stuff and Get Rid of the Poison in Your Life
1. Understand that “success” is not a destination, it’s a mind-set — an attitude.
2. Feed your mind with success experiences (the great interview you did, the sale you closed, the great story you broke, etc.)
3. Read your fan mail. Save it and pull it out in high-stress moments to remind yourself of your successes and how what you do does make a difference.
4. Move the conversation forward. This is how you change culture. Culture is just a conversation about how things are done. Stop asking people, “how’s it going?” and start asking, “what are you excited about?”
5. Don’t reward fire starters.
6. Be conscious that you have thee invisible things to give — and they grow as you go; knowledge, network, and compassion.
- Share your knowledge; you will not get dumb helping to make people smarter.
- Activate your network; you spent a lot of time meeting people and making an impression — now what are you going to do with it? Are their people in your network that should know each other? Introduce them.
- And be compassionate. Sanders reminds us that feelings are facts to the person who is feeling.
So,…what are you excited about?