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
7. Update the logo. Keep it familiar, but leverage the Pandora name, but make it more “radio-y.” (notice no mention of the website)
6. Buy more banner roll. One sad logo isn’t going to cut it anymore.
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.
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.
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.
Radio can be cool, fun, exciting, breath-taking, and memorable. Over the weekend BBC Radio 1 showed me something that blew me away, “Radio 1′s BIG WEEKEND!” Watch this and remember this is radio.
As a radio manager, I’ve had a mix of hit and misses when it comes to events. I’m probably most remembered for Mike & Mike’s Marriage Madness at ESPN Radio. It was the NCAA Tournament meets “The Today Show Throws a Wedding.” It culminated in the ultimate sports fan’s wedding on the campus of ESPN, broadcast live on radio and TV during Mike & Mike in the Morning. It was big in 2006. Since then most of the internet has forgotten, except for some snarky barbs from the folks at Deadspin. I’ve done others since like this and this.
Today, Inside Radio featured several big time summer radio events, festivals, and concerts.
When done properly, a radio station event is a bunch of hard work and logistics that brings together the radio station, the listeners, partners, and advertisers to help create a buzz around the station (internally and externally), reinforce the brand, build fan loyalty, raise incremental sponsorship dollars, and gives your radio station a story to tell.
Here are five steps you can take to create a radio event with a “WOW! Factor”…
1. Have a vision, a goal, a budget, and define success up front. Start with the biggest, best idea you have and revise the idea over and over again. Be realistic about costs and expectations. Keep the concept simple, but make the event memorable and remarkable. Remember to make it about the listener, not the radio station. Why are people going to show up, what’s the draw? And expect greatness. We can’t be great if we only expect to be good enough.
2. Create a pitch and sell it to everybody in the radio station. You, or someone on the staff who is passionate about the event, needs to OWN the event, but everyone needs to pitch in. You can’t do this alone. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
3. Details make all the difference. If you’re aren’t a detail person, get someone who is. The color of napkins, or the shape of a gobo, or the size of the ticket matters.
4. Be inspired. Don’t just copy another radio station’s event, however take notes, evolve a concept, personalize and customize what you see to make it reflect your radio station. Own the event, don’t lease it from another radio station in a neighboring town.
5. Make sure it tells a story to the listeners. What are you going to tell your listeners and what are they going to tell their friends? Tell them what you are going to do for them, tell them what you are doing for them, and then tell them what you did for them.
I watched a TED Video this week on the origins of pleasure. Psychologist Paul Bloom argues that our beliefs about the history of an object changes how we experience it, not simply as an illusion, but as a deep feature of what pleasure (and pain) is. Which explains, in part, why some “heritage” radio stations and hosts across the country continue to get great ratings, despite the poor programming. People love (take great pleasure in) the idea of listening to the station that their Mom or Dad or grandparents listened to. It’s a connection to a simpler time, your childhood, and a shared experience with your parents/grandparents.
It also makes me believe that it’s important that each personality and radio station needs to have a story. Seth Godin coincidentally touched on this same idea this week with his blog post “Just a myth.” Godin concludes his blog by encouraging brands (which could be a personality, a show or a station) to create their own mythology (or story.)
So, if I were trying to invent a mythic brand, I’d want to be sure that there was a story, not just a product or a pile of facts. That story would promise (and deliver) an heroic outcome. And there needs to be growth and mystery as well, so the user can fill in her own blanks. Endorsement by a respected ruler or priest helps as well.
The key word, I think, is spiritual. Mythological brands make a spiritual connection with the user, delivering something that we can’t find on our own… or, at the very least, giving us a slate we can use to write our own spirituality on.
The most successful in broadcasting have these mythologies or stories that help define their brand; Oprah, Rush, and Howard Stern all have overcome great adversity to find success (triumph over tragedy.)
So, it begs the question. What’s your story? Start at the beginning and remember how your personality, show or station went from being a germ of idea to transforming into what it is today. What did you overcome? How are you spiritually serving your fans? If you’re a super hero – what’s are your special powers?
Taking the time to write your story / myth is an investment into being a something people listen to and being something people live for, experience and claim as their own.
Arbitron released a study recently on the key indicators of highly rated PPM stations. They surveyed stations in 48 markets and most every format. The gist is that the dominate #1 stations in PPM have a high DAILY CUME and a high number of LISTENING OCCASIONS (getting people to listen more often is more important than listening longer). So, yes you need more listeners to listen more often in order to be #1. I’ve read some blogs who’ve dismissed this as far from enlightening. Bully for them.
As a programmer it gives me more of a focus to dig deeper. (I’ve changed days of week and actual numbers for competitive purposes). My GM and I decided to look at these key indicators closely. We took a 6-month look at each day of the week to see where we are performing the best and worst (based on DAILY CUME for listeners who spend 1:00+ daily with the station). It opened our eyes to new opportunities. We knew our weekends were vulnerable, but we didn’t have a clear sense of how negatively it impacted the DAILY CUME on Monday. It takes a while to get those listeners to come back after we push them out the door on Friday.
We also looked at LISTENING OCCASIONS. We have a relatively high daily occasion count (about 7), but a lower weekly occasions number (about 21). That means when our P1s decide to listen to the station, they are listening and coming back throughout the day. The opportunity is we only get our core listeners about 3 of 7 days per week on average.
So now we have a better sense of what needs done. We need to convert more of P2, P3, and P4 listeners into P1 listeners by giving them a reason to come back more and more often each day of the week. And encourage our current P1s to spend more days per week with us. It involves appointment listening opportunities throughout each day (coming up today at 4:37…) and appointment listening day-to-day (coming up tomorrow at this time…). It also involves creating a relationship with these fans through facebook, twitter, and email blasts. I want all my core listeners thinking about the radio station, when they’re not even listening to the radio station. (That’s a blog entry for another day.)
This research and exercise is a great reminder for me that each minute, each hour, each day, each week is an opportunity to grow ratings. Everything we do – every topic we choose, every promo we air, every news cast, every e-blast, tweet and facebook post matters and can make a difference.
I’m staying at the Olive 8 Hyatt in Seattle. It’s a cool, hip, new and proud to be a certifiable green hotel. The people are friendly and accommodating. They have this cool, energy-saving, lighting system which uses your room key to operate. Big, fancy, sliding, mirrored doors conceal the bathroom and closet. I lost track of how many pillows were on the bed, but there are more than anyone person could want or need. The hotel and rooms are open, spacious and make you feel important.
On a practical level, however, it’s not as user friendly. The alarm clock is an hour off and I can’t figure out how to reset it. It also doesn’t light the time up at night, so I can’t see the time when I roll over in the middle of the night. The desk chair I’m sitting at is broken. The seat won’t lift higher than about a foot and a half off the ground. It’s like I’m typing above my head. And I didn’t realize going green meant you could only use 1-ply toilet paper. (Who knew gas stations and rest areas were trend setters in the green movement?)
The lesson here for your radio station or show is to not be so distracted by the bells and whistles that you forget to invest in the the very things that the people you are serving need, want and expect. If you don’t fulfill them, they will go somewhere else to find them.
Hotels and radio stations take heed — It’s not all about the packaging; it’s the content or contents of the package that will keep them coming back.
This is one of the times of the year when sports radio hosts like to go on the air and tell listeners that there’s nothing much going on in the sports world. I hear hosts calling this a “dead time;” right after the Super Bowl and before March Madness. When hosts do this they are not only turning off listeners and advertisers, they are telling them to go away.
Listeners are tuning into radio, in part, to escape the realities of their everyday life. No one wants to tune in to hear someone whine about how slow their day is going and babble on about nothing in particular. Strange as it is, this idea of a “slow time” only happens in the sports format. You never tune into a talk format and hear Rush Limbaugh droning on about how slow it is in Washington. I’ve never heard a rock DJ say, “boy this is a dead time for music, I really don’t have anything worth playing today.” Think about it this way, if you turned on CNN and they announced, “No real news today to report.” You would turn to another channel. Same goes listeners of sports talk.
Not only will announcing to the listeners that is a slow time for sports make your radio station more of seasonal listen than it already it is, it could also lead to less revenue. Advertisers are looking for the biggest bang for the buck. If I was an advertiser on a station and I heard a host lamenting about how it’s a slow time and there’s nothing to talk about, I would have to reconsider how I invested my ad dollars. I likely would cancel my order and place my commercials on a station that is excited about its content and is compelling fans to listen.
These are the days that hosts earn their money. This is when they prove their worth to a station and company. It’s a host’s job to make fans care about something. Regardless of what’s going on they have a responsibility to be creative, passionate and compelling. It may be a slower sports day than they like, but that is a YOU problem. Hosts need to work harder to find great story lines, tease them, develop them and pay them off.
Programmers, GMs and sales teams need to hold the hosts accountable to help drive ratings and revenue, not drive it away.
I live in Los Angeles. There are great radio station here with remarkable talent. There are also bad radio stations and forgettable talent. What drives me crazy when I listen to the radio – regardless of the market size – regardless of talent ability – is when audio mis-fires.
In the past two days I have heard two newscasts; one on KFI and one on KABC. In one case the wrong sound bite played twice in a row and in another there was dead air and the announcer uncomfortably asked out loud, “can you say that again?” In both cases, the talent was awkward and uncertain. It made me question the credibility of them and the stations they work on. I hear this happen at least once a day in this market on a variety of stations (and embarrassing as it is, it happened at KSPN while I was PD).
What is so frustrating is that it is preventable. Do yourself a favor. Before going on the air; double and triple check your audio, put it in the correct order, make sure it’s cued, be sure the pot is keyed into program and the levels are set. This is radio 101, yet everyday in every market in America these types of mistakes are made. Audio is our life-blood. It’s how we tell stories. It’s supposedly what we do best, though when I hear mistakes like these in a major market like Los Angeles I begin to wonder if we are truly audio experts or if that’s just we have told ourselves.