ESPN Had No Reason To Back Cowherd

Radio is a business. I know it’s our passion, our love, our siren song and our muse, but it’s also a business, which is why ESPN did the right thing in jettisoning Colin Cowherd. It’s not what they would have always done. However, when media companies know a talent is a “short timer,” they are much less risk adverse. What’s in it for ESPN to protect Cowherd now when they know he’s out-the-door and off to the competition in 30 days? Nothing, but a damaged relationship with MLB, MLBPA and every Dominican everywhere. 

I was Colin’s manager for a spell. Blogs and fan sites weren’t well respected back then and Cowherd directed his listeners to flood several sites with the intention of shutting it down. It was petty retribution for a stories that criticized The Herd for stealing angles without attribution. The backlash was severe from internal and external fans of these sites and sites like them. Cowherd offered a Mia culpa, learned a tough lesson and it was behind us. He had full support of the network, because he was new and seen as future star. Without the promise of what may come, there’s no real reason for ESPN to shield him now. 

As a former manager and colleague it disheartens me to see Cowherd and ESPN part ways so abruptly and on bad terms. He did great work. He made most fans forget Kornheiser ever had a show on ESPN Radio, which seemed an impossible feat when he started. And he is a great talent. Love him or hate him he stirs something inside you which is the goal of any talk personality

Categories: Uncategorized

One Thing Radio Has That Everybody Else Wants

liveEvery day radio DJs and talk hosts do something that strikes fear into others…

They crack a mic and talk to thousands of people at one time “live.”

That’s right, “live!” and without a net (other than a 7-second delay for dumping curse words.)

I can hear your sarcastic mumbling from here, “Woo hoo! Wowzers. Big deal, buddy. Why’s that something to write about?”

Well, it turns out people like “live” and radio has it in droves. However, for some reason we are taking this huge attribute and for the most part scuttling it.

Meantime, others are scrambling to capitlize on “live.”

knock-knock-liveRyan Seacrest is building an empire on “live.” He has “live” voting on American Idol and “live” performances, a “live” radio show (sometimes replayed and repackaged), a “live” countdown to New Year’s Eve and tonight he launches a new TV show called, “Knock! Knock! Live.” It’s billed by Fox TV as “the show where anything can and will happen.” They can say that because it is “live.”

“Live” is more thrilling. It makes it more dangerous, more daring, and more exciting. Though somehow radio doesn’t feel that way. We no longer view “live” as special, so our listeners don’t either and I believe that’s a mistake.

But even more than how it feels, “live” creates an instant community of people experiencing something at the same time. It makes it more special because we aren’t just watching or listening to something, we are bearing witness to it. There is something powerful to having a shared experience. Media companies of all shapes and sizes get that and are trying their best to capture it.

It is in fact one of the cornerstones of Apple Music’s Beats1 channel. It’s a shared, global, listening experience. It’s “live” from London, New York, and L.A. and you are listening “live” wherever you are anywhere and everywhere in the world.

After a successful and funny “live” show in the spring, NBC renewed the fairly average sit-com “Undateable” for 13 episodes this fall with the caveat that all the episodes are broadcast “live.” Let us not forget the enduring success of Saturday Night Live.

TV and radio networks also spend hundreds of millions of dollars for the rights to “live” sporting events, because historically those are the most watched and listened to events – ever.

Tom Leykis has a bit called “Be Funny Live” on his New Normal Network internet radio show and it is so successful he created a sold-out event at a comedy club around the premise.

You can listen to your favorite band or artist on your device as often as you want, but seeing them “live” is light years better.

What’s the attraction to Periscope? It’s “live” video that you can interact with in real-time.

“Live” tweeting events and pre-recorded shows is almost more entertaining and enjoyable than the actual event or show.

I could go on…

At this very moment in time when “authenticity” is one of radio’s buzzy buzz words, the industry has a real opportunity to own the “where anything can happen” moniker. Unfortunately, we seem so restricted by our companies, brands, managers, and stock holders that rarely anything does. And the audience doesn’t anticipate that it will.

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10 Things To Do In A Radio Job Hunt

RS 109This week I’ve been talking to radio folks about searching for and applying for jobs. It coincidentally or not comes as CBS Radio layoffs several hundred employees. So I’ve assembled a list of 10 things to do while searching for your next radio gig.

1. Network. Most people end up getting jobs because of who they know. And you never know who is going to be the perfect “in” to get each job. So, connect with friends, colleagues, and old bosses on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Comb through your address book and reach out to folks from three markets ago. The key is don’t ask or beg for a job, don’t bemoan your situation, simply ask for advice. When you ask for knowledge people are more emotionally vested in your success. Take people to lunch or coffee and pick their brains and ask them if there is anyone they can think of that you should know and see if they’ll introduce you.

2. Apply for jobs. You are not above the hiring process. If you don’t apply managers assume you’re not interested. Don’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring. When you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind no matter how successful you were at one time. Find jobs that interest you and apply for them.

3. Update your resume. If it has been awhile since you’ve applied for a job make sure your resume reflects your most recent work experience. If you’re light on experience you might consider creating a functional resume over a chronological one. That allows you to focus on your skills and abilities and takes the focus on your tenure at each position. (Bonus Pro Tip: Spell check. Many hiring managers will eliminate candidates for spelling errors. The attention to detail you put into the materials you assemble to get a job is assumed to be as great or even superior to the attention to detail you’ll actually put into performing the job.)

4. Customize materials. Having one cover letter or introduction email, one resume and one demo for all positions is a sure fire way to get placed into the circular file (garbage bin.) Do some research and address your materials to the hiring manager. Avoid generic phrases like, “I’m seeking fulltime employment at a media company” and be specific about each job you’re applying for, “I want to be the night host on Crazy 96.6 WGIF.” Rearrange your resume so the experiences and skills that apply most to the position you are seeking are reflected towards the top.

5. Learn something new. Take this down time from employment as an opportunity to learn a new skill. Maybe you want to explore digital editing, know more about how PPM works or become an ace at snapchat or Pinterest. Expand your skillsets while you have the time to dedicate to it. It will also ultimately make you a more attractive candidate.

6. Don’t leave social media. One guy I recently spoke to told me he was waiting to see where he got hired to be active in social media again, because he knew he’d have to change his handle. It’s your personal brand and your responsibility to cultivate it. In this new world of media, it is important that you remain active and engage on social media regardless if you’re employed.  It helps you to remain relevant to fans and evolve your personal brand. It’s also a key factor in hiring. Hiring managers look at how many followers you have, how engaged you are with them, how often you post and what the content of your posts.

7. Vanity search. Do a google search of your name to see what comes up. You want to type in some keywords too. Try it a couple different ways “Larry Gifford,” “Larry Gifford, radio,” “Larry Gifford ESPN” and so forth. See what shows up and be prepared to address anything that does. This is one of the first thing hiring managers will do if your application peaks their interest.

8. Dress up. If you get an interview, dress up a notch or two from what you’d actually wear to the job. Trust me, how you present yourself matters. It just does.

9. Ask questions. Always be curious. At the end of a phone conversation or in-person interview when the person interviewing you asks, “Do you have any questions?” Be ready to ask some questions. Curiosity is one of the most important attributes of a talent. This is a test. Don’t fail it.

10. Sell yourself. This is not the time to be humble. The key is to leverage all the great attributes, skills and traits you bring to the table by positioning them to the hiring manager through the lens of “this is how the company benefits with me in this position.” It’s actually less about you and more about how you help the company achieve its goals.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, so if you have more tips and suggestions please feel free to share below. Good luck on your job hunt.

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Radio Misses Out on Women’s World Cup or Did It?

USA midfielder Carli Lloyd (10) celebrates her goal with teammates during the final football match between USA and Japan during their 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup at the BC Place Stadium in Vancouver on July 5, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFEFRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

July 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFEFRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

Disclaimer: This column is my educated opinion based on past dealings and experiences with FIFA, ESPN and other rights deals. It’s meant to inform how these decisions are made and not meant to be a reporting of facts as they happened in this specific situation. 

There has been quite a bit of chatter in the sports radio community about whether or not the play-by-play of the Women’s World Cup, specifically the U.S. team games, should have been made available over radio.

It wasn’t.

During Tuesday’s #SRCHAT (Sports Radio Chat on Twitter) guys seemed flummoxed as to why.

First off, let’s let this soak in. Sports radio pros are clamoring for WOMEN’S SOCCER!! This is a great break-through (or would have been in 1993) and an encouraging sign of things to come (until they forget about it.)

The hype and bluster around this is our fault. Sports radio’s interest in this game is surface, passive, and band-wagonny. It’s jiggery-pokery. It’s pure apple sauce.

I can tell you in 2010 getting stations to carry the men’s World Cup was a struggle. So much so, ESPN let most markets cherry pick the U.S. men’s game.

And that’s the problem.

ESPN or any media company who is distributing play-by-play (Compass, Westwood One, Learfield, etc.) have to broker a rights agreement for the whole tournament regardless of how far Team U.S.A. advances. Sometimes this means big money, guaranteed clearances, and promotional considerations. And were talking about making a deal with FIFA, so you can imagine the rights agreement read like a rider for the Motley Crüe tour.

So the business model looks something like this:

Media Company “A” buys rights to the FIFA World Cup for $1 million (totally made up number).

There are 52 games over 30 days. FIFA wants a guarantee that at least 20 games will be broadcast nationwide. It wants clearance in the Top 50 markets for all 20 games. And it wants “X” minutes of promotion on radio and TV over the course of the tournament.

That means Media Company “A” has to get commitments from affiliates in the Top 50 markets and in order to recoup the investment for rights fees sell advertising into the games with the promise of at least 20 games in the Top 50 markets. Team USA only appeared in 7 games this time around and they won the whole thing, so at least 13 games are featuring teams from someplace else.

Media Company “A” must clear $50,000 per game after production costs just to break even. But, this is business. Nobody brokers a deal to break even.

And here’s the rub for radio stations. If Team USA gets bounced in an early round they are still committed to airing the games. With pre- and post-game shows and the match it’s at least a two-hour commitment for each game. Not many stations will surrender 40 hours worth of spot loads and programming for the hope that Team USA catches fire. If stations back out of the commitment midway (aside from facing contractual legal issues itself), Media Company “A” violates its agreement with FIFA and likely loses all revenue from advertisers.

Which begs the question not would you carry the Women’s World Cup Final featuring team USA, but would you carry a women’s World Cup qualifier featuring teams from Uruguay and Germany during afternoon drive? Of course you wouldn’t.

Too much risk, not enough reward; that’s why no one distributed the Women’s World Cup on radio.

Categories: Uncategorized

It’s Not Beats1’s Fault, Blame Steve Jobs

RS 107 cover

Click image to listen to my review of Beats1.

Beats1 is on the air!

I’m underwhelmed thus far and I blame Steve Jobs. He taught me to expect the unexpected. He created products that at first blush seemingly made no sense (an iPad? I have an iPhone. Why do I want something bigger?), but were nearly instantaneous culture changing innovations. He created a brand expectation that sadly Apple can no longer live up to.

In my mind I was really hoping Beats1 was going to be revolutionary, be a paradigm shift for radio, inspire a new generation of broadcasters and push the industry back on it’s heels a bit. I imagined that they would figure out a way to integrate a song an hour from everyone’s personal iTunes collection weaving it seamlessly into the fabric of the radio station making it a truly personalized experience. I envisioned a XAPP Media type vocal recognition program which would allow you to say out loud, “buy this song” and it would instantly download to your iTunes account. I counted on Apple to create the fully integrated, connected, social savvy, second screen radio has been struggling to create. My expectations were too high.

Instead, so far, the bigger impact of Beats1 is for rising artists who get a global spin and ideally, for them, an instant international fan base. (Also, Pandora founder Tim Westergren’s dream. AUDIO)

As it impacts radio, Beats1 seems more of a blast of the past than a quantum leap into the future:

Shouting city names over records.. Radio does this.

Live reads. Radio does this.

Pre-Recorded outdated promos. Radio’s got those in droves!

DJs that talk too much. Radio’s got ‘em.

DJs in multiple locations. Yep..

Dead Air. Sure.

Celebrity DJs. Requests. Listen call-ins. Social media engagement. Radio does all that too.

What exactly is the innovation here?

It’s week one, so we’ll give them time to get settled and check back in next month or so. Meantime, if you hear something truly unique let me know.

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Peering into Periscope

periscopePeriscope continues to gain traction as real-time video interaction with a round-the-world audience is too big of an opportunity/novelty/ego-boost to resist.

I’ve tested it out a couple of times, talked to folks using it and done some research. Here are some keys for radio folks looking to use Periscope.

BEFORE YOU GET STARTED

Power up. Make sure your phone is fully charged and you have a strong wi-fi or 4G connection.

Have a purpose. You will want to know WHY you are initiating a Periscope session. There are many ways you can use it. Here are some:

  1. Impromptu Q&A sessions. Great way for listeners to chat with hosts or debrief reporters of a big story.
  2. Live news coverage / press conference. Let the audience see what you see when news is breaking.
  3. Introduce new show features / characters / hosts to your fans.
  4. Make announcements about your station or show.
  5. Get feedback/information/ideas on show topics, events, contests, etc.
  6. Go behind the scenes of the radio station.
  7. A regular mini-show; “Today’s Big Idea” “The Bonehead of the Day” or “The Daily Session.”
  8. Tell stories to engage fans. Storytelling is as much of a key to a successful Periscope as it is your radio show.

Write a title that entices. This is your tease, but it should also give the audience a snapshot of the video session they’re joining. Many have luck asking a question so the audience engages from the get go.

Example. What is the worst part of Mondays? Who is your man-crush / woman-crush? How do you make a good cup of tea?

This keeps the session focused and people can immediately play along.

periscope-screenshotDURING YOUR SESSION

Steady the phone. There is not a stabilizer built into the Periscope app, so many of the video sessions I’ve joined are blurry, vomit-inducing messes. Either steady the phone by holding it with two hands or set it up against a computer screen, some books, or a put it on a tripod.

Keep the phone vertical. Unlike most apps and cameras on your phone, Periscope doesn’t work so well when you try to flip the phone in the landscape mode. It is seemingly incapable of readjusting once the session is started. Keep your phone straight up and down.

Frame your shot. Keep the focus of your video in the top 1/3 of the screen, because the lower 2/3rds is fill by comments and hearts. (Pro Tip: Hearts are like an infinite “like” button. Viewers can tap the screen as many times as they like and each time they tap a heart appears.)

The talking part. There is no need to begin talking at the beginning of your session, unless you enjoy light banter with yourself. Wait until people start arriving to your Periscope session before diving in. (Editors note: As pointed out by James Cridland there are those who will access your replay in the 24 hours that follow, but most consumers of your Periscope will be live. It depends on which audience you want to record the Periscope for I suppose.) And when they show up, talk to them. Answer their questions. Ask them questions.

Trolling. This is still the internet and your Periscope video is not contained to a small group of your best friends. All Periscope videos are available to anyone. If you attract a troll, just ignore them.

If you’re using Periscope for radio or radio-adjacent projects I’d like to hear about your experiences and would appreciate you passing along any tips in the comments below.

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Categories: Radio, Social Media Tags: ,

Where is the Outrage Over PPM?

Nielsen-ppmThis week I went down the PPM rabbit hole and it is worse than I ever imagined.

After talking at length with researcher Richard Harker (hear the interview here), watching this 25 minute video on the science of watermarking audio, reading blogs and articles and then comparing it all to my personal experiences with PPM data, I believe the issues with PPM are nearing DEFCON1 for our industry.

Some things all radio broadcasters should know about PPM

The PPM tones are encoded and masked by other audio. If there is no audio on your radio station, there is no PPM encoding. If you are a spoken word radio station every time the host stops talking, takes a breath or a dramatic pause – the PPM tone stops encoding.

The PPM tones encode at certain frequencies (1 to 3 kilohertz), much higher frequencies than a typical male radio announcer, meaning higher pitched voices and music actually be decoded more consistently.

There has been no test results, at least released to the radio industry, how loud the radio station must be playing or how close to the radio the PPM device needs to be in order for the masked tone to be recognized and decoded. Though it is noteworthy that background radio station formats, like smooth jazz, have suffered greatly in the PPM era.

Audio watermarking technology can be wobbly leaving gaps (some small, some giant) in decoding and unknown amounts of unreported listening.

PPM encoding on internet streams is even less reliable. Just like a .jpg or .mp3 is compressed to make smaller files, your internet stream is compressed too, which means there is even less audio to mask the tone behind.

Because of these factors, some radio stations may only be encoding 50% of the time or sometimes even less and receiving greatly reduced credit in listening compared to what is actually happening.

My Conclusions

Radio should be mad as hell. This is costing people jobs, livelihoods, and impacting radio families across the country. Programmers, myself included, have made “strategic” adjustments to shows, personalities, and formatics based on inaccurate PPM data.

If I’m Premiere Radio or really any big radio company I’m lawyering up. With the hit talk radio has taken in recent years (see: Rush) could it be that the audience likes it fine, but PPM doesn’t?

Fight back. The Voltair seems to be a worthy investment for some stations. It essentially makes your watermarked audio easier for the PPM to recognize and decode.

Also, and this goes against my better judgement, if you’re News/Talk or Sports I would seriously consider adding a music bed or crowd noise at all times so the encoding never stops.

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