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Inspiration and Desperation

WTOP-Twitter-Main-B-v2I listened to 10 hours of streaming, on-demand radio and podcasts. Non-stop. I didn’t seek out fringe offerings. I was doing due diligence to hear what some consider to be the best news and talk offerings the U.S. has to offer.

I was duly impressed with the juggernaut that is WTOP – “Washington’s TOP News.” Always a ratings and revenue winner. The powers that be, and I assume Jim Farley is to credit, have found the delicate balance between authoritative and approachable, credible in content and casual or accessible in delivery. They make it seem natural and easy. It’s not. All radio news folk should listen to the morning drive team as inspiration.

That’s the good news.

What I encountered for most of my 10 hours of sensory assault was racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, thoughtless garbage. Some of America’s iconic radio stations and shows are stuck in the past. They are unaware, unstructured, unprepared, and undermining radio’s credibility and relevance. It makes me wonder who is minding the store. Who is coaching talent, air-checking, providing vision and evolving the product to exceed the expectations of the listeners? From offensive Asian accents and decades old stereotypes to provoking coworkers to assault each other with racist and sexist insults. It really is the worst that radio has to offer.

And apparently iHeartMedia and Cumulus don’t care, because… why? The shows/talent are generating too much revenue, they don’t scrutinize content only numbers, or they really don’t care what people think. It is a shame that radio has to suffer for these fools. There are too many pros doing remarkable radio that the industry should be defined by lazy, uninspired, reactionary, out of touch offerings like I experienced.

We must expect more from our peers.

Be Better Than Bad TV News Banter

This happened Monday night on TV in Vancouver…

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credit: Brick Tamland

Female Anchor: Did you guys see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on 60 Minutes last night?

Male Co-Anchors: No. Nah.

Female Anchor: (visibly shocked)

{Awkward silence}

Female Anchor: Well, anyway…

I know point out bad banter on TV is like pointing at rain drops in Seattle, but there are important takeaways for radio anchors and hosts hidden inside this gem.

Be Prepared. As someone who works in and talks about news for a living it is imperative you take time to watch/read/listen to the things that your listeners are talking about that day. Not only does it make you more credible and authentic, it allows you to develop an opinion about it, reflect interests of listeners back to them, and it reinforces you commitment you have for your job and the product to you co-workers. Your team needs to be able to trust that you’re up to speed and able to carry a conversation or, in this case, what would likely have amounted to a 15 second banter.

Never Kill A Bit. With due respect to Nancy Reagan – don’t say “no.” Saying ‘no” always kills the bit or the banter. It stops conversation cold. It makes everyone on set look bad. Even if you haven’t watched/read/or listened — find a way to say yes and keep the conversation going. “Boy, everybody is talking about it today. What did you take away from it?”

Don’t Assume. Before you make assumptions that a co-worker must been up to speed on a story or event, take a minute off air to ask, “Is it okay if I ask you about…”

The main idea here is work harder to put you and your co-workers in a position to win every minute of every show even if it’s 15 seconds of banter at the end of the show.

Here’s The Thing About Breaking News

LGM - Breaking News2If you are going to go into “breaking news” coverage – own it. That’s the thing about breaking news. At least that is my thing about breaking news.

If a talent asks me, “Did we do too much on the breaking news story?” My answer will almost certainly be, “impossible.”

When a story warrants being called “breaking news” you have two effective options: mention it and let the newsroom update it in regular newscasts or dive head first in to it. The middle ground is the least desirable option. “Kinda” covering breaking news is as satisfying as eating something that “kinda” reminds you of gravy.

The Oregon High School shooting is a perfect example. If it’s not in your backyard, your state or even in your country can you do too much with it? I contend no, not when the story is still developing. If you make it important and urgent, keep resetting the facts, add new details and information as you can and then express emotions and explore questions and curiosities – no one is tuning out. Humans have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. We all want to be the first to know and we want to know more than our friends, family members and peers.

On a strategic point, breaking news is an audience builder for news-talk and sports radio stations. It’s better than an outdoor billboard campaign. It instantly brings new ears to your station. That in-the-heat-of-the-moment sampling can be extremely rewarding if you are covering the story as described above and equally punishing if you are not.

When news breaks it is a nice, juicy sizzling steak dinner for spoken word radio, don’t let it become the lumpy gravy.

Radiodays Europe 2015 – Day Three

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Dennis Clark & Larry Gifford

Day three of Radiodays Europe in Milan, Italy kicked off with super insightful presentation by Dennis Clark, VP of Talent Development for iHeartMedia.

“These are the good ole’ days,” he started. Afterward I asked him for the Radio Stuff Podcast why he believes that. “Because if you’re good and you have an audience and listeners are connecting to you that is a product and they’ll follow you.” Clark referenced Howard Stern’s successful move to SiriusXM and Chris Evan’s jumps from BBC Radio 1 to Virgin Radio to Radio 2.

On stage, Clark offered a road map to building a successful radio show.

 

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He talked about the importance of defining roles and shared the initial roles outlined for Ryan Seacrest’s Show in 2005. He suggests revisiting personality profiles two times a year because life changes and you need to be able to reflect those changes on air. For instance, you might get engaged, divorced, lose a lot of weight, or your young child starts going to school.

 

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Clark made it clear there can only be one captain on the show and that is the host. “Every time you open the mic you have a new listener. Like a good party only one person opens the door to welcome the new people to the party. (On radio) that is the host. Introducing the around. Make them feel included.”

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It’s also important to Clark for shows to identify what they do as either “branding” or “humanity.” In the slide below, the bigger the cloud the more dominant of a role it plays on the show.

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There were great presentations throughout. Even I got a chuckle from the big room on Tuesday when I reimagined opening lines of famous novels to make a point about the power of a declarative sentence vs. asking a question.

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Here is a link to a blog written by Steve Martin (Just as funny and talented, but this one blogs) for Earshot Creative summarizing the “30 Ideas in 45  Minutes” session. Thanks to James Cridland for snapping the photo (really you should sign up for his newsletter: JamesCridland.net — you know it’s a smart piece because it ends in .net) and loads of appreciation to Nik Goodman for having me on his session. You can check out his fine company BOUNCE, right here.

Some of my takeaways… 

You can’t innovate without action.

To do social media well you need to invest in people and technology. And you need to do social well. (Sidebar: Snapchat is where it is at right now. Though that trend could vanish in the next six seconds.)

Your enemies and your flaws aren’t terrifying and gruesome. Think of them as future partners and your true distinctive features. Embrace them both.

Visualizing radio is unneccessary and getting less clunky and more exciting to do and do well. Make sure it enhances the on-air content and the show brand.

Up Next

The convention concluded with the announcement that Radiodays Europe 2016 will be held in Paris, France.

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Loads more Radiodays Europe talk on Thursday in this week’s Radio Stuff PodcastSubscribe to the Larry Gifford Media “Radio Stuff” email and each Tuesday you’ll receive an email with all sorts of stuff about radio. Sign up here.

Radiodays Europe – Day 2

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Elvis is in the Building!

Whoa! Talk about information overload. What a crazy day. It started early for me paling around with my new buddy Elvis Duran. The Z100 and iHeartMedia syndicated morning host kicked the morning off with a chat in front of 1,200 delegates. But, before he took the stage he chatted on the Radio Stuff Podcast. (As did all the speakers I’m featuring here today.)

Sneak preview! Duran on Program Directors, “To be a coach as if I’m in a sporting event — if I’m a football player. I need someone to whisper in my ear what the play is, what our goal is for that play and for that game, and be there to be a cheerleader for me. And when I have a bad show I want them to come up and say, ‘Hey, you know what? You’ll have a good show tomorrow. You’ll have a good game tomorrow. Let’s work on these things and you’ll be better tomorrow. That’s what I need from a manager.”

G Whiz

2015-03-16 10.40.31Media Strategist David G. Hall (Former PD of KFI and others) offered up “Five Simple Tools to Make Your Show Better,” including the idea of “partnership.” This is one of the first thing a show, a host and management need to do. Work together to express expectations, roles, and responsibilities. It goes both ways and trust is one of the key ingredients to make it work. He also suggested shows prepare their shows as early as possible and then upgrade it throughout the day as your show prep marinades in your brain and new (better) ideas surface.

Does Anyone Have Ira Glass’ Phone Number? 

2015-03-16 11.58.29This was a great session by WNYC producer and host of the Death, Sex and Money podcast Anna Sale. If you can’t get Ira Glass to plug your podcast that’s okay, but use other podcasters to promote your show, “podcasts are what grow other podcasts.” It’s simple logic really. It’s more meaningful when podcast listeners hear about your podcast on another podcast because they can download it immediately. If they’re driving and hear about it on a radio show they’re likely to forget by the time they reach their destination. She preached the importance of keeping podcasts intimate which includes the hosts being vulnerable. And shareability is key. So, it’s preferred podcasts are more evergreen than pinned to a news hook, because the tail of listening is so long and episodes are consumed during binges.

Hey Facebook Listen Up!

“Facebook needs us, more than we need Facebook.” Those words are still echoing through my head. Danish Broadcasting Corporation Audience Researcher Rasmus Thaarup was full of social media insights. He believes as Facebook clears the clutter of cat videos and such, quality content — the kind radio provides — will be cherished by Facebook. And he’s already seeing results in increased impressions as they use it to deliver visual add-ons to their radio content (pictures, videos) without paying for them. His group also closed over 100 social media profiles this past year and are focusing on pages for true personalities / characters and radio station main pages.

He’s also big on SnapChat. Here’s his slide explaining why it’s a great fit for radio:

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Radio is Sick in the Head

Consumer psychologist Adam Ferrior diagnosed radio as borderline personality order. This session was one of the most interesting and creative.

For instance, Ferrior contends radio’s competition is not other radio or audio or video or TV or movies — it is people doing nothing. We need to change people’s behavior. The easiest way to do that is to get people to do something for you. It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s real and it’s called the Ben Franklin Effect. Ikea implements it and creates massive customer loyalty by making you assemble your own furniture. What then would a radio station look like that was run by Ikea? I’m glad you asked.

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No More Pranks

2015-03-16 16.50.33This is M2015-03-16 16.24.51-1el Greig aka the “Royal Prank DJ.” Read about the incident here if you’re not familiar. I am impressed with how open and honest she is about the whole incident and aftermath. She shared death threats that she received through social media, admitted she spiraled into a 12-month depression, and she is  adamantly opposed to radio hosts pranking unsuspecting victims in the future. “Don’t do it. The joke has to be on us. Take the piss out of yourself.”

Day 3 of Radiodays Europe is Tuesday. Follow along with #RDE15

 A reminder all of these guests will appear on the Radio Stuff Podcast, which flights and jet-lag willing will post on Thursday. Subscribe to the Larry Gifford Media “Radio Stuff” email and each Tuesday you’ll receive an email with all sorts of stuff about radio. Sign up here.

Radiodays Europe: Getting Out of the Comfort Zone

radiodays_europe_mit_vorlaeufigem_programm5_evo_list_itmes_compSo, this week I’m off to Milan, Italy for Radiodays Europe. The response I’ve received from the U.S. and Canada is measured, if not skeptical, and a tad bit insulting to our radio brothers and sisters around the world.

“Radio days – what? I never heard of it.” – This is the typical response I receive followed by, “it’s cool you get to go to Italy. Enjoy it.”

Translation: This must be a way to write off a trip to Italy on your taxes. I get it.

“You know, Larry, you’re going to find Europe, the U.K. and the rest of the world are about 10 years behind us, but by all means see for yourself.”

Translation: There’s nothing for U.S. radio to learn, they’re all copying us!

The reality of it is, I’m excited to be going. Yes, I love Italy. But, frankly, I love radio more. In the past five years, I’ve met some crazy talented, creative, radio trailblazers from around the world and I anticipate nothing less at Radiodays Europe. For me, I learn loads by getting out of my comfort zone. This should do the trick.

Here is what I anticipate most:

1. Terror & Breaking News: There is a lot to be learned from people who have experienced and reported on terrorism. In one session, we will be hearing about #Je suis Charlie from two French newsrooms; Radio France and of Radio France International. As terrorism refuses to recognize borders, we must learn from our radio friends who have been faced with it becoming a local story.

2. The Royal Prank: Funny is subjective and in some cases deadly. I’ve been fascinated with what happened when 2DayFM pranked a London hospital pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles checking up on then-pregnant Kate Middleton. Three days later one of the nurses they fooled committed suicide. The story continues to make headlines as recent as last week when an Australian court ruled the radio station violated the law and now faces huge fines. Mel Greig, the host who impersonated the Queen, will elaborates on what happened, what she’s learned through it all and what lessons the radio industry can take from it.

3. Morning Show Successes: I hope Z100’s Elvis Duran and BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans are honest and transparent with us. These guys have hugely successful breakfast / morning shows. Both hosts will be in attendance to hopefully help us better understand what makes them work. I interviewed Evan’s assistant producer Graham Alban’s last year and I hope the host is as forthcoming and thoughtful.

4. Millennial Insights: I content kids don’t hate radio, we just haven’t made it compelling enough for them to care about it. It should be instructive to hear how others are capturing the attention of the next generations and getting them to consume (consciously or not) the radio. Presenters from Serbia, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, and the UK will all share insights.

5. The Role of the Radio DJ: This is important. In the wake of Apple plucking one of radio’s greatest DJs from the BBC, it is prescient to have a discussion of the evolution of the radio DJ and the important role curation plays in the future success of music radio.

6. Radio’s Social Media Strategy: There are a number of sessions focused on social media. I bet none of them will satisfy every GM I’ve ever met in radio who wonders, “how do we monetize twitter?” But, I look forward to hearing how others are delivering cool social media experiences for their audiences, how they’ve increased real engagement with their brand, and just listening to success stories from the front lines of radio’s internal struggle with social media.

7. People: Meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends can be inspiring. Hearing people’s “radio stories” and triumphs is a highlight of these events. Often the most interesting people are sitting with you in the audience. Get to know them. Have a drink. It’s fun to spit ball ideas with smart people who “get” radio.

SIDENOTE: Strange to me that there really is no session around sports radio; coverage, the format, play-by-play.

Starting this weekend, I’ll be blogging about my Radiodays Europe adventures at LarryGifford.com, live tweeting @giffordtweet and filing stories in the U.S. for Talkers.com and in Canada on Airchecker.ca. Listen for a full recap of my experience on the Radio Stuff Podcast.

 

FOR ONE DAY ONLY; ELVIS WILL BE IN THE BUILDING

elvis-duran1Elvis Duran, one of America’s most popular radio personalities, is a headliner at this year’s Radiodays Europe in Milan, Italy (March 15-17, 2015). Duran will take the stage and pull back the curtain on the Z-100 Morning Show which is based in New York and heard in 70 markets across the country.

Duran is excited for the opportunity, “I’m honored to be participating in this event. This is a great chance to show how connected we all are through the power of radio.”

Joining him on stage is the Vice President of Talent Development for iHeartMedia, Dennis Clark. Dennis’ role is to nurture the best and most talented radio people in the industry and he works directly with key radio personalities, such as Duran and Ryan Seacrest. They’ll discuss how to create a show that consistently delivers huge audiences, and will reveal the ingredients that makes Elvis Duran the most listened to Top 40 Morning Show in the states.

GIFFORD HEADS TO MILAN, TOO

In a much lower-profile billing, I will be a workshop leader on Sunday (“Fast & Furious”) and co-presenting a session on Tuesday (“30 Ideas in 45 Minutes”). In addition, I be blogging here and on Airchecker.com, filing exclusive reporters for Talkers.com, recording the Radio Stuff podcast in Milan, tweeting whenever possible @giffordtweet, @theradiostuff and facebooking on the Larry Gifford Media page.

RELATED: Radiodays Europe founder and manager Rolf Brandrud featured on the Radio Stuff Podcast

BUT, WAIT! THERE’S MORE

I’m excited that the U.S. radio industry will be well represented this year’s. Here are just some of the other notable U.S. presenters and workshop leaders making the pilgrimage to Milan March 15-17.

  • Anna Sale, producer at WNYC, is leading a session on “Death, Sex and Money; How to Start and Succeed with Podcasting.”
  • David G. Hall, media strategist, is presenting a session titled, “Five Simple Tools to Make Your Show Better.”
  • John Vorhaus, creative consultant, is leading a workshop on “Your Radio Brand” and presenting a session on “How to be Funny When You’re Not.”
  • Steve Jones, music industry veteran, is hosting the session, “Be Like a Rock Star!”
  • Larry Rosin, Edison Research, is diving deep into the “Stream Battle.”
  • Marty Garrison, VP Technology for NPR, is co-presenting “What if Technology Was Your Best Friend After All.”
  • Joel Sucherman, Sr. Dir. Digital Developments for NPR, will discuss “Mobile Apps; More Than Just Live Radio.”
  • Dennis Clark, VP Talent Development for iHeartMedia, is presenting a session on “Making Radio Personalities Relevant in 2015.”
  • Warren Kurtzman, President & COO of Coleman Insights, is discussing, “Aristotelian Dramaturgy – How to Create Compelling Personality-Driven Content.”
  • Bryce Clemmer, CEO of Vadio, is co-presenting a session on “Radio Worth Watching.”
  • Rob Green, VP of Streaming for WideOrbit, is presenting “From Linear to Digital.”

The complete list of sessions and speakers and ticket information for Radiodays Europe is available at www.radiodayseurope.com
Radiodays Europe

Launched in 2010, Radiodays Europe is the largest and most important international radio conference in the world. It is also considered to be the best with high quality content, great speakers and a huge program with over 100 speakers in 55 sessions over 2½ days. In 2014, it attracted 1300 delegates from over 60 countries.