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Archive for the ‘Really?’ Category

Missed Opportunities

In the past week I have offered part-time work to interns. They both declined the offer choosing instead to pursue opportunities that are more aligned with their career goals. I wondered aloud on twitter if this is the new reality for radio and it seemed to strike a nerve.

 

Some offered to take the jobs on their behalf including a couple peers from their school and one woman who has no broadcast training at all.

I am not pointing fingers at all millennials suggesting this is a generation of slackers. I know that’s not the case, because many of the millennials I’ve had the pleasure to work with are dogged, creative, hard-working and very talented. I am suggesting some inexperienced broadcasters are undervaluing actual experience. Perhaps it’s a false confidence created by the internet where anyone can become a broadcaster through their personal computer. Why work odd hours or off-air “button pushing” jobs to climb the ladder when I can create “radio” in my dorm room?

I am suggesting some broadcast students aren’t considering the power of relationships and networking. Every job I’ve been offered started with an introduction from a friend or colleague. I have never been hired by someone who I wasn’t within three degrees of separation. I have blanketed North American with resumes though my career and not one resume I sent to a total stranger lead to anything more than a “thank you for applying.”

New broadcasters may also be dismissing the value of gaining experience on a live broadcast where there are standards, expectations, and big dollars on the line. Talking into a microphone and recording a podcast is one thing, having the responsibility to deliver news or traffic information or be responsible for airing thousands of dollars’ worth of commercials is another.

I appreciate candor, bold decisions and determination. The interns that rejected my overture for part time work have that. I wish them well. I will only offer this. As a broadcast student I reluctantly interned in the news department of a radio station. I had no interest in news. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a host. But, I was good at news, discovered I loved it, and it lead to my first real radio job and a career I am proud of. You never know where opportunities, connections and experience will take you.

Inspiration and Desperation

March 20, 2016 6 comments

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.

I was Kidnapped by Burger King for 45 Minutes

September 25, 2015 Leave a comment

1024px-Burger_King_Drive_ThruOn Friday, after a day of travel I pulled into a Burger King drive-thru. I was 30 minutes into my 2 1/2 hour drive from the airport to home. I didn’t eat on the plane and needed a quick fueling. The man with the headset took my order and told me to pull up to the first window. I could see him in through the drive-thru window ahead. As always the speaker quality was questionable, but I know this routine.

I thought.

It took 30 minutes to creep 20 feet from the speaker to the first window. The guy was racing around and explaining his cook ran out midway through his shift. He was by himself running drive-thru, front counter and grill.

The problem for me was that I was trapped. Everyone in the drive-thru was trapped. There was no warning of the issues inside the King’s castle: no sign, no notice, and no way out. Once I cued up there were high curbs and shrubbery on either side. Trust me, I contemplated an escape.

When I pulled up for my food, it had been 45 minutes since I ordered. I kindly suggested they might have warned us it would be that long before placing the order.

(wait for it…)

He suggested that wouldn’t be good for business.

Feel free to share your lessons from this story in the comments below.

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.

VIDEO: Ask Larry! Episode 11

Larry Gifford answers 3 questions about radio; What do you do when news breaks? What do I think of the Doug & Wolf segment that almost came to blows? and Should the FCC ban the word “Redskins?

 

How Not To Network

September 12, 2014 Leave a comment

Okay folks we all know networking is key in getting your next gig and advancing your radio career. However, there are right ways to network and wrong ways to network. This is an example of a wrong way. The conversation is real. The names and pictures have been changed  to protect them from ridicule. Look at the time stamps.

How Not To Network

 

This guy waited 90 minutes before assuming “Jane” was blowing him off. Poor form. Be patient. People are busy. The only person who considers you top priority is you. Sometimes it takes me a week to get back to someone. I wish it didn’t, but it’s reality.

Jane eventually did offer Dick some good advice.

How Not To Network2

Radio Stuff “Radio News Quiz” – Week 2

Radio News Quiz 2The Weekly Radio Stuff “Radio News Quiz.” Each week in the Radio Stuff podcast I offer  up 10 questions about this week in radio news. You can listen to the quiz and answers here or read them below and click on links to stories to reveal the answers. Good Luck!

LET THE QUIZ BEGIN!

1. What superstar singer decided to release his first new song in a longtime on RADIO first this week? (A: Click here)

2.  At one point, he was the most listened to morning man in the U-S, this week his Spanish language show on SiriusXM was canceled. Who is he? (A: Click here)

3. The Mike Calta Show debuted this week on 102.5 The Bone in Tampa. What controversial host did he replace?  (A: Click here)

4. KIIS 106.5, the home of Australia’s Kyle & Jackie O, removed WHAT from the station website this week, but may face legal challenges anyway?  (A: Click here)

5. For 32 years, he’s been David Letterman’s band leader. At the end of this year Letterman is retiring, but this man promises to keep doing his radio show “Day in Rock.” Who is he? (A: Click here)

6. Over Labor Day weekend, Radio Station WDRC-FM in Hartford gave away hundreds of dollars away in a unique promotion. No one knew that a radio station was involved, until it was over. What did they do?  (A: Click here)

7,  What lightning rod ESPN TV host left his ESPN Radio Show in New York to join SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio this week?  (A: Click here)

8. Which interview conducted by Nick Grimshaw on BBC Radio 1 this week went viral? (A: Click here)

9. What former Playboy centerfold, who just married Donnie Wahlberg last weekend, now has her own show on SiriusXM titled “Dirty, Sexy, Funny?” (A: Click here)

10. For several minutes Scottish radio host Robin Galloway thought he was off air, he couldn’t hear his co-host and his producer feared for his job. What happened?  (A: Click here)

How many did you get correct? 

1-3 – A participation certificate

4-6 – A gold star!

7-8 – You’re pretty smart

9-10 – Way to go! (virtual pat on the back)

1,000 Miles of Radio Listening

photo 1I recently moved 1,000 miles from Seattle, WA to Atascadero, CA. The trip south allowed me to listen to radio of all shapes and sizes. I recorded some of it for the Radio Stuff podcast (Episode 55 here). From KIRO-FM and KINK-FM to Medford Public Radio, Northern California’s Super Station, college radio, sports talk and more I was put back into the position of being a radio listener. I was searching for information on breaking stories, companionship, and entertainment. I got some of it some of the time, but mostly I was disappointed.

Shocker, I know. I try to keep positive though. I love radio and I want radio to thrive. But folks, we’re doing a pretty crappy job much of the time.

The trip was full of stations filling time with rambling monologues, jabbering support players, concert calendars racing through bands and venues so fast you can’t keep track, uninteresting guests, screaming sports anchors, and an automated station offering me “today’s low temperature” as the first thing in the weather forecast at 10am, 11am and Noon. It was one of four recorded breaks on a network of stations. Ugh.

photo 3Radio remains, to my dismay, mostly cliché, predictable, forgettable, and crammed full of poorly written commercials.

The most memorable and rather enjoyable moment of listening for me came from a show called “Fudge Packers.” It was a late, weekend night show featuring two gay guys discussing current events and taking phone calls. It was unpredictable, entertaining, original, and shocking at times – in a good way.

Sadly, from my travels and listening, the listener experience is flagrantly being ignored or at the very least forgotten.

Building a Championship Radio Team

February 12, 2014 1 comment

headphonesRadio Station war stories are like badges of honor. I know a guy who slept on a mattress in the radio station conference room – they called it a studio apartment. Really. I worked for a radio station where the Program Director and consultant came to blows in the hallway. Cops were called, the PD was arrested and fired. If you have worked in radio very long, you’ve likely worked in less than ideal situations; broken chairs, headphones falling apart, all the lights burned out on the console, carpet ripped to shreds, and paint peeling from the wall. We tell ourselves it doesn’t matter, “the only thing that matters is what comes out of the speakers.” But it does matter.

All of these big and little things influence the culture of the radio station. There is a reason BBC Broadcasting House, NPR and ESPN invest so heavily in the space, technology, ascetics, and people they have working for them. It’s because culture matters.

PETE CARROLL LOMBARDI 2It’s how Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, against all odds and all the critics, was able to take a rag-tag group of guys that nobody wanted and make them a Super Bowl championship team.

“I just wanted to see what would happen if you really took care of people, really looked after them. You helped them be the best than can be in whole different way than had been happening in the NFL. As we go through this process we count on a different relationship with our players by respecting them and helping them in every way we can we can ask them to do everything to the hilt; effort, time, off-season, workouts, rehab, everything. People don’t realize these guys have given great effort and given their heart and soul to it.”

What if radio stations behaved this way? Instead of treating employees like interchangeable parts in a machine, what if we treated them like unique, talent individuals? Imagine how different you would feel if your employer respected you and helped you in every way possible. You might even give your heart and soul.

And Carroll means every way possible. The Seahawks have dietitians, psychologists, yoga masters, spiritual leaders, personal trainers, counselors, life coaches, family assistants, travel pros, the greatest amenities an athlete could want and more. Most radio stations have an HR lady and a vending machine.

What happened in Seattle was intentional and Coach Carroll admits it didn’t just happen overnight, “The biggest turn in the philosophy was to make it clear to the players that we are here to support them and make them the best they can possible be. And make it clear to them that we’re going to do whatever it takes to allow them to have all that they deserve. That has come a long way to get to that point.” Carroll adds that the guys like being around, they feel good about it, and they’re trying to be the best they can be to stick with it because it’s a good place to be.

It is a fundamental shift in how you treat people and motivate them to work for you. But I’m here to tell you I’ve seen this work in big and small ways. I’ve been at radio stations that have moved buildings to brand new studios and seen employees’ attitudes and dispositions flip overnight. One day they’re sitting in a chair with a spring popping out of the seat and only three working wheels and the next they’re in a broadcasting palace. That means something. They feel invested in, taken care of, and respected. I’ve also seen the impact of a few new chairs, a couple cans of paint, and frank conversations with what the staff needs to have in order to be successful. It works. It really works.

It’s time for radio to start treating employees in such a way that it is clear that the radio station wants them to have all they deserve and is willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. Try it with small things first – like free coffee, an employee lunch, or paint a common wall red — and watch the culture of radio station shift before your eyes.

What If Radio’s Future Arrived and We Didn’t Notice?

January 21, 2014 1 comment

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AM, FM, FM Stereo, AM Stereo, Surround Sound, digital processing, podcasting, HD Radio, DAB+, live streaming, a connected car that can access radio stations around the world for free, XM Sirius Satellite Radio, iTunes, iHeart, TuneIn, Slacker, Stitcher, Pandora, SoundCloud, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram… 

Radio has changed. Listeners have changed. The people working in radio is another story.

Many of us keep waiting on a miracle proclamation from the heavens that the world desperately needs AM and FM radio. It doesn’t. New devices, new platforms, new prototypes – some good, some bad are being churned out daily. What the world needs is your content, your creativity, your ingenuity, your personality, your ideas and your willingness to fail and try again. If AM and FM are going to be viable for the future we have make it worth listening to. If you don’t like the future that’s been created, change it.

What’s radio’s autonomous driving car? Where’s radio’s Eric Snowden? How can radio serve listeners of 2014 who already have news, weather, traffic and their favorite music at their fingertips?

The fate of AM and FM is yet to be decided. There are many (profitable?) years ahead for many stations. But the evolution and revolution has begun. You can pretend it hasn’t. Many have.

Or you can pick up a microphone and us help radio win again.