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Navigating Change

Change is scary and uncomfortable for most people.

It just is.

Humans like to know they are safe and secure. We want to know we have enough money for food and someplace hospitable to rest our head at night. So, when pink slips start flying like they did at KGO last week in San Francisco or organizations are merged and realigned like Corus Entertainment last week in Canada, fear takes hold. It’s instinctual.

But resisting change is actually more lethal for entertainment and information industries like radio (see: music industry, Blockbuster Video, newspapers). There is hope and opportunity in change. You just have to be willing to see it and seize it.

Yes, what happened in San Francisco to KGO is tragic. It was a juggernaut of a radio station that has slowly and systematically been starved of resources and been a victim of benign neglect. The dedicated staffers who were sent packing after years of pouring their heart into a product deserve better. They tried to find a small part of a corporate beast they could love and quickly realized the beast was indscriminate. But now they are free. Unschackled. No longer beholden to a dream of yesterday’s KGO. There is life after KGO right Gil Gross??

Gil Gross Facebook

Right Claudia Lamb?  (Article: KGO and the Death of Radio)

In Canada, a completely different scenario. Not one of downsizing and cost-cutting but of investing and growing. Eerily, employees feel similar. Corus just completed a $2.6B acquisition of Shaw Media and new corporate structures were unveiled. The questions came fast and furious; Why? Where’s this worked before? What’s it mean for me? How can this possibly work? When are they going to fire me? Don’t they know we’ve never done it this way before?

Fear. It’s contagious.

differentKeep in mind, change isn’t inherently good or bad. It’s just different. When companies change it often creates opportunities. New managers, new faces, new processes and procedures and fresh eyes on old problems. It doesn’t have to be scary. It should be exciting. Anytime you get to work for a leader who has bold vision and a sense of purpose and direction embrace it, champion it, and rejoice. The opposite is stagnation. The opposite is KGO.

It reminds me of a phrase I quickly learned while working at ESPN; “evolve or face extinction.” In the past week, we’ve seen this played out in both directions in dramatic fashion.

 

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.

Radio is Overloaded

Radio Spots as TissuesThe other day I was flipping through the dial and every one of the ten stations I flipped to was in commercial at the same time. Yesterday, I was air-checking a new morning show and between the commercials, traffic, weather, and canned commentaries I listened for 30 minutes without so much as a “good morning” from the new personality.

Tragic. Opportunity missed. Quarter-hours lost. Radio listener’s discouraged.

I listen to quite a bit of radio. I love radio. I should say I WANT to love radio, but I am increasingly dissatisfied with the return on my investment of time.  Gang, we got a spot problem. There’s way too much clutter. We’re strangling content to squeeze blood from a turnip. Enough already.

I know I’m not the first to bring it up. I just watched a talk Jerry Del Colliano gave at Talkers 2014 and he brought it up too.

It was also a discussion in the #SRCHAT (Sports Radio Chat) on Twitter last night too.

That last one caught the attention of many on the chat. We are willingly sacrificing what’s best for the listening experience to accommodate a revenue model that was introduced in 1921.

1921.

Let that sink in.

The same year radio began to sell spots; World War I ended, Warren G. Harding was inaugurated as President, and KDKA created the first radio news room and broadcast the first ever baseball game on the radio.

Radio commericals have had a good run. But, the time has come to rethink the way we monetize our content. We don’t need to eliminate them altogether, but we need to value our platforms at a much higher rate, creatively collaborate on projects with advertisers and be willing to say “no” a whole lot more often to spots that don’t match our brand or meet our production quality standards.

(Insert a spit take from GMs and GSMs across the country)

spittake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The more we load up our hours with limitless units of :05s, :10s, :15s, :30s and still even :60s, the faster we’re pushing the next generation of radio listeners to competing audio content providers.

Think about this. The #1 thing in every research project radio has EVER conducted (hyperbole intended), commercials are what listeners react the most negatively too. And you know what we say? “Oh, they always say that. Just ignore it.”

I’m afraid we can’t ignore it anymore.

It’s going to take creativity, guts, leadership, ideation and innovation. Raise your hand if you have an idea. The solution isn’t going to likely arrive from the corner office. I’m looking at the board ops, producers, talent, reporters, street-teamers, and sales assistants. We need to start asking different people how we can solve this problem. So, I’m asking. Do YOU have any ideas?

IDEA STARTERS

  • Co-branding opportunities / strategic partnerships (studio, phone lines, text, street team, events, etc.) I know this is happening in some stations already but usually it’s undervalued and tragically it’s often flighted-in instead of signing an annual.
  • Multiplatform solutions or coordinated Brand Takeovers (audio, video, text, web, stream, podcast, app)
  • XAPP Media – interactive online/mobile spots
  • Creating exclusive online stations for partners co-branded with radio station featuring exclusive promotions/access/messaging for partners. (Listen to the Jones Honda Hits Music Channel on thisradiostation.com for your chance to win a trip to the Honda 500)
  • Invest in great copy writers.

Add your ideas in the comments below or email me at larrygifford1@gmail.com

The Post-Super Bowl Sport’s Radio Host Pity Party

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.

A Super Week For Sports Talk To Cash In

If you don’t have a local sponsor or two or four for your Super Bowl coverage you missed an opportunity. There are a lot of ways to tie into “Super Week” or whatever you want to call it so you don’t get in trouble. Here are some that have been successful for me in the past…

1. Even if you aren’t sending a local show to radio row, own the “coverage” of the week with promos touting your team coverage. (ie. “690 The Fan is sending Mike & Mike and Colin Cowherd to North Texas for Super Week to get you ready for the Packers and Steelers, plus exclusive interviews and expert analysis with Smokey on Sports. It’s Super Week “team coverage” – brought to you locally by Gifford Tires on 690 The Fan.”) Notice, no mention that this station has the game, or that they are sending a local show. Just reselling what the network has already sold. Support this with sponsor  liners through the show and live mentions during your local show whenever they talk Super Bowl.

Here is a promo I produced for last year’s super bowl for 710 ESPN LA: KSPN 011609 30 Countdown to Kickoff_Colin.

2. Host a listener viewing party for the Super Bowl and give away a lot of free stuff; tickets, game consoles, T.V.s, swag. Have a bar, casino or other establishment invest in the hosting sponsorship.

3. Partner with sponsors do a Super Week of Ultimate Giveaways leading up to the big game; Big Screen TV, Home Theater, PS3 with Madden Football, man cave makeover, tailgate party with all the fixins delivered to your house for the game, etc.

4. Punt, pass, and kick competition for listeners.

5. …or create your own event like 610 WIP in Philly…WING BOWL!

New Media: Evolve or Die

Sure, the headline is extreme, but that seemed to be the core message at TMC/TSBC from just about anybody who knows anything about new and social media. In addition to the warning shots, some offered actionable advice.

Growing Your Social Network

Derrick Ashong

Derrick Ashong of Oprah Radio wowed those in attendance as a talk talent for the next generation. He invites some of  his loyal listeners, who have lots of friends on twitter and facebook, to sit in the studio during each show and chat about what they see and hear. This gets the message of Derrick.s show to new and different fans from those who are already listeners or following his show’s twitter, facebook, ustream, and skype feeds. It gives the listeners some ownership of the show. As different topics bubble up on the social media sites, it gives Derrick new and different angles to address on-air while promoting the different twitter or facebook conversations.

Check out The Derrick Ashong Experience. Derrick is the voice of a new generation, a voice for all people. See the video here.

Another Actionable Idea

Have hosts and producers use Facebook and Twitter to test topics and angles before going on the air. If reaction is good, go with it and reference the online reaction. If it.s no good, go to plan B.

Is Anyone Making Money?

Bill Figenshu, President and CEO of FigMedia1, told attendees to lower expectations of how much money you.re going to make, “Making money on the internet is like teenage sex – everybody is talking about it, not everybody is doing it.”

McVay Media suggests you project new media revenue as 3-5% of total station revenue in the first year and 5-8% in the second year. Click here: McVay Media offers 10 ways to make money with digital Media