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Clocks, Spots and Sponsorships – Oh My!

commercialsI recently monitored seven news-talk radio stations across the country to analyze their spot loads, sponsorships, and programming clocks. The stations were all Top 20 radio markets with varying ownerships (iHeart Media, Cumulus, Bonneville, Cox and others).

Among my findings…

Stations average just over 16 minutes of commercials and promo time per hour in morning and afternoon drive. That includes blinks, :10s, :15s, :30s, and :60s. That being said, one station was as high as 20 minutes each hour while another was a low as 12.

On the whole, these stations seem to abuse the PM drive listeners more than the morning drive audience. Nearly all are guilty of loading up more commercials and longer stop sets on the drive home. Several stations increased the spot load by three minutes in PM drive, another punished listeners with a seven minute commercial break.

Six of the seven stations have neglected their live streaming presentation with overlapping audio, announcers cut off, out-dated spots, commercials replaced by extended (120 second) show promos or worse (four minutes of PSAs). Luckily, no one was using rights-free music to fill the void.

As it pertains to sponsorships, five to 10 “name mentions” per hour for news tags, traffic center, studio sponsors, etc. seems to be the average. These are name mentions only with no call to action. However, I listened to one station that only had one element sponsored the whole hour — and it was a little sad. On the flip side, there was a station that sponsored everything and sometimes with as many as three different clients simultaneously. That particular station had a whopping 23 sponsored elements in each hour.

The clocks were all different; some had long segments and long spot breaks while others chose bite-sized segments and easy-to-swallow commercial breaks. There are stations trying to sweep the quarter-hours to increase AQH, others are driving for occasions with non-stop teasing, and then there are the hosts who just talk and talk and talk in hopes of extending TSL — or more likely they’ve abandon all formatics in favor of their ego.

It was an interesting exercise that reminded me about the importance of balance. Like with everything in life, radio shows need balance. Too many spots, too long of a segment, incessant commercial breaks, or a NASCAR approach to sponsorships all get in the way of the listening experience. Oh, and stations please assign someone to listen to the web stream often, take notes, and fix ‘em.

Does Internet Radio Value Radio More Than Radio?

As “radio” attempts to “be everywhere” on all platforms, it is curious that internet radio is embracing the local brands and local content to reach the local listeners.

tunein

I saw this bus board while driving around the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle. While non-radio folk may not realize it, this is a TuneIn ad campaign. The ad is selling TuneIn “The world’s radio from Seattle to Sydney” to Seattle residents by promoting the fact that you can listen to Seattle’s heritage news-talker KIRO Radio through TuneIn — presumably instead of on your terrestrial radio. Not of little significance, KIRO Radio fans are likely in their cars listening to the station or experiencing the station’s very cool app, while being told there’s a new? better? different? way to consume it.

It’s a smart play by TuneIn who can actually afford to buy outdoor campaigns unlike most radio stations not owned by Clear Channel these days. Leveraging the exposure of the local station’s logo is very important for TuneIn and very appealing to the station — it’s not unlike giving candy to a baby. Radio stations just need to understand a stomach ache may soon follow.

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Wow.

Radio stations do not underestimate the value of your brand!

In my opinion, this definitely reinforces the power of the local brands in local communities. Services like TuneIn need these station’s dedicated, loyal, local listeners to build credibility, listening occasions, and drive awareness. Instantly, the association with stations like KIRO gives TuneIn a connection to a community and access to the trust and equity earned by the radio station which can be used to leverage the fan base into the digital platform to explore new, more, and different audio experiences. (Where do you supposed the time for all those new listening experiences comes from?)

Digital Platforms do not overestimate your relevance!

On the flipside, Clear Channel’s attempt to push “iHeart RADIO” on its outdoor campaigns in conjunction with local stations seems less impactful.

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This is KJR-FM‘s billboard a couple blocks away from where I saw the TuneIn bus board. Notice the bottom right corner tags iHeart RADIO and assumes people will know what that means. This is the equivalent of a “blink” in radio and is typically used for iconic brands. No offense, but iHeart RADIO doesn’t quite meet that threshold.

I heart

Don’t over-analyze, don’t close your eyes.

Internet radio services are quickly and intentionally blurring the lines between old and new radio and it’s to their advantage to do so.  Radio is sexy. Audio is stale. So, providers are trying to convince listeners that audio, regardless of how they consume it is “radio.” And it appears the radio industry is allowing these companies to leverage their heritage brands to do just that. Bully for them.

The radio landscape is evolving and changing each day. Many experts advise you to “be everywhere.” It’s not bad advice, just keep your eyes wide open, be intentional with your decisions to digitally distribute content, respect your listeners, and value the brand you’ve work so hard to build.

7/12/13 UPDATE: Listen to the discussion about this between Deb Slater and me on the Radio Stuff Podcast