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Posts Tagged ‘Cumulus’

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.

 

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.

Seven Take Aways from Mike McVay

Mike McVayCumulus Senior Vice President of Programming Mike McVay knows a lot about radio. He’s been in the business since 1969 as a talent, PD, consultant and futurist. In his current role, he heads up programming for over 500 radio stations nationwide.

Deb Slater and I chatted with Mike this week on the Radio Stuff podcast. It was a wide-ranging interview that went well beyond the ten minutes he had promised us. He was gracious, accessible, frank, funny, and insightful.  You should really listen to the whole thing. Really.

Here are my seven big takeaways from Mike McVay.

1. If you are on-air at a Cumulus radio station bring your “A” game each day, don’t phone it in, because he’s listening.

icfsw1sMcVay: “I still dial in on a radio when I travel. I carry a Sony ICF-SW1; a small, 10 channel, digital radio. And the reason I carry it on the road with me is I want to hear the local station and their commercials and the imaging.”

McVay: “Lew Dickey said it best in a recent weekly meeting I had with him. Air talent that are live and local are fewer and fewer, so those air talent who are live and local need to really make every break count. They really need to be in the community, they really need to show why live and local is so valuable. Because where we have live and local talent we do excel. If we’re going to be live and local, the air-talent need to grasp that every time they turn on the microphone it is a rare opportunity and a privilege that they should take advantage of. “

2. If you are an air talent looking for work follow Mike McVay (@mikemcvay) on twitter and get his attention.

McVay: “I find myself actually finding new talent on twitter. One of the reasons why I tweet so much and I’m so involved in social media is because other people at the same level or same position I’m in in our industry don’t. And so I thinking making me accessible is a good thing.”

3. If you are a PD at Cumulus you are being closely watched.

Slater: In the 20-months you’ve been there what impact have you made?

McVay: “…and I’ve been able to help educate and direct our program directors. Having been a consultant for so many years, I’ve become a teacher. If anything I hope I’ve helped to make our PDs better.”

Slater: What keeps you up at night?

McVay: The greatest thing that worries me is individual programmers and individual air talent who are going through the motions, who don’t share the passion that we at the top of the food chain at Cumulus share.

Gifford: What’s your biggest programming challenge?

McVay:  Getting your people to use the tools and resources you give them and then have connectivity to a market. I can show you markets where our program directors take the tools we give them and they excel in the market and stations in the market are highly rated. I can show you other markets where the PDs take the exact same tools and for whatever reasons stations don’t excel. Now in some cases, one could argue the competition is better, but other cases I think I could argue that our PDs don’t embrace the systems the way they should. They don’t use the tools they way they could. As a result, the stations don’t perform as well.”

4. Radio says it wants change, but those who try to change get ridiculed. img_5844-e8f87ffb9a3a8a76a991840d72fb281e36d9cfeb-s6-c30

McVay: “Someone challenged me that putting Huckabee on, putting Geraldo on, hiring Michael Savage are crazy ideas and my response was I’ve been coming to these conferences for ten years. I hear all of you sitting in this audience complain there isn’t change, that we need to do something to get new and younger demos. Well, if nothing else, give Cumulus credit for trying something. Some things we try are going to fail. Some of the things we try are going to work. Everyone should be hoping that what we do works, rather than belittling it, because if it works, in this lemming business everyone will then run off the cliff and do what we’re doing.”

rush-pubshot5. Rush Limbaugh isn’t going away anytime soon.

McVay: “He’s not done. We are continuing to be big fans of Rush. You have to keep in mind that many of the things you read in the trades are taken out of context. And we are fans of Rush Limbaugh and, you know, the demise of Rush Limbaugh is greatly exaggerated. He continues to be one of the highest rated talk talent in America and all of us should want to have the ratings that he has.”

 6. It’s a great time to be in the radio business. Believe it! 

McVay: The opportunities are greater today, because there are so many more outlets. There are 12,000 radio stations, limitless internet radio stations, and opportunities for you to be heard. You may not make the type of money that people in broadcasting made in the past, but the opportunity to be on the air is greater than it’s ever been before.

If someone sits down and believes there is no opportunity for them in radio, then that is a person who is not creative. They are closed minded. If you really want to get the message out, you’re going to find a way to do it.

7. And one final thought…

McVay: People in broadcasting mostly need therapy, because they have a great inferiority complex.