Posts Tagged ‘pandora’

It’s Not Beats1’s Fault, Blame Steve Jobs

RS 107 cover

Click image to listen to my review of Beats1.

Beats1 is on the air!

I’m underwhelmed thus far and I blame Steve Jobs. He taught me to expect the unexpected. He created products that at first blush seemingly made no sense (an iPad? I have an iPhone. Why do I want something bigger?), but were nearly instantaneous culture changing innovations. He created a brand expectation that sadly Apple can no longer live up to.

In my mind I was really hoping Beats1 was going to be revolutionary, be a paradigm shift for radio, inspire a new generation of broadcasters and push the industry back on it’s heels a bit. I imagined that they would figure out a way to integrate a song an hour from everyone’s personal iTunes collection weaving it seamlessly into the fabric of the radio station making it a truly personalized experience. I envisioned a XAPP Media type vocal recognition program which would allow you to say out loud, “buy this song” and it would instantly download to your iTunes account. I counted on Apple to create the fully integrated, connected, social savvy, second screen radio has been struggling to create. My expectations were too high.

Instead, so far, the bigger impact of Beats1 is for rising artists who get a global spin and ideally, for them, an instant international fan base. (Also, Pandora founder Tim Westergren’s dream. AUDIO)

As it impacts radio, Beats1 seems more of a blast of the past than a quantum leap into the future:

Shouting city names over records.. Radio does this.

Live reads. Radio does this.

Pre-Recorded outdated promos. Radio’s got those in droves!

DJs that talk too much. Radio’s got ‘em.

DJs in multiple locations. Yep..

Dead Air. Sure.

Celebrity DJs. Requests. Listen call-ins. Social media engagement. Radio does all that too.

What exactly is the innovation here?

It’s week one, so we’ll give them time to get settled and check back in next month or so. Meantime, if you hear something truly unique let me know.


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The Curse of Subjective Adjectives

March 10, 2015 1 comment

This is a phenomenal blog post; it’s fun, insightful, sensational, great, super, terrific, and awesome.

Depending on who you are.

Subjective Adjectives


Seriously though, we have an issue we need to discuss. Radio hosts, anchors, reporters, game announcers and production script writers have all seemingly slipped into a subjective adjective trough. I hear newscasts, morning shows, sporting events, and station promos filled with adjectives, yet not a single image is conjured.It’s anti-theater-of-the-mind.

It’s the curse of the subjective adjective.

“Here is a sad/shocking/funny story…”

“She tends a lovely garden.”

“This game is crazy.”

“The most amazing giveaway ever.”

Subjective adjectives are — subjective. It’s a description influenced by your personal belief or opinion. More often than not it’s a word that carries no meaning or weight to the listener. It’s what I call an “empty” word, because they have no real meaning and they leave me empty inside. I’m hearing them all the time now and thought it worthwhile to address.



Here are two ways to combat subjective adjective abuse. Feel free to add your own methods in the comments section.

1. Find objective adjectives about the same subject. Objective adjectives are not only accurate, but they are also image inducing.

EXAMPLE: Most people can’t visualize “an awesome apartment building.” However, they can visualize “An apartment building towering 112-floors into the clouds complete gold encrusted toilet seats in each unit, self-cleaning bedrooms and a live-in man servant.”

2. Use your subjective adjective as inspiration to better describe it. Which details can you share that make it sad, lovely or crazy?

EXAMPLE: “A dumb bank robbery suspect is under arrest after sending police on a crazy chase in the countryside.”

Ask yourself: What makes him dumb? What made the chase crazy?

INSPIRED RE-WRITE: “A robbery suspect who left his work ID badge on the counter of the bank is under arrest. He ran out of gas after leading police on a 90 mile an hour pursuit passing horse and buggies on one-lane roads in Amish country.”



Every time a subjective adjective is used a radio listener dies a little on the inside. And then turns on Pandora.

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.



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

January 21, 2014 1 comment


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.

Let’s Talk Turkey!


A traditional radio company, a big one, finds that after years of success revenues are dropping and they’re losing a significant share of media buys — maybe even half as much as previous years. The suits get nervous. Something must be done. So a meeting is called. There’s a brain storm. Someone pipes up, “Hey, how about something to do with the internet?” People nod. But, quietly they are concerned that there’s no money there and it will likely cannibalize whatever is left of the traditional radio business. Smarter, cooler heads prevail. Imaginations run wild. Ideas are hatched. A vision is shared. Two years later, this big, old radio company is running the eighth biggest music streaming platform in the world — shattering expectations, goals, and super-serving their audience with a social radio experience unlike any other.

Sounds inspiring, no?

Okay, I took some dramatic liberties but that is essentially the story behind, the number one start-up in Istanbul, Turkey according to Wired Magazine. It’s a multi-media, digital radio service created by the largest radio group in Turkey Spectrum Medya.

ali-abhary“It’s great to be singled out like that,” said Spectrum Medya CEO Ali Abhary. “But, it is even more poignant as a radio station, with radio being one of the oldest and not necessarily the sexiest mediums out there, for us to be on that list with those other great companies is a wonderful testament to what radio can be and that radio doesn’t need to have this dodgy, old image that it sometimes does.”

On this week’s Radio Stuff podcast, Abhary explained why was an important business extension for the radio company.

“Just like in any other market, in Turkey we see radio revenues flattening and in fact radio’s share of the advertising pie has reduced. Historically about ten years ago it was about 6% and now it’s about 2.8%.”

Abhary’s challenge was to create a digital business that complimented the terrestrial radio stations, but didn’t cannibalize their traditional revenues. Enter – a “radio rich,” digital platform that streams their five FM stations and 11 niche formats (Jazz, Classical, hard to find Turkish music among them.)

It wasn’t an easy sell for the traditional radio employees.

“It did take some time, but I think everyone has bought into it now. We promote our stations now as ‘Metro FM is a station,’ our radio IDs are broadcast that way.” Abhary understands the trepidation, “Seeing this sort of disruption in their business is a little disconcerting at first, but I think they all understand now the value and the power the digital element can give and the great story that it gives to advertisers and listeners alike.”

Employees were the first hurdle. Listeners caught on quick and loved it straight away. So much so, they expanded the vision to include social interaction through the San Mateo, California company Jelli. Now listeners can vote songs up or down in real-time influencing the streaming radio’s playlist.

The next challenge was advertisers.

og_karnaval_400x400“It took a while to get it out there. Are you trying to sell ads to digital buyers or radio buyers? We’re able sell advertising on a targeted basis whether it’s targeted by device or by demographics or geography of listeners. The digital buyers are able to understand that. We’re also able to price it on a cost-per-listen basis. And they get that as well. But, the challenge is they don’t have audio creative, typically. The radio buyers on the other side, they have the audio creative but they don’t have necessarily the understanding of targeting or the digital capabilities that digital radio has. So, we actually did a two-pronged approach. We have our terrestrial FM team selling the inventory that we have to regular FM buyers and we’re saying, ‘Who cares whether sound people are listening to is being transmitted on FM frequency to an FM receiver or via a Wi-Fi to a mobile phone or to a laptop connected to the internet? It doesn’t really matter as long as the sound is there.’ And the radio buyers have now bought that on and they’re starting to send us old-fashioned radio buys to the platform. The digital buyers at the same time whether it’s using audio or not using audio through rich media, pre-roll videos and whatnot, are also buying on from there. For a business that’s about a year old we’re doing fantastic revenue growth right now. ”

In just over a year, is meeting and exceeding its goals and serving over 6.5 million unique users each month accounting for 21 million hours of listening. uses its FM stations to promote the platform in addition to social media, TV commercials and sponsoring concerts. Through the concerts they can create unique content for the digital users such as back stage artist interviews and acoustic sets.

“The great thing about the service is that it has a lot of rich experience as you listen to radio that is beyond just listening to audio. So, as a song is playing you have artist biographies, discographies, a lot of photo galleries, we have an integration with Ticket Master where if an artist has a concert in town it will let you buy tickets to see that artist as you are listening to the song.” is not trying to compete with the Pandoras and Spotifys of the world. But, interestingly enough one of the “big services” in streaming music approached this week in an effort to buy advertising for their own online music service.

I would encourage you to check out or download the app, And you can try, but be forewarned it is all in Turkish. Regardless, it’s a great model for radio and new media success.

(Credit: I was first introduced to from UK radio futurologist James Cridland

Eight Things I Takeaway From HIVIO

hiviologo_finalHIVIO is a made up word pronounced as a mash-up between hive and radio (HI-vee-oh). While billed as radio’s FIRST ideas festival, this is a concept that is going on its third year in London with radio futurologist James Cridland and “NextRadio.” Regardless, Mark Ramsey assembled an invite-only gathering of radio folks in San Diego to sit and listen to thought leaders and brand builders from outside the radio industry; from Google and Pandora to the San Diego Zoo and Uber. The festival was live streamed and is now being carved into individual videos to be released in the coming weeks.

(This was a big topic of conversation on Radio Stuff Podcast with an interview with Ramsey and loads of clips)

After sitting through the six hours or so of streaming video, I was agitated, inspired, embarrassed, hopeful, and at times confused. Here are eight of my big takeaways.

1. For radio to thrive it needs four things: strategy, innovation, creativity, and unique content. These concepts were echoed through the day in part of whole by every presenter. Mark Ramsey’s opening presentation set the tone, “It’s time in this radio industry of ours to stop saying, ‘where did that work?’ and start saying, ‘why not here, now?’”

Chad Robley, CEO of the digital agency Mindgruve touched on those ideas too saying radio’s advantage over digital competitors include established listener engagement, brand equity and reach – and he pointed out, “you have permission to innovate on top of that and reach across platforms.”

2. Radio is losing respect from people who want to be fans. Presenters were at times laughing AT  — and at times speechless of — radio’s inability to “get it.”

Michael Warburton of San Diego Zoo snickered at the prospect of radio pitching website banners ads as a digital solution.

Patrick Reynolds, Chief Strategy Officer of Triton Digital, was dumbfounded, literally speechless for five seconds and visibly taken aback when a radio person asked if they had plans to compete with PPM-type measurement devices.

3. Radio is afraid. Mark Ramsey calls them hard questions that need to be answered, I call it resistance to innovation and change. The fear radio has of the unknown keeps us rooted in the past. This was most evident to me during the presentation of the Google + hangouts, when the women presenting could barely finish their prepared remarks due to constant haranguing from radio folks worried that Google + is going to swipe their listener databases. Really? Aside from what the women pointed out, “Google’s motto is do no evil,” Google + has 500 million users – I’m guessing their not looking to pinch the data of a couple thousand P1s you’ve collected. It also confused me, since Google+ is a social network and the industry happily hands listeners over to Facebook and twitter with reckless abandon.

4. Radio is losing listeners, fans and supporters, because it’s hard to listen to. This point was hammered home by Bryce Clemmer, Founder of Vadio.

“When I rented cars on trips for meetings, I never use Sirius or anything, because I felt like I was a loyal listener to broadcast itself and therefore I actually went through this thought process: I want to support the broadcasters that I’m trying to innovate. But, at the same time, after I’ve been traveling for a year now, it kind of became unbearable. And the reason being is because there were so many commercials, the experience itself — there was so much repetition, and naturally as a human you can’t deny if it’s not a good experience, you’re not going to use it. No matter who you are.”

5. Radio isn’t trying hard enough to be great. Shows need to worry about every detail. It’s not good enough to be “good enough” anymore. San Diego Zoo Global brand manager Michael Warburton talked about why they spend so much money and time to make things great.

“Because it matters to a lot of people. If a consumer or client or anybody sees that you’re willing to put ‘all in’ and make something as great as it can be, they are going to appreciate it that much more.”

More specifically, Gary Cramer, the founder of the National Comedy Theater, pointed out the problems with most ensemble talk shows…

“You don’t have some person who is an intern who you throw on air, because you need ‘three’ and they’re just all over the map. So many morning zoo shows are just a nightmare to listen to, because they don’t have a cohesive plan as to where to go. I think they’re just chattering and saying whatever comes to their mind. And they’re not going one direction.”

(For an idea who of who’s doing it right, Cramer points at Mark & Brian, Kevin & Bean, and Phil Hendrie)  

6. Pandora has keyed in on radio’s advantages. While radio is bemoaning PPM and FM in cell phones and crying over lost placement in the dashboard, Pandora is busy studying what radio is doing right. Pandora CTO Tom Conrad said there are “all kinds of things” radio does especially well that Pandora hasn’t touched yet..

  •  Local community integration
  • On Air Personalities
  • Spoken word content

When pressed on one thing Pandora may key in on, Conrad was cautious, but his personal ambitious is to make it feel less robotic and add more life to the music service. 7. Radio needs to emulate Pandora’s filter for hiring people. I blogged about how radio and internet competitors are taking different approaches to hiring for similar positions here. Conrad has a few filters that are worth stealing: HIRE PEOPLE WHO ARE:

  • Smart
  • Self-motivated
  • Passionate about some aspect of their work
  • And who are… not assholes.

8. Radio needs to step up in a big way. Triton Digital’s Patrick Reynolds has these words of wisdom for radio broadcasters.

“Be everywhere, starting with mobile. Anything that plugs in is capable of delivering audio and you have to be in all those places.” – even if it’s your toaster.

“Invest in understanding (your) audience. Where does it come from – geographically? When does it come – day part-wise? On what device does it come? What registration data do I know about it if anything?”

“Where sneakers to work, because it’s going to get disrupted on an ongoing basis and you’ll be running around ragged.”

And eight other things overheard…

“Radio is in a great position to disrupt itself.”

“Radio needs to operate more like start-ups.”

“Why are you on Pinterest? Facebook? twitter? vine? Why do you even have a website?”

“There is an expectation of having a higher purpose… a “return on mission” as important as “return on investment””

“…build a relationship with consumer, be relevant in their lives, tell stories, be innovative, always do and try new things.” (Talking about San Diego Zoo, but could just as easily be radio)

“It’s not the new devices that are innovation, it’s what people are doing on those devices.”

“Get in the middle of transactions.”

“They’re all going for your audience. It is critical you invest mind share and invest in resources to fight for your audience.”

Eight Things Pandora Will Do Now That It Bought A Radio Station

Pandora is buying a real radio station (article here); 102.7 The Hits in South Dakota. They have a theory that this puts them in the same category as iHeartRadio as it relates to affordable music rights fees. It may work. But, it got me thinking, what if Pandora started to act like a radio station?

Eight Things Pandora Will Do Now That It Bought The Radio Station 102.7 The Hits

8. Complain about Arbitron. Not once has shown up in the PPM data, the sampling must be off.

7. Update the logo. Keep it familiar, but leverage the Pandora name, but make it more “radio-y.” (notice no mention of the website)

pandora logo

6. Buy more banner roll. One sad logo isn’t going to cut it anymore.


5. New Slogan:

OLD “Today’s Best Hits Without The Rap” (seriously, that’s the slogan. I didn’t realize my Mom was writing radio slogans. She’s always going on about “the rap” music.)

NEW: “If you like Nickelback….we are playing songs that are similar to them”

4. New 10×10 tent for the grocery store remotes. No radio station is complete without one.


3. Understand Added Value. Give clients spots on at no charge in exchange for paying for terrestrial radio buys. This works, trust us Pandora, we know radio.

2.  Update the Bieber cutout. He’s much cooler these days.

L2ltYWdlcy9waG90b3Mva2lkcyBmYWlyIHBvc2luZyB3aXRoIGp1c3Rpbi5qcGc=_H_SW600_MH550Justin Bieber

1. Use streaming audio for promotion! Make sure the web stream pushes terrestrial listening, otherwise it doesn’t count!

Okay, I’m cheeky and sarcastic. I know. But, it does make you stop think about why radio does some of the things it does. Evolution involves change and change is uncomfortable. To adapt and survive, radio is going to have to get pretty uncomfortable, pretty quickly.

Radio’s Dashboard Revolution

I’ve recently found myself in a position to take a step back, look at what’s happening in the radio industry and… think. Thinking is not a luxury I’ve had for a while. When you are caught up in the day-to-day operations of radio, you end up reacting, meeting, planning, meeting and meeting all the time, but spend little time just thinking. My latest thoughts have to do with the new car infotainment systems and how radio can capitalize on them.


The North American colonies battled Britain for independence. The French middle-class revolted against Bourbon King Charles X for bankrupting the country and still living a lavish lifestyle, and radio is battling (technology, automakers, the internet, each other, good ol’ days…) over position in the new world of in-car entertainment.


Welcome to radio’s dashboard revolution.

When the infotainment systems, like Cadillac’s CUE, were unveiled a couple years ago, I believe we all let out a collective gasp. But, admittedly, I assumed the reality of losing our comfortable front row seat on the dash was downstream a bit and nothing we’d have to wrestle with too soon. I was mistaken.

Here’s the Cadillac Cue.

Last month, Cadillac upgraded the CUE to add more features, more internet connectivity, more iPhone capability, and more stuff that distracts people from the business of listening to the radio. BMW announced this week at the New York International Auto Show that it’s added Rhapsody, TuneIn, Audible, and Glympse to Pandora and MOG in its in-car entertainment system.

And now these kinds of systems are available in cars that cost less than $30,000.

Check themylinkse out.

Chevy Mylink 
MyFord Sync 
Hyundai Blue Link 
Chrysler’s U Connect 
KIA UVO Entertainment 
Toyota’s EnTune

All these systems include some of the following; SiriusXM satellite Radio, WiFi, Pandora, Stitcher, Bluetooth connectivity, CD Player, SD card slot, a USB port, an auxiliary jack for audio or video input, and/or an in-car interface for iPhone users.

Unfortunately, none tout the AM/FM receiver (though Chevy MyLink is now showing AM and FM buttons next to the others).

So, this brings me to some thoughts about how radio stations can seize this as an opportunity.

1. Own more than one button on the dash. Radio folk are all a tizzy wondering how they can get their station on the dash. I believe the question is how does your brand own more than one button on the dash? Let’s take radio station KFI in Los Angeles as an example. The programming and IT teams should be talking about how to set up 24-hour simultaneous streams for KFI Live, KFI News, KFI Traffic, KFI Bill Handel, KFI John & Ken, KFI Weekends, etc. It’s the ESPN model. Create brand extensions so that on the dash, I can sync up KFI News, KFI traffic, and KFI Live on 3 of my 6 to 8 buttons. Stations can then monetize each stream seperately.

2. Teach, Lead, Guide and Produce Content for other brands. I believe every brand is going to want a button in the dash; McDonalds, Nike, USAToday, American Red Cross, etc. It’s a great brand extension and a new way for consumers/fans to experience non-media brands on a “radio” without it being a commercial. As the experts of “ear-entertainment” we should be offering our studios and services to these brands to create streaming audio content that cuts through. We have the equipment, talent, creativity, and a desperate need for a new revenue stream. They have celebrity endorsers, experts in the field, storytellers, fans, the desire and money. It’s a no-brainer.

Bonus: In addition to charging for the studios and services and helping to create compelling content. These brands now have quality creative content that could be customized into short form snippets for 2- or 3-minute sponsor blocks on your radio station as “enhanced commercials.” It’s quality content (you created it) and it’s reflective of the sponsors brand with product placement and tags throughout. This allows you to continue building both tradition and non-traditional revenue streams.

3. Be THAT good. Yeah, radio has had it easy. No matter how much effort or money was invested (or not) into the product, it was always available at every driver’s fingertips. The game is changing. Now you need to create radio that people want to hear, because their options are limitless. Why are they going to pick you? Believe in your product, invest in people, and make your product available however your fans want it. If you’re that good, you’ll find your way onto the dash.

It likely won’t take a miracle to survive the dashboard revolution, just some creative problem solving and opportunity seizing.

Has Radio Lost Its Brand?

I googled “radio” this morning. Suddenly I feel sad for good ole’ radio. Here’s what I saw:

Google SnapshotIt turns out Radio doesn’t even own the radio brand anymore. Pandora. Sirius. XM. Free internet radio. I had to go to page 2 before the first radio station website showed up (KCRW which is non-commercial), Z100 showed up on page 3. This isn’t an accident. People looking for “radio” on Google – aren’t actually looking for radio. They’re looking for content. They want it on their computer or phone and they want it now. So, what are you doing to accommodate them? This is no longer about pounding your frequency 100x hour hoping listeners will remember to go where to find your product, this is about pushing your product to every possible platform you can so it just shows up whenever they want it and how every they want to consume it. One of my favorite quotes is “evolve or face extinction” and it has never been more true than it is today for radio.