Friday, November 21, 2014

Value Added Plus-Plus: Client Edification Efforts from Both Coasts

When Entercom’s The End in Seattle cut its spot load this summer, it caused quite a bit of talk.  As you may recall in addition to lowering their hourly spot load to six minutes, breaks were limited to two minutes.

Inside Radio reported Tuesday on how that’s been going, including a chart showing steady growth 18-34 and 18-49 thanks to more occasions and longer listening durations.

While the spot load/break duration may have attracted the most attention, what The End is doing for its advertisers shouldn’t fly under the radar: being an information resource for clients on the station's target audience (Millennials). 

According to IR, the station has hired a Millennial marketing expert, built an accessible library of information on marketing to Millennials, and assembled an ‘on demand’ focus group program to provide clients with creative and strategic feedback.

“Entercom Seattle has recognized that The End doesn’t just compete against other radio stations in Seattle, but is part of broader media landscape,” said Jacobs Media’s Fred Jacobs (@fnjacobs) who consults the station. “Understanding changing generational tastes is a major step and a really smart move.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the GMs from all five major clusters in Norfolk, VA - Max Media, iHeart Media, Entercom, Saga and Sinclair - hosted an educational seminar for some 300 advertisers called "Navigating the New Media Landscape." 

Together with Gordon Borrell, the GMs' discussed the impact of combining traditional and digital media (Max Media Market Manager Dave Paulus will give us all an inside look at the process of creating this event and its end result at A&O&B's annual pre-CRS seminar on Wednesday morning, February 25th.)  

"Value added" often means some sort of spot bonus or web freebie. But helping our station clients (and, perhaps in the process, ourselves) to better understand and serve the audience is a longer-lasting, far superior value that "connects the dots" in a way where everyone benefits.  

Friday, October 31, 2014

Tale of Two Bar Graphs: Country Shares and Music Scores

If you want to see just how long the current ‘up’ ratings cycle has been going on for country, this just-released Nielsen bar chart and This Week In Music article affords a nice 10,000 foot view:

According to Nielsen, country is the “top national format among Millennials (aged 18-34) and Generation X’ers (aged 35-49). And audience share has grown 17% with teens (12-17 year-olds) over the last two years…Among Boomers (aged 50-64), it’s the second most popular national format after News/Talk radio."

To get an idea of how music scores corresponded with this chart, I pulled A&O&B data from 2006 to 2013 to compare our music research with the Nielsen shares (at A&O&B, we’ve been tracking music research scores since 1998).

While our data is primarily from 25-54’s, it’s still easy to see parallel growth and the difference between the right and left sides of both graphs.

Compared to our music scores from 2006-2008, those for 2011-2013 averaged eight percentage points higher (visualize the chart without the two middle bars, 2009 and 2010).

Overall scores for both the top 1/3 and bottom 1/3 of the year were also higher.

In 2013 however, the gap between the Total Positive scores for the year’s top 1/3 testers vs. the bottom 1/3 widened slightly helping to explain the softer scores.  

More significantly, for the second straight year, the Like A Lot ("passion" score) gap between the top and bottom 1/3 widened as well.

Now, as the current Boom approaches its 6th year, the ongoing challenge for programmers isn’t finding songs listeners will like. Overall scores are still good – certainly compared to the pre-Boom years.

The challenge is identifying and aggressively exposing those high passion songs for an ever widening cume and fan base.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

TSL: Profiting from a Limited Time Only Strategy

“The problem with your business,” the consultant explained, “is that your customers are saying, ‘If I don’t buy from you today, I’ll buy from you tomorrow.’”

That discussion wasn’t about radio, but it certainly could have been.

Each time a listener decides to listen tomorrow instead of today, the opportunity for an additional listening occasion is not only gone now, it's a possibility/probability that there won’t be any listening tomorrow either – especially if the decision to not listen today was rooted in too many “average” experiences.

On the one hand, predictability is important:  imaging (packaging), brand personality, talent, delivering and occasionally exceeding expectations, etc.

On the other hand, if the content never changes and yesterday’s show sounds pretty much like last week’s and last month’s and last year’s, a lack of listener enthusiasm can be manifest in “I’ll listen tomorrow” behavior.

The solution? The PSL – Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Metaphorically of course.

The PSL is a Limited Time Only (LTO) event. It gets attention and creates urgency, while combining the familiar, traditional brand expectations with something fresh.

The result for Starbucks is increased traffic.

How much? According to, in the 4th quarter of 2013 Starbucks saw 5% more foot traffic and 7% more sales - roughly $800-million worth of PSLs.

Knowing anything good deserves pre-promotion, Starbucks allowed some of their best customers to buy the drink early.

Taco Bell is also adept at the LTO strategy marrying familiarity with fervor via limited time menu items. They're also pre-promoters. Fans of the Beefy Crunch Burrito already know that its long-awaited return to the menu will happen nationwide on December 20th. Check it out on Facebook.

Radio’s LTO time line is different of course - it may only be a couple of breaks.

But, like the PSL or Beefy Crunch Burrito, our version of the LTO should:

  1. Be in-sync with and polish core values
  2. Have sufficient crave-ability to generate traffic and word of mouth
  3. Appear on a regular cycle
  4. Be well-promoted
  5. Have an anticipated arrival and be missed when it's gone
One break or one month of something special, radio LTO’s are anecdotes for to the ennui-driven decision to listen tomorrow instead of today.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Legacy Challenge

Like any good New York Yankees fan, I spent this past season trying to exceed the Minimum Daily Requirement of Derek Jeter.

Lately that hasn’t been hard to do, especially these last few weeks with all the videos - from the Re2pect commercial, to the Made In New York Bronx walk-through, to Jeter’s farewell to the crowd at the Stadium   

But the “Legacy” spot may be the best tribute of all, as players (kids and adults) paid their respects by modeling themselves after someone who inspired them.

That spot reminded me of why so many of us got into radio: because of a talent we connected with. 

Just like the players in “Legacy” we emulated our heroes’ styles, recreated what they were famous for, and perhaps envisioned ourselves doing their job along side them one day.

Admittedly I can find a baseball analogy for just about anything, but I frequently use this one about coming to bat and opening the mic.

No one in the majors is invisible when they come to the plate. Tens of thousands of fans are watching from the stands and ten times that or more are watching on TV or listening via radio. And they have high expectations. 

Perhaps because we seldom have the opportunity to make a visual connection with listeners while we’re on the air, it can be easy to forget that tens of thousands of our station’s fans are focused on us and what we say when we ‘come to bat.’

And they too have high expectations.

You can bet no major league batter walks to the plate without a plan. Yet, just speaking for myself when I was on the air, I know there were too many times when I opened the mic and wasn’t as prepared as I could have been.

I’d like to have those breaks back.

I’d like to have another chance to run as hard as I could to first on what inevitably was going to be just an infield groundout.

Being on the air is easy.

Being great on the air is not.

What’s your unique skill? What’s your plan for every break? Will you give it all you have, knowing that those listening could number between four and six figures, and that they're hoping for something great to happen when you open the mic?

What will you do on your upcoming breaks that will motivate today’s listeners to want to be a part of your show tomorrow… and perhaps even inspire others to follow in your footsteps?

That's the great Legacy Challenge.

PS: A tip of the cap to Paul Konerko of the White Sox – another great player who retired this weekend.  Here’s a nice piece on Paul from the Chicago Tribune.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A&O&B Poll: We're Open To More Country From Taylor

Taylor Swift may have left country a “goodbye note” but the majority of the more than 60 Country PDs, MDs, Talent and Station Executives who took part in Albright & O'Malley & Brenner's quick, and admittedly unscientific straw poll this week said they’ve left the light on for her.  

By more than 4:1 the panel hoped that Taylor Swift would cut another country song in the future with 30% feeling country radio would miss Taylor. 17% said they didn’t think they would play any new Taylor Swift songs now that she’s “gone pop.”

Regarding “Shake It Off,” the first single from Taylor's new pop project, 89% of our panel had heard the song /watched the video. When asked to think about it not as a country song but as a piece of music, 60% said they liked it “A Lot” while 27% liked it “Some.”

72% said their station had talked about “Shake it Off” on the air with 41% saying their station played all or some of it.

We also invited comments. Among the most common were 1) she’s been a cross-over artist for some time, 2) that her music wasn’t any more or less country than what’s being played on country radio now, and 3) an expectation that she will record something country in the future.

There were several “ambivalent” opinions on Taylor’s past or future impact on country and country radio listeners, but no one in the poll expressed anything negative.

Not that I expected to see that from our stations, but I’ve moderated enough listener panels where respondents were quick to dis on Taylor.

So I loved this from Facebook post from Cumulus/Dallas OM J. R. Schumann/@JRSchumann1

"Every time Taylor Swift puts out a new song/album it's amazing to me the hate speak she receives. Grown men and women say terrible things about a girl making music - music with a positive message, mind you. Music that tells kids in their most formative years to be themselves and not let the world get to them. Year after year...Taylor Swift (who has never been pictured drunk, partying, doing drugs, arrested, or anything) remains the subject of so much hate, and we wonder why the world is the way it is. 

Let's just hope the kids of today listen to her lyrics and not what the adults around them are saying."

Apparently he's struck a chord. J.R. says this has been favored over 1500 times and has 1400 re-tweets.

Much success, Taylor.

If you decide in the future to cut something country, there will be people in the format who will want to hear it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Country in the First Half of 2014: How This Year’s Music Compares to Last Year's at the Half Way Mark

Earlier this month Inside Radio reported that “no format had more momentum than country” heading into the second half of 2014 and that the format had already matched its PPM high of last July during the “summer of country.”

Also in that article partner Becky Brenner referenced A&O&B’s “balance” philosophy when she stated that “a balanced menu from Music Row is seen as essential for growth.”

So how is this year’s music shaping up so far compared to the first six months of last year?

To explore this, A&O&B looked at our music testing data from January 1 to June 30th of this year and compared it to our data for the same time last year. We focused on two metrics: “Total Positive” and “Like A Lot” and compared songs completing their life as currents in the first six months of each year. This included all songs played in the first half of each year, whether or not they went on to be played as recurrents.

First, the Total Positive and Like A Lot scores for the first halves of 2013 and 2014 were nearly identical.

Total Positive Average (higher is better)
Like A Lot Average (lower is better)
All Songs First Half 2013
All Songs First Half 2014

Digging a bit deeper and looking only at the Top 20 Testers, the scores again were nearly identical.

Total Positive Average (higher is better)
Like A Lot Average (lower is better)
Top 20 Songs First Half 2013
Top 20 Songs First Half 2014

Finally, we compared the Top 10 Testers for the first six months of each year.  Here, with smallest sample – just 20 titles – 2014 scores were slightly softer than 2013.

Total Positive Average (higher is better)
Like A Lot Average (lower is better)
Top 10 Songs First Half 2013
Top 10 Songs First Half 2014

Looking back over the past several years (as a company we've been tracking and trending music data since the late 90s), year-end scores have softened slightly since the peak of 2011. 

And, while this year’s top-10-to-date are scoring slightly below those from the first half of last year (we are talking small changes not dramatic drops among a tight group of titles) overall the format remains in the strong music cycle that began in 2009.    

Still, tenths of a shares matter and identifying and giving maximum play to the songs that mean the most to your listeners is a no brainer.

For many stations the budgeting process for next year is getting underway making now an appropriate time to explore ways to make music testing part of your budget for 2015 (disclosure: A&O&B stations have access to free, online current and gold online music testing using the company’s software).

And while you’re at it, why not have a discussion about the many ways you can interact with listeners and commit to a plan of action.  

Keep the momentum going.

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Dublin Concerts May Be In Doubt, But Not Garth's Superstar Status in Ireland

Garth Brooks has sold some 400,000 tickets to five scheduled shows in Dublin, but the concerts may not go on thanks to wrangling between concert organizers, the city, and residents who live near the Croke Park Stadium venue.

Negotiations to save the shows continue and things are expected to play out in the next 24-48 hours.

Meanwhile though what is NOT in doubt is that Garth is a mega-star in Ireland and that pre-show excitement is off the charts. 

In fact, it was hard not to run into “something Garth” in Dublin last month.  Here are a few examples (with apologies for the window reflections):

Garth CD posters were in storefront windows.

Stores were selling "Garth is coming to town/Garth is in town" T-shirts more than 6 weeks prior to the scheduled shows.

I saw this pub ticket promotion in Cahir, some 2 hours away from Dublin.

And then there are those roughly 400,000 tickets.

Of course there’s excitement when any of our current superstars come to town to play, but the anticipation for Garth in Dublin was at a different level.

The fate of the shows will play out this week and hopefully there will be a satisfactory resolution. 

But if the shows don’t come off, it certainly won’t be because of a lack of fans, sales, excitement, hype, publicity, and good old opportunism.

And oh yes, Garth's rock star status.