Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011: A Very Good Year for Country Music

This was a good year for current country music.

Actually, it was one of the best - at least when talking about year-end test scores. 

Across our metrics, nearly all scores were better than 2010’s and some were the best since Albright and O’Malley began year-end analyses in 1998.

Songs in the top third of course score better in all metrics than those in the bottom two thirds. This year though the Total Positive gap narrowed significantly. Not only were the Total Positive scores better for the top tier (the best since 2001), the scores for all songs were the best since our first year of tracking this in 2000.

Second-tier songs definitely had softer Like-A-Lot scores but many had very strong Total Positive scores. In aggregate these are the best Total Positive scores since we began tracking them in 2000 – good news for stations needing Millennial Variety.

Artists with top testing songs looked like the winners’ list at a 2011 awards show with Millennial Artists dominating the top 1/3. 70% of A&O’s top third were from mid/late Millennial Artists with Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean each placing three songs inside our top 1/3.

2011 also saw the most number of different artists place songs in the top 1/3.

Despite the prominence of Millennial Artists it continues to be difficult for new artists to break into the top 1/3. In 2011 only two new artists (previously without a significant chart position) cracked the top 1/3: Thompson Square and Brantley Gilbert.  2007 was the last year new artists made up a significant percent (20%) of the artists in the top 1/3.

While the footprint of Historical Superstars is smaller by comparison and none had songs in the top 10, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Reba and George Strait all had music in the top 1/3.

If you’ve followed Albright & O’Malley's Roadmap data and blogs over the years, you’re not especially surprised.  Earlier this year I blogged that the 2011 Roadmap showed that Top Millennial Artists are scoring well across the board but that listener passion is still very high for millennial music from pre-millennial artists like Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith and Alan Jackson.

Last year's Research Director Inc/Inside Radio study showed how a wide a demographic swath country cuts attracting roughly equal cume ratings 18-34 (16.6), 18-49 (16.5) and 25-54 (16.4). The broad strength of 2011’s currents is great news for a format where the cume ratings are nearly identical across 35 years.

While a stations will have differing strategies for this year's music, the good news of 2011 is that the benefit of a year of strong currents is not just immediate. Many will continue to live lives in recurrent and gold categories that can be leaned upon during times when the currents aren’t.

Friday, December 09, 2011

#accjms11: Smart, Passionate People Talking Radio

Fill a hotel ballroom with smart people and have them talk about a shared passion for radio for 2 ½ days and you can be guaranteed there will be good take-aways.

Here are some of mine (paraphrased) from the just-concluded Arbitron Client Conference and Jacobs Media Summit for 2011 in Baltimore.
Tripp Eldridge, President/CEO dmr
  • Social success = helping create and strengthen relationships. Connect, enhance, encourage and facilitate relationships; make the community feel special.
  • “Likes” are like cume. Engagement is like TSL.
  • Games can develop community. Community is what drives success.
Glenn Enoch, VP/Integrated Research ESPN
  • Two of ESPN’s seven cross-platform principles: New media creates new strata of users; Best platform at the moment.
  • A heavy user of one platform tends to be heavy users of others.
Edison Research/ Melissa DeCesare, VP
  • Moms balance traditional and modern media. 89% listened to radio in past week, 53% learn about new music first on radio (vs. 29% on Internet; 9% on TV), 60% would keep smart phone and give up TV if they could only have one.
Edison Research/Larry Rosin, President
  • In-car landscape is increasingly complex; the good news is cars don’t turn over quickly. Traffic information is being attacked by emerging technologies. Does/should radio care?
David Lebow, President/Revenue, Group Commerce, Inc.
  • There is no such thing as deal fatigue.
  • Radio Brands have e-commerce assets including the size of audience, brand trust, strong local voice and relationships with advertisers.
  • Relevance runs amok when there’s no targeting.
Warren, Kurtzman, President, Coleman Insights; Bill Rose, SVP Marketing, Arbitron; Philippe Generali, President/CEO RCS & Media Monitors
  • 93% of the lead-in audience is there at the end of a stop set (not necessarily the same listeners; includes listeners coming to the station during the commercial set as well as leaving it).
  • Commercial free sweeps may help the brand over time more vs. in the moment performance.

Michael Sheehan, CEO, Hill Holliday
  • Technology may be changing the game but people love great stories.
  • Radio needs to make music relevant – radio needs to re-assert itself as the relevant medium of discovery.
  • Relevance is the secret to sustained success. It’s the fuel to how far your content will travel.
Bob Pittman, Chairman of Clear Channel Media and Entertainment Platforms
  • We need to tell our story better. If buyers don’t understand the value of radio, we’re doomed.
  • Don’t let advertisers 'test' radio with sub par reach and frequency. Have the courage to tell people they're not spending enough to be successful.
  • Radio is the beacon for the tribe
James Cridland/Managing Director Media UK
  • Radio Brands are fragmented making it hard for journalists to write about radio whereas it’s easy to call Pandora who’ll be happy to tell you why radio is dead. 
  • Improve the Internet look and feel. Radio needs to make the user experience look better, cooler. 
  • Multi-platform is the right platform. 
  • Why didn’t radio protect word ‘radio’ – Pandora isn’t radio. We failed to educate our audience that Pandora isn’t radio, it’s a music collection. 
  • The only reason commercials are annoying is that they’re not relevant.
Ed Schultz/MSNBC’s “The Ed Show
  • First question: is this talent killer-competitive.
  • Can they sell? Can they make listeners react and want what you’re selling? Can they sell themselves?
  • How connected with the clients are the talent? How often do they update their pages, site, feeds, etc.?
  • Expand your brand. Don’t let the show be small.“
  • Ideas are to be cultivated by people in authority.”
Jeff Pulver Chairman/Founder and creator of the #140 Character Conference  
  • New media would like to have the audience of old media. “Now media:” fusion old and new media.
  • Social media teaches you how to interact; you connect with people – like radio.
  • If you don’t know something, anything and everything is possible.
Jim Farley, VP/News & Programming WTOP/Washington, DC
  • Listeners are always telling us what they want. Check what’s trending and talk about it instead of boring things and when there’s nothing going on.
  • WTOP itself is only one vehicle to deliver the brand.
  • Don’t give up on HD. It’s coming. HD icons on the dash board are going to save our ass.
Ron Rodrigues, Arbitron Marketing, Arbitron Radio
  • Political consultants know that their campaigns can be more effective if their media buys target likely voters, or voters of a political persuasion. That’s a great advantage for radio and all of its formats. Each of them represent a lifestyle, and a such each of them represent a distinct group of voters that would be of interest to one political campaign or another.
  • Candidates can target voting lifestyles by format.
  • Spoken word formats represent the most enthusiastic voters. Opportunity for music formats: wider spectrum of voters, register-to-vote, GOTV efforts.
Walter Sabo, COO Merlin Media
  • The biggest competitor is our own audience.  (A child in school) can make a video and show to the world without anyone’s permission. And it’s free.  And they can get 10-million views in a day.
  • A computer is there to interact with. If entertainment isn’t interactive, it’s dull. Media is designed to be social.
  • The secret of digital business is nobody knows anything. Just hit refresh. Don’t worry about analogue things like what song goes next to another. Just hit refresh.
  • Sell radio’s biggest number.
  • Make listeners co-conspirators.
  • Experiment.
 Charlie Sislen, Partner, Research Director, Inc.
  • Finding places where you station does not meet format benchmarks can help you focus on ways to grow TSL.

Attend and have some take-aways you'd like to add?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quick Checklist for A-B-ing Your Competitors

This week we got a preview of a new study of PPM data from Arbitron in conjunction with Mediabase and Inside Radio which showed country stations, whether ranked first or tenth, had similar patterns of spinning currents.

Regarding the percent of top-10-charted songs played IR notes, “The percentages hardly vary whether the station is No. 1 in 25-54 (18% of spins) ranked No. 2 - No. 5 (17%) or ranked No. 6 - No. 10 (16%).”

There was less difference in the percent of songs spun that were charted between 11 and 20 and no difference in percent of played songs that had chart positions between 21 and 50. 

No surprise. 

When comparing country stations in a market I typically have a longer list of differences not related to current music.

Here are some common differentiating factors/branding elements to listen for when A-B-ing or looking for competitive opportunities:

1.    Non-current music characteristics: Chronology, Tempo, Core Artists and their exposure

2.    Commercials:  Load, execution, quality. Are there differences listeners will readily pick up on?

3.    Talent: Uniquely enhancing the listening experience or detracting for it or simply invisible?

4.    “Feel Good” factor

5.    The “Buffet Line:” What’s on it and what percent of it would I come back for/did I really want to consume?

6.    Promotional activity

7.    Stationality/Imaging

8.    “It” factor: Intangibles that cause me to believe I’ve made the best/most relevant/best values-match choice.

9.    Degree to which my pre-tune-in expectations were met.

Have something to share that differentiates your station or a competitor?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Row-Five Test

Gordon M. Bethune’s name was painted on the Triple-Seven at the gate next to mine.


If you’re not familiar with the name, Gordon Bethune was Continental Airline’s CEO during their turn-around and for a number of years after. During this time their customer-focused initiatives turned customers into real fans of the airline and the man running it (I’ve been a Continental evangelist for many years).

Gordon’s book, “From Worst to First” chronicles Continental’s about-face. It’s a fun read (especially if you fly) while serving up a good bit of management common sense – one piece of which, “The Row-Five Test” is the subject of this blog.

The Row-Five Test is simply about finding out what the customer sitting in Row Five values and is willing to pay for, and then giving it to him. At the same time, the Row-Five Test ideally prevents force-feeding customers things they neither need nor want - and then charging them for it.

Tom Asacker’s blog  this week had a related take. Consumers determine ‘value’ based on what he or she “feels he is getting in exchange for his time, attention, and money" adding, "whoever develops and delivers the best evolving composite of value, for their particular audience, wins.”

What value are listeners placing on your station’s offerings?

Before the end of the year, take an inventory of what’s on the air. One at a time, evaluate each in terms of how listeners perceive its value. Will they feel it's worth 'paying extra for’ in time or attention, sitting through extra commercials or not hearing one of their favorite songs?

Lists will be different across stations and listeners themselves will have a different hierarchies of what they feel has worth.  Populating a list is easy; constantly keeping the audience's perspective as you work through it is the challenge because it's so easy to mingle what’s valuable to us with what’s valuable to listeners.

The danger in doing that of course is that we could be “charging” listeners for things that fail the Row-Five Test.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


The company’s mission is to hire the best person for the job. Your mission is to BE that person.  Don’t let application missteps become part of the equation.
Yesterday my partner Jaye Albright posted a ‘how to hire’ blog. This blog is about ‘how to improve your chances of being hired.’
With the help of Talent Coaches Tommy Kramer and Randy Lane , here are five ideas.

Lead with your strongest material.

The expression “there’s no soft opening in show business” couldn’t be truer when it comes to your audio presentation.
Tommy advises, “Put your best stuff FIRST. No "introducing" yourself or "building up" to your best stuff. Most people listen for about 30 seconds, and make the decision right then about whether they want to hear any more. (Just like listeners do.) I want to hear your WORK.”

Randy concurs, “The order of your content is critical. Be sure to put your strongest piece of content first to engage the PD immediately (just like in PPM).”
Songs on CDs are sequenced in a way to maximize the listening experience. Your submission should be too.

Showcase your unique talent and personality.
Come back to it several times.  Your mission is to stand out. Help PDs to understand why you’re more uniquely entertaining.  

Randy says, “If you’re going to demonstrate your skills interacting with callers make sure that comes through. Too often we hear demos that highlight great callers with little interaction from the air talent.”

Short is the new black

This is my favorite expression in so many instances, but it certainly applies to your submissions. Keep your air checks to around 3-4 minutes but have a full hour ready to send as a follow-up.

Tommy advises a short resume, too.  List the last job you had, and the two before that. Nothing else. I don't need to know what years you worked as a board op on a station next to a wheat field on Sunday mornings doing ‘The Manure Hour.’”

Demonstrate you can do the basics too. 
Randy says,” It will help you to include a break selling the radio station in some way so programmers won’t think it’s all about you.”

Make it easy to find your material again at a later date by including your name in the name of the files you send (mikeomalley_resume.doc). 
Fail to do this and the best case scenario is a PD has to search through a bunch of generic-named files to find yours (if he hasn’t gone through the trouble to rename your file for you in advance); the worst case is your Resume.doc file has been overwritten by someone else who also used a generic name. 

And for me, please, don't make me track down links. I'm not going to do iit

If you’re someone who hires and have some additional recommendations or a talent who has a helpful experience to share, your comment could be instrumental in helping a fellow professional showcase their best work and get back to work.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

And the Winner Is...You! 5 Reasons Why Your Station Should Enter a "Station of the Year" Competition

So maybe you watched Wednesday's CMA Awards Show and wondered if it's worth your time to submit a Station of the Year presentation.

The answer is “Absolutely!”

Here are five reasons why your station should enter:

1.       Assembling a Station of the Year presentation is a bonding opportunity. Whether you win or not, your station and staff reap the benefit of camaraderie.

2.       Sharing your presentation inside the building is a reminder to our non-programming co-workers of how hard we work every day to create the best product in the marketplace, and ideally inspires them with a fresh take on what we do.  

3.       Radio as an industry and country as a format benefit when our best is on display. Recognition by the industry as being among the 'bes of the best' puts your company, station and you in a very positive light.

4.       Assembling a presentation gives you a different perspective on your station and can spark new, creative ideas.

5.      Competing with the format's top stations feels great and, should you ultimately be a finalist or a winner, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you will have frustrated, annoyed, demoralized (or all of the above) your competitors. 

Inspired? There’s no need to wait a year. You can enter the Academy of Country Music awards competition right now.  Submissions are open November 14 through December 9, 2011. Winners will be announced the week of February 13th, 2012. Learn more here (as you'll see there are other award categories as well).
Sure, entering will take some work. Yes, the competition will be steep.
But check the list - you’ve already a winner the day you submit your entry. 

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Secret Sauce of Successful PDs and Stations

How would you describe a successful programmer? What advice would give aspiring PDs? What’s THE secret to a successful station? 

Radio Ink Editor-In-Chief Ed Ryan asked me these questions in last month’s magazine. Here’s how I answered plus a little post-interview elaboration. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences as well. 

#1 – How would you describe a successful Program Director?

PDs that can use both left and right brain thinking are apt to have very successful stations that are both strategic and fun.

Strategically a successful PD understands their station’s position in the market place and what drives listening to their station and their competitors.  They know their listeners’ hot buttons and know the power of surprise and delight.

They have a thorough understanding of the ratings process down to how many diaries or meters or phone calls they need to grow cume to a certain point and how many occasions of listening are necessary to grow TSL/TSE. They have a plan for these and other strategies and tactics that they know increases their audience.

Successful PDs understand the importance of ‘fun’ and ‘feel good’ and know how to create a positive on air environment for listeners that becomes addictive. They keep the listening experience at the forefront of their thinking.

They are evangelists for their stations and their listeners. They have a great passion for what they do and are self-motivated to create great radio that not only captures the moment but becomes part of a listener’s lifestyle.

Successful PDs have strong leadership skills and are simultaneously coaches and cheerleaders. They’re highly engaged with their stations and the people that work there, particularly with talent. They ‘hear’ good talent and know how to encourage, coach and manage them.

They’re equally open to hearing and seeking out new ideas as well as sharing them.

Because PDs today are wearing more hats than ever, they need a love of learning and the organizational ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously without losing focus on what’s most important. They foster an environment where co-workers grow their skills to the benefit of all.

#2 – What advice would you give to those who aspire to be Program Directors?

First know that it’s the greatest job in the radio station. It is. Absolutely. Bar none.

Listen to your own station and to other successful stations and identify out what's working (or not) and why. Do the same for other businesses; figure out how they have succeeded and what can be learned from that success.

Begin programming now - even if it’s only a mental exercise. Think about what you'd do the same or differently at the station you're at and others you listen to. Could you heighten the listening experience? Put your ideas (including “what if’s”) in writing; be very detailed. Save them so you can go back at a later time and tweak them or see if they have other applications beyond your original thinking. Seek out people who you perceive as smart and discuss your ideas and observations with them.

Develop the habit of looking at things from multiple perspectives. You’ll get new ideas.

Volunteer for any work that you have an interest in and that you think might help you grow your skill set – even if you don’t see its application immediately.

Learn how to really listen to listener feedback.

Bring your "A" game to your show every day and ask to be critiqued if you're not being critiqued on a regular basis. Use these to improve your on air performance and to learn how (or how not to) coach others. 

Become an expert in something that you believe is important now and will grow even more important in the future.

Find a mentor.

#3 – What is the Secret to Programming a Great Station?

If there can only be one ‘secret,’ it would be ‘balance.’ 

Balance all elements on the station. Specifically regarding music, create and maintain the appropriate balance across your core genres, styles, eras, tempos and type so that you build the greatest coalition and are ‘on’ your strategic plan.  

Balance your thinking between left and right brain, between being inside and outside the box, between the 10,000 foot and granular perspectives. 

Balance your time at work so that the most important things always get done and get done first. 

Balance your life so that you’re not consumed by certain areas to the detriment of others.

I'd love do know how you'd answer!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Conversing With Listeners: Three Things to Talk Over Now

Tastes, opinions and alternatives are anything but static. So if you haven’t had a conversation with your listeners recently, you should. 

Here are three fertile and actionable talking points for your next listener panel or focus group:

Music Satisfaction.  “Playing the best music” is always a top reason for picking one country station over another.

How is “best” defined by your listeners? If you’re a mainstream station competing for a leadership position in the market, “best” probably includes millennial music. But there are multiple segments within the millennial cluster and the appeal of each varies. What combination is optimal for your station? What music combinations would make you the best second choice (good if that’s your goal, bad if you’re shooting for leadership)?

Your brand. What do listeners say are the tangible and intangible attributes of your station that differentiate you from a competitor? Which of these are significant enough to influence listening behavior? What assets do your competitors own? Overall, how do you stack up in what matters?

Synchronization. Are the things that are getting substantial air time the same things that listeners want us to devote a lot of time to? How is the alignment between your music and talent? What’s your level of relevancy on a daily basis?

“The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing” is an oft-quoted line attributed to John Russell, President, Harley Davidson.

If you need a hand getting a dialogue going with your listeners, give a call, text or email.

And if you’d like to leave a comment sharing something that you learned from interacting with your listeners, you’ll be enriching us all.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Effective Morning Show Billboards: Two Examples

Planning on using billboards to promote your morning show? Here's a quick checklist for your campaign.

Effective billboards are short, clean, targeted, attention-getting, and clever. They create desire, ask for action directly or indirectly, and leave an impression.

Here are two morning show boards that deliver on all these counts.

The Power 105 board is up now, the Imus  board was up a while back and the shot is via WABC's Facebook page.

These communicate far more than the too common “Ken and Barbie Mornings, 6-10am.”

Seen some boards you’d like to tell us about or direct us to?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Alpha Boomers: What Their Country Station Might Sound Like

With “Alpha Boomer” now one of Arbitron’s standard Tapscan demos, I revisited Albright & O’Malley’s Roadmap 2011 (our annual online perceptual of 10,000+ country listeners) to see how the appeal of the various Music Clusters broke out across 25-54 and the 55-64 leading edge Alpha Boomer demo.

The bars below represent the percent of ‘Like a Lot” (highest score) for eight music clusters. The blue bars are the responses from 25-54s, the tan bars 55-64s (for display purposes I selected one of the songs in each cluster to represent the entire segment).

55-64s give the Early Millennial cluster the highest passion score. Alpha Boomers also have a long “era tail” with the Boom and Late 90s music clusters outscoring some more recent millennial clusters.

Still, Roadmap 2011 revealed that the majority of 55-64s are extremely positive about how country music is sounding over the past 12 months.  86% feel country music is as good as or better than it’s been over the past 12 months with 94% listening either the same or more to their local country stations compared to a year ago.   

Your mileage of course may vary. Hopefully this inspires you to check into how different segments of your audience respond to your individual music clusters.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Get Shorty: Communicating More Concisely

This blog is intentionally under 500 characters; that's the threshold for the new messaging service Shortmail.

Its mission? Improve your relationship with email by eliminating time wasters.

Shortmail forces senders to acknowledge that attention spans are short and no one wants their time wasted. Emails are under 500 characters or they can't be sent.

Whether or not you subscribe to Shortmail, it's hard to argue against more concise, focused, and easily digestible communications on or off air.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Being In The Moment

Here's a great example of being in the moment and scooping the marketplace.

Congratulations to all involved for being in sync with listeners' mindsets on the Friday before the 4th of July weekend!

As Max Media Norfolk Market Manager Dave Paulus says, "Everything matters."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Celebrating the Fourth: How Listening Changes During the 4th of July Week

The Mill Pond “river walk” gets a makeover around Halloween for fright walks. Santa can be counted on to ride through every street in the borough on a fire truck just before Christmas. And there’s a town-wide garage sale each spring.

But the 4th of July in Milltown is something else altogether with no less than eight events this year: a fishing derby, two runs, a near two-hour parade, free music and food plus kids' rides at Borough Park, Best Apple Pie and Most Patriotic House contests, and finally some pretty impressive fireworks to end the day.

If Milltown had a radio station, they’d be challenged to keep up with the borough.

Hopefully your station is not only keeping up with but playing a strong role in listeners’ lives this weekend.

Arbitron’s analysis of 30 PPM markets last year shows that the total radio listening (all formats) for July 4th and 5th dips below the year’s daily average while listening on July 1, 2, 6 and 7 exceeds that average. 

The primary trigger of the drop is away from home listening that declines on the 3rd through the 5th while the amount of listening at home remains flat across the week.

However looking just at country, specifically among 25-54s in 5 randomly selected markets, holiday listening to the format is significantly more consistent across the week, staying relatively flat while the market's total listening drops.

How will you take advantage of a competitor who lays in an extra day of voice tracking, plays a syndicated special and calls it good?

Have a great (and proud) 4th!
Special thanks to Arbitron’s Jenny Tsao for providing the data and graphs.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Making Fans "Off the Field"

The big crowd at Yankee Stadium showed that they remembered him with something just short of a standing ovation as he walked to the plate. JasonGiambi paused just outside the batter’s box to acknowledge us by touching his hand to the brim of his batting helmet. 

Then he promptly hit a rifle-shot home run to right. There was another round of cheers.

Coming to the Bronx in 2001 was not without its challenges. Giambi signed a big contract just three months after 9-11 and was replacing the much-loved first baseman Tino Martinez. But his performance as a Yankee, including his highlight-reel homeruns, earned him many fans.

I liked him as a player too, but it was something he did months before he ever played his first game for the Yanks that made me a Jason Giambi fan.

That event happened in December, 2001. Matt Lauer and the Today Show took a young boy who’d lost his firefighter father on 9/11 to Yankee Stadium where they met, among others, the newly arrived Jason Giambi. The boy was asked who his favorite Yankee was and replied “Tino.” Jason said he was sorry (to be replacing Tino) and began a game of catch with him.

Everyone, Giambi included, had tears in their eyes.

It was beyond touching.

It was that unguarded moment of compassion - that peek behind the curtain - that made me think that a player with this kind of heart would be someone worth rooting for.  More than 10 years later I still remember that TV moment vividly; it was what made (and keeps) me a Jason Giambi fan to this day.

Listeners don’t forget talents’ actions either.

I’ve moderated plenty of station panels where listeners can recall in great detail how a particular talent remembered their name, asked about a family member or a circumstance they’d been told about months before, or how they just were open, engaging, real, and interesting.

I’ve also heard from listeners left with bad impressions because they thought a talent was aloof or too self-important because they sat at a table or didn’t make an effort to engage them in conversation.

Brands are a collection of personal experiences.  Your daily performance on air is a huge part of that, of course. But so is what you do off the “field.”

Don’t miss moments to connect.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

When News Breaks Out...

Gord Eno, Program Director of 93.7 JR-FM (CJJR-FM) pens an excellent, weekly memo to his staff.

I received this week’s missive from Gord the day after having just completed a listener panel which included some discussion on where listeners go first for news (it wasn’t radio). 

Gord graciously allowed me to post his memo here. Some will view this as another indictment of traditional media, but they'd be missing the point.

While watching TV coverage of the Stanley Cup celebrations inside the arena, CBC cut to video of a burning police car outside their studios. From that point on, I was scanning the channels seeking more information.
My mistake Wednesday night was not digging deeper than the #canucks and #nhlplayoffs hashtags I was following on Twitter for the game or searching Facebook for updates.

I defaulted to what I was watching on TV, the tried, true and dependable CBC. It appeared their coverage was struggling, resorting to sensationalizing events they couldn’t support with video. Finally, when I was able to find other sources, the images were of police were guarding empty intersections and video of stragglers trying to find their way out of the downtown core. One channel even included night shots of street cleaners peacefully making their way down Georgia.

Those images did not even come close to what I saw early the next morning. Nor did it have the impact of the aggregated videos and pictures that began spreading yesterday afternoon.

The real story of the rioting was portrayed online, much of it through social media. Thousands of images and videos were taken from hundreds of perspectives. In fact, there was criticism that the people who passively stood by to document the destruction and violence were part of the escalation.

As it turns out, the very same documentation that may have been a catalyst to the crime is now evidentiary in arresting the criminals. Blogs, Tumblr, YouTube and Facebook pages are posting the faces of thugs caught in the act in order to publicly expose and identify them.

It is working with a vengeance. The public has provided names, backgrounds, even phone numbers of the identified. Apparently some have already been arrested.

Now, today there are fears expressed that the vigilance has devolved to vigilante with inaccurate accusations and intense personal attacks on people whose status updates are deemed contrary to current popular opinion. Young Offenders Act infringements have also been cited.

But it was also Twitter and Facebook that created the ground swell movement to motivate hundreds of volunteers to team up and clean up the mess left by rioters.
Through this, a wall of positive reinforcement rose from the sheets of plywood covering broken windows. Heartfelt comments written by real Vancouverites, ensuring us and the rest of the world that the ugly Vancouver they were exposed to Wednesday night is not the beautiful Vancouver we all saw, experienced, and loved during the 2010 Olympics.

I suspect social media will play a big part in our understanding of what happened to us Wednesday night and how we will move beyond the tragedy and feel optimistic about the future.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Crossing Paths: Country's Millennial vs. Boom Era Music

Albright & O’Malley's Roadmap 2011 (our 5th annual online perceptual) continues to provide valuable insights into where country radio is at the moment and where it is headed.

One part of each study is devoted to music, more specifically, trending the listener appeal of various music clusters. 

At CRS 2011  we revealed some top line data* that showed ascending passion scores for millennial music and a corresponding decline for Boom-era music.  

I spoke about this with Inside Radio’s Paul Heine for his article “A Changing of the Guard at Country Radio” published Friday (06/10/11) which also included observations from, among others, Coleman Insights President/COO Warren Kurtzman (“The best country position in the market is the one based on millennial music.”) and Greg Mozingo, PD of WIL, St. Louis, (the market’s leading music station 6+) whose station is heavy into millennial music including Jason Aldean , Lady Antebellum and Miranda Lambert and artists Greg calls "superstars" and "great newcomers."  
A&O's Roadmap clearly shows that these as well as other millennial artists are indeed scoring well across the board 18-54. 

But, having said that, as the next chart shows, 25-54 listener passion is still very high for millennial music from pre-millennial artists like Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith  and Alan Jackson.

While the data also shows that passion scores for Boom Era music have become noticeably softer over time, and that the best scores are coming from older demos, this isn't to say that all pre-millennium songs don't test well - plenty still test very well.
Nor is this a blanket recommendation that all pre-2000 titles should be purged from your station. Many of our own successful stations play varying degrees of the Boom era and late 90's music daily. The correct music mix for you depends on your competitive situation and may well be different from that of your competitors or from stations in other markets.
Rather, this is about how the passion for millennial music, from newer and established artists, spans such a wide demographic. 

Last year Inside Radio/Research Director, Inc. PPM released a format study reporting that while country’s AQH composition is heaviest 35-54, country’s weekly cume ratings varied little across 18-34 (16.6), 18-49 (16.5) or 25-54 (16.4).   

The broad strength of millennial music is, of course, great news for a format where the cume ratings are nearly identical across 35 years.

*Unless otherwise noted, all data is from Albright & O’Malley Roadmap on-line surveys of listeners recruited from station database and social media initiatives and as such is subject to any inherent biases

Upcoming blog teaser: Country and Arbitron’s Alpha Boomer demo.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Your New Favorite Filter?

Here’s a filter to get a fast read on value of something: ask, “Does Anybody Care?” 

One PD and I use this filter all the time. For the most part, items that pass the filter get on the air. Things that get a “Nobody cares,” don’t.

In our filter, “Nobody cares” is defined as unremarkable, lacking the ability to grab attention, or generate demand/tune-in, or create word of mouth.  Our definition also includes ambivalence or indifference, or that most people don’t care about this element to the degree they might care about something similar or as much as they care about another element in the same category.

“Nobody cares” elements may seem neutral, but they’re not.  They dilute the passion for your brand and are an invitation for listeners to seek out something they do care about. Too many "Nobody Cares" elements risk turning your station into a “negative brand.”
The purpose of a filter is to remove undesirable particles or keep them from mingling with the final product.
Try this one on your music, the break you’re about to do, a promotion you’re running, something you’re about to tease, or a long-standing element on your show.
“Does Anybody Care” is a tough filter, but it's effective and just might become your favorite.