Wednesday, December 23, 2015

If You See Something, Say Something: Three Ways to Turn Your Life Into Awesome Content

Guest Blogger: Christie Maturo

Your life is a rich source of content.

That’s true year-round but especially this time of year. So if you haven’t mined your world for content in a while, there’s no better time than now to look at what’s around you. For example...

This caught my eye in the grocery store.

Really? A pack of pre-cooked bacon as a Christmas gift?

That started a chain reaction of questions: Who would give that?
Who would want to GET that? What if you wrapped it and left it under tree but the family had a hungry pet?

As quickly as that, a piece of original content began to take shape.

“Deliberately observing your life” and thinking about what you see is the genesis of great, original content.  

Forbes’ Jessica Hagy (@JessicaHagy) describes the process with this graphic:

Those of you who were at A&O&B’s 2015 Pre-CRS conference met via Skype my daughter Christie who is a Second City alum. At the time she was living in Chicago doing TV commercials and she spoke to us about the art of working with a partner.

She’s since moved to Texas where she’s a Professor of Theatre at Midwestern State University and is also currently co-writing and co-starring in the new web comedy series “Hey You It’s Me.”

 As an actor, sketch comedy writer and Professor, I asked Christie to author a guest blog and share her thoughts and experiences about turning what you see into content you can use on the air.

"Whenever I see or hear something funny, I always imagine, “What if this happened to me?”

I find things are funnier when you put yourself in an awkward or embarrassing situation. It takes the pressure off of anyone else and it is never hurtful or offensive if you are making yourself the butt of the joke.  

For example, what if my boyfriend gave me this pre-cooked bacon for Christmas. I’m a vegetarian! 

Does he not know me at all? Did he even buy this? Did he hire someone to shop for me? 

Is he secretly dating a carnivore? Is this some sort of sign for our future that he expects me in the kitchen cooking his lazy ass bacon every morning!?

Then I let the ideas run wild to further develop the story.

This would definitely lead to a fight. Would we break up? Would I shove the bacon in his pockets and sic the dogs on him?

How would I retell this story of the end of our relationship? To my mom? To my best girlfriends? To my therapist?

When I experience something that is unusual, I imagine all the ways it could have gotten even weirder.

True story: I went on audition the other week where the director was floored that someone who’s been on national television showed up to audition for him. Everything I told him about myself was astonishing to him.

When I think about retelling the story, I imagine what could have made this even weirder.

What if he cried at the top of my audition because he was so happy that anyone took his audition seriously enough to show up? Then I imagined him apologizing and pulling himself together and telling me to continue. 

I’d ask him if he would like a resume and headshot and he again bursts in to uncontrollable sobs. He pulls himself together, 

I begin to read for him but he starts again weeping so loudly I have to stop auditioning. We sit on the floor where he cries and pours his heart out. In the end, I leave with whatever part I want :)

Listening is just as important as seeing or experiencing things.

In a similar way, I use conversations and other peoples' stories as jumping off points.

For example, I had a friend tell me that she broke up with her boyfriend two weeks ago and just this past weekend, he shows up at her door and proposes with a stuffed Minion. He used the excuse of bringing her over his Star Wars DVDs because they had recently discussed how she had never seen them. She’s a biology professor and he thought as a self-respecting nerd, she needed to watch the movies.  

Again, what if this happened to me?

I could switch that to he brought me the movie “Waiting for Guffman” because it is about community theatre. 

Or maybe he made me a mix tape of show tunes, or bought me a book of Shakespeare’s sonnets and attempted to read them to me.

The minion is priceless. I might use that, or change it to something even more inappropriate to me.
Like maybe he brings me a stuffed Darth Vader even though he knows I hate outer space movies. 

And, since they sell Star Wars stuff everywhere, I’m convinced he picked it up at a gas station on the way to my house.

As you observe what’s around you, run through as many possibilities as you can of how it would be if what you're seeing or hearing happened to you and then imagine how weird this thing could get. 

Review your ideas and pick the ones where you can paint the most interesting stories."

With holiday get-togethers, end of year celebrations, and relatives, this time of the year provides plenty of low-hanging fruit just waiting to be turned into great content. 

Love to hear what you come up with.

Friday, December 18, 2015

A&O&B's Annual Top 10 for the Year: The Top Songs and Artists of 2015

If you need a break from your Christmas shopping list, try this list: A&O&B’s annual Top 10 Songs and Artists of the Year.

Each December we compile our research-driven list from our online and call-out data and data rankings for every song we played and tested for at least six weeks during the previous 12 months.

This year there were a total of 92 titles on our list.

Here’s our Top 10 for 2015:

Little Big Town
Girl Crush
Bryan, Luke
Strip It Down
Hunt, Sam
House Party
Owen, Jake
What We Ain’t Got
Shelton, Blake w/ Ashley Monroe
Lonely Tonight
Bryan, Luke
Kick The Dust Up
Hunt, Sam
Take Your Time
Church, Eric
Bryan, Luke
Church, Eric
Like A Wrecking Ball
Top 10 Honorary Mention: Chris Jansen who’s “Buy Me a Boat” missed the Top 10 by the smallest of margins.

“Girl Crush” was the only song this year to score a perfect 1.0 (the best Like A Lot score a song can achieve having ranked #1 in research for 6 or more weeks).  Last year there were two (“Drink A Beer” and “Play It Again”). There were four in 2013.

Contributing to the decreasing number of “perfect” score songs recently is the continuing lack of "top song consensus" week to week across markets. This underscores the importance of testing your current music on a regular basis.

Another trend we’ve been tracking is the increase in ballads among the top scorers. 

Since 2002, there have been more tempo songs than ballads in both the Top 1/3 and overall.  That trend barely held this year as tempo songs outnumbered ballads in the Top 1/3 by just a 52% to 48% margin.

Additionally, for each of the past three years, ballads have had an increasingly larger Top 10 footprint.  In 2012 there were three ballads in the Top 10. There were four in 2013, five in 2014 and now seven in 2015.

For those tracking so-called “Bro Country,” 2015’s BC titles indexed slightly lower than last year’s.

We also use our song-performance data to identify the Top Artists of the Year.

For the second year in a row and third time in the past four years, Luke Bryan was the artist point winner.  This was the fourth consecutive year that Luke placed multiple songs in the Top 10: three this year, four last year, two in 2013 and three in 2012.

2015’s runner up was Eric Church who placed two songs in our Top 10. 

The rest of the top 5 included Chris Young, Sam Hunt (who also placed two songs on our Top 10) and Carrie Underwood. 

Blake Shelton, who was our Top Artist in 2013 and who was second to Luke in 2014 finished 7th this year.

Here's where to check out A&O&B's Top 10 lists for the past three years: 2014, 2013 and 2012.

If you simply can't get enough Top 10 lists, Nielsen has more - from TV to music to snacks, you can see their continually updated Top 10 lists  here

A&O&B clients have access to free, local, online music testing using our custom software. If you have questions or an interest, reach us at or

Friday, December 04, 2015

7 Components of Todays Radio: A Quick PD Checklist

As part of her “Radio Matters” presentation at the 2015 Nielsen Total Audio Conference, the RAB’s Erica Farber shared this slide about radio's composition.

While primarily part of a larger, advertiser-directed initiative, the PD in me also saw this slide as a quick programming checklist.

How are you doing in each of these areas?

Watch the RAB "Radio Matters" video here

Nielsen Audio Conference Tweets: #nielsenaudioconf

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Country Infographic: A Half Dozen Facts to Make You The Most Interesting Person at the Thanksgiving Table

Haven't had time to do show-prep for the family Thanksgiving Dinner?

No worries!

Here's a Country Thanksgiving Infographic from A&O&B guaranteed to help you keep the table entertained between seconds and dessert.

Visually stimulating, fun, and shareable, Infographics also make great email content. Additionally, reports Infographics as a marketing tool can increase traffic 12%. 
Chew on that for a while and have a great Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 09, 2015

Chris Stapleton: Winner. Country Radio Haters: Losers

Taylor Swift is right: the haters gonna hate.

For the haters of mainstream country radio, Chris Stapleton’s wins Wednesday night at the CMAs provided them an unfortunate and inappropriate opportunity to turn trophies into missiles and launch them not only at country radio but also at some of the format's biggest stars - the ones who sell out shows in minutes, who frequently top sales charts, and who release the biggest hits as determined by fans.

Like any current-based music format, country has cycles of sounds and styles, and certainly over the years mainstream country radio has incorporated them to a greater or lesser degree depending on their popularity and sticking power.

The latest boom characteristically began with a change in the pop and traditional center of the format. Subsequently rock, ‘party,’ ‘spoken word,’ and ‘cool twang’ have been absorbed into the current mix.

Along the way, the format has hit ratings highs.

Chris Stapleton of course is a part of this success having co-written such wonderful and incredibly popular mainstream songs as “Never Wanted Nothing More” for Kenny Chesney and “Drink A Beer” for Luke Bryan (whom many haters seem to associate with everything they consider wrong with country music radio – how’s that for being hypocritical?).

He also co-authored Thomas Rhett's "Crash and Burn" and "Something to do with my Hands."

Unfortunately, rabid or causal fan, songwriters’ identities on even the biggest hits aren’t generally top of mind - if they are in the mind-set at all.  

The percent of people who know Cole Swindell as an artist is no doubt significantly greater than those who know him as a co-writer (along with Florida-Georgia Line and Luke Bryan) on last year’s #1 song of the year on Billboard “This is How We Roll” or on Luke Bryan's "Roller Coaster."

Or that Florida-Georgia line’s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley were co-writers (along with Rodney Clawson and Chris Tompkins) on the number two song from last year, Jason Aldean’s “Burnin’ It Down.”

Or that last month the prolific Shane McAnally had writing credits on four songs that were in the top 30 at the same time!

While Chris’ career of writing, producing, playing and performing has spanned 15 years,“Traveler” is his solo debut.

If Chris’ wins help elevate the profile of songwriters that would be tremendous. Their contributions to the format's successes are undeniable.

If Chris’ CMA performances and album spawn the next big thing, then that’s awesome. Every format should be excited about their next big thing.

Whether these things come to pass or not, country radio should continue to: 1) embrace music discovery – artists and genres - and 2) research and play the music that listeners are passionate about and reflect that enthusiasm on air.

And oh yeah, regarding the rhetoric from the haters of one of America’s second most popular music format who want us to "save us from ourselves?"

“Shake it off.”

Related: "Back When Radio Was Good: A Week With Beats 1"

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Infographic: 11 Fun Facts about the CMA's

Whether you'll be watching the CMA Awards show in the audience or at home, here are 11 fun facts to share with friends or just add to your viewing enjoyment:

Friday, October 30, 2015

World Statistics Day, Back to the Future, and the "Signal and the Noise" of TSL

Last week was a geek-fest.

First, World Statistics Day on the 20th and then “Back to the Future Day” on the 21st.  For me, last week also included an in-depth, somewhat geeky discussion with a station about Time Spent Listening.

That was a trifecta that begged for a blog.

While World Statistics Day didn’t go completely unnoticed, we were tripping over pieces on BTTF2 predictions that did or didn't come to pass.

The focus on predictions, statistics and the TSL discussion reminded me of an excellent read from a few years back: Nate Silvers The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail – But Some Dont. It's long on everyday examples from weather to baseball to poker and more. It's deep enough to be challenging (especially if you're like me - a non-statistician who like stats) yet it's not so deep that youll drown.

Statistics play a role in most businesses; they certainly do in radio with ratings at the forefront for most programmers. 

Part of a consultant’s job is to provide the greatest understanding of the factors that impact/impacted ratings – not just to explain what happened, but to predict and recommend what changes (if any) could lead to better results.

The examination of ratings data is often the process of separating the signal from the noise: what factors were the primary drivers and what factors were ancillary or irrelevant.

To inspire you on your next analysis (ratings or otherwise), here are few quotes on signal and noise from Nate.

“Immersion in a topic will provide disproportionately more insight than an executive summary.”

If you really want to understand something, you’re likely going to have to spend time under the hood. 

That’s not a new thought of course, but a good reminder that – especially where ratings are concerned – the deeper you dive, the more you’re likely to discover.

Silver suggests using past as well as collective experiences to form probability theories before diving into data.

"The Bayesian approach toward thinking...encourages us to hold a large number of hypotheses in our head at once, to think about them probabilistically, and to update them frequently when we come across new information that might be more or less consistent with them."

Armed with a list of as many possible factors/scenarios that could have contributed to the outcome allows you to “stop and smell the data” which, Silver says, leads to better decision making - the reason you’re doing the deep dive in the first place.

A case in point was the Time Spent Listening discussion. The rise or fall of TSL may be related to your most obvious on air components like music, commercial load, or talent.  But it's also very possible that any of the other 13 variables associated with TSL could be major factors, including 100+ QHR diaries, format partisans in the sample, weighting, how early your first cuming occasions occur, etc.

Before jumping to a conclusion about what drove an increase or decrease, examine each variable your scenarios suggest and determine 1) whether or not that variable was a factor and, 2) if so, to what degree.

As you work your way through the data, new information may challenge or strengthen your original assumptions.

As it turns out, the TSL drivers in the station discussion last week did ultimately prove to be something different than the original hypothesis. 

“Information becomes knowledge only when its placed in context. Without it, we have no way to differentiate the signal from the noise…”

Trending data is a quick way to add context. Compare not only your most recent performance to past performances but also format averages, audience composition, sample, and any other relevant data.

As Silver notes, “most of the time, we do not appreciate how noisy the data is, and so our bias is to place too much weight on the newest data point.”

And about those times when, to the best of your knowledge you did everything right, yet the outcome was disappointing?

“…sometimes the only solution when the data is very noisy – is to focus more on the process than on results…Poker players tend to understand this more than most other people…Play well and win; play well and lose; play badly and lose; play badly and win: every poker player has experienced each of these conditions so many times over that they know there is a difference between process and results.”

Focusing on the process isn't a “pass.” Instead, it’s an opportunity for self improvement and a review of the procedures that have been associated with success over the long term.

Bottom line: the next time you’re working through a report, seek to eliminate the noise by:

  1. Committing the time it takes to do a deep dive
  2. Creating multiple theories about what might have driven the results and a corresponding checklist of data to examine
  3. Evaluating and providing context for all the data relevant to your theories
  4. Review the process with an eye toward self-improvement 

As Nate points out, "Good innovators typically think very big and very small. New ideas are sometimes found in the most granular details of a problem where few others bother to look...sometimes we let information that might give us a competitive advantage slip through the cracks."

Friday, September 25, 2015

It Gets Late Early Out There

Wisdom can come from anywhere.

As a baseball fan - and especially a Yankees fan - learning of the passing of Hall of Famer Yogi Berra was sad news indeed. 

I was visiting a station rife with baseball fans when the news broke.

Their break room has something very cool in it – a chalk board where anyone in the building can initiate a conversation or leave comments on the "subject of the minute."

“Favorite Yogi-isms“ was one of the chalk board topics Tuesday.

Marrying baseball and radio, I wrote on the board, “It gets late early out there.”

Yogi of course was referring to the afternoon shadows that creep into left field at Yankee stadium and add to the challenge of playing.

But if you believe that sources of inspiration know no boundaries, consider this radio (and life) interpretation: “Too often, time moves faster than we project/would wish/can keep up with.”

Today’s great idea implemented today is powerful.

Today’s great idea (or dream or goal or best intention) put off until later – perhaps not so much. Maybe not at all.

Thanks for the reminder Yogi. It DOES get late early. In left field ... and everywhere.

A number of years ago I wrote a piece on decision making based on Yogi's "If you come to a fork in the road, take it." Read it here.

Read a nice NY Times piece on Yogi’s career and quotes here

Friday, August 28, 2015

2 DAYS + 400 CREATIVES: Highlights from Morning Show Boot Camp 27

What if you could spend two days sharing ideas with hundreds of extremely creative, self-motivated, often fearless radio talent and executives bent on success?

I got to do that earlier this month at Talentmaster’s Morning Show Boot Camp 27 in Chicago.

Joining Steve Goldstein, Tim Clarke, Jeff Dauler, Harv Blain and John Gehron as a presenter on the “50 Shades of Great: 50 Ideas in 50 Minutes” panel was fun, but even better was being part of the creative give and take.

If you were there, I hope we got to spend time together. If you weren’t, here are some (really, just some) highlights from #MSBC27.

EXCLUSIVE CONTENT STUDY – 7 Key Findings that are Sure to Change Your Approach to Choosing Content

An audience research-driven presentation from Tracy Johnson, Tracy Johnson Media Group and Hal Rood, Strategic Radio Solutions

  • P1s: Tune in for 9 minutes, 3 times per day, 2 days per week (MF 6-10am). The audience misses 95.5% of your show so recycle your content.
  • Each break should have multiple pay-offs. Lost attention is hard to regain.
  • Establish features and manage them as you would a brand. Good features help you develop a deep footprint.
  • A unique POV beats great content every time. Think: “relevant content plus perspective.”
  • Be famous for something (ideally your “One Thing”)
  • Double Your Ratings Math: Leveraging the Power of Plus One
    • 3 quarter hours per day, 2 days per week – contributes 6 QHRs - 1 more tune in per day + 1 more day per week (perhaps your benchmark) – adds 6 QHRs per week to take your original 6 to 12
  • The only reason to put listeners on the air is to make you stand out as a personality.
  • Social media is not a strategy it’s a tactic. Your brand is the strategy.

Live Read/Mad Money

How to make live reads more effective, entertaining and profitable. Jeff McHue – Randy Lane Company;
  • Endorsements get best results of any advertising on the station; Pandora can’t do this
  • Listeners do not tune out endorsements; they're considered part of the show
  • Endorsements are WOM
  • When accepting an endorsement, ask questions about the purpose of the campaign, the target, and how success will be measured.
  • Product decisions are rarely about the product (Harley)
  • “Learn how to tell them a story and you’ll be a success.” (Don Hewitt - 60 minutes)
    • Have a 'Hook Headline' (tell me if this makes me a bad parent)
    • Make stories out of real life. 
    • “Mine Your Life to the Bare Walls” (screenwriting tip)
    • Use a Life Tree to help you recall your stories
    • Ask, "What else can we do to make this better/different?"

Your Station’s Social Playbook: Radio’s 1st Social Media Study

Better Content, Better Ratings: Using Social Media to Drive More Compelling Content. Victor Caballero
  • 'Spray and Pray' common but not effective strategy
  • Three ‘microphones’ – on air, social, digital
  • Heavy social media users are research-friendly
  • Reading/replying should be 2:1 over posting (two ears, one mouth)
  • Consider social for ‘exclusive content;’ put show left-overs on social; create social media benchmarks
  • Use social to make your show last the whole day
  • Implement 'Social Air Checks'

The Producer’s Forum: The Essentials of Great Producers

Sure, some of this applies to producers only, but there are gems here for talent and PDs, too. Eric Rowe (Roula and Ryan – KRBE Dallas), Tommy Owen (Bert Show), Randy Stein (Fitz Show), JC Fernandez (Mercedes in the Morning); Moderator Tommy Sablan (Jeff and Jerr)

  • Biggest change from producer to talent: having to have an opinion on everything we talk about on the show. (JCF)
  • Our show is like SNL. We all bring ideas to the table and Bert is the Loren Michaels who makes the decisions about what gets on the air. (TO)
  • Before you leave, sit back down and do five more things. (ER)
  • Big part of producing an ensemble is managing the situation. You have to make those people like each other for 3 to 5 hours. (TS)
  • Watch the History of the Eagles; seeing how they interact with each other will help any morning show.
  • Always protect the show. It’s the producer’s job is to protect them from outside negative forces. (JCF)
  • A good producer takes time to listen to each member of the crew. Each person in the crew needs to be managed in a different way; they have different needs, egos and personalities. At the end of the day you want your talent to feel special. (RS)
  • As producer, it’s our job to know what’s hot and find that person. With social media it’s much easier to find people. (TS)
  • Try and know someone in every field/part of the community. (TS)
  • Become friends with a big star’s assistant; it can open doors. (ER)
  • Learn how to screen a call and set them up. (TS)
  • Use your texting service to contact people who wrote good text messages. (RS)
  • Record callers you don’t get to for future use or if you bring the bit back. (RS)

Battle of the Bits

Self-explanatory panel moderated by Eric Rowe and Kevin Rolston (Kevin, Virginia and Jason Show) 
  • The Hoax Call Alert. Local fire departments play hoax call and listeners try to identify the voice who was making the nuisance call. Have had some success tracking down some of the callers.
  • Andy & Nicole/WMEE - Terrible impressions. Put names in a hat, partner has to do impression.
  • What’s Your Weird Urge (one caller wanted to kick any person in front of them down the stairs)
  • Tim Burger/WIRK; take us with you on summer vacation. Listeners reserve (like a library book) life-sized cut-outs of the show members, then take them on vacation. Use custom hashtag. Best picture wins prize. On air – the awesome stuff that “happened” to us on vacation.
  • Jim WIL, What do you HAVE to do before the summer ends?
  • Gene/Gene and Julie – pregnant women with gross cravings. We drew one from hat the next day and had to eat it.
  • Gene/Gene Julie- put arm in a cast and get celebrities to sign (anyone they think is a celeb – firefighter hero).  Put cast on in studio and later sawed it off on the air.
  • Scotty K/Riley/Brett Power 96.1 Atlanta – 96 days of kindness – one act every day (pay bills, kid with cancer on air, people who are doing good things in community, cleaning up) Post on Instagram, Twitter, FB - #96daysofkindness
  • Scotty K/Riley/Brent Power 96.1 Atlanta – 10 Day Challenge. Have 10 dates with 10 different women. POV is that dating is hard.
  • Scott & Gina/Idaho – Find the hidden, ratty pair of flip flops (one audio and one video clue – which gets shares)
  • Woody/Alt 97 LA: “Needless to Say” – each player starts with the end of someone telling a story:  “Needless to say he got stabbed and I had to pick him at the hospital.” Listeners call for which one seems like it will be the best story. Then each person tells story.
  • Tampa/New Release Tuesday – find days when people would be released and stand in front of jail with cigarettes and bus fare. Ask, “What did you do, what happened?”
  • Tampa/If you got stabbed (hit by train), call us and tell it what it feels like
  • Jane/Todd Pettingill Show WPLJ – what’s in Amy’s Hair – post picture, give hints (that must be heavy on your head)
  • Pre-arranged caller sets up listener discussion (I want to open a smoker’s bar – people call and opinionate).
  • Personal question poll: How often do you have sex?

Owning Your Career Asset

Managing your career as a financial asset. Michael P. Haubrich, CFP
  • Act like an owner when it comes to career assets; employers just rent your time, talent and potential.
    • People take better care of what they own than what they rent. Make sure you’re doing that.
  • If you don’t charge enough, potential employers won’t take you seriously.
  • Skills you have now are often transferable to the future/future careers.
  • Establish career asset working capital fund – separate this fund from emergency cash reserves.
  • If you lose a job, figure out how to keep performing (Larry from Atlanta podcast) including writing
  • Watch out for willful blindness so you’re not surprised by the future – including being laid off or terminated
  • Choose relationships/investments carefully. 70% of professional football players file for bankruptcy within 5 years of retirement
  • Four things to get:
    • Career coach
    • Talent agent (protects legal and financial interests)
    • Financial planner/advisor
    • Tax advisor

Radio Roundtable

Leading programmers and talent on the current state of radio and stepping up your game.

Greg Strassell, Brian Kelly, Rob Roberts, John Zellner, Todd Pettengill. Moderator: Paul Kaye, Newcap.
  • Make better content today than we did yesterday. But we have to understand what content is.(PK)
  • The future belongs to courageous talent. (PK)
  • Everyone has the same content. It’s how you interpret it and how you disseminate it. (TP)
  • Prep is the way you live your life. The challenge is, “Are you good enough to turn it into something great on the air?” (JZ)
  • When you hire someone, you hire people with different opinions who don’t just go home and watch Netflix at night. One of the most important things is, “Who’s in the studio?” (JZ)
  • #1 mistake is generic content. (GS)
  • If you’re not doing 2 or 3 different shows (each morning) you’re not doing it right because it’s not the same audience. (TP)
  • Local doesn’t mean anything to anybody. It’s about the content. (RR)
  • Entertaining beats local any day. Entertaining and local is a win. (JZ)
  • Local is also being an advocate for your town. It’s not necessarily entertaining, but it’s memorable and powerful. Find something once a quarter that will generate talk in the market. (JZ)
  • The bar is raised when an Elvis Duran comes to the market. You can’t rely on local; you have to step up your game. (GS)
  • If you can tell a story, you can succeed in morning radio. (RR)
  • Be at the intersection of ‘things that happen to you’ and ‘things that happen to everybody.’ (BK)

I always leave MSBC inspired by the collective passion and creativity - and, of course, with a boatload of usable ideas to share with A&O&B stations.

If you’re a talent or a manager of a station who sees talent playing an important role in your station’s success, strongly consider budgeting for Morning Show Boot Camp next year.

It’s one of those gatherings that proves the quote, “The people you associate yourself with have the greatest influence on your life.”

Friday, July 31, 2015

40 "Sound Bites" from Conclave 40

These days it’s hard to find time in a schedule or money in a budget for attending industry conventions.

That’s unfortunate, because when great minds - passionate about radio - get together, good things happen.

If you’re in country radio and have been to CRS, you;ve experienced that first hand (register for CRS 2016 here )

Similarly, the Conclave 40 Learning Conference which took place in Minneapolis earlier this month was both a solid, non-format-specific learning/sharing experience as well as a chance to connect with others who share a passion for great radio (learn more about the Conclave here).

As programmers and consultants, we spend time a lot of time with listeners. But being a part of the Conclave’s Speed Mentoring Panel Friday morning turned the tables. For two hours it was about spending time with those in our industry seeking their next career step or looking for sounding boards for their ideas.

It was quite a wide funnel of people that I had the privilege of spending time with (in 7 minute increments) - from college students with designs on careers from station management to artist management (shout out to Seaton Hall who sent multiple students to Conclave) to major market talent - from those who had a detailed personal growth plan to those who didn’t have an immediate answer for, “What are you best at?” (but that’s a future blog).

The mentoring panel was just two hours of the two-day agenda. There were multiple high-quality sessions with great thinking and usable ideas.

In the spirit of, “we’re all smarter when we share what we’ve learned,” here are 40 bullet points from Conclave 40 (includes paraphrases and, when possible, attributions).

You can also search #conclave40 on Twitter for convention tweets.

If you attended and have other bullets to share, feel free to leave them as a comment below. Love to share them!

Opening Session: “Ask Me Almost Anything”

Ginny Morris, CEO/Hubbard; Mary Quass/CEO NRG Media; Dave Paulus VP/GM Max Media Norfolk; Pierre Bouvard, CMO/Cumulus Media; Brian Kelly/VP Programming Entercom discuss timely issues. Moderator Joel Denver

1 - The industry cannot afford not to invest in talent. The pendulum swings…things are swinging back to appreciation of talent. (Morris)

2 - The time it takes listeners to come back to the station after they tune out is getting longer because there are more choices and nothing to bring them back.

3 - We have to have the courage to ask for more money for commercials. Figure out what cost is and have the courage to sell it. (Quass)

4 - No other medium in the world does so much to denigrate commercials (Bouvard)

5 - Every station should implement provides an enhanced experience for listeners and advertisers (Bouvard)

6 - IBM employees use social media to send out success stories and case studies.

7- Streaming is the coat of doing business. If that's what the consumer demands we have to provide it. (Paulus)

Make Your App More Than Just The Station Stream, and Monetize It Too

Angie May-Cook (Emmis), J. T. Tarrants (WCSX Detroit), J. Pat Miller (Scripps, Milwaukee); Moderator: Paul Jacobs

8 - Your station is unique and your app should look unique as well. Great mobile apps start with great strategies

9 - Don’t build apps for listeners; build them for lifestyles.

10 - Mobile revenue is low because radio sells it like spots. Two different approaches: “Where Hip Hop Lives” app (free and subscription) and WCSX’s client-integrated Deer Hunter app. 

11 - Don't think of mobile as receiver but as the hub of listeners’ digital lives. As such mobile must supply content listeners truly value.

Taking Your Show Online: Podcasting, Streaming and Beyond

Perry Simon (All Access), Sean Ross (Edison Research). Moderator: George Woods (Radio George)

12 - Reasons to podcast: because you want to do something that conventional Radio doesn't do, you have something to say, to help get a job. Reasons not to podcast: It's hot, someone told me to do it, make money.

13 - All social – but Facebook especially – drives a huge portion of podcast audience

14 - Monetization: brand advertising (not ‘spots’) will be the future – as well as subscription models including selling of archives, P.I.’s, merchandising, live or on–location events

15 - Think “60 minutes of music” instead of ‘replacing commercials.”  For extra music consider songs you wouldn't play on FM

16 - Streaming alternative: “File On Demand”

Edison’s Share of Ear Results

Larry Rosin/President, Edison Research

(For these notes, Millennials defined as 13-34 year olds)

17 - AM FM Radio share of ear 55% of all audio combined BUT just 39% for Millennials

18 - Millennials’ Distribution of Time Spent with Streaming Audio: Pandora 49%, Spot iffy 27%, I-heart  10%, iTunes 8%, other brands 11%

19 - Millennial Device Usage: 35% listen on a radio receiver but 32% is listening is via mobile; computer 17%. In cars, music is 86% of audio content

20 - Location of listening to streaming audio: Home 52% - AM-FM gets 25% while streaming audio gets 29%; Vehicle 29% (AM-FM 68% which is nearly identical by generation); Work 13%; Other 6%

21 - 85% use radio in the car regardless of age but newer car owners use a higher percent of other platforms/devices besides FM/FM. The challenge is to provide content that will make people want to choose you: unique content you can't get elsewhere drives even limited FM users back to FM: sports, NPR-style content, morning shows. 

22 - The big challenge is people who just want music... Radio needs interaction and relationship with music.

23 - Nothing has hurt radio’s perception more than its lack of advertising

Beyond The News Feed

Garrison Cummings (Digital Manager, Green Bay Packers), Glenn Woods (Radio One); Moderator: Lori Lewis

24 - Understand and create messages for each segment/persona of the audience. The Green Bay Packers identified three fan types and created messages for each: Hardcore: stats/infographics/advance info; Casual: family posts/it's game time conversations; International: history/packers roll call (where are you watching)

25 - Focus on end users feelings

26 - "Shares" are significantly more valuable than "Likes"

If You're Doing Your Job The Same Way You Did Last Year, You're Behind

David Moore, Madison, WI, Tom Langmyer, Milwaukee, Scott Masteller, Baltimore; Moderator: Chuck DuCoty

27 - Identify the core competencies you want your radio station to focus on (example from WBAL: Ravens Flagship, big local stories, social, ratings, production)

28 - Get production pieces done in advance so they can be used immediately after an event; demonstrates to listeners that the station is really on top of everything.  

29 - “When we look for sellers we look for high bandwidth people who are engaged in their community. Radio needs problem solvers.”  

30 - Non negotiables in hires: demonstrates passion for the business; recognizes that it's a privilege to work in this industry; ambitious with strong work ethic; ability motivate and coach talent (Programmers)

What Your Audience is Doing When They’re Not Listening to You

Fred Jacobs/President, Jacobs Media
Results are from Jacobs’ Tech Survey 11

31 - Emotional-related reasons are significant in driving listenership

32 - Women are more social than men; Facebook is #1; country women index higher on Pinterest than women with other format preferences

33 - Acknowledgement is extremely meaningful to listeners. “Want to connect with Millennials? Acknowledge them.”

34 - Create good content. Make it easy to share and people will.

35 - Email is #1 way to interact with listeners. 

36 - Podcasting is not a phenomenon yet so there is an opportunity to create something good and have it stand out. Country users index low for podcast consumption; sports is highest

37 - The younger the listener, the more likely they are to do most of their radio listening in the car. Almost 60% of country users can connect a device in a car; 20% own a connected car

The Next Frontier in Audience Databases

Erica Dreyer (NRG), Paul Cramer (Triton), Jennifer Williams (Greater Media)

38 - Use databases to create moments of surprise and delight (send tickets, freebies, etc.). Whatever surprise and delight you deliver will wind up on social media

39 - Have an option to use a social login. 86% do not want to create another username and password. Facebook is most used; Google + is #2 

40 - Initially ask for age, gender and zip. Over time, ask for small additional bits of information. Meanwhile, move anyone who has not interacted with the station in a year (i.e., opened an email) to an inactive file so your database count is always accurate

Bullets from a convention are great but being there is better from the opportunity to extract something specific for your situation, to post-session discussions, to spending a couple of days with people who are as passionate as you are about our industry.

Hopefully 2016 will find a line item in your budget to attend a conference where you can come away with new ideas and be re-energized about our business.

Friday, July 10, 2015

"Back When Radio Was Good" - A Week with Beats 1

Initial reviews of Beats 1 have ranged from “brilliant” to “meh,” but many who’ve written about it – pro Beats 1 or not – have taken the opportunity to snipe at radio: “Beats 1 sounds like radio used to sound when it was good.” Or, "will Beats 1 make radio cool again?”

There are a lot of places to start a discussion about Beats 1. But setting music, (lack of) commercials, and expectations aside for the moment, Beats 1 does have an excitement about it that’s driven in large part by the talent.

You don’t have to listen long to realize the Beats 1 talent have significant mic presence. The “song-sweeper-song-talent” sequence has been replaced by stretches of “song-talent-song-talent.”  

And for the most part, the talent (especially the three "anchors") - pull it off.

It seems that the rule of thumb might be, “you can always talk about the music,” except that there were instances of excellent picture painting too. 

London-based Julie Adanuga delivered an interesting tease/pay-off on Beats 1’s first day with the tease (“Grab your ID - you’ll need it in a bit”) and then a song later began a club music set by delivering the radio version of a Vine clip as she told us of our arrival at “the club,” that we were all on the guest list, and told first-time club-goers, “this is what it feels like” to be in the club.

It could have been terribly hokey; instead it was visual and fun - and quick.

If you buy into the “throwback criticism,” Cousin Brucie describing the elevator ride to the top of the CBS building and the 113th floor as he opened the “Love Hour Half Hour” on CBS-FM might come to mind.

Similarly when Beats 1 NY talent Ebro Darden did his gritty “we’re on the streets” segment and “took us through the Boroughs,” New Yorkers might have channeled the 60s spirit of WWRL-AM.

Also apparent was the talent demonstrating their interest, knowledge and passion for the music.  

Talent as advocate-cheerleader-champion of their station's music and artists is a frequent coaching point today.

Check out Kid Leo “back when radio was good” as a critic might say, selling the music.

Audience acknowledgement was a significant part of the launch. I was repeatedly recognized as a member of the Day One Crew and told that we were on a Day One Journey together. Phrases like “thank you for being a part of history” and “if I had kids I’d tell them about this” might have come off like hype except the talent seemed genuine about it all. 

In aggregate I was made to feel like I was part of a movement. “Beats 1 Worldwide” and “Broadcasting around the world” along with the requisite personal and geographical acknowledgements added to the feeling that we were part of something akin to a new counter-culture where the whole was more than the sum of its parts.

A footprint so big that anyone in the world might be listening along with you undoubtedly contributes to this feeling. But local radio has a long history of creating in-market communities too. Howard Stern’s audience would probably agree.

That’s not to say that the Beats 1 talent doesn’t get off the track; there's inside talk that can be tedious and irrelevant, talking over music to the point of being annoying, repeatedly shouting a word or phrase that comes off like a failed effort at creating excitement, occasions of too much self-indulgence, and breaks that sound undisciplined and unprepared. These were disappointments.

Still, comments like “when radio used to be good” - at least in terms of the talent-generated excitement - remind us that an air staff of passionate, creative, music-loving, listener and format advocates, who are uniquely entertaining and integral to the overall programming, help define a station in a non-duplicable, extremely positive way.

The payoff from the time and effort spent on finding, valuing, coaching, and encouraging genuine talent, is a more entertaining radio station with a passionate audience that feels connected.

And that's hard to “beat.”