Are You Game?

6/5/1998

The Network 40 Summer Games II June 25-27 in Lake Tahoe are sold out!  As record companies line up their teams, the wolf whistles are getting louder.

We’re hearing a lot of, “My team can beat your team” and “My daddy can whip your daddy” already.

The Network 40 Summer Games were conceived over three years ago at a small gathering consisting or myself, Bruce Tenenbaum and Mark Gorlick.  We were criticizing (of course) a convention that had just concluded.  During our conversation, we bagged all conventions in general.  And it wasn’t just three lone voices crying out in the wilderness.  We were vocalizing the criticisms we shared with every person in the business.

Radio and record conventions are boring. The panels and discussions are a joke.  And they are boring.  The meetings go on too long.  And they’re boring.  There are 100 record people to every programmer.  Nothing is ever accomplished.  Conventions are a waste of time.  And they are boring.

These criticisms were coupled with the mood of the day.  Never before was there such a chasm between those in the record business and those in radio.

We like to believe last year’s inaugural Summer Games helped change that attitude.

There is no doubt that both businesses have changed drastically in the past few years.  Promotion executives spend more time in meetings inside the company than having productive meetings with programmers.  More often than not, the only contact promotion people have with programmers is on the phone…and those conversations tend to be about the immediate possibility of an add.

What about long-term relationships?  In today’s world, a promotion person’s opinion of a programmer depends on what records were added in a given week.

It’s the same for PD.  More time is spent in meetings than listening to music.  A PD’s time is more valuable than anything.  When a PD picks up a phone to talk with someone in the record business, it’s usually, “What can you do for me right now?”

In a business that demands relationships on both sides, we are becoming too busy to establish them. And we need these relationships to survive.

No PD is going to add every record.  A promotion person’s job is to get a PD to consider the record.  Occasionally, one must ask a programmer for a favor…”Would you please listen to my record and to what I have to say about my record?”

You cannot ask a favor without having a relationship.  And you cannot have a relationship without spending time…quality time.

The same is true from the programming side.  You can’t ask a favor of a promotion executive without having a relationship, unless you want to barter and trade.  But if you have a relationship, the promotion person will be more than happy to oblige because both know the other will be there in the future.

This is why we came up with the idea of the Network 40 Summer Games.  It’s is an opportunity to create relationships.  There is nothing else like it.

This year, everybody seems to be having a convention.  It’s particularly funny to me that after the success of last year’s Summer games,  R&R decided to have a convention in 1998 and scheduled it two weeks before the Network 40 Summer Games II.  Coincidence?  Hardly.  It doesn’t matter.  R&R doesn’t get it…never has…never will.

I hope every person who attends the Network 40 Summer Games II also goes to the R&R overkill.  The difference is obvious.

Why aren’t we having speakers?  Because we don’t learn anything from speakers of panels.  Would you rather hear Kevin Weatherly speak about programming to a large group or would you rather have the opportunity to ask him specific programming questions in a relaxed atmosphere?  Would you rather hear Burt Baumgartner give a speech about promotion or would you rather ask him about promotion?

The Network 40 Summer Games II gives you the opportunity to talk one-on-one with your peers and counterparts.  The games are small for a reason…so every person who attends will have the opportunity to spend quality time with everyone else there.

You will establish relationships with those you only knew as distant voices.  You’ll make friends.  Hey, you’ll also make enemies.  You’re not going to click with everyone, but after the Network 40 Summer Games II, You’ll have a reason to hate specific people!

Because of the success of last year’s Summer Gamers, the vast majority of industry people know the Network 40 Summer Games II will provide a unique opportunity to compete and get to know each competitor.  Virtually every record company has committed to being a part of the most unique event in the history of our business.  Most know it will be very special gathering in a very special place that will be talked about for years to come.  A small minority continue to ask, “Why?”  Why is it so expensive?  (Because it’s small and special.)  Why aren’t there any panels?  (Because panels are stupid and boring.)  Why should I go?  (To spend quality time with others in your business…you might even learn something.)  Why are we playing games?  (Because competition builds relationships.)  Why can’t I wait until next year?  (Sure, wait another year to establish relationships.)

If you decide not to attend, all of these questions will be irrelevant.  You’ll only have to answer on question:

Why weren’t you there?

And The Research Says…

4/24/1998

Want to strike fear into the heart of a promotion person?  Mention the IRS?  Bring up a rumor about a significant other?  Talk about the record company going out of business?

All of these are workable.

Try this one:  “I heard your record isn’t researching well.”

Short of a real heart attack, nothing stops the blood flowing to a record executive’s brain quicker.

Why?

Because there is very little a promotion person can do to rationalize a bad research report card.

No sales?  “Hey, stock isn’t in the market yet.”  No requests?  “It’s a passive adult record.”  Poor research?  “Ah, um, well…”

What’s a mother to do?

It’s difficult, impossible even, to spin information over which you have no control.  Promotion people are paid to provide answers…to programmers and to their company.  There’s no accurate answer to the question:  Why isn’t the record testing well?

Programmers are constantly searching for pieces of information that will give their station an edge.  There is more information available now than ever before.  Stations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to research everything from commercials to records.  This information is dissected and dissected again until a programmer has distilled all the exact information needed to make decisions that will eventually effect the ultimate success of their station.

Unfortunately, programmers are often looking for excuses…reasons not to do something.  Too many programmers have a difficult time just saying, “No.”  This is particularly true in dealing with record company executives.  If a programmer tells a promotion person a record isn’t right for the station, there immediately follows a lengthy diatribe on the record’s attributes…complete with more information.

However, programmers can stop a promotion person cold with the statement, “It isn’t testing well.”

Are there any viable responses?

“Ah, you haven’t played it long enough.”  “Well, it’s a bit early for positive research, don’t you think?”  “If you up the spins, the research will turn positive.”

The problem is that promotion people are dealing from a defensive position.  Any time you’re hit first, it makes it more difficult to recover with a snappy comeback.

Columbia’s Charlie Walk is especially tuned in to the research “problem.”  In discussing this subject last week, he stated the importance of knowledge in dealing with a programmer’s use of research as a weapon.

Promotion people should be ahead of the curve.  Too often, a promotion person relaxes when a record is added.  To many, their job is done. Oh, there’s some thought to increasing the spins, but that’s down the road.  In today’s word, your job isn’t done when a record is added…in reality, that’s when your job really begins.

A good record executive will chart the progress of records with all the stations that are playing it—especially records by new acts or acts that haven’t attained superstar status.  These records are in particular jeopardy and need the most special care.

Instead of waiting for a programmer to tell you a record is testing poorly, you should already have a feel.  Find a programmer who adds your record early and also does extensive research.  Network with this programmer to get an early reading on the research.  If, indeed, your record tests poorly out-of-the-box, share this information with other programmers.  Let them know that the record doesn’t test well initially.  Explain when (if you have the story) the record begins to pick up speed in the research race.  This way, a programmer can’t use the research club against you.  You’ve already shared this information before the programmer begins

Programmers believe promotion people have limited knowledge about radio.  In too many instances, programmers are right. Promotion people are sometimes too busy doing their job to find ways of doing their job better.  The more you know about radio, the more interesting you are to programmers.  They expect you to know about your records.  They expect you to bore them about your records.  What programmers don’t expect is a promotion person who has knowledge about radio.

What does this do?

It gives you an advantage when you don’t have a slam dunk.  And how many uncontested layups do we have today?

Do you know what kind of research your radio station does?  Do you know how many records your radio station researches in a week?  How many people are in their panel?  Who prepares the hook tapes?  Is the research in-house or does the station use a service?

How do you find out the answers to these question?  You ask.  Programmers are only too happy to discuss their jobs.  Promotion people should spend more time listening.  A great sales person once told me, “If you’re trying to sell your radio station to the Coca Cola distributor, you don’t talk about your radio station…you talk about soda pop.”

The same is true for promotion people.  Don’t be afraid of research.  Embrace it.  Find out about it.  Then, use it to your advantage.

You can’t always have a good research, any more than you can always have good records.  But with a little work on your part, you can find good answers.

You might even find great ones!

Amnesia

1/23/1998

Do you suffer from long-term memory loss?

We live and work in a business that goes through more change than a toll booth operator.  Unfortunately, we don’t always have our quarters ready.

If you’re in radio, you should always be ready to move.  Losing your job is a fact of our business.  It doesn’t matter how good you are, you are destined to move on.  It’s the nature of this beast.

Why?  There are a thousand reasons.  Maybe you get complacent.  Maybe you start to slip.  Maybe another station signs on in your market and cuts into your audience.  Maybe you get a bad drop.  Maybe a new GM comes in and wants to hire his former PD.  Maybe the popular morning personality hates you.  Maybe your station is sold.

If none of these situations arise, there’s always “philosophical differences.”  That’s a joke.  There is no philosophy in radio with which to disagree.

However, getting fired isn’t the subject of this Editorial.  This is about what happens after you get fired.  Or more accurately, what actions you take when another gets fired.

Do you suffer from short-term memory loss?

The relationships between PDs and those doing record promotion are nervous at best.  Those relationships must be built on mutual trust.  It takes time.  And it takes consistency.

Do relationships really matter in today’s over-researched world of programming and promotion?  Of course.  Those who think differently have no relationships.

Can a relationship stop a hit record?  No.  Can relationships make a stiff become a hit?  Of course not.  But there are hundreds of records vying for spots each month…records that are unproven.  And relationships can get those records played to find out if they are indeed hits.

Promotion people are paid to establish relationships with programmers so a record can get a shot.  I’ve written several Editorials about how to establish those relationships.  But one important factor seems to be the most overlooked…especially in today’s ever changing landscape.  What happens when the person with whom you’ve developed a relationship gets fired?

Do you suffer from long-term memory loss?

Too many times, you lose contact.  Not because you drift away, but because you stop doing your job.  You do nothing to continue the relationship.

The most important time to call a person, the time when you will make the biggest impression, the time to really cement a relationship…is when the other person is out of a job…or out of your specific format.

A promotion person who doesn’t keep in contact with a programmer after s/he loses a job is a poor example of a record executive.  Not only is this job failure, it’s stupid.

Where do you think these out-of-work programmers are going to wind up?  At the State Department?  Almost 99.99% will get another programming gig in radio.  And each will make you pay dearly because you “forgot” their phone number.  And out-of-work programmers aren’t fooled by that “one-time” phone call.  We’re talking about consistent, “how are you?” calls.  It won’t take much time and will come back in spades.

If, on the other hand, you get amnesia when one of your programmers gets fired, expect  s/he to develop the same malady once another job is landed.

It goes the other way as well. Programmers who depend on record people to supply them with all the freebies should keep in touch if the record person goes down in flames.  Otherwise, payback is a bitch.

Need examples?  How about all those who fawned over APD/MD Bruce St. James at KPWR Los Angeles?  Bruce goes to an Oldies station in San Diego and can’t get a phone call returned.  Guess what?  He’s back at KKFR Phoenix.

Do you suffer from short-term memory loss?

One of the very best in the business is Arista’s Richard Palmese.  When I was in radio, Richard and I weren’t particularly close, yet every time I got blown out (and believe me, it was a lot), one of the first (and last) calls I got was from Richard, inquiring as to whether there was anything he could do.

Are there any of you who have “lost” Steve Kingston’s number since he’s programming Howard Stern?  Is there anyone out there who believes Kingston won’t be programming a Top 40 station in the near future?

Ask Scott Shannon who he talked with today.  It’s those who called after he walked the plank at Pirate Radio in L.A.

What about those who forgot about Bill Richards when he left KIIS?  He’s only one of the largest consultants in the business now…and still not taking your calls.

How many of you called Rick Gillette when he was ousted in Detroit?  Did you really think he would work at Network 40 for the rest of his life?  (Okay, bad example.  He didn’t return my calls when he worked here!)

On the flip side, how many PDs lost contact with Peter Napoliello after EMI folded?  Now he’s running A&M with jobs to fill and promotions to give.

Bottom line:  If you want to be special in this business, you have to be special to those with whom you seek relationships.  Don’t forget about them when they’re between jobs…and that’s what it is…between.  Programmers are like roaches…they will be back.  Keeping in touch is good business…plus, it’s the right thing to do.

Do you suffer from short-term memory loss?

I can’t remember.

Mickey Mouse

10/24/1997

A funny thing happened last week.  They gave a convention in Orlando and nobody came.  Oh, there were many people in Orlando.  But at the convention?  Nah.  There were many places to run into a few people…as opposed to a few places to run into many people.

Seems like everyone is saving themselves for next year’s Network 40 Summer Games in Lake Tahoe.  (Hey, I bust you people for not promoting and cross-plugging…the least I can do is practice what I preach!)

Spending time with a group of people in the record and radio business can be trying… especially on a rainy weekend in Orlando.  The breadth of our conversation seems to be no wider than the moat at Disney World…and the depth about the same. Boys and girls, we need to all understand one thing:  The world (nor the topic of conversation) does not…and should not…revolve around you.

Radio programmers are particularly guilty of one-topic conversation.  Here’s a news flash:  Record promoters pretend to hang onto your every word and proclaim your ideas as fantastic.  It doesn’t mean the normal person wants to hear you pontificate about you or your radio station.  Remember, those record people are paid to be nice to you.  Do you really think you’re that great?  (If you answered yes to the previous question, you can stop reading right now…the rest of this Editorial won’t sink in.)  When you tell most people you work at a station in a big city, they think you’re pumping gas at the Exxon on the outskirts of Philadelphia.

Here’s another tip worth remembering:  When someone asks if you’ve read any good books lately, they aren’t talking about the Summer Arbitron.

Anyhow, for what it’s worth, here are some observations from a Mickey Mouse convention:

Bill Richards can’t sing. Neither can his brother Dan.  Fortunately, A&M’s Amy Grant passed the audition.

Sean Ross is the only person who can make Michael Ellis look cool.

Two things our industry needs less of:  Cigars and Golf.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again.  If you don’t play golf, please don’t start.  It’s difficult enough for those of us who are avid fans to get tee times.  We don’t need a bunch of wanabees clogging up the links.  And if you insist on playing, like at the Bill Richards Golf Tournament for the T.J. Martell Foundation, get some dressing tips.  But not from the sales people in the pro shops.  Those ugly paid outfits are only for idiots.  Don’t think that’s how it really works.  Shirts with collars.  And no jeans.  Also, you can’t play well, so play quickly.  You can take ten practice swings, study the distance, stall over your stance as long as you want, you’re still going to duff it only ten yards.  Hit the fucking ball!

Also, when you hit the perennial bad shot, don’t ask us what you’re doing wrong.  We don’t have enough time.  And we don’t care.  Take lessons.

Can’t we be ahead of the curve on the cigar thing?  I swear, there were ten of us who smoked cigars ten years ago…now, everyone is an aficionado.  Give it a rest.  Most of you don’t know one cigar from another…just because you paid $20 for a stick doesn’t mean a thing.  Please stop trying to impress us with your knowledge by showing us your collection.  You simply display your ignorance.

One of the hot topics of discussion was the changing ownership of stations. Programmers were moaning and groaning about how they were out of the loop, merely pawns on a chess board.  It’s reality.  Deal with it.  But instead of whining about major companies buying and selling stations without regard to your future, why haven’t you done something about it?  If you’re so smart, why didn’t you invest in the companies you accuse of controlling your destiny.  For example, had you purchased 500 shares of stock at the first of the year, your return would be as follows:  Emmis:  $8,000;  Chancellor:    $11,000;     Jacor:    $11,500;     Evergreens: $18,000;   SFX:   $25,000.  Put your money where your mouth is, or spend it on a good wine.

During the Top 40 panel discussion, PDs talked about “playing the hits” and tried to determine what constituted a hit.  Previous performance, sales and research were cited.    There was also talk of the need for a super group or two. Although this case could be made for other records, if this is what Top 40 needs, why isn’t everybody playing the Spice Girls?  The last three records were hits, the previous album sold nine million and the current single is uptempo.  If this doesn’t meet the criteria, could we be setting our standards a little too high?  Put it on…then let the audience tell you if it’s a hit.  I’m concerned that the biggest stumbling block for the future of Top 40 is PDs who think too much.  Take the advice of the panel:  Play The Hits.

Jump Ball:  Sean Ross and Michael Ellis.

Atlantic’s Danny Buch is one of the world’s best promotion people.  But keep him out of A&R.  He can’t sign the band he was leading.

Winner of the most talented, Most Beautiful and “the person who you would like to sit next to on an airplane” award:  Capitol’s Meredith Brooks.  (Check out next week’s issue.)

Best Speaker:  Arista’s Clive Davis.

Most boring panel:  Take your pick.

Who are the members of the “Cool Women Only Promotion Club?”

Winner of the “Damned if you go, damned if you don’t go” award:  Rick Stone.

Greg Thompson, Todd Cavanah and Dave Shakes got on an elevator.  Who refused to ride with them?

For everyone who thought the convention was boring.  I have two words for you:

Summer Games.

Inspiring Passion

10/17/1997

This week’s interview is with Jeff Smulyan, Emmis Broadcasting Chairman of the Board.  Make sure you check it out.  Jeff is one of the most successful broadcasters in our business.  He’s also intelligent and articulate.  Spend time with Jeff Smulyan and your topics of conversation will cross a broad spectrum.  If you’re lucky, he might even talk about radio.  In a world of corporate suits, he is a passionate person.

How about you?  What makes you tick?

The business of radio sometimes serves as a fog to dampen the passion we all possessed when we first started.  Remember the feeling?  Whether you were hitting a “post” on the weekend shift, answering request lines, doing research or driving the van, nothing excited you like radio.

But, if you’re not careful, success can poison your passion. The more successful you become, the more you move up the corporate ladder. You become involved in meetings, overall planning sessions, research and problem-solving…all important aspects of your job, but light-years away from what first got you interested in the business.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  If you are as great as you believe you are, find a way to create new and different ways to stoke the flame that was once the roaring fire of your passion.  Some are simple…others more complex.  But you can find a way.

First, you must schedule time for those things that really get you off.  Define the aspects of your job that really make you the happiest and most creative.  Make time for those things, no matter what they are.

Was it being on the air?  When is the last time you pulled a shift?  Do one…no matter how bad you are.  Put yourself on the all-night show one time.  Not only will it stoke your passion, but it’s a great way to find out if all your genius formatic rules actually work.  If you’re really brave, have the jocks listen and hot-line you if you screw up.

When is the last time you were behind the wheel of the station van?  Go out and drive it.  The direct interplay you get from listeners will bring a new feeling to your job…plus, you might learn something from this interaction to make your station sound better.

You should schedule a dinner with your air staff at least once each month.  Get them… and you…out of the station where the atmosphere is more causal.  You’ll be able to find out things about them that can help you in your job…and vice versa.  It’s important that those who ultimately control your destiny see you as someone other than the person who sits behind a desk and doles out criticism.

Creating a truly unique promotion is one of the most exciting aspects of programming.  There’s  nothing like coming up with an idea, putting it together and watching it work to perfection.  Those ideas are hard to come by in sales meetings.  Schedule time each week for brainstorming sessions.  Topics shouldn’t be specific, but general in scope.  If you stumble upon a great idea, then get specific on the details.

One of the greatest opportunities afforded a programmer is the chance to make a difference.  You have, at your disposal, a medium that can reach masses, influence perceptions and change minds.  One of the most rewarding experiences you can imagine is to put together a program on your station that has never been done before…one that will make a real difference in the lives of your listeners.

If you’re content to pay lip service to this concept by joining ongoing activities like Rock The Vote or the March of Dimes Walkathon (both worthy events), so be it.  But you’ll never know the feeling from watching your own conception become a reality.

In my career, I was lucky enough to program many successful major-market stations.  During those tenures, we invented and produced some of the most exciting promotions in history.

But the most rewarding experience I achieved in radio was a promotion that made a difference.  At KFRC San Francisco, we staged the first concert to benefit the veterans of the Vietnam War.  Long before rallies become en vogue, we did ours.  It was longer, more time consuming and more exhausting than any event I’ve ever been associated with.  It taxed the limits of everyone’s patience.

But in the end, it was worth it.  The money we raised was substantial…yet paled by later endeavors. The publicity for the cause we stimulated was welcomed…though a mere drop in the bucket of what came later.

The handshakes, hugs and pride in the faces of those we touched has stayed with me to this day.

Emmis has done the same thing with the “One Nation” concept on Hot 97 New York and Power 106 Los Angeles. Here is a promotion that was conceived not to make money…not to increase the audience…but to make a difference.  I had a conversation with Emmis-N.Y. Director of Programming Steve Smith, the night after the first broadcast.  I don’t think he had been asleep.  He showed me the chill bumps on his arms when he shared the vision.  I got the same feeling just from listening.

“Last night, I think we really made a difference,” Steve said.

His passion was evident.

You have the same opportunity to make a difference…if not in the lives of your audience, at least in your life…and the lives of those working with you.  But you must be bold.

PDs are accused of having inflated egos.  As a group, we are a strange bunch, prone to pontificate on just how cool we are.  Besides, it’s easy to believe the bullshit when a record promoter keeps telling us how great we are.  Those of you programming can take the opportunity to make a difference, or you can go to another sales meeting.  Your choice.

Come on, show us something.

Power Players

10/10/1997

The feature in this week’s magazine gives you an accurate picture of exactly “who owns what” in the radio industry today.  We list the top 20 broadcast companies in terms of station ownership.  It is exact and extremely up-to-the-minute.

Unfortunately, it will be out of date within the next minute.

Radio stations are being bought, sold and traded faster than cattle at a Chicago auction.  For those with the billions to play, it is a wonderful game.  For the rest who depend on radio as a living, it’s becoming an increasingly dangerous field in which to play.

I’ve written Editorials before on the approach used by most companies when looking at prospective properties.  Programming…and more important…programming ability…is seldom a consideration.  How can programmers continue to function effectively, given today’s requirements…or lack thereof?

All programmers, whether in larger or small markets, must recognize the landscape and modify their habits.  It doesn’t take a 180–just some spit and shine.  Programming is still important.  You just have to work harder to make sure you get credit for the recipe and when the pie is cut, nobody eats your piece.  No matter what companies look for when making purchase decisions, once the purchase has been made, programming is key.  No company wants to purchase a radio station, only to see it deteriorate because of internal inadequacies.

Too often, forces over which you have no say-so, change your professional life.  You could be living with a healthy share of the market, yet be bought by another company that changes the format of your station because it doesn’t fit their vision for the market.  How do you get thrown into fertilizer and come out smelling like a rose?

Programmers today must adjust.

Nobody is asking that a PD go through a personality change.  (Some would say that’s impossible since PDs don’t have personalities to begin with.)  But a little knowledge of the business outside of programming will go a long way.

In today’s radio station, programmers are asked to do much more than run Selector and make sure the jock schedule is accurate.  With all eyes on the revenue,  PDs must not only help increase the bottom line, but be able to take credit for doing so.

Not only are you in competition with other radio stations in your market, when you’re owned by a large company, you are also in competition with others at your own station.  The more “help” you can offer to your GM, the more important you become in the eyes of the company.

Become more knowledgeable of the other factors that are an important part of the job.  Be able to conduct yourself in an informative manner when discussing budgets and the financial problems that arise.  It’s all well and good to have a healthy rating share…it’s made even better if you know the difference between P&L.

When I first began working for RKO, budgets were “given” to the PDs.  We didn’t have input in determining the figure.  One day, all of that changed and the PDs were asked to sit in on P&L discussions.  When I sat down in the conference room, I jokingly said I didn’t know anything about P&L.

The chief engineer made a prophetic statement.  “You see those guys over there?” he said, pointing to the sales managers on the other side of the table, “They’re P. We’re L.”

It hasn’t changed since then.

Fortunately, early in my career, I worked for Gary Stevens, who made me take the time to learn the business side of radio.  He taught me to understand that if you know the process, you can then use it to your advantage…rather than having it take advantage of you.

If you understand what is going on, you can adjust your programming budget to suit the GM’s needs.  Find ways to cut costs within your budget before your manager demands across-the-board cost-cutting measures that put you at a disadvantage.

Want to increase your chances of landing and keeping a job in the future?  Enroll in a business course at your local college.  You don’t have the time?  Make some!

Nobody’s saying that you have to dress in a suit, carry a briefcase and know how to operate a spread-sheet.  You’re still the program director…still required to focus on programming the station successfully.  But before you start whining and saying you didn’t get into radio to become a suit, let me ask you a question:  “When did extra knowledge become detrimental to your worth as a program director?”

These days, large conglomerates own radio stations.  Often, the people hired to oversee the radio divisions of these companies aren’t broadcasters.  They’re businessmen who happen to be in broadcasting.  Your job will require that you spend time with these businessmen.  Inevitably, your worth will be judged, in great part, by what they think of you.

These businessmen aren’t like promotion people.  They aren’t interested in how cool you are…what records you broke…when you’ll be recognized as the genius you pretend to be.

These businessmen will be impressed by your knowledge of business…in addition to programming.  It’s hard to impress people if you’re ignorant of the subject being discussed.

So, what am I trying to say?  Become well-rounded.  Look beyond your immediate job responsibilities for ways to show your worth to your company and the people who run it.  Express a desire to be apart of the process rather than just a product of it.

But remember, no matter how you look in a suit…you’re still the PD.  You still have to run Selector and make out the jock schedule.

Real Time (Part Two)

10/3/1997

Last week I wrote an Editorial based on facts pulled from the book, “Real Time,” by Regis McKenna.  The premise of the book is that today’s consumers aren’t like yesterday’s…that in today’s world, keeping the customer satisfied is a never-ending battle.

The premise…and many specifics in the book…are directly relatable to radio.

Today’s audience is harder to satisfy.  Many other entertainment entities are vying for the listeners’ time.  Radio has to be better than ever…just to stay even.

In many instances, that isn’t the case.

As I’ve stated many times before, we have to be more than just “music” stations.  Music isn’t exclusive any more.  Although there are more formats than ever before, many of these “different” radio stations share the same music.  To pin your hopes of market domination only on your musical stance is a futile proposition.

The pure focus on “music only” gets more diluted when you factor in the economic realities of today’s radio conglomerates.  In the fourth quarter of last year, Chancellor Media increased the commercial load on all of their stations by one minute per hour.  Although the company dropped the extra minute after the first of the year, several companies have delivered the same edict this month.  To increase revenue, more companies will add at least a minute of commercial time to every hour for this fourth quarter-and don’t be surprised if the increase continues through next year.

As companies add commercials to increase profits, “more music” will no longer be an operable phrase.  Stations will have to provide entertainment outside the framework of music.  Programmers will have to work harder to “keep the customer satisfied.”  In order to accomplish this goal, we’re going to have to redefine our standards of operation.

McKenna tells the story of Paul MacCready the designer of the Gossamer Condor, the first human-powered airplane to fly across the English Channel.

How did MacCready succeed where many others before him failed?  He entered a competition because needed money…not because he was trying to design a new plane.  All MacCready wanted to do was cross the Channel to win $50,000.  He put together a balsa wood contraption that literally fell apart as it flew…making it lighter.  When it fell completely apart, hopefully, it would have crossed the Channel.

He did.  He won.  That’s it.

MacCready said the lesson he learned was, “Someone else always determines how we think.”  In their design attempts, other competitors had all gone by the book without ever asking the question, “Why are we stuck on these rules?”

That question is one programmers must begin asking themselves.  Forget the rules…the whole game has changed.  We must begin a new evaluation of our philosophies based on a whole new set of priorities.

One of the rules we’re stuck on in Top 40 is that an abundance of teens is a bad thing.  Not true.  In Almost every other form of advertising, products use young people as a selling point.  “Look young, think young, be young,” is the American Holy Grail.

Why are teens a bad thing where Top 40 radio is concerned?  Because the sales manager doesn’t know his head from his ass.

Teens drive older demos.  Whether it’s music, clothes, cars or a lifestyle, most parents are led by their teenagers.  Research proves that teens are responsible for the majority of purchases in the home.  They might not have the buying power, but Washington lobbyists should be so powerful.

A sales manager checks the book and sees a bunch of teens with substantial older demos.  He says, “Hey, if we get rid of our teens, we can increase our older demos.”

Wrong.  How many Top 40 stations have abandoned their teens only to see their older demos plunge?  Top 40 teens drive the older demos.  Once a Top 40 abandons the teens, the station becomes another A/C with increased competition.  How many successful Top 40s have made the move to A/C?  I’m waiting.

Not only are Top 40s guilty of abandoning their teens, but a lot pay no attention to their best customers…may of whom are teens.  Today’s listeners want instant feedback…constant attention.  They want to feel their wants and needs are being attended to.  So, what do we do?  We don’t answer our request lines.

Are you people insane?

Other businesses bend over backwards to find out what their clients want.  In radio, we often choose to ignore a direct line into our listeners’ psyche.  Boston Chicken uses a real time customer feedback system found on in-store kiosks.  A touchscreen computer sits beside store exits.  Boston Chicken hopes customers will complete a 30-second survey of their opinions so they can better serve their customers’ needs.  The premise being that the freshest information is the most valuable.

Why aren’t you doing this with request lines?  Why ignore a golden opportunity to instantly tap into your listeners?  Request lines can provide a wealth of “instant” information.  Not only can you determine what listeners want to hear, but you can find out who is listening, what they like, what they don’t like and what they would like.  All without a kiosk.

It is a small investment in time and money to access information that is definitively important to your future.  It’s also the easiest way to keep the customer satisfied.  Everyone wants to believe their opinion counts.  No one wants to call their favorite station and hear the phone ring for hours.  It gives the impression that no one is listening.

A programmer who doesn’t pay attention will get the same impression.

Real Time

9/26/1997

You must read “Real Time” by Regis McKenna.  It is the most boring tome I’ve ever read…except for “Inside The Third Reich”…yet it contains some of the most interesting facts available.  Getting through the book is like digging for diamonds…you’re going to have to sift through miles of rock and mud, but you’ll find some gems.

Regis McKenna is an intellect and a computer whiz…the book is published by the Harvard Business School Press.  If that’s not enough to scare you off…let me continue.

This book is about a lot of things…but mostly about how businesses will have to deal with a new set of guidelines that won’t be set up internally, but will be dictated by consumers.  This Editorial is made up of quotes and ideas taken from the book.

“Right here.  Right now.  Tailored to me.  Dished up the way I like it.  If the new consumers posted their expectations on a billboard, that’s what you would read.”  According to the data calculated by Mr. McKenna, the new age of consumers will radically alter the way we do business in the future.  In fact, it’s happening already.

In order to adjust to an ever-changing world, we must think outside the framework of our current “business as usual” outlook.  We must prepare today or be left out tomorrow.

Ed Artzt, chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble, shocked the advertising community by saying, “From where we stand today, we can’t be sure that ad-supported TV programming will have a future in the world being created…a world of video on demand, pay per view and subscription television.  Consumers will choose among hundreds of shows and pay-per-view movies…they’ll have dozens of home shopping channels…hours of interactive video games.  And for many of these…maybe most…there will be no advertising at all. If advertising is no longer needed to pay most of the cost of home entertainment, then advertisers like us will have a hard time achieving the reach and frequency we need to support our brands.”

Brand loyalty based on advertising is becoming a thing of the past.  Today’s customer wants one thing…and one thing only…service.  The new customer is never satisfied.

With all of the information at our fingertips today, the customer relies less and less on advertising as a means to choose what to purchase.  In the not-too-distant future, we will have all the information needed to make an informative choice of what to buy…and where to buy it at the cheapest price.  All of that information…from a paint brush to a car…will be available on the Internet.  Choice gives the customer power.  And choices are growing every day.

How does this relate to you?  Marketing…and your ideas of marketing must change.  You must begin to think outside the box.

PepsiCo supplies an excellent illustration of the shades of interactivity to come.  In the summer of 1996, the company offered the young consumers of its Mountain Dew soft drink electronic beepers, ordinarily priced at around $60, for $29.95 plus six moths of free air time worth $135.  For the six months of the promotion, Mountain Dew paged the 50,000 teenage and Generation X participants once a week and gave them a toll-free number to call.  Over the telephone connection, these young people could listen to interviews with heroes of so-called extreme sports, such as bungee jumping and sky surfing, that are featured in Mountain Dew’s TV commercials.  They could also learn about opportunities to win discounts and prizes from 20 companies whose buyers overlap heavily with Mountain Dew’s so-called “Dew Dudes.”

The idea was to offer customers a product to fit their lifestyle and make them part of a really cool network.  Not only did the beepers give Mountain Dew access to a segment of the consumer marketplace exceedingly difficult to reach through conventional media, but the PepsiCo marketing managers envisaged using the beepers in the future to ask customers their opinions of the product, its advertising and of possible promotions and product ideas.  They foresaw interactive communications initiated with beepers…combined with responses and suggestions made at the PepsiCo web site on the Internet…creating an enormous, nonstop electronic focus group at a remarkably low cost.

Although this marketing is unproven, it is a foreshadowing of future strategies.

The possibilities are unlimited.  But, they are also unimagined…so far.  Unless you think beyond your normal focus, these ideas of marketing and promotion will never occur to you.  This also applies to your staff.  Challenge them to come up with the unimagined.

Get ready to take a lot of heat.  Anytime you make suggestions that fall out of the norm, expect to be laughed at.  Understand that most of the time you’re dealing with the ignorant.  Those who fight hardest for the status quo are those with the smallest degree of imagination.  But you really have no choice.  If you don’t change…if you don’t evolve…you will disappear.

Only one-third of the companies on the Fortune 500 list in 1950 still survive today.  More  than half of the top 20 computer companies in the Unites States were not in business 20 years ago.

Today, market forces move so rapidly, and the warning signs of change are so subtle, that more often than not, we fail to see them or their effects…before it’s too late.

Unless you’re an Oldies station, don’t become a thing of the past.  Buy the book, heed some of the advice.

Instead of letting things happen to you…make things happen.