There’s Content and Then There’s the Right Content.

I was scrolling though my Facebook feed this morning…as many of us do…and noticed an update from a radio station that I use to program in Des Moines. It was what I consider a pointless status update, more of a commercial than an update really. I’m sure most would just scroll by or delete it. Being in the content building business, I headed to their page. Oh boy…

A quick bit of  background here: 95 KGGO is a Rock station that, over the past 35+ years has evolved into a Classic Rocker. They’ve always been a monster in the market and set the tone for rock in central Iowa for years. Personally, my 13 years there as Promotions and Program Director generate some of the best memories I have of my days “in radio.” Like many stations it has become less local and live staff has become scarce. I’m sure a favorite station of yours “isn’t what it use to be.” But this is not about whining about the “good ol’ days” of radio. The fact is, the way the business of broadcasting is done has changed. However, the need to build audience and create fans has not.

That brings me back to their page. It does little if anything to make anyone care about KGGO. It does little to tell me about what and who they are. It does little to make me love them. It does EVERYTHING to sell me something. And that is exactly why they are failing in taking advantage of Facebook as a way to create passionate, lasting fans.

I’ve noted the problem areas in the screenshot on the left. (Click on it to open a larger version)

  1. The ‘About Us’ doesn’t tell me about them. It offers a phone number that, when called, went unanswered. This station has heritage (note 35+ years of it above), is there really nothing you can tell me about?
  2. The “Listen Live” image/link takes me to a page that has no audio and no information listed. If you’re going to have a “listen” link there, I really ought to hear something.
  3. There is soooooo much content dedicated to “pimping” the station and contesting. For years, the effectiveness of “caller number nine” contests on radio has proven to be nil. Why would anyone think it would be great to promote it on Facebook?
  4. Holy crap! Some actual personality content. I love the South Park version of on-air guy, Clutch. There’s an actual attempt at interaction with fans. Sadly, it goes no further than one question. There’s no conclusion. The photo of the guy with the hat (on larger version) is hilarious. While I’m sure the first reaction by the station brass is that they would not like this guy to show up at a client. However, the thing to do is embrace him. Make this guy the Fan of the Week. Too much fun is possible here.

What kind of content creator would I be if I didn’t offer some additional ideas on what to post that someone would really care about, keep them coming back and (shocker) actually listen to the station. Okay, along with what I’ve already mentioned, here you go:

  1. Involve your fans. Why not check out some of the pages of your fans and share something they are sharing. Keep it light-hearted and don’t get personal. If their sharing a link to something the station is known for, share it. Don’t share personal tragedy or hardship. You want them to like you…
  2. More photos of events…with fans.
  3. Snippets of on air audio.
  4. Comments from the staff. In this case Bob and Tom, a syndicated show, isn’t in house and can’t comment on every affiliate’s page. But, they are commenting on their own page. Share it.
  5. Video, video, video! Create your own, share music videos, comment on Youtube.

So, who’s’ going to do all this? Start with the person that seems to have plenty of time to post ads and promos for contests now, but also involve everyone of the people at the station. They’ve probably got more ideas! By the way, have they all “Liked” your page?

Sadly, KGGO is not alone here. It’s a challenge each and every day with each and every project to keep fresh and compelling content coming. It’s not easy and it’s really not free but, it is worth it. so, Do it for the fans!

Radio: Welcome Back Your New Audience

Attention radio: Today Steve Jobs is offering up a whole new audience to you. OK, it’s not a new audience, it’s an audience that has been lost to downloadable music…the parade of internet sites, streams and mp3 players. The leader of which is the iPod. Since it came out so many millions of units sold ago (100 million Nanos alone.), Apple has steadfastly refused to include an FM radio with it…until today.

During the Apple “It’s Only Rock and Roll” event a healthy and reinvigorated Steve Jobs made the announcement along with others including the release of iTunes 9 and iPhone OS 3.1.

The new generation of iPod Nano now comes with an FM radio and a video camera. Radio Rejoice! I’ll let others spend time on why they think Jobs has changed course.

Most importantly, radio, here is your challenge…welcome these disenfranchised listeners back with content that they will love and spend time with. Think about it! The single most popular device that has kept listener’s ears away from your radio station now includes your station as a choice. Now those iPod users that are tired of listening to their library, are tired of hitting the skip button, and don’t have time to download anything new can listen to your content…without removing their ever-present ear-buds.

I believe the course is clear! Make sure your content is something they can love.

Gary Koelling Gets Personal With Radio

I’ve written before about my involvement with the Conclave , an organization that seeks to educate radio broadcasters. This year I had the pleasure of heading up the planning of the Tech/Interactive Track at this year’s Learning Conference (#clave09), underway right now in Minneapolis. I’m thrilled that I have been able to include many of Minnesota’s tech, interactive and social media “stars” as part of the agenda.

One of those “stars” is Gary Koelling, Best Buy’s Social Media guru and founder of Blueshirt Nation, Giftag and IdeaX. I asked Gary to talk with my broadcast brethren about increasing radio’s ‘signal strength’, a phrase Gary coined during a conversation we had some time back that refers to reaching customers through social media.

I met with Gary about an hour before his presentation because he wanted to show me what he came up with. I trust Gary implicitly to put together a great presentation on this topic…and he did. No surprise! I had expected to politely preview his slides, say “Cool!” and move on.

What I experienced, and what the attendees saw was a deeply personal story reflecting Gary’s passion for this medium and what it has meant to him over the years. He told me that every time he sat down to build his presentation he found himself “yelling” at radio for what it has become. He told me, “That’s not helpful to anyone.” So what he did was take everyone through the emotional relationship he has, and I bet all of have had, with radio.

“Other stations can steal your listeners, they can’t steal your friends.”

What Gary did at the Conclave Learning Conference was remind broadcasters about the personal connection that they must maintain with their listener’s to survive. A connection, or as Gary noted, a “friendship” that has become less important in a world where making their quarterly numbers.

Gary, thank you for taking an hour of your day to empower broadcasters by sharing your knowledge in such a personal and emotional way. They’re still talking about it…the next steps is to act.

Here is Gary’s opening “story”. See the slide deck (though I think the picture you see in your mind will be better) on Gary’s blog.

I remember as a kid growing up in the 70’s in the middle of a corn field in Iowa feeling radio was the one thing that reliably connected me to the broader world. Locally as in the world ‘in town’ but also the world beyond. Listening during the long summer breaks to KWAY and the daily “Swap and Shop” and lives coming together, lives falling apart. Revealed to me in the items that people needed or needed to get rid of. The stories of lives beginning and lives ending and unexpected twists and detours in otherwise normal, boring lives were told in elaborate and veiled detail from eleven to one every day.

Later, as a car-less young teenager, I got around on tractors and bicycles and dirt bikes up and down gravel roads and through the fields of corn and corn and soybeans listening to radios, discovering popular music, music that was not my parents’ and feeling connected to that agitated, rebellious, horny angst of 38 Special, and Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers and Steve Miller. Then feeling so desperate to be part of it and for it to be part of what I was trying to be. I called the KFMW request line – long distance. A human answered the phone. Older. Male. Deep and busy sounding. I stepped up and said could you play ‘Refugee’ for Christie. What song you want played? Uh, Refugee by Tom Petty and the – . Refugee. Alright I’ll get it right on kid. Click. And my chest felt full of hot blood and breath and my face was hot red and I got on my ten speed and pedaled hard up the road with a radio hanging over the ram horn handle bar of my bike. I prayed I could get to Christie before the DJ played the song.

I wanted to see her face. Take credit. Get laid. But Christie wasn’t home. I hung out under the tree across from her driveway, heart beating frantically, hoping that the song wouldn’t come on. Then her mom’s car crawled up the road and slowed as it passed me and pulled into the driveway. I played it cool as her mom squinted over the wheel at me, the radio playing as it hung from my handle bars. I practiced in my mind how I would tell her that I requested the song for her. Her favorite. That I thought I was falling in love with her. And we’d kiss. That afternoon we talked for hours and hours feeling half drunk from the smell of sun and pool water and sweat and faint cigarette smoke that only a fifteen year old girl can twirl together into the sweetest perfume a fifteen year old boy would ever smell.

Then as the fireflies came out and the sun got low she had to go in for dinner. I rode home slow. And the song came on. And that heavy, hot blood and breath came back into my chest. And then I was a teenager. A teenager as free and angry and in deep and desperate as any had ever been and protected only by a transistor FM radio.

Radio…Still Not Just For AM/FM Anymore

I had the chance to sit in on the Infinite Dial presentation by Arbitron and Edison Research. (Check out my post on last year’s presentation.) Of course I encourage you to take a peek at the presentation. In the meantime…the highlights!

First and foremost, a bit of perspective. Sponsored by Arbitron, who serves the broadcast industry, this webinar was designed to target terrestrial broadcasters, you know, AM/FM. So keep that in mind as you read this and as you look at the actual presentation. Hopefully it will continue to push them to adopt and take advantage of the online opportunities that are present today.

Second, the term “online radio” for the sake of this research, references the 11% who listen to the online stream of an AM/FM station plus the 9% that listen to an online only, or “pure-play” product (Pandora, Slacker, etc.)

Continuing to dispel the myth that only the “young” audience listens to radio online, of the now 42 million who listened to online radio in the past week, this years research noted strong use balanced nicely across all age demographics. In addition, the listener tended to be more “upscale” as it applies to income and education.

What is attracting listeners to online? The answer is really of no surprise to regular readers of this blog. It’s all about control and it’s step-sister choice. Note the nod to “variety” which I think really means choice. (Of course, to many of my colleagues in radio, will see this as justification to continue to totally overuse the word in station imaging and branding. Ick.)

Arbitron took the time to remind us that, as it applies to the PPM (Personal People Meter), internet only radio or podcasts are not encoded and are not reported. I think it’s kind of cool to point out the lack of efficacy of the Arbitron product in a world that is rapidly using other platforms to hear radio. To be fair, in answer to my question, “Will Arbitron be seeking to encode and track said online delivery?” they did answer yes! (Though, no timeline was given.)

The study did note that 27% of Americans have purchased digital audio online. BTW, online radio listeners who buy jumps that number to 43%. No numbers on pirated music was noted.

In the world of downloadable content, of particular interest to me and my involvement in the Association for Downloadable Media, the term Podcast (love it or hate it) has taken hold with 43% of Americans being aware of podcasts. Always the master of the understatement my friend Tom Webster of Edison pointed out that “podcasting is now mainstream!” Hey, 27 million Americans who have listened to a podcast in the last month can’t be wrong!  One last podcast tidbit…podcast  use already eclipses satellite radio. There’s that “control” thing again!

Speaking of other content sources, here are some quick hits…

  • Satellite radio use…leveled off.
  • HD Radio…though 32% are interested in HD the presentation didn’t make mention of usage, which can’t be good. “HD Radio…Hello, is this thing on?”
  • Cell phone…has the biggest impact on on listener’s lives. Prompting Tom’s comment that the cell phone is the transistor radio of today. (For those of you who are saying “Transistor Radio? It’s what Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa carried before the boombox or iPod…groovy.)
  • Video…just plain blowing up online! (“America is literally looking outside the box.”)

So here’s the upshot, the big kahuna of take-aways, from this presentation for radio and any content producers: Consumers expect to find their desired content online and that includes them wanting expanded media options while in their cars. Can you say Wimax? That’s not to say the current mediums are dead. Clearly they still reach ears. However, if you can’t give it to them on multiple platforms through multiple channels, your chance of them hearing you is diminishing everyday.

One Answer To “Radio, What Do We Do Now?”

(This post is a response to a call from Mark Ramsey of Hear 2.0 and Radio & Records magazine for ideas that can help secure radio’s future. See a pdf here. Note: RemainComm is referenced as “a Social Media consultancy.” Though Social Media represents one of our core competencies, RemainComm encompasses many media strategies, both interactive and traditional.)

As I pointed out in my Social Hour webinar of the same name, it is vital for radio to Join the Conversation online through a well thought out and executed social media strategy and the appointment of someone to oversee it.

For the sake of this discussion, compliments of Wikipedia, “Social media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings and most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio.”

In radio, too many times our presence on the internet is merely a stake in the ground, allowing us to proudly proclaim, “Yes, I am online!” Radio’s presence in the online space needs to be more than signing up for a MySpace page or Twitter account. It must be about using those tools to reach and build stronger relationships with your audience…to engage them in conversation. The use of social media will allow you to take this one way medium, radio, and turn it into a two-way conversation.

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Filling the “White Spaces”

 I found the phrase “white spaces” interesting when it was announced yesterday that the FCC has allowed conditional unlicensed use of “white spacestelevision spectrum. In an attempt to avoid getting bogged down in tech speak. This is the radio spectrum that is now available as a result of TV’s switch to digital.

Once the FCC found that the issue of interference with existing radio signals could be overcome through technology that shuts down any device using the “white space” once it senses another signal, granting access was a slam dunk.

Companies like Google and Microsoft herald the decision as a way to allow widespread mobile adoption. On the other hand, broadcast companies (seeing yet another reason to claim “everybody is out to get us”) and the likes of Verizon (already hot to charge more for services) are less than thrilled.

As I have said previously, I personally am thrilled with anything that allows the growth and spread of mobile access if it leads us closer to parity with other countries (Luxembourg for God’s sake) in services offered wirelessly. I am also concerned as a radio fan. This magic sensing thing-a-ma-bob that prevents interference with existing frequencies sure better work. The last thing any “channel” needs is a return to the “party line” annoyance of too many on a channel. Ick!

“White spaces”  also triggered in me another use of that term. A use that I see benefitting many media channels. As of late yesterday the flood of political advertising stopped…I’ll pause as you jump up and down with joy and do a couple of Tiger Woods arm pumps…done? This sudden loss of “content” in itself reveals a whole lot of “white space”.

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Pandora…Who Cares? You!

There has been a flurry of press about the online music service Pandora in the last few days. The buzz was generated by founder Tim Westergren  when he told the Washington Post that the company is “approaching a pull-the-plug kind of decision” because of royalty increases that will begin to take hold. In fact, $17 million of a projected $25 million in revenue for this year will go toward royalties.

Yes, I’m a Pandora fan, though not a heavy user, and I also have some strong feelings as they apply to royalties and fees, including my post on SoundExchange. What interests me most is perhaps summed up in a question posed by Harve Alan who blogs on the subject of radio: Maybe we should befriend Pandora?

Maybe? No ifs, ands, or buts about it, Harve is the master of understatement. While he is speaking to the terrestrial broadcast community, he is also speaking to every medium, service, company, or individual who showcases music. I’m talking from good ol’ radio to the local club owner to you the listener.

Of course there is a business model that is at work here. But, in Pandora we have a service that was created by a musician and music lover with wants to tailor a listening experience to an individuals taste while at the same time exposing them to new music by a group of artists who for years, never received any kind of “national” exposure, a service (along with the likes of Last.FM, Imeem, etc) that answers so many of the complaints listeners and artists have expressed for years and we have to wonder who should care?

Radio, you should care because, like it or not, the web is where people have gone to discover music and you will, eventually I hope, follow them. What happens to Pandora will happen to your online initiatives. There’s too much ad money being spent online for you to allow that to happen.

Music Industry, you should care. Yeah, the traditional business model is hosed and, though the ultimate answer has yet to be found, being a party to targeting those providing ears to hear your product and charging them out of business sure as hell isn’t the way to do it.

Artists, you should care. Not only will revenue go away, but so will fans because if they can’t hear you, how in the hell can they be a fan.

Club owners, you should care. Sure you can sling beers at people who happen to show up when a band is playing. But you can do much better serving those fans, and their friends, that come out in droves to see the act that they heard online or on air.

Listeners, you should care because choice is what you’ve always wanted and you deserve nothing less.

Even if we never listen to them…we all should befriend Pandora.

My, hasn’t the FCC been busy…

Wow, the FCC turned up in the news allot over the past 10 days. This could lead to displacing the latest news from Brangelina…nah! The impact will be felt across all media. Well, maybe not print…but they have enough to worry about.

Satellite Radio.
Big surprise, they approved the merger of XM and Sirius with very few stipulations attached. Much to the chagrin of the NAB, MPR, NPR, PRI, and many other letters of the alphabet except MEL. Mel Karmazin has successfully gotten his wish and, once he fights off the inevitable appeals, will oversee one unprofitable satellite radio service instead of two. So far the only way this business has made any money at all is from investors who keep hoping that the promises made to them that “it will be profitable” actually come true.

To be fair, this was inevitable. To deploy that many birds, maintain studios and staff, keep up with operating expenses, pay content fees and royalties, as well as create new content while patiently waiting for enough subscribers to make it all profitable is no simple task for one company, let alone two.

In it’s July 20th Notice of Proposed Rulemaking the FCC is looking to mandate filters “That filters or blocks images and text that constitute obscenity or pornography…” on free broadband. It’s a bit of a slippery slope, especially when you come across the infamous “as measured by contemporary community standards” line. This has to do with the new spectrum that the FCC is auctioning off known as the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) Spectrum. Does this start us down the road of censorship of internet content? Take note: this talks about filtering services that make internet content available to the public for free, not the removal of content from the internet. Like I said a slippery slope. Info here and here.

I remember distinctly the day Janet Jackson’s nipple became half-time entertainment because of that “wardrobe malfunction”. I’m still trying to figure out if the way I explained it to my kids was even close to effective. I also remember the half million dollar fine the FCC threw at CBS for airing it. Keep in mind a 30 second ad costs 2.7 million clams so really, the fine was chump change. No matter, it all got overturned on July 21. Look for more nipples coming soon to half-time shows near you. Now if we can get somebody to tell the N(nipple)FL to lighten up on the use of the words Super Bowl. C’mon guys, don’t make everyone in media say “the big game.” For the love of Pete…why would you want to limit someone from using your brand by name. Find something else for your lawyers to do. But I digress…

Radio. All of the above.

The Point Is…Concerns of a Music Loving Radio Fan

 One of the most highly anticipated sessions at the Conclave Learning Conference this past week was the Friday Royalties and Performance Fees for terrestrial radio discussion. This one had all the signs of being highly combustible, and for the most part it did produce some great sound bites.

A quick bit of history. One of our players, incorporated in 2003, Sound Exchange is designated by the U.S. Copyright Office to collect and distribute digital performance royalties for featured recording artists and sound recording copyright owners (usually a record label) when their sound recordings are performed on digital cable and satellite television music, internet and satellite radio. SoundExchange currently represents over 3,500 record labels and over 31,000 featured artists and whose members include both signed and unsigned recording artists; small, medium and large independent record companies; and major label groups and artist-owned labels.

The other of our players is the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). The National Association of Broadcasters is a trade association that advocates on behalf of more than 8,300 free, local radio and television stations and also broadcast networks before Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and the Courts

The current debate and the reason for the session at the Conclave Learning Conference centers on pending legislation that would require terrestrial radio broadcasters pay a performance fee. This performance fee is designed to pay performers of the music on a per play basis and is already paid by online, satellite and cable stations. In short, this is a new fee, or “tax” as the NAB’s David Rehr likes to say, to broadcasters. (Radio, like digital media, currently pays royalties to writers via BMI, ASCAP and SESAC.) Broadcasters and the NAB feel that due to the promotional nature of the medium, they should be exempt from the fee. Sound Exchange disagrees and, that like other entities including online and satellite, radio should pony up. Those are the facts in a very small nutshell. (More can be found here and here.)

The session produced some brief volleys between the two sides inspiring
quotes like David Rehr’s “I’d rather cut my own throat than negotiate”
for a performance royalty. In actuality, there was very little actual
discussion or debate between the opposing sides. Both sides, with a few
exceptions chose to make statements to the audience instead.

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It’s Time For Radio to Get Social…Again.

The time I spent at the Conclave Learning Conference this past week was filled with many highlights. The most obvious was the fact that radio needs to get social. By “get” I mean broadcast has to understand the social media space and it needs to become active in it. And I contend “being” social is nothing new to radio.

First and foremost, it became quite apparent to me during a few sessions that the talk of social media applications and marketing tools (Twitter, blogging, streaming, podcasting) was foreign to many in attendance. Congratulations to those that made the trip to Minneapolis and the Learning Conference. It is no longer foreign to you. To my radio brethren that haven’t made the commitment to learn I say, “I know you’re busy, but you need to find time to understand and be part of social media.” Not being hip to this will kick you in the butt.

Second, I want to encourage radio as a whole to remember that you are part of what could be the original social medium. Remember when we reached out to the community? Remember when we asked for callers to give us input and requests? Remember when we asked listeners to join us at “remotes”…back when we made them events. Yes, we were doing “social” long before Facebook. Then we got safe. Then we started to be so inwardly focused the social aspect of radio became something we just did and not something we were involved in.

Here’s a quick side note and a way to get social instantly. Don’t ask for a request unless you intend to play it within minutes of receiving it. Be honest 95% of radio stations don’t really play requests.  If you are part of that majority, don’t lead your listeners to think you will play one. Figure out some other way to get the phone to ring. Your audience will appreciate your honesty.

Finally, what I want to emphasize more than anything to everyone in all forms of social media is this; don’t over emphasize the “media” in the term social media. Media is just the conduit to get the act of being social to your audience. Being social requires involvement. It’s about building a relationship. If you don’t get that you must really be involved with your audience or customer or you don’t want to take the time to do it, the medium by which you reach them is of no consequence.

I dig the crap out of everything from Twitter to Friendfeed to Facebook to Ning but they are really only as good as the message and my level of involvement.

More from the Conclave Learning Conference tomorrow…

At the Crossroads with the Conclave

I’ll be spending the next 4 days at the Conclave Learning Conference in downtown Minneapolis. This 33rdConclave08atthecrossr_medium2

annual event has nothing to do with electing the Pope and everything to do with educating broadcasters.

The agenda committee has adopted a “track” agenda focusing on Promotion, Management & Programming, Formatics, Life Skills and Tech. I’m looking forward to many sessions including those in Tech from Jerry Del Colliano, Richard Rene, and Lee Abrams. These folks are among those broadcasters who are greeting the opportunities to connect with audience that new and social media offers.   

I’m also really interested to hear from the NAB’s David Rehr about what the radio lobby is doing these days…clearly, it hasn’t been convincing Steve Jobs to include a radio receiver on the iPod. The session addressing performance royalties and licensing fees pitting both sides against…um…I mean…featuring representatives from the radio industry, Sound Exchange and NARAS is also on my list. The debate should produce some interesting comments, if not a high body count.

See the agenda here and look for my comments on Twitter over the weekend and, of course, a post or two next week.

Of course, the weekend won’t be complete without me and my radio buds getting together and to eat an entire cow at Lindey’s in Arden Hills. Mooo!

Now You Know…ACT!

A great post from Mark Ramsey today at Hear2.0. Mark is brilliant and has always lead the way in giving a collective smack on the backside of the broadcast industry to stay on top of changing communication. In fact, to be honest, I sometime worry about how much he smacks them. The fact is though…he’s right. Be sure and listen to his presentation here.

Now that you’ve listened, act! Broadcast, The New Radio is out there waiting, but you can’t get there on the cheap and you can’t do it by making your “stick” a second thought. There needs to be understanding, a strategy, resources, real people to make it all work, and above all, a relationship with your clients…both listeners/users and clients.