Where does change happen?

September 23, 2006

I’m often amazed at how unwilling the radio industry appears to be to embrace the obvious opportunities that sit right in front of us in the new media sphere.

Seth Godin’s latest – “When Culture Gets Stuck” gives as good of an explanation as any for the reason why people resist change.

Once something makes its way to the mass market, the mass market doesn’t want it to change. And once it moves from that big hump in the middle of the market to become a class, the market doesn’t just want it to not change, they insist.

Radio -as a very mature industry – is notorious for needing all kinds of supporting research for making any kind of move away from “what we know works”.   Personally – it’s the most unfortunate thing about radio.

Seth  –

Inside most fields, we see pitched battles between a few people who want serious change to reinvigorate the genre they love–and the masses, who won’t tolerate change of any kind.

History has shown us that the answer is crystal clear: if you want change, you’ve got to leave. Change comes, almost always, from the outside.

The people who reinvented music, food, technology and politics have always gone outside the existing dominant channels to create something new and vital and important.

So where is outside of radio?

Satellite is one.

We spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over the Satcasters – but when we look at what they’re doing – they’re trying to change things – to make new things  – the kind of things that simply are not possible in the terrestrial radio world.   That frightens lots of people.  Unnecessarily in my view.   They see the world as “either-or”.

I’ve always thought there was a place for the Satcasters in the audio entertainment world.  Along with mp3 players internet streams etc..

There should be way more minds trying more things in different ways in the sphere of audio entertainment than commercial radio alone.

Commercial radio operates 1 way.  That’s not going to change much.  But that doesn’t mean it’s the ONLY way radio can be performed.

And it shouldn’t be the only way either.  Not anymore.
That’s why I often applaud efforts by the satcasters and internet radio who are trying new things – who are using their imagination to do things differently and why I get so frustrated with commercial radio people who think there’s only 1 way to do radio and scoff, mock or fear alternative approaches.

I believe the competition is good for radio.  It’s already making radio better.


Everyone is a liar

September 22, 2006

That’s the logical conclusion one could draw based on a new PPM Spot Study (pdf) by Arbitron which concludes that radio audience levels remain extremely high (from 87.7-99.6 %) during commercial breaks ranging from 1 to 6 minutes in length.

Of course, this defies conventional wisdom.

It defies nearly ALL of the first hand listener reports I’ve witnessed – it defies the actions of others I’ve witnessed – it certainly defies my own actions.  In short – it counters everything I know to be true from both my own observations of others and myself using radio – AND from people giving an acocunt of their own behavior when using radio.

What’s actually happening according to this study – at least with 2100 people in Houston in Nov-Dec 05 – is that nearly everyone (at least 87.7%) is sitting through radio commercial breaks.

This isn’t just “a little” off from conventional wisdom – it’s WAY off.

Is that cause for concern?

via mark ramsey 

Long Tail chat

September 20, 2006


I may not be in Dallas this week – but I did just watch Long Tail author Chris Anderson give a talk at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. 

Most of the talk was Chris covering familiar ground for me (I read the original Wired article and kept up with his blog and articles over the years) but he managed to articulate a concept that I’ve been finding difficulty articulating myself.  The culture created by the media landscape is increasingly desynchronized. 

In the past – chances were good most of us watched the same TV show last night – read the same newspaper this morning –  listened to the same radio station on the ride in to work and found many people around the water cooler with which we could have superficial conversations about all these things we “shared”.  The culture was synchronized around HUGE hit shows, songs and news sources.

These HUGE hits were not an accurate representation of the tastes of the people  – but rather a consequence of the limits the delivery systems imposed on the market.  When there were 3 shows to watch – most of the country was watching 3 shows.  In other words – the hits of the past and the shared culture around them were an anomoly.

Bring in the explosion of choices today- and while many of the most popular outlets are still “most popular” (big 3 networks for example) far fewer people are synchronized around them.  A trip to the water cooler no longer means discussing the show everyone watched last night.  They’re all watching different stuff now – and even then many are probably time shifting it from it’s original airing. 

What’s the point?  Today’s “hits” are hits among smaller groups of people.  And this is going to continue. 

There will always be anomolies – but the overall trend is moving towards preference for OTHER to equal and eclipse the HITS.     

Why I’m not in Dallas

September 19, 2006

The NAB Radio Show in Dallas kicks off and I won’t be there.

I did inquire with the company about going and the initial response was – “there’s no creative director sessions there”.

So there’s 2 reasons I won’t be there:

1.) I didn’t push it hard enough.

2.) I didn’t push it hard enough.

I could blame the company for not seeing outside of org charts. Even though I’m included in many strategy / research / creative meetings there’s still some areas where old ways are firmly intact. Going to these conventions is one of them.

I would very much like to have seen Fred Jacobs Panel and Mark Ramsey’s presentation. To meet more people and talk about these issues face to facce. But – I didn’t push it hard enough. I hoped the company would simply see it as a no-brainer that I should be there.

That’s my bad. I didn’t sell it. And that’s why I won’t be in Dallas.

Crystal Ball

September 18, 2006

It’s my first day back from a week off (even though the only days I didn’t communicate with the office were the 2 sundays) and a few posts pop up that seem to paint a fairly troubling picture for radio.

First – Fred Jacobs tackles the R&D problem with radio.

From our view at 35,000 feet, we see situation after situation where research spending in radio has clearly diminished. While some companies continue to approach research in the same methodical way that healthy people get an annual physical, many others have quietly cut back on spending as their economic situations have become more dire. We get it – you have to cut somewhere. But is research the best place to reduce spending, especially at a time when radio is under fire from any number of competitive challenges?

I addressed radio research here – my point wasn’t so much like Fred’s (that we’re cutting our research budgets – although I agree with Fred) but that the KIND of research we’re doing is exactly the same as it’s always been.

We’re asking mostly the same questions in the same way and I’m not convinced ALL radio research questions and methods devised in the 70’s are still relevant in today’s environment.  Also – our research is mostly designed to take the temperature of things we already did rather than help find new things we could be doing to keep people engaged.  Particularly now when the very relevance of radio is in question – which leads me to the next post.

This one (not ironically) from the Edison Research blog “Infinite Dial” (I still love that title!) about the 12-24 radio habits.

In 2000, Edison Media Research presented a study entitled “Radio’s Future: Today’s 12-24 Year Olds.” The study was put forth as a cautionary tale, urged broadcasters to take more aggressive steps to fight young-end erosion that was already taking place, and included the following warning: “An industry that fails to cultivate new users will almost certainly erode over time.”

We now follow up that study with a new look at the current 12-24 audience.

Among the findings of the new study:

TSL among 12-to-17-year-olds is down 22% since 1993. Weekly TSL at that time was 65 quarter-hours. By 2000, it had fallen below 60; it is now 51 quarter-hours per week.

While much recent attention has been focused on teens who may not be learning to use radio at all, 18-to-24 TSL has declined by an even larger percentage (24%). TSL in 1993 was 95 quarter-hours per week; it is now 72 quarter-hours. Listening 12-24 is falling significantly faster than among those 25-plus.

If Radio were in the lumber business this would be called clear cutting.  But even lumber companies understand that they can’t JUST be in the cutting business – they also need to be in the planting and growing business or there’s no business tomorrow.

Radio – in it’s defense has never had to do this or think like this.

People ALWAYS just listened to radio from a young age – almost as a right of passage.  The industry never had to motivate people to listen to the radio – or teach them – they just came.  Where else were you going to hear all the great new music?

Ah ha.

We’re not in that business anymore.  Do we know it?

Exploding Media

September 14, 2006

From Jeff Jarvis at Buzz Machine

Exploding TV: Who needs a tower?
Read More:

LostRemote chronicles the fall season’s evidence of TV’s explosion:

* ABC streams its primetime shows.
* ABC offers free iTunes downloads of season finales.
* NBC streams its primetime shows.
* CBS offers shows free on video-on-demand.

TV is starting to “get it”.

Where’s Radio?

The New York Times takes a look.

Stern Mistake

September 13, 2006

OrbitCast has ALL the nitty gritty analysis of the recent contention that Stern’s Star (as measured by search queries) is fading fast.

My observation is more with the opportunity lost.  I think Stern/Sirius have done a poor job of reminding me (a listener) what I’m missing now that Stern is gone from traditional radio.

Sirius got the first part right – they got Stern.  Now they need his listeners – and the only way to do that is a steady disciplined multi-faceted campaign to remind former Stern listeners what they’re missing.

Where’s the Howard hype machine?