Tag Archives: fun factor in radio

USE YOUR EARS…  AND BRAIN!

USE YOUR EARS…  AND BRAIN!

Ed Hill programmed several radio stations.  Among them top rated country stations in Salt Lake City and Seattle.

Ed knows what he is doing.  He learned as a jock from the great program directors of years ago that he worked for.  Plus Ed is smart.  He never just imitated another radio station.  He thought about his station, it’s brand, it’s images, it’s fun factors and then created fresh locally meaningful content.

Ed’s been out of country radio for a couple of years but he’s still got that great brain. Here is his insightful post about listening to the one country radio station in Los Angeles.

I reprint Ed’s post here.

I have been out of country music and radio for almost two years. Listened to Go Country in LA and they have imaging on the air that is years old. I mean they mentioned “your iPod” who has an iPod?

Another big issue… The songs and the themes of the songs we’re all the same. Pure vanilla. Whoever is programming that station is not paying attention to the details. I never listen to radio anymore but decided to listen to see what has happened to the music.
This one jock said “ Here’s the latest from….
It was an act I have never heard of so I asked my 21 year old daughter who that was and she had no idea.

Then the female jock was promoting the morning show and she said… Set your alarm clocks . Clocks. Yes she said clocks. Yes CLOCKS.

Does anybody get reviewed anymore? The radio audience is shrinking. You have to be better than what I heard or you will accelerate
the inevitable slow decline into irrelevance.

Ed couldn’t be more right.

Might I suggest you take a full day outside of your own radio station and listen all day.

Attack your own station like it was your competition.  Think, “This station is programmed by an idiot.  Let me pick it apart!”

Make a list of every weakness.

Every anachronistic thing.

Every thing that is self serving and not listener benefit centric.

Then fix things.

It’s not just your career. It’s the career and welfare of everybody who works at the station.  Get it right!

Are you qualified to be PD of your station?

If you think so prove it!

Ed and I are not related.  We are brothers of different mothers.  Ed is that ok with you?

Get Your Music Right!  Get Everything Right!

If you need help call Keith Hill 252-453-8888        

 

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A NEIGHBORS QUESTION ABOUT MUSIC ON THE RADIO

A NEIGHBORS QUESTION

So this past week I was on the road to a great local cluster of radio stations.  Live local mornings, middays and afternoons on stations that serve the community.

When I got back it was relaxing to go over to a neighbors for a nice home cooked dinner, wine, and conversation.

“So what did you do this week?”  I was asked. Well a lot but what I said essentially was “we freshened the music libraries of the Classic Rock  and Country stations.  The country station we tuned to be a little newer or a little less gold.”

My pal is a chemical engineer and his wife works for a realty company.  So what they know about radio is that there are two knobs. If they don’t like a song they switch the station.

He said.. “do people’s tastes change?  I mean once you get the music right … why do you have to change it?”

I explained that even if you have research on the market tastes folks who listen to the station do change how they feel about those songs.  I  explained call out research and auditorium music testing. It forced me to explain “hooks” and how that it is simply stimulus to response research.

Once you sort in the songs that are best to play often, midrange songs to play some and lesser songs play rarely and poorly testing songs are taken out, then you put that tested music on the air.  Like anything organic as you play those great testing songs your P1 (preference one) audience over the time of three to six months will begin to fatigue on them. Different folks have different responses.  Some folks never tire of hearing their favorite songs.  Others literally will say.. “I love that song and its one of my all time favorites but BIG 109 plays it every hour and has worn it out.”

Now they don’t play it every hour.  They might play it every day in a different hour but you listen to the station so much that you are exposed to those same 450 songs a bunch!

So I explained to my chemical engineering friend that while folks do have feelings about songs those feelings change as we run up the odometer count on those songs.

One of my analogies is that songs have a color.  When they are fresh they are green.  We often call fatigue of a song “burn.”  The phase is “folks are “burned” on a song means that they have tired of it because of the many impressions or exposures of plays of the song.  I explained “Power, Medium, and Light” rotations.  I call burned songs brown.  We rest them to “re-green” them.

I even explained platooning as a thoughtful system of resting a small number of those power songs that are most played.  We might rest them for four weeks.  When we bring them back we might rest another chunk of say 8 to 10 songs for 4 weeks.  That way there are always songs that are resting.  We pick the most played by the “odometer” count, in that category, to rest.  When we return the songs there is a library play “odometer” that doesn’t change.  It never resets.  It’s always cumulative.  However, the plays in category “odometer” we reset to zero when we move it back to play after resting.

My chemical engineer friend said, “huh, I didn’t think it was that involved.”  He added, “I thought once you put in the best songs you were done except for adding new ones.”

Then after some more wine I learned more about the making of chemicals.  It involves chemistry which is much more complicated than radio programming.  But I did hear about giant mixers.  Think of the mixer you might have in your kitchen but the size of your house instead.  I’m glad my friend makes oxo and glycol.

Apparently I need all those chemicals for the radiator of my car and somehow the oxo ends up being important in plastics for the steering wheel, taillight lenses and faceplate of the radio.

Two friends had dinner and talked radio.  Sort of.

Is your music right? Fresh?   Stale?  Burned?

Get your music right call Keith Hill 252-453-8888   

If you need oxo or glycol I know a guy.

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AN HOUR OF ALL FEMALES ON COUNTRY RADIO

Women of iHeart Country

Bobby Bones just got a promotion.  He will be VP, Creative Director of iHeart Country.

You can tell Bobby works hard.  Bobby has invested lots of long hours of work for iHeart Country stations and their collateral platforms and festival promotions.  He’s an asset for the company.

iHeart like many other larger broadcasters use shows to save salaries on the local level.  Plus in many cases you could never get that level of talent locally.

On the down side it isn’t local.  While there is technology where Bobby can record liners for a station in Bakersfield and they can play them back.  So to some it sounds like Bobby is actually there when he talks about Whiskey Flat Days.

Local jocks can not only talk about these things generously and intelligently but they can make live appearances.

But in the same way we loved David Letterman it is possible to have radio network syndication work to some level.

I also say BRAVO to more “creative” on radio in general let alone IHeart radio.

Some of my radio buddies and me would go on Rock N Roll and Country field trips!

We went to see the places where Lynyrd Skyryd, Otis Redding, Ricky Nelson, Bill Chase, Jim Croce, Stevie Ray Vaughn and others had come to life’s end.

I came up with the idea that we would each make cds of music we would play for the others in the car. We chose themes.  One guy did famous songs and the songs they were stolen from.  I did a cd with two versions of every song.  One version was fully produced and one acoustic.  As we played our cds we told stories about the songs.  It occurred to all of us that this is what radio should be like.  It was a group of experienced radio folks.

I am a music scheduler.

Yes, I am the guy who gave a metric of the amount of women I’d suggest on country radio and called them tomatoes in the salad.

There are countdown shows and they work.  Even though typically you’d never play one to four hours of nothing but currents.  Under a specialty umbrella various concepts can work.

One of the things the women who advocate more women on the radio say is that “it’s never been tried!”

Bobby also announced he will be launching a new show the “Women of iHeart Country.”  I guess from the name it will be only or principally on iHeart stations.

I’m glad Bobby will be trying an hour of all females.  Then we can see how it does.

How do YOU think it will do?   Post your thoughts on Facebook at The UnConsultant

Keith Hill 252-453-8888       

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FUN FACTOR – CHRISTMAS IN JULY!

FUN FACTOR – CHRISTMAS IN JULY

This blog is going to be FUN!

Your mission if you choose to accept it is to listen to KKBO Bismarck on July 25th.

KKBO is 105.9 BIG RIG COUNTRY.

The excellent PD / Morning Man is Sid Hardt.   Great voice, great with listeners, cares about the community and understands that building a radio station audience involves making things memorable.  Often that comes as the result of being FUN!

Tomorrow on the BIG RIG it will be “Christmas In July!”

You’ll definitely hear “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”  and if you listen long enough I suspect you’ll her Burl Ives, Bing Crosby and Gene Autry.

You’ll hear Santa Claus!  (if you recognize who Santa is voiced by post in on The UnConsultant Facebook page.

Ho Ho Ho. Prize, Christmas records and FUN!

The best way to communicate this FUN FACTOR today is listen to 105.9 BIG RIG COUNTRY!

http://streamdb9web.securenetsystems.net/v5/KKBO

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BIG SUCCESSFUL RADIO BRANDS

RADIO BRANDS

Last week I was at Conclave in Minneapolis.  It’s always good to dust off your brain and go to class to learn.  The first panel was the best for me.

Jim Ryan talked about WCBS-FM.  It had been a big brand in New York for years.  Then it was Jack for a short run.  Then back to WCBS-FM, in part because that brand was so BIG.

Jim told the story of needing to update the 60’s and 70’s based station to become an 80’s station. Who was the personality who played those songs as currents?  Why Scott Shannon recently jettisoned from Cumulus WPLJ.

Jim felt that the addition of Scott along with that 80’s product would be a combination that worked.  Boy has he been right. WCBS-FM has been in the top 3 rankers 25-54 all the time.

Jim also told the story of Patty Steele being diagnosed with breast cancer.  Jim encouraged her to take it to the airwaves not only as bonding and sharing with the audience but to help other women going through this.

Ratings spiked. It turns out our personalities being real is important.  Furthermore those cume numbers we look at are more than numbers they are real people.  They have lives. They have life hassles too!

Jim also shared the truth of Fresh 102.7 being a poor brand.  They went out and asked folks what kind of radio station Fresh 102.7 is?  No one could really articulate a clear singular message.

Now it’s been relaunched as NEW 102.7.  It’s up against Jim’s old home of WLTW (Lite FM) he knows Lite’s strengths for sure.

WLTW is Iheart and they are playing two very long stop sets every hour.  (sometimes 9 minutes)

NEW 102.7 has some commercial free hours and limits the non-commercial free hours to two 5-minute stop sets.  I think if WLTW doesn’t respond they will be given a hair cut of some kind for sure.

Jeff McCarthy of Midwest Communications talked about the mega CHR he has WIXX-FM.

One of his stories is about partnering with the iconic Green Bay Packers.  When the Packers won the Superbowl the WIXX-FM van was the first thing in the victory parade.  WOW!

Scott Jameson shared stories of the 50-year legacy of 92 KQRS.  It was clear that while there are thousands of reasons for KQ’s giant successes.  None more prominent than the long tenure of powerful morning man Tom Barnard.

I’ve been in sessions in the past where air checks of Tom doing top 40 at WDGY were played. Tom was also the booth announcer for KSTP-TV 5 in the Twin Cities.  Hometown boy slays dragon.  Bravo Tom.

Big personalities. Being real.  Giving back to the marketplace.  Thinking BIG!

When asked how to build a successful radio brand Jeff McCarthy said, “THINK BIG.”

Is your station thinking BIG?

Card tables and duct tape won’t do it.  Voice tracking won’t do it.  Standing in the back of the room at remotes won’t do it.

It’s a lot of work. Be prepared to get tired and achy. You can be very successful 30 years later.

Wanna Build A BIG Successful Radio Brand?

Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888          

 

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SUMMER REPORT CARD

SUMMER REPORT CARD

Half the year is over. The second half of the year is ahead.

I suggest its time to give your radio station a mid-year report card.

For your convenience you can print this section out and fill in the grades.

MUSIC

Check Your total active library size                                    A  B C  D  F

Check the turnovers of every category                             A  B C  D  F

Check the most played in every category                        A  B C  D  F

Check the least played in every category                        A  B C  D  F

Check your core artists for last 90 Days                         A  B C  D  F

Check histories of all currents                                            A  B C  D  F

Check histories of most played in every cat                 A  B C  D  F

Do clocks and logs have The right mix                           A  B C  D  F

Music computer specs and speed                                     A  B C  D  F

Overall music grade                                                               A  B C  D  F

MORNINGS

Aircheck entire morning show from today.

Were we local every half hour?                                        A  B C  D  F

Were we topical every half hour?                                    A  B C  D  F

Was there fun every hour?                                                 A  B C  D  F

Was there “ear candy” every hour?                               A  B C  D  F

Were the longest breaks short enough?                       A  B C  D  F

Phones?                                                                                      A  B C  D  F

Were the listeners the stars?                                            A  B C  D  F

Basics Time/Temp/Weather                                             A  B C  D  F

Image & Name Of Station                                                  A  B C  D  F

Overall Morning Grade                                                       A  B C  D  F

PROMOTIONS

Cluttered of uncluttered?                                                A  B C  D  F

Easy to understand?                                                          A  B C  D  F

Fun to listen to?                                                                   A  B C  D  F

Prize Appealing to the target?                                      A  B C  D  F

Promos fresh and interesting?                                    A  B C  D  F

Too many or too few?                                                      A  B C  D  F

Street level (how do we look?)                                     A  B C  D  F

Website and Social Media Space                                 A  B C  D  F

Overall Promotions Grade?                                           A  B C  D  F

INSIDE THE STATION – BUILDING AND STUDIOS

Studios clean and neat?                                                 A  B C  D  F

All equipment work correctly?                                   A  B C  D  F

Enough computers to get the job done?                 A  B C  D  F

HVAC right?                                                                        A  B C  D  F

Sound proofing?                                                               A  B C  D  F

Lighting?                                                                              A  B C  D  F

Chairs?                                                                                  A  B C  D  F

Conference Room?                                                           A  B C  D  F

Look that guests, winners and clients se              A  B C  D  F

Overall Studios and Building                                      A  B C  D  F

PEOPLE (Software)

Morale?                                                                                 A  B C  D  F

Feeling of Team?                                                              A  B C  D  F

Communication inside the building?                      A  B C  D  F

Management in the tranches?                                   A  B C  D  F

Is their leadership                                                           A  B C  D  F

Stress level?                                                                        A  B C  D  F

TECHNICAL (Hardware)

Transmitter health                                                           A  B C  D  F

Transmitter building (clean? cool? dry?)               A  B C  D  F

Audio Chain (loud, clean, no distortion)                A  B C  D  F

Automation (ease of use and health)                       A  B C  D  F

STL (clean and reliable?)                                               A  B C  D  F

Generators                                                                           A  B C  D  F

Software for air checks                                                   A  B C  D  F

Mic processing right?                                                      A  B C  D  F

Robust reliable internet?                                               A  B C  D  F

Streaming clean and reliable                                       A  B C  D  F

Alexa skill working correctly                                     A  B C  D  F

Overall Technical Grade                                                A  B C  D  F

Overall Station Grade                                                A  B C  D  F

Now there are many other things that can be on this list.  I think now is a good time (after the Spring book sampling period) to reflect and make a to do punch list of things to work on.

There are lots of things that will be station specific.  There is a lot to this one.

Is your station FUN?                                                A  B C  D  F

I’ll be writing more blogs about FUN being memorable and the factors that help to make radio stations big successful brands.  It’s difficult to win the Indy 500 with a car with several mechanical problems. Also tough to win when the driver isn’t tested, trained, rested and distraction free.

It takes personalites, connection to the marketplace, doing things that captivate the marketplace to breath life into radio.

Step One build a good strong house.

Step Two,  decorate it with shutters, landscaping, welcome mat, art on the wall and vase with fresh flowers on the table.  Perhaps a “Home Sweet Home” stitching are what’s for.

IF you radio station was a house is it correctly decorated?

Need Help?  Get Your Music Right! Get Everything Right!

Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888        

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WE NEED A RADIO STATION THAT PLAYS 50% FEMALES!

WE NEED A RADIO STATION THAT PLAYS 50% FEMALES!

So I write a blog saying country radio should hire more women General Managers, Program Directors and lead morning show air talent.  I posted it.  Put links to it on Facebook and Twitter.

Three years ago I responded to every post I could for about 5 months.  I also would respond in the discus and comment sections of web sites for famous newspapers and online publications with stories about “tomato-gate.”

I came to a few conclusions.  I was correct about the metric I had suggested to country radio.  My strong feeling was advocates of women in country music just wanted me to fold my tent and go home.  One of my mentors told me to shut up and go in a hole.  This too shall pass.  I rejected that advice.  I stayed with it.

The opposition started to go away.  The last ones to stay just started posting foul language and ad hominem attacks.

Yes there were death threats.  One was from a female who had been air talent on a CBS Country station in a large market!

Every year on the anniversary of “tomato-gate” the topic gets dusted off and written about. The annualized questions now are “is it better or worse for women?”  And  “what is percentage of females country radio is now playing  X number of years after the controversy?”

To me it’s not a controversy it’s a metric.

There are folks who want to see my research.  It’s really very simple the radio stations own the ratings research from the Arbiton and Nielsen companies.  It’s proprietary.

I have pointed out that the 12+ and now 6+ data for many markets are posted on websites like Allaccess.com or Inside Radio.com.

With a subscription to Mediabase  you can get playlists of stations with a an elegant set of dashboard metrics and tools.

I say my metric is empirical.

Look at the playlists and the ratings.  You’ll see.

I have been asked, “what happened when you removed males?”

Well we do remove both males and females to tighten a library to be just the best hits. However just removing males would make the female percentage go up unless we opted for instrumentals, dead air, tones or songs from genders other than men or women.

One thing I’ll say about the fine folks who proclaim, “You don’t know what would happen if you played 50% females now do you?”

Well I do know what would happen but you are right it’s NEVER been tested!

These women ask me, “well, then tell us how we can improve the plight of women in country.”

My answer has always been we play great songs.  So write, record and promote more songs like “I Hope You Dance,” “Automatic,” and “The House That Built Me.”

I return to the idea that there NEVER has been a radio station that has played 50% females.

So I make a plea here for a station in a top 75 market that is PPM rated with full market coverage signal to play 50% females for six months so we can empirically see what happens.  (That’s a test AND empirical)

It would seem to me the Change The Conversation folks Beverly Keel, Leslie Fram, and Tracy Gershon and voices like  Marissa Moss could find a consortium of women to purchase one radio station and prove it.  Heck women are half of America and go fund me is out there.  Get to work and buy a radio station with the parameters I have listed.  Get the Suffragettes to join in.  Sell shares of a corporation.  Might I suggest, “The Keith Hill is Wrong Corporation.”   No.  Go ahead and call it “The Fairness For Women In Country Radio Corporation.”

Hire a staff of the best programmers.  Run TV commercials for it.  Have Billboards for it.  Give away prizes.  Do concerts to promote the station.

SHE FM.

FEM-FM

YOU GO GIRL 103!

Make sure that you play at least 50% of the songs by female singers. Expose all that great talent you talk about.

Then six months later WE will have ratings results.

Until then I endure twitter.  It’s a cesspool of foul language.  Anyone can say anything.

Other topics to help derail us from the issue.

Well Bro Country has ruined country.  Wearing baseball caps backwards blah blah blah.  Ok, but what does that have to do the 15% metric I claim?

Marissa Moss wrote a fine article for Rolling Stone about sexual harassment and misconduct in the country music industry.  Imagine Harvey Weinstein in Nashville running a record label.  There are also stories of CRS and promotion people taking artists to radio stations. Moss details the harassment that female artists and female promoters are subjected to.

I do not deny that these wretched behaviors exist.

Ms. Moss did research. I take it that means she made calls and interviewed folks.

I don’t know how many calls.

I have no doubt these things have happened and continue to happen. However, harassment is a different issue than what are the best metrics for composition of music that will yeild optimum time spent listening to country radio.

Flat tires and broken transmissions are both issues with cars.  They have the car in common. However, they are separate maladies.

Sexual harassment and the percentage of songs by female singers are separate issues in the same industry.

I wonder the (N) of Ms. Moss’s research?  How many people did she interview?

When we do research in radio we want it to be statistically reliable within a confidence interval. We do studies where the (N) of the study (N is the number of folks in the survey) is as low as 700 but up to 2000 respondents.

I estimate there are well over 20,000 folks employed in the country radio and record promotion industry.  I think to be statistically reliable and then extrapolate the data to represent the behavior of the industry you’d have to talk to at least 400 people.

I don’t posit a complete set of solutions for harassment.  I will say there are laws against assault and sexual assault.  I’d suggest women who are assaulted in the manner that Ms. Moss’s article uncovered use the laws that exist. File complaints and use the law.  If you have been harassed the law is on your side. My claim would be thes call to the police and complaints should be made right away.  Do not wait 6 months or year or two or ten or more years.

On twitter folks will post,  “can you believe that asshole!”

What do YOU want done… instant death without due process?  I suspect there are those who want just that!

Then in previous articles I used the term “mom filter.”  Women on twitter scoff at this as if it’s some kind of slam.  Inside radio stations we discuss our content. We ultimately do not want that 38-year-old mother of two children to be embarrassed by the content on her favorite radio station.  We don’t want the child exposed to the content to ask, “mommy what does blank-blank mean.”

But on twitter I am an insensitive man with NO understanding.  Uh I had a mother, aunts and have nieces.  I have programmed free radio aimed at women for 38 years successfully.

“Hill must think all women have to be mothers!”  No.  I want ALL women to listen as long as possible.  I’m fine with listeners whose family looks like “Eight is Enough” or women who do not have children. To me they are all listeners with ears. (A genderless feature of this)

Twitter is a cesspool. Some discourse starts out civil. Then I believe out of frustration it often turns away from the core of the discussion.

I make a post. Then folks tweet back to me. Then when the logic tightens in on them in the advocacy of their position they then claim I am “trolling” them!  Hey you tweeted to me first!!!!

Then “I see you only follow five people on twitter and all five of them are men!”

One is my local TV station.  (Male?)  One is my local newspaper. (Male?)   One is the president of the United States. (Who is famous for tweeting but yes he is a male)  One was a writer for the guardian who coined the term “tomato-gate” (yes he is a male)

I un-followed that TV station and Newspaper that are uh… male.  I added Marissa Moss who is female and made this complaint about me.   Now I have parity on twitter.  I follow one male and one female.  ( I took males? out because lord knows we want parity in who I follow on twitter!)

Now back to my cheerful suggestion for those who want to advance the women in country music.  Come together.  Get funding.  Buy a radio station in a top 75 SMSA with a full market signal.  Then play 50% (at least) females.

One more idea while I am making suggestions.  Start a campaign to encourage the major country music labels in Nashville to drop already established pop females for country duets.

Instead of Pink, Tori Kelly, Bebe Rexha why not go over to the Listening  Room and take in some Suffragette shows. (Monday Nights)  I am sure you will find female performers who could sing those duets elegantly.

Wait… do I see this tweet directed at me in my future?  “Hill says take off crossover pop females from country radio too!  Clearly misogynist Hill should be dragged by his male parts behind a pick up truck!  Bastard!”

Lastly, I claim oddly that radio airplay is the only Enterprise on planet earth where 50% parity won’t happen.

It will and can happen in elected positions, being doctors, lawyers, pilots, sales, management, creating visual arts, writing, home construction you name it.  We have equal opportunity and the possibility of the real outcome that women can occupy 50% or more of the jobs in all of these spaces.

Songs played over country radio will be selected based upon the ear traffic of the listeners. It’s not up to the gatekeepers or creators of the music product itself.  It’s up to the listeners.

Expected Tweet “Hill refuses to force upon the market place what they need.  What the listeners want Be Damned.”  (Expressed in other ways)

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Bankruptcy! Because we didn’t play enough females on Country Radio.

Bankruptcy! Because we didn’t play enough females on Country Radio.

I was in a twitter discussion this weekend where someone posted that the reason Iheart and Cumulus had to file bankruptcy was they had not played more than 15% females on their country stations.

My first response was to laugh.

Twitter is such a cesspool.  Anyone can say anything at anytime.

I believe there are some principal factors that caused Iheart and Cumulus to seek bankruptcy protection.

First the Communications Act of 1996 significantly deregulated radio.  It lifted some previous caps on ownership of radio stations.  Ownership of radio and television stations has changed quite a bit over time.

I worked for WSYR AM & FM in Syracuse in the late 70s and early 80s.  The Newhouse Corporation owned them.  They owned a newspaper called the POST STANDARD along with WSYR AM, WSYR FM and WSYR TV.  While I was there the regulations changed and they had to sell either the newspaper or the television station. In fact they owned TV stations in Birmingham, Alabama, St Louis, Missouri, Elmira, New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  They sold all of the TV stations to another newspaper company that did not have papers in those markets. All were sold to Times Mirror Corporation. WSYR TV 3 became WSTM TV 3. The radio stations moved from the building with the TV station on James Street to Clinton Square downtown. That then satisfied the new rules change.  Then the rules changed again where newspapers and radio stations could not be co owned. WSYR AM & FM was sold to KATZ Communications of Connecticut.  When I started at WSYR one company could co-own radio, TV and newspaper in the same market.  By the time I left Newspapers could not own TV or radio stations.

The communications act of 1996 was a huge set of regulations regarding telephone, cable, broadcasting and Internet companies.  It started out as a framework to deal with all of the regional “baby” Bell telephone companies.  Lots of things were de regulated.  The ownership caps in radio and TV were reduced.  The concept was that would allow for a wider array of owners of radio and TV.  The honest hope was that it would foster more competition as well.

We seem to live in a world with lots of unintended consequences.

Instead of a wider array and variety of broadcast owners the result was fewer owners who would own larger numbers of stations.

Companies like AM/FM, Evergreen, Jacor, Clear Channel, SFX, Sinclair, Bonneville, Beasley, Greater Media, Susquehanna, ABC, Capital Cities, New City, Cox, Viacom, CBS, NBC, Westwood got to work acquiring more stations or sold to those doing the “acquiring.”

Lowry Mays, Larry Wilson, Lew Dickey and others started buying radio stations.  Lew got money from the State of Wisconsin. The State Of Wisconsin Investment Board to be exact.  They invested $50 Million to get started with Cumulus and help them grow.

Lew was actually a little late to the party and had to play catch up.  One thing he did was nearly eliminate the protracted time it took to negotiate the agreements to buy radio stations.

Typically there is an offer.  Will you take 10 million dollars for XYZ Broadcasting?  The seller comes back and says the price is 12 million.  Six weeks later a revised purchase offer of 10 and half million is made.  You get the idea.  Five to Six months later they close at a price of 11 million.

Lew truncated the time factor by doing this.  “How much do you want for XYZ Broadcasting?”  They say 12 Million.  Lew says, “SOLD!”

That had a strong effect in driving the prices of radio stations upward.

For years radio stations would sell for 8 times cash flow.  Perhaps 10 times cash flow.  After the communications act of 1996 it got into the teens and there were some 20 times cash flow prices paid for radio stations.

In 1996 the future of radio was bright.  It was a robust medium and what possibly go wrong?

The Internet

There was the dot.com euphoria followed by the dot.com bubble and the burst.  Who could see advertising revenues going to the Internet?

Advertisers moved some of their advertising budgets to the Internet.  It was slow at first.  Then incrementally advertisers continued to move more money from radio to digital.

2008

Lehman Brothers, regulations designed to make mortgage money easier to get so home ownership rates would increase all came to play.  In 2005, 2006 and 2007 you could get over 100% of the money needed to buy a house even if you had filed personal bankruptcy.  Drive slowly past a bank with your window down and they would throw the mortgage contracts at you to sign.  The so-called housing bubble burst and banks hemorrhaged. The stock market plummeted. Wall Street fell and Main Street suffered.

Local advertising on radio got squeezed.  In tough times lots of local advertisers cut back or eliminated their radio marketing.

Radio’s response was to lower rates.

In many markets Clear Channel and Cumulus were across the street from each other and it was a race to the bottom.  When radio becomes more of a “commodity” price is the only remaining issue. Inside those radio stations managers and sales managers went to operation sponge up the money.  Get the buy by offering a rate deal the advertiser cannot refuse.  Advertisers soon came to realize if they waited they’d be able to name their own price.

Lets recap here.

-Consolidation because of regulation changes.

-Overpaying for Radio Stations

-Highly Leveraged Purchases of Radio Stations

-The Internet

-2008 Bust!

You’ll notice the number of songs by females on country radio isn’t one of the reasons for Iheart and Cumulus filing for Bankruptcy.

Yet it was posited to me that if those stations had simply played more females they wouldn’t have filed for bankruptcy.

Almost makes me wish for God’s Xerox machine to make two exact copies of the world and see how much faster they would have had to file using more songs by females plan.

Today Iheart owns over 850 radio stations, Cumulus 446, Townsquare 310, and Entercom now owns 235 stations.

In the United States right now there are a little over 15 thousand radio stations.  As you can see those four companies own well over 12 percent of America’s radio stations!

Now fasten your seat belts.  Radio is still strong and clawing to maintain and growing a little bit in some places.

In some places smaller owners are actually doing “local” content and street level things that are meaningful.

Advertisers are seeing less return on their Internet and digital marketing investments. Some are returning to radio.

We still sell our spots way too cheap.  It will take time to get rates to rise.

The FCC’s current thinking.  They are thinking about no caps.  One company could own every radio station in a market.  Oh and they can buy or be bought by the Newspaper.

Good Idea?

Iheart is opposed to it.  Huh, maybe it is a good idea after all.

I wonder if Newhouse would want to buy WSYR back?

(Newhouse today is Advance Publications.  They own Newspapers, Magazines, (Conde Nast) Websites, a third of the Discovery Network and 13% of Charter Communications.)

Keith Hill suggests your music metrics make a significant difference in the economic fate of your radio stations.

Is your music right?   You don’t know?

Get Your Music Right. Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888     

 

 

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MISOGYNY IN COUNTRY RADIO?

MISOGYNY IN COUNTRY RADIO?

Three years ago I said “tomatoes” and all hell broke loose on planet earth.

Every year on the anniversary of that event the press dusts it off and looks at measurable metrics and proclaims nothing has happened or perhaps things are “oh my God” slightly worse for female country singers.

I have decided to cause more problems.

You see this article is broader in scope regards females in Country.

First I want to address the radio programming side if things.  I feel its well established that contemporary formatted country radio stations break slightly in favor or women in terms of cume audience composition.  (Cume is the unduplicated head count listening to a radio station) Much like when they announce at a major league baseball game that today’s attendance is “48, 375.” That’s the cume of that baseball game.  Country radio’s cume can be 55% to 65% female.

Furthermore there is a “currency” upon which we use to measure the value of radio listening and that is the almighty “average quarter hour.”  For simplicity sake I will describe it as 15 minutes of listening or exposure to a radio station.  The reason why I call it a currency is because it helps create an equivalency for us to value the total listening to radio.  Think of those quarter hours as our “dollars.”

One person who listens one hour gives a station four quarter-hours.  Four other people listen fifteen minutes each and that also yields four quarter-hours to the radio station.

Hence, a station might have 100,000 cume listeners and 578,372 quarter-hours.  It’s that total collection of quarter hours that is the important metric of value.

Most country radio stations generate north of 65% of their quarter hours from women. Sometimes the number of quarter hours generated from women on country radio can go as high as 85%.  So you see why country radio programmers think about programming that women prefer and will listen to for longer periods of time.

My claim (and real world experience) is that women listen to country radio stations longer when the mix of songs broadcast is about fifteen percent female.  When that percentage is higher without conscious thought they simply fatigue faster and automatically respond by listening less.

Now that being said I have to weigh in on something else about country radio and gender. Because country radio depends on appealing to women and generating the maximum number of quarter hours possible from women I’d suggest that we employ more women General Managers, Sales Managers, Program Directors, Promotions Directors and Morning air talent.

Years ago I consulted KXKC in Lafayette, Louisiana.   It was a country station that launched and attacked a heritage country station KMDL.

The program director for KXKC was Renee Revett.  I remember meetings early on where a team was assembled and Renee was the only female.  A bunch of men were discussing promotions for KXKC and Renee stopped the meeting and said, “would you like to have a woman’s point of view on this?”

Renee gently but firmly proceeded to euphemistically beat us with a two by four and wake us up. The filter needed was, “what does more than half our audience think of this?”

While I think managing a radio station is principally a from the neck up proposition I do think that more female managers would be a good thing.  There are decisions that will be made where empathy, understanding and point of view could make a difference.  The greater our real understanding of the majority of the audience (in terms of quarter hour value) the better we can optimize the station.

The same holds true as in the role or Program Director.  That person needs to first hear in their head what the station ought to sound like.  (In radio we call it an “air check”)  Then that program director works on getting the station closer and closer to that ideal air check that they hear in their head. Once again a females perspective and understanding would be a very good thing.

Over time morning shows have been slowly changing from male only shows or male lead shows to some shows that have female leads.  Laurie DeYoung in Baltimore was one of the few female lead morning shows 24 years ago.  Today I am working with a growing number of female lead morning shows.  The great news is they instantly have that “mom filter.” They understand so many things and present important topics with the correct verbiage and nuanced touches that are right for the audience.

I am considered the World’s Biggest Misogynist for metrics that I suggest for female singers in the mix of music on country radio stations.

When it comes to the GM and PD chairs in country radio stations perhaps I’m guilty of Misandry.

Actually my claim is this.  There is no gender bias in my advice regarding music played on the radio.  Instead in this wonderful free enterprise place called America I chase profit and meritocracy.  I play music on radio based upon metrics that yield the highest ratings.  And when it comes to making hires for country radio I say hire the best regardless of gender.  Make sure you have folks on your team who truly understand the target audience!  Since your target is women you might want to lean female in your management and programming team.

I wonder what the “tomato throwers” think of me now?

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WHY DO WE PURCHASE RATINGS?

WHY DO WE PURCHASE RATINGS?

When I was a baby PD at WCTC in New Brunswick, NJ my corporate boss was Julian Breen. Julian was smart and his teaching style was something akin to a cave man beating you with a club.  Funny, today I love Julian Breen. (in a neck up non Harvey Weinstein way)

I remember Julian schooling me about ratings.  “Mr. Hill why do we buy Arbitron?”

My wrong answer was “to help us program the station.”

BAM.  “NO!”  “We buy ratings to affix a price to our advertising.”

“Mr. Hill, why do we continue to buy Arbitron?”

At this point the white flag of surrender was my move.  “You know Julian, it’s clear I don’t know.”

BAM.  “Because they tend to replicate themselves. They are generally believable.  Top stations continue to appear at the top.  Weak and poor performing stations continue to be at the bottom.”

“Last Question, Mr. Hill when will we stop buying Arbitron?”

Again way back in the early 80s I didn’t know.

BAM.  “When they become truly unreliable we will stop buying them.”

Julian studied everything radio ratings.  After Greater Media he created SuperTrends.  He saw many programmers try to extrapolate monthly ratings from rolling averages.  His goal was to help programmers look behind the curtain of Arbitron so we could figure more out.

In 2005 Julian passed away.  Surely in Rock N Roll heaven he is ranting inside the building at K-GOD 100 about how it should be done!

Julian lives on in the people he hired and trained.

What would Julian say today?

One of my very best radio friends today who I will protect as “Mr. A.” have talked about this a bunch.

A and I have talked many times about replacing meters with cell phones so the (N) count of devices would grow exponentially.

We’ve even imagined that they would be connected in some way to the purchase behavior of the phone owner.

That way we could better measure the effectiveness of spot advertising on radio.  We see the way we are doing it now as the “horse and buggy” phase of audience measurement.

Last night at a Mexican dinner in a discussion with A I asked him, “you want me to blow the top of your head off with a concept?”

A “sure!”

We should watermark the spots on each radio station and just detect the spots.

You see we don’t really care how many people listened to “Hotel California” by the Eagles. The advertisers don’t care. They don’t even really care about how many people heard their spot.  What they really want to know is how many people heard the spot and then made a purchase!

Yes, one spot is not how it happens.

Radio is a reach and frequency medium.  We help build images and awareness.  Hopefully we can build or be part of an overall effort to get a sponsor “top of mind awareness.”

Today I don’t need tires.

I might need one later this afternoon.  But right this very moment my tires are fine.

At this very moment I don’t need a plumber, a tow truck, a new mortgage, banking services, my house painted etc.

The question is “who will I think of when I do?”

I posit that our current ratings system is far from what we really need.

I could pontificate at great lengths about my concerns about “M Scores.”

In radio we are attempting to measure every song.

Why the H E double hockey sticks don’t we measure spots?

I have a strong hunch Julian Breen would say, “finally Mr. Hill a decent idea from you.”  BAM!

Why not measure spot reach and effectiveness at least in your local marketplace?

I have ideas on how it could be executed!  (Hint it’s not expensive and it will work!)

Are you a GM or GSM that wants to get started?

Call Keith Hill 252-453-8888       

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