What the Hell Does Robert Feder Know?

Randy Michaels (Tribune CEO) put out a list to his company chronicling 100 words that “shall not be named”.  It’s my understanding this list was intended for Tribune writers, WGN TV presenters, and WGN radio hosts.

“The real goal here is to avoid using words that make you sound like you’re reading, instead of talking — that shatter the image you’re speaking knowledgeably to one person. By not using ‘newsspeak,’ you enhance your reputation as a communicator.”

Robert Feder wrote a scathing review of this memo and Randy’s practices at WGN.  Once you get on Mr. Feder’s bad side you’re doomed.  That’s not to say Rob (not Bob) isn’t objective.  But the bigger issue (as Feder’s pointed out in his column) with this regime and others (Ahern’s CBS 2) is the fundamental culture schism.

The new bosses at Tribune came in and pissed all over everything THEN tried to establish themselves as credible and respect worthy management.  Now, they’re looked at as the bulls in a China shop when all they really want is to fix a company mired in “we’ve always done it this way” which is killing newspaper across the US.

I had lunch with a friend and fellow radio programmer yesterday and we laughed because the “list” of words not to mention is not too far off base.  Million dollar TV and Radio hosts have gotten lazy.  Their management has been reluctant to shape and mold them, or perhaps incapable because the managers didn’t have the chops or command the respect to do so.  Either way, it’s time to catapult Tribune into the 21st Century for sure.  There’s no doubt about that.

Anyone who says YOU ALL or YOU GUYS is NOT relating to an audience of ONE, which is what your audience ALWAYS is.  But tell that to Oprah.  Sometimes, she even calls the audience……AUDIENCE!

I think Mr. Feder recognizes these things even though he admittedly has not programmed a radio or TV station.  He get’s it.  He also gets how the Tribune Company will rot from the inside out if this stuff continues the way it’s being done.

Mr. Michaels is indeed attacking the messenger.  That’s what his staff is doing as well, because of the way he executed this initiative.  Memos like this are meant for telling all staff the parking lot is going to be painted on Monday and please park in lot B.  Phone calls, one on one development meetings and good old conversations are the way to motivate and inspire real change on the scale they need at the Trib.

Randy, you need to get those people walking with you NOT 20 steps behind you in fear.  I recall the signs all over the inside of WGN Radio which boldly stated:  “YOU own this place now” referring to employee ownership.  If the employees own the place, why aren’t they being treated with as much or MORE respect than you’d offer to Sam Zell?  The employees actually have SKIN IN THE GAME.

Also noted by Feder is how Michaels bagged on bloggers.  Funny.  Bloggers are good enough to anchor ChicagoNow.com AND take up precious airtime on WGN CHICAGO!  So what does Robert Feder know?  I think he’s seen enough over his 30 years covering Chicago media to know when something’s off.  He’s also smart enough to know the web is the future for all writers and darn near everything…..but then again, What the hell does Matt DuBiel know….?

(In full disclosure, I reached out to ChicagoNow about blogging for them a while back.  I began “blogging” in 1997, and then started podcasting in 2004.  Admittedly, it wasn’t a weekly effort on my part.  Either way, I pitched ChicagoNow on a blog concept coming from the perspective of a 30 something dad in the suburbs.  I got a response.  I was told to lay out some examples, which I did, and I then never heard back.  The more I thought about it afterward, the more I questioned why anyone would blog for ChicagoNow or anywhere else UNLESS they are getting paid.  Blogs are cheap and easy to set up and when you control your blog you control your message, your brand and your relationships.  Anyone blogging for ChicagoNow for free should blog on their own website and let ChicagoNow refeed it.  Don’t just blog for ChicagoNow or any other site for free.)

10 Tips for NTR Radio Success

Radio: 10 Tips for Interactive & NTR Success in 2009

Interactive isn’t about technology. Some people think better interactive is providing the advertiser with a platform that incorporates the web even though the audience isn’t interested in the content. Podcasting little league games comes to mind. No one wants to listen to podcasts of little league games, so why would someone want to sponsor that? Great interactive and NTR should be about connecting the audience and advertisers in new ways that create win/wins for all parties involved, including the conduit (radio). It doesn’t have to cost a mint, or confuse everyone. It just needs to work.

Here are 10 things you can do to make your Interactive & NTR Initiatives more profitable and relevant to your audience in 2009:

  1. Drop your current bandwidth provider. Save $200/month or more per station. If you have more than 10 stations, think of the savings per year. If you have 20 stations…that’s $48,000 a YEAR!!!!
  2. Sign up for a free UStream, justintv or StickAM account and get UNLIMITED audio bandwidth with video bandwidth FREE. A funny thing happens when video is added to your audio….the audience gets bigger!
  3. Hook up a webcam at a point of interest for your audience and include it in your stream. You can buy a camera for less than $100. Here’s a hint, do not put the camera in your studio unless you have something truly of interest for your audience. If you don’t (and most stations truly do not), see if you can get camera placement at a neighborhood hotspot or common traffic spot. At less than $100 a camera, you can get more than one and provide video information as well as your audio.
  4. Stream your regular station on 1 feed but entice listeners to watch your video and listen to new versions of your station. Create these side channels without an HD signal…and with internet listening and viewing in mind. PCs are cheap (Under $500)….and you can buy SAM Broadcaster software for under $500 to run your songs, audio entertainment, and spots.
  5. Don’t waste time, creativity and energy devising ways to exchange analog dollars for digital dimes. Make the web sales upsells to regular packages at the station. 10% to be on the main stream channel, and $250 a month to be on all additional streams combined. Make it simple for sales and their support team to succeed. Use TargetSpot or Affiliate services to fill the rest of the avails.
  6. Be selective in the clients you choose to do business with. I know…”you can’t be choosy because you have budgets”…but you need to be. You need success stories. You need clients that can benefit from radio. Look at the top 10 national radio advertisers for 2008. Cross off the one that completely flopped, which is the HD Alliance. What you have left is: #1 Geico, Home Depot, Macy’s, AT&T, Verizon, McDonalds and John Commuta’s Bankruptcy Info Tapes. What do they all have in common? They’re average things for average people and/or direct response oriented. Geico and Commuta are direct response. Radio sales people should only accept business from clients who sell regular things for regular people. Those are the clients that have the best chance to return month after month. These clients also fall under basic life needs: food, clothing, shelter, finance….things people must have to survive in good economic times and bad.
  7. Get every member of your sales staff and airstaff a weblog and show them how they can turn it into profits and exposure. Blogs are free. How can anyone expect your sales rep with a bad necktie to represent himself as a marketing expert if he has no clue how to market himself and the radio station? How can he speak to the client about CPM, Adwords, SEO, CPC and every other buzz word if he doesn’t know how they work? He can’t. Now if he’s blogging about the successful advertising campaigns he’s building for the Organic Coffee Company in town and showing examples and posting audio of the spots, video of the breakfast broadcasts, and pictures of smiling customers….business owners will catch on. They might even call the station or post a comment on his blog asking how they can get in on the action! Cat blogs (your boring diary) are not what the staff should be engaging in. The airstaff needs to write about the audience’s interests, the sales reps need to write about the client’s interests, and the promotions/public service person should be blogging about what the audience/community/clients care about. That’s the way to grow the stations digital foot print and that’s path to revenue success.
  8. If you have a cluster in Anytown, USA build a social network for your town. Don’t have that sort of IT Muscle? No problem. Go to Ning.com and get one for free. It works just like Facebook or MySpace except you can customize Ning for your needs. Make it look the way you want. If you have 3 stations or more and your staff can work on the blogs and content together, you can also pool the collective cume of multiple stations into one social network! Imagine the power of mobilizing this community! Brittany Spears has a Ning Network. T. Boone Pickens has one too. So should you. When you have audio, video, interactive, and community news….you’re not just a radio station anymore. You are the community.
  9. Use texting to extend TSL and grow revenue. Place produced teases at the beginning of each commercial break with a trivia, music, community, or current events question: “Do you know which band boasts the bragging rights to White Out, text the answer to 99229 and you could win a pair of tickets to see Slumdog Millionaire at the Mark 6 Theatre…the answer’s coming up in 4 minutes on Oldies 104.7. Play the spots then play: “If you guessed the Monkeys…..HEY HEY you’re right! Mike Nesmith’s mom invented White Out….blah blah blah…now text Monkeys to 99229 for your Mark 6 movie tickets from Oldies 104.7!” The alternative is allowing jocks to give a laundry list of upcoming bands and telegraph a commercial break. I’d rather increase chances for extended listening, grow the SMS database, and make some money. After 1 week, 1 texter wins tickets and all the others get 10% their next movie ticket pruchase or free popcorn when they show their text to the theatre. Radio works if we work it. Don’t have enough production help? Have your jocks do it live or in voicetracks.
  10. Use texting to administer community information that is better left off the air. During the school closing season it’s a great community service to keep people updated on school closings, but reading off the list of schools on the air doesn’t help the listener, the sponsor or the station. Use your SMS powers to sign up parents for your SMS School Closing Updates. They don’t have to call anyone, and they don’t have to go online. They simply need to check their cell phone where a message stating classes at their school is closed appears. Now an enterprising radio station might even sell that feature ahead of time to the mall for instance or to a pizza place. The message would present the school closing info and offer 10% off of pizza that day knowing that parents would need to feed their kids lunch while home from school on a cold day. The possibilities are endless with the right tools and some creative thinking. The key is to remember that this opt in list is only for school closings. You don’t want to be the radio station that cried wolf. By the way, there’s even a way to send SMS blasts for less than $100 a month…

I know….Twitter wasn’t in there…neither was facebook or linked in…..but I think is enough for now. Feel free to add yours.

My Predictions for Radio in 2009

Here are some of my predictions for the radio biz in 2009 and beyond:

1)  Sirius/XM will add another name to their merged moniker in an effort to stay alive.  (I’d really like to see Google gobble them up).  Someone will or they will merge yet again with another company.

2)  Ryan Seacrest will realize even more extreme national radio clearance the likes of which we have never seen….which will set the table for Howard Stern to return to terrestrial radio to larger affiliate clearance than he saw during his hey day….and a Rush Limbaugh pay-day to boot.  American Idol will have RECORD numbers this January….blowout record numbers.

3)  Nights will be the new overnights as stations and groups cut back.  Instead of experimenting with new ideas and formats at night, companies will continue to opt for jock free delivery post 7pm.

4)  Syndicated voicetracks (ala one of John Tesh’s delivery options as well as Seacrest’s) will sweep the nation allowing owners to get top notch “jocks” without Rush Limbaugh rates and ridiculous amounts of barter.  Look for the midday jock at name-your-hot-ac in Denver to be doling her tracks out to 10 other stations nationwide with custom tracks just for that station.  Stations who want to know more about this email me.

5)  MTV & VH1 styled repeats will hit PPM markets.  You know how Rock of Love is always on VH1….well look out because radio in PPM markets will become very similar.  Instead of burning non-music content once and never re-purposing it again, look for music stations to re-purpose and repackage their non-music content for repeat at various times throughout the day.  This will mean morning shows in the afternoon, countdowns repeated and much more.

6)  Shorter talk shows.  The days of the 5 hour morning show or 5 hour talk show are going to be numbered.  Just like repeating content will be more common place, so will more content and smaller doses of content.  Talk stations are going to embrace the 2 hour show, and probably run it twice.

7)  Weather will be the #1 local content/feature/benchmark for radio.  Weather is practically the #1 talking point of all time.  When in doubt, talk to someone about the weather and you have an instant conversation.  It will only increase as a “hot” topic for radio in 2009 based on the populations heightened awareness of climate issues, and radio’s lack of other “local” elements as time passes.

8)  Talent development and non-spot revenue will be lead by brokered programming.  Radio stations will broker more and more airtime that is off peak and even peak to pay the bills and get local programming at the same time.  This will be a tremendous opportunity for business savvy wannabe talent/programmers as well as business people who know how to use radio to get results for their business.

9)  The next revolution in radio will be the introduction of a Hamburger U type sales training academy for radio sales people.  Radio is being crippled by the drought of sales talent and this is an opportunity for either various broadcasting schools or a major broadcasting company.  My bet is on either TRN or Triton Media to lead the way in training and mentoring the next radio sales superstars.  They are the ones who can revive this business.  There has never been a talent drought on the programming side.  Great talents have come and gone with great radio stations because of an inability to sell.  Radio groups will invest in sales consultants and eschew programming consultants.

10)  Arbitron will become a measurement system for the exclusive purpose of bragging rights and programming adjustments.  The sales teams of the future will not be selling 40,000 AQH, but will instead be delivering 40 car buyers per month.  Reach will be replaced with results.  The new sales talent will design programs that sell results for their clients based on real numbers….not guess-timates.

11)  Direct Response advertising will be the model for 80% or more of the spots running nationally, and locally while 60% of radio revenue will be non-spot, non-sponsorship related.

12)  All the programming talent that fought off joining “sales” for all these years will reconsider their stance as they see opportunity in brokering time, selling radio campaigns that work and producing their way back on the air as quality production and stellar writing become even more important.

13)  More and more AM stations will simulcast on the FM.  FM Sports, and various forms of FM talk will thankfully put the 5th lame rock station playing Boulevard of Broken Dreams off the dial in your market, USA.

14)  Radio Disney will migrate to FM and claim their tween-ers and once they do, competition for the 6-12 year old demo will expand to include Nickelodeon and others….which will in turn spawn a revival in what was thought to be a lost demo for radio.

15)  Streaming and websites will both get better and worse.  All the bad websites will only get worse.  The streams of the same station you can get on the FM or AM dial will make less and less sense as time passes unless supplemented with additional options for customized personal listening.  Any radio company with a radio station website will be doomed.  The winners will have lifestyle websites for their audiences.

16)  Westwood One will get gobbled up by Triton Media (if the feds will allow that and it doesn’t seem as though they’re disciminating against much lately) or somehow, someway….Sirius XM will find a way to make a play for them which would set the table nicely for Howard’s triumphant return to terrestrial radio and Mel’s ability to leverage his Sirius XM content elsewhere.

17)  In Chicago, either WLS AM or WGN AM are going to have a better year…and the other one is going to choke.  Bonneville’s 3 stations will continue to dominate and grow.  CBS’s balance sheet will look better, but audience share and revenue share will suffer dramatically…and the tough question will be deciding which of their properties NOT to blow up as they’re all going to look pretty rough.  Emmis is in trouble.  There’s so much opportunity and I don’t expect them to discover how to capture it on 2009…..but Marv and Tisa…I’ve got some ideas…I know what you’re thinking…why would you listen to me?  My queston is why would you listen to the same consulting company you’ve been listening to for years, for yet another year?  I’d like to see someone get wise and program and sell a station to the suburbs….a chicago stick.  I mean forget about the city and the miracle mile….oak street beach….yada yada yada.  Design a station around the people who live, work, and spend their money in the suburbs…and you’ll make a mint.

That’s enough for now I think.  Happy New Year!  Please feel free to add your predictions below and we’ll see what shakes out in 2009.