I recently was honored to collect thoughts for the Radio Ink August Magazine issue from a variety of great minds for the topic “40 Ways Radio can be stronger in the next 100 years” article in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Radio.
I probed an anonymous cross section of business leaders and I was struck by all of the passionate and very candid responses to the question that touched a lot of nerves.
For that reason I decided to share some leftover responses that got minimized or left on the editing floor.
These thoughts were too good to leave to vanish in thin air.
I broke the thoughts out by general topic as there were many recurring themes.
“What do people want that radio does really well? Human voices telling stories, reflecting our own lives in conversation. Radio stations/ talent stables/on demand audio channels can remain relevant destinations where the best hosts are found. Yes think about the amazing music hosts that mix stories and songs.”
“Throughout the pandemic we’ve found that people have been home for much longer than ever before and they have discovered that Spotify and Pandora and Apple TV and Netflix are not only easy to use but enjoyable. The Consumer is in charge and the only way radio can differentiate itself in this crowded media landscape is to provide something that others aren’t, that’s a local story with local information.”
“What does Radio have to do in the next 100 years? Reinvent!!! And understand that it is not in the Radio business but in the content/product business! Every industry has been challenged in their life cycle because of new technology, changes in the marketplace dynamic, a shift in consumer desire and consumption. Those that don’t adapt and reinvent themselves suffer a fateful end! Radio must realize it is in the content business. Consumers have too many choices for content which is exactly why Radio must produce content that serves a purpose for the consumer. Too much of what airs today is bland lifeless content that lacks unique appeal. Stop and think about it, why does the industry continue to spend money to air great content that airs one time! It makes no sense! One of the things ESPN did so well in its heyday was getting the content on as many platforms as possible. The radio industry has attempted to do that but gotten bogged down with concepts like podcasts rather than understanding where the consumers are: You Tube, Twitch, Instagram, Facebook and others. All of these are simply platforms for distribution. And there will continue to be new ones. Radio is a platform to deliver content.”
“Radio industry leaders need to stop being cheerleaders for radio. In the 2000s, newspaper executives were cheerleaders for print. It made them look defensive or worse, daft to what everyone else knew what was happening. Their response to losing about 10;billion in print classified advertising within four years was to create and trademark a logo called “Bona Fide Classifieds” showing a 1930s style newspaper carrier holding up a newspaper. They asked all newspapers to put it on their classified pages, stating “classified ads in newspapers are REAL and online classifieds are not.”
“Too many groups will not walk away from any piece of business. Buyers don’t respect the industry. They know they can get whatever they want and continue to drive pricing down. There is plenty of demand for radio, however we keep selling more spots for less money.”
“We’ve got the all important local connection, we influence our community and deliver for advertisers. Too often those in position to buy radio advertising perceive radio as second fiddle. We need to shift that perception to crystallize our position as the most powerful reach medium available.”
“In 2001, newspaper publishers were engaged in strategic planning for the future. They picked the futuristic year of 2005, which would be the equivalent today of doing strategic planning for 2025. While it sounds great, the problem is 5 year planning hangs on short term trends. In 2001, the dot com bubble had just burst giving credibility to publishers who felt the internet was mostly a fad. Today, the equivalent of the dot com bubble burst for the radio industry is Proctor and Gambles reported retreat from radio and the abandonment( for the time being) of Facebook advertising by Unilever, Starbucks, Ford and others. If history repeats itself(it will)these advertisers will return to Facebook or find other forms of “social media” that are most acceptable. Radio dollars will continue to erode.”
We’ve reached the back of this illustrious year of chaos and it’s worth hitting the pause button for a second to deal with everyone’s favorite topic: Data and Metrics.
OK it’s not everyone’s favorite topic but it’s a necessity in this day and age.
You can’t avoid it.
My suggestion is that whether you are a Market Manager, Director of Sales, Program Director, Digital Manager or anyone I’m unintentionally leaving out you should assemble your team and review your existing metrics, prioritize the ones of greatest importance and specifically set and reaffirm the goals for the back of the year.
It is no doubt your teams are swimming in a sea of numbers and as the great Peter Drucker said: “Managements job is to simplify” so it’s time to take on this herculean task.
You can do it…and you need to do it!
Here is an attempt to put perspective on the challenge of prioritizing metrics and give you a nudge in the conversation.
Your mileage may vary.
Any conversation about metrics has to include this disclaimer because every situation is different.
Every market has it’s competitive nuance and metrics can sometimes only tell a part of the story.
There are differences by format types, gender, age and ethnicity that need consideration when thinking of metrics.
Consider the details of your unique circumstance as you ponder the metrics.
Cash Flow and Revenue Projections
This is obviously the big picture set of numbers that is and will always be of most importance for every company, no matter what the size or business.
Surprisingly, that information is not always shared in totality in some market cluster situations and it leaves some team members in the dark and often wondering what the “state of the state” really is.
Everyone should share in the pain and enjoy the gain.
Leaders should consider the best and most efficient process to share this information across departments within their organization so everyone is aligned on the mission.
Winning in the ratings game still matters and there are so many ways to evaluate, frame and sometimes put a spin on the details.
The facts around these results can also vary depending on the differences of PPM versus Diary and what actions you have chosen that support your brand.
When a monthly or quarterly “data dump” occurs bring your respective teams together and decide where you’ve won, where you’ve lost and what actions need to be taken to improve upon your work.
Evaluate all of the critical fundamentals like weekly cume, average daily cume, time spent listening, market PUMM levels etc and consider how seasonality, news events and abnormal listening patterns factor into the current results.
This is a critical factor when consideration is given to making changes with one of your brands.
Success can be a game of inches and consideration also needs to be given to how much audience growth is needed to jump up the ratings point ladder, which we know is ever so critical in a world of competitive ratings compression.
Build the best case you can take to the market to tell your story and win the battle for mind share.
Find new ways to make the case for how clients are achieving great ROI for their advertising spend.
Here’s where the world has continued to evolve and where it can get really crazy to prioritize and make sense of the data and set specific and achievable goals for your team.
Digital teams who are part of content creation and Digital sales teams need Managers who understand how to simplify and manage the data flow.
Remember when the digital metrics evaluation was led primarily by monitoring website traffic, growth and specific user behavior data?
This at it’s core still needs constant nurturing for growth.
Database management and growth was part of the early stage of digital and we can’t forget about goal setting for that important initiative.
Are you making sure that you are providing a meaningful value proposition for the members of your database?
Many stations seem to have given up on growing their database as a result of other “shiny objects” entering the picture.
It is of critical importance as well to evaluate where your performance stands with all of your social media platforms and how you intend to grow your brands footprint.
Defining specific metric and loyalty growth should be agreed upon by all members of the team.
As our business as a necessity becomes omni-channel , the list that falls under digital seems to sprout new tentacles that need to be managed and evaluated.
With Podcasting entering the landscape over the recent years managing subscriber growth is a priority.
Podcasting platforms also allow for granular analysis of how people consume your content, where they get fatigued, devices they utilize, etc so you have an opportunity to find ways to improve your product.
As mobile consumption becomes a continued key area of listening behavior, are you evaluating app downloads and setting particular growth goals for your brands?
Managing your assets includes managing how frequently you promote your assets over the air.
You should treat yourself like a good client when it comes to using inventory to promote these assets.
Because Smart Speakers have grown as a listening destination those metrics need to be managed very closely to grow usage.
Many brands have video as part of their portfolio and this has opened up the importance of not only the number of views you are garnering but also what your completion rates look.
This is another area for you and your team to study audience behavior so you can consistently tweak content for improvement.
In summary, there is too much at stake in every competitive situation to not pause, bring your team together, define priorities and set metric goals for your future success.
There’s a thin line that separates Good to Great.
We see it in business, sports, entertainment and leadership.
As Jim Collins in his legendary book “Good to Great put it “Good is the enemy of Great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.”
When thinking of the key components to a great radio station and great programming it’s important to note the little things that add up to separate good to great.
A perfect segue
Beautiful imaging matching the mood of the day
Artful teasing of content by the air talent
The right song for the right moment
Entertaining commercial production
On air audio processing that creates a great listener experience
In car dashboard messaging that actually is accurate and meaningful
Social media posts that are purposeful, timely and brand centric
Community involvement that is more than a collection of random PSA’s
Localism that is so spot on that it puts a smile on your face
Hitting stop set placement perfectly
Talent that understands topicality, brevity, audience engagement and connection
A radio station that feels like a living, breathing entity rather than just a recorded loop
These are some of the hallmarks of great radio
Great radio that executes brilliantly in the moment
You can tell right away when you hear it
It’s like the beauty of a swiss watch
We all know of the adage that “the little things all add up” but is this notion part of the lost art of brilliant programming?
Are Programmers so in the mode of just trying to survive and get thru a day that the little things are slipping thru the cracks?
Great programmers have always been the ones who obsess over the little things and get them right every time
For them the little things are a badge of honor
By them instilling that in their teams it leads them to success from every department right up to their top air talent
Make the little things be infectious in your organization and you will win!
If we let the little things gradually slip away we will be left with nothing.
A crisis demands action.
Hopefully it delivers the correct actions
As we mightily battle the new challenges and try to create new opportunities, the speed of our actions without question is vital.
I get concerned that our speed with regard to our relationships is creating new problems.
When I define relationships I’m thinking of our relationship with our audiences and our clients.
Granted both require some different strategies but as relationship is defined “the state of being connected” is universal.
Our audience relationship is under assault when it comes to the in person connection and the deep relationship at large with our audiences.
In most cases due to COVID listeners can no longer come to the station in-person for studio tours or to pick up their prizes.
Station appearances with on air talent have been dramatically cut back and altered.
So how are you keeping tabs on your relationship with your listeners?
Are you communicating with them frequently via your email/database offering with valuable communication?
Does your audience have an easy way to reach you and give you feedback?
Are you maximizing your communication with your audience via every platform available to you?
This is the time to step up your strategy of connectivity via Facebook, Facebook Live, Twitter, Instagram and You Tube as a road to deepening your relationship with your audience.
The same holds true when it comes to your relationship with your clients.
Their world has been rocked during this crisis and the way they conduct business has changed as well.
Have you figured out how to deepen your relationship even further with your clients?
Do they truly feel you are a problem solving partner with them?
As the world is challenged navigating this crisis, don’t lose site of your important relationships and try to figure out ways to let the crisis motivate us to greatness.