Cumulus Scandal Over Inappropriate Relationships

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Give Your Station a Millennial Makeover

All the financial experts agree – flat is the new growth curve for radio.

Putting the consolidators who are staring down bankruptcy aside, there are a lot of good operators being forced to sell in markets where rates have been driven down by desperate stations.

And even the good radio companies are uncharacteristically laying off – Emmis, for example handed out 32 pink slips.

All of this begs the question, how DO you succeed in a zero growth business?

  • Give your station a Millennial makeover. If radio keeps fine tuning formats that just aren’t resonating with young money demos, it just keeps stunting radio’s growth.
  • Focus on these 6 hours each day to return 50-60% of your profit. No one has resources they had years ago. Now, hyper focusing on the 6 hours that can bring in the most revenue makes sense. But which hours are they?
  • What to do with 7pm-5am. If I told you you could start a new radio station somewhere in that time period and nurture it until it is ready to fly on its own, would you believe it? How about learning from someone who did it.
  • Avoid podcasting. It’s not your friend. Will not make money to make it worthwhile. Even the latest Serial is laying an egg compared to the first one. Podcasting is for older listeners looking for an alternative to political talk radio. There’s no way to adequately monetize podcasting for radio owners. But there is one thing that podcasters – the good ones – do that can cross over to your station.
  • Ditto with digital. No matter how many times we say it, digital by radio stations comes out sounding like, well – radio. With salaries being cut, jobs being shared, people be laid off and not enough potential upside to make digital worthwhile, don’t do it. But podcasting is doing something right that radio ought to steal.
  • Cut spots, raise prices and then re-invent the commercial. It’s easier to just take the stuff agencies give us or run spots that our cheapest air talent can produce but that’s not going to get you higher rates. And radio cannot survive as your low cost leader. That’s a loser’s game plan. We asked Millennials if they hate commercials. No, they said … and they shared the kind they would listen to.

Sitting back is not the answer.

No business ever grew by getting smaller.

Millennials don’t care for radio but they are not that wild about streaming music services or podcasting for that matter.

That says opportunity.

So what I am proposing is about funneling resources to the things that are guaranteed to at least bring in more revenue if not tap into a need that even Millennials have for something new and better.

Here are a few other critical issues:

  1. What to do with 75 million baby boomers 50-70. That generation is still almost as big as 83 million Millennials. Is it possible to do hybrid formats that cherry pick demos from each?
  2. Mastering digital as a revenue source not as part of your radio station. I’ll tell you flat out, it’s video, video and more video, but the rules have changed even in the past year.
  3. Gender neutrality. Young girls want to look like boys, dress like boys, wear boy’s clothes and assume “traditional” boy roles. And boys are comfortable reassessing their gender preferences.  This is going to have a major impact on what we are and what we say to audiences.
  4. Radio’s most dangerous competitor is user-generated content. Your audience wants to be your new PD. Most stations don’t really get this so they are assuming the traditional role of content creator assuming that audiences are content consumers.  More than ever, this is just plain wrong.
  5. Dealing with shortened attention spans requires a major revamping of radio’s format clock, delivery and formatic elements.  This is an audience that doesn’t even listen to songs they like all the way through, how do you work with that?
  6. How radio can be like Netflix and create binge content – that’s right, programming to binge on – for audiences that demand it. There is a great example of radio bingeing that few people even in the industry recognize.
  7. New forms of revenue such as subscriptions and product placement (“mentions”). Audiences 45 and under gleefully buy apps like it is nothing and most don’t use 25% of them even when they pay. Money left on the table ripe for the picking.

Now, does THIS sound like a dying business to you?

If you’d like to continue the discussion, clear April 6 for my New Radio Conference in Philadelphia.

Sean Hannity and researcher Richard Harker will be there live to discuss disturbing findings about how certain formats are losing the majority of their audience to PPM technology and ways to deal with this inequity. (Harker did a survey for Hannity’s show that will shock when you see how much audience was lost to PPM). And it’s not just talk stations taking a hit.

And former Cox and CBS programmer Dan Mason will help with the Millennial Radio Makeover – useful ideas that can transform your station from the past to the future.

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Ding-Ding-Ding! Round 2 – Mary Berner vs. Lew Dickey

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Obama’s Visit to a Mosque

If the Republican candidates needed anything to tee off on in New Hampshire, President Obama came through for them today.

Obama visited a mosque outside of Baltimore and basically said this land is your land and this land is my land.

That Muslims are welcome here and that they didn’t have to choose between being a Muslim and an American.

This stuff is so instructional from the perspective of generational media.

Older voters (and radio listeners) may tend to get riled by this one.

Younger voters, the ones who helped elect Obama and from whom he hopes to preserve a legacy are championing his call.

The media business panders the way politicians pander.

How many times have you had to watch advertisers say “I”, “you”, “your way” on commercials aimed at Millennials almost as if the rules don’t apply to them.

Which they don’t, by the way.

And some voters believe that all Muslims are bad people and they shouldn’t be allowed in the country.

Let’s do the math again.

Almost 90 million Millennials some of whom have Muslim friends, love dreamers who should become citizens, want free college, free health care and Wall Street punished for screwing the middle class.

And there are 75 million baby boomers between 50-70 who tend to believe the opposite.

Then there is radio, an industry run by baby boomers who think the world never changed.

Hell, the radio industry ignored the Internet, Napster, social media and streaming music services while busily cutting costs to do a poorer job.

Radio has to be more inclusive if it wants to see a rebirth among the money demo.

  • Top 40 radio, progressive and rock radio was a radical idea back in the 50’s and 60’s. What has radio offered in the last 25 years that is equally as radical and compelling?

  • Republican candidate John Kasich got in the face of a questioner at a New Hampshire rally the other day and said he was not going to suck up to him with his answer. A reporter interviewing the questioner afterward said he was satisfied with Kasich’ answer. Radio, too, must stop sucking up and start standing for something new and different.
  • Radio has it all wrong. Radio must become a community not a computer in a closet playing the same songs over and over and airing meaningless self-serving sweepers.
  • Radio must fund itself. I’m not saying use the public radio model and beg for money.  But win over listeners by discovering companies (advertisers) who address their needs, share their values and offer value. Then speak to them authentically and even guarantee the sponsor’s authenticity.  This is a topic I’ll bet you’ll love. Right now radio is running anything it can get paid for as a commercial and no one is listening which guarantees radio will never earn a premium price for what they do.
  • Personalities never go out of style. Sorry, iHeart and Cumulus, two radio groups who can’t resist reducing expenses by reducing the number of well paid radio personalities. Look at Cumulus in New York. New “Frickin’ York and they have amateur hour on their Nash station mornings imported from Nashville. Here’s what I’m saying. They should have done an Underground Local country station for New York because most New Yorkers don’t like country but the ones who do could be had by making it a special community.

This stuff is so fascinating and so doable.

We’re going to continue this conversation at my April 6th Philly New Radio Conference but let me thank the folks who have registered so far and give special props to the groups – many independents – who are sending more people than CBS sent to the NAB Radio Show when Scott Herman was its chairman.

Independent operators are the future of radio – there is no other way back.

If you’d be interested in having this discussion, please reserve the date April 6th for my one day New Radio Conference in Philadelphia.

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iRot Radio’s Assault on Competitors

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The Iowa Caucuses

Peggy Noonan, the conservative Wall Street Journal columnist warned the other day that whether Bernie Sanders wins his bid for president or not, socialism may be America’s future.

This is an insightful conclusion about some 90 million Millennials who have not really enjoyed capitalism.

During their young lives (18-34 years old), they graduated from college to unemployment or underemployment.

They have seen the lion’s share of wealth go to the top 1% while they struggle with college loans and work in jobs where they can’t pay them back.

No wonder free college, healthcare for all and fight those dirty bastards on Wall Street resonates.

Sanders may have lost the Iowa caucuses by fewer than 4 electoral equivalents but he won 70% of the young voters.

This is instructive if you are a radio station or media exec trying to make sense of the future.

  1. When Ted Cruz quoted scripture in accepting victory among the Republicans, he turned off a great number of young people who are not religious and certainly not Evangelicals. He may have appeased Iowa GOP voters, but religion is a personal thing with Millennials. They may be spiritual but they are not going to church or thumb a bible publicly.

  2. Rubio is going to defend gun rights (a no, no for most Millennials) and repeal an entitlement called Obamacare (try it, Millennials will go nuts). He can talk about American exceptionalism all he wants but that’s not how Millennials see it. And getting tough on immigration is not in the future of 90 million Millennials any time soon.
  3. Donald Trump may well roar back but he didn’t connect with Millennials not because he wasn’t afraid to be a non-politician but because he seemed to pander to whatever interests would serve his deal-making skills.
  4. Somehow Hillary Clinton sounded like something they’ve heard before. Yes, she’ll help make college more affordable but they want freebies. Hillary’s approach is a loser among 18-34s.  Hillary has a coalition of baby boomer women and minorities who want to help her become the first woman president but it won’t happen without the Millennials who flock to Bernie Sanders. Trying to come off as a pragmatist doesn’t seem to fit with Millennials who reach for the sky.
  5. The establishment candidates are getting no traction because older people are sick of politicians and younger people are already sick of politicians.

Who knows how this will end, but I suspect Noonan is correct.

We live in a socialist world. Hell, Millennials invented the words “social media”. Any word with social sounds good. It’s not the dog whistle for communism that older people think.

Conservative talk radio attracts old baby boomer men and talk radio is over. Will not last until the next presidential election. But there will be no socialistic Democratic replacement because radio is yesterday’s news to Millennials.

If politicians can’t figure out how to win over 18-34’s, what can we learn from a 74 year old white man in a rumpled suit that would help radio turn it around?

  • Be authentic. Radio is lacking this component badly.

  • Be humble. Radio personalities must be all about the listeners not themselves.
  • Less hype. Can you think of anything that has more hype than a radio station? Okay, WWE. See what I mean?
  • Provide dreams. What radio station do you listen to that plays up the fantasy of the mind to cooperate with a generation of dreamers?
  • Be civic. Millennials love people who accept others as they are and work together for the common good. Don’t tell them that climate change is not a big issue.
  • Monetize with the help of the audience. Sanders keeps raking in record hauls of small donations (average $26 per person) and he has no political PACs. Radio just runs commercial after commercial of garbage that no listener can stand and makes absolutely no connection with the audience. Imagine if radio monetized with an assist from their listeners.  There’s a way, I promise you.
  • Be gender agnostic. At my April 6th conference I will present some startling information about young people and their view of sexual orientation. Any station not in alignment with this view will be caught whistling Dixie.

My belief is and has always been, the solution for radio is mastering the next generation the way Steve Jobs did at Apple when they reinvented their company and the world.

If you’d be interested in having this discussion, please reserve the date April 6th for my one day New Radio Conference in Philadelphia.

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Bodies Are Going To Start Hitting the Concrete At iHeart

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