Cumulus To Thin Out Its Sale Force

In the next two weeks, Armageddon is coming to Cumulus sellers.

Atlanta is secretly working on a way to weed out sellers they think are bad (hint: the ones who make the most money).

That is, until now.

Here’s your two-week heads up of some bad stuff coming down at Cumulus as their revenue plummets.

  • How exactly Atlanta is going to weed these good (expensive) sellers out.
  • Whether local market managers who knew their sellers best will get any input in these decisions.
  • Beware of “the template” – this is what Atlanta is sending local market managers. I’ll explain.
  • The hiring freeze that is coming.
  • More anal enforcement of the hated Engage selling software.
  • New revelations of specific major market Cumulus stations that are dropping their pants on rates that are so low, forget commissions.

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Solutions To Radio’s 12 Biggest Challenges

  1. Too Many Commercials – Scheduling spots in stop sets exclusively by length.       Roving stop sets. Making local commercials so compelling that they repel the usual tune out. The type of commercial that Millennials love that radio does not presently do.  Just as running many :10 and :15s can make listeners feel the stop sets are even longer than they are, there is now a way to make them seem shorter.
  2. What To Do with 70 Million Baby Boomers – New evidence that making formatic changes that Millennials like also pleases baby boomers but customizing content and presentation for Boomers risks turning off 95 million Millennials.
  3. Music Radio TSL Losses – Prevent music radio listening declines due to streaming music services such as Pandora, Spotify and YouTube, the biggest source of new music for young people by changing the way playlists are put together.
  4. Eliminating the 3 Biggest Listener Objections To Radio – Too many lousy commercials, outdated morning shows and playing the same repetitive music. Focus on three new features to replace traffic, time checks and weather.  Three features that are not available on smartphones and entice eager new advertisers.
  5. Music That Is Too Repetitive – Two new strategies. One adds more new music without watering down the hits.  The better approach is to rip up the traditional playlist and present shorter cuts of songs that are now played all the way through. Research shows music listeners do not listen to any song all the way through.
  6. How To Get Listeners To Listen Longer – TSL has been down every year since the early 90’s. Ironically, long music sweeps are considered a turn off when money demo listeners are studied. Changing the formatic elements to create more interruptions not less to feed short attention spans.
  7. Selling Against Competitors Who Cut Their Rates – Most of the major groups have given in on rates making it hard for independent competitors to hold the line. Why you should never sell digital and terrestrial radio on the same sales call – ever. How the biggest radio revenue producers protect their rates, increase their billing and breed loyalty in their increasingly crucial top spending advertisers.
  8. Turn-Ons & Turn-Offs. Change the way you speak to audiences, dangerous sweepers, surprising words that turn off young audiences when used on the air, etc. For example: avoid words with “est” on the end. Hear about how male audiences now care more about whether they are fun to be with and how that should trigger changes in how radio relates to all audiences.
  9. How To Attract Millennials To Radio – Demographers have discovered 5 things that Millennials crave. Do these 5 things every hour of every day and radio becomes more relevant to the 95 million members of this age group. If you do nothing else, take notes on how the make your stations sound more authentic in their eyes – one of the 5 important things to do.
  10. What To Do About the Digital Dashboard – What folks are missing is that the only thing that has changed is more competitors for fewer pre-sets. Consider ways to win a place on the pre-sets rather than take on the issue of digital dashboards.
  11. The Decline of News & Talk – Two staple radio formats are seeing audiences erode or attracting unsellable aging demographics. It’s not likely owners will be launching new news stations and less likely that traditional radio talk formats will be successfully launched on the old model. But don’t miss this glimmer of hope – a spoken word format that young money demos actually want. Young audiences love storytelling as much as Boomers loved political talk.  Time to transition.
  12. The Demise of AM Radio – By the time the FCC gets around to helping AM owners it will be too late. Is it even possible for anyone under 60 to locate or listen to an AM station?  I’ll answer that.  No.  But AM could do to FM what radio did to it.

All 12 are on the agenda at my upcoming Media Solutions Conference in Philadelphia in 6 weeks

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Cumulus Losses Exposed

At no time in recent history has anything this bad happened to market managers since the forced furloughs a couple of years ago.

Corporate henchmen like Gary Pizzati are bombarding stations with directives – sometimes as many as 7 emails a day ordering cutbacks (Pizzati did that yesterday to his “region” which includes numerous small markets but also New York, Los Angeles and Chicago – a total of 22 across the country).

Cumulus executives suspect that something is seriously wrong.

  • The actual revenue figures that Cumulus keeps secret for its New York and LA markets says it all. Read them here along with projections for 2015 right off their spreadsheets.
  • What Cumulus is telling its managers about paying their bills.
  • The ban on hiring salespeople, but even worse what corporate is going to make sellers do within the next two weeks.
  • Part-timers beware!
  • The reason for new mandated meetings forcing market managers to confer with program directors (and it has nothing to do with the on-air product).
  • What happened to WPLJ’s billing after Cumulus drove Scott Shannon into the hands of competitor WCBS-FM.
  • What does the 0.6 rated KABC bill in LA and what is it projecting.
  • The things Cumulus adds to the numbers to pad their revenue figures revealed.
  • Sources close to the situation who wish to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to reveal corporate revenue figures say something is drastically wrong.
  • After reading these numbers, you can see why another round of layoffs is coming.

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The Rush To Live Streaming

What is it with live streaming?

When radio does it, hardly 3% of their total listeners access it and the stations still can’t find a way to monetize it.

When TV networks do it, they think they have discovered the next gold rush.

NBC Universal started a live stream but they still don’t get it – you have to be a cable customer to be able to view it on phones, computers and tablets. Maybe that’s because Comcast owns NBC U – just sayin’.

CBS made live streaming of its network available for digital devices but you don’t get football (its biggest attraction) and you have to wait 24 hours to see the primetime CBS shows that fewer people are watching on TV according to Nielsen.

How dumb is that?

HBO, which always got it – is going to disrupt everything by letting non-cable subscribers subscribe to HBO Go – unbundled. Hooray!

Disney got into live streaming of ABC a year earlier ahead of the pack.

NBC’s TV Everywhere is a joke.

Its motto is “Watch TV Without the TV” – they pay people to come up with this stuff.

When the real slogan ought to be “Watch TV With Your Cable Subscription” because no cable, no TV without the TV.

Did you see that NPR gets more financial contributions than the “Downton Abbey” network PBS?

This makes me enthusiastic about sharing pathways to revenue by creating content specifically designed for the medium in mind.

Where do we get off thinking listeners want to listen to radio online when so few do. I know, Bob Pittman, a lot of people have the iHeartRadio app. Hell, I have it too. I just use it and apparently I’m not alone.

So let’s think about the potential of radio – that’s right I said “potential” – if we stop feeling sorry for ourselves and start actually getting back to our real business – creating content.

The last 20 years were about consolidation – good, now it’s over.

Let’s get on with innovating our way into the future.

A morning show without mornings – that is less than 10 minutes long with no traffic and weather for my phone and built for where I live or work delivered right to me.

No, maybe ten shows like that. Or 20.

And what if we imagined a new way to use our radio signals – by creating compelling content.

Music formats that are unpredictable and exciting and curated by experts.

Spoken word formats that are not political talk or old men trying to do lifestyle talk for young people who cannot relate to them.

And I’m going to get to binge content.

Hell, Netflix does it – and audiences want to binge on that which we want.

Radio should be in this business and I am going to tantalize you so that you’ll rush back to your markets and get your content creators and marketers revved up.

We can do this.

At my upcoming media conference in Philly, we’re going to examine how to do the best radio we’ve ever done on-the-air and simultaneously create separate revenue streams based on new opportunities that we are currently ignoring.

We can make a real difference not by doing the same things, but also by drilling down with innovative thinking on these following ten problems that must be solved to have a positive outcome in 2015.

  1. Too Many Commercials – How spots are scheduled can make a difference.       Also, the length of spots in each stop set. There is much that can be done. To proceed as is is not a solution.
  2. Unremarkable Programming For 70 Million Baby Boomers – All the focus is on young money demo Millennials. Baby boomers have been radio’s most loyal listeners but that’s changing now. Ignore baby boomers, target them or better yet discover what the two disparate groups have in common.      
  3. Outdated Morning Shows – They like personalities but increasingly they don’t like much else about morning shows.  Focus on three new features to replace traffic, time checks and weather. Yes, they don’t need them. But consider these three potent options to replace tired old staples of morning radio. (And you can sell them!)
  4. Music That Is Too Repetitive – Audiences have hated music repetition on radio for decades but they had few alternatives. Not so anymore. Two new strategies show promise. One adds more new music without watering down the hits. The better approach is to rip up the traditional playlist and present the music differently.
  5. No Compelling Reason To Listen Longer – Radio TSL has been down every year since the early 90’s. Under 30’s don’t even listen to any song all the way through even though music radio is built on the assumption that if you play the right songs, the audience will stay tuned in. Now, there is a way to keep listeners from straying and it isn’t longer music sweeps.
  6. Don’t Like the Way Stations Talk To Them – Sounds dated, insincere. Too much bragging and hype. It all sounds like radio is out of touch. Talking down to listeners whether we mean to or not.  Surprising words that turn off young audiences when used on the air, in promos, sweepers, imaging and commercials. Learn them and overcome this objection.
  7. Radio Is Not Authentic – Demographers have discovered 5 things that Millennials crave. Do these 5 things every hour of every day and radio becomes more relevant to the 95 million members of this age group.  One of the 5 things they crave is more authenticity. Learn the fastest way to master being truly authentic to Millennials but also the four other expectations that radio is currently not meeting. They are screaming this out for you to hear.
  8. Lack of Music Variety and Customization – Spotify, Pandora and YouTube are killing radio when it comes to variety and customization. There may be no way to compete with that, but audiences are beginning to tell us what these streaming services are lacking presenting a great opportunity for responsive radio stations to do what streaming services cannot do.
  9. Outdated News and Talk – Two staple radio formats are seeing audiences erode or attracting unsellable aging demographics.  News stations don’t just sound like their father’s radio station – they sound like their grandfathers radio station. Droning on and on with sleepy features designed for station sales managers not for listeners to crave. Conservative talk is also over because audiences want compromise not red meat. And Progressive talk radio never really worked. It’s a no-win. But spoken word is something young Millennials like, really like – here is the spoken word station of the future (bring an open mind).
  10. Don’t Know Where the AM Band Is – Think about it. There’s nothing for audiences under 60 on AM. So you may be thinking that younger money demos won’t listen to an AM station, right? True, unless … well, I’ll show you a number of things you could do on two tin cans hooked together with a string that Millennials would eat up.  Will you take that challenge?  Because I’m going to do it and you’re going to want to brainstorm on it. Forget the FCC. AM needs to disrupt FM the way FM disrupted AM.

PLUS, What Audiences REALLY Want In Digital Content …

There is nothing worse than doing something well that doesn’t need to be done at all. Some stations are doing impressive digital initiatives that audiences simply don’t care about.

Instead, drill down on what listeners really want in digital and get a better return on your investment in time and money:

  1. Storytelling Instead of Podcasting
  2. Short-Form Video Revenue Stream
  3. Non-hyped Social Media Beyond Facebook and Twitter
  4. Content Audiences Can Binge on Just Like They Do Netflix
  5. Apps Not Websites (and That Includes Radio)

This is a day worth your time and investment.

A clearly defined agenda, creative and innovative solutions to apply and a forum to discuss and hitchhike on new ideas that you hear.

Independent broadcasters and digital entrepreneurs are invited to the 6th annual Media Solutions Seminar at the Hub Conference Center March 18th in Philadelphia, walking distance from Amtrak’s 30th Street Station and 20 minutes from Philadelphia International Airport.

Buffet breakfast, lunch and all breaks prepared by James Beard award-winning chef Jean-Marie Lacroix, former executive chef at The Four Seasons included.

Less than 2 months from today until the Media Solutions Conference.

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Larry Wilson’s Alpha Broadcasting Playbook

What is Larry Wilson really up to?

Buying tiny markets like Fredericksburg to add to the other no name markets he has cobbled together.

He’s not an evil iHeart or Cumulus operator but is there a business in buying markets that even investors may never have heard of?

Here’s his ambitious game plan.

  • Something just happened that might slow down or end future acquisitions. Now what?
  • The lenders are running the show – what they want from their investment in Alpha.
  • Why Dean Goodman’s Digity is watching how Larry Wilson cashes out since Goodman’s markets are even smaller.
  • Is an IPO an option for a company in a dying business that operates in very small markets.
  • The radio group that Wilson may most like to imitate.
  • The best thinking on Alpha’s playbook going forward.

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Solving the “Too Many Commercials” Problem

If there is one thing that deserves radio’s attention, it is finding a way to mitigate listener complaints about too many commercials.

Amazingly, 16 minutes an hour sounds like double that to a listener when you consider how many :10 and :15 second spots are run in two unlistenable stop sets an hour.

Ratings dictate where these stop sets run in the false illusion that stations will rack up more quarter hour listening.

To be blunt, keep this up and no matter how good a radio station’s programming content may be, listeners will continue fleeing for other options – not even other stations who likely follow the same bad practices.

Now there is hope.

To start with are you running the kind of commercials that even Millennial listeners say they like – that’s right, like? It’s important to know.

Do you know a way to load a lot of commercials into stop sets and reduce the irritation factor by up to 30%? It’s doable.

The one thing to never put in a stop set loaded with commercials or you’re likely asking for trouble.

Taking advantage of competitors who fail to follow the new rules to commercial placement.

Of course, the best way is to cut commercials loads, but Entercom has been trying this on test stations and promoting it. And you know what? It hasn’t helped – at least if you look at the ratings.

So, we’re going to focus on getting control of the biggest audience irritation factor for radio and you can try new ideas and make a real difference.

Here are the radio topics we will focus on at my upcoming Philly conference in 7 weeks from now …

  1. Baby Boomers -- What to do with 70 million available baby boomers -- too many to ignore – when radio is focusing on 95 million Millennials.
  2. Outdated Morning Shows – Replacing traffic, transit and weather with 3 things listeners can’t get on a smartphone.
  3. Repetitive Music – Two new alternatives. One adds more new music without watering down the hits. The other is to rip up the traditional playlist and present the music in an entirely different way.
  4. Listen Longer – Radio time spent listening has been declining every year for two decades. Under 30’s don’t even listen to any song all the way through even though music radio is built on the assumption that if you play the right songs, the audience will stay tuned in. New solutions that are proven to work.
  5. Change the Way We Talk To Listeners – Radio sounds dated and stale. Too much bragging and hype. Learn surprising words that turn off young audiences when used on the air, in promos, sweepers, imaging and commercials.
  6. Millennial Hot Buttons – Authenticity is number one plus four other things that will make younger money demo listeners crave your station.
  7. Music Discovery – How to play the hits as we must while also competing with new music from streaming music services. A bold new way to safely make one format adjustment and do both.
  8. Replacement Format for Talk – Political talk is not resonating with prime demos, but there is one thing that is right in radio’s wheelhouse that should be the next spoken word format. Storytelling – we’ll get into how all types of stations – even music formats – can do it.
  9. Solving the “Too Many Commercials” Problem – For stations that can’t deeply cutback commercial minutes, some new solutions.

And these digital topics that deliver what audiences really want …

  1. Storytelling Instead of Podcasting – Podcasting is radio online, but storytelling is the hottest thing that Millennials want.
  2. Short-Form Video – New rules: don’t need air talent, expenses are under $500 (for the year) and the upside is tremendous.
  3. Social Media After Facebook & Twitter – What’s next in the pipeline.
  4. Binge Content – It’s not just for Netflix and Hulu. Here’s how radio can do it.
  5. Apps Not Websites – How to refocus attention from station websites to specially targeted apps.

More than ever, you can accelerate your station’s success by developing innovative solutions to radio’s biggest challenges.

Make yourself indispensible by investing in yourself by transforming opportunities into success.

Independent broadcasters and digital entrepreneurs are invited to the 6th annual Media Solutions Seminar at the Hub Conference Center March 18th in Philadelphia, walking distance from Amtrak’s 30th Street Station and 20 minutes from Philadelphia International Airport.

Buffet breakfast, lunch and all breaks prepared by James Beard award-winning chef Jean-Marie Lacroix, former executive chef at The Four Seasons included.

Only 7weeks from today to reserve a seat at the next Media Solutions Conference.

It’s your chance to register and reserve a seat at the lowest rate we offer.

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Programming & Sales Shakeup Coming To Cumulus

The latest Nash FM, New York ratings even lower than the previous format.

WLS-FM, Chicago revenue off a whopping 30% -- confirmed.

Selling ads to Mark Thompson on their KLOS website to promote his return to their direct LA competitor – that’s how hard up they are for money (and yes, I captured the screen shot before they changed it).

Seeking Alpha, the Wall Street service that tracks public companies, now flat out says bad Cumulus programming is killing their EBITDA.

So guess what the Dickey’s are going to do?

Fire some people and shakeup programming and sales.

  • What about that poor SOB who decided to take Mark Thompson’s money to run an ad for his new “The Sound” LA Show on his former home website, KLOS?
  • And Jan Jeffries for his part in WLS-FM’s 30% revenue decline.
  • What will happen to Mike “Benedict Arnold” McVay who is proving once again he should return to programming adult contemporary, I think.
  • What Lew will do about morning shows now.
  • The future of branded formats now that Nash FM at 1.3 has the lowest ratings since the format was changed – let me guess, PPM changed a listener panel. No, worse.
  • Why you may want to memorize the word icon.
  • Changes to weekends on Cumulus systemwide.
  • What Cumulus is now thinking about sales commissions.
  • And the future of Engage – their Big Brother (can I say that?) spyware that salespeople despise.

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