Solutions To Radio’s Commercial Clutter

The problem: good radio stations are being forced to cut their rates to remain competitive on buys because of desperate radio groups forcing stations to run more, cheaper commercials.

The result is unlistenable long commercial stop sets that sound like they are two or three times longer because so many short spots are being sold and included in stop sets often as long as 8-minutes every half hour.

To make matters worse, PPM “experts” have everyone fooled into thinking that limiting these stop sets to twice an hour in strategic quarter hour locations will soften the blow and actually help stations win more quarter hour listening.

Just look at the ratings to see this strategy doesn’t work.

Even if stations technically get credit for extra quarter hours by strategic placement of these commercial dumps – at what price when they alienate listeners instead of create passionate fans.

Growing commercial clutter is a serious problem.

It doesn't matter how local you are, how popular your personalities are or how great your music is. There is no getting around the deleterious effects of widespread commercial clutter.

Protect yourself with the latest information that will be presented at the Media Solutions Conference in Philly in three weeks.

You’ll discover everything you need to know, like:

  • Why one type of commercial is a tune-in when most others invite immediate tune-out.
  • The thing you can put in the middle of commercial stop sets that will force listening to continue.
  • Why experts now say more frequent stop sets are actually an advantage for today’s attention-deficit audiences.
  • 2 things you can do that will increase the effectiveness of commercials when you have some over producing it. In fact, listeners forget to leave the station when they hear these kinds of spots.
  • How to lower your risk of alienating audiences even if you lose them to overly long stop sets.
  • What one thing listeners hate even more than a radio station’s commercials? Is that possible? It sure is and 100% of all radio stations do this. You’ll discover what not to do.
  • The latest, most advanced ways to schedule commercial clusters by daypart with an eye toward reducing tune-out.
  • The results of actual station experiments when they made drastic reductions in commercial units aired per hour.
  • Information on whether it helps to position your station’s commercial limiting moves on-air.  
  • The word you must never say on the air because it makes listeners go bye-bye.
  • How to improve tune-out by 30% and increase billing by 15% – helping advertisers make their commercials more effective. Remember, commercials can be a bigger attraction.  Think about TV spots on Super Bowl Sunday. Viewers watch for the commercials. The radio stations that have figured this out are number one in ratings and billing in their markets.

Register Now.

Need assistance registering? Call (480) 998-9898

The Media Solutions Conference is recognized as an excellent resource for independent radio operators and digital entrepreneurs. One day can change the way you plan the next year.

Discounts available for groups of 3-5 or 5 or more here.

Horizon Media’s “Mood Ratings” Is a Dangerous Idea

One of the largest national media buyers, Horizon, is reinventing ratings with proprietary software that will designate the mood of listeners and reach them by mood.

If so, they had better be careful what they wish for because radio listeners are in a damn lousy mood.

Let’s see how they are going to measure two 8-minute commercial breaks an hour that sound three times longer with all those cheap 10’s and 15s in there.

And Horizon knows a lot about buying cheap radio because in my view they have been responsible for bidding down radio ad rates.

Finally, something that can make PPM actually look good – but only by comparison.

How desperate are we getting?

The answer to radio’s problems is not going to come from a media buyer who is virtually devaluing it every day.

Keep running dumpsters full of lousy commercials and I’ll tell you the mood of radio listeners – piss poor.

That’s why they are listening less.

That’s why what audience remains is older and older.

The good, independent radio groups are having a good laugh on Horizon today (and all the coverage they are getting in the happy talk radio trade press).

Good operators know you never let a media buyer in the front door to help make your decisions.

These good radio companies – the ones that don’t have mist tunnels in their offices or their brother making programming decisions – actually have some startling revelations of their own.

On rates, morning shows, the new programmatic buying, spotloads and why non-commercial NPR would make an unbeatable commercial station.

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“Millennial Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make” has been added as one of the 13 topics to be covered at my Media Solutions Conference in Philadelphia March 18th. Learn more.

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Millennial Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make

Often radio stations make things harder than they are when it comes to attracting Millennials.

For decades radio’s focus was that large population of Baby Boomers (aging but still 70 million strong). The last Baby Boomer turned 50 in 2014 so the generation is fast edging out of the money demo.

And then there is radio’s uncomfortable relationship with 45 million Gen Xers – after all, this is the generation that coined the phrase “Radio Sucks”. And radio’s answer was “Jack – We Play What We Want”.

Oh no!

So now, with 95 million Millennials coming of age and many now as old as 33 and in the money demo, smart strategic thinking suggests doing all we can to avoid mistakes that turn off the essential next wave of radio potential radio listeners.

Don’t believe that these young people will only pay attention to their phones.

But first we have to start paying attention to them.

Millennial Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make:

  1. To change the way you do commercials.  My research at the University of Southern California shows that Millennials love live-read commercials. But there are some caveats that are easy enough to abide by.  This provides some hope that the things that pay our bills and promote our stations can be delivered in ways that will prompt them to listen.
  2. But the message must be quick and to the point. Millennials, like every other generation, have shorter attention spans every year. The 10 second spot that would work best is a good audio “tweet”.
  3. Watch how you talk to Millennials. They feel radio djs talk down to them at worst and at best sound like phonies -- not real people. There are 7 things that should be used as standards for changing the way radio talks to younger listeners. And by the way, this doesn’t mean you have to hire only Millennials on the air.  They sure listened to that old Baby Boomer Steve Jobs who would have turned 60 today when he talked to them about Apple’s new products and they thought he was cool.
  4. Take Millennial bingeing seriously.  No, it’s not just for Netflix and HuluPlus. Millennials want to be the “program director” so with a little imagination, let’s talk about how to provide them with binge-worthy content from their local radio provider. “The History of Rock and Roll” – 48 hour rockumentary would be a good place to start the brainstorming about creating bingeing content.
  5. Kill the 8-minute stop set before it kills you .   Seriously, you can have the best radio station in the world and too many commercials will do you in. But there are ways to schedule spots better. Look with more skepticism at the common PPM wisdom of creating wastelands of commercials to win certain quarter hours and take a leap of faith – they want better commercials and more interruptions not fewer (more interruptions soothes their A.D.D.).
  6. Avoid using social media to promote on-air.  No one who uses social media believes you anyway. If you have just a little bit of courage, try social media this way — sell nothing, promote nothing, illuminate, entertain and put your name on it.
  7. Ditch voice tracking and syndication.  You love it, audiences ignore you. What a deal? A lousy deal. Voice tracking is for lazy people. As a major market program director I could have gotten people to pay me to take on-air jobs. Well, you know what I mean. You don’t have to go broke hiring live jocks. More interruptions by a live dj who doesn’t sound like a moron wins the day.
  8. Repeat after me: I will never run a sweeper again.  Again, lazy radio’s way to avoid having to entertain an audience.  It’s something Marc Chase would do at iHeart stations but sweepers are really passé. Millennials told me that when iHeart switched to urban hip-hop to go after Emmis’ Power 106, the sweeper they used “we’ve got the power” backfired. Get it.  92.3 has the “Power” – how not cool is that? Let’s talk about a replacement for sweepers that you and the audience will much prefer.
  9. And eliminate everything that ends in “est” – like “greatest” and “best”. No longer credible. There are a whole lot of better replacement words that are more authentic.
  10. Play games  -- hey, this is the gaming generation —what a bad time to stop on-air contesting. But be warned — throwback radio contests won’t work today. The best way to come up with these new Millennial friendly contests is to bring a bunch of Millennials in to create them. Let’s practice what to say and what kind of prizes to award. Think: a job, a college loan payment.
  11. Don’t brand or promote, make personalities your “brand” .  Lew Dickey loves branding, not Millennials. Nash, Icon, even all-news or talk, greatest hits, you name it means nothing to today’s audience. You’re going to get mad at me now — personalities are everything on radio. I know they cost money and owners can’t wait to get rid of them but that’s what young listeners want. In fact, it’s the only thing many of them want from radio. They can get more music variety just about anywhere in their digital universe. Want to know what it takes to find a hot Millennial radio personality — radio still hasn’t figured it out. But we now have some clues.
  12. Two things radio listeners still can’t resist: service and humility.  Let’s be 100 here – most stations fail to deliver either.

You’ve got me going now.

Want more ideas like these?

Invest one day at the 2015 Media Solutions Conference March 18th in Philadelphia (sorry, it won’t be available by stream, video or audio). Only in-person.

Current tuition, program info here.

The curriculum:

  • Attracting 2 Million To Your Website the WTOP Way
  • Commercials – Another Way
  • How Much Radio, How Much Digital
  • Listen Longer Strategies
  • Eliminating 2015’s 3 Biggest Listener Objections
  • Effective Ways To Compete With On-Demand Content
  • What Millennials Want From Radio
  • Selling Against Competitors Who Drop Rates
  • Start Your Own Short-Form Video Business
  • Beyond Clicks – Listener Engagement
  • Telling Stories – the New Spoken Word Radio
  • Why You Should Pass On Podcasting
  • 8 Millennial Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make
  • Tons of Questions (Q & A)

Reserve a seat.

Inquire about group discounts here.

CBS Dropping All-News Is A Bad Sign

The decision to remove all-news-all-the-time from WNEW-FM, Washington doesn’t bode well for CBS Radio or the rest of the radio industry.

WNEW only wanted a sliver of what Hubbard’s WTOP takes out of the market (WTOP is the highest billing radio station in the country).

Instead, today’s CBS didn’t have the patience that Westinghouse had in the 1960’s when it stuck to all-news as expensive as it was in a stubborn belief that the payoff would come.

Radio One dumped out of all-news in Houston after a few years – a bold experiment, again a three-year experiment is commendable, but not the patience to reengineer the all-news format.

When CBS turns its DC FM news operation into WBZ, Boston or KRLD, Dallas you know more bad things are on the way.

Add to that the expected change at the top this year when a new radio president could be appointed -- Dan Mason is reportedly mulling retirement.

And then there is Les Moonves’ public pledge to sell off one-third of their non-essential radio stations.

So you see the large radio group that is the gold standard by which others are judged is setting a much lower standard.

I know what you’re thinking – some gold standard when you’re coming out ahead of the likes of iHeart, Cumulus and Entercom. Okay, you’re right, but still.

Mason has done a pretty good job considering that CBS has turned into the planet of the bean counters. And Scott Herman is as good a news exec as you can get. I don’t think in his heart of hearts he wanted to bail on another all-news station to turn it into news-talk.

And watch. Bet the “talk” part is syndicated not local, cheap – the kind that makes these bean counters cream their --- well, you know.

I’m seeing a rough ride ahead for CBS Radio.

It’s still for sale.

How will a Dan Mason replacement run radio?

Cheap programming on the way – and cutbacks to coincide especially in certain areas.

Partnering with Cumulus, one of the sketchiest companies in all of radio.

No wonder Mason is thinking about retirement.

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Effective Ways To Compete With On-Demand Contenthas just been added to one of the 13 topics to be covered at my Media Solutions Conference in Philadelphia March 18th. See the full curriculum & learn more here.

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Effective Ways To Compete With On-Demand Content

Millennials want to pick up the phone, get what they want and consume it —probably in a minute or less.

How does 24-hour radio compete with that?

Let’s count the ways:

  1. Re-do the format clock to be much shorter than an hour. Actually, when I tell you how short will work best, you might be surprised or even shocked. The outcome is not in question but the way radio is currently being presented is not youth friendly. This can be fixed.
  2. Eliminate repeating format factors. Running the same things in the same place doesn’t work in the minds of Millennials who do not like rules in writing or in their entertainment.
  3. That goes for commercial stop sets, too.  Never run them in the same place every hour. And before you make any decision on this, factor in what we’re beginning to learn about stop sets that are scheduled to maximize the best chance to win a quarter hour of listening.
  4. Make radio stations a discovery tool for all content that listeners want to access (the way a phone is, in a way) and then play hardball and make it so compelling young audiences will turn to radio first (that’s not how it is now).
  5. You don’t have to play every unknown song out there to show you are doing music discovery. Here’s one way – play 5 short clips of discoverable new songs and then one of those plays longer than the others.
  6. Find your station’s new music on YouTube.  Here’s an example. Miranda Sings is a huge YouTube star. She has over 7 million plays for her video “Where My Baes At”. She sold out two nights at the Nokia Theatre in LA in February. Do you know her? Her audience does. Listen and watch. YouTube is everything.
  7. Multi-task your on-air content. Young audiences do not like music sweeps.  They like walls of content from which to choose.
  8. Mix music, info, contesting and commercials all together. The old radio model that commercials go here, the hottest hits go there and so on is outdated. Program the way Millennials respond to their digital devices not to long outdated radio ratings protocol.
  9. Your competitor is not another radio station and it’s not an online service. Your real competitor is user-generated content. And there are ways to integrate that into the new hot clock that I am going to be proposing.
  10. Play dirty with Millennials developing content they can’t resist about employment, college loans, themselves.

Want more ideas like these?

Invest one day at the 2015 Media Solutions Conference March 18th in Philadelphia (it won’t be available by stream, video or audio).

Learn more here.

The curriculum:

  • Attracting 2 Million To Your Website the WTOP Way
  • Commercials – Another Way
  • How Much Radio, How Much Digital
  • Listen Longer Strategies
  • Eliminating 2015’s 3 Biggest Listener Objections
  • Effective Ways To Compete With On-Demand Content
  • What Millennials Want From Radio
  • Selling Against Competitors Who Drop Rates
  • Start Your Own Short-Form Video Business
  • Beyond Clicks – Listener Engagement
  • Telling Stories – the New Spoken Word Radio
  • Why You Should Pass On Podcasting
  • 8 Millennial Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make
  • Tons of Questions (Q & A)

Reserve a seat.

Give me a break, Jerry – I’m bringing more people! Inquire about group discounts here.