Raise your hand if your PPM ratings are based on one household

From Inside Radio:

As more markets convert to electronic measurement, programmers face a conundrum. Minute-by-minute PPM listening data for features, artist interviews and other programming elements often doesn’t square with traditional popularity indicators, such as perceptual research. That disconnect has created a friction between maximizing current ratings performance and building and maintaining a strong brand. It’s causing PDs to reevaluate benchmarks that have helped build their brands, from music features like “Mandatory Metallica” to call-in shows such as Loveline. “We had a feature that was clearly generating cume but was costing us core listeners,” Entercom active rock KRXQ, Sacramento station manager Jim Fox says. “If you were to just look at that one daypart, you might conclude that it’s hurting you. But it could create a preset on somebody’s radio that might not normally listen to your station and that ultimately could generate quarter hours in other dayparts.” 

I'm surprised this issue is arising now considering its one I focused on years ago when I created this industry presentation, called Seducing PPM.

The fundamental issue is recognizing the difference between two types of listening behavior:  

Retention vs. acquisition.

Minute-by-minute maintenance is all about retention.  While attracting new listeners - or inviting back old ones - is about acquisition.

Depending on which goal you are balancing you have a different set of tactics ahead of you (I'm not going to trudge through all the details - just watch the old presentation if you are interested).

Suffice it to say that anyone who worships the minute-by-minute Gods without building a brand worth listening to over the long haul, worth discovering, and worth returning to is a fool.

The piece goes on...

For some programmers it’s a waiting game to see if PPM results change as panelists move in and out of the panel — especially when just a handful can move the ratings needle. Arbitron says monthly panel turnover is 4-6% for panels that have been reporting less than 18 months and 6-10% for mature panels. What can be PPM negative in one quarter may be positive six months later.

In other words, don't worship today's numbers too religiously (pun intended) because there's a good chance that they'll change.  And soon.  And maybe a lot.

And that's because they're unstable.  Big changes can be manifested by one panelist with a quirky habit who suddenly appears or vanishes in the sample like a poltergeist above an ancient Indian burial ground.

When we see programmers waiting to "see if PPM results change as panelists move in and out of the panel" what we are doing is playing the panel, not playing for the audience.

Yes, I know, ratings have fluctuated at random ever since the first listener put her pencil to the first diary. But wasn't the premise behind the considerable expense of PPM both its accuracy and its stability (and stability is certainly what you need to project the appearance of accuracy)?

Indeed, the small-sample horror stories are all too easy to come by.

So build your brands.  Evolve with the happiness of your audience in mind.  And that will help buffer you from a ratings sample that is more wobbly than Lindsay Lohan's judgment.

If a "handful of listeners can move the ratings needle" then your job is to create a brand resistant to those wobbles in the real world of audiences and advertisers.

And that does not happen minute-by-minute.

Radio made by and for Under-20's


Here's what I'm sick of:

The relentless whine to get more younger people involved with radio in content and management positions.

Listen, if you want younger people with innumerable choices - most of their own making - to sign on to your medium, then you have to meet them on their own terms and stop expecting them to meet you on yours.

Enter U20.

A project from Australia's Austereo intended to offer under-20's a reason to get involved in a medium that has largely left them behind.

And that reason is simple:  They get to take control and make it their own.

After all, these are not just your children, they are your future.

Ideas for Christian Radio - and not just Christian Radio

Here's an interview with me that Doug Hannah was kind enough to post on his site, the Christian Radio Show (and here's the direct mp3 link).

As I listen to it again, I must have had my coffee because I was firing on all cylinders.  

There's value in this audio to you whether or not you're in the Christian Radio space.

So check it out.

And discover, among other things, why you should NEVER compare radio to "Black & White TV."

And thanks again to Doug Hannah.

(You can also pick up the show on iTunes).

Radio's Competitive Advantage in a Digital World: It's the Megaphone

This is a segment from my presentation at the recent Radio Ink Convergence conference.

In this portion, I highlight the key way in which radio has an advantage vis-a-vis its competitors.

If you really want to understand where radio can be headed - watch this.

The value of radio's "megaphone" isn't simply in pimping the airwaves to reach faceless ears.

The value is in connecting consumers with our clients by rallying the attention we so uniquely enjoy no matter where those connections are made.

But make no mistake:  Our future is not about messaging, it's about connecting.

Our future is not about monetizing media, it's about monetizing relationships.

Watch the video.

The Slow Pace of Radio's Digital Progress

Climb Last week Bridge Ratings released a survey of radio industry managers assessing their progress on the digital front and the reasons why that progress has been - shall we say - rather plodding.

I spoke with Dave Van Dyke of Bridge Ratings on radio's slow march to digital success.

As you'll hear, I take issue with some of the industry's easy cop-outs.  I also celebrate the fact that there are plenty of clever and resourceful needles in the radio haystack that are making great strides and doing great things.

Overall, of course, this is a problem and challenge of leadership.

And if there's one thing leadership requires, it's leaders.

MP3 File

And don't forget, all Mark Ramsey podcasts and videos are available for free at iTunes.

A Lesson in Leadership from Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz

Howard-schultz-starbucks Here's an amazing interview with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz from the folks at Harvard Business Review.

This is in the wake of the two most tumultuous years in Starbucks' history - the same tumultuous years that faced almost every other business, including our own media businesses.

What's so amazing to me about this is the way Schultz reacted to the "death march" of headlines and criticism he faced.

Has your company reacted the way Howard's company has?

What you will hear is a terrific illustration of leadership in raw terms. You will hear about choices made for the good of a brand and its consumers, no matter the criticism, no matter how easy it would have been to "cut it to the bone."

You will hear terms like "reinvestment" and "innovation."  Terms you generally don't hear in radio.

You will hear the voice of a leader, not a manager with more excuses than guts.

"What I stand for is not just to make money, but to look in the mirror and know that you're creating something people will respect," says Schultz.

"You have to stand up for what you believe in."

What do YOU believe in?

Radio is what's on it - and how it makes us feel

People - real people - consume products and services because of what those products and services do and how they make us feel in their presence.

You could sell an iPhone by advertising its technical specifications just the way your local radio station promotes how many songs it plays in a row.

Or you could focus on what problems the device solves and how that solution transforms our lives.

It's not about the device per se, it's about what it does for us.

It's not about the station per se, it's about the quality of what's on it.

And how all that makes us feel.

Don't force your Personalities to be Social Media Wonks

Lead_a_horse_to_water I hear it all the time:

"We want our personality to blog, but he wants more money to do it."


"Our personality says he'll blog, but he doesn't."

So what should you do?  Should you force him to blog?  Push him to tweet?  Bonus him for Facebook posts?

I don't think so.

And here's why:  You can lead a horse to water - you can even pay him to stand at the trough - but horses have to drink because they want to - not because you want them to. And not because you're bribing them to do so.

You know how much all those writers for the Huffington Post get paid?


And that's the Huffington friggin' Post - with 12 million uniques this month alone.

Who said that it was necessary for your DJ's to blog, anyway?  Who said it was critical for your air talent to tweet?  It's not.

It is important for your station brand to be part of the listener conversation, no doubt. So somebody needs to dive in.  Somebody needs to blog.  Somebody needs to tweet.  Somebody needs to have online dialogues with your fans.  Somebody needs to do all that.

But it doesn't need to be the talent.  

Particularly if that talent is stubborn about the process, confused about what they're being paid to do here and now (which, technically, is to do whatever's good for their show and the brand), or - most tragically - technically inept.

If the talent won't or can't do it, I say take down their web page.  Drop their blog.  Banish their tweets.  Kill their Facebook.  If they will not jump in with both feet then don't pretend they did.  Don't insult the intelligence of your audience, please.  Users of these tools know the difference between a volunteer army of tweeting station representatives and a conscripted, stodgy crank who needs support from the IT guy every time his computer goes to sleep.

Aren't there some enthusiastic nobodys at your station chomping at the bit to take control of your digital assets?  Aren't there new voices waiting to be heard, new faces waiting to be seen?  The way your brand shapes up online may - and perhaps should - be totally different from the way it shapes up on-air.

One day, the fresh-faced online star on your staff may outshine his on-air counterpart.  And on that humiliating day, the fancy, too-good-for-the-Internet high-priced talent will learn the great lesson of all employment agreements:

The universe doesn't care what your contract says; it only cares when your contract ends.

Brands will not just be Media, they will be Entertainment


I have been arguing for some time now
(following Tom Asacker's logic) that radio, TV, print, ad agencies - the whole conglomeration of media interests, each one viewing its silo as unique and distinct from every other silo - are increasingly reflections of a larger entity called "media," where the distinctions are irrelevant and the ideas are paramount.

I have argued that people today are media and that digital platforms enable brands themselves to be their own media (and when you are media you don't need to advertise on as much media).

But now I'm going to take the argument even further.

Because I think brands are going to move beyond media.  Brands are going to be entertainment.

I'm not talking about brands spending ad dollars on entertainment events or hosting entertaining promotions or wrapping their logo around an entertaining website.  I'm not talking about brands dabbling in the entertainment business.  I'm saying that brands are increasingly going to be entertainment.

Take Starbucks for example.  The recent news about their free WiFi obscured the more significant move they're making - to become entertainment:

Schultz also unveiled plans for a new in-store service called the Starbucks Digital Network, slated to come online this fall. Teaming up with Yahoo, Starbucks will offer customers free and unrestricted access to different paid sites and services. Content partners will include WSJ.com, iTunes, The New York Times, Patch, USA Today, Yahoo, and Zagat. Additionally, Schultz said the new network will provide exclusive content, free downloads, and local community news.

Starbucks will, in other words, be entertainment - at least some of which is exclusive.  Each Starbucks outlet will become a digital hub where coffee products are purchased as part of an entertainment experience.  This has more in common with Disneyland than it does with Dunkin' Donuts.

And speaking of Disney, yesterday the company announced the opening of their completely redesigned Disney store.  It's a high-tech makeover that includes...

...the first-ever Disney-Pixar CARS-branded RIDEMAKERZ experience which sets the stage for kids of all ages to build 1:18 scale toy custom cars inside of Disney Store. Disney Store executives, stars from the upcoming Disney Channel Original Movie "Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam" and characters from Disney-Pixar's blockbuster film franchise Toy Story joined the festivities and greeted hundreds of Disney fans who waited excitedly for the opportunity to experience the innovative new store.

The 4,800-plus square foot store's floor-to-ceiling remodel now features multimedia technology, interactive storytelling and Disney Store exclusive merchandise that bring Disney's most beloved characters to life for families in the local community. 

"As part of Disney, we're committed to the value of entertainment and exclusive experiences," said Jim Fielding, president of Disney Stores Worldwide. "Disney is setting a new standard for the specialty retail category by integrating robust technology and creative store planning to make each visit customizable and that much more memorable. This is truly an immersive, one-of-a-kind retail experience for children and families that only Disney could deliver."

This is not just entertaining shopping, this is entertainment as shopping.  Focused on technology, experience, entertainment, and customization.

It's not a great leap from here to a point where Coke or Ford or Hallmark have their own radio or video products to compete with yours.

For your audience.

Where the entire experience is draped around their brand, rather than having their brand draped around somebody else's experience.

This process is already well underway, and its trajectory is certain.

How to become a Social Media Magnet

Richard Laermer is a social media powerhouse.  

Whether it's regarding his best-selling books (including Punk Marketing: Get Off Your Ass and Join the Revolution), his cable news appearances, his public relations work as head of RLM Public Relations, his contributions to the Huffington Post, or his latest effort, HowToFame, social media is the bloodstream that nourishes all these projects.

How did Richard become a social media magnet, and how can you do likewise?  That's the subject of this short interview.

Are we too quick to focus on monetizing social media?  Are we missing the larger point: That monetization comes only after your audience gets to know the real you?

You bet we are.

Social media is not about pushing ourselves out to audiences.  It's about giving them reasons to want to return to our doorstep.

Enjoy this video.  And if you prefer just the audio version, click here.

And remember, all MRM videos are available at iTunes here, and all MRM audio podcasts are available here. Both are free for subscription.

So how do YOU use social media to benefit your brand and your audience?