So - Jerry D does think that it's the consolidators that have the weak radio product...

In an earlier post, I disagreed with Jerry Del Colliano on the subject of great content being created in radio. Here's something he wrote a few days ago that makes the point about independent operators:

A Radio Station That Signs Jocks To Contracts: "In Phoenix there is a station that actually does well -- how's number one 18-34 sound -- with a sub-par tower location and it competes with all the usual suspects like CBS and Clear Channel."


Nothing about great content on this station, but if you're #1 18-34 with no signal, something's being done right on the air!

HDTV and HDRadio - maybe they are alike

During my "industry update" time this morning, I read this article in RBR about the experience of a TV general manager. Gary McNair of WECT-TV in Wilmington, NC, during their recent turn to 100% digital TV.

It's hard not to think about the challenges facing stations that have switched to HDRadio when reading it. Most of the lessons that Gary enumerates are lessons that radio station management can learn from, too. Here's a list - interpreted for HDRadio; read the full article for details:

* Educate yourself. Experience the product. Become a consumer of free over-the-air digital radio. It is different in more ways than one.

* Prepare a station or market specific, easy to understand, “digital viewing guide” – complete with maps and pictures.

* Offer a digital help line for questions or problems.

* Be prepared – you will insult your P1s with the digital messages. These are the people responsible for the bulk of your ratings and you really don’t want to offend them or chase them off.

* Work with your fellow broadcasters if they are willing.

* Communicate with radio retailers and auto dealers. They are talking with customers every day.

* Educate your staff – especially your news and sales staffs who are constantly out representing the station.

* If you are not replicating your coverage area, be prepared for a lot of calls. Add temps to field or return calls.

* Don’t let listeners procrastinate - create real reasons for them to make the switch to HDRadio.

Arbitron vs Nielsen Part Deux

So - there's another, contradictory, study out there about the preference of Arbitron over Nielsen. It's from Media Life, an online publication for media buyers, planners and researchers. Here's a verbatim response from a participant:

"Nielsen would seem to have made a horrendously expensive, monopolistic mess of TV measurement. Now radio? Nielsen's entry into radio measurement may illustrate what journalist Naomi Klein has called the 'The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.' In short, for media buyers Nielsen's entry could mean chaos and confusion at the worst possible time. It could become a perfect example of 'disaster capitalism.'"

This survey suffers from the same lack of methodological documentation as the Harker survey; as such, both can only be construed as interesting, yet inconsequential expressions of opinion. Here's a link to the Media Life survey.

Arbitron vs Nielsen

Many of you know that Cumulus has announced that their partner for ratings in the non-PPM markets will be Nielsen. On Friday, a research firm called Harker Research, in Raleigh, published some research on their blog about the acceptability of Arbitron vs Nielsen to media buyers. Here's a link.

The basic conclusion is that Nielsen is preferred by media buyers over Arbitron. I find this to be contrary to real-world experience, so it would be interesting to see some detail on the composition of the sample. Like, were these buyers who currently buy radio? Are they in NY, LA, Chicago, Atlanta, Raleigh? Stuff like that. How large was the sample?

This is the sort of business research that is very useful to the industry. I hope that Harker contributes more detail about their methodology and sample so that we can understand its true implications.

Peter Smyth speaks on the future of radio - and he's right!

Every month, Greater Media CEO Peter Smyth pens a letter to his employees, customers and other stakeholders.  It is published on the Greater Media website for all to read.  This month, he addresses the future of radio. With the demise of Interep, the morass we find ourselves in on Wall Street, and the demolition of the auto business, radio folks are rightly concerned about the future.  And, of course, there is the encroachment of other media on the revenue normally devoted to radio.

Here's Peter Smyth's letter to all of us:

Jewel on NBC's Today Show, talks about how free exposure on radio jump-started her career

The debate going on in DC over whether radio stations should pay performance royalties was addressed by singer-songwriter Jewel in a September 30th interview with NBC's The Today Show:

There are thousands of examples of this kind of exposure resulting in career success for musicians. Putting a royalty on airing their music will only prevent new artists from being exposed.

Measuring the impact of TV Advertising on a station's listening

Edison Research and Arbitron released a terrific report last week at the NAB Radio Show in Austin. Data in this report tracked listening behavior over a 12 week period and correlates it to exposure of panelists to TV ads from the two radio stations cited in the report, WBEB and WJJZ in Philadelphia.

This is an application of PPM data that has been long awaited by many of us. And the results show that this type of research can result in very actionable information for radio marketers.

Of particular interest to me was slide #30, which shows the behavior of one panelist, a 45-54 year old male. This panelist listened to just 2 quarter hours of WBEB each week during the first three weeks of the study period. During this period, he saw no WBEB TV spots. Then, in the 4th week of the survey, he saw one spot and his listening bumped a little bit, up to 4 quarter hours for the week. In weeks 2-8, listening to WBEB dropped back to less than 2 quarter hours a wee, even though he was exposed to 2 TV spots each week. Then - in weeks 8 & 9 - he was exposed to 3 TV spots each week and his listening to WBEB started to skyrocket, so that by week 12, he was listening to upwards of 20 quarter hours (5 hours!) of WBEB each week. This is just one panelist, and there may be little or no "real" correlation between his increased exposure to WBEB TV ads and his increased listening to WBEB. Look at this kind of information for hundreds of panelists, and you will begin to discern a pattern of response to advertising. This will produce some truly actionable data.

_Users_Steve_Documents_Edison-Arbitron PPM TV Ad results study slide 30.jpg

Here's the complete presentation:

Arbitron vs. the Rest of the World

OK - I have kept my mouth shut about this for as long as possible. But I really have to comment on this today, after listening to testimony by the Director of the Congressional Budget Office about our very real financial crisis:

From Taylor on Radio at

"The New York City Council votes - unanimously - to ask the FCC to investigate Arbitron's People Meter

The Council's listening to constituents in the black and Hispanic radio communities who fear the PPM will disadvantage them and their audiences, compared to the current diary system. Arbitron has already discontinued the diary research in New York and other key markets, ahead of an October 8 debut of "live" ratings based on electronic measurements. But the Council, led by Christine Quinn, hopes the FCC can do something. The Spanish Radio Association quickly applauds the Council vote over a technology it calls "flawed", and says the PPM "should not be rolled out until all concerns are effectively addressed."

The PPM is measuring the listening of the panel extremely accurately. And, quite frankly, the results have not really surprised any of us who have been in this business for a while.

Given that, plus with the limited bandwidth that the government and regulators in both NY and DC have today due to the fiscal crisis, it seems like this action is a case of "fiddling while Rome burns." The City Council in New York should be concerned about the short term liquidity of their constituents... and how to assist them should the worst happen in our financial system. The effects of that will be far more severe than anything that PPM will offer.

The new measurement will upset the apple cart for many minority broadcasters who will be impacted by the possible results. There is no doubt, since Arbitron took hundreds of millions of dollars from these broadcasters while the diary was the methodology, that Arbitron should assist these broadcasters in finding their way in the new PPM world. But - engaging the government in this during this time of dire crisis is not the best thing for the NY City Council's constituents. Nor is it the best thing for America.

WQSR - 102 1/2 fm

Or - if you prefer - Quad 102 1/2 - was my first commercial radio experience.  Every Labor Day weekend, I remember back to the fateful Labor Day weekend when Cosmos Broadcasting ripped the heart out of our baby, changing the call letters to WSRZ.  This Labor Day is the 29th anniversary of that transition; next Labor Day will be the 30th. Here's a link to a brief history of WQSR, from Jim Maloy's great Central Florida radio website, Enjoy!

A small, light portable radio-type gadget with earbuds

In Walt Mossberg's "Mossberg's Mailbox" column on August 14th in the Wall Street Journal, a reader asks:

Q. I was wondering if you could give me some suggestions of a small, light portable radio-type gadget with earbuds that would be good for me while I do athletic activities like riding my bike. I want something that will give me different pre-programmed selections of music, not something that I have to load with music (I don't remember names of songs). I love my Sirius satellite radio in my car.

To his credit, Walt recommended - among other things - the Zune, which as he pointed out, has an FM Radio built in. Kudos, Walt!

The scary thing is that the guy was asking for, well, a RADIO! But, we aren't providing the content that he can live with over-the-air. At least, he doesn't think so. The satellite subscription model with no commercials seems to be the draw for him, but I am betting that it's really just better programming. Truly, the advent of new distribution methods for radio isn't the reason for this attitude - it exposes it so that we can see it clearly.

Of course, many of us knew this back in the '70s, when we were involved with putting alternative stations (progressive rock, NPR, Pacifica, WMNF come to mind) on the air. The growth of FM in the late 60s and 70s fueled the exposure of AM to alternatives then much as satellite and audio-over-ip is exposing traditional FM and AM today.

So - focusing on content - I was driving to a meeting the other day and heard an 9 minute interview on a local music-driven alternative station. It was with an artist who, when I reviewed the playlist of the station, seemed to be totally out of their range; moreover, it ended badly, with the artist telling the talent that "...I don't need you guys, you're bloodsuckers on my art." (paraphrased) Wisely, the talent terminated the interview at that point. But, then, the morning team spent another 10 minutes talking about the interview and taking calls from listeners about it. If it wasn't for the fact that I was listening to a train-wreck in process and was interested from a professional point of view, I would have punched the button in the first three minutes of this whole episode. I can't wait to see the PPM results for this station on this particular day and time. It's one thing to be edgy and exciting; it's another to spend almost 20 minutes on what should have been a throw-away interview.

But - my point is that this is exactly the kind of thing that is making guys like the one who wrote in to Mossberg think of anything else first and "regular radio" last.

Some Homework for Radio People

Peter Smyth, CEO of Greater Media, frequently writes a letter to his employees and the industry in general and posts it on the Greater Media website. This month's article talks about heading "back to school," an appropriate title for the end of the summer.

One of his most interesting points is that the sales management at stations needs to move away from focus on agency-driven, transactional business and be passionate about the new opportunities the radio platforms of 2008 provide. Here's an excerpt (emphasis mine):

We have to take a hard look at the overall workload of individual employees and make tough decisions about new priorities when we focus on revenue. As national business continues to decline, it is up to us to rethink our approach to the way we run our organizations; the current model is not working. For example, the role of the Director of Sales five years ago is not what it is today. Managing transactional business from local and national agencies will not produce the desired results. Today's DOS needs to be an evangelist for the enhanced capabilities we bring to advertisers. He or she needs to be informed, innovative, passionate and persuasive. We need to redefine the existing responsibilities and structure of the current management and staff of our station operations and partner the right people with the right career opportunities.

Saga also posted an ad for a GSM for their Asheville, NC cluster in Inside Radio. One of the job qualifications is being "nice." I wonder if these traits (passion and niceness) are connected?

This might be a great way to monetize a streaming audio site...

Kurt Hanson writes about a service called "The Racket" that charges users a monthly fee to set up their "radio station" that other listeners can listen to for free.  Kind of turns things like Pandora on their, well, ears.  Here's the article from RAIN:

RAIN 8/4: RAIN Site of the Day; closes 

“THE RACKET” LETS YOU PICK THE TRACKS…FOR A PRICE: New Zealand Internet radio service The Racket has finally launched, at last revealing how it would deliver its boast of “truly personalized Internet radio.” It turns out this means users can create their own radio stations, but not in the same way as Pandora of For around $15 a month ($20 NZ), users select up to 500 tracks out of The Racket’s music library to create their own radio station, which then can be streamed by other users. Though The Racket allows the selection of specific tracks when creating a station, will users really pay a monthly fee when very similar services are available for free elsewhere? Listening to user-created stations is free, but includes no personalization. The web-based player — which requires a quick installation of Microsoft’s Silverlight program — features only a pause/play button and volume toggle. Considering listeners have some level of control of the stream, the absence of a song-skip feature is strange. No cover art is displayed either. There aren’t too many stations up and running just yet, but interestingly a few of them have been created by artists to promote their music. For example, industrial rock group Shihad has created a station featuring only their music, specifically promoting their most recent album. The Racket is a decent service that has plenty of room for improvement, and it will be interesting to see in what direction the site grows. — MS

RAIN 8/4: RAIN Site of the Day; closes
Paul Maloney
Mon, 04 Aug 2008 16:34:25 GMT

Yet another dip into the pool of radio $$?

So - it looks like the copyright folks are thinking about yet another tariff on already beleaguered webcasters.  Greed is rampant in the halls of the copyright attorneys these days. This one is pretty esoteric, so follow along with David very carefully!

Copyright Office Issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking That Could Make Section 115 Royalty Applicable to Internet Radio 

Broadcasters and other digital media companies have recently been focused on the royalties that are to be charged by the record labels for public performance of a sound recording in a digital transmission (under the Section 114 compulsory license administered by SoundExchange).  In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued this week, the Copyright Office tentatively concludes that there could be yet another royalty due for streaming - a royalty to be paid to music publishers for the reproductions of the musical compositions being made in the streaming process under Section 115 of the Copyright Act.  This notice was released just as the Copyright Royalty Board is concluding its proceeding to determine the rates that are to be paid for the Section 115 royalty.  While there have been reports of a settlement of some portions of that proceeding, the details of any settlement is not public, so whether it even contemplated noninteractive streaming as part of the agreement is unknown.


Comments in the Copyright Office proceeding are due on August 15, and Replies are due on September 2. This is a very important proceeding in which parties should make their views known. 

Copyright Office Issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking That Could Make Section 115 Royalty Applicable to Internet Radio
[email protected] (David Oxenford)
Thu, 17 Jul 2008 03:41:56 GMT

The New Business Model of Radio

The iPhone has brought some mighty interesting streaming applications to the fore.  However, as David Oxenford of the Broadcast Law Blog points out, every additional listener costs the webcaster more money, not only in bandwidth but in license fees to SoundExchange. My calculations show that - with traditional monetization through  ads, streaming can be made profitable, with reasonable gross margins.  However, without advertising support, it would be difficult to become profitable.   Here's David's article:

Internet Radio on the iPhone - Remember the CRB Royalties Apply 

The new iPhone, connecting as it does to ATT's high speed wireless network, has allowed Internet radio to go wireless.  While this has been possible on many platforms in the past, it has never been as easy, seamless, ubiquitous and as promoted as with the new iPhone.  The CBS radio  stations on AOL Radio, Pandora and Soma FM are all available, as are add-on applications that open the door to streaming many other Internet radio stations.  Tim Westergrin of Pandora  was quoted as stating that the iPhone would change people's expectations of Internet radio, making it "a 360-degree solution - in the car, in the home, on the go."  But, as with any application that increases the audience of Internet radio, it comes with a cost, as the delivery of Internet radio by a mobile device, like a wireless phone, is subject to the same royalties established by the Copyright Royalty Board last year and currently in effect while on appeal - rates that are computed by the "performance," i.e. one song streamed to one listener (see our reminder on the per performance payment, here).

In the requests for reconsideration of last year's CRB decision, SoundExchange had asked that the Board make clear that its decision applied to noninteractive streams (i.e. Internet radio) delivered to wireless devices like mobile phones.  In one of the few actions taken on reconsideration, the Board granted that request (see our summary of the reconsideration, here, and the CRB decision here).  Thus, services making their streams available to the iPhone (except for those covered under the special percentage of revenue offer that SoundExchange made to a limited class of small webcasters, and noncommercial webcasters under 159,140 aggregate tuning hours a month), must count performances and pay the per-performance royalties due to SoundExchange.

As you may remember, in the CRB proceeding itself, SoundExchange had proposed that there actually be a higher fee for performances that take place over wireless networks, alleging that these performances were somehow more valuable.  The Board rejected that argument, finding that insufficient evidence had been provided to reach that conclusion.  But, with the increase in wireless access to Internet radio that we are bound to see through the iPhone and competing devices, that argument will no doubt be raised again in the CRB proceeding to set the rates for 2011-2015, which will actually begin next year.  When one thinks about the nature of the wireless experience, one must wonder whether that experience is in fact more valuable than the experience of listening to Internet radio when sitting in front of your computer.  Certainly, the wireless service reaches people where they have not been reached before, making Internet radio more of a competitor to traditional radio, and more like traditional radio.  But one of the arguments that Internet radio might actually be more valuable than traditional radio - its interactivity - actually suffers from mobility.  When you are in front of a computer and an ad comes over the Internet radio stream, you can immediately act on that ad, especially when it's linked to a banner on the website.  When you are in a mobile environment, driving or jogging or otherwise on the move, it seems to me that you are less likely to react to any commercial message that you may receive.  Thus, the value of the advertising is more for purposes of reinforcing brand recollection, like over-the-air radio, rather than for driving immediate action, like on-line advertising. 

Certainly, this issue will be debated in the future.  But, once again, it raises the question of whether music has an independent value that can be quantified on a per song, per listener basis, or if the value of music depends more on the situation in which it is experienced and whether compensation for the use of that music is not more appropriately tied to a percentage of revenue of the user, as we've discussed in previous posts.  In a percentage of revenue scheme, the music user benefits when the service does well, and does not receive as much when the service is not a success.  But, as there is no penalty for the use of more music, more services are attempted, so more successful applications are likely to be discovered, benefiting both the creator and the user of the music.  When there is a per use fee, there is a cost for using each and every piece of music, seemingly discouraging new services and new innovations.  These are no doubt issues that will be debated endlessly into the future, but something to consider as Internet radio becomes untethered from the computer. 

Internet Radio on the iPhone - Remember the CRB Royalties Apply
[email protected] (David Oxenford)
Thu, 17 Jul 2008 05:40:21 GMT

History of 'KTU

Stumbled across a history of New York's legendary disco station, WKTU, this morning. Definitely not the "authorized" version, but all the more interesting because of that. Check it out here:

Your Wildest Streams - Part 4

This is truly brilliant - and I found it to be a great experience to go to AOL Radio and find that I could easily hook up with 101 or with some other terrific stations around the country without having to mess with multiple urls, messy ugly station web home pages, etc. And - with the advent of their iPhone application - Katy bar the door!

Your Wildest Streams - Part 4:

Wildest_streams4Now that AOL and CBS Radio have hooked up in what CEO Dan Mason says is a merger that 'has instantly doubled our daily audience of listeners,' it's another victory for strong brands.' For years, AOL has offered generic streaming radio stations that were as exciting as wallpaper.' Now with 150 CBS Radio stations to choose from, AOL-goers can actually find a better radio listening experience - or can easily find a radio station they've heard from during their travels around the U.S.

The player (shown below) is nice looking, and provides album art in-sync with what's playing, the chance to rate and/or buy the song (or the album), as well as designate the station as a pre-set or share it with someone else.' On the left is a list of the CBS stations available.' Of course, there are no fewer than 8 Jack-FM stations on the list, and it's not always easy to find a station that you're searching for.' (Maybe list them out by markets - or at least offer that as an option, so the user can look through NYC stations, for example.)' The stream sounds good technically, and as we've discussed in this space, that's not always the case.


Overall, this is another indicator that big streaming brands will easily best 'generic radio stations.'' With its personalities, production, and elements that you could only get from a real radio station, this plan should be a big winner for both AOL and CBS, especially if it can generate significant web revenue.

CBS is positioning its terrestrial radio stations for the future by offering them up to a much larger web audience.' This bodes well for traditional broadcast companies as they seek out smart alliances moving forward.


(Via JacoBlog - Jacobs Media's Blog.)

Your Wildest Streams - Part 3

It seems that stations aren't using the full capability that they have at their fingertips to make the streaming experience as strong as it should be!

Your Wildest Streams - Part 3: "Radio people don’t seem to realize that listeners don’t understand or care about the legal and talent issues that affect streaming.  All they know is that when they stream their favorite station, they hear the same four PSAs over and over again, or the stream regularly goes dark for a few minutes or, on one station I stream periodically, the annoying message ‘This station is in a commercial break and will return to normal programming in a few minutes,’ plays over and over and over.  Programmers would never permit this on their terrestrial signals, but accept it on their streams."

(Via JacoBlog - Jacobs Media's Blog.)

geand I'll tell you about AudioVault and SoniXtream's ad-blocking features.

Your Wildest Streams - Part 2

Is your stream suffering like this?

Your Wildest Streams - Part 2: "Well, I'm here to tell you that many broadcast radio streams aren't ready for prime time.  Recently, a programmer we worked with invited me to check out his station during a special feature his station was presenting.  It was one of the worst streaming experiences I've ever had because the stream would run for a couple of minutes, and start buffering.  Or I'd have to refresh and even sign back in.  It was not a user-friendly experience, and I started thinking about all of the accessible, quality streams his station competes against."

(Via JacoBlog - Jacobs Media's Blog.)

Shoot me an email and I'll tell you about SoniXtream!

The End of Low-Hanging Fruit

I am sorry, when the heck did this ever happen??? I have been in the business for 30 years, and have NEVER experienced "sitting around answering the phone..." as a radio sales rep's experience.

The End of Low-Hanging Fruit: "But in the bigger picture, the rules of buying and selling radio time have been undergoing changes for some time now.  The days of account reps who work for highly-rated stations sitting around answering the phone and giving out their rates are over. "

(Via JacoBlog - Jacobs Media's Blog.)