Thursday, January 11, 2018

The New Age of Audio & Alexa's Do Over Offer for Radio Broadcasters

We're entering a new age of audio thanks in part to technologies like Alexa. Here's a prime example. Gary Vaynerchuk, GaryVee to his friends, clients, and gazillion followers on social media, is a guy who's built multiple businesses primarily on the strength of creating persuasive and memorable Internet videos. All feature Gary and his electric personality sharing wisdom and insight gathered from first-hand experience with Internet commerce, Internet marketing, and his early and full embrace of social media as a business and brand building tool. I've learned a lot from watching Gary constantly experiment and push boundaries.

Now, with a little inspiration from Amazon's Alexa, Gary has fully embraced the power of audio and come to recognize what makes it so appealing and valuable to consumers. For a lifelong audio guy like me, it's fun to see someone who's relied so heavily on video to build his businesses come to recognize the key attribute audio offers that no other medium can match. An attribute that ensures that audio will never go out of style. Check out Gary's epiphany on audio and his passionate and persuasive recommendation to his clients and friends to "get very serious about investing in audio." Warning: For emphasis, Gary salts all his videos with plenty of adult language :-).


“You need to get very serious about sound. One of the things that we care about and always have, but now we're at an all-time high, is time. Time is imperative. And everybody, even when they don't have a lot of money, spends a lot of money on convenience. You know the way we roll now is we listen and we do something else. It's hard to watch one of my videos and do something else. It's super easy to listen to what I'm talking about and do something else. Audio saves you time. Every single person when brushing their teeth in four years will be listening to some sort of voice telling them what they’re doing that day. What the weather is. Where they’re going. What’s happening. It's just going to be that. ” – GaryVee

I hope Gary's Alexa-inspired vision of the increasing prominence of audio in people's lives is not lost on my friends in the radio broadcasting business. There was a time not so long ago when lots of people brushing their teeth in the morning were "listening to some sort of 'voice' telling them what the weather is and what's happening" as Gary predicts will happen again. That "voice" was coming from a radio in the bathroom. The same "voice" was also the wake-up alarm and first sound most people heard each morning coming from the clock radio in the bedroom and later that "voice" was a breakfast companion coming from a radio in the kitchen. This "voice" is seldom heard these days because radios have completely disappeared from homes everywhere. Replaced by technology and devices with screens that deliver more relevant and entertaining content, on demand, than the "voice" coming from the radio. Sadly, the "voice" coming from a radio is now heard mostly just in cars.

Enter the new age of audio that GaryVee is so fired up about. With its smart speakers from Amazon, Google, and Apple and their assistants named Alexa, Ok Google, and Siri ready to find the perfect "voice" for whatever consumers want and need, whenever they want or need it. Alexa and her pals also offer radio broadcasters an opportunity for a do over. The chance to reenter homes everywhere, but not with the same generic, bland, vacuous and easily replaceable content heard most of the time on most radio stations. It will require a completely different approach. No more trying to appeal to the masses. Mass appeal is dead. It's all about creating specialized content for niches big and small. Content that matches a listener's wants and needs so well they can't live without it. Content that goes deep and has sharp edges. Content that is distinctive and truly fascinates. Content and voices that are irreplaceable. It's a big challenge, but also a big opportunity. Thanks to Alexa and her pals radio broadcasters have the opportunity to reenter consumers' lives in their homes and not just be a "voice" in their cars.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

How to Attract the Largest, Most Loyal Audience You Can


Simple. Forget your audience, get to know yourself.

Every hit song, best-selling book, blockbuster movie or popular television show had its genesis in something that really mattered to its creator. Someone or something that moved them emotionally. Something that made them laugh or cry. Something that gave them a sense of wonder and awe. Something they found truly interesting, meaningful, or fun. It wasn't created by studying a "target audience" and trying to predict what would interest that audience. It was created by the artist getting to know themselves by paying close attention to their own thoughts and feelings and recognizing what caused them.

What makes you laugh or cry? What are you curious about? What do you know and care about? What values and beliefs guide the way you live? What gives you a sense of wonder and awe? What makes you happy or sad? What did you learn today? How did what you learned affect you and your life? Who do you admire and respect? Who do you loath and have no time for? What situations or people have changed your thoughts, feelings, or mood today, particularly when that change happened quickly? What did you find truly interesting, meaningful, and fun today? Contained in the answers to these questions are the best subjects and ideas for creating something that will help you attract the largest and most loyal audience you can.


Forget your audience, get to know yourself. Create stuff that moves YOU and you will attract the largest audience you can. An audience that's like you, who likes you and will want to spend time with you every day.

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Tyranny of the Target Audience


I cringe every time I hear a well-meaning PD or GM instruct a personality to focus everything they create and present on "our target audience." It often goes something like this:

"Our target audience is a woman 25-44. I want everything you create or put on the radio to appeal to her. Figure out what she cares about. Find out what she's talking about. Imagine what she's thinking about. Find out what she likes to do. Everything on your show should be about her. Just to remind you, I've put a big picture of her on the control room wall so you'll see her every time you open the mic."

These instructions are debilitating and dehumanizing. Without saying it, they strongly imply that the life the radio personality is living has little in common with the "target audience" and doesn't really matter when it comes to creating stuff to put on the radio. The effect is corrosive. When radio personalities are constantly told, subtly or directly, to look outside themselves for ideas for their shows, they suffer a loss of self-awareness and self-esteem. Their individuality and even their humanity are diminished. They gravitate to safe stereotypes about the "target audience." They rely on trending topics on social media and syndicated prep services. They begin doing a show to please their bosses and not themselves. They end up doing a show that excites almost no one, including themselves. It's not distinctive. It's not personal. It's not intimate. It's not memorable. It's not important. The lack of energy, enthusiasm, and passion is palpable. And sadly, the show sounds just like every other morning radio show. For example, when was the last time you heard a morning radio show with a female "target audience" that didn't have a woman reporting celebrity news and gossip each day. The exact same celebrity news and gossip heard up and down the radio dial and widely available on Facebook and other social media. You know, the ever present trending topics.

The tyranny of the "target audience" instruction has created countless victims within the radio business. It's also caused many really talented and interesting personalities to flee traditional AM and FM radio for places like the world of podcasting that allow more creative freedom and encourage innovation and experimentation. I've talked to many of the victims over the years.  Regrettably, what they all seem to have in common is a loss of their individuality and personal identity. When I ask them what kind of show they want to do, they always tell me, "I can do whatever kind of show you want me to do." They often ask me, "What is your target audience?" If I give them an answer, no matter what it is, they nearly always tell me, "I can do a show for that audience."

There are other big problems with the "target audience" instructions. They assume every woman or man is living their life as part of a homogenous demographic group. Like every woman 25-44 has the exact same life with the same interests, wants and needs. They also assume that it's possible to predict, with some certainty, what every man or woman wants to hear on the radio because they belong to a demographic group. That's a myth. If it were true, every song would be a hit, every movie a blockbuster, every book a bestseller, and every radio show would be killing it in PPM.

So why not forget the mythical "target audience" and instead encourage personalities to focus their creative efforts on the one thing they all have in common with their listeners? Male or female, no matter our age, we all share the same set of emotions. Joy and sadness. Love and hate. Doubt and fear. Emotion is the universal human connector. The surest way for a radio personality to create the most distinctive, appealing, and relevant content and attract the largest and most loyal audience possible is to pay attention to what rings their emotional bell in every event and circumstance of their lives. What makes them laugh, cry, or marvel. What generates a sense of wonder and awe. What causes them to think or feel differently or completely change their mood. What inspires them. What gets them truly excited and arouses their curiosity. This is the source of great content because it springs from what we all have in common. Not our age, sex or demographic group, but our humanity, our human emotions.

Don't let the tyranny of the "target audience" claim another victim, produce another bland and disposable radio show, or chase another talented artist from AM and FM radio.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Lessons from Rebuilding a Struggling Radio News Station


Competition, ownership and on-air personnel changes, misguided attempts to attract a younger audience and location on the AM band combined to reduce a former major market-leading news station to an also-ran. There was hope that moving the station from AM to FM might help things. Nope. That’s when the rebuild began.

Here are some lessons learned from the rebuilding process that influenced changes in the station’s content, presentation style and relationship with its listeners that helped the station return to consistent ratings prominence – top 5 AQH share for adults 25-54 in all dayparts 6A-7P Monday through Friday:

  • News is what a news station does, but not why it does it. News stations are actually in the life enrichment business. News merely provides the vehicle and fuel for helping to make listeners’ lives more interesting, meaningful and fun.
    • Listeners highly value stories that provide meaningful emotional experiences that challenge them to think, feel and grow.
    • Listeners prefer stories about people and their behavior over stories about stuff and things; stories about life's struggles and triumphs, joys and sorrows, mysteries and big questions.
    • Human behavior is a subject with universal appeal. Why do people think and feel the way they do? Why do people do what they do? These real-life questions and mysteries are things every human being seeks to answer and solve.
    • Complex and controversial stories are ideal fuel for providing life enrichment.
  • Listeners want more than a quick superficial headline summary of stories, particularly those that are complex or controversial. The main facts of these stories and opposing soundbites are available on demand on every smart phone and computer from multiple sources.
  • The ideal length of a story should be determined by the time it takes to tell a complete story that is meaningful to listeners.
  • Listeners enjoy and prefer an informal, intimate, authentic conversation style presentation of the news.
    • Hosts and reporters that fully engage intellectually and emotionally with the stories they present, sharing relevant personal experiences and feelings about how the stories are effecting them.
    • Hosts and reporters that have a sense of humor and fun.
    • Hosts and reporters that provide context and blend analysis and informed commentary with the facts of the stories to help further the listeners’ understanding of what’s really going on.
  • Listeners love participating in the journalistic process and the search for truth. When hosts and reporters share their questions, theories, suspicions, speculations, doubts, frustrations, conclusions, successes and failures it makes storytelling more interesting and allows listeners to follow along and contribute if they so desire.
  • News people tend to view news reporting in terms of events rather than stories. This causes them to miss stories contained in events and drop stories prematurely when events end. Events are obvious and easy to report. Stories not so much. The execution of a criminal is an event. Not much life enrichment in the details of the event. The criminal’s life story and what inspired his or her crime or life of crime as well as the victim or victims’ stories are often loaded with life enriching possibilities.
  • Reporters and journalists are frequently trapped in the current "news cycle" when determining what is news. If it didn't happen in the last 24 to 48 hours somehow it's no longer news.
  • The best stories don’t expire. Their themes and messages are timeless, always relevant.
  • Story relevance to listeners is not necessarily related to the geographic proximity of the story.
  • Traditional radio and television news contains far too much common crime, ordinary human misfortune, politics, and political process events. Convenience store robberies, house fires and car crashes don’t offer much in the way of life enrichment.
  • It’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract a loyal audience that can be monetized being a news generalist. “News” is available everywhere. If a news program or station doesn’t have a distinctive and identifiable news specialty or point of view its likely to get lost in a world of smart phones, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and countless “news” websites delivering all kinds of “news” on demand 24/7.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

We're All Born Creative


From a very young age we all have a quiet little voice in our heads that comes from somewhere deep inside. It whispers unique and amazing thoughts and ideas to us. In the beginning, we all hear these ideas, get excited, and do something about them. Unfortunately, the bigger and more unusual the ideas, the more resistance we encounter when we try to bring them to life. Eventually, most of us stop listening to that quiet little voice, dismiss its thoughts and ideas, and just try to fit in because it's too damn hard to do otherwise.

The most successful radio personalities and great artists of all kinds never stop listening to that quiet little voice in their heads no matter how tough it gets. I just watched an interview Charlie Rose did with James Taylor a couple of years ago. He talked about how hard it was for him early on in his life.

"I was born with a difficulty of being in my own skin. Living in human society I just ran into trouble. I think everybody does to a greater or lesser extent. I did feel as though I was born on the dark side of the Moon and that I didn't have a place in this world when I was 15."

James Taylor's troubles living in this world inspired that quiet little voice in his head to help him write some amazing songs. Here's how James described the process to Charlie:

"I don't really feel as though I write songs. I feel as though I hear them first and remember them and get them down. It's such a mysterious and subconscious process that I couldn't really say that I wrote those songs. I just channeled them or they happened to me first. There is a sort of lightning bolt kind of moment when you're visited by a song and you get, hopefully, as much as you can. Sometimes it's a whole song, but sometimes it's just a fragment. Then you have to collect those fragments and often later on you sequester yourself and hide away somewhere and work 'em."

That little voice in James Taylor’s head reacting to the suicide of a childhood friend named Suzanne, the failure of his early band “Flying Machine” and his struggles to overcome drug addiction helped him write “Fire and Rain”. James paid attention to the thoughts and feelings that flowed from these experiences that rang his emotional bell. He listened to that little voice in his head expressing his joys and sorrows. It helped him create a song that produces a powerful and memorable emotional experience.

The best radio is all about creating meaningful emotional experiences for listeners. If you’re a radio personality or anyone involved in creating radio content, don't stop listening to that quiet little voice in your head. It's your genius. It will provide the material that will cause your listeners to laugh, marvel, or understand something meaningful and important and help develop a lasting emotional connection with you. Write down everything it says no matter how weird, nonsensical, or fragmentary it may seem at the time. If you don't write it down you'll forget it. Then, like James Taylor, spend time with the stuff you collect. Work it and shape it. Figure out what you were born to create. Build it. Publish it. The world is waiting for you to make a difference like James Taylor has with his songs.