Radio Evangelist

Thoughts of a Evangelist for Radio in all its forms

Archive for November, 2009

House Committee to Review PPM

Posted by Steve on November 25, 2009

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is set to hold a hearing on Wednesday, December 2, to examine Arbitron’s radio audience measurement device, the Portable People Meter (PPM).

The government’s intrusion into the measurement of media audiences is fraught with problems, illustrated by this quote from the chairman of the committee – Congressman Ed Towns, from the second paragraph of the committee’s announcement:

“With an unprecedented decline in ratings among popular minority television and radio stations, we must explore the possibility of methodological flaws in the implementation of the PPM,” said Chairman Towns. “As it stands now, the current system jeopardizes the future of minority broadcasting.”

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Congressman Towns, what connection would a “decline in ratings among popular minority television…stations” have to do with PPM? PPM only officially measures radio, and even if Arbitron did measure local TV, there could be no decline in ratings because there are no pre-ppm ratings from Arbitron to compare to!

Here’s more from this press release – pay attention to the bolded portion in particular:

Chairman Towns served a subpoena to the Media Ratings Council (MRC) in September 2009 for documents detailing its oversight of Arbitron’s use of the PPM, after Arbitron forbid MRC from releasing documents related to the Committee’s investigation. Although Arbitron promised full cooperation with the investigation, the company prohibited MRC from providing the Committee with any documents related to the PPM. Furthermore, Arbitron provided the Committee with insufficient documents that were either publicly available or biased toward the company.

So – the Congressman wants more documents that are “…publicly available or biased towards the company?” Huh?

This hearing should be interesting. Not because the subject is particularly compelling, but because it may be an illustration of exactly why government shouldn’t be involved with issues like the measurement of media exposure.

If Congressman Towns’ and the Committee’s statements are indicative of the way the hearing will proceed – discussions of why the PPM has reduced TV ratings and why Arbitron hasn’t provided the Committee with more publicly available or biased documents – then Congress will have wasted valuable treasure of time and resources.

Posted in Advertising, Congress, ppm, Radio, tv | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

HD Radio and the iPhone – Not Quite There Yet

Posted by Steve on November 10, 2009

Ibiquity and a company called Gigaware yesterday announced an accessory for the iPhone/iPod Touch that brings HD radio to the device. You can pick up this little add-on at your local Radio Shack store (whatever happened to their plan to just call themselves “The Shack?) for about $80.

Here’s a link to The Wall Street Journal’s Lauren Goode article and her interview with Bob Struble, CEO of Ibiquity.

This accessory has generated a fair amount of buzz around the internets. Many people are saying that one of the major selling points of the new Zune is the HD radio inside. Before today, I can’t remember anyone saying that.
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This accessory is very similar to the analog FM radio accessory that has been available for iPods for years. It plugs into the accessory connector on the device. There’s a tuning control that you can use to navigate the radio’s presets which connects to the device through a wire. There’s also an app that you install from the iTunes store – free, but necessary for the HD Radio to function. The HD Radio dongle has an iTunes tagging feature so that you can identify songs you wish to purchase later by clicking a button on the tuning control.

I own the standard iPod FM radio; it is useful on trips when I want to monitor local radio and I am not in a rental car. It has an RDS display right on the iPod – which highlights to me how poorly stations are at implementing this potentially extremely valuable tool.

So – the questions are, will people pay $80 for a radio in their iPhone when they can purchase a portable HD radio for $50? And – do people really care about having a broadcast radio receiver in their iPhone/Touch when there are so many other options available to them via iPhone/Touch apps?

My guess is that until the software that drives the HD radio is integrated with a streaming radio application in such a way that I can choose my over-the-air HD radio station or my streaming audio channel with the click of a pre-set, this won’t be a very strong offering. There’s a lot of potential power in this app that resides on the iPhone’s desktop. Smart folks will figure out how to tap into it.

The physical clunkiness of the connection to the phone may also deter people from using it. The connection of the original iPod FM radio is almost exactly the same and I find that it’s annoying. The wires get in the way.

However, it’s a start. Let’s see how this goes – maybe we’ll be able to pick these up cheaply on eBay after Christmas!

Posted in HD Radio, ipod, Radio | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

A Missed Opportunity for WRNR

Posted by Steve on November 9, 2009

WRNR, a Baltimore/DC area alternative radio station, was a promotional sponsor of the 12th annual “Maritime Republic of Eastport Tug o’ War,” held this past Saturday in Annapolis and Eastport, MD.

I heard about the event on ‘RNR and decided to go. It was a great afternoon of music, food and fun – including a tug of war between Eastport and Annapolis.

‘RNR was there – with a logo-covered tent, a table with station merchandise, and lots of signage all around the venue. A fairly standard radio presence.

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But – there was another media outlet there, doing something that the folks at ‘RNR could have very easily done.

The Sailing Channel video streamed the entire event live on uStream!

The Sailing Channel?

‘RNR could have done exactly the same thing – or, teamed up with The Sailing Channel – and really connected with their audience using a new media platform. All sorts of opportunities presented themselves – interviews with ‘RNR fans, the artists who performed on both the stage in Annapolis and Eastport, personality appearances with the winners.

‘RNR could have produced this, provided talent and imbedded the stream on their home page.

Radio needs to pay much more attention to these opportunities – or be marginalized by other media outlets like, well, The Sailing Channel.

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Radio’s future – sure seems like the past to me…

Posted by Steve on November 2, 2009

Mark Ramsey has more good stuff on his blog in a week than most people do in their lifetime. Today is no exception. He posts about The Most Important Thing You’ll Read About Radio’s Future this Year. I read this once and said, “Yeah!” Then I read it again.

It suddenly hit me that this is where we were back in the 80s. Marketers were pushing us to become more invested with their marketing. We built teams at stations focused 100% on developing non-transactional business. We called it all sorts of things, from NTR to Vendor. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of bright marketing-oriented people joined these teams either from the ranks of radio sales or from the greater marketing community. We developed relationships with food brokers, wholesalers, marketers at CPG companies, and small marketing teams consulting CPG companies. We learned all about in-store display, push vs. pull marketing, consumer promotion, floor plans, vendor-funded marketing programs. Millions of dollars were invested by radio broadcasters to support these programs and they began to return their investment. We did not sell using Arbitron numbers. We sold using the results of the last program. And, those results were terrific! So, we were able to get more and more marketing dollars for the programs and give up less and less inventory on the station.

And then something happened.

The advertisers said, “You know, let’s go back to buying on Cost per Point. And, while we’re at it, you can throw in all that extra stuff as a freebie for just getting on the buy.” Radio managers caved. NTR/Vendor departments were decommissioned or turned into ghosts of themselves. Smart marketers left radio, were fired in consolidation moves, or they were sucked into the vortex of transactional radio business.

When I think about Mark’s article and the points he makes,

1. Act more like a marketing company than a media company.
2. Be organized around an audience and not a platform.
3. Work directly with marketers.
4. Not just create spaces for ads next to content, it’ll create whole media channels and platforms for brands
5. Employ technologists who can build device-agnostic platforms for marketers.
6. Know how to deliver instantaneous gratification when it comes to measurement, and it’ll be measuring outcomes not outputs. A rating…stat is not going to be enough in the future, and certainly not when it’s presented weeks after the fact.

I can’t help but remember what these same marketers have done time and time again – when it suits their need, they go back to twisting radio’s arm with commodity pricing. And radio lets them do it.

Don’t let them do it again.

Posted in Advertising, Radio | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »