Chris Byrnes – ByrnesMedia
With all the various experts predicting the death of radio, again, this time via the removal of AM & FM receivers in cars, I wanted to share some positive news about radio listening via a research study that was completed in February by two companies that have a lot of credibility and access to a tremendous amount of data across all age groups.
Bill Rose from Abriton and Tom Webster from Edison Media Research shed some new light on emerging digital platforms as well as the state of traditional media with the release of “The Infinite Dial 2013” on April 2nd. While digital usage is growing, more people than ever are tuning into radio via terrestrial devices, on smart phones, and on-line according to this research. This is, in part, because radio is now available on more devices and has once again become truly portable and put radio back in almost every room in the average home.
Over half of all Americans (53%) now have a smart phone. 232 million Americans now have access to the internet. 182 million now have access to broadband at home. Home Wi-Fi penetration has exploded over the past few years with over 177 million people or 67% of all Americans connecting on average up to five devices to their home system. People are spending 8 hours 15 minutes on average each day with radio, TV and the internet, which is up 72 minutes from 2003.
AM/FM radio listening is stronger than ever and radio reaches 243 million weekly listeners up from 223 million users in 2003. Time spent listening is stable at about 2 hours per day.
AM/FM rules the road with far more consumers listening to radio in the car than any other device. Nearly 60% (58%) say they listen to the radio all the time or most of the time when in the car. Only 15% listen to CD’s, 11% listen to MP3 players and 10% listen to satellite radio.
AM/FM radio reaches far more consumers than any other media in the 30 minutes prior to a consumer purchase. 50% of all consumers reported listening to the radio just prior to arriving at a store or mall to make a purchase. Only 21% saw a billboard and 12% watched TV. Only 8% reported reading or looking at a newspaper in the 30 minutes before making a purchase. Up from previous years is the number of people who use a smart phone (6%) to check a price or look for product information. By the way, 6% also reported using the internet on a computer to find a price or checking product information.
Radio is also a very effective advertising medium, according to this research. In fact, 43% of consumers say they have visited a restaurant after hearing an ad on the radio. 41% have visited a specific store and 40% have attended an event. 39% have talked about a product or services with friends based on a radio ad and 28% have recommended a product or service to others. Radio advertising is also a great way to drive traffic to an advertiser’s website with 28% saying they have done so as a result of hearing an ad on the radio.
Online radio listening is growing rapidly. In 1998, the first study indicated that 6% had used some form of online radio. Today those people that listen to AM/FM radio on the internet or audio content that is only available on the internet in the past month has grown to 120 million Americans. Now, with more in-home broadband and more smart phones, online radio reaches 45% of all people 12 and over.
On a weekly basis, the number of people consuming online radio now reaches 86 million Americans or 33%, up from 22% in 2011. They are also spending more time listening online, and that has grown from 9 hours 17 minutes in 2011 to almost 12 hours in a week which is a significant increase. Heritage media is still strong with 82% of people who regularly listen to online radio in the past week reporting that they also listen to terrestrial radio each week. Only 18% listen to online only.
One in five Americans who own a smart phone has listened to online radio in a car by listening to the stream via a cell phone connected to a car stereo. That number has grown from 17% in 2012 to 21% in 2013, so if you do not have a smart phone app for iPhone, Android and Blackberry, then contact our office and we can have them built for you.
Most people (62%) who listen to radio while at work still listen by a traditional radio device. 19% are listening on their computer and 14% listen via a smart phone or tablet.
Pandora, not available in Canada at this point, is the best known of the online products at 69% (up from 59% in 2012) but iHeartRadio has grown from 31% in 2012 to 45% in 2013, which is another reason radio stations in Canada should adopt this one player model on station websites and mobile platforms.
More people than ever are consuming online video and almost 50% of Americans have looked at videos online in the past month. You Tube is the biggest player and controls 44% of the space and consumers spend about 4 hours a week watching videos online, which is down about 20 minutes from the previous year. That compares to 12 hours a week listening to online audio, and this is likely because of bandwidth restrictions and costs being the limiting factor for online video consumption.
The smart phone has had the biggest impact on consumer behaviour in 2013. For the first time the majority (53%) of all American now own a smart phone. The biggest growth of smart phone ownership is among 35–44 year olds where almost 70% (up from 54% in 2012) of this demographic now carries a smart phone. 75% of 18-34 and 60% of 12-17 own smart phones.
97% of people, especially people over the age of 25, mainly use their smart phone to make calls, while 94% send text messages, 90% take photos and 83% browse the internet. 63% view or update social media and 44% listen to online radio. 25% are accessing coupons from retailers and 21% are using QR codes. Texting is the most popular way to communicate for teenagers, which will be no surprise to anyone who has a teenager in their home. 30% of Americans wake up to an alarm or audio on their smart phone, while 22% use a traditional alarm clock. 15% wake up to a clock radio. For younger people, 60% of all 18-34 year olds wake up to an alarm or audio on their smart phone. This creates a tremendous opportunity for radio to have them wake up to your radio station playing on their smart phone via a radio app.
62% of all Americans 12+ now have a social media profile on at least one social network. Facebook still dominates at 58%, LinkedIn is a distant second at 17% and Twitter has doubled in growth in a year to 15%. Google+ (12%), Instagram (12%), Pinterest (10%) and Tumblr (4%) are also growing. As you would expect, the numbers are higher in the younger demos with 83% of all 12-34 year olds having a social profile. Almost 40% of smart phone users admit to using their devices to access social media platforms several times a day. This creates an opportunity for air talent to say things on radio that will encourage listeners to go to the station’s Facebook page. If you do it right they will access your Facebook page, click on a post which will then take them to your station’s website. Remember that while a lot of your listeners are on Facebook, no radio station can generate revenue from this platform. However, if you have a solid digital strategy you may be generating revenue from your station website.
As mentioned earlier, 84% of all people 12+ who have been in a car over the past month reported listening to AM or FM radio in the car. Satellite radio is at 15% with 12% listening to online radio. HD radio is only at 3%, by the way. 58% of all people who use in-car audio devices report listening to the radio almost all the time or most of the time when they are in a car. Bluetooth is growing with 28% of people who have driven or ridden in a car now having access via Bluetooth. This number will continue to grow. Only 6% reported having access to an in-dash information or entertainment system (an example of this is the Ford Sync system). This number is expected to grow quickly over the next five years and radio needs to be doing more to ensure we have a presence on these systems.
Learning about new music and keeping up to date with new music is still very important to consumers. In fact, 45% of all people 12+ said it was very important or important and that number grows to 67% among 12-24 year olds. But the most popular way that people discover new music is by radio with 78% saying that they use radio to keep up to date with new music. You Tube is growing at 55%, as is Facebook at 41%. Finding songs in a local store is declining at 30%. 72% of all 12-24 years olds still learn about new music via radio which is slightly behind recommendations from friends and family at 79% and from You Tube at 77%.
The average age of heavy users of the Internet is 33, while for radio it is 42 and for TV is 50. The average age of the American population is 42, by the way. This means that radio is a better fit to reach the average consumer. The average consumer listens to radio 2:04 a day, 3:33 with TV and 2:38 on the internet. But heavy users of radio (6:23) still spend the same amount of time watching TV and surfing the intent. Heavy TV users (8:16) still spend 2:12 listening to radio and 2:52 on the internet each day. Heavy internet users spend 7:16 per day but they spend a little over 2 hours a day listening to radio and 3:35 watching TV. So heavy usage of one medium does not appear to be impacting consumption of other mediums. Somehow, people find more hours in the day to do this and presumably must be sleeping less!
The research shows that radio is more popular than ever, but if radio was no longer available, would people really care? Well, 83% of all people said they would be upset if their favourite radio station went away. That increases to 88% among heavy users of radio. This indicates that radio is still
popular and desired in 2013, which clearly contradicts what some in other media are saying.
TV advertising is becoming less impactful because of ad skipping or ad avoidance as more consumers now record programs to watch at a later time. In 2013, 45% of all homes now have a PVR or DVR, which is up from 28% in 2008. This gives consumers more choice as to how and when they view their favourite television programs. About 1 in 5 people have downloaded or streamed television programs on TVs, laptops or tablets. This is even higher with younger consumers.
Digital platforms have expanded media consumption and usage. The digital platforms have expanded consumer options allowing them to consume more media and new times and places verses what they could do just ten years ago. This increased, greater consumption has not been at the cost of traditional electronic media, and people are spending more time each day with the combination of TV, radio and the internet in 2013 than they did in 2003. TV and radio still reach over 90% of all people 12+ each week.
A clear app strategy will help ensure your brand does not get lost on mobile devices. With more than 50% of people using smart phones it is more important than ever that your brand be on the first screen if possible.
Facebook is hot, but Twitter is growing, especially among the younger audience. Therefore, it is vital that you engage audiences differently on Facebook and Twitter. For example, you should never post the same content on Facebook and then on Twitter. Also, saying, “follow us on Facebook and Twitter,” is meaningless because you are speaking to two largely different audiences who are using these social platforms for different purposes and in different ways. One tip is that great pictures and video are more likely to get shared on social media which creates an opportunity for radio.
Encourage your P1 listeners to wake up in the morning using your smart phone app. Create recording imaging around this and teach usage, especially in nights. Say to them, “If you are just about to go to bed be sure to set your app on your smart phone so you will wake up to (morning show name) and our great music tomorrow morning.” Think about the audio pre-roll marketing opportunities that advertisers are prepared to pay for to get that first audio impression.
AM/FM radio still rules the road with in-car entertainment. Nearly 60% of commuters listen to radio most of the time while driving in their cars, so now is the time to defend the in-car advantage and leverage this to advertisers, while at the same time educating listeners. Again, teach usage and encourage them to tune into your station when they are driving.
Overall, radio has never been stronger than in 2013 and the opportunities to grow both audience and revenue have never been stronger. But to do this we need to market our brands effectively and use all platforms to ensure our product is wherever the audience is – be it in the home, at work, in the car – and we need to make it easy for listeners to consume online, on smart phones and tablets and over the air. To download slides or listen to the audio presentation please go to www.edisonresearch.com or www.arbitron.com
About the research: 2,021 people were interviewed from January 15 to February 10, 2013 via telephone and cell phone with 45% of respondents coming from a random sample from Arbitron’s Fall 2012 survey and 55% coming from a random digital dialing. This is the 21st study which began back in 1998.
“National Asian Heritage Month”: See the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society www.explorasian.org.
“National Asthma Awareness Month”: See the Asthma Society of Canada www.asthma.ca
“National Car Care Month”: see the Automotive Industries Association of Canada www.aiacanada.com.
“National Celiac Awareness Month”: See www.hc-sc.gc.ca.
“International Doula Month”: See www.doulacare.ca
“MS Awareness Month”: Multiple Sclerosis is unpredictable, affecting vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility. See www.mssociety.ca.
“Vision Health Month”: To inform the public that preventative eye care is important because eye conditions, diseases and injuries that can rob a person’s vision can strike at any time in life. Call CNIB 1-800-563-2642. See www.cnib.ca
“Young Achievers/Leaders of Tomorrow Month”: International Leadership Network’s Young Achievers/Leaders of Tomorrow Program recognizes and encourages positive achievement, behaviour, leadership and service. Call Tom Eichhorst 314-961-5978, email firstname.lastname@example.org. See www.ilnleadnet.com.
May 1 “May Day”: Observed as a holiday since ancient times with Spring Festivals, Maypoles and celebrations. But the political importance of May Day has also grown since the 1880’s when it became workers day in the U.S. Observed as Labour Day in many countries. Bermuda, Canada and the US are the only countries that observe Labour Day in September.
May 3-20 “Canadian Tulip Festival”: The world’s largest festival with more than 3 million tulips in bloom in Ottawa. The event grew out of a thank-you gift of bulbs from the Dutch Royal Family. Call 613-567-5757 or 1-800-66-TULIP. Email email@example.com. Web: www.tulipfestival.ca.
May 4 “Star Wars Day”: May the Fourth be with you.
May 5 “Cartoonists Day”: To honour all those who use their imagination and a few pens to bring their ideas to life and give us a laugh via the daily paper, magazines, TV and the movies. Call Polly Keener 330-836-4448 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 5 “Free Comic Book Day”: Each year, independent comic book stores around the world give out free comic books to children. Call Diamond Comic Distributors 410-560-7100. See www.comicshoplocator.com.
May 5 “MS Walk”: The WALK is a critical part of the MS Society’s fundraising efforts and is a significant program in funding research towards a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. Takes place in cities across Canada. See www.mswalks.ca.
May 5-11 “Kids Win Week”: A week when adults commit to providing opportunities for children to experience themselves as capable and to recognize themselves as achievers. Call 508-898-2222. Email email@example.com. See www.kidswin.org.
May 6 “No Diet Day”: A day to stop dieting and stop hazardous weight-loss attempts. Find out the 10 reasons not to diet by emailing Francie Berg at firstname.lastname@example.org (please put “Berg-No Diet Day” in subject line). Web www.healthyweight.net.
May 8 “World Red Cross Day”: A day for commemorating the birth of Jean-Henri Dunant, the Swiss founder of the International Red Cross Movement in 1863, and for recognizing the humanitarian work of the Red Cross around the world. For info on activities in your area, contact your local Red Cross chapter. See www.redcross.ca.
May 11 “National Babysitter’s Day”: To give babysitters appreciation and special recognition for their quality child care. Call Barbara Baldwin 210-695-9838, email email@example.com. See www.safetywhys.com.
May 11 “Stay Up All Night Night”: A night when people are encouraged to stay awake through the night, reliving the excitement of staying up late as a child. There is something incredibly satisfying in staying up to see the sunrise – and everyone should do it at least once a year. Annually, the 2nd Saturday in May. For info, email George Mahood at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 12 “Canada Health Day”: See www.cha.ca.
May 12 “Limerick Day”: Observed on the birthday of a Limerick champion called Edward Lear. He published a book of Limericks in the 18th century call Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense. Lots of limericks at http://home.earthlink.net/~kristenaa/.
May 12 “Mother’s Day”: The second Sunday in May. The first celebrations in honour of mothers were held in the spring in ancient Greece. They paid tribute to Rhea, the Mother of the Gods. In 1907 Anna Jarvis in Philadelphia, PA asked her church to hold a service in memory of all mothers on the anniversary of her mother’s death. She later began a letter-writing campaign to create a Mother’s Day observance.
May 12-18 “Work at Home Moms Week”: The challenge of motherhood and working at home can be a balancing act. All women who do it every day are applauded this week and always. Call Robin Gorman Newman 516-773-0911, email email@example.com. See www.motherhoodlater.com.
May 12-18 “Salute to 35+ Moms Week”: Motherhood is challenging at any age, and if you become a mom when you’re 35 or older, it can be quite an adjustment. For info, email Robin Gorman Newman at firstname.lastname@example.org. See www.motherhoodlater.com.
May 13-19 “Children’s Book Week”: An annual event sponsored by the Children’s Book Council to encourage the enjoyment of reading for young people. Call 1-800-999-2160, email email@example.com. See www.bookweekonline.com.
May 17 “National Bike to Work Day”: Encourages the use of bikes so we become healthy, and help the environment as well. Communities, corporations, clubs, and individuals are invited to sponsor bicycling activities during the month of May in order to increase awareness and acceptance of bicycling throughout the country. Call Patrick McCormick 202-822-1333. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Web www.bikeleague.org.
May 18 “International Museum Day”: To pay tribute to museums of the world. Observed annually on May 18 since 1977. For info call Canadian Museums Association 1-888-822-2907 or email email@example.com.
May 21 “I Need a Patch for That Day” They have patches for nicotine and they have patches for heart patients. How about a Patch for “bad hair day” or “runny noses. Phone 717-279-0184 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
May 20 “Victoria Day”: Commemorates the birth of Queen Victoria on May 24th 1819. It is a national holiday in Canada. Observed on the first Monday preceding May 25th.
May 22 “Immigrants’ Day”: A day to celebrate and recognize the contributions made by immigrants to Canada and to discuss the Canadian immigration policy and experience. Call Sergio R. Karas 416-506-1800, email email@example.com. See www.karas.ca.
May 24 “Brothers Day”: Celebration of brotherhood for biological brothers, fraternity brothers, brothers bonded by union affiliation or lifetime experiences. For info: Daniel Rhodes. Phone 205-908-6781, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 25 “National Missing Children’s Day”: To promote awareness of the problem of missing children. Toll Free Hot Line Number 1-800-387-7962. See www.childfind.ca.
May 27 “Memorial Day (US)”: Legal public holiday in the United States, in honour of those who have died in battle.
Cogeco Cable Inc. today announced its full opposition to the application by Astral Media Inc. to the CRTC for authority to transfer its effective control, and control of its licensed broadcasting subsidiaries, to BCE Inc. and to complete related corporate reorganizations. Cogeco’s opposition is based on the same concerns raised in its submission filed in the proceeding leading to the Commission’s October 18, 2012 decision to reject BCE’s proposed acquisition of Astral (Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2012-547). Astral’s application does not fix the major flaws that were then identified by the Commission. As was the case in BCE’s 2012 application, Astral’s applications would give BCE unprecedented market power that could not be constrained through regulatory safeguards, whether administered by the Commission or the Commissioner of Competition. Nothing in the intervening months has brought about new revelations that would allow the Commission to overlook these major flaws or seek to remedy them through regulatory means, and the Commission’s fundamental reason’s for denying the previous application apply equally to the current application.
Read more here.
April Fools’ Day is one of the days of the year when lots of radio stations hopefully make an extra effort to have some fun and draw attention to their creativity. This year the big day fell on a Monday, which meant that morning shows were working and for most stations it was a normal business day.
First some history thanks to Metro from the UK.
What is April Fools’ Day? It’s this informal holiday when people play jokes on each other.
Whose bright idea was this, then? No one really knows. Until about the 18th century, our ancestors treated the beginning of spring as a fun-filled new year’s celebration, so one school of thought cites this as an origin of all the tomfoolery. But similar festivals – including the Roman celebration of Hilaria, on March 25 – date back thousands of years.
One of the earliest literary references to April Fools’ Day saw Chaucer write about how a vain cock got tricked by a fox on April 1. Senses of humour were different back then.
Where is it celebrated? In more countries than you might think. Prank-playing occurs on or around April 1 in Poland, Iran and several Scandinavian countries. In France and French-speaking Canada people attach paper fish to each other’s backs, while in the Philippines, pranksters mark their victims with yellow dye. As you do.
Tell me some famous April Fools’ jokes. The BBC has good form on this one. In 1957, thousands of viewers believed a report about scientists discovering spaghetti trees in Switzerland, while in 1976, Sir Patrick Moore told Radio 2 listeners that if they jumped in the air at 9.47am on April 1 they would experience a floating sensation.
Here is a summary of some of the pranks I noticed on April 1st.
Two Florida DJ’s are in “hot water” over this prank
BBC Radio 4’s Today program announced that Northern Rail would replace train numbers with barcodes that trainspotters can photograph and then upload to the web via their smartphones. More here
Singer David Bowie got in on the act this year and actually approved this April Fools’ prank
An airline in the South Pacific announced it would start charging passengers by their weight. More here
YouTube caught a lot of people with this Video
Google got into the spirit with this Video
Gmail also had fun with colors on April Fools Day with this video
Richard Branson posted a note on his blog announcing the new Virgin Glass Bottomed Planes.
As for radio, I did not hear of many stations making the effort. If you did something special on 1 April, please let us know and we will update this post.
Mark Redmond has something that a lot of media executives around the world wish they could create: a profitable business, funded by the loyalty of hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
When satellite radio services were granted Canadian licences in 2005, many people scoffed at the idea that listeners would reach into their pockets to pay for something they have received free ever since New York’s Metropolitan Opera House first experimented with public transmissions in 1910.
Read more here.
Like thousands of other Canadians, I spent March Break with my family in Florida. We prefer to drive rather than fly but it does mean two days each way driving the I-75. To help pass the time I did the “seek and scan” thing and got to hear a lot of radio as we drove down and back over four days. This got me thinking about the differences between what I hear when I travel in the U.S. and Canada. I thought I would share my observations about radio and other things.
First, the good news
Oldies on FM: The FCC regulations allow stations to run Oldies on FM, and in most instances these songs sound so much better in stereo. I programmed an Oldies FM station for several years and it was always a strong #1, adults 25-54, and listening to stations like Big 106.5 in Dayton, Ohio reminded me what a pleasure it is to listen to a well-programmed Oldies station. The imaging, the upbeat talent and, of course, the music sounded so much better on FM. The entire package was simply more “fun” to listen to and we all felt better about our long drive. This format works because it takes that large segment of “baby boomers” back to their youth when life was less complicated and somehow more innocent. However, the Jack format seems to have killed off a lot of Oldies stations and we noticed fewer Oldies stations, and fewer Jacks for that matter, in comparison to previous years.
Religious Radio: There appear to be more and more inspirational or religious stations on the FM dial, especially in Georgia and Florida. This format has really taken off in the U.S. over the last few years and some of these stations sound very polished, professional, and are easy to listen to. I managed to pick up WFFI which is part of The Fish Network of religious stations in Tennessee, and found that very pleasant to listen to. They don’t do a hard sell of religion and the music flows smoothly. These stations have a loyal following and some of them are making some decent money. I was also told that listeners tend to go out of their way to support the advertisers because they share similar values. I also heard some of “The Joy” stations which are a network of inspirational stations that are rather impressive in the way they program and market their products.
Consolidation: This trip gave me an opportunity to listen to some of the Cumulus stations 18 months after the merger with Citadel. I listened to the Classic Rocker from Chattanooga (WSKZ @106) and thought it sounded as strong as ever. It is ranked #2 all people 12+ behind US 101, the Clear Channel Country powerhouse that has dominated that market for many years. Cumulus put a talk format on 102.3 and has grown that to 4th position with a 4.0 share and that also sounded decent. Their Classic Hits station (107.8 Big FM) appeared to lack focus and did not sound as polished as I expected. I was therefore not surprised to see they have a 3.7 share which is down from a 4.9 share last summer.
The HQ of Cumulus is in Atlanta, where they now own 6 FM stations, and while it is early days as yet, it appears that CBS and Cox Media are still very aggressive competitors. This is an interesting market with more stations targeting the younger demos than perhaps there should be (similar to Toronto). To my ear, V103 (owned by CBS) is still one of the best sounding Urban AC stations in America and it remains at the top of the ratings. At #2 is Magic 107.5 (owned by Radio One) which plays an Urban R&B leaning format. This station has a huge signal that can be heard for many miles either side of Atlanta. Cox has 4 stations in the top 6 with B 98.5 at #3. This is a strong AC station that plays music from the 80’s to today, and I spent a lot of time listening to this station so unfortunately did not listen to their other products. The best performing Cumulus station at this point is Q100, which is an All Hits station and was the station that won the popular vote with my two teenage boys. Q appears to be on the rise and have grown the ratings from a 3.7 to a 4.5 and are now ranked 10th in the market. Worth mentioning is Kicks 101.5 (WKHX-FM) which, while at #12 in the ratings, is a well programmed Country station and appears to be picking up audience from the largely voice tracked Clear Channel Country station, 94.9 The Bull. Not doing much as yet is WYAY-FM, the Cumulus All News station at 106.7. They were a Greatest Hits station under Citadel and Cumulus blew that station up and replaced it with news and information. I listened to it on a Sunday morning and did not think it was in the same league as a CFRB. By the way, I checked the ratings and it is ranked 19th in the market with a 1.5% share. Lastly, I stumbled across a Gospel/Country station at 98.8 called The Walk which is a Cumulus station. It positions itself as Atlanta’s newest radio station and I was impressed to hear some of the big country leaning gospel songs from the likes of Tim McGraw, Josh Turner and The Zac Brown Band. I can see this format doing well in the Southern states of the U.S.
Further south in Macon Georgia, Cumulus owns 8 stations and controls 7 of the 10 positions in the ratings. Clear Channel is #1 with Urban at 97.9 and #2 with an Urban AC with V101.7. Cumulus appears to dominate the market with Country WDEN at #3 and a decent Lite Rock station in Z93.7 at #4. I did not get to hear the other Cumulus stations but they are Blazing 92.3 at #6 and B95.1 an All Hits station at #7. One thing that stood out to me on all the Cumulus stations I listened to is the effort they are putting behind their Groupon type offering known as Sweetjack. It is well promoted on air and is easy to navigate to, and use on the stations’ websites. This appears to be part of their digital strategy and they look to be growing digital revenue by using multiple platforms to reach listeners and engage consumers.
The not so good news
Voice Tracking: I am a fan of voice tracking, providing it is done properly. I was, therefore, somewhat surprised to hear just how obvious and bad some of the voice tracking is that can be heard on stations in the U.S. When I hear someone say, “Just about into our 3 o’clock hour on this Saturday afternoon,” I know there is a good chance I’m listening to a show that was tracked the previous day. I was disappointed to hear a lot of very generic sounding voice breaks, which lacked local or timely information. This technology is getting better by the day and makes it easier than ever to create the impression of “live” radio. But no matter how good the equipment is, good voice tracks happen only if the talent does the show prep and then delivers the material in such a way that it sounds live. That is much easier to do if the announcer lives in the market and is involved in the local community, but I suspect that many of the voices I heard came from other markets. By the way, you can find a helpful article called, “How to improve those voice tracks,” at www.byrnesmedia.com. I encourage you to listen to your station during voice tracked periods and see if your announcers are putting in the effort. It’s easy to track a 6-hour shift in 30 minutes but a well prepared and properly delivered 6-hour, voice tracked show will take at least 90 minutes to create.
Traffic Reports: It’s a long trip and we really needed the radio to warn us of traffic delays or bad weather. Normally we encounter traffic delays and sometimes accidents or bad weather which can delay us. On this trip, we didn’t experience any of the hour-long hold ups that delayed us in previous years, and we had the benefit of seeing traffic delays and problems on our Garmen GPS system which also helped. However, I was disappointed to hear how generic many of the traffic reports sounded on some of the stations. The reports on AM stations tended to be better than on the FMs, which gave such limited information and often the traffic person delivered the information so quickly that it was easy to miss the critical details. The one recurring mistake I heard on several stations was describing the problem first and then the location. I was only interested in problems on I-75, so when the traffic reporter said I-75, I turned the volume up but by then I had missed the problem. Traffic reporters must understand that they should always give location first and then situation.
The Quality of the Commercials: Overall, I believe Canadian, small market radio is doing a better job for the local advertisers. South of the border, I heard a lot of “price and item” commercials as well as lots of commercials jammed with cliché’s and meaningless phrases. “We must….we must sell 60 cars before Monday,” was one example I heard. Phone numbers, web sites, too many words jammed into the commercial, and too much emphasis on how great the client was or how long they had been in business were all common mistakes I heard. I suspect this is more prevalent in the U.S. because often the salesperson has to gather and write the copy while the announcer has to voice and produce the local commercial. The end result is a lot of commercials, which sound average at best, especially when they play next to a national spot featuring superior production, writing and talent.
Contests: The Arbitron survey period had not started, so I was not surprised to hear very little promotional activity as I listened around. It was also the weekend, so perhaps the stations had been more active during the week. I did hear some stations offering VIP seats to concerts (Justin Timberlake & JayZ) and sporting events as well as some client contesting. One station was offering a $150 VISA gift card from Reece’s Peanuts which sounded a little cheesy to my ear. I also heard several “text to win” type promotions and a number of stations inviting listeners to join the club to win prizing. What I did not hear were stations teasing a major giveaway, but again the Arbitron sweeps did not start until March 29th.
AM Radio: This medium is struggling, both in Canada and the U.S. In most major cities, there are one or two big AM stations doing very well with news, sports or talk, but the other stations are dying. Of course the big difference between here and south of the border is that no U.S. companies air Oldies on AM. I listened to the Disney Channel and also a little of The All Comedy Radio on a couple of stations and that sounded decent. However, the content on other AM stations was generally so poor that they gave the impression they were operating out of a broom closet with content coming from a satellite. I did hear some baseball play-by-play on stations that air traffic reports during the week, but clearly stay with baseball and drop traffic reports on weekends. Common sense would seem to dictate that even if you carry live sports, the world is still rotating and between innings or periods, critical news, weather and traffic reports should be aired, but that was not the case on all stations we heard.
Lack of Discretionary Time Information: The reason people listen to radio is mainly for the music or the companionship outside of AM Drive. The stations that manage to create compelling local radio are the ones that prosper. What was lacking on most of the stations to which I tuned was that critical, local information. Tell me what to do with my free time and give me ideas of where to take my family. We are all “time starved” today so the free time we have is even more important than ever before. Radio stations must find ways to get this information on the air even during weekends. After all, we know weekends are heavily tuned time periods and the PPM data is showing that in a number of markets Saturday afternoons are the second most listened to day-part of the week.
Lack of News on FM: Canadian radio stations generally do a much better job of delivering news, especially on FM. News I did find on FM was so brief that it drove me to the AM band to seek the details. I think programmers in the U.S. treat news as an interruption and television appears to be doing a much better job of delivering local and regional news than radio from my experience. News bulletins on FM that I heard focused on local and state news and there was very little news from other states or from around the world. There were bad snow storms in the mid-west that were not mentioned, and while we were in Florida a new Pope was being elected in Rome. I heard very little about this on radio until he was actually elected. Then I learned about it first via social media. Spending time in the U.S. leaves one feeling isolated and less informed. Thank goodness for the BBC news service that is carried on one of the cable channels.
Homogeneous Sounding Radio: This may be a function of consolidation, voice tracking, or both, but many of the radio stations I listened to sounded very similar. I heard the same music, the same image voice, a lot of the same formatics, and in some cases, the same announcer. Yes, Ryan Seacrest is also everywhere on radio in the U.S. as well! While the average listener may not pick up on many of these similarities, I believe they contribute to the perception of cookie-cutter radio, which ultimately cheats the listener and results in people spending less time tuning into radio. If someone just wants wall-to-wall tunes, there are other, better choices than radio, especially in the States where Pandora is growing in popularity. Our challenge is to create the impression that the radio people are listening to is live, and that our radio station is very plugged into the community.
Conclusion: I concede that my “seek and scan” method of listening to radio meant that there was no guarantee I was tuning to the top rated stations in each market. However, I did get a snapshot of what the average person is hearing in Dayton OH, Corbin KY, Dalton TN, Macon GA and several other markets. My overall impression is that while there is some good radio in the major markets, the smaller markets in the U.S. are not as well served by radio as small markets in Canada. There are of course more radio stations per market in the States than in Canada and they tend to run with much lower staff numbers, and consolidation means that a smaller staff are responsible for multiple services. That undoubtedly impacts a station’s ability to create great radio but overall, I think listeners in smaller markets in Canada are treated to a better product than those in the U.S. I therefore think that Canadian broadcasters need to be cautious about spending too much time listening to radio in the U.S when they are looking for inspiration and ideas. Frankly, there is more creative radio to be heard in many Canadian markets and in other parts of the world, providing you know where to look. Most stations stream their audio so you do not need to fly all the way to Australia, Europe or South Africa to hear some great radio. The other two non radio related impressions I was left with from this trip is that customer service is much better in the States than in Canada, and the food portions are huge! It is little wonder that obesity is such an issue. So feel proud that you work in radio in Canada, as generally speaking, I think we are producing better radio especially in the small and medium sized markets.
“Couple Appreciation Month”: To show thanks for each other’s love and emotional support. Do something special to reinforce and celebrate your relationship.
“Daffodil Month”: To support cancer research. See www.cancer.ca.
“International Twit Award Month”: Any famous name is eligible to be designated most Tiresome Wit (TWIT) of 2012. Email Lauren Barnett of Lonestar Publications of Humor at email@example.com.
“Poetry Month, National”: See League of Canadian Poets www.poets.ca
“Stress Awareness Month”: To promote public awareness of what stress is, what causes it to occur and what can be done about it. See www.stresscure.com.
“Humour Month”: Special events in Canada and the US will focus on the joy and therapeutic value of laughter and how it can reduce stress. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. See humormonth.com.
Apr 1 “April Fools’ Day”: The joke of the day is to deceive persons by sending them upon frivolous and nonsensical errands; to pretend they are wanted when they are not, or in fact, any way to betray them into some supposed ludicrous situation, so as to enable you to call them “An April Fool.”
Apr 1 “Reading Is Funny Day”: April Fools’ Day is a great time to share riddles with children. It shows them that reading can be fun and funny. Riddles improve vocabulary, comprehension and oral reading, and enhance deductive and inductive thinking and develop a sense of humour. For info, Dee Anderson email@example.com.
Apr 2 “International Children’s Book Day”: Observes Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday and commemorates the international aspects of children’s literature. Call 302-731-1600, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Apr 2 “World Autism Day”: see www.worldautismawarenessday.org.
Apr 3 “Paraprofessionals Appreciation Day”: This holiday honours the contributions of paraprofessionals, especially in education. Call Valerie Pennington 816-633-5396, email email@example.com.
Apr 6 “Drowsy Driver Awareness Day”: Official state recognized day in California, but worth mentioning everywhere. Annual memorial for people who have died in collisions related to drowsy driving. Call Phil Konstantin 858-505-5014, email firstname.lastname@example.org. See www.drowsydriverawarenessday.com.
Apr 7 “World Health Day”: See www.who.int/world-health-day/en
Apr 7-13 “National Wildlife Week”: To celebrate our country’s natural heritage and play a supportive role in its conservation. Annually Sun-Sat the week of Apr 10th. See www.cwf-fcf-org.
Apr 10 “National Siblings Day”: A commemorative day to honour all brothers and sisters who are living and memorialize those who have died. Annually Apr 10. Call Claudia A. Evart 212-779-2227, email: email@example.com, web www.siblingsday.org.
Apr 14 “International Moment of Laughter Day”: Laughter is a potent and powerful way to deal with the difficulties of modern living. Experience the power of laughter. For info: Izzy Gesell 413-586-2634, email : firstname.lastname@example.org, web www.izzyg.com.
Apr 18-23 “Consumer Awareness Week”: Consumer advocate Bob O’Brien kicks off a week long event aimed at advising and helping consumers with their rights. Call Bob O’Brien 646-233-6610, email email@example.com.
Apr 21-27 “National Volunteer Week”: A time to recognize and celebrate the incredible efforts of our volunteers. See http://volunteer.ca/content/national-volunteer-week.
Apr 21-27 “Administrative Professionals Week”: Acknowledgment of the contributions of all administrative professionals, and their vital roles in business, industry, education and government. Annually the last full week of April. Administrative Professionals Day is the Wednesday (Apr 24). For info: call the Int’l Ass’n of Administrative Professionals 816-891-6600 ext 2239 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Apr 22 “Earth Day”: A day to pay attention to accelerating the transition to renewable energy worldwide. Call Earth Day Network 202-518-0044, see www.earthday.ca/pub/index.php.
Apr 25 “Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day”: A national public education campaign sponsored by the Ms Foundation for Women in which children age 8-12 go to work with adult hosts – parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends. Call 800-676-7780, email email@example.com, web www.daughtersandsonstowork.org.
Apr 26-28 “National Dream Hotline”: Now in its 24th year, the National Dream Hotline is sponsored by the School of Metaphysics as an educational service to people throughout the world. Staff man the hotline phones from 6pm CDT Friday until midnight Sunday. Annually, the last weekend in April. For info, call 417-345-8411, email firstname.lastname@example.org. see www.dreamschool.org.
Apr 28 “National Day of Mourning”: Day of mourning for workers killed or injured on the job in Canada.