Wednesday, November 09, 2005

"Initiative can neither be created nor delegated. It can only spring from the self-determining indivIDual, who decides that the wisdom of others is not always better than his own" R. Buckminister Fuller

Eric Nuzum, a manager at NPR, has written an interesting commentary concerning public radio (Biggest audience gainers focus on the basics of good radio)...

Finding new listeners is laudable, important work and buzzworthy in public radio during recent years but it's a terribly inefficient way to build audience.

Making new listeners into regulars is a long haul. It takes significant investments and patience. New listeners are difficult to catch and far more difficult to keep. If you doubt that, think about your last experience with the scan button on your radio. How many stations captured and lost you in a matter of seconds?

While new-listener initiatives pay off over the course of several years, there are audience-building initiatives that can show results in weeks or months, strengthening service to current listeners.

Mr. Nuzum goes on to write

A stations most efficient means of expanding its audience is to convert fringe listeners into core listeners. A core listener is someone who uses your radio station more than they use any other radio station across a seven-day period. That's it.

Fringe listeners? They are everyone else. Everyone who isn't a core listener is a fringe listener.

Core listeners are the backbone of a station.

While I agree with his suggestion that stations exhibiting ratings growth might just be those that "practice better radio" and agree that so-called core listeners are critical to success (Jim Seiler was the first to demonstrate this using his theory of "heavy users", Arbitron later confirmed Seiler's theory creating the P-1 construct), however, I must respectfully disagree with his notion on building audience. The hamartia here is "finding new listeners is...a terribly inefficient way to build audience" Exactly wrong. Growing the two toplines (ratings and revenue) delivers the best return, further, let me suggest growing those toplines should be nothing less than job one at every station. Rather than characterize Nuzum's review of the Arbitron data as a near miss case of apophenia, I applaud his attempt to make sense of the data and offer the advice once given me by the great intellect and legendary media researcher Jim Yergin "cume and occasions provide the best insight." This is not to say that programmers should not be focused on getting proper listening credit, growing share of listening or putting state-of-the-art tools (e.g, OES models for messaging) to work to deliver the best possible ratings performance. The fact of the matter is optimization of your current reported listening, while very important, has practical limitations, it is finite. The wise avoid the deception, the illusion, the seduction, the inherent dangers of a one dimensional "loyalty" focus and, instead, prefer to invest attention and resources on the new romance...inducing trial; the creative, pathological obession with building new listenership and new dollars. I encourage you to read Eric Nuzum's writing here and let me know your thoughts.

Here's a good read...Mike Janssen's article "Audience growth stalls for public radio system" here

The issues raised about public radio's growth and lack of growth have been a topic of discussion in our ongoing Media Leadership Series. One of the most popular discussion tools used in the series are "The Great Leader" monographs. Here is a cut from the radio program director monograph first published over a decade ago.

A Great Program Director

A Great Program Director understands that radio is a ratings driven business and delivers winning numbers to the sales department. A Great Program Director is an advocate for target listeners; a champion for P-1 listener wants and needs. A Great Program Director puts research to work to stay in touch with her/his target. A Great Program Director understands the incredible powers of imagination, knowledge, creativity, attitude, focus and technology. "The play's the thing" so said Shakespeare, and A Great Program Director knows that great radio is great theater. A Great Program Director is a leader, a coach, a director, a businessperson. A Great Program Director values "people skills" and is devoted to being a good and fair person with a reputation for creating a stimulating, positive and challenging environment for creative individuals. A Great Program Director knows building a great radio station is a marathon with no finish line; the price of success is always more competition. A Great Program Director is decisive, a strategic thinker, an excellent listener, a person who "hears" ideal radio playing in her/his head and strives to put that station on the air every set, every quarter-hour, every day. A Great Program Director is a competent fiduciary and accepts responsibility for diligent planning and prudent allocation and care of the company's most precious resources - talent, time and cash.

My friend, the brilliant media researcher and author, Roger Wimmer has posted the entire monograph on his website here

Should you be interested, you may also find another in the monograph series, A Great General Manager here

Thanks for the recent emails regarding "Mommy, please make them stop the boring pledge drive." Because of the positive feedback, this will certainly be an important part of our 2006 Media Leadership Series.

Jeff Jarvis makes note of the latest bulletins in the 400 year death spiral of newspapers here

Inside Microsoft - Above Top Secret - Leaked Bill Gates' email

The Bill Gates email & Ray Ozzie memo make mighty fine reading. Bill says "...a new business model has emerged in the form of advertising-supported services and software" while Ray writes "Today there are three key tenents that are driving fundamental shifts in the landscape...

1. The power of the advertising-supported economic model
2. The effectiveness of a new delivery and adoption model
3. The demand for compelling, integrated user experiences that "just work".

Ray's third tenent brings Jerry Semel to mind...Jerry said "people want something that just works" and "I never cared how it worked, I just pushed the on button".

In my experience, people don't care about the technology, they do expect "the utility standard" - as we used to call it in cable tv - "they turn it on and it works, they pick up the phone and they get tone, no exceptions" It's all about the technology being transparent, it's all about the user experience. Period.

Thanks to Dave Winer for sharing Bill's email, Ray's memo and for offering his usual keen and fresh pov to wit

"One thing about MS culture, even after all these years, there's a core inside that's hard, it's willing to change in order to win. Good for them."

Bravo Dave! You rock; let the conversation begin. (Closed circuit to Google - you'll benefit inviting Dave into your it soon) You will find the Microsoft docs via Dave Winer here

Reading Tom Evslin? You may now preorder his hardcover book via Amazon here. Tom says he will autograph preorders. Should you not be dialed in...I highly recommend his writing, now a blook (sic),, you may read this well done whodoneit here. Please allow me to suggest, should you not be reading Tom's non-fiction blog, taste this and a post that rings true to me (given my telephony/MSO days of fighting the RBOCs), Tom's take on the SBC-AT&T get together here. Bravo Tom, well said!