Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"What magic there is in a girl's smile. It is the raisin which, dropped in the yeast of male complacency, induces fermentation." P.G. Wodehouse

"Nothing succeeds like reputation." John Huston

"Television contracts the imagination and radio expands it." Terry Wogan

Today's image: Cool Hand Luke by NontrivialMatt. Great shot. Thank you for sharing.

Inside baseball: Radio sports ace Les Grobstein delivered a rant yesterday during The Big 89 Rewind on WLS. Les wondered why sports radio stations in Chicago were not offering fans anything worth listening to at night or overnight (pbp excepted). His suggestion being Chicago was not some backwater and fans deserved better than dated (i.e., delayed) syndicated programming. Les made a valid point. He said out loud what fans must be thinking, he was speaking as an advocate for the listener. Kudos, Les.

The quick, easy and wrong answer would accuse operators of being cheap, too cheap for their own good some would say. My sense is the more honest, pragmatic answer would involve sales making this an issue of risk management. 7pm - 5am inventory is perhaps the most undervalued asset in radio. The problems related to a lack of demand are exacerbated by management's benign neglect. One could make the case that the majority of stations (of every format) have decided that this 41% of their daily inventory is just not worth the effort, not worth the investment in programming nor the attention and focus of sellers. This serves as an excellent exhibit in self-fulfilling prophecy.

Operators are not willing to invest in product because they are convinced demand will not be there no matter the audience developed. Being #1 at night too often viewed as a Pyrrhic victory - "So what, we can't sell it!" This is the same logic frequently used in walking away from renewal of sports rights - "We can no longer make the math work." While it may indeed be easier to save a dollar than to bring a dollar in, that's no way to build or grow a business. This is another bad habit developed over the years become accepted practice. As Samuel Johnson reminded "The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken."

The dirty little secret here is nobody likes live sports programming at night or overnight but the listeners. They never got the memo giving them the heads up that all the good stuff happens between 5a and 7p. The cost-benefit calculus ensures management remains averse to any 7pm - 5am investment. The elephant in this room is sales. We have a crisis of confidence when it comes to betting on 7pm - 5am programs because the conventional wisdom tells us that even if we do develop a strong following we won't be able to monetize it sufficiently. The result is a kind of prior restraint with respect to programming innovation and audience development. Moreover, a market for barter programming is created and sustained. My thought is this is the crucible of Les' finding, that time and place devoid of acceptable options. Not to disparage network or syndi offerings, there's an abundance of good properties out there. It seems to me, at the core of this argument, we're talking the quality of local execution.

Clearly, the solution set involves creating demand and teaching sellers how to be much more effective. Imagine a day as being one hour, would you throw away almost 25 minutes of that hour? 7pm - 5am, nothing but upside. No matter your format, give it a go. Make something happen. Why continue pushing to make 100% of your number depending on only some amount close to 59% of your inventory. You can and should be using it all. Forget getting better. Start getting different. Change the denominator. The words of Hunter S. Thompson come to mind "Buy the ticket, take the ride."

Here's the biggest single competitive advantage - should you get serious and try this - it's all yours, no one is likely to follow. 41% of radio's daily inventory seems a terrible thing to waste. Can I get a witness?

LATER: Sales rock star Sheila O'Connor and others weigh in via comments. Thank you very much.

Bonus: Soundflavor

Four criteria: Gap CEO Glenn Murphy suggests four criteria that justify marketing spending; The brands must have...

  • Good product
  • Well-run retail environments
  • "Imaginative, creative" message for the target consumer
  • Be able to answer the questions: "Is the consumer ready to respond to the marketing? What is the psyche of the consumer? How are they feeling at that moment?"

More, thanks to Natalie Zmuda writing TV Ads 'a Waste of Money' for Back-in-Black Gap, via AdAge.

Same cool night feed, different damn channel: Web 2.o impresario Rob Barnett has moved the flag, his blog is now here. Please make a note of it.

Congrats & cheers: Rob Curley joins the Las Vegas Sun. Les Moonves & CBS for agreeing to join the 4A/ANA task force on ad integration fees. Eddie McLaughlin and Bob Bruno on their induction into the New York Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame. Good to see NYBA is also honoring the great Roger King.


Anonymous said...

Dave, Do you remember the fabulous job WMAQ did back in the day with the Overnight Truckers Show. Take one big signal, add a dedicated sales force and a defined target = big win.
Sheila O'Connor

dave said...


Certainly do recall that incredible success story. I also recall you being one of the most gifted, hard working and creative sales managers I ever had the honor to serve. You not only bought time for us to put numbers on the board but led the sales team in the successful conversion (ratings to cash) once the numbers were in (or not). Thanks, Sheila.

Kelly said...


Attended your talk in Vegas, we met at the reception after. You may remember, my partners and I run a small shop in the Pacific NW and we are buyers of broadcast on the DMA level. On today's posting: What is the relative value of 7p-5a in a media mix? Is the after 8p or later bonus weight typically included in prime deals a meaningful benefit. How so? Thank you.

dave said...

Hi Kelly, thanks for stopping by. Yes, I recall meeting you and your team. Now to your question...

7p to 5a radio inventory is a wonderful venue for building frequency.

The reach of nights and overnights while less certainly than prime is often unduplicated, that is, you are reaching a different albeit smaller audience. The inherent advantage is one of frequency.

One of the best investments that a local Mom and Pop retailer on a budget can make is 7p-5a radio. Running seven days a week these schedules can build a solid frequency. Let me suggest also running Sunday 12noon-7p in concert with the nights/overnights buy. There are few local advertising options which offer a better ROI for your clients (esp when you lead with the reach of prime weight).

All the best to you and your colleagues.

sam said...

Dave, one of those light bulb moments in my career was a couple of years ago during a talk you gave before our group. You asked us "how much does an avail cost you?" For the life of me and others we had no idea where you were going. Since learning that lesson our cluster has made budget and we are AGAIN leading the group (projected vs performance). Our 6p-6a numbers are the tie-breaker month after month. We are doing well because we are doing things different. Thanks for the not so subtle refresher.

Anonymous said...


What about the V in Dallas? My recollection is the 7p-Mid show went from nowhere to #1 25-54 and so did the rates. All without any outside promotion.

dave said...

Thanks for remembering. Yes, Myke Julius did an exceptional job as the star of Night Moods on KRBV, V100 in Dallas. Our average unit rates were able to climb from about $60 to over $400. We did enjoy the benefits of owning the street, very high profile in the Dallas club scene. The secret was Myke, his performance was amazing. Two things to keep in mind, "The play's the thing" and "All that's important is what comes out of the speaker, everything else is a footnote."