Sunday, February 21, 2021

The More Things Change...

When I was away at college in the late '70's and early 80's, my mother would send clippings from the newspaper which she thought I would enjoy, or from which I would benefit. Had she lived during the advent of the internet I am sure she would have sent me links to similar stories, or forward those multiply-already-forwarded emails that I used to receive from other older relatives. Sure, as a young man at the time I rolled my eyes on occasion; still, I have found recently that I have kept some of those clippings...and they were really, really good.

I came across the passage below while reading Malcolm Muggeridge's autobiography (part 2) this morning and thought it was something I would like to pass along to someone. If you've stumbled upon this post, I guess that's you. So, in some ways, I truly have become like my parents.
Watch out kids.

Anyway, I hope you'll find this at least partially as interesting as I did. Keep in mind, this was published back in 1974.

After returning to London in 1934 after 18 months working in Geneva at The League of Nations:

“Everything looked differently to me; especially the assumption on which I had lived from my earliest years, that such and such changes, brought about peacefully through the ballot-box, or drastically through some sort of revolutionary process, would transform human life; making it brotherly, prosperous and just, instead of, as it had always been, and still was for most people, full of poverty, exploitation and conflict. I no longer believed this, nor ever would again. The essential quality of our lives, as I now understood, was a factor, not so much of how we lived, but of why we lived. It was our values, not our production processes, or our laws, or our social relationships, that governed our existence.” ~Malcolm Muggeridge in The Infernal Grove
 [Edited on 2/25 to add]

He also made the following statement which reminded me particularly of this last year:

"This was to be increasingly an age of polarized loyalties."

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Broadcast Radio's Product Life Cycle

The normal product life cycle looks something like: 

Development > Introduction > Growth > Maturity > Decline

So, where does broadcast radio fit within this cycle today?

The 1996 Telecommunications Act eliminated the cap on nationwide broadcast radio station ownership resulting in a move from mostly locally (or regional) to mostly national ownership. As a result, in my opinion, programming became more and more homogenized, and less and less local. 

When I started doing doing product support for radio automation software back in the early 90's, the industry focus was on setting stations up to run satellite delivered programming with the intent to make it sound as local as possible. As the cost of computer data storage dropped and technology advanced to where audio data could be shared via the internet, stations started running their own music and could allow their DJ's to do voice tracking (where the jocks pre-record their segments) in the studio or remotely. This allowed a smaller number of DJ's to be on the air and allow them to track for numerous radio stations in different markets across the country. When the pandemic hit calling for stay-at-home orders fell into place, we started getting calls from some of the rare stations that still had live, local DJ's, asking to set them up so they could voice track from home. This showed radio groups that voice tracking can be reliable and effective, and resulted in reductions in force for radio station employees (and radio automation software employees...). 

So, radio has become less and less local and more and more like a streaming service, except that it still runs long blocks of 60 and 30 second commercials in the second and fourth quarters of the hour. 

I like this quote from Tim Wu's book The Attention Merchants; "Knowing how to keep the pot simmering without boiling over in public protest, [William S.] Paley proactively set limits on CBS's [radio] advertising; among them, he cut its share of airtime to 10 percent and banned commercials considered offensive. At the risk of giving him too much credit, one could say that such policies not only kept critics at bay but also showed a shrewd awareness of the attention merchant's eternal dilemma: too little advertising and the business can't grow; too much and the listener grows resentful and tunes out."

It may be worth mentioning that monitoring some random stations from across the country recently indicated that their normal commercial airtime at times fell within the 20 to 27 percent range.

If broadcast radio is to continue in, or perhaps get back to, the Maturity phase of the product life cycle, it should take this to heart. #buticouldbewrong

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Injured? Try These Replacement Ads!

 Like most people these days, I don't watch very much broadcast television in real time any more. My daughter and I continue to have a Daddy/Daughter night to watch the Bachelor or Bachelorette so we can add our own sarcastic commentary. My wife and I watch some local news and AFV (and, recently, The Hustler), but that's about it. Most of our other entertainment viewing is streaming of some sort.

The advertisements seen during these shows sometimes seem dubious to me. The examples that stand out: the pervasive ads for various prescription drugs, facial creams touting the benefits of hyaluronic acid, and attorney advertisements which were, wisely, prohibited from the early 1900's until the 1970's.

I'd like to come up with an app for smart TV's that would allow them to swap those ads with print ads from the late 1800's and early 1900's (with the exception of lawyer ads due to the reason noted above). For example, when a commercial for various prescription medicines begins, it would be replaced with something like one of these:



Quick reminder: If you're allergic to Snake Oil, don't use Snake Oil.

For skin care creams with hyaluronic acid, or some other rejuvenation miracle: 

Just remember, according to this ad, to work this cleansing, antiseptic lather into your skin always with an upward and outward motion. AND THEN rub your face for several minutes with a lump of ice.

And let's talk about attorneys...


And finally, the choice of a replacement ad for an attorney is an important decision that should not be based solely upon websites, blogs, or Warren's opinion.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Search Engine Optimization for Radio Stations

 With time on my hands, I've been thinking about SEO strategies for radio stations and tinkering with data. Came up with this which I thought some of my radio buddies might find interesting. This first chart shows a comparison of keyword searches on Google which, at first glance, looks like good news. The search phrases included were "Radio stations," "Radio online," and "Streaming music."


Next I compared "Radio stations" to "Spotify" and "Pandora" and the results weren't as encouraging. Note: there was an anomaly regarding the "Spotify" search due to a data breach they had toward the end of November (something radio listeners don't have to worry about...) causing their search numbers to spike to 100. I blanked out the data for that week, thus the broken line.


Then, I decided to narrow the search from "Radio stations" to just "Radio" because the previous search seemed a bit unfair and got the following. 



Bear in mind, "Radio" is a very broad keyword search and brings up results that certainly aren't specific to terrestrial broadcast radio stations. In fact, (and this is not great news for my radio buddies) the top results return URL's for streaming services. The thing to take away from that, however, is that if you're working on an SEO strategy for your radio station, prioritizing "Radio" over "Radio Station" would be a good idea. And remember, SEO is a constantly moving target, so what works today may not work next month.

Monday, December 07, 2020

Some Thoughts on Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble's new boss tries to save the chain -- and traditional bookselling


 A couple things:

Barnes & Noble Inc. is abandoning the strategy that made it a bookselling behemoth two decades ago -- uniformity designed to create economies of scale and simplify the shopping experience. Instead, the company is empowering store managers to curate their shelves based on local tastes.


Good! Now instead of going to the store, not finding the book I'm looking for, ordering it from the person at the customer service desk...and then never hearing back; perhaps they'll be better able to help me in person.


In Mr. Daunt's view, the very survival of bookstores is on the line. "I don't think we have any God-given right to exist," he recently told a group of publishing-industry professionals. "How is it that bookstores do justify themselves in the age of Amazon? They do so by being places in which you discover books with an enjoyment, with a pleasure, with a serendipity that is simply impossible to replicate online."


Don't get me wrong, I really like my Nook, but the last couple of years I've tended towards more paper over digital. Not that anyone cares, but in 2011 and 2012 I read three times as many books on my Nook as I did paper books. 2013 through 2016 it was pretty much 50/50. Since 2017 I've gone back to reading two or three times as many paper books rather than digital. And yes, there is something special about spending some time browsing in a brick and mortar bookstore.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

What's the opposite of 'wonderful' I wonder

 What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs and makes a slinkity sound?
A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing!
Everyone knows it's Slinky.
It's Slinky, it's Slinky, It's fun, it's a wonderful toy.
It's Slinky, it's Slinky, it's fun, It's a wonderful toy.
It's fun for a girl or a boy.

For those of you, like me, whose formative years were the early 1960's, you probably had, at some point, a Slinky. I'm sure the only reason I wanted one was due to the television commercial with the cleaver jingle noted above. I hope your experience was better than mine, although I doubt it could have been.

The commercial I recall showed at least a couple Slinkys in a lively march down a long staircase. I grew up in a modest single-level ranch house where the only thing approaching stairs was the single step between the kitchen door and the garage floor. Later, when my parents had added on a Family Room in the back of the house, there was a similar single step down to the patio. So the jingle's premise fell apart quickly. What walks down stair? 

So the number of things this "wonderful toy" could do were limited. You could place each end in your outstretched hands and raise and lower them in a see-saw motion. That was good entertainment for ten to fifteen seconds and actually did result in a "slinkity sound." Or, you could stretch it out to see just how long you could make the thing. This required the assistance of a friend, I should say a TRUSTED friend. And then one of three things was going to happen: this marvelous spring would be stretched so far that it would never go back to it's original coil, your trusted friend wasn't really trustworthy and you got a face full of metal springy recoil, or, more likely, the spring would twist a bit in the middle creating a stress point and then break resulting in a piece of what I'm convinced they use for razor wire screaming back into the bodies or face of you and your now former friend at the speed of light.

Why did I ever want one of those things? More importantly, why did I think it would be a good idea to get one for my kids ... even if they were plastic now. Broken jagged spring is just as deadly if it's plastic as it is when it's rolled steel.

Fun for a girl or a boy, or lucrative for emergency room staff? I don't know. Now, where did I put my old chemistry set?

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Cheerful Greeting or Smirking Insult?

While out walking the dog I smiled, raised my hand in greeting, and issued what I thought was a cheerful "good morning" to a passing neighbor. No cheerful hello was returned. Perhaps that was because earlier I had dutifully picked up dog poo in a plastic bag which was held in the hand I was waving. I may never know.