Friday, June 23, 2017

CHARTS & GRAPHS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

From time-to-time we publish images from various news sources showing the results of recent research on media consumption. Some of today’s charts have received a lot of attention and others didn’t make much of a splash.

1. NIELSEN’S LOVE-LETTER TO RADIO BROADCASTERS

Last week Nielsen released the latest edition of THE STATE OF THE MEDIA: NIELSEN AUDIO TODAY 2017 ad radio is looking good. The Nielsen report says 271 million Americans listening each week, the most of any media platform.

That chart on the left shows Nielsen’s estimate of weekly use of six media platforms sliced-and-diced by age group.

The report examines the listening landscape today viewed through many different lenses – reach and audience growth, network radio, podcasting, format preferences, localism and much more. (Click on the images to expand them.)





The chart on the right is the chart I found to be the most interesting.   

It shows that podcast listeners are different from the general public in several important ways: 

Podcasts listeners are younger, more affluent and career oriented.





2. COLEMAN RESEARCH: MOST PEOPLE HAVEN’T HEARD OF PUBLIC RADIO

You will hear a lot more about this report in coming weeks. The Public Radio Program Directors Association (PRPD) commissioned Coleman Research to explore public radio’s visibility with the general American public. The results show that more people are aware of a local Country music station than ANY public radio station. Coleman will present the full report at the PRPD Content Conference in August.

I will be writing more next week about the Coleman/PRPD study.

3. WALL STREET JOURNAL: MORE APPLE I-PHONES HAVE BEEN SOLD THAN ZIPPO LIGHTERS

 Never in recent history has a new device penetrated the American consumer market faster than Apple’s I-Phone.  The chart on the right compares the total unit sales and time of adaptation with other well-known new devices. Notice how quickly the IPhone became ubiquitous.

4. PEOPLE WHO DRIVE CERTAIN GM CARS ARE HEAVIEST BROADCAST RADIO LISTENERS

According to recent Jacobs Media study, people who buy certain vehicles tend to listen to more radio than other buyers. The chart on the left shows that people buying Buicks are the heaviest radio listeners followed by buyers of two models of Chevys. The Porsche buyers look like an outlier to me.

5. SMART SPEAKERS ARE GAINING IN AWARENESS AND POPULARITY


The two charts on the right show Edison Research and Triton Digital’s latest data on the adoption of Smart Speakers such as Amazon’s Alexia and Google’s Home. 

 Though the number of units sold is relatively low, sales are trending up.






To me Smart Speakers are like a barking dog in the corner of the room. I can’t understand their popularity.  Perhaps some people are over their love affairs with Siri.




6. ON-AIR PRAYING ISN’T WHY PEOPLE LISTEN TO CHRISTIAN RADIO

Finney Media recently conducted a survey – What Women Want – From You, Christian Radio - to determine why people listen to Christian-themed radio. The most frequent responses (chart on the left) are faith, worship and the desire to escape negative messages in society. Listening to people pray was the least favorite reason.

7. WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH THE EXTRA TIME IN A DRIVER-LESS CAR?

The word cloud on the right comes from Jacobs Media’s Tech Survey 13. If and when driverless cars become the norm, folks in the driver’s seat will have free time on their hands.  What to do? Some folks said “screw” because that it a dangerous pastime when you need your hand on the wheel.





Thursday, June 22, 2017

NPR NEWS & MEMBER STATIONS DOMINATE MURROW AWARDS • BJ LEIDERMAN’S NEW ALBUM • WORK FOR RANDI RHODES



Public radio’s increasingly prominent role in news reporting and innovation is on full display in the 2017 Edward R. Murrow Awards, sponsored by the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). Of the 45 radio awards, 31 (69%) were associated with NPR and/or NPR member stations.

LARGE MARKET RADIO WINNERS

In the Large Market Radio category NPR News stations won 10 (63%) of 16 individual awards. KUT (Austin) won three Murrow Awards, WNYC (New York) won two and WBUR (Boston), KCUR (Kansas City), KERA (Dallas), WBEZ (Chicago), KCRW (LA), KQED (San Francisco) WBUR (Boston) each won one Murrow.

Commercial station WTOP (Washington, DC) won the award for Overall Excellence in the Large Market category.

SMALL MARKET RADIO WINNERS

New Hampshire Public Radio won three Murrow Awards, including Overall Excellence, in the Smaller Radio Markets category. Public radio stations won 13 (87%) of the 15 individual awards in the category.

Vermont Public Radio and WVTF (Roanoke) each won two Murrow Awards. Stations that won one Murrow Award were North Country Public Radio, WITF (Harrisburg, PA), KMUW (Wichita), KNAU (Flagstaff, AZ), WSHU (Fairfield, CT), WFIU (Bloomington, IN) and KBIA (Columbia, MO).

NETWORK RADIO WINNERS

In the Network Radio category, public radio organizations won 8 (57%) of the 14 of the Murrow Awards. NPR won three Murrow Awards including Excellence In Innovation.

Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX and This American Life’s podcast Serial each won two and American Public Radio won one.

CBS Radio News and ABC Radio News won most of the commercial network awards. CBS was honored for Overall Excellence and was highly praised for its Breaking News coverage of shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.

The complete list of winners is available here. the awards will be presented October 9th at Gotham Hall in New York City.

WHO WAS EDWARD R. MURROW?

It is hard to sum up in a few words.  It could be said that Murrow defined integrity in reporting, perfected on-the-spot news coverage, brought investigative reporting to radio and TV and set standards that remain today. Here is a YouTube video about some of Murrow’s best work:



BJ LEIDERMAN RELEASES FIRST ALBUM (WITHOUT JINGLES)

If you are a public radio listener, you’ve heard BJ Leiderman’s work. His name might not be familiar but his musical compositions certainly are. Leiderman is the creator of the theme music that welcomes you to Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Wait…Wait Don’t Tell Me, Marketplace and many, many more programs. Now he has released his first album BJ.

Last week Leiderman’s hometown newspaper, the Asheville News Observer, had a wonderful profile of him [link].  I recommend it to anyone who has ever hummed along with the Morning Edition theme song.


Leiderman has toiled for many years in the “jingle jungle” – a notoriously fickle business. He talked about his long-time relationship with NPR to the News Observer:

“I got paid good NPR money. Any money is good from them. They’ve treated me very well through the years, and I quickly found out how valuable an on-air radio credit is, especially with a quirky name. I still get, ‘Are you the REAL BJ Leiderman?’ Like there’s a lot of us.”

I had the opportunity to work with him in the early 2000s when I was consulting The Stanley Foundation’s weekly news show Common Ground. It was impressive to see and hear his composing technique in progress. He asks clients detailed questions about the aura of the program and vibe the show’s producers want to convey.  Though the Common Ground theme music is not on his best-of list, I thought it was terrific.

While doing the research for this story, I found a YouTube video that Leiderman uses as his demo tape.  It is hilarious and captures his wit and not-too-serious manner:



Leiderman’s new album, BJ, features The Randall Bramblett Band and Béla Fleck. You can learn more about it and get a copy here

ONE-OF-A-KIND TALK SHOW GIG IS NOW OPEN

Randi Rhodes
One of my favorite commercial radio talk hosts, Randi Rhodes, is looking for a production wizard and board operator for her South Florida-based audio and video company.  

The Randi Rhodes Show [link] is now available via video and audio streaming, broadcast radio and podcasts.

The job consists of mixing the program as it happens live and multi-versioning the content for distribution on YouTube, Facebook, Periscope and other platforms. Randi is looking for someone with experience using YouTube, Facebook, Periscope, and Final Cut Pro/Adobe Audition. For more information contact Randi’s manager Howard Vine at: howard@randirhodes.com.



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

THE INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY OF NBC’S 24/7 RADIO NEWS & INFORMATION CHANNEL


This is a slightly edited version of a post the first appeared on Friday, June 3, 2016. It is one of our most popular stories. Ken.

NBC’s News and Information Service (NIS) began on June 18, 1975 with the boast “The Most Important Day in Radio History.” When NIS died eighteen months later, it was known as one of the biggest failures in American radio history. What happened to the 24/7 News and Information network that seemed to have so much promise?

Common wisdom is that NIS failed because it “was ahead of its time” and was too expense, both of which are partially true.  

 According to a former NIS staffer who asked not to be named, NIS failed because of “Lack of imagination and poor execution.” Plus it sounded awful – “group-think” at its worst. (Scroll down to hear what NIS sounded like.)


Forty years later, NIS could have been a major news source that might have challenged NPR News.

THE NIS STORY

Jack Thayer
In the fall of 1974 NBC Radio was trailing the other big nets ABC, CBS and Mutual.  NBC’s O&O (Owned and Operated) FM stations were languishing. The radio division, run by Jack Thayer, needed a big big idea that would turn the ship around.

ABC Radio had revolutionized the business of network radio when, in 1969, they began feeding four different newscasts each hour designed for specific formats. At the time most radio stations carried network newscasts.  ABC’s bold move allowed them to quadruple its number of affiliates and ad revenue.

Thayer held brainstorming sessions to determine NBC’s next big thing. According to the former NIS staffer several scenarios were considered. One option, pushed by younger folks, was a live hourly version of Earth News, a counter-culture news service delivered to stations via scripts and transcription discs.

At that time FM listener penetration in many markets was beginning to top AM stations. NPR was just getting started; their only national news program at the time was a 90-minute version of All Things Considered. This was before Morning Edition – some NPR stations at the time didn’t even sign on until Noon.

Alan Walden
Thayer decided to turn the project over to Alan Walden, an old-school AM radio personality, who had great success running NBC’s WBAL-AM in Baltimore.

In 1976 a 24/7 national news service was a new idea.  This was before CNN.  

 The model was local news & weather AMs such as 1010 WINS, KNX and KFWB. So NIS was breaking new ground and the eyes of the biz were on NBC.



THE ROLL OUT OF NIS

On February 10, 1975, The New York Times broke the news about NBC’s NIS 24/7 news network. I

t would make full use of the resources of NBC News in a new way: 24/7 continuous news and information.

At a news conference Thayer said NIS would provide affiliates with 50-minutes of programming every hour. 

Affiliates were required to pay $15,000 per month in the largest markets and $750 per month in the smallest markets. Plus stations were required to air commercials embedded in NIS programming. Thayer predicted NIS would have affiliates in 75 of the top 100 markets.

Walden went to work building the NIS staff of over 200 people. Many members of the founding staff came from established AM powerhouses like 1010 WINS, WCBS and KNX.

Walden crafted a format clock (shown on the right) with something for everybody: Headlines, features, commentaries, vox pop and interviews, all sliced and diced into short chunks of time to 
fit into the program clock.

When NIS debuted on June 18, 1976, it had fewer than 50 affiliates. Even some of NBC’s O&O FMs refused to carry it.  Many stations balked at the high cash fees and onerous commercial carriage requirements. 

So NBC began marketing NIS as an updated version of Monitor, a weekend news service that was popular in the 1950s and 1960s.




By Spring 1976, most of the NIS affiliates were old beat up AM stations, many former Top 40 giants like KRUX in Phoenix, KUDL in Kansas City and WPOP in Hartford. 

The ratings weren’t great. 

(The Spring 1976 NIS carriage list is shown on the left.)

I looked up the Spring 1976 Arbitron ratings published by Duncan’s American Radio found on the American Radio History website [link], a truly amazing historical resource. 

At that time NIS was on 10 FM stations and 25 AM stations in rated markets.   

Only 19 stations were in the top 100 radio markets.

There were also audio quality issues. Andy Denemark, now Executive VP for Programming at United Stations, joined NBC in 1980 to market The Source, NBC’s service for AOR stations. 
People at The Source previously worked at NIS and told Denemark about technical faults of NIS:

“[NIS was] delivered on phone lines in those days... a 5k equalized line into major markets, a 3.5k un-equalized line into smaller towns. The high cost of those “webs” of wires (for which the phone company charged by mileage) was outrageous.”

According to Arbitron, NIS stations had around 2,000,000 estimated weekly cumulative listeners. Many of these station only used NIS overnight. The end was in sight.

The New York Times reported on November 4, 1976, NBC had pulled the plug on NIS. There were fewer than 70 affiliated stations.  NIS had lost more than $20,000,000 (close to $400,000,000 in 2016 dollars).  Heads rolled at NBC.

NIS staff were told that NIS was cancelled from Dick Wald, then the head of NBC News, at an all-staff meeting. The meeting occurred the day after NIS had  covered the 1976 election, when Jimmy Carter was elected President.

After NIS folded, there was never another serious attempt by any commercial network to establish a 24/7 news service. In a few years, NBC left the radio news businesses entirely.

WHAT NIS SOUNDED LIKE

As I said above, I think it sounded awful. Give a quick listen to a two-minute scoped version of NIS on WNWS-FM, New York, during the 6:00pm hour in August 1976:




HYPOTHETICAL “WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN”

The following is completely conjecture.

The former NIS staffer (who did not want to be identified) mentioned that one alternative plan for what became NIS was to create an alternative news service for Album Oriented Rock (AOR) stations.  Rock on FM in 1976 was becoming a major success. Stations like WNEW and WPLJ in New York, KMET and KLOS in LA and WXRT in Chicago dominated listening by folks under 40.  What if instead of an AM clone like NIS, NBC would have set up a specialized news service for AOR and other contemporary rock stations.

Suppose NBC had decided to bring in programming folks who understood the potential for FM news to reach younger listeners with a more modern presentation style and sensibility. In 1976 key creators of NPR such as Jim Russell and Jay Kernis were guns for hire.  Both had worked in commercial broadcasting and both new how to do a start up with a lean budget.

Suppose they attracted the best and brightest young reporters and storytellers.

Suppose it was still in business when MSNBC got a life in the mid 2000s.

Suppose Rachel Maddow (a seasoned radio vet with Air America) did a TV, online and FM simulcast truly using the resources of NBC News. I think it would have worked.