Archive for July, 2007

Pirated Music Goes Mainstream

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

According to Artistdirect, a company that tracks illegal downloads, between 300 and 500 million songs are pirated each day; a fact that many blame for the continuing death of CD sales and downturn in traditional radio listenership. Amid all the gloom and doom, however, one spies an ironic bright spot on the musical horizon.

Some radio stations around the country, including Power 106 in Los Angeles, are starting to consider research data on illegal music file sharing when shaping their on-air playlists. Sarah McBride writes about it in a recent edition of the Wall Street Journal. It is an interesting dynamic: If a radio station is not already playing a song that is a popular download on illegal sites, playing it can attract listeners. As requests increase, so too does a song’s radio rotation; a hit radio song, in turn, quite often spurs an increase in legal downloads in that city.

Clear Channel Communications (considered by many the anti-Christ in the fall of radio’s popularity), just began marketing this information via sister entity Premiere Radio Networks and its Mediabase unit (my old company).

Clear Channel saves radio and the music industry. Wouldn’t that be ironic.

New York Station Answers Wake-Up Call

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Below, you will see my advice to CBS News to move their national news broadcast to a time where working people, in this day and age, might want to watch it.

WNBC-TV in New York is doing that with their local news. See the press release that explains it. They are cutting their 5pm news (when there just aren’t as many people in front of their TVs) and, instead, doing news on TV at 7pm, when more viewers might be home from work. They are also expanding their news updates online – also smart.

Another plus – the syndicated entertainment show “Extra” will be on at 5pm – so celebrity-focused stories, for the past 10 years a staple of 5pm broadcasts, can be on entertainment shows where they belong.

Rewriting TV History

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

TV history was made last week. Anyone who keeps an eye on communications trends should be paying attention.

Univision, the largest Spanish language TV network, was the highest rated network for an entire day. Yes, you read that correctly. Broadcasting entirely in Spanish, for July 19, 2007, Univision was the most-watched network, overall, among adults 18-34, adults 18-49 and teens 12-17.

A youth awards show that day “Premios Juventud 2007″ averaged more viewers than ABC, CBS and NBC COMBINED during Prime Time in several major markets. Part of the explanation – Univision does not show reruns in the summertime.

As we have been telling you, the Hispanic audience is growing and Detroit’s Univision affiliate is among the stations that are bucking the trend and gaining viewers.

Striking a Nerve, Setting the Tone

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Based on the incredible response—both online and otherwise—it was quite heartening to find that our recent blog on exercising the golden rule in interactions with employees and colleagues really struck a nerve with like-minded individuals. I know it has always been an incredibly important dynamic to Matt and me; so important, in fact, that one of the first things we did when forming the agency was to set forth the tenets for the culture we wanted to create at Tanner Friedman.

Both of us have supervised colleagues in some capacity at virtually every place we have served. We know first-hand that you cannot create a positive work environment nor accomplish goals without mutual respect; it forms the very foundation on which a company should be built. Mutual respect also entails open and honest communications in interactions with others and a willingness to consider diversity of thought. Not to mention empowering individuals to make decisions (and, at times, mistakes).

All of this, in turn, fosters creativity, teamwork and shared vision.

Perhaps most importantly, this positive approach leads to rewarding and fulfilling careers for the individuals that you employ and work with every day.

Setting the tone and an example starts at the very top. As a business or corporate leader, do you promote a “me” or a “we” mentality? Is it “YOUR” company or “OUR” company? If your response to both questions is the former, you are surely on the path to having “NO” company.

Golden Rule Should Be Set In Stone

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

A former colleague at another place of business used to ask the question:
“How can we make this the best place to work for our employees?” Though it would seem to be common sense, I answered each time: “Treat them the right way every day.” Unfortunately, this was not the “creative” idea this person was seeking and common sense was ignored.

Though I was taught the “golden rule” as a grade schooler, today I find it is too often lacking in a corporate world more concerned with the bottom line. Yet, effective internal communications and the proper treatment of employees—namely, empowerment, mutual respect and career pathing—are just as important to a company’s future.

Just compare Wal-Mart, with its low wages, union struggles and endless employee lawsuits and Metro Detroit newcomer Google and its creative atmosphere, team approach and opportunities for career advancement. Guess which company has scores of individuals clamoring to be a part of their culture and growing organization?

Is your organization growing and thriving or is it beset by constant employee turnover and client attrition? If it is the latter, it might be time to look inward.

Newspaper Closing Should Be A Reminder

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

It’s the end of an era a couple hundred miles south down I-75. At the end of the year, Cincinnati will be a one newspaper town.

The Cincinnati Post, once the flagship of the E.W. Scripps Company, announced today it will cease publicatation at the end of this year. Here’s the Post’s coverage of its own demise – a well-written story posted, of course, online before it hits a printing press.

The decision was prompted by the ending of a Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) between Scripps and Gannett. We know about JOAs here in Detroit, where Gannett runs the majority of a JOA with Media News Group. Cincy’s JOA ran for 30 years – the Detroit agreement runs through 2087. But, this makes you wonder how many two newspaper towns will be left in America at the end of this decade.

Tanner Friedman is recommending to our clients to use as many communications platforms as possible. We can’t say it enough – the communications world is changing. While newspapers (and TV and radio to boot) still reach a large audience, today’s news from the Queen City shows why diversification of a communications program is so vital.

CBS=Can’t Be Saved?

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

Several Tanner Friedman clients have been asking me about the Katie Couric situation, which has seeped outside of TV news’ inner circle into the mainstream press.

The best article, so far, chronicling the saga appears in New York Magazine. I recommend it for anyone interested in a glimpse of big time TV news in 2007.

A year ago, I was applauding CBS for developing a new strategy for the evening network news broadcast. They brought in a boda fide celebrity, a proven ratings winner who attracts a much-needed younger, more female audience. More importantly, they sought to reinvent the broadcast, playing to their anchor’s strength. They took risks in a business that is notorious for playing it safe.

But, when it didn’t work right away, they panicked. They brought in an “old school” executive producer to turn back the clock and are getting exactly what they asked for by reversing their attempts at innovation – a smaller piece of a shrinking pie.

Here’s my four-point plan for saving the CBS Evening News from extinction:

-Stick with Katie. She has proven that she can draw viewers.
-Redesign the newscast to fit her strengths – interviewing and connecting with people, handling live elements, not just introducing stories. Remember, we can all get news headlines on-line.
-Move the time of the TV broadcast to 7:30 Eastern time, at the earliest. I don’t know any younger, working people who sit down to watch TV at 6:30 pm (let along 5:30 in the Central time zone). We’re too busy juggling our lives. Work a deal with affiliates. I know that time is reserved for affiliate programming, because of policies established more than 50 years ago. But, our country has come a long way since the days of “Ozzie and Harriet.” Network TV must also. CBS may also want to explore moving to Prime Time. There is no news in Prime, even with 3 so-called “all news” networks. From 8-11 Eastern, it’s mostly just people yelling at each other.
-Really committ to multi-platform. That doesn’t just mean promoting CBS’s web site during every commerical break. Use the TV, radio and on-line mediums to their strengths to tell stories that people care about.

Chatter Boxes

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

A Thursday morning radio news report that struck me as quite odd was examined further ad nauseam through the day by every media outlet in the country, including by CNN show host Glenn Beck. The sentiments expressed in his monologue that evening echoed my thoughts exactly.

The office of Homeland Security had a “hunch,” went the report, that terrorists might be entering, or, had already entered the U.S. for the purpose of planning a strike. The White House was taking the “hunch” so seriously, the report continued, that a high-level meeting was being convened…the next day. In other words, watch your back while we get around to discussing things…tomorrow.

This is serious business, to be sure, but this latest episode begs the question: where do we draw the line on public “chattering” about intercepted chatter, let alone a “hunch.” Terrorists might be here, or, might be coming? So what else is new?

Don’t get me wrong. I want Homeland Security, the FBI and the CIA to communicate internally on this stuff all day long; and they do so, very effectively. Read George Tenet’s “At the Center of the Storm or Ron Suskind’s “One Percent Doctrine” for more perspective, and what the dedicated men and women of law enforcement do each day to protect you and me.

Beyond that realm, though, we continue to walk, if not cross, a fine line between communicating responsibly and inciting fear; and between staying vigilant and becoming laissez faire.

No More Broadcasting?

Monday, July 9th, 2007

Crain’s Detroit Business reports some new TV ratings information today. Detroit Tigers broadcasts on FSN Detroit averaged an 8.1 rating in June.

By comparison, WXYZ-TV‘s 6:00 news led the market with an 8.0 average rating in May. When I produced the 6:00 news at WDIV-TV in the mid-90s, we needed a 13 rating to assure ourselves a win. Where did that 40% of the audience go in the last 10 years? Not to local news but to other channels or to “off.”

It used to be that the 6:00 local news was considered mass appeal programming and sports, particularly on cable, was considered niche programming. Guess what? The numbers show local TV news is now a niche product too, as is most everything on TV, save “American Idol.” Narrowcasting has replaced broadcasting on TV, much as niche publications replaced general interest magazines like “Life” in decades past.

We counsel Tanner Friedman clients to target their messaging to specific audiences. Detroit’s TV ratings are another example of how “mass” media doesn’t often play to the masses anymore.

White Wires & High Def — Talkin’ ‘Bout An Evolution

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

Each Sunday morning over Wheaties, I enjoy Art Vuolo and Mike Austerman’s weekly “On the Radio” column in the Oakland Press and at This week, Vuolo recounts his attending The Conclave, the Midwest regional radio conference, and how it once again underscored his concern over the future of traditional radio. It is one I share.

Vuolo laments the continued prevalence of the “white wires” of personal IPods over radio and how the conference focused on typical discussions of formatics and programming rather than new creative ideas—including utilizing HD—to bring music lovers back to the medium. Vuolo also recently discussed his concerns over the continued trend in music radio away from live, local personalities.

He is right on the mark on all levels and radio programmers and music directors should take note.  The keys to returning radio to greatness are what originally elevated it to prominence in the 60s and early 70s: Local flavor and live, local personalities. Today, one must also add musical variety into the mix.  Card readers, voice-tracking, generic call letters and tired music rotations no longer work. It’s time to bring back the fun, originality and excitement.

Further, radio needs to fight technology with technology through High Definition (HD), which offers programmers a new platform from which to experiment and create.  Unfortunately, to date, the makers of HD have not done a very good job of marketing their product nor making it available to the masses. I have tried in vain to find a local retailer that even carries HD receivers.

So, radio powers that be, DO touch that dial and initiative an evolution of the medium, pronto!  Radio lovers like me and Mr. Vuolo are rooting for you!