Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What Did You Expect?

I feel bad for Don Imus. The poor guy isn't doing anything new, really. Given the shifting standards in our global community, what's the difference between 1972's "1200 Hamburgers to Go" and 2007's "Nappy-Headed Hos"?

It's noteworthy that the former routine is on the same-titled album reissued in 1997 with an EXPLICIT LYRICS sticker. Early-Seventies radio bits get a sticker? (I haven't listened to my copy in a while, but now I'm curious.)

Our paths have crossed a few times over the years, Don's and mine, and I really don't think he's a racist. But he's of a generation that has struggled with cascading seismic shifts in political correctness: what was okay when he was a kid ... what was okay in earlier adulthood ... and what's okay today. (Hint: as a kid, he probably heard adults tell - and himself told - racist jokes openly; as an adult, he probably told racist jokes to well-vetted white friends; today, he might tell a racist joke to a select few - if at all - and they would all have two first names and bad teeth.)

Ah, but there is that whole radio thing. Listening to the 2008 version of Imus in the Morning, you hear a guy who is struggling to remain relevant ... to see, with 68-year-old eyes, the boundaries of political correctness ... and to know just how far outside those boundaries he can safely stray to keep both his shock-jock cred and his job.

Overall, I think he does pretty well. He sure sounds more relevant than his contemporaries up the dial on the Oldies stations - legendary jocks we all revere but wish somebody would tell them to hang up their headsets already.

Yes, the "nappy-headed hos" incident (hereinafter known as Incident One) was regrettable, to say the least - as Imus himself acknowledged. But this "Pacman" thing? Puh-leeeeese. Even if you're totally not a fan (are you listening, Rev. Al?), you have to acknowledge that the remark was ambiguous. Given the eggshells he must tread since Incident One, and what I truly believe is Mr. I.'s outlook these days, his explanation is eminently plausible.

Which brings us to Rev. Al and his kind.

"Aha!" would say Rev. Al. "We know what you mean by 'our kind,' and that makes you, Mr. Radio Ranter, a racist."

But the good rev. would wrong. Again. By "his kind" I mean those who leverage societal sensitivities for their own political agendas, to the potential detriment of society itself.

I mean, who is this guy? Okay, I know who this guy is ... check out Wikipedia for a sense of how, just maybe, it's a case of the pot calling the kettle - oh, never mind.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why Consolidation Fails

I have decided to break up my little exercise in self-flagellation into its original parts, reviving Jay Mitchell's Radio Rants in the process.

Although the folks in radio are as wacky as they come, they come to a radio blog to get radio stuff, not other wacky stuff. And the 1.5 demented individuals - a long-suffering friend and the village idiot - who patronize my feeble attempts at humor have no clue what to do with the radio stuff.

So henceforth all the radio stuff is back here, where it belongs ... and all the other stuff is at Jay Mitchell's Blog, where it can't do much harm, hopefully.

Even if you enjoy both aspects of my schizophrenia, this way you can subscribe to both blogs and visit the one that fits your mood of the moment.

The failure of this micro-experiment in consolidation says a lot about what's wrong with consolidation in general: trying to cobble together disparate elements into a productive whole doesn't always work. It would be like trying to run hundreds of radio stations in markets of all sizes and types and expecting success ... oh, never mind.

Small Market Revenue Measurement NOW

I have long advocated the measurement of small market revenue performance with the same rigor and credibility as the RAB-Miller, Kaplan revenue reports from larger markets. I have not been alone in this, but these days, with the sad news coming from larger markets - which news is, for lack of anything better, applied to smaller markets as well - the small-market-revenue movement is picking up steam.

A number of factions - including measurement companies like Miller, Kaplan and BIA; industry associations like the NAB and the RAB; public-spirited industry vendors and broadcasters in all size markets - are working together to make this happen.

It now looks like the prime mover will be the RAB. I’m told that Board Chairman Peter Smyth has appointed Entercom Regional Vice President and RAB Board Vice Chair Weezie Kramer to head a committee to study the issue, ensuring that smaller markets are represented in proper proportion. I spoke with President/CEO Jeff Haley last week, and he assured me that the RAB is very focused on and committed to this, and that some form of all-encompassing measurement should be in place for 2009, if not sooner. He told me, "I believe it's our industry right to count every ad dollar received. Anything less sells us short."

This is good news indeed. CL King analyst Jim Boyle estimates that small market radio revenues account for about 20% of the radio total. Right now that total is around $21 billion, says the RAB ... but I think that number will be larger when small market radio is fully counted. That’s $4-5 billion of radio revenues that we need to count!

My concern in all this is the definition of small market radio. In speaking with various people in the industry, definitions include “markets 26+,” “markets 75+” and “markets 100+.” These definitions, in my opinion, are off the mark, and they aren’t useful in the present context. A more realistic definition is “markets 150+,” which pretty much takes up where the Miller, Kaplan study now leaves off.

Everybody seems to understand that unrated markets must be included, but even in that realm, we must be inclusive. The most cost-efficient way to survey these markets is, as at least one company is proposing, to identify key small-market groups and capture one number from each, representing all their markets. But that approach would omit smaller groups and independent operators, who - if our newsletter subscriber list is any indication - are the backbone of small market radio.

I will continue to work with our industry leaders on this, and I will continue to keep you informed. For your part, I and a bunch of other people need your support and commitment to participate!