Monday, October 1, 2007

Radio: Dag-NAB-it!

Here’s what I want to know.

How does one get a job like the one David "Fumbles" Rehr has?

You get to preach to the converted, greatly exaggerate and even outright lie to Congress, and count heads knowing that you’re getting a substantial piece of the action.

I kept reading and rereading Fumbles’ comments at last week’s NAB confab. Every time I did, I learned less.

Start with what the NAB’s going to spend your money on - Radio 2020.

Cue up Peggy Lee. “Is that All There Is?”

Is that all there is/ Is that all there is/ If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing / Let's break out the booze and have a ball /If that's all there is

There was that threat to Internet and satellite radio, “We will beat you!” and how HD Radio is “really taking off now.”

Whoops, sorry. Those quotes were from the 2006 NAB convention. We've come a long way in one year. Haven't we, Fumbles?

Did you happen to read the Ad Week piece on radio? It came out a couple of days before the convention opened.

My first reaction was that Fumbles hired some p.r. firm to work the trade to time the story for his Charlotte bash.

After all, what could be better than a pro-radio article in an advertising trade to kick off the NAB with?

It should’ve been the perfect open.

But you didn’t hear anything about it, did you?

Don't you just hate those industry pieces that open with: Radio has fallen on hard times. Not exactly ‘fire up the troops' material.

Ad Week called upon analyst Jim Boyle from CL King & Associates, who said, "It appears the out-of-favor sector, in the eyes of investors, may see soft revenue for several quarters to come."


The article also read, There are also plenty of new media players out to eat radio's lunch. While it's difficult to quantify, buyers say some dollars from radio budgets have been reallocated to new media.

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

Here’s the link:

Chalk it up as another in a series of Fumbles’ follies.

And speaking of follies, let’s get back to Radio 2020.

Fumbles calls it a cooperative effort between the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) and the HD Radio Alliance.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Fumbles predicted that Radio 2020 will reposition radio for a long, successful future, claiming that it is the result of an in-depth research project, which analyzed hundreds of reports through phone research (“do you like a lot, like somewhat, like…..”) and focus groups (“mark on the sheet like, like somewhat, like….”).

How were the respondents selected? Are you familiar with radio? Yes. Have you ever listened to radio? Yes. Did you ever hear a commercial on radio? Yes.

Then there was the on-line research…..oh, sorry. They didn’t bother researching those who were on-line.

And how did Fumbles interpret the results?

"Participants in the focus groups overwhelmingly stated that radio is very important in their lives," said Fumbles. "This was confirmed in the survey data as well. More than 80 percent believe radio is very important. And, nearly all said they rely heavily on radio to easily connect to a diverse world of entertainment and information, no matter where they are. This confirms what we've known all along: Radio matters to listeners."

Okay, Fumbles. So what’s this Radio 2020 all about?

"Radio 2020 will not only address radio's greatest challenges, but will also guide us on how to explore our greatest opportunities," Fumbles pontificated. "Radio's value lies in the fact that it's accessible -- it's everywhere and portable. It's the one medium where everyone can freely and easily connect to a diverse world of entertainment and information, anywhere and everywhere."
That doesn’t mean they’re listening but let’s not confuse the Radio 2020 campaign with the facts.

Fumbles announced that the next phase of this “exciting” (his words, not mine) campaign will market consumers through radio, print ads, and the Internet…, I take that back. No Internet. Just radio and print.

Don’t knock it. Look how successful the HD Radio Alliance campaign on radio and in print has been for that product.

Another one of Radio 2020’s goals is to create initiatives to foster new radio sales talent. They should call it In Search of potential young salespeople that don’t have an MP3 player or listen to streaming audio.

But I digress.

One of the many meaningless goals Fumbles announced was to “ensure that radio is on new, emerging technologies. It's our job to make sure broadcast signals are available on every gadget, everywhere."

This is different from the line Fumbles used last year when he predicted that the next model iPod would include an AM-FM radio.

Question. What did radio do to deserve this loser?

I have to admit that Fumbles does have his fans.

"As this plan has come together under David Rehr’s leadership, the findings and recommendations are amongst the best work I’ve seen in all media positioning," said Fumbles disciple and RAB President and CEO Jeff Haley. "Radio is a universal medium in its accessibility and content choices, even more so now that we are expanding onto additional distribution platforms. Advertisers are taking notice and we can build on that momentum by delivering a unified message about Radio's importance in Americans' lives."

And if that’s not enough, Fumbles trotted out the limping Peter Ferrara, President and CEO of the highly successful (That’s a joke, son) HD Digital Radio Alliance. He called Radio 2020, “a call to action about our future.” He added, “Our industry is robust with fresh ideas, new technology and amazing opportunity. Through this initiative we can work together to demonstrate radio's incredible value and relevance to the American consumer."

Robust? Don't you mean frail, ailing, feeble, weak? New technology? Oh, you mean HD 'cha! Riiiiight! Amazing opportunity? Got me there.

Radio needs a right now this minute plan.

Fumbles, do the math.

You’re saying it's going to take thirteen years to turn radio around?

Google just turned nine.

The iPod just turned six.


How many of today's radio industry leaders will be attending a NAB convention thirteen years from now?

Will there even be a NAB as we know it five years from now?

I must bring this one up. I got a half-dozen e-mail bulletins from the various pro-radio trades on Ford and HD Radio, which the way it was written would make one believe that every Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury will be equipped with an HD Radio. Read carefully - it's an option! So is SYNC. Never heard of it? You should. That’s another option offered by Ford. Let’s see which one will be most appealing to consumers.

Could someone give me the Vegas odds on how many dozen HD Radios will be installed in Fords over the next twelve months versus SYNC?

How about Sprint's new Xohm, which could put Internet radio in every.....let me save that one for another time. Too much information for one day.

Fumbles confirmed one thing. The NAB, the RAB, and, of course, the HD Digital Radio Alliance exist in a bubble oblivious to the world around it.

Don’t they remind you of time bombs? What’s bad about bombs, though, is that they may take a few people with them, too. In their case it could be an entire industry.

What wasn’t discussed at the NAB confab is far more crucial than the dog and pony show Fumbles put on.

How about right brain versus left brain, design versus commerce, sales versus creativity, truth versus lies. I could go on and on – and I will but enough said for today.

Sure, there were the obligatory discussions on the integration of radio and the Internet. The problem was that no one knew what they were talking about.

Let’s just say when someone asked at the NAB info center if there was a meeting on the marketing of creativity, he was met with the answer, “what?”


Anonymous said...

"I have to mention this one. I got a half-dozen e-mail bulletins on this one. Ford and HD Radio. An option? So is SYNC. Never heard of it? You should. That’s an option of Fords, too. Let’s see which one is most appealing to consumers..."

"Ford SYNC, HD Radio and the state of competition"

"Now here's the killer: Ford is making SYNC available as a factory-installed option for just over $300. And for the top-end trim levels, like the Focus SES, it'll be a standard feature. That's right... standard. So if you have an iPod, or Zune (ha!), you can now control it easily while you drive. If you have a cellphone that supports a service like mSpot, or a phone that supports Pandora, you can now listen to them in your car... easily."

Now, if consumers have Pandora, or any personalized music services on their cell phones, they can easilty be streamed in-dash. 40% of Ford's new car sales will have STANDARD Sync, otherwise it is a $300 factory-installed option. The only reason Ford is allowing HD Radio as a $280 + $50 installation fee, is that Ford owns Visteon which makes HD radios, and that Ford is an investor in iBiquity. Even Ford doesn't have much faith in HD Radio, as it is a second-class, point-of-sale, dealer-installed option. HD Radio isn't going anywhere, as it continues to jam the AM band with adjacent-channel interference. What stupid shits, the HD Radio Alliance's own AM stations are jamming each other into oblivion.

Bob Cycrest said...

Radio 2020 is the most absurd "campaign" to come from the NAB and RAB. I agree that solutions are needed now. Google patches and the promise of monetizing web sites are not solutions to radio's ad revenue. Reinventing radio on the programming side is. Give us something tangible to sell and it will be sold.

Anonymous said...

STOP THE MADNESS! I have NEVER heard anything as ridiculous as Radio 2020. What you said is right. Radio NEEDS a RIGHT NOW THIS MINUTE campaign not some self serving bullcrap from the Naïve Association of Broadcasters. You are also right about the creative side. RADIO HAS NO PRODUCT. Its formats are beyond past-tense. Where are the NEW radio personalities that aren't trying to channel Howard Stern? Most radio web sites look like crap, too. Radio 2020. The NAB needs to start by hiring a leader who has HONEST 20/20 vision and DEAL WITH THE HERE AND NOW!

Anonymous said...

John, I am looking forward to your book. I grew up in Cleveland and remember your fine station. After reading your comments you should have spoken at the NAB instead of the same old crew.
Radio 2020 is as stupid as the alliance that created it.
Creativity, left brain, right brain -- that is what the radio industry should be hearing about. You should start your own anti-NAB and get this industry into the 21st Century.

Anonymous said...

gorman screw u. i would like to see u @the nab spewing ur crap. they would run u out of town. radio 20-20 is about solutions not problems. all u do is goad the same people cause they r in better business shape than u. what r ur solutions? u aint got none.
screw u.

Anonymous said...

Angry said...

"gorman screw u. i would like to see u @the nab spewing ur crap. they would run u out of town. radio 20-20 is about solutions not problems. all u do is goad the same people cause they r in better business shape than u. what r ur solutions? u aint got none.
screw u."

You are only angry because you know Gorman is correct. Terrestrial radio will be dead in 20 years - just wait until WiMax/WiFi enables Internet Radio in-dash. The NAB and HD Radio deserve each other, as total jokes.

Hey, check out my new pic:


Anonymous said...

John: The radio business continues its decline for as long as it refuses to pay attention to the creative side. Radio is product-less. Tired and worn formats. Everyone using the same slogans, reading the same liner cards and playing the same old songs. While it is doing that it continues to grow farther away from its potential audience.

Anonymous said...

Okay, John Morgan.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Gorman,

I don't think anyone who ever read your column would be shocked to see you bash Radio one more time. You and your devoted anti-radio hyenas only win if Radio loses. So why would we expect you to embrace a program aimed at giving Radio a boost.

If you're so into new media, why are you stumping a book?

Anonymous said...

Instead of the NAB the managers of radio incl. the programmers should have registered for and attended Ad week in New York instead. Maybe they would learn how much the ad market has changed and how they could incorporate new media. No, they go to North Carolina and hear the s.o.s. from the same old people.

Anonymous said...

i am in agreement with you about terrestrial radio. internet radio is the future. if terrestrial stations think people will listen to them on line they are sadly mistaken. there are far better choices on i.r. not to mention pandora & slacker. you know your stuff to be talking about xohm & sync. i would wager that no one at the nab even knows about those products. it will take creative people that know both the old and new media to make a marriage that works. thank you, john. a brilliant piece you wrote.

Anonymous said...

After seeing Rehr with that impish grin and carney style I fully agree with your "Fumbles" name for him.

You should have a nickname for Ferrera, too.

What a loser than guy is. He reminded me of Phil Silvers as Sgt Bilko

Anonymous said...

In depth research project. Fumbles and Ferrera actually think we believe them?

PocketRadio / 700WLW said...

EVERYONE really needs to read this - Ferrera the clown:

"Where's Waldo - FOLLOW UP"

"Taking a page out of radio’s guerrilla marketing playbook, we had HD Radio orange uniformed street teams (15 people) handing out HD Radio VIP lanyards at the People Mover stations as attendees traveled to the two “industry days... In addition, both last and this coming weekend we took the HD Radio messaging to the streets using 5 two-sided mobile billboards traveling the traffic filled streets of Detroit around Convention Center. At 2:30 each day the trucks caravanned in front of the center making a spectacular site!"

Comment: "Peter Ferrara was a stooge at Clear Channel, and he continues to be a stooge for this most stillborn of consumer products. Why doesn't he just form the Cassette Player Alliance? Might be less of a waste of time. HD Radio is an abysmal response to the competitive issues facing people who own terrestrial radio licenses today."

Definately a favorite!

Lock Stock Barrell said...

When will the radio industry admit they were wrong with deregulation and more importantly how they handled it? Theives like Randy Michaels used other people's money (not that I feel sorry for the Mays) to live like a king. When it came crashing down the industry rallied around Michaels because they were all living vicariously through him wishing they had the guts to do what he did.
I'm not sure where you stand on Mel but you can't bypass his contributions to the fall of radio. He was a liquidator. He stripped stations bare and killed promo budgets and to his rock stations said that Howard Stern was your promotion and marketing. What else would Mel say? He owns a piece of Howard with Don Buchwald. When Howard went too far and got fined by the FCC he would take it out of the CBS budget. Non-CBS stations carrying Howard had to fend for themselves. Mel paid himself handsomely and took a piece of Howard's actions too. You would think that would be illegal except that since deregulation radio feels they are above the law.
Now they are in the red.
The commentor suggesting the name Sgt. Bilko for Ferrera. Perfect name considering how he is bilk-o-ing the industry.

Anonymous said...

If those running the NAB were not so scared of their shadow they would have been wise to invite the writer of that Ad Week story on radio to speak.

If radio only knew what the outside world thinks of it. Both listeners and clients. They can now get what they want from other sources.

You said listeners didn't abandon radio and that it was the other way around.

You are soooooooo right.

A disenchanted PD that works for a Jacobs Media consulted station said...

Gorman you are being too kind. You are softening up. You aren't the fighter you once were. Otherwise you would have written about the fiasco that Jacobs Media put on at their annual Billy Graham meeting.

"The Bedroom Project" was the joke you said it would be. It didn't tell us anything we didn't know already (maybe some Jacobs clients still didn't know this information?).

"Radio Uncovered" was even dumber. Dave Beasing and Dr. Ed Cohen pandered to the audience making everyone feel it's not THEIR (meaning Jacobs direction) fault or radio's fault that people stopped listening or listen less.So now Jacobs has a new excuse claiming that it's hard to get "the radio listener" to participate in research studies. Didn't you say months ago that research has been asking the WRONG questions?

You should mention Jacobs fawning all over the guy you call Fumbles. What an empty suit.

Then there was "PPM Rocks" which had on its panel a bunch of losers you would never want near your radio station. PPM means you have to be a GREAT station ALL THE TIME. It's that simple, Jacobs.

It is guys like him that RUINED RADIO.

John said...

Interesting note...I work in the consumer A/V biz and looks like reps from the local NAB are making the rounds in the last week or so trying to drum up support for stocking/selling HD radios.

Anonymous said...

When will these idiots give up on HD side channels. If they want to sell digital radios call them that. Radio is not High Definition. If these companies concentrated on improving the programming on their existing stations maybe we would see some interest maybe one for home use. The HD b.s. confuses the issue and those side channels I have heard on station web sites are BAD!

T Alexander said...

Forget Radio 2020. What we need is 20/20 vision for the blind running the radio industry today.

Anonymous said...

John - Your love for true radio shines through in your blog. Like you I am utterly disgusted with the way this once promising industry destroyed itself by its marriage to Wall Street. I am all in favor of making lots of money, don't get me wrong. Some made fortunes overnight (the sellers) and some lost fortunes (the buyers) but it was the front lines that felt it the most.

Like you I believe radio can be turned around once broadcasters are back in control. Because broadcasters will understand how to marry old media with new.

Keep spreading the word. You may inspire some of the great broadcasters to return to active duty.

Anonymous said...

Why do all of the rock format stations and some of the CHR rock format stations owned by Clear Channel have web sites that border on pornographic? I'm no prude but I do take offense that soft porn appears to be the only way that company can promote its stations to young adults and teens.

In fact most radio station web sites regardless of format are pretty bad. The radio industry isn't even close to understanding its on line audience.