Category Archives: Uncategorized

What to do when you’re a music station and there’s a terror attack in your city

When the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon finish line it was just before 3PM local time, and it was a holiday, Patriots’ Day. For those unfamiliar, Patriots’ Day is in honor of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and the Battles of Lexington and Concord that began the American Revolution. It’s celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine (Maine used to be part of Massachusetts) and two big sporting events are held that day. The Boston Red Sox play an 11AM game at Fenway Park (the only morning start in all of professional sports) and, since 1897, the Boston Marathon has been held. It’s also the beginning of school vacation week. The idea of the morning Red Sox game is that people could take the kids to the game, then saunter one block to Kenmore Square, the 25-mile marker of the race, and watch the runners on the final stretch. Which is exactly what I was doing that day.

So what happens at a music-intensive station on a holiday? Typically, the station is on a Saturday schedule – meaning there are no newscasts and there is no news person around. Especially at 3PM. WBZ-TV and WBZ-AM always broadcasts the race from the starting line in Hopkinton to the finish line at Exeter Street in Boston, so they had plenty of reporters already on hand when the bombs went off. Their sister stations, 98.5 The Sports Hub, 100.7 WZLX, 103.3 AMP Radio and Mix 104.1 all simulcast the WBZ-TV audio. Perfect, and appropriate. Clear Channel’s Kiss 108 and Jam’n 94-5 had updates from Fox 25. Greater Media’s five stations all have music formats and no news people on duty at 3PM any day. Magic 106.7 was busy telling me that they play the Most Music.

I got home via the last outbound train on the T Green Line. When my wife picked me up she asked me what I would have done if I were still the VP/Programming at Magic. I responded that I would have done exactly what I did when the Challenger blew up in 1986 and again the morning of 9/11. Call WCVB-TV, tell them who I am and say I want to run their audio. They said yes two times before and would certainly have said yes again.

I’ve read columns and blogs from some consultants who claim that’s being lazy and letting someone else do the heavy lifting. I disagree 100%. When you’re running a music station your job is to get big ratings by playing the songs your target listeners like a lot – as long as they fit the brand of the station – and play them a lot. You also need to connect with the local community in a meaningful way.

The acronym we all learned in school is PICON. Operate in the Public Interest, Convenience and Necessity. When something terrible happens – especially in your own market – you need to do whatever you can to keep people informed. When your station has absolutely no resources to cover something like the Boston Marathon bombings, you do what you need to do to serve the public interest. In this case, using the resources of an excellent local TV station that has a huge news department and is doing in-depth wall-to-wall coverage is the correct choice. Does it matter if your station gets no credit? Absolutely not. The important thing in a situation like that is not getting credit or worrying about lost revenue or a bad PPM day – it’s about serving the public interest the best way you can.

Classy Move By the Yankees

Forget about them being the Evil Empire.

This was a classy move by the Yankees.

In the middle of the 3rd at Yankee Stadium they played “Sweet Caroline” to show support for Boston. Fans in Yankee hats even tried to sing along. As a native Bostonian, I’ve disliked the Yankees my entire life…which dates back to the days of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, but this was a very classy move. Thank you, New York.

He Scares Me

Joel Hanrahan, the new closer for the Red Sox, scares me.

Before I forget.
Huh? Forget what? Actually, that’s the title of the song that Hanrahan chooses as his intro. In case you don’t know it, don’t worry. Most fans at Fenway don’t. It’s by Slipknot. Came out in 2004 and named by AOL (AOL??) as one of the top ten metal songs of the 00’s. For what that’s worth.

As we hit the top of the 9th it comes on the Jumbotron, nice and loud, as we see a black-and-white shot of Hanrahan that morphs into a graphic that says, “The Hammer.” Yeah, he puts the hammer down, man. You can’t touch this. Except that they seem to touch it a lot.

It’s supposed to make us forget the crowd singing along with “Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkicks while Papelbon high-fives the cop in the bullpen and sprints to the edge of the infield dirt.

Here’s the problem.
It’s overdone for a guy who has yet to pitch well at Fenway. Hanrahan has had three appearances in the Friendly Confines, and yes, the Red Sox have won two of those three despite the shaky performance of Hanrahan.

He’s gone a total of 1.2+ innings, meaning he didn’t get through his one inning of duty in two of the three games (he got 3 outs on Monday, only two on Wednesday, and none today). In that time he’s given up six runs on three home runs (two solos and a 3-run), a double, a single, four walks and a run-scoring save-blowing wild pitch. Fourteen batters, nine base runners, six of them scoring, while retiring only five. That’s not The Hammer, that’s the guy getting hammered.

The Most Common First Names in Baseball

Here it is…my annual Opening Day listing of the most common first names in Major League Baseball.This is based on the 25-man roster of all 30 teams. When I ask people to guess they typically come up with Jose and Carlos as likely candidates. Neither makes the top five.

#5 (tie): Jason. Castro, Frasor, Grilli, Hammel, Kipnis, Kubel, Marquis, Vargas. There are also two Jaysons…Nix and Werth.

#5 (tie): Justin. Masterson, Maxwell, Morneau, Ruggiano, Sellers, Turner. Upton, Verlander, Wilson. (Note that none of them have a last name starting with A through L.)

#4: Josh. Beckett, Collmenter, Donaldson, Edgin, Fields, Harrison, Johnson, Reddick, Rutledge, Wilson. All spelled the same way.

#2 (tie): Matt and Ryan. So Matt wins on an alphabetical tiebreaker…unless you do it in reverse order. The Matts are Adams, Albers, Belisle, Cain, Carpenter, Dominguez, Guerrier, Harrison, Kemp, Latos, Reynolds, Thornton, Tuiasosopo (does he have a fake girlfriend?) and Wieters. Ryan (last year’s winner) includes Braun, Cook, Dempster, Doumit, Flaherty, Hanigan, Howard, Jackson, Ludwick, Mattheus, Pressly, Vogelsong, Webb and Zimmerman.

#1: Chris. Capuano, Carter, Coghlan, Davis, Denforia, Getz, Iannetta, Johnson, Leroux, Medlen, Nelson, Parmalee, Perez, Resop, Sale, Stewart, Valaika, Volstad, Young.

John would have been 3rd if you counted all the variations (John, Jon, Jonny, Johnny, Jhonny). There are also 20 players who use initials: AJ Burnett, AJ Ellis, AJ Pierzynski, AJ Ramos, AJ Griffin, AJ Pollock, BJ Upton, CC Sabathia, CJ Wilson, JC Gutierrez, JD Martinez, JP Arrencibia, JJ Hardy, JJ Hoover, JJ Putz, JP Howell, RA Dickey, TJ McFarland. AJ is clearly the most popular combo. 18 of the 20 have J as at least one of the initials.

Apropos of nothing (stolen from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe)…Homer Bailey is not a good name for a pitcher. JJ Hoover, also a pitcher, should be a 3rd baseman with that name. JB Shuck makes it sound like he doesn’t care. Jake Peavy sounds like someone who’s always in a bad mood. Aaron Harangue sounds like someone who just won’t shut up. Mike Leake sounds like he needs to excuse himself for a moment. Justin Turner sounds like someone who needs to wait in line. Doug Fister? Make up your own punch line.

Oh, on the Tom, Dick and Harry front…there is one Tom, but no Dicks and no Harrys.

Back from Spring Training…How Do They Look?


Just got back from Florida.
It felt much more like Spring than what I hear happened in Boston, but if you scroll back a few posts on my blog you’ll see that I picked March as my least favorite month because it is not trustworthy. It was a great time down there. I took in four spring training games…three in Ft. Myers and another in Dunedin. All were sellouts and it was 82 and sunny every day. Everyone at every game seems to be having fun. I rented a convertible and had a blast tooling around wearing sunglasses.

So how are things looking?
The Red Sox look better than people projected. Especially the pitching. Team ERA is the lowest of all teams. I saw John Lackey face Cole Hamels and the Phillies and he looked very good. Went 5-1/3 innings giving up only one run. The next day I saw Alfredo Aceves as a starter. I have very little faith in him, but he did okay, especially considering that he was facing R.A. Dickey and a regular Blue Jays lineup and his offense was all minor league guys.

Observations.
Jonny Gomes will not be part of the Legacy in Left at Fenway. He might be DH for a few weeks, but when David Ortiz is healthy (fingers and eyes crossed) Gomes will be expendable and Nava will fill that role. Shane Victorino hit a game-winning bases-clearing triple on Thursday night, but that might be his only hit this whole spring. No one is going to confuse him with Dwight Evans. Lyle Overbay was famous as a rookie for never getting a single. Every hit was for extra bases. But that was then. The Red Sox already released him and the Yankees picked him up as a potential spare part because they have major injury problems.

Ryan Lavarnway was sent to Pawtucket because he only hit .150 in spring training. Not great, but it’s three times what David Ross hit (.050). Ross, who was briefly with the team a few years ago but was cut because he couldn’t catch Tim Wakefield, is the backup for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I doubt that will last the year. Pedro Ciriaco seems to be a forgotten person.

Pedroia looks great as always, Middlebrooks looks good, Iglesias (everyone wants to pronounce it Inglesias but there is no n in the name) is very capable in the field and, while still a long way from being your cleanup guy, at .250 is hitting about 100 points higher than last year.
.250 is also what Ellsbury is hitting. Ells has made some nice catches in center as we expected, but in his one attempt at stealing a base he twisted an ankle. It’s a contract year for him and if he wants that big payday in the fall he needs to play like he did in 2011. Especially considering who’s breathing down his neck. Jackie Bradley, Jr. is for real. Speed, great defense, hitting something like .450. If he doesn’t start the season In Boston, he’ll get a callup within about two weeks. He’s still wearing #74, but his favorite number, 19, is available since Josh Beckett is history.

Predictions.
Come September you will not see Gomes in left or Victorino in right. Stephen Drew will be like his brother JD and miss more games than he plays. Iglesias will get the most starts at short. If Iglesias doesn’t hit you might well see Xander Boegarts playing short. I’m worried about Daniel Bard. He was such a great 8th inning guy, an obvious successor to Papelbon. The heinous attempt to make him a starter ruined him and he’s having a tough time getting it back. They sent him to AA Portland. I’m rooting for him.

Bottom line:
When the real games start next week the Red Sox will look better than everyone expected, and by May they will be very hot.

How to Balance Music and Information on a Music-Intensive station

Say you’re a music-intensive AC station. You’ve learned all about how PPM is unforgiving and listeners will flip as soon as they hear someone start talking. This, of course, is not true. People in focus groups and on research panels are quick to say they just want music from their music station. They understand that over-the-air radio is free, but comes at the price of listening to commercials. If you keep your spot load reasonable and your production level as high as possible most people are okay with it. If you’re hitting them with 18-20 units an hour and the 1-877-KarsForKids jingle is an hourly intrusion, it can easily come back to haunt you. Especially when the Pandoras and Spotifys of the world actually do play the most music.

But Commercials aside, what about information? That’s where over-the-air radio stations can turn listeners into fans. Just yesterday, I posted on a LinkedIn discussion about the best term to use for listeners in this day and age. My choice is Fan. In response to a comment about which is more important on a music station – music or info – here’s what I said:

To Thom’s question above…for a music station it’s both. You have to be playing the right songs and a lot of them, but the information, entertainment and personality are what turn a listener into a fan. Pandora doesn’t tell you if Rihanna is canceling her concert tonight due to laryngitis, or if we’re getting two feet of snow, or who’s not coming back on Downton Abbey, or if the Patriots re-signed Wes Welker or if we have a new Pope. The balance has to be just right.

Interestingly, my wife heard the answers to two of those questions just yesterday, without knowing what I had posted. She was listening to a music-intensive AC while at a hair salon and heard between songs that Wes Welker had signed with the Denver Broncos and that white smoke was seen coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. True, the white smoke break sent to her to the TV as soon as she got home, but she found out listening to the radio.

Why I Love Daylight Saving

First, let me note…
The correct term is Daylight Saving, not savings. Daylight is singular, so saving should also be singular. I’ve always been annoyed by commercials that say, “That’s a 20% savings!” A is singular. Same thing: saving should also be singular. “That’s a 20% saving” would be the correct way to say it. I realize that “a savings” is used in commercials all the time, but it’s wrong 100% of the time.

Back to Daylight Saving.
It’s one of my favorite days of the year…right up there with the 4th of July and Christmas.

Why? We lose an hour of sleep.
Sure, but it’s on a Sunday morning, and these days most of the clocks advance themselves. iPhone, iPad, cable, etc. Okay, you still have to do the oven, the microwave, the cars, and any old mantel clocks you might have. But in the 90’s it was way worse. One year back then I counted 27 clocks I had to re-set…that included both our house and my mother’s.

So what’s so great about it?
It signals the end of the long, dreary winter. Even with March snowstorms, you know that daffodils will be popping up within days. Spring officially begins in just over a week (before they moved Daylight Saving it would have actually been spring), the feel and smell of melting snow is one of the top 5 sensory experiences. Even with March snowstorms, you know that daffodils will be popping up within days. You start thinking about pouring some aluminum sulphate around the hydrangeas so they’ll be a spectacular blue in July. Opening Day, when Hope Springs Eternal and the world is new again, is only three weeks away. You can head home from work without turning on the headlights. Maybe even sport your Wayfarer sunglasses.

Appropriate songs on the radio.
There aren’t any. When we “Fall Back” there are several: “Turn Back the Hands of Time” by Tyrone Davis, “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper, “If I could Turn Back Time” by Cher and several more. No one has done a Spring Ahead song that was a hit.

But you have to admit it’s a great feeling when we Spring Ahead.

How to react to a storm if you’re a music station

Nemo

People come to you for music, not information.
How many times have you heard that from a consultant? People have lots of places to go for information: Facebook, Twitter, web sites, TV news channels…some even still read the newspaper. Your station spends all day saying that it plays the most music and that’s what listeners expect when they flip you on. Right?

Not always.
First, let’s acknowledge that, regardless of how many times per hour you make the claim, your station does not play the most music. People might say in a focus group that all they want is for you to shut up and play the hits, but if that’s all they really wanted they’d go to Pandora or Spotify. They come to your station because it’s comfortable, familiar, plays a decent amount of songs they like, and has at least one or two “real people” on the air with whom they can feel some connection. If the station also owns the image for something that is important to them, that connection is even stronger.

So what do you do when there’s a storm?
For years Adult Contemporary stations made a point of doing school closings on the air. In some areas they have county school systems, and private schools typically follow the lead of the county, so there might only be ten districts to announce. In New England, however, every town has it’s own school system and each one makes it’s own decisions on cancellations or delays. This usually resulted in a really long list. Then TV stations starting doing an alphabetical crawl, but they’d cut away during commercials and you might have to wait a half-hour to get to the W towns. In the late 90’s station websites came along and you could take an RSS feed from the local Fox weather department and simply direct people to your site. It’s quick, clean, and definitely PPM friendly.

So what’s wrong with that?
Most of the time, nothing is wrong with that. In the last year and a half, however, we’ve had three especially bad storms: Irene, Sandy and Nemo. In some areas people were without power for a week or more. So what do they do? They turn on a portable radio to find out whether school is closed or when power might be restored. Their favorite station, the one that plays the most music, is either saying nothing about the storm or saying, “go to our web site to check the cancellations.” Not very helpful if you don’t have power. If they have a smartphone they could get the info there, but with no power one must conserve battery life. Either way, it’s one more reason for people who want to listen to your station to wind up going elsewhere. Can you afford that?

A better way.
Make sure your station is ready to spring into action in emergency situations. Know where the power is out – it may well be only in certain areas – and give whatever helpful info you can. Do it quickly over song intros so you don’t violate your music promise, but do it regularly so listeners in those areas know that you’re thinking about them. And no teasing! None of this “When will the power be back on? We’ll tell you…coming up in 15 minutes” business. Let them know right away. Otherwise you create another excuse for your fans go somewhere else to get what they want right now.

Why is Ordway Out at WEEI and Who’s to Blame?

 

Today is Glenn Ordway’s last Big Show
The PM Drive host of WEEI does his last show this afternoon. Ordway has been on the air in the Boston area since the mid-70’s: on the old WMEX, on WRKO, doing Celtics games with Johnny Most, and on WEEI since it was at 590 AM – that was before 850 AM and later 93.7 FM. The program was originally called The Big Show with the Big O, with Glenn as the main host surrounded by rotating co-hosts: former BC and NFL players¬†Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie, during football season, Michael Felger, former Red Sox player Lou Merloni, and Boston Herald columnist Tony Massarotti during baseball season.¬†Pete Sheppard was the Sports Flash guy, constantly derided because he pronounced it like “Sptfsh.” Everyone was always fighting to get a word in edgewise. During the Magical season of 2004 WEEI was #1 25-54 for the entire year. With adults, not just men. Ordway was honored with the NAB Marconi Award nomination for Personality of the Year.

So what happened?
In January 2009 Ordway was signed to a new contract for a million dollars per year. This was 2009, remember. Big contracts for radio Talent typically come with ratings incentives, because the correlation between ratings and revenue is very clear. The beginning of that contract coincided with the Red Sox not winning any more playoff games, the economy hitting the bottom and parent company Entercom nearly being delisted from the NYSE because the shares fell to under a dollar, and a new FM sports talk competitor, WBZ-FM, going on the air that summer. Two-and a half years into the contract Ordway’s salary was cut in half because ratings incentives were not being met. Still, he was making five large.

And then…
WBZ-FM, known as “98.5 the Sports Hub,” surpassed WEEI quickly. They had a younger sound – especially in morning drive. In afternoon drive Ordway’s Big Show was competing with WBZ-FM’s Felger and Mazz, (Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti, both former co-hosts of Ordway’s). In the summer of 2010 WBZ-FM was #1 with Men 25-54 in afternoon drive and WEEI was a close #3, but WEEI was still slightly ahead with all adults.

By September of 2011, when the Red Sox fell apart, WBZ-FM was #3 with adults and WEEI had dropped to 14th. Entercom responded by cutting Ordway’s salary in half, firing Pete Sheppard, and moving WEEI from 850 AM to 93.7 FM.

Hope springs eternal.
It does, every year. By Opening Day last year Ordway was #6 in afternoon and Felger and Mazz were 8th. We all know what happened in 2012, and by year’s end Ordway came in 12th 25-54 and Felger and Mazz were 4th, and #1 with men.

Who’s to blame?
WEEI is the flagship of the Red Sox and Celtics, and WBZ-FM is the flagship of the Patriots and Bruins. Certainly the fortunes of the flagship teams affect ratings, but the primary blame here goes to Entercom. Poor management, poor decisions when it came to teaming co-hosts with Ordway. They should have moved to FM much earlier. They should never have given Ordway that huge contract in the depths of a recession. They should never made made the 50% salary cut public because it made them look scared and Ordway look like a loser.

One good thing I’ll say for Entercom.
The announcement of Ordway’s firing was made on Tuesday evening, and he has been allowed to stay on the air through this afternoon. That is unheard of in radio. When they decide you’re gone, you’re gone immediately, like you never existed. Ordway has handled it on the air like a true gentleman. Glenn may be out, but he is not gone.

Why is Ordway Out and Who’s to Blame?

Today is Glenn Ordway’s last Big Show.
The PM Drive host of WEEI does his last show this afternoon. Ordway has been on the air in the Boston area since the mid-70’s: on the old WMEX, on WRKO, broadcasting Celtics games with Johnny Most, and on WEEI since it was at 590 AM – that was before 850 AM and later 93.7 FM.
The program was originally called The Big Show with the Big O, with Glenn as the main host surrounded by rotating co-hosts: former BC and NFL players Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie during football season, Mike Felger, former Red Sox player Lou Merloni, and Boston Herald columnist Tony Massarotti during baseball season. Pete Sheppard was the Sports Flash guy, constantly derided because he pronounced it like “Sptfsh.” Everyone was always fighting to get a word in edgewise. During the Magical season of 2004 WEEI was #1 25-54 for the entire year. With adults, not just men. Ordway was honored with an NAB Marconi Award nomination for Personality of the Year.

So what happened?
In January 2009 Ordway was signed to a new contract for a million dollars per year. This was 2009, remember. Big contracts for radio Talent typically come with ratings incentives, because the correlation between ratings and revenue is very clear. The beginning of that contract coincided with the Red Sox not winning any more playoff games, the economy hitting the bottom and parent company Entercom nearly being delisted from the NYSE because the shares fell to under a dollar, and a new FM sports talk competitor, WBZ-FM, going on the air that summer. Two-and a half years into the contract Ordway’s salary was cut in half because ratings incentives were not being met. Still, he was making five large.

And then…
WBZ-FM, known as “98.5 the Sports Hub,” surpassed WEEI quickly. They had a younger sound – especially in morning drive. In afternoon drive Ordway’s Big Show was competing with WBZ-FM’s Felger and Mazz, (Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti, both former co-hosts of Ordway’s). In the summer of 2010 WBZ-FM was #1 with Men 25-54 in afternoon drive and WEEI was a close #3, but WEEI was still slightly ahead with all adults. By September of 2011, when the Red Sox fell apart, WBZ-FM was #3 with adults and WEEI had dropped to 14th. Entercom responded by cutting Ordway’s salary in half, firing Pete Sheppard, and moving WEEI from 850 AM to 93.7 FM.

Hope springs eternal.
It does, every year. By Opening Day last year Ordway was #6 in afternoon and Felger and Mazz were 8th. We all know what happened in 2012, and by year’s end Ordway came in 12th 25-54 and Felger and Mazz were 4th, and #1 with Men.

Who’s to blame?
WEEI is the flagship of the Red Sox and Celtics, and WBZ-FM is the flagship of the Patriots and Bruins. Certainly the fortunes of the flagship teams affect ratings, but the primary blame here goes to Entercom. Poor management, poor decisions when it came to teaming co-hosts with Ordway. They should have moved to FM much earlier. They should never have given Ordway that huge contract in the depths of a recession. They should never made made the 50% salary cut public because it made them look scared and Ordway look like a loser.

One good thing I’ll say for Entercom.
The announcement of Ordway’s firing was made on Tuesday evening, and he has been allowed to stay on the air through this afternoon. That is unheard of in radio. When they decide you’re gone, you’re gone immediately, like you never existed. Ordway has handled it on the air like a true gentleman. Glenn may be out, but he is not gone.