Pandora Surpasses 40 Million Users (and what it means for terrestrial radio)

According to an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Pandora, the personalized online radio service, reached 40 million users in 2009.

On average, 15 million people stream internet-only radio stations like Pandora every week.  That’s not far from matching the number of those streaming terrestrial radio station sites (22 million, according to the article).  Think about that for a second.  A handful of internet-only radio stations have nearly 3/4 the listeners as do all regular radio station streams combined.

“What’s the big deal,” you say.  “Besides, internet-only stations can’t compete with radio’s ubiquity, right?”  Guess again.  The last real advantage radio has is quickly evaporating.

Here’s the kicker quote from the article: “Unlike Pandora, CBS and Clear Channel don’t necessarily require users to register.” Did you get that?  Many stations, mine included, aren’t asking visitors/users to register (the first time) in order to consume the station’s content.

For my company, that’s nearly 50,000 unique streamers every month we’re NOT collecting information on.  For Clear Channel it’s 8 million a month.  For CBS, 9 million.  Want to take a guess at how many Pandora users give up at least an e-mail address for the chance to consume Pandora’s content?  I’ll tell you.  It’s 100%; as in, all of them.  That’s a database of 40 million e-mails.

Remember, back in the day, when your station first put up its streaming player and someone on staff argued against requiring registration for fear your users would find it off-putting?  I guess it’s safe to say now that that’s a hollow argument.

Maybe the real problem isn’t the various barriers to entry, but rather the experience (or lack thereof) we’re offering and the content we’re streaming. After all, we’ve removed all the hurdles, yet Pandora and its ilk are still kickin’ our tail.

Sales and Social Media: PB & J or Oil and Water?

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of delivering a presentation to our company’s Business Development Directors on the benefits of considering certain social media tools to reach their goals.

My First Prezi Presentation

Mixing sales (or marketing) and social media is, of course, done by companies and individuals all over the world every day.  But, if your social media approach is lead by what you’re going to get out of it (ulterior motives) as opposed to shining the spotlight on other people (altruistic motives), make no mistake that people will see right through it.

My main point then was two-fold.  If you’re not participating, that doesn’t mean the conversations aren’t happening, they simply go on without you.  And, once in the game, are you there for the right reasons?  If it’s primarily to add value to whatever community you’re in and to help whenever possible, then the answer is yes.

Thanks to Brian Solis, Olivier Blanchard, John Haydon, Chris Brogan and everyone else who inspires me every day to aide those around me in their quest to make sense of all this stuff.  By the way, I tried embedding the presentation here but apparently wordpress.com doesn’t like Prezi.  At least they’re not playing well together.  Instead, I’ve included the public link.  I hope you like it.

Sales and Social Media: PB & J or Oil and Water?

What Gives? Or, Fundraising Made Simple

If you work for a non-profit, chances are you don’t have the luxury of a several thousand watt mouthpiece with which to disseminate your message.  Even when you do, as in the case of non-commercial radio stations like the one for which I work, raising the necessary funds to keep the organization running smoothly can often times be daunting, especially considering our country’s economic health over the last year or so.

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At the height of the economic slump last October, our middle-Tennessee group of WAY-FM stations came through one of their worst Pledge Drives ever, reaching only around 80% of the overall goal.   However, since that time, we’ve seen them experience two of their most successful fundraisers in the stations’ history (116% and 113% for our spring Pledge Drive and summer fundraiser, respectively).  It is my humble belief that, at its very core, that success is due in large part to nothing more than the simplification of the message.

Gone are the days of wiping the slate clean at the beginning of each drive and choosing not to assume those who gave during the last one will do so again (hard to believe we did that up until a few years ago).    Gone are the days of communicating separate monthly and single (one-time) goals.  Gone are the days of communicating the financial goal on the air at all.  Gone are the days of sharing about all the different ways to give and the levels of giving and the names for each and on and on and on.

Put simply, the focus of the goal over our last two fundraisers has moved from the laundry list above to the number of people from whom we must hear.  In other words, the goal is not, say, $100,000 or whatever the amount, but instead is “Will you be one of X number of people to respond.”

How can I help you?

Last spring that number was 1,000.  Last week it was 500.  The only other message we communicate on the air is exactly what we want these 500 or 1,000 people to do.  That might be a $100 donation (as was the case with our short, 2-day Race to 500 fundraiser last week).  Or, for larger, more critical fundraisers (like our spring and fall Pledge Drives), that might be “$10 a month or more.”

From the moment we turn on our mics, to the moment we end our drives, we track the number of people who have called or gone online and pledged the suggested amount.  Sure, some folks will do more, and others will do less (those donations still count in the end, or course), but our focus on the air is on the number of listeners donating (at a modest, minimum amount).  We take it a step further and break it down in smaller, bite-sized chunks as we go.  “This hour, will you be one of 30 people with a $100 donation?”

This method won’t work for every non-profit, but even if you don’t have a megaphone with which to broadcast your message, you still communicate with your donors in other ways, right?  What about your e-blasts, your newsletters or other mailings?  Is the message too convoluted?  If so, I hope reading this has sparked some ideas for simplifying your messages.

Needless to say, if you’re part of a non-commercial radio station or a commercial station that involves itself in occasional fundraising efforts, I highly suggest you give this simplified method a try.  I believe you’ll find that it’s not only easier to communicate for your on-air talent, but that listeners will be more likely to respond because they know and understand exactly what it is you need them to do.

UPDATE:

In my original draft, I gave credit to this idea within our company to Steve Young, General Manager at WAY-FM in Tallahassee.  That credit was inadvertently omitted in the final draft.

The Race to 500

At WAY-FM, we like to have fun.  So, as we planned for next week’s 2-day fundraiser called the “Race to 500,” we decided to create a video to help get the word out.

If you share our passion for seeing lives changed through music, I hope you’ll join us on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.  We’re asking for 500 listeners to consider a $100 donation to the station.  If you’ve considered a donation before but, for whatever reason, couldn’t or weren’t sure about making a monthly commitment, this is a great way to get your feet wet, so to speak.

I invite you to tune in Tuesday and Wednesday from 6am to 6pm both days for the “Race to 500.”  You’ll hear numerous stories of young lives impacted through a simple radio station and the music it plays.  2 days, 500 people, each donating $100.  Together we’ll continue to change even more lives through the power of music.

If you’d like more information just visit our website and click the “Race to 500” banner.  And thanks for considering partnering with us.   I truly appreciate it.

All Access Interview

Recently, I was asked by Jackie Chapman (jchapman[at]allaccess[dot]com), the editor over at allaccess.com, to participate in their “10 Questions with” series.  All Access is a very useful and informative broadcast and music industry, members-only website.

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I thought I’d share my answers here before the interview is published on their site and, in the event you’re not an All Access member, give you the chance to see into my radio philosophies are little more deeply.

In addition to the “10 Questions,” I was given the option of answering 6 bonus questions.  My answers to the first 10 are wordy enough, so if you decide there’s not time to check out the whole interview, I’d skip the bonus questions.

10 Questions – Jeff Brown

NAME:            Jeff Brown (@thejeffbrown on Twitter)

TITLE:             Operations Director

WEBSITE:       wayfm.com

STATION:       88.7 WAY-FM (WAYM).  Also  88.3 WAY-FM (WAYQ) and 88.1 WAY-FM (WAYD)

MARKET:       Nashville (also Clarksville, TN, Bowling Green, KY among others)

COMPANY:   WAY-FM Media Group, Inc.

BORN (WHERE AND/OR WHEN): Indianapolis, IN / January 11, 1966

RAISED:          Indianapolis

BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:

Jeff did stints at several Indiana stations (WERK, WLBC and WXIR) in the 80s and 90s before moving to Nashville in 1996 to accept a radio promotions position with Myrrh Records, helping launch the career of Jaci Velasquez.  After stops at three other labels, Jeff joined WAY-FM full-time in 2000.  Jeff was promoted from production director to program director in January 2005.  After co-hosting several award-winning incarnations of the CHRSN Network morning show, he retired from full-time on-air duties in July 2008.  Now, as operations director, he is heavily involved in the day-to-day community impact of three of WAY-FM’s middle Tennessee stations with duties encompassing the areas of traditional marketing, social media (including his own music, radio and social media-focused blog at thejeffbrown.me), creative writing and community leadership.  He lives in Spring Hill, TN with his wife Annie and their two boys Fritz and Frank (miniature Dachshunds).

1) What was your first job in the industry? Did you have any mentors early on?

My first job was with WLBC in Muncie, IN (Top 40).  I did weekends until I pissed off a bunch of high school basketball sponsors with my on-air comments one night (my music-oriented show followed the sports coverage).  Seems those small markets are all about the sponsors.  Not many mentors back then.  It was sort of an every-man-for-himself environment.  Maybe a mentor or two might’ve helped me keep the job longer; though I can say losing that job directly led to my salvation, so maybe mentors are overrated.

2) What does your routine for morning prep include?

Not unlike most I would assume.  I incorporate a combination of showering, shaving and brushing my teeth along with getting dressed, patting my puppies on the head and kissing my wife as I leave.  Apparently the person writing these questions doesn’t realize I haven’t done mornings for a year.

3) What has been your favorite feature/spoof/promotion in the past year at your station?

It would have to be one of the most simple.  In March, a neighborhood in the nearby community of Murfreesboro was seriously impacted by a tornado.  We teamed with a Murfreesboro church to collect new and partially used gift cards for victims.  The response was very encouraging.  Because of the time of year this happened, the gift card idea (as opposed to cash) seemed to resonate.  Many who had yet to use all or part of gift cards received at Christmastime forfeited them for the benefit of others.  Local businesses (which we didn’t anticipate) even got in on the act.

4) Who is your favorite on-air personality NOT at your station?

Since you weren’t specific, I’ll say Brant Hansen.  He’s ON my station but not technically AT my station (I like taking advantage of loopholes).  Don’t try to hire him away from WAY-FM.  If I find out, I will kill you (watch out AIR1).  Second would be Scott Smith (apparently, Z88 is a kill-free zone).

5) What does Christian radio need to do to break through to a mass audience on a more consistent basis?

To be brave enough to hire personalities who know how to communicate like real, transparent, fallible, imperfect human beings (a la the aforementioned Brant and Scott, along with Donna Cruz and Wally from Total Axxess), and be prepared to back them up when all the crusaders start coming out of the woodwork who didn’t give a crap about your station when you played it safe.  As long as stations are content with “good enough,” “great” will always be just out of reach.  Sure, with the top talent, you have to deal with the occasional ego, but I think it’s worth it in the long run.  Having said that, I wouldn’t want to be Wally’s supervisor.

6) What are the greatest challenges in your position/job?

Same as everyone else: finding the time to do all the things I want to do.  Social media participation, for example, can sometimes be a time suck when you add it all up, but ignoring it or making it one of my ‘back burner’ items is not an option.

7) And what are the greatest rewards in your position/job?

Working for the same company for 10 years, a new personal record, times five.  I am blessed to be surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the business (Matt Austin chief among them), as well as up-and-coming talents like Katie Sivyer.

8) If you could have any other job outside radio, what would it be?

I think I’d enjoy consulting other stations/companies on the effective use of the social media tools available to them. At one point in my life I thought I’d be performing in front of arena-sized crowds singing and writing songs that make the whole world sing (or acting, writing screenplays or any other number of creative outlets).  Fortunately, radio provides many similar outlets.

9) Any favorite or funny artist run-ins? Highlights from a promotion or interview?

With few exceptions, I’m underwhelmed by most artists.  Many are horrible at the interview process (as are most radio people, unfortunately).  Even if they’re not horrible, often they so hate doing yet another interview with yet another unprepared, wasting-my-time radio jock that they can’t help but let their boredom and disdain show through.  It’s sort of the chicken and egg question though.  I’m not sure which came first, the lazy jock or the bored artist.

I’ve already mentioned the on-air talent I admire.  On the artist side, I think the true pros are people like Matthew West.  If every artist were of his caliber insofar as their ability to communicate minus the instrument, we’d have some pretty fascinating interviews taking place.

10) You’re an active Twitter user. Why? What is your reason?

Anyone who believes Twitter is for idiots (or “stupid crap” to quote David Letterman) has obviously never taken the time to investigate what can happen when you tap into its potential.  I often hear the phrase “too much time on your hands” from people critical of those of us who tweet.  I don’t know about you, but it takes me about 30 seconds to type 140 characters.  I repeat that process anywhere from 5 to 15 times a day for a total investment of about 3 to 10 minutes daily.  And, yes, I’ll occasionally dip my toe into the Twitter stream to see what’s happening.  But, if you’re convinced that tweeting alone requires much more time than that, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you didn’t graduate from a respectable college.

In regard to our station’s use of the platform, we have one account dedicated to traffic and weather updates, having recently separated those updates from our main account.  Anyone following @WAYtoWorkUpdate on Twitter (or any other account for that matter), can elect to have our “update” tweets sent straight to their mobile device.  When you consider cell/smart phones are probably our single biggest competitor for in-car listening, I think getting your listener’s attention (with their permission) on that very device and reminding them of who you are (while providing a valuable service) is a pretty good use of the technology.

Our main account (@wayfm_nashville) is branded with a human face.  This face (Katie) happens to handle the local elements for 88.7 WAY-FM during Mornings with Brant (the network morning show) so listeners know who she is.  She’s young, hip and right in the demo.  She tweets from a personal perspective as well as occasionally about things happening on the air right now or at the radio station in general.  Probably most importantly, she’s engaging our listeners in this space on a daily basis and developing relationships, giving listeners yet another “touch point” with the station.

Additionally, I’m contemplating a Casting Crowns ticket give away via this Twitter account.  Followers would be instructed to simply write a tweet that includes the hashtag #castingcrowns (or some other specific tag we choose) in order to be entered.  These are instantly searchable.  I can use a third-party service too if need be to select a random winner.  The cool part is it has the potential to be seen by everyone who follows each person who does this.  Currently we have 1,800 followers to our @wayfm_nashville Twitter account.

There are pros and cons.  If you allow each participant to tweet the tag multiple times (much more “viral” potential and better for us) you may risk ticking off the Twittersphere because you risk filling Twitter timelines with what might be viewed by some as spam if it gets out of hand.  Our plan to combat that is to suggest one “entry” per person.  It’s not quite as viral, but it’s much closer to a win-win for all involved than is the other scenario.

I’m also monitoring our company’s brand mentions on Twitter (along with blogs and the web in general).  Sure, I could monitor our brand on Twitter without an account, but maintaining one allows me the opportunity to engage those who do mention us?

Finally, if you don’t want to invest into it then don’t (time is the only investment, as it’s free).  That’s your call.  But please don’t criticize those who do.  I’m serious when I say that simply “following” key people on Twitter and just “listening,” even without any real engagement on your part, can be a near college education all by itself.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

1)      Do you read everything or nothing? Do you have any favorite magazines, books, newspapers?

I read Fast Company & Wired religiously.  I try to get my head out of the broadcast-only pubs mindset (are there any left?) and force myself to think about my station existing beyond the terrestrial signal and more as a media company.  I think we should be formulating plans for other ways for listeners to consume our content and consistently creating new and compelling content in a variety of spaces and formats (including online consumable, bite-sized audio and video, blogs, social media, etc.).  But while you’re at it, make sure you approach everything from a WIIFM camera angle.

I’d also recommend the following books (not a complete list): Tribes, Pyromarketing, Faith-Based Marketing, Good to Great, Made to Stick, A New Brand World and Tribal Knowledge.  You might also want to read the blogs of Chris Brogan, Seth Godin and John Haydon to name a few.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say Friendfeed, Seesmic, TweetDeck or Google Wave, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

2)      What music is in your CD player/on your iPod right now?

Not much. I’m a podcast guy.  Most 21st century music has sucked thus far (save for Brandon Heath, Mat Kearney, Fireflight, Downhere and a few others).  I have hundreds of songs on my iPod but I rarely listen to them.

3)      Cat or dog person?

Cats are of the devil.

4)      Describe your favorite meal.

It would involve the killing of some animal and then eating said animal, just the way God intended.

5)      What is your favorite quote?

“Revenge is a dish best served cold.”  Refer back to answer 4 in the original 10 questions.

6)      If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want to have with you and why?

I really don’t know.  Stranded in an airport is a better scenario.  Strand me on an island and all I’ll be able to think about is how to get off it.  Strand me in an airport and give me my laptop or smart phone, my iPod, etc.  In other words: any electronic device that can allow me to continue to be productive OR completely waste away the hours.  My choice.  Islands don’t have electricity.  You may as well feed me to the sharks.

88.7 WAY-FM and Casting Crowns Issue Warning

Seems fewer and fewer media outlets are printing media advisories any more.  With few exceptions, they’re rarely interactive or involve any attempts at incorporating multi-media, social media or you-name-it media.  Often, they’re not much more than words on a page.   In a word, they’re “boring.”

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I’ve got a long way to go in my creation of media advisories on behalf of WAY-FM.  But it’s my hope that, someday, I too can create media advisories that are memorable and get people talking.  I’ve read about them.  I’ve studied them, but it seems I just don’t have the time (or maybe the expertise) to make it happen.  Heaven knows few can afford to pay someone else to do it for them.

For me, that means that the emphasis, the effort, has to go into the writing itself.  So, is it revolutionary?  I don’t know.  Is it a little cheesy?  Possibly.  Will it get more attention than the typical media advisory or, at the very least, put a smile on someone’s face or cause a slight chuckle at some point during their day?  I hope so.

That’s all I’m really going for.  After all, no one prints media advisories anymore.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Contact: Jeff Brown; Operations Director

Phone: 615-261-9293

E-mail: jeff@wayfm.com

88.7 WAY-FM & Casting Crowns Issue Warning

Ticket Buyers Cautioned, “Change” Potential Cited

For immediate release: (Nashville, TN) Nashville’s 88.7 WAY-FM will again bring the multi-platinum-selling band Casting Crowns to Nashville.  They’ll perform Friday, October 9th at the Sommet Center.  In an unorthodox move, however, upcoming on-air announcements will come with a warning to 88.7 WAY-FM listeners and potential concert go-ers.

The warning begins; “During the concert, you will be subjected to songs like,” followed by a laundry list of Casting Crowns songs.  What follows this list is all but unheard of in the concert world.  88.7 WAY-FM cites recent studies that show the potential these songs have to “not only impact, but even change lives.”  The station even goes on to suggest that listeners not purchase tickets if they desire to “leave the same way you came.”

88.7 WAY-FM general manager Matt Austin said that listeners desiring to purchase tickets despite the warning may do so at their own risk at any ticketmaster outlet, the Sommet Center box office, or online at WAY-FM.com beginning Saturday, June 20th at 10am.  He later added that ticket buyers may be asked to sign a waiver, but didn’t elaborate.

When asked for an official statement, Austin said, “Neither 88.7 WAY-FM nor Casting Crowns can be held liable for anyone who may leave the concert spiritually renewed, refreshed, fulfilled, convicted or otherwise changed.”

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WAY-FM is a 501(c)3 not for profit organization founded in 1987 in Southwest Florida.  The mission of WAY-FM is to encourage youth and young adults in their Christian Lives and to introduce non-believers to Christ.  All gifts are tax-deductible.

For more information on 88.7 WAY-FM, see also:

88.7 WAY-FM’s Facebook Profile

88.7 WAY-FM’s Twitter Profile

88.7 WAY-FM’s YouTube Profile

We Love Your Mom

I never knew something seemingly as simple as adding audio to my blog could be such a frustrating chore.  I add images all the time after all.  And I’m in radio for Pete’s sake.  I work with audio daily.  Why is this so stinking hard WordPress.com?

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Turns out audio, WordPress.com and Firefox in particular, don’t get along very well.  You see, I’ve been trying to post audio from our Mother’s Day campaign since about mid-May.  And while it may now be Dad’s month, I’ll be darned if anything is going to stop me from seeing it through.

Many whom I’ve connected with via Twitter and elsewhere and who don’t live within our station’s coverage area have expressed an interest in hearing what we did.  I can tell you that what began as a simple idea to facilitate giving away a Mother’s Day prize package turned into quite a bit more.

Listeners were asked to call a special number and simply share the kinds of sacrifices mom made along the way.  As the calls came in, we found that there were going to be dozens more calls than we’d ever be able to air.  The initial on-air promo we used told of the specifics of the promotion and what was in store for the eventual winner.  Follow up on-air promos added some of the early calls we received.

As Mother’s Day approached and the time to pick a winning call closed in, we realized that, with an edited script, there was no reason why we couldn’t continue with the “celebrate mom” mentality throughout the rest of May.  And that’s exactly what we did, which, in turn, gave us the chance to enhance a lot more lives with a few more calls.

While I’d hope to embed a player directly into the blog here, the best I could do was link to an external site where audio from 4 of the calls we received is being hosted.  Particularly moving is the call from Kelly.  She and her mom also happened to be our winners.   Phrases like “limousine ride,” and “hot stone massage” are now permanent parts of their vocabulary.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I love my mom too.  Here’s the link:

Mother’s Day Audio