Ice Cream, Salt, and Cold
I saw a special about making ice cream the old fashioned way and they talked about putting rock salt on the ice to lower the temperature around the ice cream mixture. According to the special, the salt would make the temperature of the ice drop to something like -5 degrees. How? - JJ
JJ: Salt drops the freezing point of water. If you just had ice and water in the container around the ice cream canister, the temperature would be about 32 degrees. However, when you add rock salt to the water and ice mixture, the temperature drops to the low 20s. The water/ice/salt mixture comes in contact with the canister containing the ice cream and the lower temperature speeds up the ice cream making process.
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Doc: I know your favorite drink is iced tea, but do you know anything about when the drink was “invented?” - Anonymous
Anon: Yes, iced tea is my favorite drink, but I didn’t know anything about the history of the drink until I read this article, which explains that iced tea was first introduced in the early 1800s.
Our programming department wants to do our own informal research to find our ideal listener and find out their perceptions on the all aspects of the station. What type of research would be the best to use to obtain that information? Could you give some examples of some questions to ask to listeners? Thanks! - Anonymous
Anon: Before I go to your question, I’d like to say this: I applaud your programming people for their desire to gather information. However, I believe that they should reverse the process. Instead of trying to define an ideal listener, I believe they should try to find out how your listeners define an ideal radio station. Find out what your listeners want. This process will tell you who the listeners are.
OK, assume for a moment that I didn’t write that first paragraph. Let’s go to your question . . .
There are no secret research procedures to define your ideal listener. You just ask questions about age, race, sex, radio listening habits, other media use, your radio station, hobbies, interests (art, music, painting, etc.), perceptions about many things (self, family, country, politics, religion, romance, love), and anything else you can think of that would help develop a "picture."
These types of questionnaires are available from several sources, but most are proprietary and expensive. However, one of the best general questionnaires is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). You can find a lot of information on the Internet about this—do a search. (However, my guess is that you can develop your own questionnaire.)
Now, before you go nuts with this project, consider very carefully what you are trying to accomplish. You are going to look at a sample of your listeners and develop a composite description of the average (ideal) person who listens to your radio station.
The operative word here is average because that’s what you’ll get. And that might not be what you want. If you program to the average person, you will systematically ignore the myriad differences that really exist among your listeners. For example, you will find that the average listener enjoys dancing—but what about the listeners who don’t? This will be true for every question you ask to define this ideal listener.
Almost all business go through this process. Who is the ideal Budweiser drinker? Who is the ideal Jeep Grand Cherokee buyer? Who is the ideal Internet user? For every one of these ideal consumers, there are hundreds, thousands, or even millions who are not. I have seen many of these ideal customer studies. What I see is that they usually produce bland and uninspired products and services. Programming your radio station toward an ideal listener will produce an operating philosophy that discounts the diversity and excitement of the people who are in your audience.
There is nothing wrong with trying to understand your audience—you must know your target. But my advice is not to get carried away. For example, if you are a Soft AC station and know (from Arbitron and your own research) that most of your listeners are women 25-44, find out the range of characteristics and interests of these women. Addressing the range will avoid placing your listeners in an artificial "pigeon-hole."
An analogy to your question is the approach that some PDs use with music tests—they conduct the tests only with the radio station’s fans (P1s). If you continually use your radio station’s fans in music tests, you will eventually disappear from the planet because you neglect the diversity of characteristics, opinions, and perceptions of your total audience.
Do you see the difference? If the programming people are determined to search for the ideal listener, encourage them to understand the diversity of your listeners, not the average. That information will help make your audience grow. When your study is complete, make sure that you have a meeting with all of the on-air talent and explain what you found. These people "gots ta know" the range of people in their audience. The information will help them become better salespeople for your radio station.
What I said in the first paragraph still stands. I believe you need to develop an ideal radio station, not define an ideal listener. Besides, isn’t an ideal radio listener simply one who listens to your radio station? Every listener you have is ideal! Find out how your listeners define an ideal radio station and and give it to them. You’ll then have a whole bunch of ideal listeners.
I Gots ta Know
Doc: I have noticed over the years that you sometimes use the phrase, "I gots ta know," when you need more information to answer a question. I found where you got that—a Clint Eastwood movie. I thought you'd like to see the scene from the movie. I love your column. - Anonymous
Anon: I'm glad you enjoy the column. Thanks. And thanks for sending the link for the scene from Dirty Harry.
I use "I gots ta know" frequently, but I usually make reference to Dirty Harry. By the way, the robber's name is Albert Popwell, who died in 1999.
What is the difference between a bumper, sweeper, stager, stinger, shotgun, zinger, pooper, clipper, capper, sounder, and all the rest.
Can you define these terms for imaging so that I can sleep at nights? I’ve been producing imaging for years, but have no clue about what I’m actually making, - Anonymous
Anon: When I don’t know an answer, I go to someone who does. In this case, I sent your question to my friend Phil LoCascio, who said:
This person is describing the imaging elements that play in between songs, and into and out of stop sets. The examples are mostly the same—they describe imaging elements that are usually not jingles, which are musical. These contain V/O [voiceovers] with the station voice on them. There are differences from PD to PD—each person has his/her own "language," but here are some of my descriptions:
Sweeper, shotgun, stinger: Generally ID the station in between songs. While some are long (10 seconds), others are very short.
Stager: Usually a V/O, then a music bed the jock talks over. Sometimes the jock doesn’t talk at all and the V/O handles it. These usually "stage" something happening at that moment, like a concert.
Bumper: Usually out of a stop set to "bump" into music.
Sounder: Usually a SFX [sound effects] to set up a call-in contest, but could be something like a "weather sounder," which would indicate a report or bulletin.
Pooper, scooper, zinger, etc: I never heard of these, but they sound fun!
Again, every PD is different and there are different names for everything.
Imaging - 2
Alright...here’s one for your research...
Is there any research to show how listeners feel about imaging? Do listeners notice lame imaging vs. kick-ass-make-your-ears-cry-like-a-Catholic-schoolboy imaging? For example, can they tell the difference between really boring simple imaging for an AC and really “blow you away imaging” on an Active Rocker? Do listeners even care?
Another question: As far as research goes, does the frequency of the imaging matter to listeners? Does a station identifier between each song pester the listener and make them change (no matter the quality of the imaging), or would they rather have more straight segues?
And the last one: Does the TYPE of imaging matter to the listener? Any research to show that they don’t mind quick little “Z100, The City’s New Rock” vs. 30-45 second music promos such as, “This is the music you’ll hear on Q99 . . . blah blah?”
Love the column—you are very wise Jedi Master. - Anonymous
Anon: I’m glad you enjoy the column. Thanks. I’ll have to admit that I have never been called a “Jedi Master” before—four letter names, sure, but not Jedi. Thanks.
First, average listeners don’t know anything about imaging. They don’t even know what that word means, so if you ask about a radio station’s imaging, the only response you’ll get is a look similar to a deer in headlights.
That doesn’t mean that imaging isn’t important. It is important, but imaging is only one piece of the puzzle that listeners use to develop a perception of a radio station. But let me step back for a moment because I have a little problem with your discussion of imaging.
You ask if listeners notice the difference between the “boring” stuff on an AC radio station as compared to the “kick-ass” stuff on an Active Rocker. I don’t think that’s a fair comparison, nor is it fair to compare any format to another format because each format has it’s own approach. Every type of radio format creates a unique image and it is not appropriate to say that one is “boring” and another is “kick-ass.”
What’s important is whether the imaging a radio station uses FITS the radio station. In other words, the imaging used on an Active Rocker would probably be perceived as inappropriate for a Soft AC. And it should be because that’s not what an AC radio station is all about. The same goes for imaging approaches used on an AC—they don’t belong on an Active Rocker. Do you see what I mean?
An AC or Active Rocker could both receive an A+ grade from listeners even though the approaches are totally different. And they should be. The imaging for an Active Rocker doesn’t belong on an AC and vice versa.
And another thing . . . from everything I have learned in the past few decades about imaging is that it should not stand out from other programming elements. Imaging should be like a referee in a boxing match…it’s there, perceived as important and necessary, but it’s not really noticed. In other words, your imaging should match everything else you have on the radio station…good music, good jocks, good formatics, good imaging…and so on. All these items work together to produce the product and each should fit with all the other elements.
You also ask about the frequency of imaging. As I have said before many times—many, many studies document that imaging statements, call letters, and the radio station’s frequency, are not perceived negatively by the listeners. They don’t mind being told that the radio station they’re listening to “Plays only the hits” or whatever your statement is. An appropriate imaging statement or station identifier between every song is not too much.
Finally, you ask if listeners care about the type of imaging. The answer is, “No they don’t if the imaging fits the radio station.” It doesn’t matter if the element is short or long. What matters is the content. To repeat . . .The importance of imaging is not related to length or frequency of the element, but rather the appropriateness of the element.
In summary, I don’t think it’s fair to compare the formatics, imaging, or anything else, of two differently formatted radio stations. Each format has a different type of audience and each format must target that specific group. It’s like saying that a Hershey bar is “kick-ass” because it’s sweet and peanuts are boring because they’re salty. They two different products, just like an AC and an Active Rocker.
Imaging and Format Holes
Howdy doc! I hope your time away was relaxing, effective, or whatever you hoped it would be.
1. How can I effectively test my station’s imaging? Would putting clips of it into call out and having listeners score it as they do music work? (Does not seem that simple to me.) Basically, I’d like to find out if certain imaging is effective at communicating an intended message, if it wears on listeners, if it sounds “fun,” etc. Know what I mean?
2. How do stations find “format holes?” I assume a start would be to look at the market’s demographics, and compare that with what demographics current radio stations serve well or poor, and then pick a format for a group of people not being served or needing to be served better. Yea? Nay?
Don: Howdy to you too. Yes, my time off was nice. Thanks for asking. On to your questions…
1. You could test your imaging in your callout, but since your sample size is probably 100 or less per report, you’ll have to run the questionnaire several times to get to at least 400 people.
If you use the same screener each week (I assume you do), it will be OK to combine the samples together to produce one total sample of 400. However, it will be best to keep the samples separate in your final tables so you can check to see if they are the same. You can check for similarity by conducting t-tests or correlations.
You can ask all the questions you mention, but the questions must be worded carefully. If you don’t know how to do this, hire a researcher to write your questionnaire.
By the way, you could also test your imaging in focus groups.
2. A format hole search consists of a few steps: (a) Find out which radio stations people listen to; (b) Find out what types of music they like; (c) Find out if the radio stations in the area match the types of music they like to listen to. If you find a type of music that isn’t covered by one of the stations in your market, then you have a potential format.
You can predict potential shares for new formats by using a reverse cume-to-fan conversion formula. A format search study is straightforward, but the questions and question order are very important. If you know what you’re doing, you’ll be fine. If you aren’t sure of yourself, then hire a researcher to do it for you.
Imaging - One More Time
Hey doc: Are there any studies or surveys that ask people about the different types of station imaging and what they prefer? For example, short liners (just calls, dial position and position statement 5-10 seconds), longer creative stuff (15-20 seconds long), or jingles? One of my friend's kids referred to a longer piece of imaging between songs (22 seconds) as a "commercial" and said how they didn't like it.
I ask these questions my PD and I debate every day as to the direction of the imaging. He likes longer creative material and I am for the "less is more." What are your thoughts? - Anonymous
Anon: Good question, but before I get to the answer, I need to start with four comments:
My comments in reference to your question don't mean anything. It doesn't matter what I think.
Your comments and your PD's comment don't mean anything. It doesn't matter what you and he think.
The comments from your friend's kid don't mean anything. It doesn't matter what the kid likes or dislikes.
Since the comments from you, your PD, the kid, and me don't matter, then what matters? What matters is what the listeners think. Your PD and you aren't programming the radio station for your enjoyment. Your PD and you are programming for the enjoyment of your listeners. Therefore, you need to ask your listeners what they like. Your PD and you can debate every minute of the day for the next decade about which approach is best, but every minute of the debate is wasted time because the only comments that matter are those that come from your listeners.
My first answer, then, is that you need to ask your listeners. Case closed.
But wait, I know what you're thinking—"Did he fire six shots, or only five?" Ooops. Wait a second, that's from a Clint Eastwood movie. Sorry. My guess is that you're probably thinking or saying something like, "We don't have any money to conduct our own research." I know the decision about not conducting research probably isn't yours. I would imagine that your GM and/or owner is/are the culprits. "We don't have any money to conduct research." Yea, sure. I have heard that before and my opinion never changes: How can anyone spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, or maybe millions of dollars, on a radio station, but claim that he/she/they can't afford about $30,000 on a research study to find out what the listeners think about the radio station? Talk about a myopic, nonsensical viewpoint! It's poor management/ownership at the grandest scale. But what do I know?
OK, so I'm going to take a guess that you won't conduct your own research since your GM and/or owner don't want to spend the money to investigate the radio station's programming—the product. Here is what I know, and I'm not suggesting that your listeners think the same way. These are only summary comments:
Radio people are worried (fixated, concerned, obsessed) about jingles, liners, creative stuff, imaging, flow, and everything else you want to throw in that list. The research I have conducted during the past 25+ years indicates that the listeners aren't fixated, concerned, and obsessed about the same things. The listeners want to hear things like their favorite music, talk show host, news, weather, and traffic.
When it comes to promotional things, listeners think jingles are fine. They think liners are fine. They think brief mentions of the station's calls/slogan and frequency are fine. But I haven't found them to be obsessed with these items. I haven't found them to select a radio station, or listen to a radio station longer, because of the length or creativity of the liners or other promotion/identification items.
Does that suggest long liners/promos are harmful to the radio station? Not really. What it says is that when listeners are asked what is important to them when they listen to their favorite radio stations, they do not mention liners, slogans, or any other type of promotional information, or the creativity of such information. (Keep in mind that "creative" is in the eye and/or ear of the beholder. What may be creative to you or your PD may be dreadfully boring to your listeners.)
Do long and creative items add to the "feel" or "flow" of a radio station? Radio people think so and many PDs (and others) spend countless hours preparing elaborate and technically sophisticated materials. Listeners don't know, don't care, and/or don't pay a lot of attention to elaborate and sophisticated materials. The listeners pay attention to things like, "This is WAAA/Slogan, 95.7 FM."
It's fine if your PD chooses to spend a lot of time creating elaborate promotional materials, but there is no evidence to suggest that these materials are effective in attracting new listeners or encouraging them to listen more often.
In summary, I can't tell you what to do because I'm not one of your listeners. You and your PD are in the same category—it doesn't matter what you and he think. And you can forget what the ankle biter said because he/she is only a sample of one. If you want to know which approach is the best, you must ask your listeners. If you can't do that, then I guess you'll have to continue debating with your PD. If your listeners like long promotional materials, the listeners will stay tuned. If your listeners think your long promotional materials are only a variation of a typical commercial, then they may tune to another radio station.
Ask the GM and/or owner what to do. After all, it's only the product.
Imaging - Production
I want to do the whole “sell my talents out of my own market” thing, but I like where I am and I’d like to start a freelance imaging/commercial production business. How do I find out info on startup and the legal issues facing that type of work, such as copyrighted libraries? Thanks as always, Doc. - Anonymous
Anon: My first suggestion is to talk to a production company that would be willing to help you out, but you may have trouble there since you’ll be a competitor.
In the meantime, I set up a few Google searches for you as a start. Not all of the references will be relevant, but I think there are a few with some good information:
Hi Doc. I really get a kick out of reading your responses to some of the questions you get. I can glean that you are a no-nonsense researcher with a great sense of humor. You take time to edit questions for clarity, point out that what the audience thinks is critically important, and you don’t like the way corporate radio sounds. Do you have a saying that someone once told you that has had an impact on your life? Sorry, can’t be "that don’t be right." - Dave
Dave: Thanks for the comments. I’m glad you enjoy the column. Where do I send your check?
Sayings I heard that have had an impact on my life? Hmm…I can think of three.
Because I said so. My Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Ray Tucker, had this sign on his desk and held it up when anyone continued to ask "why?"
Having kids is like being nibbled to death by ducks. I don’t remember where I first heard this, but it is true. It’s why parents eventually shrink in size, and get wrinkles and gray hair.
Thanks for the Chicken. I think I developed this one after attending a luncheon at a radio conference. The company that sponsored the luncheon spent $75,000 or more to sponsor the luncheon to attempt to sign new business. After talking to people from the company several weeks later, they said they didn’t generate any business from the luncheon—only "Thanks for the lunch." The phrase fits all areas of life. You can give everything to a person, group, or company, and oftentimes the only thing you hear, or get back, (in one way or another) is, "Thanks for the chicken." I’m not saying that we always need to get things back for doing a favor or going out-of-the-way, but it’s nice to be recognized once in a while.
Improper Words on the Air
Is there a list of improper, unacceptable words that are prohibited to be used on the air? Using a delay and dump system, what are the words that must be dumped? - Anonymous
Anon: First, the best thing you can do is read the FCC's statement on Obscene, Indecent, and Profane Broadcasts. In this document, you'll see this information:
The FCC has defined broadcast indecency as "language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.” Indecent programming contains patently offensive sexual or excretory material that does not rise to the level of obscenity.
In addition, the statement says:
The FCC has defined profanity as "including language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance.”
Like indecency, profane speech is prohibited on broadcast radio and television between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
If you read the FCC's statement on indecent and/or profane language, you'll see that the Commission doesn't include a list of prohibited words. However, the statement does say:
Obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution and cannot be broadcast at any time. The Supreme Court has established that, to be obscene, material must meet a three-pronged test:
An average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and
The material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
OK, so there is no specific list of words you can't say on the air. But there are two things on-air personalities might consider: (1) Use common sense . . . most on-air personalities know which words may be considered as indecent by most people; and (2) George Carlin's Seven Dirty Words might provide a basic list of some words to avoid saying on the air.
What does the term "incidence" mean in reference to research? – Kathy
Kathy: Incidence is the percentage of a population that possesses the desired characteristics for a particular research study. For example, if someone says that the incidence of AC listeners 25-54 in New York is 20%, it means that 20% of the 25-54 population listens to AC music (80% do not). This can be used to determine how difficult it will be to recruit or interview this group of respondents.
Incidence is an important element in research costs. The lower the incidence, the more expensive your project will be. One frequent problem I see in research is a client who wants a "needle in a haystack." In other words, they add too many elements to the screener including such things as narrow age cells, very restrictive male/female quotas, unrealistic listening quotas, and so on. Incidence decreases in direct relation to the number of screening elements added. It also limits the usefulness of the study.
Increase Bust Size
I have seen paid programming on TV for herbal supplements to increase bust size. Does this stuff really work? - Karen
Karen: I never thought I’d be asked this type of question, but I said I would try to answer anything . . . so here goes . . .
First, I need to give this disclaimer: I have a Ph.D., not an M.D. As with many questions I receive, I went to the Internet to find your answer. There are dozens of articles about the herbal supplements to increase bust size. The legitimate articles explain that there is no scientific evidence to support the claims made in the commercials. The bottom line, according to all sources I found, is that these herbal supplements have two characteristics: (1) they are expensive; and (2) they are worthless.
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