Doc: Since you live in Denver, what’s your take on Jack FM? - Anonymous
Anon: My “take” really doesn’t matter because I’m not in the target audience. The radio station seems to have a bigger playlist, but it would be better to get the opinions from the radio station’s target.
However, I will say one thing: The slogan for the radio station is: Playing What We Want
In my opinion (and from the opinions of many listeners I have asked), I’d rather listen to a radio station that says: Playing What You Want
I’m not interested in listening to music that “they” want to play. Understand what I mean? The slogan makes no sense and is probably one of the silliest I have ever heard. For more information about Jack FM, click here.
Jack FM History
Doc: Is there a site that has information about the start of “Jack FM?” - Anonymous
Anon: The best one I have found is located here.
Doctor: What is your opinion…your opinion, not Google’s…about the Jack format? - Anonymous
Anon: Getting a bit pushy, eh? No problem. Here are my opinions and comments…
The best way to program a successful radio station is to follow a 3-step process: (1) Find out what the listeners want; (2) Give it to them; and (3) Tell them that you gave it to them. (I wish I had $1.00 for every time I have said that since I started radio research in 1976.)
Jack, Jack, and More Jack
Hiya Doc! What's the deal with all these new JACK, BEN, etc. radio stations? Why is everybody switching to this format? Is it really successful, or just the latest fad format we see pop up every couple of years? “Playing What We Want”—isn't that insulting to listeners? Thanks for your insight. - Non-Jack
Non-Jack: Hiya to you too. You need to realize that every person in every type of business is always looking for the next “big” thing—a product or service that will increase sales. These people pay attention to their competitors, and if they see something successful, regardless of whether it’s good or bad, they will copy it.
That is what is going on with the “Jack” format, and it’s the same thing that happened with every other radio format. Someone or some company develops a new “repackaging” approach, and other people jump on the idea as if the new format will be a panacea for their radio station’s financial and ratings problems.
While there is nothing new with the “Jack” format (it’s just an image packaging), I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. At least people are excited about something, whether they agree or disagree with the approach.
I already addressed the “We Play What We Want” slogan. As I said, my perception, and the perception of the 800 listeners I tested in two different studies, indicates that the slogan is a poor choice. Why would anyone want to listen to a radio station that plays what they want to play? From what I found, listeners would prefer a slogan that says, Playing What You Want.
The argument is that “We Play What We Want” means that the jocks (or whomever) don’t play songs that corporate tells them to play—they play what they want to play. Assuming that’s true, the listeners don’t get it. It’s an “inside” slogan that the listeners don’t understand and don’t like. But who am I to know?
Jack, Bob, Doug, Simon, and Friends
What's your opinion on Jack-FM and all his brothers? Thanks! - Elmer
Elmer: The most important opinions about all the personified radio stations are from the listeners in the target group. My opinion doesn’t mean all that much, but I’ll give you a few thoughts just for the heck of it.
First, radio is an exciting medium because talented people can provide a variety of alternatives and make changes immediately to accommodate the desires of the listeners. Radio is a boring medium because there are too many untalented people in charge of things who have one goal: sit back, wait to see what is successful, and copy it. (Radio isn’t the only place this happens. It’s a characteristic of virtually every business on the planet, but it’s especially true in the mass media.)
One problem with the “personified” radio stations is that too many brain-challenged management types jump on the bandwagon because they aren’t skilled enough to develop a unique approach for their own market. “It seems to be working in Ouagadougou, so it should work here.” No research. Just put it on the air and hope it goes somewhere. If personified doesn’t work, then these folks will simply put on the next format fad—you know, the PDs (or whomever makes the decision) who simply operate their radio station(s) on a format treadmill.
Second, it’s always exciting to see hear new radio formats, or a new approach to an old format. That’s good for the industry and it’s good for listeners. Why? Because people of all ages like new things, even if the “new” thing is simply just a variation of an old thing.
Third, from what I have heard on a few “Jack” radio stations is that the format isn’t new, it’s just a variation of an old thing. But that doesn’t make it bad. Pretty much the same as FritoLay making potato chips with “ridges” and calling them Ruffles—just potato chips, but with a gimmick. (If you read a Ruffles bag, you’ll see that “potato chip” is mentioned only once in small print on the back of the bag.)
Fourth, radio always needs some excitement, and the personified radio stations at least provide some of that. The only problem I see is with the slogan, “Playing what WE want.” It’s silly and irrelevant because listeners would prefer, “Playing what YOU want.”
Since 1976 (that’s as far back as I go with research, so it the comments may be older than that), listeners have asked (and begged) for a variety of music on their favorite radio stations. They haven’t asked for all types of music on the same radio station (Jazz, Country, Rock, and so on), just a variety within that specific format—different tempos, different eras, different “feel” of songs.
Since 1976, and maybe before that, most program directors focus on a very narrow portion of a format. For example, a radio station isn’t AC, it’s Hot AC, or something else. Every approach is the same regardless of the format—focus on only a small segment of the music within that format—and that’s not what the listeners have asked for over the years.
Sure, you may say that the narrowly focused formats have been successful. But are the successful because of the narrow focus or are they successful because those are the only formats on the radio?
I think there is a lot of evidence to suggest that most radio stations during the past few decades have been successful because they are they only choices available. What’s the evidence? The evidence is that most people listen to at least three radio station during a typical day. Why? Because most say that they get tired of hearing the same “stuff” over and over and over. So they switch to another radio station.
Now…many people listen to three radio stations (if they are available in the market) that are in the same format. Why? Variety…the very thing they have been asking for during the past few decades.
OK, so along comes a format called “Jack.” What is it? A real format? I don’t think so. It’s a variety of music (usually rock based) from (usually) the 1970s to 1990s (or so). The format isn’t new. The idea isn’t new. No one “invented” the Jack format. “Jack” (or Bob, or any other name) is the music approach (music mix) that listeners have wanted for many decades.
What has happened is that some radio stations got fed up with not knowing what to do or with going with the latest “fad” format, they finally took a chance and went with what the listeners asked for.
But I see three problems: (a) I don’t think it’s necessary to go with the “Jack” name (or any other name) because the name is not the format—the music variety is the format; (b) Many radio stations are jumping on the “Jack” bandwagon without conducting any research. That is not the way to select a format; and (c) Listeners do not understand the slogan “Playing what we want.” The slogan should be: Playing what YOU want.
I think the music variety approach followed by “Jack” (or Bob, etc.) radio stations is great because the format provides the listeners with what they want. But I don’t think the “format” is only for Rock music. The “Jack” approach can also be used by any other format on the radio dial.
I noticed that Bonneville won a lawsuit filed by SparkNet Communications in which SparkNet said that Bonneville was using variations of its slogan, “Playing what we want.” I’m new to radio and wonder if this type of lawsuit is typical. - Anonymous
Anon: Oh, I wouldn’t say that lawsuits are typical, but you’ll occasionally see them arise primarily in reference to radio station slogans and monikers. However, in my opinion, I’m not sure why anyone would want to steal the slogan, “Playing What We Want,” because it makes no sense.
Why would anyone want to listen to a radio station that says, “Playing What We Want?” I would think, and this is supported by several studies I have done on the topic, that listeners would prefer to listen to a radio station that says, “Playing What YOU Want.”
I’m sure my comments might frost the shorts of some people, but that’s the way it goes. The slogan is nonsensical and illogical.
"Jake Brakes" - Engine Brakes -Truck Noise
Doc: I live in an area where there are some steep hills and I have noticed lately that some 18-wheelers are louder than they used to be when they come down the hills. I asked a few people and they said the noise is from “Jake Brakes.” What is that? - Ken
Ken: You’re out of my area, so I showed your question to my youngest son (Buckwheat), who is a master mechanic. He said Jake brakes, made by Jacobs Vehicle Systems, is a braking system designed to help trucks, and other big vehicles, slow down by using the engine’s compression, and that's what makes the noise (sounds like engine backfire).
Here are a few sources for more information: Jake One, Jake Two, and Jake Three. However, while searching the Internet, I found that the engine noise created by Jake brakes is a major concern to many communities around the country. Check these sources.
Jammin' Oldies vs. R&B Oldies
This is the first time I have checked your column, good stuff. My question is, Why is it that Jammin’ Oldies stations tend to beat most R & B Oldies stations? They share a lot of product and target 25-49 adults. However, I find that most Jammin’ Oldies don't actually service the Urban community. Your thoughts? – Anonymous
Anon: Thanks for the comment about the column. I appreciate that. On to your question.
Since you are new to the column, I’d like to explain something. One important thing in research is the ability to construct clear and concise questions. Compound questions, misleading questions, double-barreled questions (and others) only confuse the issue and you may not get the answer that you anticipate.
I try to stress this same approach in this column. I need to have clear and concise questions so that I can provide (hopefully) clear and concise answers.
Now consider what you wrote. You say that Jammin’ Oldies radio stations tend to beat most R & B Oldies radio stations. Is this an opinion or is this fact? I don’t know because I don’t have access to the information that you may have. If this is only your opinion, then I can say nothing. I never criticize another person’s opinions. Facts please.
Next, you say that you find that Jammin’ Oldies don't actually service the Urban community. What do you mean by this? I can attempt a guess, but I don’t want to be wrong. In addition, is the apparent lack of service to the Urban community your perception or the perception of radio listeners?
Do you understand what I mean? It will be a pleasure to address your question once I know what is and is not opinion, and what you mean by "service" to the Urban community. As I said, I can guess at what you mean, but I’d rather get the facts from you so I don’t waste your time.
Janet Jackson (Boobies?)
For whatever reason, there seems to be a great deal of interest in Janet Jackson’s appearance at the Super Bowl, particularly the now famous “exposure” incident. In my response to someone who asked for links to pictures or videos, I mentioned that I really didn’t intend to keep abreast of the incident.
Well, the floodgates opened and I received dozens of Internet links for still photos and videos from several readers. I checked a few, and most of them weren’t valid links. I guess there is some fear of posting the pictures. I’m not sure.
Anyway, I did find one site that should satisfy those interested in seeing boobies. Check this out: Janet’s Body Parts?
Janet Jackson Once More
From the way you have answered the questions about Janet Jackson’s appearance at the Super Bowl, “it seems like” you’re not interested her very much. Is that right? I’d just like to know. - Anonymous
Anon: I think Janet Jackson is a talented performer. However, my interest in seeing her exposed body parts at the Super Bowl is equal to my interest in having my neighbor’s dog relieve himself on my foot.
Do you know if radio listeners like jingles? - Dave
Dave: I have tested your question many times, but you will need to do the same thing in your market because your listeners may be different. However . . .
I haven’t found that radio listeners like jingles. I haven’t found that they dislike them either. In other words, the typical reaction is apathy. According to the listeners, jingles are OK if a radio station uses them and it is OK if the radio station doesn’t use them. (Solid help for you, eh?)
This apathy also holds true for the importance of jingles. Listeners usually have a neutral response when they are asked to rate the importance of jingles on a radio station. Jingles aren’t important to listeners in their enjoyment of a radio station, but they also don’t seem to hurt anything.
Excluding Country, Oldies, and Standards formats, why are stations using jingles less and less these days. I like the Hot AC and CHR formats and miss the jingles. - Anonymous
Anon: I don’t have any research information to answer your question. I can only guess. Some reasons may be, but not limited to,
Hot AC and CHR stations conducted research and found that jingles aren’t important.
Budgets were cut and jingles were one of the first things to go.
One or two stations cut jingles and others followed like lemmings thinking it was the right thing to do.
Jingles are on a hiatus for some reason.
Jingles 1 - Response
When Tom Donahue started the Progressive Rock format in the 60s in San Francisco, the idea was for it to become the antithesis of Top 40, long album cuts programmed from the gut, low-key delivery, and no jingles.
The format was copied all over the country and eventually was diluted and evolved into heavily formatted Classic Rock. But the “No Jingle” philosophy remains, for the most part. Maybe that is one answer to why there are few jingles anymore. As ever - Jerry
Jerry: Thanks for the information. I’m always happy to receive information from readers.
Jingles 1 - Response 2
Over my 30+ year career, I’ve witnessed jingles come in and go out of style. Big Daddy Tom Donahue did without them at KSAN, as someone else mentioned, to be the antithesis of Top 40s KFRC & KYA. What one finds is that a lot of programming ideas develop as a way to be unique in the competitive field. Then, others copy the “no jingle” stance until everyone sounds the same. At which point, someone decides having jingles would be a great way to sound different. The same was true of the wild track drops (using TV & movie sound bites in station imaging), which were very distinctive until everybody started using them!
P.S. Roger, I can’t tell you on how many jocks I’ve used your line when questioned about some seemingly obvious point (“It SEEMS like, but we won’t know until we test it!”) Yes, I give you credit each time I say it! - Radio Veteran
Vet: I agree with you about radio being cyclical in almost everything that is done and your example is a good one—very similar to the number of stop sets, number of songs in a row, and many others.
However, I’m sure most businesses are like that, and it’s a good example to use when explaining to someone that “not much is really new in radio. That’s why it’s fun when a truly unique idea comes up.
I’m glad you have been able to use my “it seems like” line with your jocks. I use it a lot too. By the way, have you seen my article, “It Seems Like…” on my business website? If you’re interested, click here: Seems like…
Jingle Effectiveness - 1
OK, you’ve told us research indicates listeners don’t want talk over the intros, not the weather, not sweepers, not artist endorsements, nothing. In looking through your archives (what a GOLDMINE!), I read that listeners do not consider back selling and front selling to be needless chatter. Also, that you can’t say your calls (and, I assume, frequency so they can find you again) too often. Listeners also really don’t care if you use a music bed or not, as long as your talk is relevant (i.e., artist and title, and talking TO, not AT, the listener). One more recap, listeners neither like nor dislike jingles.
Having said all that, (and knowing you like specific questions), do you know of any studies done on how effective jingles are at getting listeners to remember the calls and frequency of the station they are listening to? Other than the mystical “flow,” this is the other reason I’ve heard given for using jingles. Do people remember (spoken) 109.7, WXXX better than (sung) “one-oh-nine point seven, double you ex, ex, ex!
Follow up: does this “effectiveness” seem to vary from format to format? Is it likely to vary from market to market? I could see how and why it might, but I don’t know.
As a former (and hopefully future) Internet broadcaster, I can’t afford jingles any more than I can afford your research, but the information is very interesting and one day I’d like to be able to afford both. - Gene
Gene: Many questions, my friend. I’ll do the best I can to address all of them. I’m glad you find the “Research Doctor Archive” useful. Thanks.
Your recap in paragraph one correctly summarizes what the research shows.
I don’t know of any studies on the effectiveness of jingles as a way to increase the chance that people will remember things. However, in reality, it doesn’t really matter because your goal should be repetition of the message (call letters/moniker/frequency), not if the information is put to a song or not. If a radio station gives its ID information 50 to 100 times and hour, the odds of persuasion (getting people to remember the call letters, etc.) are increased dramatically.
The need to hammer away on call letters, etc. will change with Arbitron’s PPM, but it will still be necessary to frequently tell listeners which radio station they are listening to.
Since I haven’t seen any research on the effectiveness of jingles, I can’t say whether there is a difference from format to format, or market to market. But again, it doesn’t matter since your goal should be repetition of a message, not how the message is presented.
Keep in mind that there is nothing wrong in attempting to put together a creative radio package. But also keep in mind that success with listeners (persuasion, etc.) works best when the messages are simple and direct.
Jingle Effectiveness - 2
Dr. Wimmer: I don’t know of any research about the effectiveness of radio jingles, but I seem to remember reading a number of years ago an article that discussed the effectiveness of commercial jingles. If I remember the information correctly, there was a statistically significant difference in the recall of brand names and slogans when they were contained in a jingle, as opposed to the same words spoken the same number of times. The psychologists who conducted the research theorize that different structures of the brain are used to process music than are used to process speech—and perhaps that would explain why the information was absorbed more readily.
This article also said that commercial jingles seemed to work best for products for which there is a low commitment factor—easily consumed, low cost of entry, and so forth. For example, cola as opposed to a house. If the study was, or is valid, the findings might be transferable to radio. Love the column! - Bill
Bill: I’m glad you enjoy the column. Thanks.
Yes, I recall reading studies about singing in commercials, and I remember the same thing you do: that most people seem to be able to remember some things if they are in a song, rather than plain speech.
However, you can’t automatically assume that the research results on songs/jingles for commercial products can be generalized to call letters/moniker/frequency jingles in radio. What needs to be done (and someone may have conducted such a study) is to compare retention of call letters/moniker/frequency as a jingle to a simple spoken phrase.
Until a valid and reliable scientific study is conducted, this topic could debated forever. In the meantime, I don’t think it’s wrong to use jingles in radio. The original question was, “Are jingles important to listeners?” I do know the answer to that question: Listeners don’t attribute much importance to jingles.
Finally, I do think there is a difference in using a song or jingle to sell a product or service to a song to “sell” a radio station’s call letters. The difference I see is simplicity. That is, is it necessary to sing “W-L-S” (for example) to (supposedly) help a listener remember the radio station, or is it more effective to simply say the call letters 50-100 times an hour? I would go for the repetition of spoken call letters because hearing “W-L-S” sung 50-100 times an hour would probably drive many people crazy.
Bottom line again: From the information I have seen, I don’t see a problem using a jingle to communicate a radio station’s call letters/moniker/frequency. I do see a problem claiming that a jingle is more effective in its persuasive ability over simply saying the call letters/moniker/frequency.
But I have an open mind about most things and will be happy to change my opinion if I see a scientifically conducted study comparing the two approaches.
I have been on the air for five years, but was recently let go because of "budgetary" reasons. I have looked around for several months and can’t find another on-air gig. I’m thinking about getting into radio sales. What do you think? - Anonymous
Anon: As you have noticed, I edited your question a bit to hide your identify. I don’t think you have any secrets, but a generic approach may be better in this case.
I can’t tell you if getting into sales is a good idea for you, but I’ll try to help you make that decision for yourself. I’ll tell you the same thing I tell everyone else who asks me to help them make a personal decision . . .
Get a pad of paper…actually one piece will suffice…and draw a line down the middle of the page. Label the left-hand column "Positive," and the right-hand column "Negative." Now start filling the columns with every positive and negative you can think of related to going into radio sales. Don’t hurry with this. In fact, it may take a few days for you to think about every angle.
When you have exhausted your thoughts, look at the columns. Which one has the most entries? That’s the winner and you should probably go with that.
One thing I will say about the note you wrote to me. You did not say anything about looking in another type of business, which leads me to believe that you’re a radio person at heart and should probably stay with it.
Hi Doc. Great column! As a DJ, what questions should I ask myself to ensure that I’m performing well especially during my shift? Thanks for the support. - Anonymous
Anon: I’m glad you enjoy the column. Thanks. Instead of listing questions you should ask yourself, I’ll try to summarize some of the main points listeners discuss when they talk about Jocks/DJs—kind of like a “Jock/DJ Code of Performance.” These are things I have heard and seen in research projects during the past 20+ years.
Address your target audience. Everything you say should relate to the average person in your audience.
Talk TO your listeners, not AT them. Your show is for them, not for you, so use language they understand and talk about things they are interested in. If your listeners are adults, talk to them as adults, not children.
Don’t assume today’s listeners heard you yesterday or the day before. If you refer to something that happened in the past, be sure to explain the situation to listeners who weren’t in the audience then. If you don’t, you’ll lose them.
Address new listeners every day. An unknown number of new listeners tune into your show every day. They need answers to things like: Who are you? Who are the other voices that appear on your show? What type of radio station is this? How often do you give the weather, traffic, etc.? How much music do you play? What kind of music? New listeners are evaluating you and the radio station every day. Don’t neglect them. You need to sell yourself and your radio station so these new people will stay today and come back tomorrow.
Address your regular listeners every day. Your regular listeners know your routine and they depend on your consistency, but don’t take them for granted. Many listeners often say that most Jocks don’t thank them for tuning in. Thank them. Listeners grant you their time. Make sure their time is invested well.
Speak clearly and don’t rush. Keep in mind that most of your listeners are involved in other activities while listening to you, so make sure that you give them an opportunity to understand what you’re saying. Listeners often complain that Jocks “mumble,” “talk too fast,” and “include too much information in one or two sentences.” You are a professional communicator—don’t make amateur mistakes by speaking too quickly or unclearly.
Unconditional human regard. Accept your listeners for what they are and don’t criticize them for what they aren’t. This is especially true if you take listener phone calls.
Be yourself. Listeners say they don’t like Jocks who TRY to be funny, or TRY to be controversial. Don’t try to be someone else. Be yourself.
Admit your mistakes. Listeners know you’re human and don’t expect perfection. If you mispronounce something, or mess something up, admit it.
Have fun. Your listeners know if you enjoy your job, and if you do, they will share in your enjoyment.
I’m sure I could think of a few
more if pressed, but those are the things that come to mind right now.
During your years of research in radio, have you found any “typical” complaints about jocks? - Anonymous
Anon: I’m surprised that someone hasn’t asked this before. Good question. I have no idea how many studies I have conducted that have included questions about jocks, but my guess is that it’s in the thousands. In these studies, the “typical” complaints about jocks include, but are not limited to, jocks . . .
Talk too fast.
Talk about things listeners can’t relate to, such as what happened on the air yesterday or last week.
Don’t tell the time of day often enough.
Don’t say their name or the names of the other people on the show often enough.
Try to be funny when they really aren’t.
Too often use objectionable language.
Talk AT listeners rather than TO them.
Almost never recognize or talk to listeners who are new to the radio station. The jocks think that all listeners know what’s going on during the show. They don’t.
Never thank listeners for tuning in.
Those are the things that come to mind immediately and they aren't listed in any order of importance. There are others.
There must have been studies done regarding male vs. female on-air personalities. Do listeners of a particular format prefer on-air personalities of one gender to the other? In a (private) discussion at my station, we wondered ‘Do rock listeners have a bias against female jocks?’ What can you tell me? - Anonymous
Anon: You are correct in assuming that there have been many studies investigating male vs. female air personalities. I have asked questions about personalities hundreds of times during the past 20+ years, and I’m sure other researchers have done the same. Two statements that summarize most of the research I have seen are:
1. Overall, there is no preference for male or female personalities, regardless of format.
2. Overall, the preference is for good personalities, regardless of format.
However, I must add that I have seen markets and formats that vary from these two statements and that is why you must check this with your own listeners. I know I say that all the time, but it is very important when it comes to on-air personalities—ask your listeners.
You should approach the selection of on-air personalities the same way you approach the selection of music. By that I mean, a music test tests songs not artists. Why? Because even though an artist may be popular, he/she/they may have a produced a bad song. Successful programmers do not develop a playlist based on artists, the playlists are based on songs.
It’s the same with personalities. Most radio listeners don’t care if an on-air personality is male or female—radio listeners are mostly interested in whether the personality has talent, a good voice, relates to them, and is easy to listen to. Therefore, you must test individual personalities, not the gender.
(Aside: Since popular artists don’t always produce great songs, you should never recruit people for a research project using songs as examples of format descriptors—always use artists.)
Hey, Dr. Wimmer! This web site is the bomb and you are da man! I am currently working at a small (very small) market radio station and have worked with two program directors from larger markets. I learned quite a bit from these guys, but after they left, I was sort of named ‘Program Director.’ I’m trying to learn everything I can about programming, such as RCS, programming tips, music patterns, etc.
My GM is actually scheduling our music right now and I am not allowed to do a whole heck of a lot. I was just wondering if you had any suggestions, such as, where to begin? My GM really doesn’t do a good job of scheduling music, etc.! I know that our playlists are feeling the effects of him scheduling the music. Do you have any suggestions of where to get any programming materials, manuals, etc.? I would appreciate any help you can give me, even if it’s a 6’ blonde, blue-eyed girl, I’ll take it! Thanks for your time and I’m hopin’ you can help me out! Peace out bro. - Anonymous
Anon: "Bomb?" "Da man?" Hey, far out! There are several things you can do:
1. Go to www.google.com and search for "radio programming" and "radio information." Not all of the items that come up will be relevant, but there are some that will help.
2. Go to www.amazon.com for books on radio programming. There aren’t many.
3. Establish a few friendships with other PDs so you can learn from them.
4. Attend conventions that include radio programming sessions.
5. Read the radio trade papers, magazines, and web sites.
6. Check this site for a start: www.radioinfo.com/other.html
7. Check your local yellow pages for the blonde.
I hope this helps. Right on!
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