Point or Dot?

Is there any reason why some stations mention their frequencies by using "point" and others don’t? Why do some say "dot" instead of "point?" Do the listeners actually care or are we just amusing ourselves? - Gene


Gene: It falls in the amusement category. For centuries, decimal points have been identified as "point 3" or "point 8" etc. The "dot" emerged in the mid-90s with the growing popularity of the Internet—the "dot com" companies. But, as far as I know, the "dot" hasn’t replaced the "point" when referring to decimal points.


Using "dot" instead of "point" isn’t logical because radio listeners do not use the term. I don’t understand why it’s necessary to identify a radio station by terms listeners don’t use.


The only thing I’m not sure about is any long-term effect the "dot" may have on listeners’ perceptions of the radio station. Maybe none.


Hey, why don’t you conduct a little non-scientific experiment? Ask a few dozen non-radio friends which radio stations they listen to and find out how many use "dot" instead of "point" when they tell you the radio station’s frequency.


Finally, the logic behind using "dot" makes as much sense to me as identifying a radio station as XCVII point V.

Poisonous Snake

What is the most poisonous snake in the world? - Anonymous

Anon: I searched the Internet for this one. Although there are some conflicting views, most of the articles say that the Inland Taipan from Australia (which has most of the top-10 most poisonous snakes) is the most poisonous snake in the world.

The Inland Taipan can kill a human in less than 30 minutes. The snake injects venom that simultaneously: (1) causes paralysis—as the poison spreads, the victim experiences headache, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, dizziness, blurred vision, convulsions, and possibly coma; and (2) dissolves muscle tissue which causes internal bleeding and kidney failure.  Nice, eh?

Poker Odds

I play a weekly poker game with friends.  Assuming you know the rules of poker, I have a question for you.  If playing with two decks, is there any way to figure out the odds of getting each hand from royal flush down to a pair.  My friend started playing with wild cards (2s, 3s, or whatever is wild).  He would also sometimes play “lowest in your hand is wild.”  This means in a 5-card hand, everyone has at least a pair to start with.  He started getting royal flushes left and right with these wilds though.  I was wondering if there was any possible way for you to tell how much easier it is to get a royal flush (or other hands) with wild cards rather than all naturals.  I can’t stand playing with wild cards, and I want to prove to him that it “dumbs the game down” for everyone.  Thanks Doc. - Bill


Bill:  I’ll give you a short answer to your question, and then I’ll expect some type of commission.


In a normal 5-card poker game with no wild cards, you can expect to get a royal flush (10 thru Ace of the same suit) 1 in 40,000 hands (1.54 ten thousandths %).  If you have deuces wild (or any other card), the odds of getting a royal flush are 1 in 550 hands (18%).  That is a dramatic increase in odds!


The problem with having the low card wild is that all players theoretically can get four wild cards.  This means that the odds of getting a royal flush are equal for everyone, which doesn’t happen if you have only one wild card.


Although there is nothing wrong with playing with wild cards, if you check the Internet, you’ll find several articles that include a comment such as, “Most ‘serious’ card players don’t use wild cards because they eliminate the skill involved in the game.”


I’m not suggesting that you do or do not use wild cards.  But if you do, you must realize that the odds of getting any type of good hand are very high as compared to a game with no wild cards.  Another thing is that when you play with so many wild cards, the only good hands are a royal flush or 5-of-a-kind.  All the other usual poker hands become meaningless.

Poland Springs Water in NYC

Doctornator, I just got back from New York City.  Everywhere I went the bottled water of choice was “Poland Springs.”  Every sidewalk vendor, every hot dog stand, every deli...Poland Springs.  In the largest city in the country, why is there such a limited selection of bottled water?  Poland Springs must know somebody in Bloomberg’s office! - Anonymous


Anon:  I can’t find any contractual reason for the prevalence of Poland Springs Water in New York City.  The only thing I can find is that it is considered the “default” bottled water choice of many New Yorkers and those who visit New York City.


However, I did find an interesting article about Poland Springs Water.  Check this out: Water?


In addition, you don’t appear to be the only person who has mentioned this situation.  There are other comments about the water in New York City.  I set up a Google search for you for more information about Poland Springs Water More information about NYC water.

Polar Bear

Tell me the answer to this riddle: You’re in a house where all four sides face south. A bear walks by the house. What color is the bear? – Anonymous


Anon: I have answered this question before. It must be floating around in the e-mail circuit. The answer is:


The house is located on the North Pole. The only bears at the North Pole are polar bears and since polar bears are white, ergo the beast walking by your house is white.

Polarized Glasses

This isn’t really a radio question, but I know you have much knowledge beyond broadcasting.  Here's my puzzler:  While I'm wearing my Polarized sunglasses, I tip my head to the side a bit and my LCD flat screen monitor appears to go black! Cool effect, but why does this happen? - Tom


Tom:  Oh, I’m sure you have knowledge beyond broadcasting too.  Thanks anyway.


First, the same theory applies to both LCD screens and Polarized sunglasses—light passes through in a straight (linear) line.  If you look at an LCD screen from a 90° angle, you can’t see it.  The same thing happens when you turn your head when wearing Polarized sunglasses—everything goes black because the light doesn’t get through the lens.


Here is a link with a more detailed explanation: Hey! I can’t see anything!

Political Yard Signs

Doc:  This year's elections have caused me to think about a few things.  One thing is political signs people put in their yards.  Do those signs have any influence on the way people vote?  Are they a good way to advertise a candidate or issue? - Anonymous


Anon: People have been placing yard signs for political candidates and political issues for many years, perhaps more than one hundred years.  The brief answer to your question as to what influence the signs have over voting behavior is this: Yard signs for political candidates and political issues have no effect on the voting behavior of people who may read them.  That's the short answer, but I'd like to explain a few things.


While I haven't seen any recent research about this topic, I can recall reading studies about the persuasive ability of political yards signs as far back as the early 1970s.  There isn't a lot of new research on the topic because the earlier studies all found essentially the same thing and it doesn't make a lot of sense to conduct research that constantly finds the same answer(s).


The basic findings of the research on political yard signs include:

  1. Yard signs for political candidates and political issues show the homeowner's (at least one person in the household) support for a political candidate or political issue.  It's a form of personal declaration of support for a candidate or issue.  However, while most of the people who put signs in their yard will vote at election time, there is no guarantee that they will actually vote.  The only "guarantee" is that one (or more) people in the household supposedly supports a particular political candidate and/or political issue.

  2. People who place politically-related signs in their yard like to demonstrate that they are "politically active," "politically aware," and/or "socially conscious."

  3. (My theory)  People who place politically-related signs in their yard like to have stuff in the yard, but don't want to install plastic pink flamingos, plastic ducks, or plastic geese.

That's about it.  The people who place political signs in their yards try to influence other people to vote for certain candidates and/or issues, but the signs don't influence anyone.  Consider this information:

  1. First, in most elections, about 50-60% of eligible voters actually vote.  When it comes to the voters' feeling about candidates and political issues, these voters fall into one of four categories: (1) For a candidate or issue; (b) Against a candidate or issue; (c) Undecided about a candidate or issue; and (d) Don't care either way about a candidate or issue.

  2. So, what happens when people from each group see a yard sign for a political candidate or issue?  (a) The people who are FOR the candidate or issue agree with the sign's message; (b) The people who are AGAINST the candidate or issue disagree with the sign's message; (c) The people who are UNDECIDED or DON'T CARE about the candidate or issue perceive the yard sign as meaningless.

  3. That is, the research on political yard signs shows that when passers-by read a political sign in someone's yard, they will agree or disagree with the sign's message depending on their already held support, beliefs, and/or perspective.  (For example, if a person supports Barack Obama and sees a yard sign for Obama, the person perceives the sign as a message placed by someone else who supports Obama and agrees with the sign's placement.)

  4. If a person supports a particular candidate or issue and sees a yard sign that is opposite of his/her support, belief, or perception (an Obama supporter sees a yard sign for John McCain), the person rejects the message as irrelevant; the sign is perceived as meaningless

  5. OK, so we know that yard signs do nothing for people who are either FOR or AGAINST a candidate or issue.  Therefore, the only people who are left — "the targets" — for the yard signs are the voters who are UNDECIDED or DON'T CARE.  The problem is that research shows yard signs have no effect on these two groups of people.  The signs don't give enough information for people in either group to make a decision about the candidate or issue.

  6. In other words, yard signs for political candidates and issues are a waste of time and money.  Plastic pink flamingos, plastic ducks, and plastic geese have the same persuasive power as a yard sign for a political candidate or political issue.

If yard signs for political candidates and issues are useless, then why do people continue to decorate their yards with these items?


If you have been reading this column for a while, you will remember that I have discussed the four ways we learns things called, The Methods of Knowing (to read a description of the methods, scroll down to the question "Tarot Cards" after you click here.)


The Method of Tenacity is the best explanation of why people continue to put political candidate and political issue signs in their yards.  In brief, this method states that we learn something, or believe in something, because it has always been true.  In the case of political yard signs, people place them in their yard because people have "always" placed politically related signs in their yards.  It was the right thing to do in the past, so it must be the right thing to do now.


Forget the fact that there has <b>never</b> been any evidence showing that yard signs are persuasive in any way.  Forget the fact that research verifies that politically-related yard signs are meaningless.  People in previous years put signs in their yards, so it must be the right thing to do now.


There have been many recent stories about people stealing political yard signs from other people's property — supposedly to object to the homeowner's public declaration for the candidate or issue.  Stealing the signs is a waste of time because the signs are meaningless and ineffective.  Why face the possibility of a fine or jail time for taking something that is useless?  As some people say in Atlanta, "That don't be right."


By the way, the comments about the effect of yard signs for political candidates and political issues also relate to political candidate/issue bumper stickers and pins.


In summary, the placement or use of political candidate or political issue yard signs, bumper stickers, and pins has no effect on changing anyone's opinion(s) about a political candidate or political issue.  If these items are placed or used for anything other than advertising a person's declaration of support for a candidate or issue, then all of the items are a waste of time, effort, and money.

Polls - Presidential Tracking

If two tracking polls both have sampling error of ±4%, how can one poll have Bush 13% ahead (Gallup) and another have Gore 2% ahead (Reuters)? - Anonymous


Anon: I originally wrote about three pages answering this question, but then realized that you would probably look at it and say, "So what?" So I shorted it.


Looking at these data from the perspective of an alien from another planet, I would say this: both companies are respected pollsters and have produced extremely accurate predictions in past elections. The differences indicate that the election (as of today) is virtually impossible to predict.


Historically, political polls tend to vary a great deal when neither candidate stands out from the other—the independents and undecided voters are trying to determine which candidate is the lease objectionable. If you have been following the news, you’ll notice that many unaffiliated voters do not consider either candidate to be worthy of the office. That causes problems with polls because the respondents are jumping back and forth with their choice.


What else could cause the difference? Several things, including, but not limited to, sample selection procedures, geographic areas where respondents are selected, times when the interviews were conducted, and the members of the sample.

Polls - Presidential Tracking Polls - 2

Related to the research biz, an overnight poll declared that Al Gore had jumped ahead of George W. Bush by several points. My question is . . . Al Gore's speech at the convention lasted until about 11 p m. ET/8 p.m. PT. How do you find enough respondents to qualify a poll during the overnight? (West Coast would get a little more time.) When I worked in research we didn't call after 9 p.m. - Anonymous

Anon: I’m going to have to guess here because I don’t know which company did the poll and didn’t hear any explanations on TV. I can think of three possibilities:


1.   The research company prerecruited the sample knowing that the speech would be late. They may have called people ahead of time to ask if they were going to watch the speech, and if so, could they call them after it was over.


2.   The sample did not include anyone east of the Mississippi. If that’s the case, then the sample is bad. (I hope they didn’t do this.)


3.   They called a random sample throughout the country and weren’t worried about getting anyone angry at the lateness of the call. (Not a good idea.)

The research company may have used another plan, I just don’t know. However, that’s why you need to pay attention to polls. Just because it’s a "poll" doesn’t make it right. The problem with most poll information is that the commentators or reports never explain anything about the methodology.

Population Clock

I know there is a U.S. population clock on the Internet, but I can’t find it for some reason.  Can you help me? - Anonymous


Anon:  No problem.  Just click here: U.S. Population Clock.


In case you’re interested, here are a few other clocks:


U.S. National Debt Clock


U.S. Time Clock


World Population Clock


World Time Clocks


If that isn't enough for you, there are more population clocks in this search.

Population of the World

How many people are there on the planet? - Anonymous


Anon: For a current estimate, click here: Current world population.   You can hit your refresh button for changes, or you can hit the dynamic versions to see the clock in real time.


Great column. I enjoy it very much. I am wondering if in your research you have discovered anything about positioning statements and alluding to the competition. We are a Classic Rocker competing with an Adult Rocker. We say, "The rock and roll you grew up with" to position our station, but we don't say anything about the competition. On the other hand, they say things like "Our artists are on the rise and not in the grave," a direct shot at us.


Has your research suggested that re-positioning the competition is effective in changing the thinking of listeners? - Anonymous


Anon: Thanks for the comment about the column. I’m glad you enjoy it. I have several comments about your question.


You say that your competitor takes a "direct shot" at your radio station by saying things like, "Our artists are on the rise and not in the grave." Do you know that your listeners consider this a "direct shot" at your radio station? Or is this only your opinion and the opinion of the others at your radio station? If you did ask your listeners (and other rock listeners in your market) and you found out that this is a "shot" at your radio station, then you may need to do something about it.


However, I have a feeling that this is your perception. But I don’t understand what is wrong with music by dead people? I have never seen any research to suggest that listeners have anything against music by dead people. In many cases, the music by dead people is much better than the music by people who are living—which is why Classic Rock continues to be successful if done correctly. (I’m not saying that all Classic Rock is music by dead people.)


If you really want to know if your competitor’s comments about you are negative, you need to ask your listeners. My guess is that your listeners won’t give a rat’s tail about what the competitor says and they will attribute no significance to the "grave" comment.


All of the research I have seen suggests that attacking competitors, or naming them in one way or another, will not work. It may work for a while, but there will be a backlash at some point in the future. I have seen this happen many times. Listeners want to hear things about what you do well, not what the other radio stations do poorly. Promote your benefits—don’t promote the other radio station’s shortcomings.


Don’t get into a "war of words" with your competitor. Your listeners aren’t stupid—they see right through this stuff.

Positioning – Part 2

Interesting response to the re-positioning question. I understand that most audiences, especially adults, don’t think it’s "nice" to bash the competitors. Reis & Trout advocate "re-positioning." For example, a Hot AC in-between a CHR and a Mainstream AC. Does your research show that using statements on the Hot AC, such as "Not soft & sleepy" (vs. the AC) and "No rap or heavy metal" (vs. the CHR) is effective? The Hot AC is going to play many of the same songs of both stations. Isn't it prudent to point out the differences? Every business can claim to be the "best" (and do), and Reis and Trout preach that you need to separate yourself from the pack to be effective. Thanks. Great column! – DK


DK: Thanks for the comment about the column. I’m glad you like it.


In the earlier question about positioners, the person asked about the competitor’s positioner, "Our artists are on the rise and not in the grave," and wanted to know what affect this might have on his radio station. The person wondered if this negative attack might hurt his radio station.


There is a fine line in this positioner "stuff" and how listeners perceive them. On the basis of the research I have seen, the positioner, "Our artists are on the rise and not in the grave" might be perceived as a negative comment about another radio station. Listeners generally don’t like this type of approach. But I’m not sure…the question would have to be asked with the listeners in that market. My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that the positioner would be perceived as a negative comment.


However, your examples of "Not soft & sleepy" and "No rap or heavy metal" are not in the same category. These describe the radio station from an approach of what they are not (and subsequently doesn’t really say what the radio station is). My experience suggests that these comments would not be perceived as a negative comment.


The bottom line is that radio stations need to tell their listeners what they are…either with exact words such as "Soft Rock" or with abstract words that allow the listeners to fill in their own meaning such as, "Rock that’s not too soft & sleepy." (I’m not great at writing positioners.) One of the best positioners I ever heard was used by KOST-FM in LA several years ago. It was something like… "Not too hard, not too soft, just right" and it was used in KOST’s "Three Bears" TV spot.


As I said, there is a fine line between what listeners perceive as a positive positioner and what is perceived as a negative positioner. Overall, the positive approach tends to work best. And yes, every product (including a radio station) must separate itself from the competitors. The listeners/consumers need to be told about the differences. That’s the purpose of advertising and promotion.

Power Line Thingies

Hey Doc!  I have always wondered this, and I can’t find the answer myself, so I turn to you, oh Great Wizard of Research.


Have you ever seen those red balls that are attached to power lines? They look like two halves of a giant red ball snapped together on the actual line. Any idea what those could be? Do you even have any idea what I'm talking about? Thank you sir! ? - Anonymous


Anon:  Great Wizard of Research?  Oh, please.  But thanks.


Those red ball thingies (commonly called “aerial marker balls”) are for safety purposes only and are for low-flying aircraft like helicopters, private planes, crop dusters, hang gliders, and ultra lites.  Another benefit is to help large birds avoid the lines while they are cruising the skies.


Click here for a neat picture from Haverfield, a company that installs the markers: Aerial marker.

Predictive Dialer

I wonder if you can explain something for me. Every once in a while when I answer my telephone at home, I hear dead air for a second or two after I say "hello." Then a sales person or interviewer comes on and starts talking. What is that? - Dale


Dale: That’s a computer system known as a "predictive dialer." The computer dials your number and waits for a person to answer. When the computer detects a voice or noise, it passes your call to an available telemarketer or researcher—that’s the cause for the few second wait.

Prescription Letters

Doc:  I went to the doctor today and got a prescription.  I went to the pharmacy to get the prescription filled and brought it home.  I looked on the label, and it has the initials QID on it.  It says, "Take QID."  What's that all about?.   - Anonymous


Anon: As you probably know, I have a Ph.D. not an M.D., but understanding the acronyms on prescription labels really doesn't require an M.D. degree.


For some reason, I don't think you're telling me all the information on the label for your recently acquired prescription.  I don't think a pharmacy would put QID on the label without an explanation.  However, you may be correct and the pharmacist (or assistant) messed up.


QID stands for "take four times each day."  For other prescription abbreviations, click here.


Advice . . . If you visit a doctor and get a prescription for any type of medication or drug, make sure you ask the doctor what you should do with it.  That is, ask the doctor when to take the medication/drug, how to take it (water, food, etc.), and any if there any possible interactions with other drugs/medications you may be taking.


If you forget to ask the doctor, for whatever reason, then ask the pharmacist when you have your prescription filled.  Don't ever get a prescription for anything without knowing how to take or use the medication/drug.  Listen to me now and believe me later.

Presidential Candidates - Issues

Is there a good (unbiased) source to find out where each presidential candidate stands on the major issues? - Jay


Jay:  One good source (although “bias” is in the eye/ear of the beholder) is:   Issues.  If that isn’t what you want, do an Internet search for "presidential candidates" issues.

Presidential Election

Since the presidential election is a major topic of discussion, I would like to have a summary of past elections.  I looked on the Internet, but I’m obviously not entering the correct words in the search.  Do you know of a good website for presidential election information? - Anonymous


Anon:  There are several websites for this information.  One of the best is InfoPlease, but if you don’t like that source, here is a search with several other options.

The Price Is Right

Yo Doc!  Watching “The Price is Right” made me think of two questions:


1.  Is it really a random choosing of contestants?  Sometimes Bob talks about them as if he ahs talked to them during commercial break.


2.  How do the editors of the show do such a good job keeping the total running time the same each show?  It seems that some contestants that take a long time to do stuff and you would think that the actual games sometimes take a long time to play.


Bob Barker rocks, as do you, please tell your wife.  Thanks! - Anonymous


Anon:  I’m in the “you rock” category with Bob Barker?  Now that’s something my wife MUST know.  I will alert her immediately.  On to your question…


Several years ago, my good friend, Jhani Kaye (KRTH in LA), introduced me to Rod Roddy (one of Jhani’s best friends).  Anyway, Rod invited us to a taping of The Price is Right a few years ago and that’s how I know the answers to your questions.  (Rod Roddy died in October 2003.)


First, yes the contestants are selected at random.  People arrive at the studio hours before a taping to try to get into the audience.  Personnel from the show watch these people and randomly select individuals who show a special enthusiasm, or are wearing a unique costume, or demonstrate some other unique trait.  Bob Barker never meets the contestants and usually doesn’t talk to them once the taping begins.


In reference to controlling running time…The Price Is Right has been on TV for more than 30 years.  Naturally, everyone involved in the show knows exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.  At the taping I saw, there were no glitches…Bob Barker came on stage, did the show, and left.  Nothing too complicated.


However, if something does go wrong with timing, it is controlled in editing—the show you see today was taped 5 or 6 weeks ago.


For more information about the show, click here.


(By the way, Rod Roddy—his real name—was a great person and I’m proud to say that he was a good friend.)


A radio station in my market is having a contest that requires listeners to pick 5 numbers. Each of the 5 numbers is from 1 to 10. What are the odds of winning this contest? - Anonymous

Anon: The answer to your question uses a procedure known as the "Multiplication Rule of Probability," which means that the probability that a combination of independent events will occur is the product of the separate probabilities of the events.

In your example, the person must choose 5 numbers, each one being a number from 1 to 10. The probability of correctly selecting any of the 5 numbers is 1 in 10 (1/10)—or a 10% chance of being correct. But the listener must select 5 numbers, which means that in order to find the probability of getting them all correct, you need to multiply each of the individual odds: 1/10 * 1/10 * 1/10 * 1/10 * 1/10 or 1 in 100,000. That’s the answer: a person has a 1 in 100,000 chance of correctly selecting the 5 numbers.

Program Director - "A Great Program Director"

Dr Wimmer:  I read you every week on “All Access” and think you are amazing, I always pick up a good idea or two each time.


I hope you can help me locate an ad that ran in the trades years ago (pre-Internet).  It was a full page ad with the headline “A GREAT PROGRAM DIRECTOR.”  I have already used Google, Kartoo, Lycos, Teoma, and other search engines, but can find nothing.


I believe the ad ran in “R & R.”  I called them, but they have no record of it.  The ad was a big collection of sentences, where each began, “A great program director…”  It was a way cool programming philosophy and I also wanted to get your opinion on several of the issues covered but I need to find it first. 


Thank you Dr Wimmer for your help, if any one can locate this I am certain it is you.  Sincerely – KL


KL:  I’m glad you enjoy the column.  Thanks.  Yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about.  A friend of mine, David Martin, wrote the ad.  I contacted him and he sent an Adobe file of the ad so you can see it.  Just click here: Martin – Program Director.

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