Smartphone Tips & Tricks (Samsung Galaxy S2 Skyrocket)

Doc:  To start the New Year, I thought I would ask a different kind of question.  I’m not sure if you can answer this, but I thought I would ask anyway.  I have an Android smartphone and I’m always looking for new ways to use it.  I frequently search the Internet for “Tips & Tricks” and find many useful things, but I was wondering if you have anything new.  Do you?  (By the way, if you answer this question, I also have one about QR codes.  Any interest?)  - CK


CK Smartphones are amazing devices.  In fact, in the 10th Edition of the Mass Media Research text Joe Dominick and I are currently writing (published in late 2012), I added smartphones to our list of mass media.  Why are smartphones the newest mass medium?  I know you didn’t ask this, but allow me to explain anyway because it’s related to your question (I guess).


We define “mass media” as any form of communication that simultaneously reaches a large number of people, including but not limited to radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, billboards, films, recordings, books, the Internet, and cell phones.  We added cell phones to the mass media list because they are now almost universally used by all age and gender groups in several countries.  One person, one company, or one entity can now communicate simultaneously with hundreds of thousands or even millions of people via cell phones, particularly with text messages.  In addition, cell phones, specifically smartphones, now unite all other mass media into a single handheld source.  Because of this, we classify the smartphone as a “smart mass medium” because it not only can function as a mass medium, but it also allows users to have simultaneous access to all other mass media.  (We also categorize TV as a smart mass medium and discuss that in our new edition.)


End of lesson and on to your question . . .


Tips and tricks for smartphones, eh?  You mention that you search the Internet for the information, but there may be some readers who don’t know this information is available.  If you are one of those people, here is a search for tips and tricks for Android smartphones, and here is a link for iPhone 4 smartphones.  You can also search for tips and tricks for your specific phone – just replace “Android” or “iPhone” in one of the searches.


Do I know any new tips or tricks for Android smartphones?  I have an Android phone I bought about a month ago, the Samsung Galaxy 2s Skyrocket.


Like you, I have been searching for different ways to use the phone and came up with a question about shortly after I bought the phone.  The Skyrocket has 16GB internal memory and I also have a 16GB micro SDHC card in it.  Now, I assume that many people would say that 32GBs of storage is enough for a cell phone, but since I can access files on the SDHC card through the Files icon on the phone, I wondered if I could insert an external drive (flash drive) into the micro USB port at the bottom of the phone that is used to charge the phone and connect to my desktop to transfer files.  Why not?


That was my question...Can I plug a flash drive into the micro USB port on my phone and access files on that drive?  I went to several stores and asked if it were possible, including the AT&T store where I bought the phone.  Not one person said “yes,” because they said there wasn’t an adapter available that would go from a regular USB to a micro USB.  (The adapter needed to be a female USB to a male micro USB.)  The tech geeks also said that even if I did find such an adapter, my phone probably wouldn’t recognize the flash drive.  Hmm . . . challenge accepted.


I looked all over in stores and on the Internet for the adapter and had no luck anywhere.  After a few days, I went back to eBay and guess what?  Three different sellers had the item!  What?  I went from “the adapter doesn’t exist” to three sellers with the adapter in just a matter of a few days?  Amazing.  I bought a few of the adapters.  One-half of the challenge completed.


The adapters arrived in a few days and I immediately plugged one into my Skyrocket and then inserted a 32GB flash drive into the adapter.  Guess what again?  It worked!  Through the “Files” icon on my phone, I can access the flash drive.  But I wanted to make sure that it would recognize all types of files, so I loaded Word files, Excel files, PDF files, MP3 files, movies, videos, and every other type of file I could think of on the flash.  The phone recognized everything.  I literally can put all the information on my desktop and two netbooks on flash drives and access the information on my smartphone.  Second half of challenge completed.


More stuff . . . The flash drives I had when I first received the adapters from eBay were typical sizes...about two inches long.  The USB adapter is also about two inches long and I thought a four inch flash drive/adapter was a bit too long.  I looked around and found the Sandisk Fit.  If you click on that link, you’ll see a photo that compares the drive to a U.S. dime.  16GB on the size of a dime.  Give me a break.  I bought a 16GB Sandisk Fit for about $25 at a local tech store.


And here is what it all looks like . . .


The adapter is on the left; Sandisk Fit on the right . . .




Sandisk Fit inserted into adapter . . . about 2” total length . . .




Attached to my Skyrocket . . .



So, that’s my “tip and trick” for you.  If you want more storage space for your phone, you may be able to do what I did and attach a flash drive for external storage.


I obviously connect the flash drive when only I need information from it.  I don’t leave it plugged in all the time.  It’s very handy for me if I’m away from my computers because virtually all the information I need is stored on two Sandisk Fit drives I keep in my pocket.  When I’m away from my computers I have access to thousands of data files, thousands of songs, thousands of photos, a few movies, and all the research files I may need for a study I am conducting.  It’s great.


Finally, I mentioned that I was originally told that my idea wouldn’t work.  The salespeople at the AT&T store said that Samsung sales materials didn’t have any information about inserting a flash drive into the phone.  After I demonstrated that my idea worked, they said they were going to contact Samsung and let them know about this new trick for the Skyrocket.  Cool.  My commission?  Zero. 


Have a good time with your smartphone and you can now send me your question about QR Codes.


Addendum written a few days later . . .


To Readers:  I sent this question and my answer to my twin brother and a few hours later he called and said that he found information about the external drive on a website.  When I looked initially, this source never emerged.  I’ll always accept help from anyone.


This article gives a brief, but excellent, explanation of “USB-on-the-Go” . . . click here.  Another good explanation is here.  For more information about “USB-on-the-Go,” click on this search.


Then, after further searching on the Internet, I found a few videos on YouTube that show the USB process – here is one, and I found products on eBay that allow for the external USB hookup, such as these.  (If those links are no longer valid, search YouTube for "usb OTG," and search eBay for "usb micro converter."


This is a classic example, demonstrated by me, of not asking the right questions and not conducting the correct searches on the Internet.  It’s too bad that none of the sales people at the cell phone stores new about this and it’s too bad I didn’t know about this information before I spent all the time conducting my experiments.  But that’s the way it goes.  I discovered something that was already there.


Smartphone Touchscreen Doesn’t Work

Doc: I hope you aren’t tired of answering questions about cell phones because I have another one. For Christmas, I received a smartphone that has a touchscreen. I have never had one before and it worked great until yesterday. I wonder if you know why.

Here is the problem: I can scroll horizontally and vertically with my index finger, but when I try to zoom in or out with my thumb and index finger (opening or closing motion), nothing happens. However, that only happens with my right hand. It works fine with my left hand. Is there something wrong with my hand, or what? I didn’t drop the phone on the floor or ground and also didn’t drop it into water. Should I take the phone back to the store? Please help. - Steve

Steve: As we agreed, I would provide an explanation for the readers so they know what we did to answer your question.

To all readers: Fortunately, Steve included his email address in his original question and I was able to write to him to ask a few questions.

Email 1: In my first email, I told Steve that the best thing for him to do was cut off his thumb and just use his index and middle fingers on his right hand, but he didn’t think that was a good idea. I also asked him if he was sure that he wasn't accidentally given a left-handed cell phone, but he figured out that I was teasing.

But I also I asked him if there was anything different with his thumb from when he was able to zoom in an out. I said, “The problem is not with your phone because the zoom function works with your index finger and thumb on your left hand. You had to do something to the thumb on your right hand.”

Steve wrote back and said nothing was different with his thumb. Hmm.

Email 2: I wrote back and said, “I don’t believe you. You had to do something. Think about it. Better yet, look at your thumb. What’s new or different?” He wrote back and said, “No, really. I swear there is nothing different.”


Email 3: I said, "Steve, don’t make me come out there. No, wait, don’t make me send my buddy Guido out there because he WILL do something to your thumb that will, how can I say this, not be pretty. Look at your thumb! There is something different now than when it worked for scrolling on your phone.”

Steve answered, “Wait! You are correct! I cut my thumb yesterday when I was working on my car. I now have a bandage on my thumb. Sorry about that. I forgot about the bandage.”

Before I get to email #4, can you figure out why Steve couldn’t zoom in or out on his phone with his right hand?

Waiting....Aliens? Bad Karma? Too much shellfish? OK, enough waiting.

Email 4: I wrote back and said this:

"Steve: You forgot about the bandage? Well, OK, then. On to your answer . . .

Most cell phones that have touchscreens use a technology called capacitive sensing that uses a person’s body as a conductor. The bandage on your thumb is not a conductor and, therefore, is “blocking” your body’s conductivity. In other words, as long as you have the bandage on your thumb (or a cloth, glove, or other non-conductive material), you will not be able to use it to scroll or zoom on your phone. If you don’t believe me, take off the bandage and zoom away."

Steve wrote back and said, “I took off the bandage and guess what? IT WORKS! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! Thanks a lot.”

End of story, but if you want more information about capacitive sensing, click here.

Smoking & Self Awareness

Hey, Doc.  I really enjoy your column.  I learn something new every day.  Two questions for you, and I’m interested in your answers.


1.  Does smoking cigarettes deepen your voice?  I don’t smoke, but friends of mine who do, report that their voices are temporarily “deeper” after they puff on their cancer sticks (as I like to call them).  Any truth to this?


2.  I was once told that I’m “not cursed with self-awareness.”  Since you have a doctorate, I thought you’d be a wise choice for answering that question, because I have no idea what the person who made that comment, meant.


As always, love your column and can’t wait to read your answers. - Anonymous


Anon:  I’m glad you enjoy the column.  I learn things almost every day too, so we’re in the same boat as the saying goes.  On to your questions.

  1. Yes, smoking deepens a person’s voice.  Probably a better way to say it is that smoking screws up a person’s voice (decreases voice quality, promotes laryngitis, and all sorts of “neat” negative things).  This is well documented in any review on the adverse of affects of smoking.  If you would like to read more about it, do a search for smoking affect voice on the Internet.

  2. ”The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.”  This frequently quoted line comes from the Annie Savoy character in the film, Bull Durham.  What does it mean?  I’m sure you could find many explanations, but here is mine:

  3. As human beings, we are blessed or cursed (depending on how you perceive it) with the ability to think about everything we do—where we “fit” at home, work, and in the universe, the consequences of our actions, how we behave and react toward others, our social status, how we can change ourselves and our environment, and more.  The people who worry about all these things are those who are “cursed with self-awareness.”  These people think about everything they do and are constantly worried about what others think (“I’m not going to dance to disco songs because I’ll look like a nerd.”)

  4. On the other hand, there are people who aren’t “cursed by self-awareness” and don’t spend a lot of time (if any) worrying about everything they do.  They accept life for what it is at the moment and pursue only those things they really need; they are spontaneous; they may be called “free spirits” or “easy-going.”

I think a good way to differentiate the two groups is this:  People who are cursed with self-awareness take themselves too seriously; people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness do not.  It’s OK to take things seriously, but the problem is when people take themselves too seriously.  (Dance as if you’re the only one in the room.)


Social Media & Radio

Hello, Doctor!  First time around. I hope to learn much from you and your visitors.  Here is my question: I see many people talking about the importance of social media, especially about Twitter.  Indeed, it is a great tool for interacting with our listeners, but sometimes I think many people over-estimate its figures.  I hear them saying that “many people” responded to a determined topic, but when you go and see, there are only 20 or 50 messages, maybe a hundred.  I also have seen people that feel bad because of one or two comments about their show, and then they start making changes and worrying all the time because of that.  Having in mind that in a determined moment you can have thousands of listeners listening to your show, that you don't know who they are or what are their intentions, and that they may even be of a different target, don't you think the same?  Thanks in advance for your thoughts.  Best regards - Maria

Welcome to the column.  On to your question . . .


If you’re asking if anyone at radio station should make decisions about programming or anything related to the radio station based on comments made on any of the social media, the answer is “No.”  As you indicated, there is no way to know where the messages originated or who actually wrote the note.  For all anyone knows, all of the comments about a radio show (or anything else about the radio station) could be made by people who work for competing radio stations in the market.


Unless the respondents are verified and screened, the comments made on social media about radio or any other topic are virtually useless.


Social Security Form

Doc:  I'm writing to you because you said you would try to answer any question.  I hope you can answer this one.  I won't go into all the details, but I need Form 7028 from the Social Security Administration.  I called them and they said the form is available on their website (SSA).  It isn't there.  I called back and they said they couldn't send the form to me.  They said I have to go to a local Social Security office to get the form.  I don't have a lot of time to do such things, so do you know of any place where I could get the form?  I know this is a crazy question, but you could really save me a lot of time and agony. - Anonymous


Anon: I did check the Social Security website and you are correct in saying that the form isn't available there.  The statement about Form 7028 says:


Employers and other third parties (e.g., banks, military recruiters) often need to know the Social Security number assigned to an individual. Form SSA-7028 (Notification of SSN to Third Party) is used for this purpose. The form is completed by the local office where you have applied for your Social Security number and is sent to the third party. We do not have the form online as it is only used by Social Security offices and is not intended for public use.


It's interesting that they told you it was available on their website.  Anyway, after a little looking on the Internet, I found it in a PDF document.  Click on this link and you'll see the form as the last page in the document—Form 7028.

Soft Water

Doc:  Where I live we have very soft water.  For the most part it's a plus.  But, when one is in the shower using bar soap, even though the soap has rinsed, it doesn't feel like it.  It almost seems like there's a film of soap still remaining on one's body.  First of all, because you're so close to the mountains, does the Denver area have soft water?  Two, are there special soaps made for soft water locales?  It's pretty minor to me, but still, it'd be nice not to feel like there's a film of soap still on my body.  PS: This only applies with bar soap; liquid soap rinses off completely.  All my best. - Soft Water Man


Soft Water Man:  Do we have soft water in the Denver area?  We sure do!  The cattle no longer roam around the streets, and we have cars, computers, microwaves, and all sorts of neat stuff.  (Sorry, I just had to say that.)  On to your questions . . .


If you read articles on the Internet about the differences between soft and hard water, you'll see that your complaint about feeling a "film" (some people say it feels "slimy") on your body is actually a good thing, not a bad thing.


You may not take my word for it, so here are a few comments about your "film" complaint [edited by me]:


One reason you may feel "slimy" is that when soap and mineral scum are absent [when using soft water], your natural body oils make your skin feel oilier, which some people interpret as being slimy.


When the hardness minerals are removed during the water softening process, soap no longer forms a soap curd, or "bathtub ring" on your skin, plugging your pores, or clinging to hair. You are now truly clean. That slick, slimy feeling you feel is your natural body oils—without the soap scum.  The old saying that you get "squeaky-clean" is a myth—the soap scum on your skin causes that feeling.


The "slimy" feeling when using soft water is actually a good thing!  When you have hard water, it does not lather well and it actually smears and closes up the pours in your skin.  But when you have soft water, soap lathers well and actually opens your pores and your body oils come out—this is the "slimy" feeling.  Actually, it is much healthier to have soft water because you will actually get cleaner by opening your pores."


OK, now that you have read those statements, I think you may now know why your liquid soap "rinses off completely," and your bar soap does not.  The liquid soap you are using is leaving a film on your body that you interpret as "clean," but it's not.  Try a different liquid soap and you'll have the same film as bar soap (which is good).


Finally, you ask if there are special soaps for soft water areas.  Once again, you should now know why you feel a "film" on your skin, so you should use a soap that does that.  If you feel "squeaky clean" as mentioned above, you're using the wrong type of soap.


Solitaire (Card Game) Question

Doc: I like to play solitaire on my computer and phone and every so often I win a game very quickly – probably in about a minute or so. When that happens, I wonder what the chances are of getting that same hand dealt to me. Any ideas? - JD

JD: The simple answer to your question is: Not very likely. Here is a longer answer . . .

To compute the odds of dealing the same hand in solitaire or any other card game that uses a full deck of 52 cards, you need to use a mathematical operation called a factorial, which is designated as n!, where “n” is a number (integer) followed by an exclamation point.  Factorials are used in many math and statistics operations, but one use of factorial is to provide the number of possible displays of a data set, or group/list of items.

For example, let’s say you have three playing cards – Ace, 2, and 3.  How many different ways can those three cards be displayed (dealt)? The formula for 3! (“three factorial”) is 3 x 2 x 1, or 6.  Here are the six ways the three cards can be dealt:

A 2 3
A 3 2
2 A 3
2 3 A
3 A 2
3 2 A

Got it?  A factorial is the product of all positive integers less than or equal to n.  So, if you had five playing cards, the number of different displays, or ways the cards could be dealt is 5! (“five factorial”), which is 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1, or 120.

The factorials for 3 and 5 are relatively small, but now let’s consider a full deck of 52 cards.  The formula for 52 factorial is 52 x 51 x 50 x 49 . . . etc. . . . x 1, and that product is (No, I’m not kidding):


That number is: 80 unvigintillion, 658 vigintillion, 175 novemdecillion, 170 octodecillion, 943 septendecillion, 878 sexdecillion, 571 quindecillion, 660 quattuordecillion, 636 tredecillion, 856 duodecillion, 403 undecillion, 766 decillion, 975 nonillion, 289 octillion, 505 septillion, 440 sextillion, 883 quintillion, 277 quadrillion, 824 trillion.

So, your chance of dealing the same hand in solitaire (or any other card game) is ONE in that huge number . . . one in 80.658 unvigintillion.  Not impossible, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever see the same hand again.  In fact, playing cards were invented in China during the 9th century, and all the hands ever dealt for every card game ever played by the world’s population would not approach this number…and never will.

It’s easy to find a factorial on the Internet. Just go to a search engine and type in, for example, 52! or 52 factorial.  The problem is that you’ll get the number in scientific notation. Google and Bing show 52! (“52 factorial”) as 8.0658175e+67.  That’s boring.  To get all the numbers, you can go to one of several factorial calculators.  Some of them require that you select the “Full Integer” option to see all the numbers.


However, the best option is to use Wolfram Alpha. Look at the information provided when you search for 52! – click here.

Song Burn

What's up Doc? How about this: At what point should we start to worry about the ‘burn' of a particular record? Let's keep this out of the realm of ‘gut' instinct and just worry about the math. Is 20% too high a burn score? Is there a correlation between the decrease in ‘Like a lot' and an increase in the ‘burn' percentage of that same song? Doesn't a 20% burn mean that 80% aren't "burned out" by the song yet? Just wondering. - Dave

Dave: The reason you will never hear Regis Philbin ask this question is that there is no correct answer. You say to worry about math, not gut feelings. OK, I will, and I'll just use your reversal of the burn percentage . . . If a song has a 20% burn, that means that 80% are not burned. I think the "math" shows that 80% is substantially larger than 20%. What about a 30% burn?

Where do YOU place the "cut" line? I cannot think of a statistical method that would provide a foolproof answer. The only thing I can do is ask a question. Assume that a song has a 30% burn. That means that 70% aren't burned. Is it a bad decision to play a song that 70% of the people want to hear? In other words, you have a 70 share. Would Ford, Coors, Zenith, or any other company be happy or unhappy with a 70 share? You decide.

You also squeaked in a question about the correlation between a decrease in "Like a lot" scores and an increase in burn percentages. You owe me an Iced tea for this and I expect payment if we ever meet. However, I pursued the question because I found it very interesting. I admit that I never really thought about it enough to take a close look. But here is what I found after conducting many, as in many, correlations in the past few days:

There is a curvilinear relationship between song ratings and burn. That is, there is a negative correlation between low ratings and burn, and a positive correlation between high ratings and burn. However, considering the Total score, the range of Pearson Product Moment Correlations is +.50 to +.55. In other words, as the total song score (and consequently the percentage of "Like a lot" ratings) goes up, so does burn percentage. Keep in mind that the correlation is only moderate. However, it's just the opposite of what you thought—that's why opinions should be checked once in a while.

Song Categories

Can you give a beginner a run down of the most commonly used song categories and a description of them? (Heavy Current, Power Recurrent, Gold, Power Gold, etc.). - Anonymous


Anon: I asked my friend Jhani Kaye (KBIG and KOST in L.A.) to answer your question. Here is what he said:


Typically, currents are divided into 2 or 3 categories. The hottest testing songs are usually given "A" status. There are fewer songs in this category than say, the "B" category, insuring that these popular songs rotate more often. (Depending upon the format, As will rotate as quickly as 90 minutes to about to 4½ hours.)


Bs would be a secondary category of currents with a 6+ hour rotation. Some programmers include songs coming up the chart and songs falling out of A status in this B category. Still other programmers will have a very light "C" category for currents that play only occasionally.


Regarding Gold . . . Many programmers like to divide their Gold into Eras. For instance, there may be a division between ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000+ product. Much like the currents, each era can have songs that are more popular than the others, so some stations actually divide each Era into two categories: a Power Gold ‘80s (for example) and a Regular Gold ‘80s.

Songs – Changes in Ratings

I heard a song on the radio the other day that I always hated when it was new.  From the time it was new and through it’s cycle up and down the charts, I never liked it.  Then I didn’t hear it for a year or two.  When I heard it the other day, for some odd reason, I didn’t mind it.  In fact, I slightly enjoyed it.  Why?  And, have you ever seen that happen in your research?


If so, I’m getting some ideas to freshen up my station’s recurrents and gold!  (After tests of course.) - Anonymous

Anon:  You raise an interesting question that I have discussed over the years, but it’s something that most people (PDs, etc.) don’t pay much attention to.  However, from 20+ years of music tests and talking with listeners, here is what I know about your question.

Most people tend to prefer the music that was popular during the “formative” years—usually the teens and maybe even early 20s.  Whatever that music happens to be is their “foundation” and they like to listen to these songs most often.  However, most people also like songs from other formats (genres) that relate in some way to the favorite “formative” music.  For example, a person may prefer Classic Rock from the 70s, but may also like a few Country songs because they “fit” the sound or feel of Classic Rock.  (There are also many people who like a wide variety of music and the songs do not have to relate to each other in any way.)


However, as you seem to have experienced, some people tend to change their music tastes slightly (or maybe even dramatically) over time.  A song or type of music that was disliked earlier in life now becomes well liked.  For example, younger people may dislike romantic songs (ballads), but find that these songs “become better” as they grow older.  The “jump in the bathtub and slit your wrists love songs” that were hated at age 21 become relevant and liked as the person grows older.


From what I have seen, most of the changes in music likes and dislikes relate to changes in life (growing older) and lifestyle.  You didn’t mention the name of the song that you once hated and now like, but my guess is that the lyrics or music are now relevant to you—you “grew into” the song.  Once again, my experience indicates that this isn’t unique.


Although we know a lot about listeners’ music likes and dislikes, there is a lot we don’t know.  And one of the things we don’t know a lot about is the example you provide.  How many people “grow into” songs?  Are there certain formats where this is more prevalent?  Are there certain types of songs where this happens more often?  Are there certain artists that become more popular as a listener grows older?  Why exactly do people switch from hating a song to liking a song?


I think it would be easy to investigate these questions.  The only thing needed is someone (like you) who wants the answers.

Song Cover Bands

Hello.  I'm getting ready to do a one-hour show every Wednesday of today’s modern rock bands doing cover songs and I need help on find who did what.  Thanks. - Doyle


Doyle:  Hello to you too.  Here are two sites that should get you started: Audio Street and All Music.  When you get there, enter the title of a song and you can see all the bands that have performed it.


If those sites don’t provide enough information, I set up two searches for you: Cover Search One and Cover Search Two.

Song Debut (Country Music)

Nashville Star Season 2 winner Brad Cotter’s song "I Meant To" is the highest debuting song on Billboard since January 1990.  Many sources have said this same thing or a variation of that.  One thing they don’t say is who is the highest debuting artist.  It would be nice to put it in perspective.


Can you help me?  I'd hate to have to buy a Billboard book for this.  Help us Obi Wimmer Kenobi.  You're our only hope. - Josh


Josh:  Obi Wimmer Kenobi?  Geez.   I made the assumption that you’re asking about the highest debuting Country song, so I sent your question to Wade Jessen, Director of Country, Christian, Gospel & Bluegrass Charts at Billboard.  I’d like to thank Wade for his help.  He said:


Brad Cotter's single established a new record for the highest entry by a new artist's debut single (No. 42) since we adopted Nielsen BDS for our charts in January 1990.  The prior record was set by first season “Nashville Star” winner Buddy Jewell, when his “Help Pour Out the Rain (Lacey's Song)” entered at No. 44 in the May 24, 2003 Billboard.


The highest debut for any artist in the BDS era was a No. 19 start for Garth Brooks' "The Thunder Rolls" in the May 18, 1991 issue.

Song Era Conversion

Hi Doc.  I’m trying to come up with an average year for a hour of music.  One station plays more current music than the other does.  Station A plays 16 songs in the hour while station B plays 14.  I added the year for each song from station A, and did the same for station B.  A’s total was 31958.  B’s total was 27954.  How can I make a comparison when one station plays two songs less per hour?  I hope I’m clear.  If not, let me know and I’ll refocus. - Anonymous

Anon:  No, you don’t need to refocus.  Your question is clear.  The problem is that you’re approaching the problem in an awkward way because sometimes the average of a set of numbers may not mean anything.  Let me explain with two examples.


Example 1: Assume that Station A, which plays 16 songs per hour in your example, plays 8 songs from 1987 and 8 songs from 2002 (that’s a 16-year spread).  If you simply add the years together and compute the average, it comes to 1994.  What does that mean?  The radio station doesn’t play any songs from 1994 and, therefore, the average year is misleading.


Example 2: Assume that Station A’s 16 songs consist of one song each from each year 1987 to 2002.  Again, the average year is 1994.  What does that mean other than it’s in the middle of the 16 years?  You might think that Station A’s music is focused on or around 1994, but that’s not true.


It would be more meaningful to use percentages.  In the first example, you would say that 50% of the songs are from 1987 and 50% are from 2002.  Now we know more about the era of songs and this is more meaningful than an “average year of 1994.”  In the second example, each year accounts for 6.25% of the total, showing that there is no concentration on a specific year—there is an equal representation of songs from 1987 to 2002.


Now, with all that said, here’s the answer to your question…


You need to divide Station A’s total by 16, and divide Station B’s total by 14.  If you do that, you’ll find these averages:


Station A: (31958/16) = 1997.37

Station B: (27954/14) = 1996.71


I’m not really sure what that means.  You could say that Station A leans somewhat more current, but that might not be true.  You need to look at the data.

Song Repetition Complaints

How can I know for sure if I'm playing songs on my radio station too often? I realize that occasional song repetition complaints probably mean I'm doing something right. However, is there solid, scientific way to know if songs are truly being played too often? Thanks for the advice. - Anonymous


Anon: Yes, there is a scientific way to find out if your songs are being played too often, but there isn't anyone who is willing to pay for the research. Instead, we resort to gathering research indications by asking listeners questions like, "Which radio station, if any, repeats songs too often?"


The most significant problem with understanding listener complaints about repetition is that there is a tremendous lack of information about repetition. For example,

The main problem in understanding repetition is that there isn't (that I know of) a universally accepted operational definition of repetition. (An operational definition assigns meaning to a concept by specifying observable phenomena that represent the idea; a definition that can be quantified or measured.) We need a universally accepted definition of "repetition."  That is, exactly what does repetition mean?  Does it relate to the number of spins or something else? We need this definition in order to investigate repetition. Simply counting the number of listeners who say that the radio station "repeats songs too often" is too vague. What does "too often" mean?


While a scientific study to investigate repetition would be easy to conduct, the study would involve time and money. And that won't happen in the radio industry because there isn't anyone who would be willing to pay for the research.  This shouldn't surprise you or anyone else since most decisions in radio are made based on "it seems like" logic.


In the meantime, the best that you can do is to try to get a better understanding of repetition by talking to your listeners. Ask detailed questions when they complain about repetition. What do they mean? Which songs are repeated too often? And so on.


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