June 2009 Archives

INACTION, REWARDED

It seems like the less I write here at this site, the more popular it gets. I swear, the numbers are going up and I'm half-assing it here lately. I've been lacking in the time to do more and I've just not been in the mood. My apologies all around.

But I'm getting some time off coming up, and I'm valiantly trying to keep my head in the game. It's been hard, because I've been having to take care of a lot of personal stuff that not only has taken up a lot of time, but has served as a distraction on a daily basis. It's easier to post 140 characters or less on Twitter/Facebook.

I will, however, continue to post here. In fact, as soon as time permits, there'll be more, shall we say, multimedia. So you have that to look forward to. Almost had something today, but staring blankly at the computer... er, working diligently at writing my columns left too little time. Anyway, I'm not abandoning the site, although at this rate, if I did, the numbers would REALLY go up.

HUMAN TOUCH

It never ceases to amaze me how I can manage to get through an entire day without talking to anyone in person but Fran and the cat.

I am shy by nature, but not a hermit. I don't dread social contact. I'm friendly to the cashiers at Ralphs, I like to see friends, but... but... well, on a day like this, I feel like I'm hiding in plain sight.

It's not like I don't leave the house, either. Let's see: I got up and worked in the home office for several hours. I went for a run/plod, on which I nodded hello to a couple of other runners but said nothing. I came back, showered, worked for more hours, ate lunch with Fran, worked, drove to the YMCA, worked out -- okay, I said five words to the guy at the counter, "towel and token... thank you" -- said nothing to anyone at the gym, got back into the car, stopped at the post office, said nothing, came home, showered, worked, ate... that's it. I did take some phone calls, but nothing face to face. And now, I'm here at the end of the day and if not for my wife and Ella the World's Most Famous Cat (who got the day off to a rousing start by puking up a pile of Fancy Feast), I'd have no contact with any sentient being all day.

Part of it is living at the edge of the earth. We are convenient to very little here, a condition we like -- unlike most of the Los Angeles area, it's quiet and peaceful and even the air is cleaner. Go south a half-block, and you're in the ocean. Go north a couple of blocks, you're facing a tall mini-mountain. You can drive to civilization, but the incentive to do so is limited, especially when one, like myself, has to get up at 3 am.

I COULD make friends around here, but I haven't identified how to do that very efficiently yet. Life here seems to have stratified into two classes, the parent class and the retiree class. We don't have kids, so we're not part of the school society. And we're not retired, so that doesn't work. We're not "society," either, which seems to be the basis for many of the local civic groups that get their functions pictured in the back of Peninsula People. And while I'm very peripherally "show biz," this is decidedly NOT a show biz area, which was a major selling point for us to move here but which does have its drawbacks, mostly involving trying to explain to people what I do for a living. My primary identity here is as "that guy who runs all the time," because my schedule has me on the road at a particular time of the morning where people can wonder "what the hell could that guy do that allows him to do that NOW?" I do have conversations with some of the neighbors sometimes, and they're very nice people, but my interaction with them wholly depends on both of us happening to be outside at the same moment.

I told you I'm no good at this.

One of these days, I'm going to make a concerted effort to meet more people in the community and truly become part of the fabric of the city. I'm going to make more local friends and become more social. By then, of course, it'll be as a member of AARP and the Peninsula Seniors, because it ain't happening any time soon. I got work to do. Indoors, at home.

SUNDAY MISCELLANY

More random thoughts:

Maybe the Phillies are snapping out of the funk. Even Lidge managed to get out of Sunday's game with a save, and Moyer won his second straight. The sun's shining.

Sorry to hear about Billy Mays, and Gale Storm. And Jacko, Sky Saxon, Farrah, Ed, and whoever else has or is about to pass on. I could use a break from all this death stuff, though.

It got hot in the L.A. area. But it's not that hot here by the ocean, where the marine layer keeps things reasonable. Nature's air conditioner. Love it.

Still haven't decided whether to go down to San Diego for Padres-Dodgers on my birthday next Sunday. Even with Manny on hand. Still thinking meh.

Caved and pre-ordered the Windows 7 upgrade. Figured at worst that I'll be able to play with it a little, and at best it'll breathe a couple more years of life into the six year old Dell desktop. Although I'm working more and more on the MacBook Pro now. It's just better. I'm pissed off that the Win7 upgrade doesn't apply to Win7 Release Candidate (which is what I run in VMWare Fusion on the Mac), but you can't have everything, and I don't really use WIn7 much on the Mac, anyway. Next: Do I finally upgrade iLife to '09 for iMovie's shaky-cam reduction?

One week until time off...

EVERY DAY SHOULD BE SATURDAY

Yeah, well, it's Saturday and I'm just tired again. Got two workouts in, worked some, ran some errands. Shot a little video over at the Terranea resort, but I'm too lazy to dump it into the computer and edit, so maybe tomorrow. Or not. I'd rather just go into the other room and watch TV for a while.

So I will.

UPDATE: In my e-mail box, a message with this subject line:

E! Breaking News: Kendra Wilkinson Married

When the marriage of Kendra Wilkinson and Hank Freakin' Baskett is "Breaking News," we have descended to a new low.

JACKO: NAAN BETTER

I'm not sure when everyone else reached Michael Jackson overload. I did sometime yesterday evening, but due to, well, my job, I had to plow through more Jacko all day today. And there was Jacko in abundance on every news program on TV, national and local. Facebook, Twitter, everywhere I looked, Jacko.

And I wondered when it would be safe to admit that I never really liked his music, couldn't stand the videos, never bought into the whole gloved-one persona. Some others have unloaded on the guy already. I can't do that, even though I didn't like his music and was completely creeped out by, well, you know. And that's because, despite it all, he did mean a lot to a lot of people. There's no point to peeing in the punchbowl right now. Let the mourners mourn.

Meanwhile, enjoy Bollywood Thriller:

This week's All Access newsletter is about being prepared when a big story breaks, like... um... hmm... I can't think of any examples lately:

Where were you when you heard Elvis died? Or Princess Diana? For a lot of people of a certain age, Thursday was one of those days. But for Michael Jackson's death, radio and television weren't the primary way a lot of people got the news. In fact, TMZ.com had the story before everyone, and was out there on a limb alone for a while before other news organizations confirmed it. A few observations about that:

1. Practically everyone was careful to note that until there was confirmation from a more trusted source, like an established news organization, one shouldn't assume the news of Jackson's death to be true. That says a lot about the value of an "old media" news brand, even in the new media era. (And the trustworthiness of sites perceived as "real news" versus "gossip sites," but that's another topic)

2. Nevertheless, the first place a lot of people seemed to go this time was to the Internet. The exchanges on Facebook and Twitter were where news was being disseminated, and where conversations were being held.

That second point is something radio should be looking at. People have more choices on where to go for breaking news, and for a place to talk about and commiserate over events. And since that's the world you live in now, you have to answer this question:

When the news started breaking, and people were tuning in to your station to find out what was going on, did you have the information? Did they immediately get the latest?

If the answer was no... yeah, well, see, that's a problem.

The argument here isn't over whether the media overreacted to the news of Michael Jackson's death. It's about what your listeners want, expect, and need from you. With all the talk about wanting to reach people under the age of Medicare, this was a perfect example of a story that hit the sweet spot. People who were in high school when "Thriller" came out are in their mid- to upper-thirties today. To them, Michael Jackson was Elvis. He was iconic, whether they were big fans or just casual consumers. Add to that the controversy and just plain weirdness of his life in the intervening years, and you didn't have to be a radio genius to see that it was time to drop everything else and talk about this one for a while, whether you liked him or not.

In my informal talk radio scan of the local dial, many stations here did that. At least, by 3 pm Pacific, they did. A few stations stuck with syndicated hosts, one of whom was talking about health care proposals and the other of whom was railing about the president. But even the sports stations were on it for a little bit. It was that big.

Yet the fact that there were shows that DIDN'T go with the biggest story of the day -- a story guaranteed to make worldwide headlines -- troubled me. And the way some shows seemed a little uncertain of what to do with the story also didn't quite sit right. Everyone should have a plan for stuff like this. And here's that plan:

1. Huge news means bailing from "regular programming." If someone tunes into your station, they need to hear talk about that story immediately. Not after the next news, not in the next hour, but right away. If they don't hear that right away, they're gone. And, next time, chances are they won't turn to you.

2. Someone should be assigned to sit in front of a computer and just troll the Internet for information. They need to have Twitter Search, Facebook, Google Trends, and several browser tabs going at once. In fact, let's face it, in 2009, radio stations should have someone doing that 24/7. Even if it's an intern, there should be someone looking for news on a constant basis. You can't wait for the thing to move on the wires; your listeners hear about stuff from the Net way before that.

3. If you don't have a lot of material yet -- if, like in this case, the news is dribbling out without detail or in some cases confirmation -- go to the phones. When something like Michael Jackson's death happens, people are looking for someplace to just express themselves about it, whether it's grief or anger or indifference. They can do it on Facebook, but radio's still a contender in that category, because it's easier (not to mention safer) to call in while driving than to post a tweet behind the wheel, and the sound of people exchanging their thoughts about huge news is a strength of the radio medium. Use that.

Simple. So... is your station ready for the next huge story?

While you think about that, I'll take the opportunity to plug All Access News-Talk-Sports and the Talk Topics column, where you'll find material for any show from big stories like Michael Jackson and Iran to poop jokes. Eclectic, that's what we are. This week, the topics include the other huge celebrity death -- no, we do have Farrah, but that's not what... Ed? Got that too, but no, we... well, all right, I was talking about Sky Saxon, from The Seeds of "Pushing Too Hard" fame. Hey, you have your celebrities, I have mine. Plus, there's an apt political commentary from an incontinent monkey, some very bad mothers (shut your mouth!) (sorry, couldn't resist), Gov. Sanford's Argentinan odyssey, strip searches, pistachio recalls, North Korean threats, the landmark case of Kookaburra v. Down Under, a consideration of why Eddie Murphy keeps getting work in movies, the USA soccer upset win, the greatest toilet-related invention maybe ever, a DUI on a golf cart, a joyride on a steamroller, expensive knee surgery for a cat, a naked statue, the Naked Cowboy's controversial homecoming, cell phones for four-year-olds, and the best idea for a sports mascot yet. Wow. You'll also enjoy "10 Questions With..." Illinois-based regionally syndicated talker Michael Koolidge and the rest of All Access with the radio and music industry's best, most complete, most accurate coverage, columns, ratings, job listings, and lots more, all free.

Enjoy the weekend.

GOING, GOING, GONE... HOMER

No time tonight; it's late for me. Besides, there's nothing all that exciting to report. After yesterday's paperwork festival, today was more doing random chores like going to Costco for supplies and rooting through boxes of electronic junk in the garage to find stuff I could use. That's it.

Well, there IS the news of Irv Homer's passing, and that's kinda sad in that it's another name from talk radio past gone. Irv was maybe the most memorable host of the old WWDB lineup, back in the day when talk radio WAS local and even Rush Limbaugh had a hell of a time breaking onto the airwaves in many markets. Those days -- Irv Homer, Susan Bray, Dominic Quinn, Wynn Moore, Stan Major -- gone for good. It would be one thing if those stations continued with fresh blood, and for a while WWDB did do that, but it was killed off by meddling management with a taste for in-program infomercials and other corporate politics, and now Philly has practically no local weekday non-sports talk of any impact other than Dom Giordano on WPHT. (Smerconish is syndicated. There's nobody else) That Philadelphia, which back in the day was highly competitive for talk radio between WCAU and WWDB, now has a single major commercial talk station with a mostly syndicated lineup, is astonishing. But it's not surprising, considering how other cities are in similar shape. I'm glad I live in a market where there's still substantial local talk about local issues. Someone on FM ought to make a run at it in Philly, but I won't hold my breath.

BREAKING NEWS, WIKIPEDIA STYLE

Count on the folks who use and edit Wikipedia for class:

FIXED SQUIRREL!

After much tinkering, I finally figured out how to force the video -- "The Squirrel" -- to appear in its full widescreen downconverted 720p HD glory. It took several steps using two computers -- one Mac, one PC -- to get it to work, and there are still black bars at the sides, but I finally did it.

And that took up the rest of the evening. But it was instructive for what's coming. Again, I'm giving you plenty of warning.

EVEN SQUIRRELS HAVE FATHERS

For Father's Day, here's a special piece of video, a squirrel outside our kitchen window eating a lemon it pulled off a tree. Remember, it's art!:




Hope you had a happy Father's Day and plenty of citrus. Yes, I'm aware of the aspect ratio problem (video's 16:9, player can't do it without metadata, no metadata in the Flash file).

And, yes, this will always be a day to remember Dad. I will never stop missing him.

SAVE THE CHAIRLEADER

It wasn't what I set out to do today, but I ended up finally replacing my office chair. The old one -- it wasn't that old -- had seen better days, at least from my perspective. From the chair's perspective, assuming that it might be sentient, it was having a grand old time shredding my pants pockets with sharp edges on the armrests, exposed after the foam padding began to disintegrate. Maybe it was getting revenge for Ella the World's Most Famous Cat shredding the fabric on the back of the seat. But after several months of shedding little chunks of black rubber armrest all over the office, I had to admit that it was probably time to make a move and buy a new chair.

So we were in Office Depot to buy a memory card for another gadget I acquired today -- more on that coming up, so consider yourself warned -- and they had a reasonably comfortable chair for a reasonable price, and even though I know that Office Depot chairs aren't going to last all that long, I had to do SOMETHING about the incumbent. And that's when I decided, yeah, what the hell, it's cheaper than replacing my jeans every week.

Why am I telling you this? Because it's pretty much what I did today. That and work and pick up the other thing the fruit of which will be forthcoming to your everlasting horror. Or I could talk about Ryan Madson's ninth inning performance against the Orioles tonight. Okay, see, you don't want that.

TURN THE PAGE

I don't know that there's anything quite as dispiriting as going into a chain bookstore these days. We stopped in at the Borders in El Segundo, and like the one in Rolling Hills Estates, the atmosphere was... subdued. Almost depressing. The place is being revamped, but it seems like the same project as in Rolling Hills Estates -- spreading inventory so that it looks a little less empty. But it had that "going out of business" feel to it, even if they're not going out of business: empty shelves, a sad excuse for a magazine section, and plenty of floor space wide open.

Part of the depression is in realizing that going to bookstores has always been one of my favorite things to do, my go-to when there's nothing else to do. But whereas it was hard to walk out of a bookstore without an armful of books, these days I never buy anything there. They never seem to have what I'm looking for, but I can go online and order whatever I want, and fine plenty of books I didn't even know existed. The shopping experience used to be better in the store, but the stores are in such disarray and are so lacking in a wide selection of the kind of things I'm looking for, searching online is a lot more pleasant . Besides, they don't have enough comfortable chairs in the bookstores anymore, so I'd rather sit in front of the computer to do my shopping.

As for magazines, I don't buy those anymore, either. Well, not exactly true, because I still get trade publications and some of the regional magazines.but while looking at the selection tonight, it's obvious that whatever you're looking for is more likely to be here on the net then in any of the rapidly decreasing number of titles on the rack. Like newspapers, not only can you imagine a world without them, the number of people who are getting along just fine without them is growing by the minute. I will miss the tactile sensation of reading the printed page, and I'm not going to give up books, but I don't see much of a future for magazines . Other than impulse buys of gossip magazines, the market seems to be gone.

has someone who makes a living by writing, I'm not pleased to think this way. And I hope for my own sake that somebody figures out a way to monetize more web sites . But when a loyal customer decides he doesn't want to spend any more time than absolutely necessary in what used to be his favorite store, closing time can't be far away.

This week's All Access newsletter was ripped from the headlines!!!:

There was a lot of attention paid this week to the fact that news coverage of the Iranian protests was heavily dependent on Twitter posts directly from protesters themselves. It's pretty amazing, but some people see it as another nail in the coffin of "old media." Traditional news organizations couldn't get the information out in the same way, not with the government interfering, but people in the middle of the mob were able to get their observations, pictures, and video to the rest of the world using tools that didn't exist a few years ago. It was revolutionary in more than one way.

And it seemed to make traditional media obsolete. After all, if you really wanted to know what was going on up to the second, all you had to do was go on Twitter and do a simple search, and the information came at you like an avalanche. No need to wait.

Radio is, of course, perceived as "old media," but I think that radio in general and talk radio in particular have a role in the new media landscape, as long as we understand what that role is. If radio isn't any longer alone as the place to get the news first, there are things that radio can do that make it unique and able to remain viable and valuable. What are those things? Glad you asked:

1. Context. It's one thing to plow your way through hundreds of tweets describing and depicting breaking news, and it's another to make sense of it all. Twitter and Facebook and Google News dump a lot of information in front of users. You can filter the information, you can add your own perspective. You can help listeners understand what all that information means, and how the pieces relate to each other.

2. Aggregation. People are busy, and while some people can sit in front of their computers all day searching Twitter and going to hundreds of web sites to follow the big stories, most people just want the condensed version. Give them everything they need in one convenient package, one that they can listen to while doing other things. Save them time and trouble.

3. Perspective. By that, I mean your own perspective, and the opinions of your listeners. Sure, you can find lively exchanges about breaking news all over the Internet, but you can offer a real live conversation. Spoken word conversations are a different form of communication and entertainment from alternating postings on a message board or on Twitter. Sometimes, you just want to hear somebody talking about what's going on instead of reading it. There's a human element that you can provide.

Hey, that's an acronym: CAP. I swear, I wasn't trying for that. All I want to do is to point out that, unlike some other media that don't offer any benefits that can't be easily duplicated and bettered by newer forms of communication, radio still can do certain things very well that actually complement what you can get from, say, the Internet. The trick is to turn "can do" into "does do." As long as radio plays to its strengths, there's a future for this thing.

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The Internet is, of course, a great tool to find out what's going on so you can talk about it on the radio. But wouldn't it be better if there was a place you could go to get a lot of ideas for topics, a column compiled by someone who's done major market talk radio and knows the kind of material you need? If this wonderful ideal were to exist, what would it be called? Maybe something bland and obvious, something like, oh, maybe "Talk Topics." Yes, that sounds plausible. And if that column were to really exist, you might find topical items there this very week like why you'd best not call Senator Barbara Boxer "Ma'am," what happens when the pilot of your plane dies in the middle of your flight, what might prompt a Jimmy Hoffa comeback, a good reason to keep your car doors locked while driving with the family, hot cereal as a weapon, a reminder of why flip-flops are bad for you, another reason loans are more difficult to come by these days, a cautionary tale about fireworks, some new information about what kids are doing in class, why it's usually better to throw certain things away rather than trying to fix them, A discussion of why normally calm people get road rage, a woman who's trying to eliminate all the fun out of being a kid, some contrary evidence regarding alcohol consumption, an answer to the question "What's wrong with a man driving home naked?," the trouble with Father's Day, a nine foot tapeworm, why families are spending less time together, and much more. Why, look at this: "Talk Topics" really does exist, and it's at All Access News-Talk-Sports! Who could possibly have guessed? And right there in the same section, you'll also find "10 Questions With..." Kevin McCullough, the co-host of the syndicated "Xtreme Radio" (with Stephen Baldwin!). For the same price of free, you'll also get the rest of All Access, including the industry's primary and best source for news, music charts, columns, ratings, job listings, and resources. How do we do it? Volume! (Or is it that we cut out the middleman and pass the savings on to you? I forget)

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Oh, right, If you're a father, or if you have a father, have a great Father's Day. It's your day. Just keep reminding yourself that it's not possible to have too many ties or too much after shave. Or that getting a gift of a nose hair trimmer doesn't mean that you have too much... well, okay, it probably does mean something like that, but you needed one of those things anyway.

RAINING ON SOMEONE ELSE'S PARADE

They held the parade for the Lakers today, and I watched some of it on TV. It's weird to be living in a city where you don't follow the local sports teams. Correction: I follow them, I'm just not a fan. My loyalties still lie with the Philly sports teams, so I just don't get into the party mood when the Lakers win. I can't. I spent several decades rooting for my teams to "beat L.A." I can't change now.

I suppose it's nice that everybody was happy, but L.A. fans are largely of the bandwagon-jumping variety, which makes them a little bit more annoying than the fans in most other cities. When their teams suck, they generally don't pay attention. when their teams are good, they go directly to "we're the best" and "our guys are better than anybody else." I'm not used to that. Philadelphia fans never stop paying attention, but we also never stop complaining. Even last year, when the Phillies managed to win the World Series, we never quite felt like it was going to happen until Brad Lidge thrw the final pitch. before that, we were certain that it was going to end in tears. That's because it usually does. And when the Phillies did win it, we all started thinking about how difficult it would be for them to repeat. Yes, there was a parade, and there was joy, but it just seems different from what I saw today.

But I recognize that I'm being unfair. Let Laker fans have their day. They earned it. Or, more precisely, the team earned it, beating everybody they had to beat. It doesn't mean that I have to be happy about it, but I suppose I should keep my respectful silence for at least another day.

Today's time-consumer involved dealing with insurance forms. There's nothing like having to go back and recall exact dates and details of things that happened many years ago. Between that and some other dealings I'm having this week, I'm spending way too much time with forms and rooting through boxes of old receipts and paperwork. And I'm far from through with it.

That's part and parcel, of course, of being an adult. You keep having to field the stuff your parents used to deflect away from you. Forms? Bills? Insurance? Mortgages, car repair, home repair? That's adult stuff. And, since I've been an adult for decades, you'd think I'd be used to it by now.

But you never get used to it. You keep wanting daddy to step in, but daddy's gone now and this is your time. And it's time to spend hours filling out forms, comparing rates, answering redundant questions, and wondering if there'll ever be a break. The answer, of course, is no. This is what it's like from here on out. You can still, however, go get some ice cream to make it feel better. And, unlike the old days, this time, you can drive yourself there. You can even order anything you want.

On the other hand, now, you're the one who pays the bill. Life is full of compromises.

STILL NO TIME

It is going to be one of those weeks. I know it now.

My brain, having melted at the end of last week, has not properly reconstituted itself to allow for, er, anything. So I'm looking at long days of work plus several important projects and the ever-popular "errands," which include buying food for Ella the World's Most Famous Cat. That would qualify as the Most Important Project Of The Week, no doubt.

But I have some ideas up my sleeve for later in the week, so... stay tuned. Your patience might well be rewarded. Or mocked. Haven't decided yet.

NO TIME FOR ANYTHING ELSE, EITHER

Ended up with more work than expected. So, one word observations for now:

Lakers: Yawn.

Phillies: Whew.

DTV transition: Whatever.

New Terranea resort near our home: Wow.

More tomorrow, I hope.

NO TIME FOR EVGENI MALKIN

The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup last night, and I didn’t really care. I consider that a major victory for me.

See, I have that well-documented problem with time management (see Thursday’s entry), specifically that I can’t find enough hours in each day to do everything I need to do. And, I’m a sports fan. That means I have to work AND watch games AND pay attention to things like standings and stats and gossip all the time. And there just isn’t enough time to follow every sport the way I used to.

So, a few years ago, I realized that some sports had to go. I never really cared about golf, so that was easy. Tennis was a little harder – my father was a huge tennis fan and player, but I was never quite into it as much, so that went, too.

Soccer was next. I like soccer, unlike 99% of America, and I used to pay a lot of attention to the English Premier League. But after a while, I realized that it was always going to be about Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, and Liverpool, and that was that. I cut way back on that, too.

Hockey, though, was tough. I’ve followed hockey since I was a little kid. I went to Rangers and Flyers games for decades. I even went to WHA games. I could rattle off entire rosters, I decried how the neutral-zone trap made things boring, I was a real fan.

And then came the lockout. I thought both sides were being ridiculous, and, given the incredibly high cost of tickets, it became apparent that they didn’t think they needed me. So, I bailed. No more hockey. I have two NHL teams within a short drive, one of which is a perennial contender, and I just have no interest anymore.

So I’ve freed up a little time. Naturally, though, other sports have taken up the slack, and I don’t really seem to have any more time than I did before. But I’m still declaring victory and marking it down as progress, because if I was still into hockey, I probably wouldn’t have time to sleep. I’m done with hockey, and it feels great.

Unless the Flyers win the Stanley Cup. Then, I’m back in. Another sport will have to go. Sixers – you’re on notice.

THE BIBLE, ONCE

I'm only going to put up a link tonight, but it's a great one.

Go here.

Billboard magazine. Searchable. Not every issue, but a lot of them, all the way back to 1940.

I know I'm in there a couple of times. I'm going to go do some vanity searching right now. Thank you, Google.

THIS WEEK'S "THE LETTER": ABOUT TIME

This week's All Access newsletter is about time, or lack thereof, and how that poses a challenge to radio hosts and stations who want to cut through and build a loyal audience that may not have time for that:

I've told you before, I think, about my chronic time management difficulties. At least, I think I've told you about it. It might've been something I had on my schedule that I never got to. See? I TOLD you I have a problem.

Anyway, this week has been particularly difficult, and there just aren't enough hours in the day to do everything. There never are. I cope the way a lot of people cope: I do a lot of multitasking, I start work very early (and by that I mean VERY early, before some people have even gone to sleep for the night), and I work late. Sleep? Optional. You know the drill. Many of you do the same thing. And no matter how much you plan or schedule or insist to yourself that today, finally, you WILL catch up, it doesn't work that way. Something will derail you. For me, it involved computer trouble, specifically an e-mail issue. I wasted... er, spent Wednesday evening and pretty much all day Thursday trying to recover from that one. So much for catching up.

While the days get busier and busier, I've been thinking about how people use radio as their days similarly fill up with things that pull their attention away. They might scan the dial and stop on whatever sounds interesting enough to occupy twenty minutes or so while they run to the post office or the supermarket. Maybe they just leave the radio on whatever station happened to be on when they were last in the car. If that's how you get listeners, you'll pick up some cume, but you won't get the loyalty, you may not get a lot of time spent listening, and you won't get the repeat listening that you would get if people were actively looking for your show or your station. You're just part of the wallpaper. (Yeah, I know, there's no wallpaper in the car. You know what I mean)

Or you could go after that loyalty. You could try to make people want to keep coming back every day. You could get people to think that whatever happens in the news, they HAVE to hear what YOU have to say about it. You could get them to hear the news and think that they have to tune in as soon as you get on the air to find out what YOU think. Do you want to be that show that's just on in the background while they make a Starbucks run, a show they won't even remember hearing? No. You want to be in the foreground, and you want to be their active choice. You get there, of course, by having something unique and entertaining to say about all the big stories, and building the expectation that you're going to come out on fire every time out. You're training listeners to anticipate that so much that they tune in right from the beginning and stick with you all the way through. In a time-challenged world, you need to make sure that you get on everyone's to-do list. Your show and your station should be appointment listening.

So you want them to remember you, and, traditionally, that involved both content -- do a great, memorable show -- and formatics -- tell them who you are and do it repeatedly so that they'll remember on diary day. I've noticed, however, that some programmers are changing things in response to the PPM. For example, repeating the call letters and the host's name over and over might not seem to be necessary anymore because you don't need people to remember to "write it down" -- I hear stations going so far as to end segments cold, abruptly going from talk to commercial without a pause or a bumper -- but that's logical only if you assume that the only reason to encourage recall is for "writing it down" every Thursday. It isn't the only reason. If you're trying to build loyalty, it makes sense to make sure that people know who you are and where to find you again. That means that the lessons you learned when programming for the diary system haven't been entirely rendered irrelevant by the PPM. Repetition still breeds recall, and if you don't need the recall to get people to "write it down," you still need it to build your brand.

It is, after all, largely about the brand. In the coming years, you're going to be taking your shows and your news beyond your terrestrial signal. You're going to be building products for other media. You'll need listeners -- and viewers, and readers -- to know and trust you. Many of you already have trusted brands producing trusted products. You need to reinforce that. And that's why you need to consistently and repeatedly tell people who you are, just like you did under the diary system, just like stations in diary markets still do it. It works. There's no reason to get rid of that just yet. Things are changing, but you don't have to unlearn everything just because we're moving into a new era.

Recap: If you want to cut through and reach today's time-challenged listeners, you have to stand out. Give people a reason to come back every day and make time for you. Don't stop telling people who you are.

And I could have saved all that writing time, if only I'd just written the recap and skipped the rest. I really need to work on that.

Okay, I'm running late again, so here's the plug for All Access News-Talk-Sports and the Talk Topics show prep column, which has items for your topical needs like Another reason you don't need a pit bull, the joys of the Comfort Wipe, a guy who literally put a damper on a festive occasion, the ultimate school absence excuse note, Why somebody might be looking over your shoulder the next time you bring a laptop to a company meeting, another good reason not to post pictures on the net, why Venezuela banned Coke Zero, the luxuries you can't live without, the best reason to be happy when your kids leave the nest, and a lot more that I don't have time to tell you about, so just go and read the whole thing. This week, you'll also find "Ten Questions With.." WABC/New York PD Laurie Cantillo and the rest of All Access with the industry's most complete news coverage, columns, charts, job listings, message boards, and lots of other resources you need, all free.

And now, if you'll excuse me, it's just about time for the weekend. The weekend is very important to me. That's when I do the work that I was supposed to do during the week. I'm never going to get a break again, am I?

OUTLOOK HAZY, TRY AGAIN

So, how am I doing this evening? Yeah, well, you don't want to know that. Let's put it this way: Outlook crashed on my PC, and for the last hour it's been running the inbox repair tool. It's only 86% done with phase 1 of 8. It is going to take all night, and there's no guarantee that it will fix the problem. Basically, what happened was that while I was at dinner, Windows XP decided to download and install an update and reboot the computer. And it worked, except that when I went into Outlook to check my mail, it refused to send and receive anything. I know there's mail, because I'm getting it on the Mac. But Outlook on the PC appears to be hosed for now. I'm doing all of the things that I know how to do to fix it, but it's not going to happen very quickly.

And that's why, instead of something substantive, and instead of getting to work on things that I need to get done today, and instead of handling some personal and financial matters that I need to take care of, I'm sitting here with two computers running, trying to get things to work. No, I'm not happy. Not even the Phillies beating the Mets behind two home runs by Chase Utley could make me happy right now. Well, okay, that didn't hurt. Anyway, I'm going to get back to it so that I can actually get some sleep tonight and then get a column done for tomorrow. I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to write about. There's another contributor to my stress.

I was hoping to get some material at the San Pedro DMV office today, where I went to renew my license. After all, the clientele is, er, unique, and the state's broke, so I prepared for a long wait and unpleasant surroundings.

And then I showed up for my appointment. After waiting in a queue for about five minutes, they gave me a number and directed me to sit down. I did, and within about five minutes, they called my number. I did the vision test, wrote a check, had my picture taken... and that was it.

Great for everything but writing a snarky column about the travails of the poor California DMV customer. There were no travails. I was out of there before I could even check my e-mail on my phone.

Not that I desire to suffer for my art. But if you can't even get more than a tweet from an afternoon at the DMV, that's just weak.

Today's musical instructions:

Go here and vote for John Ford every day. Just go do it.

And then go here and download the full album by the Reigning Monarchs, surf instrumental goodness for a new century, featuring a guy I know on bass. You can name your price, but don't just take it for free. Show the love and PayPal some real money.

Finally, if you're in the Boston area on June 18, go here and see Johnny Angel's semi-triumphant return to the stage with fellow Boston expat Robin Lane (of Chartbusters fame) and several guest local luminaries. It'll be a good time for sure.

So, how did the convention go? You know, it's great to see people I don't get to see other than once or twice a year; as a social event, it's quite nice, even if... well, you know how maybe 95% of people in the radio industry in America read AllAccess.com? This convention is for the other 5%, the kind who walk slowly past you, peer at your name badge, and keep walking with a slight air of disgust. Yeah, well, I don't know who you are, either. (By the same token, several folks I didn't previously know made it a point to come talk to me and inflate my ego with kind words about the columns; that made me quite happy and produced an amusing shade of red (I think it's called "Embarrassment Crimson" in the Revlon catalogue) on my face)

The panels were another story, and that's not to say that they were bad. Some were quite well done, and provided quite a bit of information. It's just that it's the same every year. There's always a panel where a bunch of talk hosts do their on-air schtick at the same time, and the annual FM Talk panel, which really needs to be targeted at the GMs and PDs who never show up for this kind of thing. And by the end of Saturday, I can actually feel my brain melting out my ears.

It's still important, however, to be there and maintain contacts and meet new people. And any week that involves runs in Central Park, knishes, the New York Post, family (hi, Joan!), a whole box of Butterscotch Krimpets, and an incoherent guy on the E train platform turning his attention to ME is a successful week indeed.

CONVENTION!: DELAY

I don't have time to do anything about today's convention here, because I was out a little late (for me) having a nice dinner with my sister (hello again, Joanie!) and I have to pack and sleep. Next post will either be from the air or from home tomorrow. Sorry for the delay.

This will give you an idea of the excitement of the convention I am presently attending:




Plus, the Duane Reade nearby is fresh out of Butterscotch Krimpets.

THIS WEEK'S "THE LETTER": PEP TALK

Oh, yeah, the All Access newsletter. Here it is:

This week, I'm at that convention I mentioned in the last column, and it comes in the wake of what seems like an industry-wide emotional downturn. Everyone's bummed about radio. You could see it in the reaction to every bit of bad news lately, from all the layoffs to the closing of R&R. People are truly depressed about radio, and some keep proclaiming that it's all over.

But it isn't. News, talk, and sports radio, in particular, is (are?) alive and there's a future. Maybe the future doesn't entirely involve towers and antennas and transmitters and FCC licenses, but spoken-word audio entertainment is something that still has relevance. It has a loyal following, it's a foreground medium, it can be terrifically interactive, and, when it's done right, it isn't easily duplicated.

I'll expand on that a little with an example. On Thursday morning here in New York, I went for a run in Central Park and took the radio. I ended up listening to sports radio and heard a discussion of the fans' treatment of Alex Rodriguez the night before. The host (okay, it was WFAN's Craig Carton) and callers did what sports fans do under the circumstances: argue. Now, you can get that kind of contentious sports coverage in the Daily News and the Post, but it's one-way and it's not as immediate, plus you can't take it out running or driving or bike riding. You can read it online; same restrictions. But you turn on the radio, the one you already own, the one that's free, and there it is. Moreover, it sounded like New York, from the callers' accents to their Yankee-centric view of the world. I'm not a Yankee fan -- I believe the correct terminology for my position would be "Yankee Hater" -- but I listened to the whole thing. It was something you can't easily get from other media.

You can find many more examples across the county, local and syndicated. And with more FM stations coming online with news, talk, and sports, a wider audience is being exposed to the formats; it's a safe bet that FM will extend the life of the formats at the same time that the formats extend the relevance of FM. (I alluded to it last week, but I'll be explicit about it now: My dream is that every market has a wide range of talk options, AM and FM, mainstream, lifestyle, sports, news, and permutations nobody's come up with yet. "Talk" is an umbrella description, but there's so much opportunity in spoken-word radio... and no music licensing fees)

Maybe someday soon, people will get most of their audio entertainment and information from ubiquitous streaming Internet audio, but, at heart, that's radio, too. And spoken-word radio's more ready for the jump: the interactivity of call-ins, and/or the loyalty of listeners to a host or station, create(s) the community that other forms of media are spending a lot of money trying to build from scratch. This kind of radio has it already. Add a decent website and social networking, and talk radio IS "new media." Music stations can't really say that, no matter how much they Twitter. And podcasts, although I'd argue that talk podcasts are pretty much talk radio too, aren't there hashing out last night's ballgame or breaking news with callers live the very next morning.

Look, I know that there are problems. A lot of it comes from the advertising downturn, and that's something affecting even new media. Nobody's immune from that. All I'm saying is that with all that's going on in the business, I just don't think it's time to pronounce the patient dead. As long as people are out there looking for a conversation, a voice to keep them company, some entertainment that doesn't involve a tune, some information, an argument... that's the format right there. I'm confident that there'll still be a market for it.

=========================

With regard to the end of R&R, I hope everyone will join me in wishing the folks who worked there well, including my News-Talk-Sports counterpart there and good guy Mike Stern. Everyone knows the importance R&R held in the radio industry and all the great people involved with the magazine over the years (including our Grand Exalted Ruler, Joel Denver). They should all be very proud.

=========================

Meanwhile, the show prep continues to pile up at Talk Topics, your source for, um, talk topics at All Access News-Talk-Sports. Since I'm writing this as game 1 of the NBA Finals is on, I'm inclined to keep this plug mercifully short and just say that we've got a kissing bandit, the popularity of pot, a naked preaching shroom-fueled pro skateboarder, too many feces-related stories, too many flag-banning stories, more SWINE FLU!!! stories, and way too many candidates for Worst Person in the World. Plus, you'll find "10 Questions With..." WINK/Fort Myers-Naples PD and drummer Jeff Wolf and the rest of All Access where, as always, you'll get complete radio industry news, charts, columns, job listings, a searchable Industry Directory, and much more, all free.

And if you're in New York for this thing, come by and say hi. I don't bite. Usually.

HI, JOAN!

Hi, Joan, my beloved sister! Love ya! Great to see you today!

I'm not averse to the personal shout-out after all. But for the rest of you, it'll cost you.

POSTSCRIPT TO NOTES FROM ABOVE

I made it, in case you were wondering.

Plane landed uneventfully. Got cab reasonably quickly. Moderate traffic all the way in. Rained like crazy. Had dinner, got drenched, came back. The end.

Oh, and Radio and Records -- R&R -- folded. I got the news while in the air, and while I was not surprised 100%, it was still a shock. I could be doing the happy dance because AllAccess.com's main competitor just went away, but it is not a cause for celebration when 40 people lose their jobs, nor is less competition ultimately a good thing. I feel for the folks who lost their jobs and hope their landings are soft and quick.

More from New York tomorrow.

NOTES FROM ABOVE

I'm on a plane 35,163 feet over Nebraska at the moment. This information is courtesy of the Google-branded map on the screen on the seatback in front of me, and it's germane because, you know, I'm 35,163 feet over Nebraska, somewhere north of Omaha. Having WiFi on a plane means a) you can make inane "look at me, I'm on a plane!" posts like this one on your blog and Twitter and Facebook, and b) you're not ever away from work, not even for these few hours. But that's okay, because by working up here, when I get to New York, I'll have done what I need to do already,

The guy next to me is also working on his Mac. He's some kind of videogame/skater enterpreneur, he's very young, and he just wrote something on his own site about how having WiFi and your iPod Touch means you don't have to listen to the guy next to you talk about his dog. I resent that. I don't even have a dog. And I tend not to talk about my cat to strangers, except on this site, where you can escape easily enough.

Anyway, it's a Virgin America flight, and we have celebrities on board! John Legend and Kevin Pollak! Er... okay. Pollak is wearing a "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" cap and has that I-know-you-know-who-I-am but don't-even-think-of-talking-to-me expression on his face, which goes with the first class seat. Not impressed, bud, but enjoy the flight anyway.

VA flies out of Terminal 3 at LAX, which is... spartan. It's a not-very-renovated wing of the airport with little in the way of modern amenities. The "food court" consists of Starbucks and Burger King. The gate area looks like the way Penn Station did in the 1980's. There's paid WiFi, not worth the 7.95. It's all very Eastern European. I expected someone to try and board with goats.

The big issue for me at the moment is what to do when I get to JFK -- subway or cab. The cabs are expensive and take forever, but I'm not eager to lug my bags onto the E train, then slog a couple of blocks to the 6 station at 51st street, then find a working elevator and drag everything three or four more blocks. The weather shouldn't be too warm, so maybe the cab's a better idea; it's the driver's job to deal with the traffic on the Van Wyck and the Grand Central, anyway. Might be worth the expense.

Gotta get back to work as we pass into Iowa. I've never been to Iowa. I bet they have lots of goats.

A LITTLE TRAVELING MUCUS, PLEASE

All right, we're done with the goats. (Literally: The town is using them for two more days, and then they go back to wherever goats go when they're not eating the fields here) And we're done with the normal week. Tomorrow, it's off to New York, where I'll be attending another convention and doing whatever I do when I'm in Manhattan, which usually includes a) eating, b) running in Central Park, and c) eating. And browsing in bookstores and on newsstands, and eating some more. And sweating, although I hear the weather, for the first time on one of these June trips in memory, will be cool.

The plane is supposed to have Wi-Fi, so maybe I'll post from somewhere above Nebraska tomorrow. In the meantime, I gotta pack.

GOATS 3!

Completing the trilogy with awesome close-ups:




No more goats, I promise.

March 2012

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Who?

    Perry Michael Simon. Talk radio guy. Editor of the News-Talk-Sports section at AllAccess.com. Editor and writer at Chris Hardwick's Nerdist.com. Former Program Director, Operations Manager, host, and general nuisance at KLSX/Los Angeles, Y-107/Los Angeles, New Jersey 101.5. Freelance writer on media, sports, pop culture, based somewhere in the Los Angeles area. Contact him here. Copyright 2003-2012 Perry Michael Simon. Yeah.

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