Radio Waves: 1/27/17

Addicted to Radio

Simon Sinek is an author, motivational speaker and a business/marketing consultant. In an interview from an episode of Inside Quest (InsideQuest.Com), Sinek spoke of “Millennials” — those born roughly after 1984 — and their attitudes toward life and work.

Part of the interview got into technology, specifically cell phones. The short version (which I think applies to people from other generations just as much as Millennials): some people get addicted to their cell phones and social media. “Engagement in social media and our cell phones releases a chemical called dopamine,” he explained. It feels good when you get a text, when you get a “like” … and when you get those you get a hit of dopamine … “the same chemical that makes us feel good when we smoke, when we drink, and when we gamble.”

“It’s highly, highly addictive,” he said.

What does this have to do with radio? In my case it explains why I so much enjoy hearing old radio airchecks, such as found on ReelRadio.Com, and more, as well as my general love of all things radio.

When I was young, my Aunt Ina gave me a 10-transistor Realtone radio. I was hooked. Through the years I collected, repaired — and listened — to many different radios. Most of them in the early days AM, through which I listened to the powerhouse top-40 stations and competitors KHJ (930 AM), KRLA (now KDIS, 1110 AM), KCBQ/San Diego (1170 AM), KEZY (now KGBN, 1190 AM) and KFI (640 AM).

I took an old Citation III tuner out of my brother’s closet and connected it to a guitar amplifier so I could hear KKDJ (now KIIS-FM, 102.7), K-100 (now KSWD, 100.3 FM) and B-100 (KFMB-FM/ San Diego, 100.7 FM). I would listen to the top-10 on KCBQ and post it to the chalkboard in my garage.

Through the years and stations I formed a bond with stations and personalities. I truly think this was my dopamine source growing up. When I first heard the “jock logos” — jingles that sang the DJ’s name — when  K-WEST went to top-40 in 1981, I was on a high the entire night while working at the local Sears catalog surplus store in San Pedro.

Radio was my life and it still is, which is why this column exists. I still listen to radio more than any other entertainment source … I wonder if any stations or personalities today elicit the same response to kids growing up as they did to me? Thoughts?

More Ratings Problems

The Portable People Meter (PPM) from Nielsen sounds like an amazing way to collect ratings data. At least on paper. Have stations send a signal that can be decoded by an electronic box worn by those chosen to help determine the popularity of various radio stations. Automatic listening determination. Much better than the old system of relying on memory … in which those elected to represent various demographics write down in a diary the stations and times they listened during the week.

Or is it actually better? There are already known problems: problems with decoding the electronic signal during quiet passages or spoken voice (talk) programming, problems decoding in noisy environments such as when a PPM holder is in a car with the windows down, too much credit if the PPM holder is in a business playing a station as background music, and problems with connections to the data collection system that rendered the ratings for December all but useless.

Now another problem is cropping up: headphones. Listen to radio with headphones? Then the PPM box cannot hear the signal at all so no ratings credit is given.

Jacobs Media reported on this recently, noting that the “headphone problem is glaring – yet ignored.” Jacobs claims that 17 percent of their respondents listen to radio using headphones at least half of the time they listen to radio, often while working out or walking, jogging or running. That’s huge.

Jacobs is pushing for a solution to make the PPM better. I wonder if we’d be better off going back to diaries.

Cumulus Bonuses

Three top executives at Cumulus Media (owner of KABC, 790 AM and KLOS, 95.5 FM) received bonuses at the end of 2016, including President/CEO Mary Berner, who took home a whopping $1.087 million extra. What did she and the others do to earn that? You tell me … as of press time the stock price of Cumulus was at its lowest ever, closing at 97 cents per share on January 20.