Author: Jay Nachlis

What Radio Can Learn From Travel Agents

The nightmarish (or “flight-marish”) scenarios greeting travelers this summer are no secret by now. Prepare for overworked and understaffed airlines, astronomical prices, and a slew of delays, rescheduling, and last-minute cancellations. It’s a cocktail of issues bound to stress out even the most seasoned traveler. How can you possibly ease your worries?

Would you believe…a travel agent?

On the May 13th  episode of Good Morning America, ABC ran a story called “Return of the Travel Agent”:

You may say, and understandably so, you need a travel agent about as much as you need a pager. They just aren’t required to get the job done anymore. If you’ve got access to the internet, you can whisk yourself away anywhere.

So why should use a travel agent in 2022?

According to the GMA story, travel agents:

  • Can find discounts and upgrades using their relationships with companies
  • Can help travelers “navigate the constantly changing rules of post-pandemic travel”
  • Specialize in the type of trip you want to take (i.e., cruise, safari, beach)
  • Can work within your budget

Travel agents say in the story their “business is booming.”

It’s a far cry from the 2005 New York Times article, “Travel Managers Worry They Face Extinction”, replaced by the 2021 New York Times article, “Make Way for the Travel Agents. Again.”

What can radio learn from the return of the travel agent?

We’ve referred to the overwhelming paradox of choice many times in Tuesdays With Coleman. It’s great to have so many entertainment choices until it’s not. Consumers are exhausted by the options because they are all-consuming. In podcasting, which platform to use? Which category to explore? Which podcasts to try? Which premium streaming service trial to take advantage of? Which playlist? What kind of mood am I in? Which SiriusXM channel to check out? Is it over Channel 100 or under? Will I remember to cancel when I need to? Which premium TV service? What was that show mom recommended to me? Which one has the Harry Potter movies?

It’s a lot of choice, and you’re the one doing the choosing. Kind of like booking your own vacation.

To be successful, a travel agent needs to recognize and embrace their point of differentiation. Planning a vacation is stressful. A travel agent takes that away.

In research, we’re always looking for points of differentiation. What images can you own to give you an edge on the competition?

Such is one very important role of a radio personality that perhaps gets overlooked. Rather than be frightened by the fact that your listeners can leave radio to choose what music or spoken word content they want to hear, embrace the opposite.

In some ways, radio personalities are the travel agents of media. They choose your entertainment adventure. They guide you through the experience. They lean on their expertise to share facts about the music, tell you about events you’ll enjoy, and provide experiences only radio stations have access to.

Perhaps radio’s curation over customization is just what consumers need.

And just like travel agents, they’re not dead yet…and maybe even on the verge of a renaissance.

The Greatest Ad Campaign of All-Time

Ask me what my favorite advertising campaign of all-time is, and I will answer without hesitation: Kmart’s 2013 “Ship My Pants” commercial.

Wait Jay, Kmart? That Kmart? The Kmart you ripped apart in a blog on your LinkedIn page in 2016?

That’s the one.

Three years before that blog, Kmart put a 30-second spot on the internet called “Ship My Pants”. And three seconds in, I was laughing. No, snorting.

Do I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy? Yes. But it was hilarious. It’s still hilarious. And if you measure success strictly by analytics, it was a massive success for Kmart. The original video was viewed 10 million times on YouTube in its first 24 hours. This would have any marketer or brand manager screaming with joy and doing cartwheels, and I’m sure they were.

So, if it was such a “success,” why is Kmart still barely hanging on nearly 10 years later? There are two primary reasons.

One is the brand problem. By 2013, Kmart’s heritage brand was significantly long in the tooth. Its shoppers were old. Meanwhile, the “Ship My Pants” campaign was funny and edgy. Not exactly a brand match.

But does that mean they should have not run it? Not necessarily…but they needed to commit to it.

If Kmart really wanted to change its brand perception and become relevant to younger consumers, “Ship My Pants” could have been a great start. And then they followed it up with “Big Gas Savings,” also pretty great (and remarkably timely right now!)

But by the time I visited Kmart and wrote my LinkedIn blog in 2016, Kmart was bringing back the Blue Light Special. THE BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL!?!?

My head hurts.

The other reason “Ship My Pants” couldn’t save Kmart was, of course, the store itself. You can run the greatest, funniest, most entertaining advertising campaign the world has ever seen. If the customer experience is no good when they consume the brand, the advertising is pointless.

By 2013, Kmart stores had already looked sad and in disrepair for some time. Customers had plenty of other places they could ship their pants, and they’d likely feel better about shipping elsewhere.

Had Kmart renovated its stores and improved the customer experience before running the “Ship My Pants” campaign, who knows what could have happened.

But instead, I’m afraid Kmart may be shipped out of luck.

Does Radio Need a Savannah Bananas?

English economist John Maynard Keynes once said, “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.”

Many in the baseball world can relate to this quote, as it is a sport notoriously stuck in its ways and slow to change. To many outside its core fans, the game of baseball is:

  • Too long
  • Too boring
  • Too old
  • Too traditional

What would happen if a baseball team threw those negative perceptions up against a wall and did the opposite?

Enter the Savannah Bananas.

Before the Bananas, Savannah, Georgia had the Sand Gnats, a Class-A affiliate of the New York Mets. In their final season in 2015, the Sand Gnats averaged 1,962 fans per game, ranking #144 out of 176 MLB-affiliated teams.

The Savannah Bananas, a member of the Coastal Plain League (a collegiate league not affiliated with any MLB club), has sold out every single game since their inaugural season in 2016, doubling attendance with nearly 4,000 fans. Every. Single. Game.

They did it by changing the game.

You think baseball’s too long? The Savannah Bananas play “Banana Ball,” billed as the world’s fastest and most entertaining brand of baseball. There are no bunts, and no visits to the mound. If someone in the stands catches a foul ball, the batter is out. Games have a two-hour time limit. And that’s just for starters.

You think baseball is too boring? The Bananas play in kilts. Or stilts. Players may get escorted to the plate by a pep band. They have The Banana Nanas, a senior citizen dance team, and the Man-Nana’s, a Dad Bod Cheerleading Squad.

You think baseball is too old? The Bananas have 2.7 million followers on TikTok. They have their own Savannah Banana Beer and specialty alcoholic drink, The Slippery Banana.

You think baseball is too traditional? The owner, Jesse Cole, wears a yellow tuxedo at every game.

Players sign autographs before the game, and let fans sign autographs on their stuff. Instead of typical postgame interviews, players may be interviewed in the shower, in the bathroom stall, in an ice bath, in a massage chair, or in their own bed.

Before you say, “sounds like the Harlem Globetrotters of baseball,” you need to recognize that the Savannah Bananas are intensely local (though, like the Globetrotters, they also tour) and the entertainment level and variety is way deeper. And before you dismiss it as a circus sideshow, the Bananas have legit talent. Their website lists seven Bananas alumni who were drafted into Major League Baseball.

Perhaps to best understand the reasons behind the Savannah Bananas success, start by looking at the mission statement, as referenced by Cole: “We exist to make baseball fun.” Everything the Bananas do must fit the mantra. So, explained Cole, “We looked at every boring play. And got rid of it.”

Fun influences every decision made regarding the team, from the fan experience to the merchandise to the rules of the game itself. In Savannah, Georgia, The Savannah Bananas are literally redefining the very perceptions of baseball…a 146-year-old game hampered by old, traditional images. To do that, the Bananas understand what any successful brand attempting to shift deeply held perceptions understands…Go Big or Go Home. Subtle changes won’t cut it. Consider reading Cole’s new book, “Fans First: Change The Game, Break The Rules, & Create An Unforgettable Experience.”

Hey, can you think of a medium that was also invented in the 1800s that is hampered by old, traditional images that’s being challenged more than ever in 2022?

Wouldn’t it be fun to take a ratings-challenged radio station, throw some negative perceptions up against a wall, and do the opposite?

The Content Leeway Provided by Brand Building

Scott Van Pelt hosts the midnight edition of Sportscenter on ESPN. But unlike other editions of the show, which are highly ESPN-branded, Van Pelt’s variant is, well…very Scott Van Pelt.

When teasing the show, ESPN will use an acronym of his name­­—SVP. Scott Van Pelt has his own logo, which highlights his distinctively shaped glasses and a set of headphones. And the logo is all over the set—on a helmet and ball in front of him and via multiple vantage points behind him. As a viewer, you may know you are watching ESPN, and you may know you’re watching Sportscenter, but you definitely know you’re watching Scott Van Pelt.

If any other Sportscenter anchor started talking about the death of their dog, it would seem hopelessly awkward and out of place. But when Van Pelt used his “One Big Thing” feature on Sportscenter (which he also turns into a podcast) to talk about the passing of his dog Otis, it didn’t seem out of place at all. Why is that?

Yes, the content was good. Actually, it was extraordinary. Van Pelt perfectly put into words what every dog owner who has ever dealt with the death of their good boy or girl (both of my Shetland Sheepdogs passed last year) feels. It was both heartwarming and heartbreaking. And it was on Sportscenter.

The reason why it worked on Van Pelt’s Sportscenter and why it would not have played the same on another version of the show is Van Pelt himself. Scott Van Pelt has effectively built a brand within the construct of the ESPN and Sportscenter brands. He does it with his personality and his content, but it is reinforced with the branding. Great logos work. Great acronyms work (just ask KFC and IHOP). The branding reinforces the content, helps build perceptions, and gives Van Pelt license to share with his audience how the death of his beloved Otis affected him. The Sportscenter brand on its own does not.

Always focus on generating great content, but never forget the brand building component.

New Research Shows Consumers’ Appetite for Contemporary Music Has Yet to Rebound Despite Gradual Reopening of Society

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, April 26, 2022 – Coleman Insights revealed surprising initial findings from its fourth annual Contemporary Music SuperStudy, which examined the appetites for contemporary music among 1,000 12- to 54-year-olds across the United States and Canada. The annual benchmark study evaluated the most consumed songs of 2021—via radio airplay, streaming, and sales, as measured by Luminate—to provide the most comprehensive assessment of consumers’ appetites for contemporary music available to audio-based media companies.

Contemporary Music SuperStudy 4 showed that contemporary tastes have not moved forward despite the gradual reopening of society. The frozen nature of consumer tastes in last year’s study reflected the impact of the pandemic—lockdowns, cancellations, and new music releases held back—in 2020, and that trend continued in this year’s results. “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran was the number one song for the third straight year, while Adele’s “Easy On Me” was the only song released in 2021 to break into the top ten.

According to Coleman Insights Executive Vice President/Senior Consultant John Boyne, “The lean towards older music is notable, and substantially different from the first two editions of our study. Consumers are not embracing the very newest releases to the extent they were previously.”

Coleman Insights will release more findings over the next few weeks via, in its Tuesdays With Coleman blog and in the Contemporary Music SuperStudy 4 Deep Dive webinar on Wednesday, May 11th at 2PM EDT/11AM PDT. The webinar will cover additional findings including how appetites for different genres of new music have shifted in the past year and how those appetites vary by age, gender, ethnicity, geography, and platform usage. Registration is now open for the webinar here.

Why Misattribution is Your Brand’s Enemy


No one has a better understanding of your product than you. You can recite music rotations and clock structure and positioning statements better than anyone else.

Most of your listeners, however, cannot.

It sounds outrageous—inconceivable, even—that there are listeners that still think your station, which hasn’t been called “Lite” for a decade, still plays soft and relaxing music. But they do.

It simply can’t be possible that listeners think the superstar afternoon talent who crossed the street years ago to your station is still on the other station. Right?


Your station swapped its frequency to take advantage of a stronger signal, and surely your listeners will figure it out because they love the brand so much, yes?


The clear and present danger of Inside Thinking is believing your listeners are paying close attention. Outside Thinkers—those that can step into their audience’s shoes to understand their behavior—recognize that misattribution is a very real thing, even for otherwise strong, established brands.

Perception is, in fact, reality. So, when a substantial portion of the audience believes your Adult Contemporary station is still playing soft relaxing music when it has morphed into a contemporary Hot AC, misattribution will stunt the station’s growth. The product, no matter how appealing, will be out of sync with perceptions until the perception can be changed.

If listeners think your superstar talent is still on the competition, your brand’s growth will be stunted because of misattribution. If your station was on one signal for a long time, you can be sure they will misattribute the brand to that signal for a long time.

Uncovering misattribution is one of the most valuable facets of conducting perceptual research. While it is challenging for brand managers to recognize it themselves due to how close they are to the product, perceptual research can identify areas of misattribution that may be holding it back. You may find, for example, that P1s—your most loyal consumers—recognize and understand your strategic changes, while the general market has a completely different perception. Changing that perception may dramatically change the perceived appeal of your product with potential listeners. Pinpointing these issues allows for the development of a strategic plan, through various means of marketing, to ensure the most valuable messages are being communicated, with a clear goal of reducing instances of misattribution and bringing your brand’s perceptions in alignment with its content execution.

What Podcasting and Radio Can Learn From Each Other

Jon Gay spent 15 years in radio in programming and on-air positions in Burlington, Vermont, Detroit, and New Orleans. Following a downsizing, he dove full-time into podcasting, starting JAG in Detroit Podcasts in 2018. Today he writes, records, edits, and co-hosts podcasts for clients and offers tips on his own podcast, “The JAG Show.” For this week’s Tuesdays With Coleman, I spoke with Jon about how his full-time experiences in each medium inform his perspectives on both.

What are some of the most valuable radio lessons for podcasters?

Everything that applies to building a great morning show applies to podcasts. Be compelling. Get to the point. Don’t beat around the bush.

I had an early radio mentor named Ben Hamilton who told me that doing the radio show was like driving in NASCAR. You do all your work in the pit. When the light turns green, all you got to do is drive the car. And I think the same applies to podcasts.

And, you know, I think having that internal clock from working in radio, in PPM markets especially, is really important where you almost have that axe over your head saying, get to the point and be compelling, or your listeners are going to punch out and turn to the other station.

That’s such a classic radio skill, being able to know exactly how long you have to talk in a break and the ability to stop without even looking at a clock. Many podcasters probably figure they can talk as long as they want, so maybe they don’t develop that skill.

At a chamber of commerce meeting when I joined, they said give us a 30-second pitch about you and your business. So I did, and they had a stopwatch to keep everything on time. The woman with the stopwatch didn’t say anything. I stopped and she said, “Wow, that was exactly 29 seconds.”

I think your point about the skill is absolutely true. Some podcasts start with inside banter about this great new breakfast place and this crazy weather we’re having. Others tell inside jokes of previous episodes, when listeners might be hearing something in June that was recorded in January. All the stuff we learn as entertainers and hosts in radio really does apply to podcasting in terms of keeping it tight, keeping things on point.

The biggest question or most common question I get from clients and potential clients is how long should my podcast be? The answer is as long as it’s good, and too short is better than too long.

One of my early clients works for the National Bone Marrow Transplant Link in Metro Detroit. She was doing a podcast about cancer and cancer patients and interviewing a specialist at Karmanos Cancer Institute. She was planning on doing a 30-minute interview and he was fantastic. He was smooth. Just great on the microphone.

He answered her questions succinctly in a way that can be easily understood. She got through all her questions. She looked at me and said, “Okay, how long was that? And I said, “15 minutes.” She said, “What do we do for the next 15?” I said, “Nothing. We’re done.”

Now that we’ve covered some of the things podcasters can apply from radio, what do podcasters do very well that radio can learn from?

Accessibility and being on demand is something that’s in podcasting’s DNA and not radio. So podcasters know, I’ve got to be on Spotify, Apple, everywhere. And now we’re learning you really should be on YouTube as well. If you’re in radio and you’ve got good content, you’ve got to recognize appointment listening is more challenging. During Covid, people’s routines and commutes changed. We’ve got to meet people where they are. You must tell your listeners, we had this great bit today. We had this incredible guest today. Promote it heavily on social, make it available where they are and when they need it.

What do you think about Amp, Amazon’s new live radio app?

Maybe that’s the new farm system for radio, as opposed to the overnight shows that no longer exist. As opposed to hiring a celebrity or TikTok star, it may actually be a glimpse of a skillset for the magic we create in radio.

Why the Best Content Doesn’t Always Win

Radio is full of recycled ideas.

As a former program director of mine liked to joke, “If you’ve stolen from me, you’ve stolen twice.”

You might hear “Battle Of The Sexes” in Minneapolis or Memphis. “The Phrase That Pays” could tempt you in Richmond or Reno. Listeners may laugh along to a version of Elvis Duran’s iconic “Phone Taps” just about anywhere.

The million-dollar question is…why do some features and contesting work on some stations and not on others?

In one respect, it’s a nearly impossible question to answer.

How was it executed? How many promos were run? Was it marketed outside of the station? And so on. And if you attempt to equate the effectiveness of a feature or contest based on ratings in the short-term, you’ll drive yourself crazy.

But in another respect, it’s a simple question to answer, and I’ll do it in two words.

The brand.

Take “Phone Taps,” a successful long running prank call segment for Elvis Duran And The Morning Show, based at Z100 in New York. What would happen if a poorly performing morning show in another city ran the exact same segment featuring the exact same calls each day with their voices replacing those of the Elvis Duran cast? Would it be just as popular with that audience?

Elvis Duran Phone Taps

If you believe the best content always wins, you might think so.

But “Phone Taps” doesn’t succeed for Duran just because the bit itself is great. It succeeds because the “Phone Taps” brand has been carefully crafted over time. The “Phone Taps” brand was carefully crafted within the construct of the “Elvis Duran And The Morning Show” brand. And the “Elvis Duran And The Morning Show” brand was carefully crafted within the construct of the Z100 brand. A rising tide lifts all boats, and a weak branding link can affect the performance of even the best content.

Stations with similar music libraries succeed in one market and not another. The same exact contest played on multiple stations will do wonders for one station and not another. The reason why will, in part, come down to execution. But it will also be because of the equity of the brand playing the music or the contest.

One of my favorite examples of brand vs. content is bottled water. Let’s say your content is bottled water. It’s solid, reliable content. Most everyone consumes and enjoys it. And if we’re talking about non-flavored straight up water, it pretty much tastes the same. Why are we only willing to pay 25 cents for a bottle of water at Costco but $2.50 for Fiji?

Branding convinces enough people that one version is more valuable than the other.

It can be hard to swallow, but the best content does not always win. If you’re regularly generating great content, don’t forget to ensure that the brand behind the content is solid and clearly understood.

Otherwise, your great content may be just a waste of time.

Step Outside Your Core

Your podcast’s social media accounts are not perceptual research.

Your radio station’s texting account is not perceptual research.

Listener feedback at a remote is not perceptual research.

Consider how easy it is to formulate an opinion about how your audio brand is doing based on “core” feedback. For this exercise, I’ll include you and your fellow employees in your core, because you are likely the most loyal listeners of all.

Throughout the day, the core is where most of the feedback originates. This could be internal feedback in the building on a morning show bit, or a call-in, or a listener at a remote. Through this lens, you’re likely to hear a lot of “I loved it when you…” and “I listen every…” and “You play the best…”

Everyone loves positive feedback, but it leads to an insular view of your brand we call “Inside Thinking.”

As my colleague Warren Kurtzman wrote in “Is Inside Thinking Blurring Your Strategic Vision?” Inside Thinkers believe their listeners care deeply about the medium, are paying close attention to the brand, and can be manipulated. This could lead, for example, to running a complicated contest that requires paying attention to numerous things rather than a simply explained promotion that everyone understands how to play.

Of course, focusing on your core isn’t all bad. It’s always been true that your most loyal listeners, your P1s, will generate most of your listening. But if your P1s represent one slice of your listening pie, and the whole pie is shrinking, then the P1 slice is also shrinking.

As another colleague Meghan Campbell recently explained, “Radio won’t grow more listenership from those already listening; there are too many other platforms out there competing for consumers’ time. Radio stations and other audio brands need to reach out to those people in their target audiences who like what these brands have to offer but have no idea they exist.”

When you focus only on your core, you are generally hearing what you want to hear. They already love you. When you learn about your non-P1 Cume, you get indications that may explain why they haven’t converted to a P1. When you broaden the scope of your research beyond your Cume, you get indications why they aren’t listening.  To better understand why, in some cases, we’ve opened research studies to people that express interest in the product the brand provides but are not currently using the medium.

Is the lesson “Don’t focus on your P1s”? Of course not.

I’d consider myself a Starbucks P1 and use their app all the time. Recently in their contesting they’ve started to ask some questions with their game play:

Starbucks game

That’s a clever way to get some intel on the consumers that use you the most and an idea of how you can engage with your database.

But when it comes to growing your brand and your medium, remember to take time to adopt Outside Thinking and step outside your core.

The Bold Move That Made Fox a Real Network

I’m obsessed with the Business Wars podcast by Wondery. Each week, the show tells the story of a classic business battle. “Netflix vs. Blockbuster” is phenomenal. “Boeing vs. Airbus” is superb. They’re all great. The latest series is “ESPN vs. Fox Sports,” and once again it delivers.

Business Wars podcast Wondery

The episodes document the many moments when Fox Sports invaded ESPN’s territory, including taking the World Cup rights in 2011 and poaching ESPN hosts Colin Cowherd in 2015 and “First Take” star Skip Bayless in 2016. But there is nothing more impactful than the story of how Fox grabbed NFL rights for the first time. This story isn’t about ESPN directly – Fox didn’t steal the NFL from ESPN, which started broadcasting Sunday night games in 1987. It stole them from CBS thanks to an earth-shaking move that stunned the industry.

There are two things that are important to remember if you’re old enough to recall 1993.

First, Fox was a fledging network. There was no “Fox Sports” in 1993. The Fox Broadcasting Company launched in 1986 as a fourth network to challenge ABC, CBS, and NBC. By 1993 the network had a few hits like The Simpsons, Beverly Hills 90210, and America’s Most Wanted, but it wasn’t seen as a major competitor to the Big 3. Think The CW now…that’s essentially the space Fox occupied in 1993.

Second, TV networks didn’t show the score consistently throughout while you watched a live game. Sounds like complete lunacy now, but network heads thought viewers would switch channels if the score was on the screen all the time.

Sky Sports boss David Hill (who would become president of Fox Sports) created the score box, which showed score and time remaining on the screen. He debuted it during Premier League soccer in England in 1992 and wanted to bring it to the NFL. Fox said they’d show scores, use more cameras to create more angles, and have exciting graphics. Hill told the NFL, “Sports is entertainment, not religion. We’ll make it fun.”

Fox knew it had to bid more than CBS to get the NFL, but Fox chief Rupert Murdoch felt the bid had to be high enough to force the NFL to say yes. One of Murdoch’s analysts told him how much money the network would lose over the four years of the deal. Murdoch explained that he was looking at it all wrong. “I’m not buying NFL rights, I’m buying a network. Buying NFL rights is cheaper than buying ABC, NBC, or CBS.” Only the NFL can make Fox a real network.”

Fox outbid CBS by over $100 million in 1993 to win the rights to show NFL games

Of course, Murdoch was right. Dozens of CBS affiliates switched to Fox. Prime announcing talent jumped ship from CBS to Fox, including the legendary John Madden. Viewers and advertisers followed, and CBS stock nosedived.

But more than anything, that bold move made Fox a real network.

Coleman Insights founder Jon Coleman credits Sonoma Media Group President Michael O’Shea with the story he shares about the number to the left and right of the decimal point in the ratings share of every radio station. In short, the number to the right of the decimal point (as in the 3 in a 4.3 share) represents the majority of things radio stations spend the vast majority of their time on. This can be tweaking the music, moving talk breaks around, or giving away concert tickets. As Jon explained in the Tuesdays With Coleman blog “How to Move the Ratings Needle,” these are the tactical strategies that may take a station from a 4.3 to a 4.5 or maybe a 4.7. But what moves the number to the left of the decimal point are big time moves. This can include a format change, attracting a hugely impactful air talent, or a major memorable marketing campaign.

Big “left number” moves don’t always require the deep pockets of Rupert Murdoch. But they do require big strategic goals, strategic thinking, a competitive streak, and a whole lot of guts.

The potential reward is usually far more exciting than the number to the right.