Author: Jay Nachlis

The Chicago Bulls and the Value of an Everlasting Brand

Sports apparel retailer Lids recently revealed their best-selling NBA gear over the 2022 off-season, and if you believe content is everything, take a good look at this map:

You might hypothesize that in states with at least one NBA team, merch sales for one of those teams would sell the most. In several cases that’s true, including the Philadelphia 76ers in Pennsylvania, the Portland Trailblazers in Oregon, The Phoenix Suns in Arizona, the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minnesota, the Milwaukee Bucks in Wisconsin, and the Detroit Pistons in Michigan. The Chicago Bulls have the best-selling merch in Illinois…and 27 other states.

It makes sense that the Bulls would sell the most in states without an NBA team. I totally buy that.

But the Bulls outsold the Mavericks, Rockets, and Spurs in Texas. They trampled the Heat and Magic in Florida.

The Indiana Pacers must lead in Hoosier country, right? Nope, da Bulls.

The Thunder in OKC? Da Bulls.

The Hornets in Charlotte? Da Bulls.

The Pelicans in New Orleans? Da Bulls.

The team claiming the sales trophy in the second greatest number of states is the Los Angeles Lakers with five. (Spike Lee may never get over the fact that the Lakers outsold the Knicks in New York).

What this map screams is the value of the Chicago Bulls brand. The team benefits on multiple levels, not the least of which is its association with Michael Jordan (arguably the greatest player in NBA history).

But as we often allude to in Coleman Insights’ Brand-Content MatrixSM, there is gold at the intersection of strong brand and great content, and the Bulls likely benefitted from “The Last Dance,” an ESPN documentary that was ripe for binge viewing during the 2020 Covid lockdowns.

The Bulls merch success is certainly not all about the Bulls’ product on the court today, which is marginal. They haven’t won a title since 1998. Yet the brand strength persists.

But what this map also screams is the value of data. One piece of data from one sports retailer certainly does not tell us the entire picture of NBA merch sales, nor does it project the popularity of teams in each of those states. But it’s a reminder that data and insights often offer surprises and high value when considering strategic decisions.

Brand Management Lessons From MrBeast

Like many parents my age, I was introduced to MrBeast by my 12-year-old son. Now 16, Teddy still follows everything MrBeast does, watches every video he publishes, and knows the second he’s been at the local mall giving away gift cards to surprised patrons. We ordered his new chocolate bars (with the potential of winning Willy Wonka-like golden tickets) the minute they came out. Because that’s what MrBeast fans do.

MrBeast is Jimmy Donaldson, a 24-year-old YouTuber who made his first video eleven years and 100 million subscribers ago. It is estimated Donaldson makes $15 million a year on YouTube alone, but sponsorships, partnerships, and investments have made him far wealthier. His engaging stunts and unpredictable philanthropy have built a rabid following, which was on complete display at the opening of his first brick and mortar restaurant, MrBeast Burger. Colin and Samir, a pair of YouTubers with over a million subscribers of their own, were on hand for the grand opening at the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey. What transpired and what they captured in “We Spent 24 Hours With MrBeast” should be required viewing for anyone responsible for a brand.

First, you’ll note how involved Donaldson is in every step of the event. From the jump, he talks about how only one thing is important to him and he expresses it in a few different ways: “I want people to have the best possible experience.” “I want the people who show up to have a good time.” “I’ll be stressed until I know they had a great experience.”

It’s not going to be easy. Over 10,000 people have shown up for the grand opening.

At 8:53 of the video, Donaldson lets every member of the staff working in the restaurant know that he’s going to put an extra $1,000 in each of their paychecks to make sure they guarantee every guest has a good time. “Smile a lot. Just make sure they’re happy.”

At 13:14, Donaldson is concerned about line flow. Fans want to take pictures with him, but it is affecting the efficiency of the restaurant. It’s not a challenge he delegates. “Let’s figure out how to do photos that doesn’t clog the line.” This morphs into a dissecting of the issue, resulting in switching from individual to group photos to save time.

At 19:35, he’s speaking with his manager about fans who are lingering even after they take photos, which continues to cause flow issues for those ordering food. His manager throws up a roadblock, explaining “But the merch stand is right there.”  Donaldson’s response is immediate. “Move the merch stand. Get rid of it. Give the stuff away. Whatever.” His focus is not on how the merch stand should look on a regular day, he’s only concerned about how the customer experience is today. And the merch stand is in the way.

Radio people should pay close attention to the scene at 22:40, when a signature MrBeast stunt is announced to take place in the middle of the mall: “Last to Leave for 50K.” Seven contestants will stand in a circle and the last to leave the circle wins $50,000. It’s a stunt he has repeated with various prizes over and over.

Sound like, oh I don’t know, “Last to have their hands on the car?” “Last ones kissing”? “Last one on the billboard?”

The stunts most radio stations don’t do anymore?

Turns out the kids love it. Of course, they always have.

You want timely pop culture stunts? Check out his re-creation of Squid Game.

At 25:00 of the documentary, watch the crowd’s reaction to seeing their hero. This isn’t Harry Styles, it’s MrBeast.

And we better pay attention.

With 6,212 burgers sold in one day, the world record was shattered three times over. MrBeast took photos with 10,000 fans. And Jimmy Donaldson put on a clinic on how to manage a brand from the top down.

“I want people to have the best possible experience.”

Three Common Mistakes Made When Launching or Changing a Brand

Last week, Amazon laid off 150 employees in its Amp division, the app that was marketed, as Amp Vice President John Ciancutti explained, as “a new version of radio.” Amp allows anyone to play DJ with their own live radio show and have access to the Amazon Music library to curate their own playlists.

The Amp app launched just eight months ago.

In last week’s announcement, Amazon spokesperson Rebecca Silverstein hinted at Amp’s struggles by saying, “At Amazon we think big, experiment, and invest in new ideas to delight customers. We also continually evaluate the progress and potential of our products and services to deliver customer value, and we regularly make adjustments based on those assessments.”

Amp isn’t shutting down, and it may well end up being successful. But its stumbles out of the gate are an important reminder of some of the missteps to avoid when launching or changing a brand.

  1. Don’t launch or change a brand until all your potential target consumers can use it without friction. 

Amp’s biggest mistake may be its platform (un) availability. Start with the desktop experience. I often listen to radio stations and Spotify while I work. With one click, I’m in my Spotify dashboard. You can’t play Amp on your desktop, but it does have a QR code to download the app. On my phone, it does launch it, but it is the web version. Why? Amp still doesn’t have an app available for Android.

“Yeah, but it’s available on Alexa” isn’t enough.

It is strangely reminiscent of the launch of a different audio platform, Clubhouse, which only made its app initially available on iPhones.

Inside Radio reported a radio example last week, in which Alexa was playing the wrong station after frequency and format shifts after an ownership change. The Alexa skill simply hadn’t been updated.

  1. Don’t launch or change a brand without making a serious marketing investment.

Sure, there was a time when consumers would just happen upon your brand. They just “discovered” your radio station while they were “surfing the dial.” Or they’d hear about it because, you know, “everyone’s talking about it.”

You simply cannot assume that ultra-distracted consumers in today’s ultra-competitive climate are just going to find your brand. Clubhouse’s launch couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Introduced in March 2020, its initial artificial growth was fueled by unusual consumer behavior brought on by the pandemic. In early 2021, it turned down a $4 billion offer from Twitter. By late 2021, it was #60 in the App Store’s ‘social networking’ category right behind Chispa, Skout, and Hit on Me!

At least part of the problem is Clubhouse relied on its initial buzz and when people forgot about it, they forgot about it. There was no notable marketing to remind them it existed. Additionally, when you’re launching a new type of product that consumers aren’t familiar with (as was the case with Amp and Clubhouse), the marketing needs to educate consumers about what it is and how to use it. That takes even more money.

  1. Don’t launch or change a brand until the product is absolutely ready.

You may have noticed recently that Amazon isn’t the only tech giant’s stock getting killed on Wall Street of late. Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, lost 32% of its value in October. It certainly wasn’t a reflection of the stock market at large. October was the best month for the Dow Jones since 1976. As evidenced by its name, Meta is all in on the metaverse and its Horizon Worlds platform. The problem, apparently, is that it sucks. A leaked memo from Meta VP Vishal Shah implies it’s so clunky their own employees won’t use it. (For what it’s worth, my 16-year-old son agrees.) Maybe they’ll fix it. But maybe they should have waited to launch it.

“First in wins” is not an all-encompassing statement. First to market only works if the consumer experience is aligned with expectations. Otherwise, negative perceptions will build that the brand may never be able to overcome.

Treat brand launches and changes with the attention and delicate care that they deserve. Don’t rush, align the message and experience, and then don’t do it on the cheap.

Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in a vicious cycle of brand repair or spinning your wheels with launches that go nowhere.

Restaurant to Radio: A Conversation With Rico Colindres

Rico Colindres is one of those people in the radio industry who I probably should have met by now. In a recent Teams call, we learned we both grew up in San Francisco, have a mutual admiration for the late KMEL legend Rick Chase, and both worked at stations now owned by iHeartMedia, him at KYLD, and me at KIOI.

It turns out we also have something else oddly in common. Around the same time (2015), we left our radio careers behind to do something completely different. For me, it was becoming VP/Marketing for a computer training school, and for Rico, it was opening a yoga studio and restaurant. In both cases, our love for radio was reignited while we were away. For Rico, as he explains, it was the experience of running a restaurant that triggered the flame. He has lessons learned to share with those in radio today.

Rico is the Vice President of Content Development at Skyview Networks, working with a roster of syndicated talent and content that includes Dana Cortez, B-Dub Radio, Murphy, Sam & Jodi, Country Top 40 with Fitz, Nick Cannon, and his own “Carmen’s Calls,” a feature he has written, voiced, and produced for more than 15 years. The company recently reached deals with Bob & Sheri and Throwback Brands, keeping Rico Colindres very busy.

Skyview Networks Vice President of Content Development Rico Colindres

Of all the jobs Rico has held, he says running a restaurant was the most challenging. In retrospect, he realizes he was building a restaurant for himself, not for the customer. And he believes radio often makes the same mistake. Here are five lessons he learned in the restaurant industry he believes can parallel to radio.

START THINKING OF LISTENERS AS CUSTOMERS

“By calling listeners customers as is done in the restaurant and other industries, we are more likely to focus on their experience. Would we look down at our most loyal customers at a restaurant? Why do we do this in radio by calling them prize pigs?”

THE ENDING IS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE BEGINNING

“How a customer’s experience ends in a restaurant is what dictates whether they will come back. You must leave them with something that makes them feel good. Think of a radio break that way. Maybe the destination is where you begin.”

PUT THE BEST TALENT IN PRIME TIME

“The radio station is the restaurant. The listener is the customer. The jock is the bartender. The bartender can make or break the business. Are they smiling and making you feel great or are they making you feel like they’re doing you a favor by serving you a drink? You wouldn’t put your best bartender on at 11 AM in a restaurant. Are your best jocks on when the most listeners are?”

DON’T CHOOSE THE CONTENT JUST BECAUSE YOU LIKE IT

Rico explains that beer and liquor distributors would often sell craft drinks to the restaurant at better prices than larger, mainstream brands. So, he’d push items he thought were better for the customer, like Barrio Lager instead of Corona or a new whiskey instead of Jack Daniels.

“The customers want what they want and what they know. So unless you’ve built a big enough brand as being the place for new drinks, which takes a ton of money, when a customer orders Jack and Coke or Tito’s & Soda you better have them. Are you giving your listeners what they want or what you think they want?”

DON’T INSULATE YOURSELF FROM NEGATIVE FEEDBACK

Radio’s distance from its customers is a challenge. Restaurant owners get instant feedback constantly, whether from diners in person or through brutal reviews on Google and Yelp. And yet most radio stations don’t really get to hear much critical, but highly useful, feedback.

“It’s dangerous not to know. That’s why you must have the magic and the math to guide the decisions. Research is so important for that reason.”

Throughout our discussion, it became abundantly clear that an intense focus on the customer is what guides Rico, which is why it’s not at all surprising to hear his take on what today’s radio industry needs to thrive.

“Putting the customer first is how we will reignite the industry.”

Why Did My Radio Station’s Ratings Go Down?

“It was only one or two meters!!”

Whether you’ve experienced poring over data in Media Monitors or visiting Arbitron’s offices in Columbia, Maryland back in the day to hand-sift through diaries (or like me, both), the frustration of radio ratings data inconsistencies is a tale as old as the measurement itself.

Generally, ratings tend to tell the story well when viewed over longer periods of time. But when you rely on quarterly, monthly, or even weekly ratings to make decisions that affect your programming, hold on buckaroo. You’re often in for a wild ride.

For me, the irrational rationalizing was the worst part as a program director on ratings day. OK, maybe it was the 30 minutes leading up to the release of the numbers when my stomach turned in knots. But it was the moments afterwards on bad book days, with the General Manager, Sales Manager, and maybe some other members of the programming team in my office offering theories.

“Well, you know, the morning show took the week off and so-and-so was in there by herself.”

“We ran the heck out of that contest. I guess it didn’t work.”

“Why didn’t those commercial-free sweeps connect?”

“The competition started playing one more current an hour.”

Guess, guess, guess, guess.

If you’re only looking at a ratings number, you simply don’t know what caused the drop.

It’s no different when you rationalize why you went up. There are exceptions, of course. A truly major change like a format flip or morning show departure can cause short-term ratings flux, but minor things typically don’t.

At its core, perceptual research is so valuable because of the sample size. When you’re talking with hundreds of listeners in your market that listen to your station or your competitors, you can both rely on the data and feel comfortable making programming decisions based on it.

And because data is impartial, the answers you think you’ll get aren’t always the ones you do. This is especially true when it comes to the answer to the question in the title of this blog. “Why did my radio station’s ratings go down?”

Attempting to answer that question shouldn’t be the only time you conduct perceptual research, but it certainly is a reason to. Over the course of being involved in many studies where that question is asked, the answer is not always that something is terribly wrong.

Sometimes, radio stations going through ratings struggles look remarkably healthy from a perceptual perspective. It could be a ratings sampling issue. And although it may not be much consolation to the sales department in the short term, it is helpful to know that the ratings declines in those instances are usually temporary. It is not unusual to see them bounce back. And thankfully, studies in instances like these offer programmers confidence to not go fixing things that aren’t broken, an instinct that may be opposite to the feeling they get when looking at a bad book.

And yes, sometimes things are in fact broken. Or the competition owns all the images you’re trying to win. Or not enough potential listeners know your station exists. Or a myriad of other issues we can identify. They’re all solvable challenges, sometimes painful, sometimes not. But at least you know the why behind the what and you can take the appropriate action to make positive change.

Guessing may work well for this guy:

 

Source: Syracuse.com

But it’s not so fun when you’re in charge of a radio station.

Why I Admire Panic! At The Disco’s Calculated Risk

My wife Jennifer loves to tease me about my affinity for 70s soft rock. The teasing was only amplified after I took her to see Air Supply earlier this summer. Combine this with her seemingly always catching the radio in my car on the Classic Hits station, and you have her running reference, “Your music tastes are old.” The truth is, I’m constantly in music discovery mode, and my tastes are crazy diverse (I saw Rage Against The Machine two months after Air Supply). But it doesn’t matter. Jennifer (who does, in fact, listen to a lot of new music and is addicted to Alt Nation on SiriusXM) said it was time to take her to a concert featuring, as she put it, “someone who’s put out new music in this millennium.” That led to me buying a pair of tickets for us to see Panic! At The Disco.

Because I can’t help myself, about three weeks before the show we had tickets for in Raleigh, I visited setlist.fm where you can find setlists for just about every show from every artist. I do like to be surprised, so I don’t study the setlists carefully, but I tend to look for which song will be performed last so we can leave for the parking lot right before. (I’m well aware that act will likely be featured in a future edition of Progressive Insurance’s “Don’t turn into your parents” campaign.)

When reviewing the setlist, I noticed that Panic! At The Disco was performing the new album, Viva Las Vengeance, in its entirety during the show. Every song, in order. I decided to tell her that night, and my wife is even more amusing when she’s ranting. “Who does he think he is, Roger Waters?? It’s not The Wall. It sure as heck isn’t American Idiot. That’s dumb. I’m not sure if I want to go now.”

Sure enough, she decided she wanted to sell the tickets. So I listed them, but as late as three nights before the show, there were no takers. We elected to go. In the meantime, over the past few weeks, I listened to the album many times and it turns out I love it. And sure, you can make the joke that it’s because Panic! At The Disco vocalist Brendon Urie clearly listened to a lot of older music that I enjoy before recording this album, especially Queen. The entire album has major undertones of 70s music.  He even recorded it on an 8-track machine to give it a very analog feel.

The show was fantastic. And the move of playing the album in its entirety was completely bold. Urie didn’t even make reference to the fact that he was doing it, he just did it. And of course, about halfway through, it resulted in a number of bathroom breaks and beer runs from audience members who had no idea what they were hearing.

Brendon Urie Panic! At The Disco

Panic! At The Disco’s Brendon Urie

Within this entire experience, I focused on a fascinating psychological lesson that may resonate with many music programmers. My wife loves new music. She listens to a station that plays lots of new music. She literally said she wanted to go to this show because it featured new music. But when she found out it was that much new music, she initially recoiled. Too much unfamiliar. Despite her desire for new music, she wanted to hear the hits.

And yet, there’s a part of me that really appreciates Urie’s move here. While playing the new album in its entirety was risky, he did it for a room full of people that were already fans, so the transgression would almost certainly be forgiven. Many people at the show that hadn’t heard the new album may now seek it out, because they got to hear it as a complete work. And it was quite good. Plus, he did in fact play the hits. I can’t think of any songs he left on the table.

Our brains are trained to know what they know. Only classic albums are generally performed in their entirety. But new ideas challenge our assumptions and move us forward.

For that, Brendon Urie gets my admiration. Right up there with Air Supply.

Applying Blue Ocean Strategy to Christian Radio

I was certain the first time I met Mike Couchman was a few months ago, at the premier conference for contemporary Christian Radio, Christian Music Broadcasters’ Momentum conference in Orlando. But after listening to my recent appearance on the Sound Off Podcast and hearing about some of my radio stops, Mike recalled that I interviewed him and gave him a tour at WLLC (Alice 106.7) in Detroit. And although I didn’t think he fit the station, I referred him to Tim Richards at WKQI, who hired him.

Small world, radio.

Today, Couchman is program director of the hugely successful Christian AC KLJY (Joy FM) in St. Louis, as well as KXBS (BOOST), a Christian Rhythmic CHR that is unlike most Contemporary Christian stations in 2022. Through a partnership with EMF, BOOST is now heard on signals in five markets in addition to St. Louis: Chicago, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Portland, OR, and Fayetteville, NC.

BOOST and Joy FM Program Director Mike Couchman

This is the story of BOOST.

Blue Ocean Strategy is a tactic brands take to create uncontested market space, capture new demand, and make competition irrelevant. In radio, where you often see multiple CHR, AC, Country, or Urban stations in a market, finding a Blue Ocean lane can be challenging. For Christian stations like Joy FM, there is a template most follow, and many do it very well. For Boost, Couchman is more like a mad scientist bringing pieces together to create a new formula, and one could certainly argue it’s a formula rooted in Blue Ocean Strategy. There just aren’t many Christian Rhythmic CHRs.

WHO BOOST IS FOR

Mike Couchman says his mom is super religious. “She would ground me for listening to N.W.A. and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.” (Side note: N.W.A. I understand, but I think Marky Mark made it pretty clear he was drug free and put the crack up.) Couchman was up for listening to Christian radio, but felt there was nothing for him and he felt left out.

When Joy FM’s parent company decided they wanted to launch a different format from their flagship AC, they had a few things in mind. Primarily, it should be young and multicultural. Couchman took that a step further. “BOOST should a) be Christian radio for Christians who don’t vibe with traditional Christian radio. B) It should be a station for people who may not have much faith but feel Mainstream Hip Hop has gone too far for their tastes.”

The process of picking a name for BOOST turned out to be deliberately Blue Ocean Strategy. Couchman says in a brainstorming call with a friend, voiceover talent Joe Szymanski, he laid out what he didn’t want. A) A cliché radio name; and B) Something that told non-Christians they weren’t welcome. If it reflected energy and positivity, even better.

BOOST Radio logo

THE JINGLE PACKAGE

It made the trades recently that BOOST debuted a new jingle package. Couchman nodded voraciously when I offered my opinion on jingles. “Perhaps the most underappreciated thing on the planet.” (Read John Boyne’s “The Case for Jingles” if you want more jingle love.)

And the process of finding the right jingle package? Blue Ocean. He told Dave Bethell at TM Studios what he wanted, but also what he didn’t want. That included “Faith-based, but not religious.” Here’s the end result.

MEASURING SUCCESS

Blue Ocean Strategy isn’t right for every station, and it involves an inherent level of risk. Launching a Christian format that brings in younger listeners with less disposable income and a more challenging path to ratings and revenue is not easy.

Though BOOST launched on a translator in 2014, it made the move to the larger 95.5 signal last year, right in the middle of a pandemic. You don’t often hear a PD saying Nielsen accounts for only about 20% of how they measure success, but that’s because they feel the goal of reaching untapped audiences is most important. Streaming numbers went way up when the station made the signal switch. A steady stream of listeners reaches out to the station unsolicited, telling them about the difference they’re making. And Couchman says you can see the diverse audience at every station event.

The national study Meghan Campbell and I presented at Momentum, “How to Attract Millennials and Gen Z to Christian Radio,” indicated a notable desire for Christian Pop and Hip Hop among listeners under 40. Awareness and finding the right formula is the logical next step.

Paraphrasing his boss Sandi Brown, he says “Joy FM is a freeway. A paved road where everyone knows where they’re going. BOOST is being paved as we go and we’re not sure where we’ll end up.”

Edwin Diaz, Narco, and Being Memorable

I’m a baseball fan. But as a lifelong San Francisco Giants loyalist, I don’t care one bit about the New York Mets (much to the chagrin of our president/Mets fan Warren Kurtzman, I’m sure). However, ask me which walk-up or walk-out song any Giants player uses, and I can’t tell you. Not even one. On the other hand, I’ll instantly identify “Narco” as the walk-out song used by Mets closer Edwin Diaz. The reason is fairly obvious, and has implications for the content you create for your brand.

The music played in the stadium when a Major League Baseball player comes to bat or trots in from the bullpen is referred to as walk-up or walk-out songs. It wasn’t until the 1970s that any music (a live organist) was played when a player was introduced. Recorded music wasn’t used until the 1990s and in the beginning, it was the teams that chose which songs to use for each player (like the Seattle Mariners using “You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon for first baseman Alvin Davis). While players started suggesting their own songs in the same decade, the phenomenon of every player selecting their own song is more recent, and today it is an essential rite of passage.

In 2018, while playing for the Mariners, Edwin Diaz was given a few songs to choose from by the team to use as his walk-out song.  He selected “Narco” by Timmy Trumpet and Dutch DJ duo Blasterjaxx. In 2019, his first year with the Mets, Diaz didn’t use “Narco” and it was thanks to his wife Nashaly that it returned to his repertoire. When fans returned after 2020’s season of empty stands, it gained steam. In 2022, it became a phenomenon.

(Player)+(Song) = Fans Going Wild isn’t a new formula. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera+”Enter Sandman” was a great combination, especially the emotional final appearance.

Mariners hurler Randy Johnson+”Welcome To The Jungle” struck fear in the hearts of hitters. But those choices were a little obvious, and fans already knew those songs. For many fans, Edwin Diaz+”Narco” was the first time they’d heard it. And now, “Narco” is “The Edwin Diaz Song” and Edwin Diaz is linked with “Narco”. The reason is that it became more than a song. It became an experience. I’m going to pretend I didn’t read that Jerry Seinfeld believes Timmy Trumpet playing “Narco” live at the game was the reason the Mets went into a slump, because that’s a quote about nothing.

If the New York Mets had just played “Narco” when Diaz emerged from the bullpen, that would have been fine. But watch what happens when the song’s artist, Timmy Trumpet, plays the song live at Citi Field in New York when Diaz enters the game in the 9th inning. This isn’t a walk-out song, it’s a block party.

Fans are holding their phones in the air. The Mets mascots are playing fake horns in tandem with Trumpet behind him. Many in the crowd have toy horns in their mouths. Trumpet is dancing like the night will never end. The team uses trumpet emojis on Twitter and gave away a Timmy Trumpet signed baseball. This is the difference between a feature (playing “Narco”) and an experience. One is very memorable. One is not nearly as much so.

When you create special features for your brand or on your show, think about what will make that feature memorable. Will it be just playing the feature? Or will it include an audio signature? Or a special guest? Or unique social media emojis? Or giveaways? Or all of the above?

Doing something doesn’t make it memorable. How you do it does. Time after time in our research, memorable is what moves the needle.

Inclusivity and Local: A Conversation With Scott MacFarlane

If you’ve followed coverage of the January 6th Capitol Attack, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Scott MacFarlane. As an investigative reporter for NBC Washington and now as Congressional Correspondent for CBS News, MacFarlane shows up on TV with regularity to provide in-depth detailed reporting. He voraciously ensures his 300,000 Twitter followers are in-the-know and up to the minute throughout the day. But as much as he loves delivering the news on television, Scott MacFarlane’s first love runs deep through his soul, and he vows to never give it up…radio.

CBS News Congressional Correspondent Scott MacFarlane

Scott MacFarlane and I trained in the same media classroom in the early 90s, WJPZ-FM at Syracuse University (watch for when he wears an orange tie, especially when he anchors the CBS News overnight broadcast). Though I watch and follow his January 6th reporting, it was a story MacFarlane recently filed for CBS Saturday Morning that captured my attention and inspired this conversation. A piece called “Radio Is King.”

It tells the story of Hoppy Kercheval, a radio host in West Virginia that everyone simply knows as “Hoppy”. From 10AM to Noon each weekday, Hoppy hosts a show called Talkline that airs on radio stations across the Mountain State. Though Hoppy has been serving news to West Virginians for decades, he recently went somewhat viral thanks to West Virginia senator Joe Manchin’s influence over recent bills brought to congress. When Manchin had news to break, he didn’t reach out to CNN or Fox News. He called Hoppy.

Scott MacFarlane has never seen anything like it. He says usually politicians are good at finding the largest possible audience, but he has never witnessed a national political figure choosing a local outlet to make all his news on. It’s so extraordinary, in fact, it birthed a new strategy on Capitol Hill. Hoppy usually gets local and regional spot buys, but lately he has big Washington money coming in for spots that air in the minutes before Manchin is to go on the show. Says MacFarlane, “When Manchin is on hold waiting to go on, he hears a spot trying to swing his vote on something.”

MacFarlane and I got to talking about Hoppy’s unique role, but also radio’s unique role in all of this. There are several reasons why radio is still so important in West Virginia. There are no major TV markets, no major TV reach, no big powerful newspaper that covers the whole state. If you want statewide reach, radio is the way to do it. But MacFarlane sees the way Hoppy presents news as something that should be replicated everywhere, no matter what the market size. To him, there are two things that drive Hoppy’s success: inclusivity and local.

Hoppy Kercheval (Credit: Talkline/Soundcloud)

“In West Virginia, Hoppy has to go above and beyond to make sure he’s inclusive of voices” says MacFarlane. “If he did a show that was a rip-off of Sean Hannity or Mark Levin or Rush Limbaugh, he wouldn’t be serving the audience he needs to serve. He wouldn’t get the local ad sales he needs because he wouldn’t be inclusive enough. He wouldn’t seem local if he was only talking political stuff. He needs to blend in schools, sports, cultural issues, transportation issues, or else it won’t feel local. Even some of the best local stations around the country spend too much time talking about national politics when they should be local. They’re missing an opportunity.”

It seems unusual these days to not know a talk radio hosts’ political lean, and MacFarlane says that’s exactly the point. “The fact that I don’t know Hoppy’s political lean is indicative of how well he’s doing. If he didn’t know Mountaineer sports, high school sports, state board of ed, major school districts…he goes out of his way to find local issues that have statewide reach. He’s not just talking about state Republicans and Democrats.”

Scott MacFarlane’s views on the ways News and Talk radio stations can be successful permeate into his own experience. You may be surprised to learn that MacFarlane’s radio imprint can often be larger than his TV imprint. That’s just how he wants it. While at NBC, they didn’t have a radio infrastructure, while CBS still serves radio. He still cuts his own news pieces for radio because he asked the higher-ups if he could. On the day we spoke, he was scheduled to do live talkbacks with WSB/Atlanta, WCBS/New York, KNX/Los Angeles, WTOP/Washington, DC, and KYW/Philadelphia. Says MacFarlane, “In some cities, it’s likely more people will hear me on the radio than will see me on television.”

Though it can be easy to write off Hoppy’s success as unique to smaller markets, Scott MacFarlane says larger markets should do many of the same things, including reaching out to all listeners, including on the periphery. “When I cover news, I view the edge of my market as the outer circle of where I can go. I don’t limit myself to what’s convenient because you miss opportunities, and you miss people.” Inclusivity. Local.

MacFarlane was curious if the reason Hoppy is so successful is technology. Is it just that West Virginians don’t have access to many news sources outside of radio so it’s the only place to go? The answer came back, and it was clear that wasn’t it. He was told there’s plenty of broadband and access to news.

“It’s because he’s hyper local. He strategically recognized the market is there for local content and took advantage of the fact that no one else was playing in that space. In markets that were leaning too much on syndicated national content, he capitalized on the desire and picked up affiliates quickly. It’s not technological, it’s content.”

Coleman Insights Names Scott Musgrave As Senior Vice President/Chief Revenue Officer

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, SEPTEMBER 8, 2022 – Media research firm Coleman Insights welcomes Scott Musgrave, most recently Head of U.S. Radio at Luminate (formerly Nielsen Music/MRC Data), as the newest member of its executive team. Musgrave begins his new responsibilities with Coleman Insights on September 12th.

In his new role, Musgrave will oversee the sales efforts of Coleman Insights, as well as its sister company, Integr8 Research. He will focus on new business development across all facets of the global audio entertainment industry, including radio, streaming, podcasting, music, and live events.

“Scott and I have long discussed working together, so I am thrilled to add him to the leadership team,” said Coleman Insights President Warren Kurtzman. “We have known each other for more than 30 years and I’ve always known him to be extremely customer-focused and look forward to him providing solutions that help solve some of our client’s biggest challenges.” Musgrave adds, “I have been an admirer of Coleman Insights’ work for too many years to count. I couldn’t be more excited to get started helping clients build and strengthen their brands.”

Before managing sales of BDSradio for Luminate for the past five years, Musgrave spent 17 years at Nielsen Audio (formerly Arbitron), including nine years as VP Sales/SVP General Manager of its radio station business. He also has held senior management and consultant roles at a wide array of startup and established media companies, including Media Monitors, Marketron, Quu Interactive, MediaDash.com, TuneGenie, Triton Digital, and Amplifi Media.