Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Canadian Radio Directory (author Andy Reid)

Hats off to Andy Reid for developing the Canadian Radio Directory! Excellent resource for exploring radio stations across the country.

Canadian Radio Directory

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Radio students on 'Radio'

What do radio students think of radio?

Quite a bit, actually.

Eight weeks into their first semester, more than 50 first year, first semester radio students had an assignment which required them to analyze radio: familiar stations they listen to often, and stations they have never tuned into before. Results of their findings will be revealed momentarily – please stand by.

It’s always interesting getting perspective on the current state of radio from young adults. These are folks drawn into studying this industry for various reasons: they love music, love sports, love writing and/or audio, have opinions and observations they want to share, or - in some cases – just love talking and maybe just love the sound of their own voice.  At this stage in their radio studies, they have just the right amount of foundational knowledge for a somewhat informed opinion, but not enough knowledge to sway their opinion from a true honest observation.

I had just finished marking this assignment, and summarizing takeaways for this blog piece, when I attended the November OAB Conference, aptly titled ‘ Visioning the Future’.

Daniel Anstandig, CEO of Futuri -which is a developer of social and mobile audience engagement technology – encouraged media companies to tap into millennial brains to get their views of the future of media. Jeff Vidler – President of Audience Insights, and one of the smartest radio people in Canada I might add – followed Daniel’s presentation by revealing results of his actual discussion with 6 millennial brains. This sample group -  young adults averaging mid-twenties – urged the radio industry to be more fun, and to focus on personalities. They like contesting, ease of use and convenience of radio. They don’t want to use their data to listen to radio (hello – unlock the FM chip anyone?). 

These are important takeaways from average, everyday people who are coming at these conclusions and observations from a very honest and unbiased point of view. Here at Humber college, the faculty – radio and all media programs specifically  - are lucky enough to have access to these kinds of opinions and observations on the state of whatever media - on a regular basis - each and every time we step into a classroom or mark an assignment.

Here's an example.

Circling back to the opening of this piece - and results of an assignment where the students - currently everyday people with a vested interest in radio - were asked to critically listen and analyze radio and offer the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Highlights from the ‘Radio Station Analysis’ assignment from fall 2016.

Sample Size: 50
Demographics:
35% female
65% male
Average age
18-25

First year, first semester radio students, Humber College School of Media Studies and Information Technology, Toronto, ON

Assignment Objective – (synopsis):
  • Listen critically to one hour of radio on a station you are familiar with, and another hour of radio on a station you have never listened to
  • Look at their web page – see if you can find information about the company, management etc
  • Record -on a hot clock, and analyze the following:

    • When did the station break during that hour, and what did those breaks contain?
    • Why were commercials placed here – observations?
    • What did the host/announcer talk about, and why did they talk about that item at that point?
    • Who is listening, what makes you think that?
    • Who is the direct competition to this station, and why?
    • If you were the PD – what would you change – if anything?


Findings : The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Good  – point form

  • The term 'part of' came up a bit. These young listeners liked to feel they were ‘part of’ something  - part of the joke - part of a 'special club' - all terms that came up
  • They LIKE news headlines. Many listened to stations they never listened to before and heard top hour headlines - questioning why all the stations didn't do this?
  • They like to be reminded of who is talking, what was played, the time and weather, background on songs and artists...you know...radio - how it always was before someone said no one wants this anymore! Many of these students were listening to some of these stations for the first time and were unfamiliar with the songs, the host etc. One student questioned – “does the station not want to attract and keep more listeners so their ratings will increase? Then tell me what and to whom I am listening!
  • They like hosts who interact with listeners
  • They like hosts in general! A few students tuned into an hour of radio that was clearly unmanned – on auto, and they couldn't understand why there was no host. One mentioned how it was an opportunity lost.
  • They like strategically placed spot sets – and sets that were shorter length.
  • They like good, informative and funny talk radio (some never listened to talk before)-  but they felt the hosts should identify the guests more often
  • They like classical music - and jazz - and have discovered these are relaxing stations that they will tune into moving forward. (note: opportunity here given our stressed out millennials!)
  • Many found stations for the first time that they didn't know exist. (note: another case to implement Sean Ross’ idea of radio pooling together to advertise radio (on billboards and other mediums)
The Bad and Ugly –  point form

  • Overuse of splitters. One student offered  - do they think the listener is stupid? We get we are listening to that station!
  • Lack of information. What are they listening to? Who are they listening to outside of the splitters?
  • No host. Many students pulled an all-nighter (as students do) to complete this assignment. Many questioned why they didn't hear a host -or any interaction with audience. One student pondered - don't they want people to tune in overnight? What about all the shift workers?
  • Commercial spots that were too long; Many students commented on this –and suggested that a long stop set sounded like one big commercial – the first client gets forgotten after commercial number 7 airs. 
  • Many commercials – some felt - also had too much information – they were confused. What exactly is the client selling?
  • Certain hosts were talking to audience as a whole, rather than individually - there was no intimacy
  • Information gathering; students questioned why it was so hard to find information about demographics and psycho-graphics on the radio webpage? Shouldn’t this be clearer? (Many noted CHFI did a good job with this)
  • Students also noted many stations did not clearly identify station management and how to contact them outside of a general 'contact us' form.

Interesting observations and takeaways from the future stakeholders in radio; our colleagues and maybe even our bosses? These young people have great ideas. They have logical observations and questions - which in some cases - don’t have a logical answer. They want to be heard and share their ‘millennial brains’ with you – the agents of change. Listen closely, and you could learn a thing or two like we profs do every time we step into the classroom.

To arrange for your own focus group, poll or survey with these students – feel free to contact me. They would love for you to hear their opinions.


Bonus:

Today’s class discussion was on social media platforms and what the class – sample size 18 - likes best and why. Will this help form the social media platforms you use with your stations?





Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Understanding the 'Emerging Adult'

Recently I have had more than a few discussions with friends and colleagues about teenagers and their focus, or lack thereof in some cases, when it comes to the future and what they want to do with their lives.

These conversations have been  - for the most part - with those who have children leaving high school and trying to figure out next steps. Will they head to University? College? Take a year off and travel or work? All of these options seem like the natural next progression based on what we - the parents, guardians or advisors - experienced 20 or more years ago.

But what many of my friends and colleagues are not prepared for, and what I'm seeing quite a bit of in my own post-secondary profession, is the young adults 'giving it a go' - only to drop out of post-secondary for a while, then  'give it a go' a few more times - living in the basement, before realizing what it is they truly want to do with the rest of their lives.

This is taking many people by surprise and casting huge amounts of stress on both the parent and the young adult. From the parent/guardian perspective - I hear What's wrong with them?" "Where did I go wrong". From the young adult perspective, I hear 'I'm not ready for this"  "I need more time to figure things out'.

This discussion throws me back to a research paper I wrote for my Masters Degree. It centered on understanding today's young adults, why they are hesitant or ill equipped to make plans for the future, and addresses the challenges and fears they face in today's world which - as we know - is drastically different than what their parents faced. Right or wrong - coddling or not - the excerpt below may offer some insight into what the 'emerging adult' is up against, and the need to help these young people figure things out long before they hit the age where they are forced to do so.




...While appearing to appreciate the importance of goal planning, the students found the assignment challenging in part. This reinforced to me that a goal planning exercise should continue to be part of my curriculum but that it required changes.

Prior to pursuing an action research cycle, I also reviewed literature on young adults to appreciate other factors that may impact the students’ performance on the goal planning exercise. I found two authors who provided me with particular insight on the 18 to 25 demographic.

One author is Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a professor from the Clark University department of psychology. Arnett notes that the lack of direction among post high-school students may be attributed to their delayed entry into traditional roles of adulthood as defined by prior generations (J Jenson Arnett, 2010). He observes the period beyond high school has dramatically changed over the past thirty years, and to expect today’s young adults, aged 18 to 25, to assume roles that young adults aged 18 to 25 assumed in 1972 would be unreasonable. These roles include such things as marriage, parenthood and stable work.  Arnett believes today’s post secondary students wait until at least their late twenties to make these transitions, and has attributed this transition time to a new life stage he identifies as ‘emerging adulthood’. Arnett believes members of this new life stage club are frequently misunderstood and misinterpreted. Contrary to criticisms voiced by some members of the older generations, Arnett defends the emerging adult group. He believes that their reluctance to jump into adult roles identified by today’s older adults should not be viewed as selfish, slacking or grandiosity, but rather reflects a need for time to build skills to be a grown up.

In the context of goal planning, Arnett’s observations of this age group appear to me to equally describe young adults who are in a kind of limbo when it comes to life direction, unable to adequately plan for the future, because they are not ready for it.  In my view, Arnett’s observations support a need for goal planning as a tool to assist this age group to better focus and prepare for their tomorrow.  

The importance of goal planning is also supported by the observations of Doctor Oliver Robinson on the next supposed life stage, referred to as the ‘quarter life crisis’. Doctor Robinson presented his findings on the ‘quarter life crisis” to the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Glasgow in May of 2011. Dr. Robinson claimed this project to be the first to look at the quarter life crisis from a "solid, empirical angle based on data rather than speculation” (Robinson, 2011). Robinson found that, out of 1100 young people (aged 25 to 35) surveyed, 86% admitted feeling pressure to succeed in their relationships, finances and jobs before reaching the age of 30.

If one accepts both Jensen Arnett’s observations that emerging adults delay assuming traditional roles of adulthood, and Dr. Robinson’s findings on the quarter life crisis, then when emerging adults are ready to assume these traditional roles, they enter a very stressful, anxiety ridden, stage, in which they feel the need to accomplish goals they had been putting off until age 30! My conclusion? Goal planning by young adults is more crucial than ever! If we do nothing, are we not enabling an entire generation of young adults to lack the drive and focus to prepare for their future, only to then find their backs up against a wall because the realities of adulthood are suddenly sprung on them?

Another aspect I examined prior to undertaking the action research cycles was the economic reality facing young adults. This was explored in a further attempt to understand the challenge of goal planning. The Canadian Council of Learning estimates that 57 percent of students leave post-secondary institutions with student loan debt averaging $13,600 (Canadian Council of Learning, 2010; Stats Canada 2010). Students are required to start paying this debt back within six months of graduating. If a student carrying this debt secures an entry level position in radio broadcasting in Ontario within that six month time frame, he or she can expect to be making an entry level salary of $24,407 before taxes (Loyalist College, 2009). The median after-tax income for an unattached Ontarian is $25,600 (HRSDC, 2007). Assuming these figures are still accurate today, this means that a radio graduate who secures full time employment is a low income earner, and may be facing financial struggles to not only support themselves, but also to pay off their student loan. The future, to this graduate, may be bleak and scary.  However, if that same graduate had a goal plan which included a more prosperous future, would they not be better armed to deal with that challenge?

And then there’s the pedagogical approach. Because I assumed that the poor results on the goal planning assignment were attributable at least in part to the structure and delivery of the assignment itself, I also looked at various pedagogical approaches. Recent findings from a symposium on teaching and learning in  Ontario suggests a non-traditional, learning centred, or learner/student centred approach results in greater retention and understanding of learning (Christensen Hughes, 2011). These findings take into consideration such things as collaborative learning, individual student differences and self-directed learning capabilities, and led me to consider different pedagogical approaches when delivering my goal planning assignment. Would the students achieve better results in having a round table discussion about what goals are possible? This would allow me to step back into a more observer role and allow them to collectively idea build.


The final factor I considered prior to undertaking the action research cycle was something brought to my attention at an internal workshop I attended at Humber College. The workshop, called Promoting Synergy between Motivation and Active Learning (D. Gardner, 2012), drew attention to the college’s multi-cultural student backgrounds. Toronto is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world (City of Toronto demographic facts, 2007).  This workshop emphasized the importance and need of educators to take into consideration the cultural background of students, which may offer additional challenges when it comes to planning for their future.  

Taken from 'The Goal from here? Simplifying goal planning", by Sheila Walsh, Bournemouth University - June 2012


Thursday, April 7, 2016

"It's all about perception" ~ Jim McCourtie


Perception:




When you study the picture above, what do you see? 

Some see a young woman - and some see an elderly woman. Both - as it turns out - are right. But if you were a brand manager - how do you want the audience to see it?

Program Director Jim McCourtie (Y108 and Fresh FM, Hamilton) used that image - and the meaning behind it - to demonstrate to the Radio Humber students that the audience's perception on how they see YOU is what counts. What do the students want their media to convey? What is their personal brand? What is going to attract the right kind of attention? 

Now 3 weeks away from the leaving the comforts of college for the real world - the class of 2016 were reminded how important it is to stand out - go above and beyond with creativity and innovation to get noticed - and to manage that perception - that brand - that will take them places in their career. 

Jim reminded the class that their brand will be hired to compliment a station's larger brand - which led to the greater discussion of hiring practices and what someone like Jim would be looking for.

For announcers, newscasters and producers - Jim calls it a 'narrow look' before considering the bigger picture. He starts with the 'tape'; if he likes the audio piece - it fits with what he's looking for - then he opens up the resume and files it for consideration. A custom demo goes a long way, so does having a clean social media profile, and a stellar reputation. Jim will seek out what he calls 'back door references' - to get an opinion on someone he is considering hiring. These would be the references you don't put down on your resume. If those elements pass the test, then it would be time for the 'hiring viewpoint' - bringing the person in for a face to face chat.

Much like the image at the beginning of this story - Jim wants his station's audiences to either see the young woman, or the elderly one - and programming what he calls 'funusual' pieces (fun + unusual) work for both. A good programmer understands his audiences needs - and Jim says his announcers are never to make the listeners worry - it's not the job of these particular formats - it's not the perception to be conveyed. If the students can remember what they are trying to accomplish with their own brand - the perception they want to convey - then success is not far away.







Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Find your voice: Scott Metcalfe



'Find your voice' is what 680 News - News Director Scott Metcalfe opened his lecture with. 

Scott played audio examples of artists such as Bob Marley, Paul McCartney and Janis Joplin before - and after - 'finding their voice' . The point being to demonstrate to the Radio Humber Class of 2016 that who they are now ~ their talents and capabilities ~ will continue to evolve and get better ~  but only if they continue to practice and find their voice. Scott reiterated the point with a piece of audio of celebrated sportscaster Dan Shulman, who went from a green weekend sports anchor who Scott hired in the 1990's (audio piece 1),  to award winning ESPN play-by-play announcer (audio piece 2). Dan found his voice.


Scott has a great deal of perspective on things like this after having been in the business for more than 40 years - many of those years as a manager. He maintains a calm, mild-mannered disposition despite running the busiest and arguably the most hectic newsroom in Canada - Toronto's 680 News. Scott's leadership style has him clearly thinking outside the box in many cases - including with young up and coming broadcasters. Scott used an example of looking at someone who may be a Britney Spears expert as  'curious' - not 'limited' - and instead of scoffing at them,  he would attempt to  direct and channel that natural curiosity into other areas like politics or community issues.



On a personal note, I had the pleasure of freelancing for Scott at the Fan 590 more than 20 years ago and can attest that he was one of the nicest, most pleasant, approachable bosses I have ever worked for. Scott brought up his own experiences with bosses - good and bad - and offered to the class (who are currently searching for their first jobs) that they will most likely have experiences with both good and bad bosses. His advice? Focus on the job - not the boss; 'you may want to quit the boss, just don't quit the job'. 



Looks like that - might in fact - be the secret to such longevity in the radio.