So Ryan Seacrest has reportedly been coached to talk less between the songs on KIIS FM.

In a competitive market, the PPM ratings decline when the mic opens, or so the general consensus (with plenty of exceptions) says.

Ryan is supposedly miffed, and who can blame him?  There are, after all, lots of companies that pay him lots of bucks to say stuff in front of an open mic.  Putting a lid on it is the last thing they want.

Here's my opinion:  I think the radio industry is investing way too much power in PPM ratings and making the wrong decisions on the basis of the wrong data.

Ryan Keep in mind that music is, by definition, the lowest common denominator product a station offers.  Any time a mic opens it is bound to please fewer people than the song which preceded that open mic. Because – unless you're an all-Talk station – nothing that host can say is likely to be more familiar and more appealing than the song he or she just followed to as many people at once.


Radio isn't a behavior that happens only now.  It's a behavior that happens over and over again across time.  And the biggest challenge isn't to keep people tuned IN to your station – it's to get people to tune BACK to your station.

We need to obsess less on reasons to tune-out and start obsessing on reasons to tune in.

While everyone may not agree that every pearl of wisdom from Ryan Seacrest is a slam-dunk classic, they will also agree that Ryan creates can't-miss moments – what the public radio folks (reluctantly) call "driveway moments" – and it is the anticipation of those moments that brings people back, again and again, to the station which is lucky enough to have him.

Ryan is a reason to come back to KIIS.  Unless there's less and less Ryan to come back for.

So you can tell Ryan to "trim out the fat" from his breaks, but the real game is to add more muscle.

Not to add more songs.

Because anybody can play songs.  

Only a talent can perform.

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  • http://profile.typepad.com/mramsey1 Mark Ramsey

    From the OC Register – Ryan’s conversation with crosstown rivals Kevin & Bean:
    RYAN: “I really probably shouldn’t do this on the air, but I got called into one of those meetings. I do the show from the E! Building (on Wilshire Boulevard) so they drove over from Burbank and we did small talk for 10 minutes and I’m thinking to myself, this is absolute hell, torture, and pain.
    “Then they said the ratings were great and there was a number one next to some of them. And then they said to me they believed we could hang on to this position if we keep playing the music and actually play more music and do less of what you’re doing. It’s not like this was the only place to hear Lady Gaga.
    “What they’re saying to me is I get up at 4 in the morning every day doing all these jobs and this morning show, which I actually love to do. I come in and actually put time and effort into it and try to do the best I can and then they say we kinda don’t want you to do so much of it.”
    That’s when Kevin told Ryan they have had those meetings “a thousands times more” than he had.
    KEVIN: “They say, Seacrest is kicking your (butt); maybe you should shut up and play more Red Hot Chili Peppers.”
    BEAN: “The bosses think that the people who listen to our respective shows don’t care about us; they’re only suffering through us to get to the songs they’ve heard a million times. That’s the mentality of management of our radio station.
    “I’m not kidding. We run and literally leave the radio station before they have a chance to talk with us. On a daily basis we do the Marine crawl out the front door and get in our cars.”
    When Ryan was asked why he still does radio when he is making millions doing “American Idol” and E! and running his own production company, he said, “Radio is actually fun for me but I’d rather do it for someone who likes me.”

  • http://www.CELLit.com Steve Poley

    What a good first step. It’s time to call out the obvious. If all the audience wants is music they would get an iPod … opps 88-million did (worldwide all models). Driveway moments take talent and leadership takes courage. Who will break the cycle? Corporate exec? GM? PD? Jocks? Maybe the lenders when they take control? If Ryan is too busy to prepare a great show then turn him off not the mic. Oh, that takes courage. Back to the real question. Who will break the cycle? I guess it will be the lenders.

  • http://www.albrightandomalley.com Jaye Albright

    This quote: “Radio is actually fun for me but I’d rather do it for someone who likes me…” crystalizes what’s going wrong for both Ryan, Kevin & Bean, and lots of other talent whose ratings may have been better in diary methodology than in PPM, and it’s a mistake to put all the blame on “investing way too much power in PPM ratings.”
    As people who have spent our careers teaching radio personalities, programmers and managers how to maximize their ratings, we researchers and consultants do have a lot of relearning to do as behavioral measurement replaces recall as the metric our business has chosen to use to place a value on our product with our customers.
    And, over the years, whether it has been diaries, telephone surveys or PPM, I have to admit that sometimes I have been successful in winning the trust of people who believe what I tell them I think they need to do to improve their rank and share and sometimes I have not.
    I don’t know what advice K&B are dodging as they Marine crawl daily out of their CBS studios or what magic potion the Clear Channel execs were attempting to sell to Ryan, but I do believe that the suggestions I have given to talent when I felt that their content was less than consistently compelling was usually on target and when I have been successful in making the talent feel that I am their ally not their adversary, it almost always works, making everyone feel good about the changes we agreed to undertake in the interest of making ratings go up.
    For that reason, I don’t think its correct to blame the measurement technology for the problem these immensely-entertaining and popular talents are grousing about. The issue gets down to does the manager, programmer, coach, researcher or consultant make the process of figuring out what’s working and what’s not ‘fun,’ in the spirit of collaboration and safety for everyone concerned?
    If it’s true that Ryan’s ratings were great, then you have to wonder why his bosses were trying to get him to change what he’s doing.
    Perhaps their corporate overlords were pushing them to mindlessly give the same advice to every personality in the company without tailoring it like a custom-made suit?
    Knee jerk, top-down management which disrespects employees, devaluing their contribution has nothing to do with PPM.
    That’s just thoughtless, ineffective people skills, and the ratings measurement technique is not the problem.
    I am sure that some of the people I have worked with would testify that I’ve been guilty of that too, but I do know that when talent and management work together to improve the end product, the results and the process are empowering to everyone and there are usually plenty of high-fives to go around.
    Mark, your assertion that “radio is a behavior that happens over and over again across time and the biggest challenge is … to get people to tune BACK” is a great starting point for a coaching session, and I can’t imagine any talent worth their salt who wouldn’t buy into that as a great goal to hone their performance and increase their audience size/ratings if they respected the messenger and felt that person had their best interests at heart.
    Lets not blame an emphasis on gaming the ratings system to out bill competitors. There’s nothing new in that.
    It’s probably why someone decided Ryan should replace Rick at KIIS, and it has always been thus in this fickle business.
    Lay the blame, instead, on poor talent management and communications.
    Sadly, that’s nothing new to radio, either.

  • http://radionx.com john ford

    Enjoy your posts. PPM aside… It is a well known fact that whenever you do a perceptual the first thing the respondents will parrot back is “we want more music and less talk.” Yet, your morning drive (should) is always your highest rated and full of the most verbiage. And the respondents will always tell you that the morning (or some other high-profile personality) is their favorite. So there is a dichotomy here. They want more music, yet listen longer and more often to a personality that talks more. The “more music” comment is just a mirror to what they think they should say and what they think they want. when in reality, the want more entertainment (talk).

  • Mike Beach

    It all started with computer based research. There was a time when music decisions and rotations were based on sales, requests, gut within the building and call out. THEN, when we started feeding ONLY call out information into the computer….all of a sudden EVERY THING ELSE WENT OUT THE WINDOW!! Only the numbers on the printout mattered. That was the beginning of the removal of the human being inside the station making the decision…or having any input into what was done with the music. With PPM we have reached the “9″ theory behing radio. We will end up playing only 9 songs…and only saying 9 words per break. IF these theories are true….why not remove ALL talent and just play tunes and commercials. Wasn’t it Lowry Mays who said what is talent and music? Answer…that’s the shit we put between commercials.
    I did 30 plus years behind the mike, and have been out more than 7 years..(working for myself_ Thank God I don’t have to face these fools on a daily basis. There isn’t enough money..they have and will continue to ruin the greatest business I have ever known. What a shame.

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