Industry Views

Pending Business: Q2

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imHave we passed the disappointment of 2023?

If ad sales at your radio station finished last year up double digits (excluding digital) please skip past the next few paragraphs. If you’re in the same boat as most radio ad sellers across the country at various levels – i.e. local, national, syndication, network – last year was a struggle.

Now then, how is Q1 shaping up?

Are you making up for lost ground, like the airline business, automotive business, restaurants or are you still pushing that boulder uphill? Here is some straight-from-the-field unfiltered feedback:

1. Valentine’s Day at most restaurants was one of the busiest on record. People at the packed-in table next to ours waited two hours after sitting to be served. So much for a 6:45 pm reservation. They got free dessert. Seriously?

2. Travel is back, make no mistake about it. Discount airfares are a thing of the past on the big-name airlines. At 6’2” I really believe my knees should not be touching the seat in front of me in comfort class on most major airlines.

3. Try negotiating a new car deal this month. No, not the incentives on the 2023 models, I’m talking 2024 in 2024. As the goodfellows said back home, fuhgeddaboudit.

There is nothing wrong with trying to make up for the lost income of the Covid years. After all, testing the pricing upside in business is the American way. We pay more, tip more, and adjust. It is the Darwin theory eating into our wallets every day. So why are most broadcast radio sales teams at all levels still throwing it against the wall to see what sticks? I see it every day in my marketing work. We have lost touch with the excitement, the “wow” factor, the customizations, the basic intangibles of selling the great talent we represent.

Let us learn from other successful businesses. Travel pitches pent-up demand, restaurants make sure you will get the special occasion marketing message no matter where you are, and the auto business, well the ships and chips are in!

What do we not understand about the current weakness in our broadcast radio sales strategy?

1. How current is your value proposition? Successful podcasters like Joe Rogan and Alex Cooper along with YouTubers, Facebook, Instagram, and all social media have changed the game-forever. How does your value proposition stand out today?

2. Talk radio will not go away. Programmers and talent will learn what they need to adjust to refocus one of the great radio formats ever created since someone said, “Let’s play the top 40 songs over and over.”

3. Let us start re-thinking what broadcast radio sellers need to prioritize to make a difference-today.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: The Biggest of the Big

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imSuper Bowl LVIII could have been the best ever.

The pre-game hype was over the top, blending unique Vegas themes with the traditional NFL superhype we all know and enjoy. Digital Frank Sinatra singing “My Way” with the Super Bowl Symphony, Wayne Newton sharing his life story – pure Vegas, baby – and the 2024 pre-game was a scene set like no other. Usher fans enjoyed a halftime show that was pure energy. The storylines for this game featured more themes away from the game than any other in history. Could there have been any more written about Taylor Swift and her connection to this game, impact on NFL viewership and could she make it from Tokyo on time? It seemed like Sunday morning’s New York Times digital edition devoted more front-page space to Taylor Swift than the game itself.

Ironically, Super Bowl LVIII was a stunner. The Niners missed a point after kick that could have made them Super Bowl Champions. The miss led the game into overtime and another amazing Patrick MahomesAndy Reid last minute Super Bowl win. But the real treat was all the new think in creative commercials.

No longer were TV ads limited to one or even two celebrities per commercial. It was almost a competition for how many stars you could fit into 30 seconds. After all, when a 30-second commercial cost $7 million, maybe you cast Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, J Lo, Tom Brady, David Beckham, half the cast of “Suits,” to name a few, in one ad.

Madison Avenue was under more pressure than Brock Purdy, so the creative juices were flowing. Love it or hate it, the creative pressure to make a $7 million investment in 30 seconds payoff was intense. The new think worked. Go big or go home! Stand-by for the countless industry articles measuring everything from recall to audience size. The trend is your friend, and the trend says, this could be a peek into the future of open-your-wallet marketing. But where does this put audio pricing and creative on the impact spectrum?

Odds are the creatives that just opened the door to a new chapter of multiple celebrity integrations will stimulate the next generation of “theatre of the mind” producers. They are out there, for sure. We just need to work harder to attract their talent. As for pricing, that part is up to you.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: One Special Person

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imOne person can make a difference.

I thought my first boss invented that quote. Seems he borrowed the first half of JFK’s “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” It seems in 1964 former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy was describing JFK’s philosophy to a historian as opposed to offering a direct quote. Ultimately, the press attributed the quote to JFK. It’s the thought that counts.

Fast forward to my first management job in Buffalo, New York and the quote became a goal. Consider the GOATS we see in professional sports. Michael Jordan or Tom Brady could put a team on their back and 13 World Championships followed.

Now we see the phenomenon in the explosive intersection of pop culture and sports. Stand back fans, this is a lot bigger than Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe. This is about the two biggest brands on the planet today joining forces to move the needle in every measurable media metric and drive the commercial value of a partnership through the stratosphere while staying within the confines of good taste.

This is about Taylor Swift and NFL future hall of famer Travis Kelce. This storyline has driven the average ticket to Super Bowl 58 to over $6,000, gameday VIP treatment will run over $35,000.

What does all this heady superstar stuff have to do with us everyday radio/audio sellers and managers watching at home? The “one person can make a difference” theory can work for you.

Here is how:

1. Practice makes perfect. Ever think about how many hours Taylor Swift rehearses? Rumor has it she sings while jogging on a treadmill. Pass the oxygen. When Payton Manning worked out at full speed on an inclined treadmill, we asked him about that grueling drill. His answer was classic, “Ever been chased by a 300-pound lineman who can run 40 yards in 4.6 seconds?” How about you? What is your sales practice routine?

2. The need to be different. Every great athlete, performer, scientist, and innovative businessperson told themselves and anyone who would listen they had the need to achieve. What would your manager say if you said, “I am ready to deliver more sales than anyone else who ever worked here!”

3. The long haul. On the way to achieving their goals, the great ones have no clock, just focus. Even the great James Madison, the youngest framer of our Constitution would “sit for ideas” waiting until he could clearly process and communicate the concepts he was developing.

Too many sellers and managers take short cuts, give up before the 9th contact or move on to other jobs thinking the grass is greener. Be the one person who makes a difference and enjoy the game!

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry News

Two Crows in Jupiter

im

Pictured above with the iconic blackbirds familiar to Florida deli enthusiasts as the feathered mascots of the TooJays restaurant chain are Steve Lapa, president, Lapcom Communications Corp (left) and TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison (right) who met yesterday (1/30) over a hearty bowl of matzoh ball soup to discuss plans for the sales and marketing component of the forthcoming 27th annual TALKERS conference. Lapa, a regular TALKERS columnist and one of the radio industry’s leading experts on the challenges of revenue generation in the digital age, will moderate the sales workshop at the 27th annual installment of talk media’s longest running and most important national convention. Details for TALKERS 2024 will be announced next week. Meantime, save the date Friday, June 7.

Industry Views

Pending Business: Do You Know?

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imI’m no expert, but I do have a theory.

The American media business is the most competitive and advanced in the world. Many other countries directly or indirectly control their airwaves and print publications. Not here, no way, not as long as the First Amendment protects freedom of the press. Yet with that historic, awesome guarantee in place, why are newspapers failing, magazines gutting staff and many of the newer dot coms hitting the wall?

It is inevitable that daily print publications like the LA Times and the Washington Post cut back. We’ve come a long way since Guttenberg, but low-tech printing presses, paper and ink are just not fast enough to keep up with the 24/7 information cycle. I can understand the financial woes caused by bloated staffs at Buzzfeed, Vice and most recently at Business Insider. But when Sports Illustrated gave notice to its writing crew, now you are messing with arguably the most successful sports magazine of all time.

S.I. knew how to attract great writers delivering iconic story lines. We’re talking writers like Rick Reilly, the late Frank Deford, J.F.K. – yes, the late president – Carl Sandburg and one of my favorite characters of all time the late cigar chomping New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin. Martha Stewart on the cover, not for me.

What happened here? The simple answers are: Too much debt, too much overhead, and too slow to recognize and act on shifting dynamics.

Yet People magazine, which has been around for 50 years and if you believe Statista, now reaches over 82 million readers a month! Can you name the last time People won a Pulitzer for a story? Yet we can all learn a critical lesson from the continued success of People. Even those of us in management in the radio/audio business.

Here comes my big theory which you can apply to content, sales, sales management, and everything else important in life.

1) Know your audience. People is focused on celebrities and rarely gets a story wrong.

2) Keep it simple. People is about pictures and easy to understand storylines.

3) The original target was women 18-34. As the target demo shifted and lifestyles changed, the content of People adjusted.

Let’s connect the dots in our programming, sales, and sales management world.

1) Are you in step with your audience? Listeners, and advertisers are all part of a dynamic environment. What’s in your planner that forces you to know the “audience” you sell or market to?

2) Do you keep your proposals simple and easy to understand? Fast and focused is the name of the game.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: One Billion and Counting

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communucations Corp
President

imLet’s talk streaming because I don’t get what is happening. Maybe you do.

Talk shows place decent cameras in the radio studio, maybe one in the control room, possibly a third at a “producer’s” desk, a flat screen or two with cool visuals in the background to fulfill the coolness quotient, push the video stream to YouTube or another platform and wait for the throngs of followers to find the talk radio show, view, subscribe and stay with it until the numbers are staggering.

Sometimes the video stream is promoted on air or your station’s website and the expectation is the online audience will skyrocket. After several months, the viewer numbers don’t skyrocket, or maybe the numbers develop modestly, but sales becomes the art of packaging. Because the scale necessary to move the sales needle is still not happening.

This is not a hypothetical. This is happening today at some of the best radio stations delivering high-level radio programming in markets of all sizes around the country. Why do we struggle with how to turn the best radio programming in the world into competitive online video content?

The short answer is great talk radio programming is just that: great radio programming. But herein lies the dilemma. Great talk radio talent, in any format, are natural masters of the foundational elements that can make their YouTube, Rumble, and other social media video platforms gain audience and successfully generate revenue.

Let’s identify the most important reason why:

1. Authentic. Show me one successful talk radio host in any talk radio format who does not exude “authentic.” Agree or disagree with the host on politics, sports, finances or fishing, great talk show hosts are authentic, and their audience can sense the passion coming through in every show. Now, let’s identify the nasty four-letter word, stopping many great talk talents and their content from performing competitively on current social media video platforms. That four-letter word?

2. Show. Most great talk radio talents understand what it takes to put on a great “show.” Mechanics, formatics, and unique skills are developed over time designed to maximize Nielsen performance. But often, many of these – forgive me here – old media “show” skills are not relevant to the huge audience now consuming 1 billion hours of YouTube video every day. Yet we persist and video stream the radio “show” with the expectation an online audience will skyrocket, sales will explode, and the future is as easy as hitting the send button. It just does not work that way.

The radio industry has developed many of the greatest “authentic” talents in the world. How will we plan for a future that has billions of hours of consumption?

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: Cold Calling

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imLet’s take a minute to welcome back an old reliable that has been part of our sales and marketing world since Adam pitched Eve and got the first “yes” on the original cold call. No telling how cold that call really was.

But seriously, here come two shoutouts that should motivate you to re-evaluate the one strategy that has worked since the very early days of sales. Imagine knocking on 3,000,000 doors, making 3,000,000 cold calls. How many sales would you expect? According to The New York Times, a super PAC has knocked on all those doors nationwide, nearly 1,000,000 or one-third in Iowa alone, asking for the order. That’s a lot of cold calling and leave it to Iowa weather to put the “cold” back into cold calling.

Everyone reading this column would argue, TV, radio – especially r-a-d-i-o – and social media ads are more impactful, more efficient, and often more emotionally compelling than old school cold calling. Only time and results will tell if the boots-on-the-ground technique succeeded over the millions in media spend. No, this isn’t about modern-day political marketing strategy, this is about recognizing an old, proven technique that still has a role in today’s modern, hyper-speed, tech-driven world.

Do you remember the cold-calling contests that ended on a Friday with your team turning in the business cards that proved you met with those brand-new decision makers? Business cards in hand, you were well on your way to winning that weekly cold-calling contest. Talk about cold-call champions! All those business cards represented follow up opportunities that often led to long-term relationships netting many sellers nice commission checks.

Now comes the selfie, the modern-day version of those business cards, documenting proof positive you met the brand-new decision maker on the way to developing that newfound business relationship. Suddenly the old school cold-call strategy has a new world spin showing everyone on the team you are out and about in front of new business prospects, setting appointments and with newly fueled positive energy writing business and achieving your goals.

Hard to believe we are all connected to Adam’s very first sale, the 3,000,000 nationwide cold calls and the political strategists who earn big sums while still advising candidates to make sure they are getting out there, shaking hands and making those cold calls.

What’s on your planner this week?

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: Calendar Secrets

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imThis column should really be called, “How I got transferred from Buffalo to Tampa.” The storyline will help explain the title and offer you a proven technique that should help you sell and earn more.

Before Zoom, Teams and other video conference platforms that drive today’s daily to-dos, sales teams worked hard to fill the day with “in-person” sales calls. Back then, most managers forgot, or did not account for how weather impacted the number, geography and quality of those money making in-person sales calls, until blizzards, hurricanes and mother nature took her toll on productivity. Those of you who work or have worked in northern markets like Buffalo know all too well what 8 to 12 inches of snow can do to a daily plan. The same holds true for southern markets that experience hurricanes that have devastated communities going back to the hurricanes that nearly destroyed Miami and New Orleans. Now it seems wildfires are becoming a more regular threat in western markets. Having experienced most of the worst, like it or not, weather is an unpredictable yet critical variable in your sales plan.

One of the most destructive blizzards in history hit Buffalo during my first year as a young general manager. Retail contract cancellations, stranded employees, and off-the-air due to frozen antennas were draining revenues. It was December and the calendar was winning. After the ice melted and the snowplows cleared the way, we packaged everything we could before year-end to try and salvage the pacing that was leading to a bonus. The calendar won, annual bonus gone, but the learning curve kicked in.

B.G. (before Google) any research had to be accomplished old school: calls, friends, articles, and experts. We determined the average number of weather impact days, just like the guys in the theme park business. We developed a “real world” budget that accounted for weather days, the accompanying limited staffing, and a set aside percentage of revenues for cancellations.

When we began the year, the “real world” budget was put in place. By November of that year, the radio station had achieved its revenue goal for the full calendar year. The day before Thanksgiving I was summoned to the corporate office and was handed a file with a one-way ticket to Tampa, Florida. Goodbye blizzards, hello hurricanes. As a young manager, the sun was much more inviting than the snow, and I am still in Florida.

The discipline of a sales or planning calendar accompanied by “what if” is a must have.

Oh yes, make sure that pencil has an eraser.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: Welcome to 2024

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imWhat do your New Year’s resolutions look like?

Chances are your resolutions included what I call the old reliable “mores.” Earn more, save more, exercise more, eat more of the healthier foods. Sound familiar? Do you break down the resolutions into daily goals? As in here is what I need to do today to meet my goals and fulfill my resolutions. How about the “less” category? Do you spend any time thinking about what you want to do less often? Let us start with some obvious candidates.

A recent survey by Frequence.com indicated 84% of respondents in marketing and advertising felt stress on the job. Maybe the other 16% had just taken their morning meds. Seriously, can you blame the stressed-out thousands who have spent a career working for companies that stand on the brink of financial peril, delist from the stock exchange, or initiate short-notice personnel cuts? Has anyone in the radio business reading this column ever experienced a fully stress-free experience for over 36 waking hours? If it is not work, maybe it is friends, family, travel issues, or anything else that you simply cannot stop thinking about.

“Less” resolution #1. Less stress on the job, unless you are in the parachute business or an air-traffic controller or emergency room doctor in New York or Chicago, you get where I am going with this.

The same survey showed 72% of respondents work for organizations expecting them to deliver more with less support. The last time I worked for a broadcast company that provided me with my own dedicated assistant, the Cowboys won the Super Bowl in the first ever televised in prime time. Please raise your hand if you are a seller or sales manager with your own dedicated assistant. Anybody? How about in the past 10 years?

“Less” resolution #2. Less is more. The slogan takes on new life in the remote work environment that is a norm for many in the media buyer-seller relationship. Everyone in the chain is being asked to do more, reach increased goals, and perform to a higher standard with less support. You are either on the income money flow line or the expense side. Pick your lane and try your best to deliver measurable results.

Technology is driving change in every corner of the workplace. New strategies and technologies designed to monetize media impressions are part of our culture. Surveys show anywhere from 52-70% of sellers and marketers are challenged with keeping up.

“Less” resolution #3. Prioritize your upskilling. Pick the one area that will allow you to hit your most important “more” goals and master it. Never stop learning, just adjust your learning curve to what works best for you.

Here’s to a more productive and prosperous New Year!

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: Ad Count

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imHow many times will we research the same subject and come to the same conclusion?

This time it is the podcast. How many ads will the average listener consider “appropriate” in a 60-minute episode?

If you read the recent research from Cumulus/Signal Hill, you know the answer. For the rest of you, survey says under four minutes per 60-minute episode. The same survey says the magic number for a 30-minute episode is under three.

How ironic is that? The typical talk radio hour runs more ads in one break than an entire 60-minute episode of a podcast. Could it be because we have been integrating radio commercials into hour-long broadcast content for over 100 years? Have we conditioned news/talk listeners to accept more commercials per hour? Our TV friends have been at for over 80 years with an even bigger hourly spot load. Anyone ever see audience research that says add more commercials?

Seriously, unless you pay for the ad-free experience of Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Spotify, Pandora, etc., like most consumers of media, you are comfortable with the ad-supported media model.

So, how has the podcast world been so successful with a model that would leave most traditional radio and TV owners, execs, and sellers dumbfounded.

Here is some insight from my experience.

1) CPM is higher in podcast. The hard facts are when you work with higher CPM you can adjust the commercial load. Demand for digital/social media and podcasts with marketable scale is greater than terrestrial radio. The demand curve for podcast advertising is greater than terrestrial radio. Time to wake up, shake up and shout out loud about our 100-year-old sleepy giant!

2) Survey said 62% of podcast listeners prefer the host read. Talk radio sellers should improve this pitch every day. Today, podcast sellers are simply better at it. Podcast sellers get the intimate relationship between host and listener better than most radio sellers get host and audience. Podcast hosts seem more one-on-one savvy. What will Joe Rogan’s next guest say? What will we hear when your talk talent interviews their next guest?

3) Quality. When your local production director is overloaded and needs to get commercials completed on the air yesterday, what wins: quantity or quality? Be honest here. Where is the next audio creative genius like Dick Orkin or Chuck Blore? Do you know those names?

4) Can you really compare ad load levels between the 60- or 30-minute podcast episode to the average three-hour daily talk radio show?

Traditional molds need to be revisited regularly. My experience with YouTube is showing me even newer models for monetization, different from audio podcasts. Does your 2024 planner have any room for innovation?

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: When the Package Doesn’t Work

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imIt happens to everyone at least once.

You present your package with every asset at your disposal to make the campaign a winner – host read radio, podcast, X(Twitter), Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and anything else at your disposal. You work with your manager for pricing, coordinate the digital team for input, and touch base with your business department for the all-clear. Your presentation is an award winner, your enthusiasm is contagious and the deal closes. The campaign launches and to your shock and dismay the feedback from your client is utter disappointment as results are anemic. You verify everything is running properly, digital and social media are coordinated, yet the anticipated tsunami of results is barely a rain shower.

Are you kidding me right now? What in the world happened? A little history and a little reality will help you right the ship.

It’s been 60 years since Marshall McLuhan taught us the “medium is the message” and arguably became the original disruptor. He was so far ahead of his time, Musk, Zuckerberg, and Altman would be challenged. The bottom line is McLuhan got it right as we still stumble our way through the performance side of the ads.

Let us examine how we package and sell 60 years later.

Mistake #1- All creative is the same. In the example above, I listed 6 common platforms many local hosts utilize daily to spread the word.

A) Sellers focus on packaging scale, competitive efficiency and closing the business.
B) Hosts focus on product and content acceptability.
C) Managers focus on deal points.
D) Traffic and business focus on integrating systems.
E) Production is ready to deliver the deadline.
F) STOP!!!! Who is focused on matching the platform or medium with high impact creative messaging? “50% OFF” is an empty value proposition when there is no product sell-in. Who is making sure EVERY asset is delivering the creativity that engages and motivates the listener/viewer for each medium?

Mistake #2. I got this. Wake up! The multi-platform package is more complicated than the beta binomial curve for duplication. Oops, did I lose you? The concept is the radio listener may or may not be the podcast listener who may or may not be the YouTube viewer, who may or may not be the Facebook follower, and so on. You are the sales pro who put this package in motion, yet did you stop to think through: Does each medium have a unique campaign with different frequency, creative updates and feedback loops? Do you have any idea how many daily tweets it takes to sell that product or service? Or are you applying branding metrics to sales goals? And that is just the beginning.

We often forget, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, are barely 20 years old and we are still learning. Yet our terrestrial radio station heritage goes back over 100 years, so you think, “I Got this.” To paraphrase the great Marshall McLuhan, don’t drive into the future using only a rear-view mirror.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: Coffee Talk

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imHave you tried the $7 cup of coffee at Starbucks?

A recent visit to my neighborhood location was an eye-opener. The demographics were broader than a trip to Disneyland. The service was average, as the baristas gave a hearty Moe’s welcome shoutout, heads down cranking out the orders.

A recent study showed 63% of millennial coffee drinkers are good with that $7 price because the coffee experience made them feel good. I was wowed at the acceptance of the price point. If the average consumer goes to Starbucks 16 times a month, that is over $100 a month on coffee. No wonder there more than 16,000 locations in the U.S. We just can’t get enough!

Yes, I am a student of successful marketing no matter what the product or service is. Tide, Starbucks, iPhone – what is it about the product that drives the value proposition? Quality? My gym socks do just as well in the less expensive laundry detergent. Dependability? My iPhone needs rebooting more than I would like to admit. Consistency? Ever taste Pike Place when it is from the bottom of the canister? No product or service is flawless, yet we consistently pay more for some over others. Is it marketing, packaging, or genuine performance? A little of everything.

Let us connect to our sales world.

1) There is no shortage of Tide. Yet it is still the most expensive brand on most supermarket and big box store shelves. Consumers have paid a premium for nearly 80 years because we trust the product. And therein lies the lesson for talk radio sellers. The trust your audience has in your on-air hosts is hard-earned equity reinforced every day.

2) The sit-down experience and service in a Starbucks is unique. From Manhattan to Carmel, California, locally owned coffee shops try, and some may succeed but the overall sit-down experience and service at Starbucks is consistently high-quality, meeting our expectations no matter where you are and so price barriers come down. Lesson #2 for sellers. Is your buyer-seller exchange always at a consistent important level no matter how close your relationship with your advertiser? Even when business is down?

3) There is no way to Google that answer. Put yourself in the shoes of your advertiser, especially a first-time advertiser when the wrong copy runs, an invoice is incorrect, or another issue comes up. Is it quick and easy to resolve a discrepancy? Will you invest the time and patience to ease the process?

Our talk radio business rarely integrates intangibles when it comes to pricing. Competitive, efficiencies and demand traditionally drive pricing. Yet the talk radio personalities are the ones with all the intangibles. From political influencers and offering emergency weather information to life changing news storylines that need interpretation to become more acceptable. Yet through it all, we are still the $1 cup of coffee.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: The Dilemma

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imWhat’s old is new again.

From Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain to Winston Churchill, Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager, historic influencers have been credited with owning that phrase as long as I can remember.

That single concept is one of the foundational principles of media sales, even today. If you have been selling or managing long enough to remember pay phones on street corners, in hotel lobbies and airports, you should have a special appreciation for what follows. Let’s start with:

1. The “Golden Choice: Ratings or Results.” Which would you rather be selling? Top-rated content, or content that generates top performance results? No, they do not necessarily go hand in hand. Just because you sell major-scale delivery, doesn’t necessarily mean your audience will meet the advertiser’s expectation of performance. Like many of you reading this column, I’ve had the privilege of representing both sides of the dilemma; top-ranked content in radio, TV, digital and social media that did not meet the Key Performance Indicator requirements and smaller scale content that delivered annual renewals, year after year. I work with content that generates millions of impressions weekly and content that does not participate in Nielsen surveys, or delivers moderate scale, yet the old dilemma of ratings or results seems new to the newer digital/social media sales teams making calls today.

2. Does the creative match the audience? This is one of my favorite questions, especially when it comes to host-reads. The greatest talents I’ve worked with are never afraid to ask for the creative freedom to tweak copy points to match their audience. Every great host knows the audience. Sometimes it pays dividends to allow for creative freedom and sometimes it becomes a fast track to a cancellation. The difference is the confidence the advertiser has in you and the talent you represent.

3. Just say no, or go with the flow? When business is soft, most sellers and managers will take the short-term test dollars. Thirteen-week minimums become two-week tests and thus a product or service is given a short-term ride on what should be a longer-term campaign. But let’s face it, we’ve all compromised somewhere to help make the cash register ring a little louder. With a respectful nod to every seller and manager, that timeless call is totally up to you.

From local radio sales and podcasts to digital and social media sales, what’s old is new again and again.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: We Are Growing

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imSurvey says nearly half of all Americans over 13, nearly 135 million, listen to spoken word formats. The growth curve boasts an eye opening 52% jump in time spent listening at home.

Please keep in mind we are listening in 2023 via different platforms including AM/FM radio, smartphones, computer streaming, smart speakers, and smart TV. Podcasting is a major driver of this growth curve, almost tripling its share of total audio consumption. And the closer is traditional AM/FM radio is still the morning drive, in-car winner controlling 62% of listening, despite the auto industry’s attempt to shun the king of spoken word distribution – AM radio.

Audio marketers, please pound the drum a little louder when you pitch this growth story. I still haven’t seen this new validation pushed aggressively on X (formerly Twitter) among the Taylor Swift running to hug Travis Kelsey posts, have you? Anything on Instagram? Facebook? YouTube? Rumble? Are we reframing a modern version of that 1600s philosophical “if a tree falls in the forest…?”

All sellers need to take a minute to digest, discuss and integrate the findings in the Edison/NPR Spoken Word Audio report and start the drumbeat of growth, impact, engagement and influence. How else will we pushback on the taken-for-granted, same old-same old, spoken word presentation. Freshen up that media kit! Growth is an important sales point to make in any presentation and audio sellers need to keep pointing to that growth curve as competitors lean in on their own story lines.

Let’s get down to how best to answer W.I.F.A (what’s in it for advertisers) on your next presentation.

1) New. One of the most powerful words in sales and marketing. New information can drive new decisions. Let the numbers help make your point as you shape your presentation.

2) The Trend is Your Friend. Every business owner, entrepreneur, investor and CEO always want to be informed and in front of growth trends. You now have the opportunity in front of you.

3) Keep it Simple. Keep your information simple and easy to understand. Many influential newsletters use the simple technique of a bold number followed by a fast fact story line. If it works for the big boys, the technique should work for you.

4) Managers. Bring good news to your sales and marketing teams. Sellers, bring good news to your advertisers. The survey says we are growing, and positive growth is an important part of any business.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: Fall Back

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imWe all need to learn how to fall back. This is not about daylight saving, retreating, or backpedaling. This is about learning from the most valuable brand in tech, the oracle, and the best practices all of us in sales and management must learn to apply.

Let us start with Apple. Demand for the iPhone 15 is not lighting the tech world on fire as slow sales do not even come close to measuring up to the numbers delivered by its predecessors like the iPhone 13 when sales jumped 47% two years ago. What happened to all those Apple fanatics who would line up outside Apple stores or flood the Internet with orders ready to buy the next iPhone?

The must-have Apple loyalists were slowed down by the glitches in the iPhone 15 as we have come to expect design perfection. And why not, when you have nearly 1.5 billion users worldwide and sell nearly 100 million iPhones in the first two quarters of this year? Perfection expectations go hand-in-hand with momentum, innovation, and sales. Perhaps the challenge after 16 years of “new and improved” was too much. Tech is not Tide and Apple is not Procter and Gamble.

What are the lessons we can learn from this lower sales cycle?

— Never assume an unqualified welcome sign from your core customers. We earn the welcome sign every day. Fix the problem faster.

— Always deliver on the promise of new and improved.

— Better to delay than disappoint.

Famed Wall Street guru Warren Buffett recently dealt with losses in several of his holdings by being transparent with his stockholders about the challenges at several of his companies and navigating an unfriendly stock market. This is the same Warren Buffett who supported the Cap Cities minnow (remember that company?) swallowing the ABC Radio whale and still is a stakeholder in media.

The 93-year Oracle of Omaha is nimble enough to shift strategies and adjust his investments to maximize results for his stakeholders.

The Buffett takeaways?

— When performance is not up to expectations, adjust the plan.

— Age can be an asset when experience counts.

— When you are in hole, stop digging.

How many traditional packages and sales promotions have you counted on as sure-fire sellers that unexpectedly failed? What does your fallback plan look like?

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: AI vs the Personal Connection

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imReady to go back to the future?

We may need more than Doc Brown and Marty McFly to understand this one: product reviews written by A.I., not humans.

It’s the subject of a debate happening between the mighty Gannett company, owner of Reviewed, and a group of writers and editors who work there. According to The New York Times, the writers and editors group claims several reviews were A.I. generated. The posted reviews in question were run through A.I. detection software and the results were a slim to none chance humans wrote the reviews in question. Gannett says, not so fast, the reviews in question were authored by real humans.

Now here is where we need a time machine to take us a few years into the future. Let’s look at the reviews on our favorite go-to shopping, restaurant or travel review websites. How do we know who really wrote those reviews? This could be a whole new level of truth and proper disclosure in advertising.

Consider the possibilities of A.I.-generated reviews. Is every consumer offering feedback comfortable sharing their name on a Google review when many businesses ask for a positive review? There is a simple alternative to the A.I.-generated product review debate, and it’s right in front of you.

The answer should be part of your daily talk radio local sales mission statement. Demonstrate to your advertisers and prospects the proven results your on-air talent delivers every day. Chances are you may be taking for granted how to bring to life the credibility and trust your local on-air talent earns with each show. Global events, roller coaster economies and shifting political dynamics are all part of the daily conversation on your talk radio station. As your air talent distills the issues for the audience, take a few calls and engage in an energetic dialogue, they develop a bond that is unique to talk radio.

So, imagine the difference in the mind of the consumer when they hear the review or referral from a trusted source versus wondering if the review or referral they read is from a human or A.I. generated.

Is that the DeLorean time machine I hear?

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com