Microsoft’s Removal of the FM Tuner in Their Phones is Our Fault

Microsoft is removing the FM tuner app from its Windows mobile phones.  According to an article in the trade press, the app has been removed from the latest development build of the OS, and it’s gone for good.  So, what does this mean for radio?

It’s bad PR for us

Tech journalists don’t “get” radio.  They see it as nothing new, and their assumption is that nobody listens any more.  If this is reported, it carries the subtext that “Microsoft removes an old-­fashioned thing from their phones”, even though that couldn’t be further from the truth.

We’ve got ourselves to blame for the above, though.  We’ve failed to care about the user experience on connected devices.  An FM tuner is, when you step back, an insanely bizarre user experience: requiring people to remember random numbers between 87 and 108 to find a station.  On a connected device like a mobile phone, the radio industry could make this experience much better, but we’ve mostly chosen not to.  It’s the poor user experience, I believe, that is the reason why an iPhone doesn’t have an FM radio inside.

It isn’t as bad as it sounds

This isn’t the removal of FM capability from Windows Mobile phones.  The FM tuner continues to be part of the Bluetooth chip inside the device, and so you’ll still be able to download FM tuner apps from the Windows app store.  All that’s happening here is that there won’t be a default FM tuner app pre-­installed on the phone.

This adds an extra step to get FM onto a listener’s phone.  But it does foster some competition in the Windows Mobile FM tuner app space.  The enterprising app maker will be able to use RadioDNS and other technologies to produce a great user experience, and get a level playing field when trying to get installations.

Windows still remains the only mobile OS with an FM receiver as standard.

It ignores the reality of the international market

According to a study in 2011, 94% of Indian radio listeners tune into (FM) radio on their mobile phone.  Only 16% do so on a radio receiver.  FM radio on mobiles is also popular in places like Latin America and Africa; a Firefox employee telling me that FM radio was “one of the most requested features” in those territories.  It’s no surprise that the cheaper the phone becomes, the more likely it is to have access to FM radio.

By withdrawing development of their basic FM tuner app, Microsoft is essentially treating these nations as unimportant to the future of Windows on phones.  That is a mistake, in my view.

Radio needs to step up

The primary argument for FM radio in cellphones is “it’s useful in times of emergency”, which is a weak and niche argument (not least because automated, networked US radio has repeatedly shown itself as relatively incapable of actually reacting at times of emergency).

I have doubts that broadcast radio inside mobiles is the white knight we think it is.  We’re trying to marry the most interactive device we own with a lean-­back medium that’s specifically designed to be consumed while doing something else.  But that shouldn’t stop us improving that experience as much as possible.

We should be working to make the default FM tuner app an amazing experience.  We should provide metadata like logos and service information to already­ existing industry initiatives like RadioDNS and Emmis’s NextRadio app; and we should fund them better so they can do more.

We should put into place optional service­ following from FM to IP, so you never lose your favorite station.  We should build FM capabilities into our own apps, working with the Universal Smartphone Project.  We should capture data (like the Indians) to help argue our case in future.  We should at the very least ensure that RDS is present on all our services.

But most of all, we should be singing with one voice about broadcast radio’s benefit within mobile phones: and highlighting that for Microsoft to remove an app that delivers a free feature is a bone­headed decision.



The Paradox Of Excellence

“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”
~Mario Andretti


“Let’s do everything with excellence.”  OK, I thought as I heard the comment, that makes sense.  Who wants to be the opposite and do nothing with excellence.  I nodded my head like a good boy.  I’m in, lets be excellent.

Throughout my career I’ve heard different people making the excellence argument.  But I could never figure out what that meant.  The dictionary seems to indicate it’s “possessing outstanding quality or superior merit; remarkably good.”  That seems clear.  Sort of.

Unfortunately excellence is not as ubiquitous as people want to think.  Michael Jordan is excellent, John Wooden was excellent, American Pie is excellent, Star Wars is excellent.  But is your radio station excellent?  Is it excellent because you say so?  Or is it the people who call and tell you how great you are, which never includes the voice of people who aren’t calling you.  Perhaps just your being there makes it excellent.

Saying so is easy, but achieving excellence is not.  Excellence is a quality that people appreciate partially because it is so hard to find.  And like many things, excellence is a journey, not a destination.  We should appreciate the work that went into achieving excellence more than excellence itself.

Which calls for a better understanding of what excellence is.  Fortunately, the Internet can help you with whatever you need and I found something that made great sense to me.  It’s a roadmap for excellence, sort of a “how-to” for those who really want to pursue excellence:

INTEGRITY – Match behavior with values.  Demonstrate your positive personal values in all you do and say.  Be sincere and real.

FAILURE LEADS TO SUCCESS – Learn from mistakes, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  View failures as feedback that provides you with the information you need to learn, grow, and succeed.

SPEAK WITH GOOD PURPOSE – Speak honestly and kindly.  Think before you speak.  Make sure your intention is positive and your words are sincere.

THIS IS IT! – Make the most of every moment.  Focus your attention on the present moment.  Keep a positive attitude.

COMMITMENT – Make your dreams happen.  Take positive action.  Follow your vision without wavering.

OWNERSHIP – Take responsibility for actions.  Be responsible for your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. “Own” the choices you make and the results that follow.

FLEXIBILITY – Be willing to do things differently.  Recognize what’s not working and be willing to change what you’re doing to achieve your goal.

BALANCE – Live your best life.  Be mindful of self and others while focusing on what’s meaningful and important in your life.  Inner happiness and fulfillment come when your mind, body, and emotions are nurtured by the choices you make.



Frost Advisory #311 – How Will Your Radio Station Be Remembered?

Memorial Day weekend is a time to remember those who have sacrificed for our freedom.  Maybe, just maybe, there is a greater lesson that applies to the legacy of your radio station.

How will your radio station be remembered?


Will it be remembered as the station that plays 25 minute music sweeps without any talk, or that it helped your community to be a better place to live and raise a family?

Will it be remembered for precisely hitting the spot sets within “bow tie” on the quarter hour, or one that helps worthy organizations in your community connect with volunteers that help others?

Will it be remembered as the station with the Joke of the Day, or one that honors moms and dads for the most important commitment they’ll ever make – raising their kids with values that make a difference in the world?

Now don’t get me wrong… there is nothing inherently wrong with a radio station having amusing little features that are appropriately targeted.


…it doesn’t matter what you do if what you do doesn’t matter.

In his book, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years“, Donald Miller asks if they made a movie about a man who wanted to buy a Volvo, it wouldn’t be a very interesting movie.  He goes on to point out that many of us live our lives that way.

Your station has a legacy.  You are writing another chapter in that legacy every day.

Tommy Kramer Tip #156 – The Tease Madness

Okay, it’s time to deal with the current thinking on teases, versus what actually works.  Here are some excerpts from a couple of memos that real living, breathing Program Directors have given to their air talent recently…

“Eliminate as much as possible ‘I’ and ‘We’ and instead use ‘You’.”
Nothing wrong with that, until this PD illustrates just how to do it:

“You’ll be talking about our next story at work today.”

There’s no way you could possibly know what I’ll be talking about at work today (it could be, astonishingly, WORK related), and you need to STOP trying to tell the Listener what to think.

“You’re gonna love our new game, ‘Scratch and Sniff Audio’ in the next ten minutes.”

Again, you don’t know that I’m going to “love” it.  My reaction (at least the one I can print) is “Meh…” …followed by a loud “click” as I punch another button on my radio.

“The thing most women do in the car that might be WORSE than texting and driving.  You might be guilty of it, ladies, and we’ll find out in ten minutes.”

No, YOU may find out, but I don’t really give a crap.  And I’m not “ladies.”  Talk to ONE person.  Don’t throw me into a “collective” that I didn’t ask to be part of.  This destroys radio’s most unique strength – the one-on-one connection with the listener.

“Feeling smart today? The list of the Top 10 Smartest Cities is out.”

The answer to every question you ever ask on the air is either “NO” or “I don’t CARE.”  And I already saw the list.  EVERYBODY who cared already saw the list.  It came up on the home page of every website, or on my iPhone – and it was ONLY THERE TO TAKE UP SPACE BETWEEN THE ADS.

“Would you like to take a break from parenting?”

(NO, I’d like to take a break from being asked rhetorical questions by an idiot who’s “pretending” to talk to me.)

“What the majority of parents are doing to get that break, in 7 minutes.”

This is too exact a time line. “In the next ten minutes” is what you want to say.  ESPN tried this “Joe Namath interview in 13 minutes” type of thing – and it BOMBED.  The whole PURPOSE of giving a Time Line in the first place is to tell me how long I have to listen to make SURE that I hear it.  If I tune in (or stick around until) 7 minutes from now, you’d better by God be doing it.  The minute you don’t, and I hear something ELSE when that’s supposed to be on, you’ve LIED to me – and I’ll never believe anything you say again.

Here’s what you can and should promote.  (Notice that I don’t even USE the word “tease” in coaching.)

  1. A contest.  When I can win some money or concert tickets might actually matter to me.
  2. A feature of the show. “The Hollywood Dish is next.”
  3. When a guest will be on.
  4. How I can find out more about a station event, or see video of something, or participate in something, on the station’s website or your Facebook page.
  5. MAYBE… promote a new song by a core artist coming up.  But even then, only do it when you’ve stopped down, NOT over another song, because then, the implied message is “since we know this song isn’t really very good, we’re going to try to get you to hang around by promoting a different one.”

That’s it.  Nothing else is worth promoting.

Stop The Tease Madness.

If it matters to me (as a listener), it works.  If it doesn’t (and just teasing some nebulous thing you’re going to talk about, like “What happened to Corkhead at the mall yesterday… in ten minutes” DOESN’T), then it doesn’t – and no amount of teasing will MAKE it matter.  Other things should just come up naturally in the conversation – you know, like in real life.

Yes, I realize there’s a whole school of Programmers and Consultants that think otherwise, because of some sideways, momentary, imagined indicator in PPM.  But don’t even get me started on how many holes there are in THAT methodology.  Voltaire, the giant band-aid, anyone?

The biggest problem with the “always do a tease” mentality is that you remove any element of Surprise from the show.  I seriously doubt if anyone would have gone to see “The Force Awakens” if a crawl came across the bottom of the screen, or one of the characters teased “Han Solo dies… in the next ten minutes.”

Here’s what actually works better than any attempt to manipulate the listener: say something really interesting or entertaining every single time you open the mic.  And only promote things that he or she really cares about.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Good Enough Isn’t

The reason that a product “everyone likes” will fail is because no one “loves it.”

Content is king

Is content king, like everyone says?

If so, why do so many radio stations, producing content daily, sound so much the same?  Why is it that radio stations produce so much content that isn’t unique, compelling or remarkable?

It’s because content isn’t king the way many produce it.  Along with the overused “content is king” phrase should come the idea that content is crowned by the listener/user, not the provider.  It’s only kingly content if the listeners see it that way.

Having content that’s king is a great aspiration, but you have to work very hard to make it so.  The same old, worn out ideas isn’t going to do it.  Playing “the best music” isn’t going to do it, because these days anyone can copy your playlist.  Content that’s King has to be innovative, relevant, and emotional.

If not, maybe the phrase needs to be changed to “content is serf.”


Frost Advisory #310 – Gilligan’s Island, Sign Language, and the ‘What’

“You can learn a lot by just watching”, said the great philosopher Yogi Berra.

My talented friend Lisa Barry recently watched and learned from a lady who does sign language in church.

Lisa shares, “In order to ‘sign’ a song about Passover, she has to start with Jerusalem, so she signs that first even though it’s not in the song yet.  THEN, she signs Jesus, which is her index finger sweeping across in front of her.  So the song makes sense with Jesus walking into Jerusalem – even though in the song Jerusalem comes second.

The fascinating part was when she said, with sign language, you have to start with the ‘what’ because otherwise, there’s no context to what you’re about to say.  You start with the ‘what’ and then you can give them the ‘who’ and ‘what’s happening.”

Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of many of the popular TV shows in the 60’s and 70’s including “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Brady Bunch”, told a remarkable story of ‘what’.

When he initially took the pilot for Gilligan’s Island to CBS it was rejected.  The execs told Sherwood that viewers would never understand why such an odd assortment of characters; a movie starlet in a long dress, an eccentric rich couple, a geeky scientist and a tomboy; were stranded on a desert island together. “I’ll show you”, Sherwood responded defiantly, and he went home and wrote the now famous theme song that explained the ‘what’ in only sixty seconds.

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…”


Even the best stations in the format have to fight the assumption that everyone knows the ‘what’.  What does your station stand for?  What is its purpose and its vision?  How does ‘what’ you’re doing connect to the most important things in their life?

“…If the journey begins with the assumption that everybody here knows what we are doing, you will eventually have an audience of people who already know what you are doing… Where you consistently begin and what you consistently assume determine who consistently shows up.  Why?  Because your assumptions create the common ground for the journey.”
~Andy Stanley, “Deep and Wide”

Tommy Kramer Tip #155 – Don’t Try

Here’s something your boss will probably never tell you:  Don’t try.

How this translates to what we do is that sounding like you’re “trying” can be felt on the other end of the radio, and it pushes people away.

It’s got to seem easy, spontaneous, like you just thought of it.  When you attempt to “sell” something, you’re missing the whole point.  We want to SWAY the listener, draw her or him a step closer, convince that person break-by-break, day-by-day, that listening to you is the most valid choice.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t give it your best effort.  You should be conscious of making even the simplest, most mundane break you do be bright, tight, pro, and polished.  But “trying” comes across as “trying too hard” – maybe even begging for attention or validation.  That never works.

So have fun today… but don’t “try”.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

How Are You Doing In RLRT?

“If a brand is to really make a connection and to spark word of mouth, they must speak to the customer like a friend.”
~John Moore


You know, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and the others can be quite seductive.  You post something, get some responses, a few forwards and it feels like you’ve really accomplished something.  And you probably do accomplish… something.  But we don’t yet understand what a “like” means or if “thumbs up” means more listening.   At a recent radio conference Mark Ramsey reviewed a study that showed no correlation between Facebook likes and success.

In books like “The Passion Conversation” and “Face To Face,” and several independent research studies, it becomes clear that over 80% of word of mouth conversations happen in RLRT, or “Real Life, Real Time.”  That should get your attention.

So instead of social media, it’s digital interaction, and the smart people will be planning for the bigger picture rather than just the smaller picture one.  Effective must overcome easy.

I know online interaction is easier to do, and I know it reaches a lot of users, but it overlooks the human or people part of the equation.  The more effective interactions come from people to people efforts.

When Brant Hanson of Air1 decided to have the staff and band greet the listeners as they arrived for a concert, walking down a red carpet to their seats, that was human social interaction.  Those people didn’t just attend, they bonded.  When country stations do backyard barbecues with artists, they’re not just getting together for food, they’re bonding in a human way.

If you haven’t read “The Passion Conversation” you need to.  It’s written by an acquaintance of mine, and someone I’ve talked about in the past, John Moore, along with some really smart people from a group called Brains On Fire.  It really is about building passion, and that happens most often in RLRT.



Frost Advisory #309 – Beware the 4-way Stop

We see them but we hardly think about them.  The 4-way stop.

What’s their purpose?  To stop all traffic?  Silly question, I know.  That seems hardly the intent, but…

…that’s what happens.

Everything stops.  No traffic flow.  No one moves.



Every radio station has things on the air that PREVENT it from delivering the very thing that people come there for in the first place.  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

Maybe it’s political – the boss has a radio show where he plays whatever music he wants.

Maybe it’s the teaching/preaching show that has always been on the air so no one brings it up.

Maybe it’s the kids’ show/the teen show/the rock show/the worship show/NASCAR/high school football that someone at some time decided to put on the air for reasons you’ll never know.

The problem with 4-way stops is that… inefficiency is designed IN. Traffic… all traffic… stops.

Tommy Kramer Tip #154 – A Coaching Tip About Coaching

Okay, so you’d like your air staff to get better, but you don’t think you can afford someone like me or Randy Lane or Valerie Geller.

Let me help you with this thought:  “It’s not ever about how good we are today.  It’s about what we can do tomorrow to get even better.”

True coaching isn’t scolding or critiquing.  It’s helping a talent always be refining things to get to another level.  Strategy – the station’s strategy, the sound you want your jocks to have, the momentum you want to build into your formatics – dictates Tactics, NOT the other way around.

A CHR station, for instance, probably won’t do well with the typical “Rock Dog” approach we still hear on way too many Rock or Classic Rock stations.  So you have to shape the on-air approach accordingly.

I would add two more guidelines:  [1] One “big” thing, one “little” thing per session.  For most air talents, this is all they can handle.  Some advanced talents can handle more points, but I’d still shy away from a “laundry list” of things in any one session.  [2] Be patient, but direct and specific in letting a talent know what you’re after.  “I’ll know it when I hear it” only means that you’ll never hear it.  Call a PLAY.

That’ll hold you until you can find the budget to hire a truly great talent coach.  (The two people I mentioned are excellent.  No doubt there are a few others.)

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.