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Thursday, August 16, 2012
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A Radio Guide to Understanding Email


What a relief. According to the "Nielsen Music 360 Study," 48 percent of Americans discover music most often through radio. The radio industry knows this now because, literally, every radio trade magazine is boasting the number.

What I'd like to see is a comparative: Say, what percentage of Americans discovered music most often through radio in 1996? I'm betting that figure was near doubled, which could be enough to widen eyes. But I doubt you'll read about it in radio mags.

I'm not going to hang on this topic any longer. It's already been pointed out that "...you easily change the results when shifting demos, or common traits of groups, on stats that appear in radio trades." 48% of the general population may discover music most often using radio, but that figure is going to drop dramatically as you query younger generations. And, if the radio industry is intent on only serving old folks, in five years time that 48% is going to be 32%.

Any radio industry executive that's comfortable with only 48% of people discovering music most often through radio needs to wear a sign saying "I still don't understand."

"Any radio industry executive that's comfortable with only 48% of people discovering music most often through radio needs to wear a sign saying 'I still don't understand.'" There's something more important to convey today. It's a notice to the delivery - or non-delivery - of email. If your radio station has an email data base, or you simply send emails from home, this topic affects you. It's a little complex. So if you are into walking around blind because something requires work to digest, stop reading now.

What's next requires a thinking cap.

A curious thing happened to my email list on Monday of this week. No longer can persons who work for Clear Channel receive emails from me. Private emails, to even those who have requested the Audio Graphics newsletter (or any of its services), simply won't get delivered - and it's not a Clear Channel induced ban.

To understand what follows please know that in April 2012, 77.2% of all email was spam. In 2009 that figure was over 90%, so there has been improvement but it comes amid chaos.

If you really want to get depressed, "open rates" for email hover around 11% - with media emails at an average open rate of 7.5%. Open rates are another story that I'll cover in time.

Today's spam delivery is our topic. It's a major problem affecting personal and business emails. And, as usual, I'm going to use Audio Graphics' dilemma as an example.

This needs to be explained in two parts: 1) the spam cop side; 2) the ISP side.

Depending on who's talking, the term "spam cop" is not derogatory - although there are times when it is. Here it stands for the good guys. Spam cops are companies that compile listings of known and potential IP addresses that have sent (or have the capacity to send) spam. Companies, like Clear Channel, subscribe to spam cops in an effort to limit the input to a company mail server. Sometimes this means legitimate emails don't make it. That's the tradeoff, and it's plainly stated by each spam cop company (there are hundreds).

On the other side are ISPs. Take mine, Time Warner's RoadRunner, as the example. ISPs own large blocks of IP addressess. Generally, there are 255 IP addresses in each block of IPs owned. Millions of addresses may be owned by a single company like RoadRunner. My IP address is 184.56.251.191. Find your IP address by simply Googling "my IP address."

In my case, 184.56.251.191 is within a block of "dynamically assigned" IP addressers owned by RoadRunner. The problem is that spam cops often reject long lists of "address blocks" that are "dynamically assigned," because these styles of IPs are potential spammers' targets.

I'm guessing that sometime over the weekend Clear Channel subscribed to, and installed, a new spam filter which included the RoadRunner assigned block that my IP address is in. You can see how your IP address is noted here.

To uncover whether your IP address is on a blocked list of addresses, use this "blacklist checker." It shows spam cop companies that have your IP on their "block list."

And here's the hinge on this trap; whoever the recipient of your email is, if their ISP (or company) subscribes to the spam cop listing which contains your IP address, your mail isn't going to get through. At one time - and sometimes still - you'd get notice that your email is rejected. But, because this "notifying" puts an additional strain on the email infrastructure, many companies have stopped sending notice. The result:
You send an email.
The person doesn't receive it.
You don't know that the person doesn't receive it.
The person doesn't know they did not receive your email.

A long-time friend runs Audio Graphics' inbound mail server, which is also the server for dozens of other companies. He just told me that, to control spam, up to 73% of all incoming email is blocked - with nobody being notified. This "blocking" starts with an automatic algorithmic decision based on words contained in the subject lines and the body of emails.

Carry this problem through to a radio industry that doesn't fully comprehend how email works. Only a small percentage of your station's email recipients may be receiving your message. Parse that down farther, where only 11% of received emails are opened, and you begin to see how - while still an effective form of communications - email holds its own set of problems.

Clear Channel is responding to a crisis that all companies face. On the receiving end it is trying to limit the strain spam places on its incoming email. Only, at the same time, CC must be aware of the increasingly limited number of its own emails getting through. It's a vicious cycle that is going to get worse before getting better.

When sending out emails you need to comprehend that the recipient may not be receiving your message - and you may not be notified your email was vaporized. But, like the 52% not discovering music on radio, nobody wants to talk about this in the radio industry.

Unless I can get through to the IT department at Clear Channel and show how every one of the emails Audio Graphics sends out has been "opted-in to" (that is, requested), nobody working for Clear Channel, or its subsidiaries like Katz, is able to receive an email from me. That's not only an inconvenience to Audio Graphics, but to those people who have requested to receive AG articles (or data sets). And it should not be interpreted as Clear Channel censoring Audio Graphics' inbound email.

That this action of "getting through to the IT department at Clear Channel" takes time and effort is just another of the wonderful things the internet is not. It's also another of those usually unaccounted-for items that today's radio industry consultants don't expose when telling stations how easy it is to use the internet.

It's things like this that drive me crazy: like yesterday morning when reading how one consultant will be explaining to NAB's "Virtual Academy" session attendees "...how to understand and better use social media (and it doesn’t cost), to help build your community, build loyalty, build clients and build audiences.”

That "doesn't cost" part, when explaining the internet and social media, is a rampant misconception in radio. All it does is show how the radio industry has a long way to go before properly using digital, and how the people doing the teaching of radio industry personnel still really don't comprehend what they are talking about.
















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