Thursday, July 25, 2013 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||IHeartRadio Enlists Talk in Battle for Streaming Listeners
Music has been the focus so far for major streaming audio players like Pandora and Spotify, but Clear Channel's iHeartRadio is now trying to gain new listeners by embracing talk as well.
Its new iHeartRadio Talk is offering listeners thousands of "audiosodes" from The Huffington Post, Mashable, Ryan Seacrest, The Wall Street Journal and Univision as well as ABC shows including "Good Morning America," "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "The View." The service will also include "Daily Pulse," a customizable talk channel.
Like its custom music stations, which were introduced in 2011, the talk service will let users indicate their preferences as tracks automatically play by hitting a "thumbs up" button or "thumbs down" to skip to something else. Unlike with music, however, talk listeners will be able to rewind and won't face limits on the tracks they skip.
There have been several startups that have attempted to become the "Pandora of talk radio," including Swell, which let users to fine-tune recommendations in a manner similar to Pandora, and Stitcher, which helps people discover on-demand radio for everything but music. Swell raised $5.4 million in a round of financing earlier this month. According to the company, users listen on average to 40 minutes per day.
Another startup, Stitcher, helps people discover talk podcasts and "stitch" them together into playlists.
Talk radio is still a big part of terrestrial radio's appeal, making up 16% of all listening on Clear Channel stations, according to the company. Spoken word formats have an 11.4% share of the overall radio marketplace, according to Arbitron's 2013 "Radio Today" report.
Talk radio listeners are a loyal group that think of hosts as friends, said Brian Lakamp, president of digital, Clear Channel Media and Entertainment.
"It's a terrific environment for advertisers," added John Hogan, chairman and CEO of Clear Channel Media and Entertainment. "Product can be weaved into a show, making it less like a commercial, and more like testimonials from hosts they trust."
The company hopes advertisers will prove interested in creating branded talk channels, something marketers such as Macy's have done with IHeartRadio's custom music channels. "Audiosodes" could also be created around categories like auto, fashion and entertainment for brands to sponsor.
Listeners, meanwhile, will be able to create their own talk programming through a partnership between iHeartRadio and a startup called Spreaker. Clear Channel plans to use the function to discover new talent and up-and-coming radio personalities.
Clear Channel said it does not know how many people stream audio monthly through the iHeartRadio player, which includes both custom stations and live Clear Channel stations, but said the custom stations have over 30 million registered users. Pandora says it has about 70 million active monthly users (and more than 200 million registered users), by comparison, while Spotify says it has about 24 million active monthly users.
(Source: Advertising Age, 07/24/13)
||For Engagement Rings, Many Couples Shop Local
The Knot's latest survey on engagement rings and bridal jewelry shows that local, independent jewelers remain the top pick among younger couples when it comes time to select their engagement ring.
Data from The Knot's 2013 Engagement and Jewelry Study showed that 42 percent of couples buy their engagement ring from an independent jeweler in their area, up from 40 percent the last time the surveyed was fielded, in 2011.
National and regional chain stores were the second most popular choice, cited by 34 percent of respondents, down from 35 percent in 2011. According to the study, Kay Jewelers is the top among chains for engagement rings, with the Sterling Jewelers-operated stores cited by 27 percent of respondents.
Only 9 percent of those surveyed said they bought their fiancée's engagement ring online.
While independent retailers are concerned with losing business to e-tailers, the reasons young men said they didn't shop online for an engagement ring run parallel to the advantages cited by brick-and-mortar retailers: the chance to see the diamond in person and continuing customer service.
The top reason the men said they didn't want to buy online was that they wanted to see the ring and/or stone in person before purchasing (69 percent), followed by concerns over making such a significant purchase online (42 percent) and limited customer service (35 percent). A total of 33 percent of men surveyed said they needed more personal attention than the Internet could provide and 6 percent wanted to be able to show their fiancée the ring before proposing.
Of those who did buy an engagement ring online, Blue Nile remained the most popular site, cited by 21 percent of survey respondents, down from 27 percent in 2011. The Seattle-based online retailer lost ground to Amazon.com, which was cited by 7 percent of respondents, up from 3 percent in 2011.
While many engagement ring shoppers turned to local retailers because of the chance for solid customer service, the survey also showed that the independents were not following up as much as they could have post-purchase.
According to the study, only 49 percent of brides said that they had heard from the retailer since the engagement ring purchase, with most contacting them with information about care and cleaning (23 percent), their satisfaction with the engagement (22 percent) and information about upcoming sales or merchandise (19 percent).
The study points to the fact that retailers may be missing opportunities for follow-up sales, as 81 percent of brides buy jewelry to wear on their wedding day and 59 percent buy it as a gift for their bridesmaids. In addition, the study showed that one-third of grooms buy jewelry for the big day, mostly cufflinks and watches.
"Half of retailers miss the opportunity to develop a loyal customer," the study notes.
Other highlights of the study included the following:
-- Tradition is alive. A total of 86 percent of grooms surveyed said they popped the question with the ring in hand, 88 percent said the words, "Will you marry me?" and 74 percent asked for the father's or both parents' permission before proposing. In addition, 94 percent of grooms had the actual engagement ring in hand while proposing. A total of 4 percent used a "stand-in" and only 2 percent didn’t have a ring.
-- Brides-to-be are involved. Sixty-three percent of brides said that they dropped hints or discussed the ring with their significant other prior to the proposal (36 percent) or actually shopped and purchased the ring together as a couple (27 percent). A total of 36 percent said the ring was a complete surprise.
-- They are looking online. The Internet was the No. 1 influencer of brides' ring choices, followed by jewelers/salespeople, friends/family and wedding magazines. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of these young brides have either a smartphone and/or tablet computer, and they used them to research diamond engagement ring styles (27 percent), share hints with their fiancé (20 percent), browse designers or retailers (19 percent) or share ideas with friends and family (17 percent).
-- Men will do some legwork. The grooms surveyed spent an average of 4.4 months researching the ring choice and 3.4 months shopping for it, visiting an average of four retailers and looking at a total of 24 rings. The quality of the diamond, the style and the price are the top three factors influencing the man's choice while the woman is concerned with the style/setting, cut/shape and the stone quality, in that order.
-- Still rounding it out. Round diamonds remain the most popular pick for center stones (55 percent) followed by princess-cut diamonds at 28 percent. Both cushion (5 percent) and Asscher cuts (3 percent) experienced slight increases in popularity since the 2011 survey. Metal-wise, white gold remains the overwhelming pick for engagement rings at 72 percent, with platinum (15 percent) and yellow gold (6 percent) rounding out the top three.
The Knot conducted its engagement and jewelry study in February and March, surveying 14,000 engaged or recently married U.S. brides and 1,750 grooms engaged within the past 12 months. Most were college educated, with annual household incomes of $55,000 to $68,000. The average age of the women surveyed was 27 to 28 while the men were 28 to 29.
(Source: National Jeweler, 07/23/13)
||Seeking a Shortcut to a Job
Students Opt for Certificates Over Degrees; Quick and Cheap, but No Sure Thing
Faced with ballooning costs at four-year colleges and an uncertain job market, a growing number of students are earning something else: a certificate aimed at landing a job.
Increasingly crucial to the community colleges that have long catered to students who pursue two-year degrees or get basic credits before attending four-year schools, certificate programs not only cost less on average than a year at college but they also bring higher salaries than those received by job candidates with high-school diplomas. The programs can typically last a few months to two years and range from cosmetology to aircraft mechanics.
"I look at one-year certificates as a gateway to a career," said Ken Ender, president of Harper College, a community college outside Chicago. "They absolutely need to be augmented by more training and more credentials. But it is a gateway that makes sense for lots of people."
Certificate programs are the fastest-growing segment of higher education, drawing younger and older students alike. From 2001 to 2011, the number of certificates of one year or less awarded by public community colleges more than doubled to about 249,000 from about 106,000, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. Meanwhile, overall associate degrees at public community colleges increased over the same period, but at a slower rate to about 682,000 from about 443,000.
To be sure, certificate programs aren't a panacea for the problems playing out in higher education. While the shift has opened up new areas of business for the schools, it brings added risks in the rapidly changing economy.
Courses can be put together in months, but they just as quickly can become obsolete. Programs that are too short can leave students paying for a dead-end piece of paper; too specific, and the industry might not need the skill-set; too general, and the earning potential may plateau.
The growing interest in certificates follows years of skepticism about noncredit programs, as some observers saw them as gimmicks that had little value beyond the paper they were printed on, while degrees were often regarded as guaranteed pathways to jobs. Those perceptions were fueled by for-profit colleges, where certificate programs were aggressively pitched as a quick-and-easy way to learn valuable job skills.
"There's no question in my mind that the market is rewarding students who have technical skills that can be used to solve problems," said Mark Schneider, vice president of the American Institutes for Research and the president of College Measures, a company focused on U.S. higher education. "But too many of the one-year-or-less programs do not have good payoffs."
The average annual cost of certificate programs is $6,780 at a public community college and $19,635 at a for-profit college, according to Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. The median salary for an aviation certificate holder is nearly $66,000, while the median salary for someone with a food-services certificate is less than $18,000.
Krystyna Sobek, a 42-year-old maintenance worker in downtown Chicago, didn't get the payoff she anticipated after enrolling in a $19,000 cosmetology course at a for-profit institution. After finishing the program in one year, she couldn't find a job that would also offer health care for her family. Now, she works to pay off her loans from the cosmetology certificate at an office building downtown and has abandoned hopes of working in hairdressing for now.
"If I had just had someone to guide me, I probably wouldn't have made those choices," she said. "Now I'm stuck."
Jennifer McNelly, president of the Manufacturing Institute, an intermediary between industry and education sectors, said certificates play an important role in quickly training the country's work force. But she said the certificates often aren't transparent or consistent in the skills being taught, which can confuse businesses.
"Certificates would have greater value if they were aligned to academic pathways and industry standard credentials," she said.
The push toward certificates highlights a growing emphasis on efficiency and completion rates in higher education, an approach that has gained particular traction since President Barack Obama's call for an additional five million graduates from community colleges by 2020.
At Harper, the school recently adopted a new motto: "Finish." And the school nearly doubled the number of certificates awarded annually to about 2,100 in 2012 from about 1,100 in 2011.
Ken Pechtl, a recent high-school graduate, enrolled in a six-week summer course at Harper to become a certified nursing assistant before heading to the University of Pittsburgh in the fall. He sees the certificate program as a boost to his résumé and a way to earn extra cash at school next year.
"The course is designed so that if you don't like it, you can move on," said the 18-year-old Mundelein, Ill., native. "It is definitely something that I found that I am good at and enjoy doing."
More than 80% of students who earned short-term certificates in 2012 from Harper College are employed, and about 50% are working in their chosen track. Georgetown University's education center reports that only 44% of certificate holders work in their field of training.
"The certificate is a good choice for the low-middle of the high-school graduation class," said Stephen Rose, a Georgetown University research professor who co-wrote a report on certificates last year. "But even if they can get really good at their job, they aren't going to have other skills to move up."
According to Mr. Rose's research, salaries jump about 20% for certificate holders when compared to workers with high-school diplomas only. But that gain is mostly lost when certificate holders choose not to work in their fields of study -- unlike more traditional associate and bachelor's degrees, which typically confer a long-term pay bump regardless of the degree focus.
Also, certificates' training success often comes down to the specific subject. For computer and information services, male certificate holders who work in the field earn more money on average than 72% of men with associate degrees and 54% of men with bachelor's degrees. For women, the breakdown is 75% and 64%, according to the Georgetown report.
After high school, Eric Chumbley, 24, of Lexington, Ky., took a few college classes at Eastern Kentucky University and tried to expand his boat-cleaning company. When both his college and business efforts faltered, he enrolled in a two-month certificate program that cost about $3,500 and trained him to become a lineman for a utility company.
He was hired the day after graduation in 2009 and now makes about $54,000 annually. His company pays for additional and related education, and Mr. Chumbley plans to complete a four-year online bachelor's degree in safety management.
"I believe 100% that I wouldn't be where I am today without the program," he said.
(Source: The Wall Street Journal, 07/16/13)
Daily Sales Tip: Finding the Right Sales Mentor
Lately I've been hearing a lot of pretty successful people talking about how much they owe their achievements to their mentors. From vice presidents of sales to sales reps to business owners, they attribute their accomplishments, at least in part, to having a mentor to guide them.
Often though, salespeople who aspire to be the best don't have anyone to help them find the way. One of the biggest reasons may be that they don't know where to look.
Here are five tips to help you find your right sales mentor:
1. Think about what you need a mentor for. The first step toward finding a good sales mentor is to think about what you're actually hoping to gain from the relationship. Is it a sense of perspective on your career or territory, someone who can help you overcome a particularly difficult challenge you're facing, or something else? Be clear with your objective.
2. Find someone who is successful, positive, and a good listener. Look for a mentor with proven sales success, experience overcoming challenges and achieving goals that are similar to your own. He or she should offer a sounding board for the sales and career issues you're facing. Understanding what you're going through will allow your mentor to give valuable input, hold you accountable to your objectives, and push you to do your very best. Your mentor is your coach and cheerleader!
3. Your mentor shouldn't be your manager. While your sales manager may fill a mentor-like role in many ways, it's a good idea to have a separate person as your mentor. Why? Because you want to be able to speak openly. For example, you may have set a goal to sell double your quota. Your mentor can help you develop the strategy to do it, then push you to accomplish it. But your mentor won't forecast it like your manager might. Your mentor is your confidant and strategist.
4. Don't be afraid to consider mentors from other industries or backgrounds. There's no rule that says your mentor has to have, or have had, a similar sales job to the one you have. In fact, advice and guidance from a mentor who doesn't work in your field could yield an entirely new perspective. Because they're starting with a blank slate, they may be able to ask the kinds of questions that will lead you to an inspiration that you wouldn't have found otherwise.
5. It's okay to have multiple mentors. As you consider the benefits of having a sales mentor, you may find that it's beneficial to have more than one. For example, if you aspire to a sales executive role, a sales executive mentor would be invaluable. At the same time, if your strategy to get there is by growing alliance partner relationships for the company, having a mentor with experience there is also important. You don't want to have so many mentors that there isn't time to put their advice into action, but don't be afraid to approach more than one.
A mentor can catapult your success and once you start looking, you'll notice potential candidates all around you. Set an appointment to talk over coffee. You might be surprised at how open they are to helping, and just how much you'll gain from the experience!
Source: Sales author/consultant Kendra Lee