Formats are the Internet’s Killer App

Formats are the internet’s killer app. Yet, they get little attention and even less respect.

Formats create more value online than content. Yet, content gets all the press.

There’s already a mountain of content available online – most of it free. We don’t need more content. We need better formats.

Formats have been around for a long time, packaging and organizing ‘content’ to make it worth a lot more.

Top 40 radio is a format. It takes about 40 songs that are ‘worth’ 99 cents each at iTunes and packages them so that can be worth millions in advertising. The Top 40 format adds millions in value.

We can see the same format power at work for Amazon, eBay, Zappos, YouTube, and Facebook . Formats have added billions in value online.

Amazon is a format. It doesn’t create content – it formats or packages it.

Amazon made a fortune because it formatted the department store online.

It formatted (organized) its store as a simple, one-stop shopping experience – with a series of ‘departments’ ranging from books and electronics to garden tools into -just as Sears had done in the physical world 40 years earlier.

And, Amazon made millions without manufacturing any ‘content’

Even eBay is a format. They are worth billions because they formatted the flea market. eBay simply created the packaging that sold someone else’s ‘content’.

iTunes formatted the online music store. And, the iPod re-formatted the record player.

Zappos formatted the shoe store. They don’t make shoes. They format the experience of the world’s best shoe store to appeal to shoe junkies. And, it works.

Or, consider Facebook. It formatted the reunion. It hasn’t earned much profit but it could sell today for billions of dollars even though there is no clear business model. That’s the power of formats.

The same is true about YouTube. It formatted the ‘home’ movie, never made much money and got sold to Google for over $1 billion.

Not surprisingly, the biggest online business of all, Google, makes most of its money from formatting, not from content.

Google makes enormous profits by formatting the ‘library’ experience for users and then selling ‘knowledge’ about user interests to advertisers. That’s the power of formats.

One could even make the case that the Mac operating system (OSX) and Windows are both a form of format. They organize the way we can use a computer.

If you make that case, then the ‘format’ that jumpstarted the world wide web – Netscape, is the granddaddy of them all. And, it sold for billions of dollars.

That’s why we’re bullish on formats and formatting. Because, there’s already a staggering amount of content available online – most of it free – and, most of it is not formatted well, if at all.

We see big growth opportunities for companies that get better at formatting. And, lost opportunities for those who don’t.


Most Popular Canadian Radio Stations Online (By Alexa, June 2009) is an web traffic analytic tool that estimates website usage. It’s not as precise or accurate as comScore, MediaMetrics, Nielsen or other more sophisticated Internet measurement tools…but Alexa is good for getting an idea of what search engines are considering “top performers.”

The higher a websites Alexa ranking, the higher “authority” that site receives from search engines.

Having higher search engine authority means it is much easily to get found online through search engines.

Viewing the latest rankings, News & Info stations lead the pack with ten within the Top 20. Corus has 9 in the Top 20, while CBC has 4, Astral has 2, NewCap has 2, CTV has 1 and Rogers has 1. Toronto’s airport and business station is also in the Top 20 (in March 2007, it was the “station” with the most Alexa web traffic).

Curiously, Virgin Radio doesn’t appear to be captured accurately by Alexa. It doesn’t include any of the Virgin station on their list. When searching Alexa for the individual Virgin station traffic rankings, each market’s stations (Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver) don’t show up. Instead, only the main domain ( appears (the station sites are found their sub-domains). Collectively, all Virgin Radio station would rank 26th, just behind CHOM and ahead of Rock 101.

Prior to the Virgin flip, Mix 96 in Montreal was a Top 20 online web traffic radio station.

Here’s the latest Alexa search for Canada’s top 20 radio station traffic rankings (June 2009):

1) CBC Radio – British Columbia ( (CBC)
2) Radio Énergie ( (Astral/Anglo & French AC)
3) CKOI FM 96.9 ( (Corus/Anglo & French Hot AC)
4) CKWX – News 1130 ( (Rogers/News)
5) VOCM Radio ( (NewCap/News & Info)
6) CFYZ 1280 AM ( (Toronto airport & business)
7) 102.1FM The Edge ( (Corus/New Rock)
8) CBC Radio ( (CBC)
9) Country 105 ( (Corus/Country)
10) Q107 FM ( (Corus/Classic Rock)
11) CKNW 980 AM – Vancouver ( (Corus/News & Info)
12) CBC Radio 3 ( (CBC)
13) CHUM 104.5 FM ( (CTVglobemedia/Adult CHR/Hot AC)
14) HOT 89.9 FM ( (NewCap/Rhythmic CHR)
15) CFOX 99.3 – The Fox ( (Corus/Rock)
16) CBC 102.1 FM Calgary ( (CBC)
17) CJAD 800 AM ( (Astral/News & Info)
18) CJOB 680 ( (Corus/News & Info)
19) CISN 103 FM ( (Corus/Country)
20) AM 770 CHQR ( (Corus/News & Info)

Here’s a quick link to find all Canadian radio stations streaming online. Or here’s another good link.

Debut of The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien

Last night was the debut of the new Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, following in the historic path of Steve Allen, Jack Parr, Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. He’s off to a good start…with strong opening ratings and plenty of funny. He kept Max Weinberg and his band (along with the opening theme from the Late Show), brought back his original co-host Andy Richter and even kept his trademark cutting of the puppet strings move.

Liked the run-across-America move to open the show, his hanging with new fabulous LA friends watching a Lakers game, the entrance of first guest Will Ferrell and first musical guest Pearl Jam.

Very different first show than his debut on The Late Show September 1993.

With all the changes in late night programming (Leno earlier, Jimmy Fallon replacing Conan), late night just got fresher.

Good of NBC to open up the show video clips to share and embed on their site instead of containing it only on Hulu.

Heeeeere’s Conan!

Google Squared

Google just announced it improved its search tools. They call it Google Squared, allowing Google searchers to fine-tune and filter their search results with greater precision. All you have to do is click the “More options” link right below the search field.

Check out the explanation of the new tool below or click here:

I Think, Therefore I Am

“Cogito ergo sum”

“Je pense, donc je suis”

“I think, therefore I am”

In whatever language you speak it, Rene Descartes’s famous self-analysis phrase on existence speaks volumes about the shape of radio, the ad industry and media itself.

With the latest ad revenue results for the last 6 months (down 15% to 32% year-to-year, depending on the radio group in the U.S.), the radio industry (and media in general) thinks the market sucks…and therefore it continues to be.

The industry/market seems to be in a vicious self-perpetuating cycle: huge operating/financial debt loads, dramatic downturn in economy, smaller ad budgets, more media competition for fewer $$$, staff cutbacks, weakened local programming, more syndicated/voice-tracked content, missed budget goals, forced unpaid days off, speculation about inevitable radio group bankruptcies, more cutbacks — leaving remaining staff with work overloads, etc.

Execs are even turning down their contracted bonuses and stock options. When it gets to that, you know things can’t be good. With times like this, everybody hurts.

Gosh, all that bad news does wonders for industry self-confidence.

I think therefore I am

We are all living in the “aftermath of a go-go economy.” As Peter Drucker, father of modern management practices, once said: “Every such era believed there would be no limit to growth. And every one ended in debacle and left behind a massive hang-over.”

For the last year or so, this is the massive collective hang-over.

Now that the NAB is looking for a new chairman, Radio could use someone with serious vision mojo to help the industry see out of this morass. Someone who can take a room of radio CEOs and get them to see past this mess they helped create on their own watch.

But whom?

Who is that person?

As the expression says, “Go where there is growth.” (as said by Google CEO Eric Schmidt and countless others.)

As another well-known expression goes, this time from Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Who can avoid doing the same thing as radio has done before and go where there is growth in order to expect different (better) results?

On the Jointblog, we’ve already suggested Stuart Smalley…but he is busy trying get to formally accepted into the Senate.

What about the return Eddie Fritts? Doubtful, as Fritts left due to the board’s need for change and who now heads The Fritts Group, a D.C.-based lobbying operation that represents Fortune 500 companies on Capitol Hill.

Too bad Bill Clinton is also busy with political conflicts.

Jack Welch? He seems to have time on his hands.

Someone smart who can think different, express change and the new reality…and lead others to growth…

Tony Robbins?

Tom Peters? (if ever there a need to returning searching for excellence, this is that time)

Donny Deutsch

Guy Kawasaki?

Jeff Jaffe?

Chris Anderson?

Walt Mossberg?

Steven Covey?

Seth Godin?

Chris Brogan?

Or, to be really contrarian, how about Jerry Del Colliano?

Who do you nominate for the NAB search committee to replace the resigning David Rehr?

New NAB chief: “I think, therefore I am.”

Motivations For Using Twitter

Twitter’s growth in the past 6 months has been remarkable. For most of the two years prior to November 2008, it had between a million and two million active users. Since November, it has grown to an estimated 8 million users as of last month and is poised to top 10 million users by the end of April.

Last week’s Ashton Kutcher vs CNN follower battle (won by Ashton) and Oprah’s “Welcome to the 21st Century” tweet should give Twitter all the publicity it needs to convert into a mainstream social media tool. Due to all this explosive user growth, many tracking experts predict that Twitter will reach 100 million users within the next year, placing it in MySpace usage territory.

What exactly is the motivation for people to join and use Twitter? What is causing all this excitement about micro-blogging at 140 characters or less?

MarketingProfs (Allen Weiss of USC’s Marshall School) just released a new study of Twitter followers and identified the primary motivators for using Twitter. It’s not really about obtaining the most followers. It’s not really about saying something brilliant to the world and getting responses.

What it’s really about this: “It’s cool to learn new things from people.”

As reported in Mashable:

People use Twitter for all sorts of reasons. But what are those reasons, exactly? Is it about marketing, gathering intelligence, connecting, community? Is it for social reasons?

In a word: Yes.

Twitter may be used as just another lead-generation tool. Or it may be about connecting with new friends. But above all, people on Twitter are truly motivated by learning new things and getting information real-time, as it’s developing.

Howard Stern 25 Years Ago: NBC TV in 1984

25 years ago, Howard Stern was just starting his reign of New York radio, working afternoons at W-eNN-B-C. A lot has changed in radio and in media since 1984…but Stern’s ability to respond to “fan opportunity” and break the audience barrier was just as strong as it is today.

Take a look at this YouTube video of Stern’s guest appearance on a NYC local daytime TV talk show. In just a few minutes, he ‘thinks like a fan, and treats them like the star’ (even if the audience participant is treated like a porn star).

Engaged with the audience.


Responding to immediate opportunity.

Delivering creativity.

All things you can do, too, whether through radio programming, TV interviewing, blogging or social networking.

With today’s technology, it’s much easier to engage, interact, respond and deliver content to an audience than 25 years ago. And you can do it with or without the embarrassing moustache, heinous haircut and goggle glasses.