THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
MAKING ROOM ON THE AIR FOR MARKET COVERAGE
by Den Gardner, Contributing Editor
In today's technology-driven lifestyle and urge to move faster than a speeding bullet whether we're Superman or not, there seems less and less need for more news analysis on the radio anymore. People have become too accustomed to 30-second sound bites, instant news and little in-depth coverage of anything - be it hard news, sports, weather or market reports.
Of course, there are already a few exceptions to this rule, like Doane's "BottomLine Reports," a two- to three-minute daily analysis heard on 50 affiliate stations around the country. In addition, Man Financial, with offices in London, Paris, New York, Chicago, Kansas City, Singapore and Taipei, among others, has begun a weekly two-minute syndicated radio program called "Market Watch." Man Financial holds memberships on major securities and future exchanges worldwide - like the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) - and its agricultural teams cover the soft commodity futures market in Europe and New York, as well as grain and livestock futures markets in Chicago.
Moore recruits the stations for the show. As a former employee with United AgriProducts (UAP), he brings to the table a long history of knowing ag markets, producers and communications. The program is hosted by Adam Vrabel, options analyst, and Dave Harangody, corn and oil seed specialist. Both hold seats on the CBOT.
The show is produced at KFKA radio in Greeley and is distributed Friday afternoon as an MP3 format download. "Most run it on weekends and Monday mornings," Moore says.
Man Financial is looking to expand its reach to their target audience - producers, grain elevators and grain brokers. The group is also looking for a way to extend its Web site - Ag-tradingfloor.com. The uniqueness of the program is in its format, which Pam Fretwell, farm services director for WTAD in Quincy, Ill., calls "talk variety."
"It's a good format," Fretwell says. "It's about two gentlemen talking with each other, giving market opinions. I don't always agree with them 100 percent of the time, but they know the market and the show is done in a very professional manner."
Fretwell runs the program on Saturday morning and then says she "re-runs it as a bonus on Mondays at 8:30 a.m. I put my market stuff there and it's a nice fit. It's tough to predict the market accurately, but they are as good as any I've heard. I really like the format."
With the show's history of less than one year, it's a little early to call it a success. However, Vrabel says the original goal back in January was to get 50 stations on board. With approximately 250 stations, the goal is 500 stations by the end of the year. "Market Watch" certainly is reaching a lot of listeners - and potential customers.
The program airs in the following states: Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Vermont, New York, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
"Exposure is very important to us at this point," Vrabel explains. "And we've barely been around the block one time on this. We've recently launched a Web site to better connect with our audience (read: potential customers) and to access the actual aired program readers can log onto the new www.manmarketwatch.com site."
SECRETS TO SUCCESS
One secret to the success of the Vrabel/Harangody show is its philosophy. "We want to do an abbreviated version of what we talk with our paying customers about on a daily basis," Vrabel says. "Every week we tweak it a little bit."
Preparation for the show is another element that sets this apart from other syndicated shows. "The first half-dozen shows were scripted," Vrabel says. "Now, we sit in a room, formulate some ideas, run through it once or twice. It's what I call 'structured ad-lib.' We just decided it was better to talk in a conversational tone as if we were talking to our customers. Why not speak from the heart?" he asks.
Kelly Lenz, farm director for WIBW Radio and Kansas Ag Network, says he was looking for something "fresh, interesting to our audience and useful." Lenz runs the show on Monday morning at just after 6 a.m. "It's heavily carried by Kansas Ag Network (about 35 stations in the network). It's a program they like."
The program, adds Lenz, is a solid addition to his farm programming because it fills a niche. "Several people do commodity analysis, but these guys provide a look at what happened the previous week and factors to watch for the coming week. It's a great program for a Monday morning. The market report we used to do on Monday mornings was so outdated. This is a good source for our farmer-listeners and so much better than what we had previously."
Building business doing a two-minute syndicated radio talk show is thinking outside the box. Vrabel says thus far the show "is a blast and a lot of fun. It's a chance to switch gears and do something a little different. Only time will tell about our success in using this show to grow the business, but it's absolutely being done to do just that.
"The Web site will allow us to quantify better the audience and give us a chance to get in touch with our listeners. It's a definite learning curve at this point. We're not farm broadcasters. We don't do this for a living. But we think the listening audience wants a slice of what we do on the trading floor. Anyone who's interested in trading or following ag future markets should find this useful." AM
Den Gardner owns Gardner & Gardner Communications, New Prague, Minn.