Life After Arbitron: Day One

| December 12, 2013

Holland Cooke
Talkers/RadioInfo Contributor
Media Consultant

cookenielsenconference 200BALTIMORE — When you hear Kenny G Christmas music wafting through a Maryland hotel lobby, you must be at the annual Arbitron Client Conference.  But this year, a new “Nielsen Audio” logo welcomed curious attendees.  And in just the first few hours, the logic behind this change became apparent.

The recent TALKERS Los Angeles conference (10/10/13) began with Sean Hannity voicing a concern echoed by other on-air talent: “Radio” content we’re creating is no longer just transmitter-based.  Yet talent is evaluated, and advertising is priced, based upon consumption of transmitter-delivered work.

“You have to have a multi-platform strategy, and you need to tailor your content for each device.”

Nielsen Audio SVP of radio station services Gary Meo was among presenters detailing how consumers and technology and demographics are re-defining our medium, and how his company’s beyond-radio scope is aggregating consumption data beyond Arbitron’s AM/FM focus.  “The smartphone is clearly the device of choice for Millennials.” Another speaker told us that, the night before, in Washington, NPR had sold – yep, sold – 300 tickets to the taping of a podcast.

“If you’re not having fun in social media, you’ll lose authenticity.”

Familiar Arbitron faces now on team Nielsen include digital media manager Jacquelyn Bullerman, whose presentation asked, “Who Drives The Brand?”

Notwithstanding many stations’ social media policies, do-it-yourself platforms like Facebook and Twitter invite well-intended but often off-message use; so Bullerman cautioned “always ensure that your station is present” in social promotion. One for-instance she offered: Twitter handles such as @WAAAmornings are more effective than less self-explanatory show-name handles.

Emulate others’ social success, she recommends: “Look at the people who have NO resources and have 3 million followers.” And Bullerman urged that management manage the station’s social efforts the same way they manage and cast what goes to the transmitter: “Not everyone needs to do every platform,” she explained. “Twitter works for those who are quick-witted.” And talk radio talent should heed her advice that “It’s not wrong to be controversial, if you’re respectful.”

“CD is still the leading format overall.”

Surprise: Even with downloads now en vogue, “people still want to own physical content.”  And, sharing data from its “Music 360” study, Nielsen’s Julianne Schiffer seemed to comfort music programmers in attendance by announcing that the car radio is still the most-widely-used music consumption device.  Desktops/laptops are #2; and – despite behavior we all observe – smartphones are the #3 music appliance, albeit a close #3, and now surpassing iPod. “The tablet is more of a video-viewing device.”

“We live in a country where buying 2 packs of Sudafed is harder than buying 10,000 rounds of ammunition.”

Hugely entertaining comedian/author/radio host D.L. Hughley shared that “I always loved the intimacy of radio,” which he finds akin to the feel of doing stand-up.  And any content creator, in any medium, should embrace his mantra that, “to be interesting to people, you have to be interested in them.”  He loves interacting with callers; and reckons that political comedy is like “aspirin and orange juice, something you need with something you like.”

The most-revealing moment in this one-on-one came when Nielsen’s Jon Miller asked “Who’s your biggest comedy influence?” Audience intrigue went-audible when, without hesitation, Hughley replied, “Marvin Gaye. When you hear his music, you can SEE what’s-goin’-on.”

‘”Big Data’ is a description of a problem, not a solution.”

Not necessarily what you expect to hear from a leading-edge data masher? Nielsen president of global product leadership Steve Hasker warned that radio’s “new competitors have it.”  In a single day:

• YouTube users upload 12 years of video,

• Instagram users upload 40 million photos,

• Facebook users share 2.5 billion pieces of content,

• Twitter users send 500 million Tweets.

All-of-the-above content informs those platforms – and their advertisers – who those users are. “And THAT,” the-little-voice-in-my-head said, “is why we can’t just measure who’s-listening-to-which AM/FM transmitters.”  Seeming to address the concern we hear from Hannity and others, Hasker warned “You cannot value what you don’t measure.”

But don’t sell those transmitters short, he was quick to add.  If asked “Is radio dead?” Reply “Is audio dead?  Who has the best audio?”

And Hasker echoed another recurring theme: interactivity.

• Increasingly, people are more influenced by what their friends tell them to buy, often via social media, than by professionally produced commercials.

• Make the user part of the show.  In a thick Australian accent, Hasker suggested that “People would rather watch themselves score a soccer goal than watch David Beckham score a goal.”

Tomorrow: Holland Cooke’s notes from the Nielsen Audio Client Conference & Jacobs Media Summit day two.   Meantime, follow HC’s real-time Tweets from the event @HollandCooke

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Holland Cooke is a media consultant working at the intersection of radio and the Internet; and he covers industry conferences for TALKERS and RadioInfo.  @HollandCooke and www.HollandCooke.com

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Category: Analysis