RAIN Summit: "It's Complicated" | TALKERS magazine : TALKERS magazine – “The bible of talk media.”

RAIN Summit: “It’s Complicated”

| September 18, 2013

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant


ORLANDO — The NAB/RAB Radio Show kicks off today; but several hundred attendees got here a day early to spend yesterday talking about non-AM/FM “radio,” at Kurt Hanson’s RAIN (Radio And Internet News) Summit.

Even just a few years ago, streaming was a novelty, an adjunct to on-air programming.  Not now.

  • Smartphones have replaced alarm clocks, watches, cameras, calculators, appointment books, TV Guide, GPS…shall I continue?  There is an app for that.  Heck, iPhone obsoleted its predecessor iPod, and (imagine someone awakening from a 10-year coma hearing this?) we now get our music from our phones.  So, without even confronting data about mushrooming streaming audio consumption, broadcasters are undeniably in be-there-or-be-square territory.
  • Saga Communications EVP Steve Goldstein reports that agencies “are expecting much more ‘360’ from us,” i.e., streaming/web/social media/texting/etc. 

Have you driven a Ford lately? 

Or any other new car?  The new-tech dashboard is now driving the new car purchase decision.

  • Harmon’s Toby Trevarthen observes that the in-vehicle media experience is becoming app-driven, notwithstanding Distracted Driving laws.  “Identity used to mean call letters.  Now it’s My Personal Preferences.”
  • The Connected Car interface needs to be “safe, simple, and it just has to work when I turn the key.  No owner’s manual.”
  • Buzzword-of-the-Day, from Ford’s Scott Burnell: H.M.I. “Human/Machine Interface” 

Ad Insertion isn’t working.

  • Saga’s Goldstein and other broadcasters recently met with AFTRA/SAG to discuss “move-over fees” for union voiceover rights, which have mucked-up simulcasting on-air commercials online.  He shrugs “It’s complicated” and “there is no umpire;” but his stations are now streaming the same spots that air.
  • OMD agency’s Natalie Swed Stone has been buying streaming ads for years. “This discussion of covering the spots makes no sense at all,” in her view.  “Program audience strategy and ad strategy should be one.”
  • And she figures that “Pureplay [competitors like Pandora] continues to win because of the user experience.” Goldstein quickly added: “We can’t just keep streaming crappy Smoky The Bear commercials.”  

With media consumption evolving so dramatically, this insertion imbroglio is more a symptom than an issue.

  • Triton’s Mike Agovino: “Replicating exactly what you do on-air and expecting to win on the digital side just won’t work.”  Ditto Greater Media’s Tom Bender: “If we continue to think of streaming as an extension of the tower, we’re playing in the wrong ballpark.”
  • One group head I spoke with came-away from the RAIN Summit committed to streamlining his stations’ digital presentation to the-speed-of-life that digital consumers prefer.  And, based on the modern attention span (or lack thereof), Swed Stone thinks the on-air pace should quicken too.  “60-second commercials are insanity!”  Jesse Wolfersberger from GroupM Next reckons that, “since the advent of the VCR, we’ve been training people to skip ads.” 

Radio still rocks.

The keynote by Entercom president/CEO David Field was a conspicuous centerpiece to a RAIN Summit agenda that, otherwise, seemed to relegate transmitters to Old School.

  • “Broadcast radio [listenership & piece-of the advertising pie] is growing,” he demonstrated with data.  And radio “should be immensely pleased with its place in the ecosystem.  Radio continues to thrive” despite new-tech competitors.  AM/FM takes 19% of all time spent with media according to charts Field showed.
  • Field slammed Pandora audience claims; and pointed out that Pandora can’t deliver personality endorsement spots & other AM/FM value-added.
  • And – according to his information — TV ratings are down 49%, and TV Cost Per Point is up 88%.  “What’s wrong with THAT picture?”  

New-tech = New TSL

  • The new platform is playing-nice-with its transmitter siblings, at least Entercom’s.  Field says “mobile listening up 200% this year.”
  • GroupM Next research demonstrates that, because of earbuds, “work and the gym” are better listening opportunities than during boom box era.  Though Field contends that PPM is not capturing all such listening.
  • TuneIn’s Kevin Straley: “We help to get your content to 200 connected devices. The ‘pipeline’ keeps getting wider.”  He figures that “The best content is gonna win” when the dashboard gets crowded. 

Bottom line?  The bottom line!

Radio isn’t just transmitters any more, and FCC-licensed broadcasters sure aren’t the only publishers.  Broadcasters enjoy a head start, but not a take-it-to-the-bank advantage.

  • Radio Sales reps either scoff or shiver at the thought of being replaced by online auctions.  RAIN’s “Alternative Revenue Strategies” panel concurred that, to date, “a very small amount of revenue” is coming from real-time ad exchange buying.
  • Pandora’s Dan Weiner urged: “Get in the room with the agency,” and brainstorm. “There’s a lot of politics inside agencies, a lot of silos.”
  • Commercial radio has some catching-up to do with Public Radio’s successful digital model, and WNYC’s Sara van Mosel urges that sellers need to “know what’s going on outside your walls,” know competitors’ digital repertoire, not just yours.
  • Fellow panelists in the RAIN “Building a Digital Sales Team” session concurred that digital sales can be taught. “It’s all widgets…hire innate problem-solvers, critical thinkers.”
  • They also agreed that spot-oriented sales people won’t sell digital unless its commission is higher than what they earn selling commercial inventory.
  • Intertech Media’s Al Pervin: Radio “must be the only industry in the world that will bonus the hot new thing.”


Follow HC’s real-time coverage of the NAB/RAB Radio Show @HollandCooke on Twitter, and at www.HollandCooke.com; and in daily summaries here.   And meet Holland at Talkers Los Angeles on Thursday, October 10.

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Category: Analysis