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Lurking Las Vegas – Day 2

| April 14, 2015

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

cookewriterLAS VEGAS — Not one…not two…but THREE conventions, each of ‘em alone worth the trip to Vegas (twist my arm).

If you missed Monday’s column, here are my notes from Sunday’s productive RAIN Summit West:

Today, Monday highlights from the NAB Show and NMX.

“Radio has more listeners now than ever before.”

NAB CEO/President Gordon Smith welcomed the April convention’s biggest crowd since 9/11.  100,000+ attendees came here from 159 countries.

Although there’s plenty here for radio, radio people think of NAB’s April event as a TV convention.  And there is TV hardware aplenty (even before the FAA greenlights commercial use in the USA, drones-as-a-newsgathering-tool are prominent here).  But – appropriate to how people now consume and advertisers now support media – the NAB Show is less-and-less just a broadcasting event.  As last year, the theme is “Bringing Content To Life.”  Speakers trumpet “content creators sharing all media industry delivery platforms” and “the pace and magnitude of change.”

If you’ve ever brought home a second dog, you’ve seen how that puppy causes the incumbent dog to perk-up.  Same effect with companion conference NMX, as in “New Media Expo,” formerly “Blogworld,” previously “Podcast & New Media Expo,” of which you’ve read my TALKERS/RadioInfo coverage as the event evolved these past dozen years.  Broadcasters lurking NMX sessions remark to each other how podcasters’ mojo is reminiscent of entry-level AM/FM talent pre-consolidation.

“More people have listened to ‘Serial’ than have watched ‘Mad Men.’”

Radio broadcasters know Edison Research’s Tom Webster, and the NMX-ers he addressed leaned forward as he shared data from his company’s recently-released “Infinite Dial 2015” study.  ICYMI, this is must-reading for anyone, in any format, in radio.  Especially Sales.  Here’s the short version, my summary, and a link to the whole thing, pages of which belong in the station Sales kit:

HOW impactful is podcasting?  “Serial” – a 12-episode true story podcast about a teen murder – has caused The Maryland Court of Appeals to revisit the conviction of Adnan Syed, imprisoned for the 1999 killing of his former girlfriend.  To-date, it’s been downloaded 68 million+ times.

Webster calls this a watershed for podcasting, “a watercooler moment, like what ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Orange is the New Black’ did for Netflix.  People are talking to each other about listening to a podcast.”

While Serial has attracted Madison Avenue attention to big on-demand audio productions, self-publishers at NMX are curious about how to monetize fledgling shows.  Webster praised often-derided direct response opportunities; and he bemoaned the difficulty of aggregating listener data, because:

  • lots of podcasts are downloaded from iTunes, and Apple won’t disclose numbers;
  • and “a download is not ‘a listen.’”
  • Some popular platforms do display use numbers; and on others, who cares?
  • Do-display:, a free, nicely-functional audio archive “actually reports listens.”
  • Who cares: Tom showed us the Twitter page for one Nicole Polizzi, now “Naturally Nicole,” but better-remembered as curvy Snooki on cable’s “Jersey Shore.”  Her 6.99 million Twitter followers @snooki can click-to-listen to podcasts she links in Tweets.  Smart radio personalities and newscasters do the same thing, sharing show clips and news items…which, via smartphone, puts radio back in the pocket, where that 6-transistor receiver was 50 years ago.

“Growing Your Audience: Practical tips to make your podcast more interesting and to get more clicks, Shares, and Followers.”

In this NMX session, enthused Mignon Fogarty – well-known to this audience, and 236,000+ Twitter followers @GrammarGirl – offered success tips from her 9 podcasting years:

  • Although voicemail is theoretically useful, on-demand shows don’t pull calls as well as live radio. So, instead, to accomplish interaction, “embed a Tweet with a listener question” which you answer in your show (if you’re doing Q+A).
  • “Say ‘because’” when opportune. “Give people a reason to take action” when you’re asking them to take action, i.e., “Please write a review because it will help us attract advertisers to support our show.”
  • Want to go-viral? (NOT a trick question)  “People share things that are positive and simple, or bizarre, funny, useful, or timely or urgent.”  Note that snark is absent from that list.
  • Social Media is “a great place to create super-fans who will evangelize on your behalf. Be on Twitter if you want the media to know and respect what you’re doing.  Facebook drives 10 times more to my blog than any other Social medium.”
  • “If you do ONE THING, have an Email newsletter.” Echoing panelist comments you’ll read in my RAIN Summit notes, Fogarty applauds Email.  There are “no algorithms” (referring to the way Facebook decides who-sees-what).  So when you work an Email database, “you reach all your followers.”  And unlike Tweets, “they have to touch it, if only to delete it,” which many won’t if you maintain a useful, personable conversation with your tribe.
  • Recommended image tool:
  • Recommended video: “How to Use the Google Keyword Planner (vs. Keyword Tool) for SEO:”

With no barrier to entry, many podcasters exit.  They quit publishing when they run out of ideas, or realize that doing a show is work.  Others, including NMX speakers here whom star struck attendees view as celebrities, are making a living from Internet audio.  Forward-looking Fogarty deliberately uses a cartoon avatar rather than a photo, so she could eventually hand-off to another Grammar Girl.  ;)

“If it wasn’t for you, a lot of kids would be suffering worse.”

Biggest star of the day at NAB: Jerry Lewis, who received NAB’s Distinguished Service Award, for, among many other accomplishments, his 67 Muscular Dystrophy Association telethons.  A standing ovation welcomed Lewis, who sang and danced on Las Vegas stages for decades.  He now walks with a cane and looks very 89, but can still leave us laughing.

Old-school moments like this underline what NAB’s Gordon Smith reminds us: As important as these new delivery platforms are, “local radio and television stations are more relevant, more vital and more trusted than ever before.”  As a tornado graphic appeared behind him on-stage, Smith asked, “What if communities didn’t have a medium that could instantaneously warn them of impending danger…especially when all other platforms crash and fail?”

Smith – a former two term United States Senator (R-Oregon) – recalled that “Senator Chuck Schumer from New York, a colleague who sat in the aisle across from me, spoke before a room of broadcasters at our State Leadership Conference, and said something that really resonated with me.  In a time when cable news media is becoming increasingly polarized and partisan, Senator Schumer rightly pointed out that local news has become even more valuable.”  As Smith put it, “just the facts, with no yelling, screaming and finger pointing.  Isn’t that refreshing?”

More from NAB and NMX tomorrow here.  Meantime, video of some NAB sessions is streaming live at



Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet.  Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke and meet HC at Talkers New York 2015 on Friday, June 12.

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Category: Analysis