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Your Phone IS Spying On You, Your FCC Still Loves You, Your Podcast Audience Awaits

| April 16, 2015

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

cookewriterLAS VEGAS — Here are my notes from a real productive Wednesday at the NAB Show and New Media Expo (NMX).  And ICYMI:

“How to Get Your First 100,000 Podcast Downloads”

This NMX presentation, from fast-talking Grant Baldwin ( offered podcasters some fundamentals that are intuitive to broadcasters, and began by reminding broadcasters why we’re remiss NOT podcasting.  Baldwin is a full-time professional speaker.  “One problem,” he admitted: “I can only do this work one place at a time.”  Radio performers can relate, because we work live; and because radio is late to on-demand.  Podcasting is to radio what DVR is to TV.

Tips Baldwin ticked-off:

  • First, focus. Understand the audience you want.  “Write-out detailed descriptions of who you want to help and where they’re at in life” (something we do, formally, at my client stations).  Tailor your podcast for them.  “Your title needs to quickly communicate what your show is about.”  The [your name] Show doesn’t do that.
  • Quality is essential. “Create an avatar for your show.”  And make the audio sound professional.  That’s not difficult for broadcasters, who have access to station studios, and whose technique is polished; but this is an important caution to content-driven podcasters who don’t have broadcasters’ skill set.
  • “Launch with more than one episode.” Why?  Note how Netflix delivers “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.”  Like one?  Have another.  Baldwin says aim for two episodes per week, but “only if you can keep up it, and the quality can remain high.”
  • Choose guests that are relatable (“interview people who would be your ideal listener”); and “find guests who will also be likely to promote you to their audience.” One way: “Be a guest on other podcasts.”  That said, and notwithstanding the title of this session…
  • “Choose guests for the benefit of your audience, and not for your [download] numbers.” Baldwin warned against aiming for high “vanity numbers.”  Instead concentrate on delivering value to that target listener you profiled.
  • Maximize material that’s “new and noteworthy,” which iTunes rewards. Also valued by iTunes: new subscribers and ratings and reviews.

His bottom line:  “Produce a quality show people will listen to and want to share;” and KNOW that “having a show that does consistently well requires a lot of work.”

“I am used to people complaining about government inefficiencies.  It is a new experience, however, to hear complaints to maintain the inefficiencies.”

Chairman Tom Wheeler assured his SRO FCC Keynote crowd that policing radio pirates would not be a casualty of impending Commission cutbacks, “new realities demanding a re-assessment of how we do business.  We’re trying to bring simple business management concepts to the FCC.”  Wheeler itemized the overhead involved in keeping a Field Office open, quipping “and we don’t want our people in the office anyway!”  He says the FCC will even be beefing-up its Miami office; and that wherever they are, “every single FCC field employee will be a double-E engineer.”

And Chairman Wheeler told us that his ideas on easing AM radio’s technical woes would be forthcoming.  But he began his prepared remarks still-pitching the controversial Net Neutrality policy which recently passed on a 3-2 party line vote.  “The Open Internet Order safeguards an increasingly important channel for your [broadcasters’] use, delivery of local news and information.  When you want to offer something over the Internet, no one should stand in your way.”

Radio isn’t the only legacy medium defending against new-tech competitors.  Imagine being a TV station, competing with so many so-called “Over The Top TV” options?  Yet, Wheeler noted, “the number of households relying exclusively on over-the-air TV was up last year.”  Like other industry names speaking at the NAB Show, Wheeler reminded us that content will continue to distinguish diligent stations: “Local radio and TV broadcasters are still the most important source of breaking news.”

“24 hours a day, you are watched and listened-to.”

Sounds like a wild-eyed Alex Jones rant, right?  But NAB’s Tech Luncheon speaker was chillingly credible.  And he sure didn’t disappoint attendees who were titillated by his resume, which goes back to NASA, Univac, Xerox, and Lockheed.

More recently, John McAfee’s life has been shrouded in intrigue, as authorities in Belize raided his compound,mcafeejohnbig arrested (but didn’t charge) him on drug and weapon charges, and named him as “a person of interest” in a murder investigation.  Before he fled Belize, the prime minister called him “extremely paranoid, even bonkers.”  Oh, and he’s written books on yoga.  And yes, he’s THAT McAfee, whose security software is on millions and millions of computers.

McAfee – a real-life Al Pacino character – had a ballroom full of normally stoic broadcast engineers on the edge of their seats right off the bat.  He asked for a volunteer with a smartphone.  On-stage he collected two phone numbers, the volunteer’s and “any other person you know” (apparently the volunteer’s wife).  McAfee entered both on his smartphone and hit send.  And when the volunteer’s phone rang, and his wife’s name showed in caller ID, it was McAfee calling.

Next volunteer: “Got a flashlight app?”  McAfee said “you’re about to see 666-666-6666 on your caller ID.”  When the phone rang, he said “don’t’ answer;” then when the on-stage TV camera put McAfee’s smartphone up on the big screen, we saw a photo of the volunteer, unaware.

“What you see on your screen, I see on my screen,” he said, calling how that happens “trivial, something any teenager can do.”  And teenagers aren’t the problem.  You could have heard a pin drop when he asked “Anyone have a teenage daughter with a waterproof phone?”  Many of ‘em do, because they NEVER stop texting.  “There could be video of her in the shower, on a porn server in Russia!”  “Chinese and Eastern European” eavesdroppers are also helping themselves to our data, because, unwittingly, we let them.

These things happen because we download apps, which access our contacts, email, text messages, camera, and microphones…even when we think the phone is turned-off.  “Unless you take out the battery it’s not,” McAfee warned, in a voice that sounded like he was reciting Edgar Allen Poe.  “A BIBLE READING APP” is sending personal data “to servers at ‘Focus on the Family,’” he charged.  “Would you hand a stranger your wallet?”  You already have, by downloading apps that ask “permissions they don’t need.”

By this point, every engineer in the room was looking at his/her phone.  But fear not, there’s an app for that.  McAfee – one helluva salesman – urged that we download a free app from his website,, where he sells other apps too.  The freebie will point out which apps you’ve installed that are collecting information you don’t want them to.

That’s a wrap from fabulous Las Vegas.  There’s more from the NAB Show and NMX 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