“Back to the Future” Moments for PodcastOne’s Agovino. As part of his “weird-new” role as PodcastOne executive vice chair, Mike Agovino is discovering more “differences” in the podcast marketplace than “commonalities” to challenges encountered the last ten years by digital music and broadcast streaming entities. “It is much less about the science of advertising and it is much more about the art of advertising,” he remarks to Mark Ramsey Media president Mark Ramsey in a 30-minute, one-on-one interview during this past week’s hivio 2015 conference. Having spent ten years inside Triton Digital as its chief operating officer, Agovino recounts that the company had “an ad platform, a content delivery network, and it built apps for people. With hundreds of brand names across the canvass, there is a very scientific approach to connecting the right ad to the right person at the right time to create some kind of results,” he declares. “It is so much ‘science’ that, if you live in it long enough, you lose your feel for the ‘art.'” Approximately 27 years ago, self-described Howard Stern “freak” Agovino was living in New York and faithfully listened to the fabled morning man every day. When it was time for the former president of Katz Radio and ex-chief operating officer of Clear Channel Radio Sales to lease a new car, he drove 15 miles out of his way to the Long Island dealership for which Stern regularly voiced a paid endorsement. “That was me saying ‘thank-you’ to Howard,” Agovino emphasizes. “It was not me necessarily wanting” to give that particular establishment the business but “it was me giving appreciation to Howard for all the laughs.” Stern’s “influence” over Agovino to sign the car lease was considerable and as he hastens to add, that meant he had to drive that extra 30-mile (roundtrip) distance “for every service visit” for a three-year period. “It is love for a show,” Agovino insists. “That was not part of my last ten years but it is very much part of what we do at PodcastOne, so it is “back to the future.’ It is digital media, but it is one-to-one and back to the art form of what made me fall in love with radio advertising.” When Agovino gets together with his former Katz co-workers, he points out there is considerable laughter. “We enjoy what we went through back then and we talk about how much fun the business was. More times than not, when you get in a discussion with someone you have known for 25 – 30 years in the audio business, the closer you get to the present moment in the discussion, the less fun you will be having. That sucks for all of us and it is unfortunate.” He has, however, rediscovered the ‘art’ piece of the business and Agovino did not realize how much he missed it. What he has found to become important on the podcast side is that, “It is almost less about targeting a listener and more about making sure you have a great match of product to host. When you try to apply the science of audio impressions to what is happening right now in podcasting, none of the numbers work. They do not make any sense because … there are no rules. We might say to someone who is the right match with the right host we won’t let anyone else in because the credibility of this voice speaking about your brand will last as long as we can continue to make the acquisition of customers in that model an efficient thing for you.” PodcastOne is looking at having its hosts talk about an advertiser a minimum of two minutes throughout the course of an hour without, as Agovino explains, “doing it more than ten seconds at any point – and there is no copy. It has to start from a place of authenticity. The host has to ‘buy-into’ the product or you move onto the next host because it is not going to work for the long haul.” One of the “most traumatic” days in Agovino’s radio sales career occurred when his rep firm lost WMAL, Washington, D.C. but picked up cross-town WTOP the same day. For years, he had been proudly touting WMAL as “the voice of news” in the nation’s capital. “If you approach this with deep sincerity,” he remarks, “it is difficult” to suddenly knock on doors, talking up what had been the competition. “Traditional” ratings metrics, Agovino opines, will not matter that much in this space, although he concedes, “They will happen” and they are “easy enough to produce.” Much more important will be “attribution metrics and convergent metrics. There are many ways to analyze how a particular show produces results within a specific category.” The most recent stats Agovino has seen indicate there are 21.3 million hours of podcasting listening a day. “It is hard to know how big the universe is and how big a piece of that universe you have,” he mentions. A different economic model exists in podcasting since, as Agovino explains, “For the most part, the hosts are taking risks with you and they are not getting guaranteed seven-figure annual checks: We are in this together.” He suggests, “If you have a talent who has influence and impact on a ‘tribe,’ figure out a way to [do a podcast], but you cannot do what you did with streaming. You cannot move it over to digital and expect it to work. This is an infinite dial with niches and sub-niches. Expansion of shows will be tremendous. Things that we are doing and bringing up are ‘kid-in-a-candy store’ stuff for me.”
Public Relations Maven Defines “GMOOT.” After working as public relations director at the Columbia Business School, Richard Laermer founded RLM PR in 1991. He was among the participants at Los Angeles’ hivio 2015 seminar who maintains the audio world is in a state of flux. “Many brands underestimate their audience,” Laermer notes to Mark Ramsey Media president Mark Ramsey in a one-on-one interview. “There is no sense of teasing-out the information about that brand, starting with something small; building upon it; and getting people excited about it.” Referring to Google as the “ultimate PR player, author-media trainer-blogger Laermer states, “They have built upon one message, which is the democratization of everything – even their missteps have always been messaged as the democratization of ‘X,’ ‘Y,’ or ‘Z.’ I respect that a great deal.” One major problem with brands is that everything is short-lived. “In the PR and advertising world, we refer to it as ‘GMOOT,'” Laermer points out of the “Get Me One Of Those” acronym. People who stand behind things “get ahead much faster,” he states. “That seems like common sense but as Aristotle said, ‘There is nothing common about common sense.’ Every single person we interact with – regardless of age – is looking for something to talk about and something to report. If we are consistent, we have the ability to give them that.” It is Laermer’s contention that “public figures” such as on-air personalities and podcasters need to convey what they stand for, “what they believe in, and what they are certain about” because, “These are things that people actually care about. People do want to know what a ‘personality’ thinks about ‘the issues.’ In the land of the tease, you want to be certain that people will come back for more.” Advising that, “It cannot be about the technology,” Laermer states, “It has to be about who are you and what you are putting out there.” Featuring 11 Ramsey-conducted interviews and five presentations, the two-day hivio 2015 conference was held Thursday (6/4) and Friday (6/5) at Hollywood comedy club The Improv.