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Nielsen Audio Client Conference Wrap-Up

| December 7, 2015

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant


cookewriterNATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Last week’s two-day Nielsen Audio Client Conference was time well-invested.  ICYMI, you can read my notes from the Thursday morning sessions here and the Thursday afternoon sessions here.  And here’s what was on Friday’s agenda:

Talking Politics with Stephanie Miller

This is one daffy gal, and I speak from amused experience, having occupied the on-screen box next to her several times on MSNBC.  She’s quick and witty and her energy is contagious.

Interviewed on-stage by Edison Research president Larry Rosin, she swatted back when he asked about the “liberal mainstream media” so many radio talkers deride.  “The media is so scared of being called ‘liberal’ that they go in the opposite direction!  Could you imagine Hillary getting away with one iota of what Donald Trump has?”

Why liberal shows never matched conservative talk radio’s success?

  • “We got on a lot of low-power stations.” Now, “I love when Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity whine about being on the low-watt station we got knocked off [1150 in Los Angeles].”
  • And “there are 6 zillion right-wing radio hosts around the country. How come they haven’t won the White House lately?”  Miller reckons that “if you’re just doing talking points on either side it’s not compelling.  It should be an entertainment show.”  Lefty zealots flopped, in her view, because “Air America didn’t understand radio as a business.”  Instead, she points to Jon Stewart’s success with “The Daily Show”: “If you make ‘em laugh they don’t realize they’re learning something.”

“Entertainment is the key” because “there are so many delivery systems” competing for attention now.  Her show is heard on AM/FM stations AND the Progressive Voices mobile app AND SiriusXM, AND is seen on Free Speech TV.  “I had the #1 comedy album [download] on without a physical CD!”  The ballgame is “maximizing all those delivery systems, finding new and different ways to monetize.  Can ya sell stuff or not?”

Rosin, whose firm handles exit polling on election day, asked her surmise of 2016-ers:

  • Despite Hillary Clinton’s icy caricature, Miller finds her warm; and “presidential; sharp-as-a-tack, crazy-smart.” And although “the media’s been telling us for 25 years she’s not trustworthy,” Miller notes that past scandals haven’t stuck.
  • Stephanie figures that Mrs. Clinton is a lock for the nomination, despite Bernie Sanders’ traction. “Yes we could elect a 75-year-old.  Yes we could elect a Jew.  Yes we could elect a Socialist.  But not all three.”
  • Asked why pundits have been “so wrong about Trump” predicting he’d fade — and “How Trump survives Trump-speak” gaffes that’d doom other pols — Miller wonders “Have we gotten dumber and meaner?”

How Top Brands Fight Through the Clutter

This session alone was worth the trip, and I wish Nielsen had video’d it.  Arnold Worldwide Global creative officer Jim Elliott’s simple premise is that “Great work works.  And great advertising builds business.”  The rest is noise.

Elliott cautions that “Advertising is stealing people’s time;” and that “we need to give that time back.  Not with ‘ads.’  But rather with ‘acts’ that are incredibly valuable (useful), meaningful, and more entertaining than ‘entertainment’ itself.”

That last part is pretty intimidating.  “It’s no longer good enough to be the best commercial.  You need to be the best piece of content.  Advertising needs to be more interesting than the program it’s interrupting;” and needs to employ “story-telling, self-expression, and social engagement.”

Why: Listeners are bombarded with messages and enabled by social media.  So Elliot warns that “today’s consumer can either be a watchdog, critic, brand or product killer or ambassador and evangelist.”  Today, “there’s a shift from talking at the world to making the world talk.”

This presentation was so powerful that it is frustrating to describe, and easier to demonstrate what Elliott described, as he did with these videos:

  • On YouTube, search “Samsung The Safety Truck.”  It’s been said that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  And this video slam-dunks that concept.
  • Then search “Cannes Lions 2015: World Gallery Apple iPhone 6 – TBWA Media Arts Lab.”  You’ll see news coverage of a remarkable concept: Letting customers demonstrate the product.
  • Then: “Love Has No Labels Diversity & Inclusion Ad Council.”  No clues, or I’d spoil it.

Elliot says successful brands:

          • Are transparent,
          • Do good,
          • Show appreciation,
          • Are authentic,
          • Ask for opinions,
          • Build a relationship,
          • Are grateful, and
          • Are good listeners.

Millennials 360: The Music Habits of America’s Most Connected Consumers

Baby Boomers were the biggest generation, until they had children.  By 2017, Millennials will out-spend their parents.  USA 20-somethings already spend $1.2 TRILLION a year; thus our interest in what-interests-them.

Beyond that economic clout, Nielsen Entertainment VP Insights and Analytics Julanne Schiffer fleshed-them-out, as:

          • One quarter of the USA population;
          • Highly influential – reshaping conventional business practices;
          • Multi-cultural, educated, diverse;
          • Eclectic set of priorities and interests.

“Entertainment is the way to their hearts:”

          • 85% of Millennial men and 64% of Millennial women are video gamers.
          • Two thirds of Millennials consider themselves avid movie fans.
          • Millennials are 40% more likely to have attended a live Major League Baseball game in the past 12 months;
          • Over 90% of Millennials are music fans; 1/3 are “super fans.”

HOW super?

          • 59% attend music events (vs. 51% for the population in general).
          • 16% do music festivals (vs. 11%). Average distance traveled to attend?  903 miles!  And their #1 source of awareness for music festivals is radio.
          • They also over-index the general population for music in bars/clubs and DJ-based music clubs.
          • And they’re more likely to pay for streaming music; which 54% like for ease of use, 49% for song library, and 34% for compatibility with various devices.

Which devices?

          • AM/FM car radio is still tops, though down (75%-74%-67% 2013-2015).
          • #2 and gaining: “Device that you connect in-car” (34%-34%-39%). Bear in mind: They don’t drive as much as older listeners.
          • That – and the expense – accounts for relatively low SiriusXM numbers (11%-10%-13%); and “connected car” in-dash applications (6%-7%-4%).
          • CD use has plateaued (35%-28%-28%).
          • “Device that you play through its own speakers:” 13%-12%-15%
          • “Device that you play though headphones:” 95-11%-11%

Which music genres are hot?  They over-index the general population (100) for:

          • Electronic Dance Music (191)
          • Rap and Hip-Hop (143)
          • Latin (128)

Noteworthy, after several decades of play-it-safe music research has shrunk playlists: “Radio plays a leading role in music discovery:”

          • Radio (AM, FM, satellite): 59%
          • Friends/relatives: 48%
          • Audio/video streaming web sites/apps: 42%
          • Social media web sites/apps: 36%
          • Movies/movie soundtracks: 34%
          • TV (not music competition shows): 27%
          • Browsing online music stores: 16%
          • Live events/concerts: 15%
          • Video games/portals: 15%

The Zach Sang and Mark Thompson Show

“Zach Sang & The Gang” is more than just a Westwood One radio show; and Entercom’s KSWD/Los Angeles lured half of LA radio’s long-running “Mark & Brian Show” out of retirement.

Side by side, they could’ve been grandson and grandfather.  Yet Millennial Sang and 60 year-old Thompson were finishing each other’s sentences.  And the sound bites echoed themes you’ll read in my notes from several Thursday sessions:

          • Thompson: “To survive podcasting and everything else, you’ve got to put on local, compelling talk. When they’re in the car, they feel like a friend is in the car there with them.”
          • Sang: “Radio is the cornerstone of so many communities. It’s still where the ears are.”
          • Thompson: “Tell the audience who you are. I put my real life on the air.  [Listeners] know you’re fulla shit when you’re fulla shit.  [Personality] “is your only hope.  You’re a human being.  You want to hear a human being talking to you.”
          • Sang: “The fundamental reason radio is here is companionship.” Music-without-personality, i.e., Pandora, is a non-starter.

“Our advertisers don’t start and stop at FM,” Sang explained: “A lot of people watch us on Snapchat;” and they’re all-in elsewhere Social.  “Wherever they are we are.  It’s our goal not just to be in their ears, but in their eyes and under their thumbs.”  Show prep is a 24-hour process; “We have a group chat going on among all show members: We come up with topics for ‘the FM show’ then ask ‘How will this work and translate it elsewhere?’”

Thompson acknowledges that the new platform is now table stakes, and confesses “I know the importance of Social Media, but I don’t know how to do it.”  So he and Sang have arranged what session moderator Fred Jacobs called “a play date” to swap core competences: Zach will visit with Mark’s team to develop digital tactics; and will get help from Thompson on old-school stuff, “airchecks and how you manage your team.”

The day after the San Bernardino massacre, Jacobs asked both how their shows handled the story:

          • “Those are the most challenging things for me,” Sang admitted. Normally, his show is rollicking.  On-the-fly, his instinct that day was to field phone calls, “keep people updated, and be honest with them.”
          • The story hit-home to Thompson’s local LA show. Unlike young Sang, Thompson worked through 9/11, and recalls that “I was actually talking to myself: ‘Remain calm.’”  This time, he produced an opening 8-minute montage, then announced “I refuse to let things like this change the things we do.”  After “letting the audience know ‘I’m aware of this,’” and spots that followed, it was back to business as usual.

With Zach Sang nodding in agreement, Mark Thompson bottom-lined it: “The way you are going to win is if you’re the best content available.”


Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet; and he covers industry conferences for TALKERS and RadioInfo.  Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke.  HC’s next stop: Las Vegas, for the massive, mind-boggling Consumer Electronics Show, first week in January. Look for his reports here.

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Category: Analysis