By Holland Cooke
LAS VEGAS — Although the National Association of Broadcasters’ convention ramps up today, several hundred radio attendees arrived here Saturday, to be in place for the RAIN Summit West 9:00 am Sunday start.
“Sometimes ideas need a little time to ripen, sometimes decades.”
RAIN kicked off with a keynote by Hubbard Radio chair & CEO Ginny Morris, who recounted how her broadcast-pioneering grandfather and father had been notoriously early adopters. In 1948, theirs was “the first TV station between New York and Los Angeles.”
Morris says selling spots is “still a terrific business,” one she’s committed to defending. “20 years ago radio and TV had billboards promoting the stations. We have to spend money to make money.” And again this past year, Hubbard’s WTOP, Washington was the USA’s top-billing radio station.
“Local radio is still very important in small towns, critically important.”
In small markets “those guys take nothing for granted,” and they have an “innate tenacity that big market guys can learn from.” Asked the inevitable question, Morris stated, “There is no truth to the rumor that we’re interested in buying CBS RADIO.”
And Ginny Morris carries her family’s innovation gene: “Trying stuff in our company is really valuable and failing is OK.” In Minneapolis, her talk radio-for-women station “MyTalk107.1” “took 10 years to become profitable. We thought we would be Vanity Fair. We ended up being a cross between TMZ and People magazine.”
“We think that podcasting is a big part of the audio ecosystem and will continue to grow.”
Asked, during Q+A “What keeps you up at night?” Morris frets about the autonomous car: Radio will be competing with “watching the latest episode of ‘House of Cards’” while robo-car frees up commuters’ eyeballs.
Morris talks up podcasting as “additive” to broadcasting, and she walks the walk with a big investment in Norm Pattiz’ PodcastOne. She says she caught onto podcasting when her college-age children got hooked on “Serial.” “I got into an accident – I ran a stop sign — listening to the final episode!”
Also appearing at RAIN Summit West was PodcastOne founder Norm Pattiz…
“It’s a medium that really, really works for the advertiser.”
Pattiz contends that “a million radio listeners or a million TV viewers are less-valuable than a million podcast listeners, because the podcast listener had to perform a positive act to listen. These are the real P1s.’”
Like the radio syndication business he fathered, early support for his podcast business was from direct response advertisers, “who don’t care about the size of the audience; they care about results.” Now, just four years later, PodcastOne’s sponsors are “60% direct response and 40% major brand advertisers.”
Key to growing that part of the business: “You have to make the advertiser comfortable that they’re getting what they pay for,” that the program appeals to the customers the sponsor wants to meet, rather than merely offering the tonnage network radio sells. “People are going to that specific program, and they’re attached to that program.” Pattiz admits that ”it’s harder to get people to pay for audio than to pay for video. But it’s not hard to get ’em to consume audio if there are fewer commercial breaks.”
“People want to consume it when they want to consume it.”
Throughout the day RAIN Summit speakers alluded to the clear preference users demonstrate for on-demand content. “Choice & Control,” as RAIN publisher Kurt Hanson put it in his State of the Industry presentation. Evidence: “One in every five minutes of total audio time is spent on a smartphone,” per the Share of Ear Study data Edison Research president Larry Rosin presented. And that’s the 12+ number. For Persons 13-34 it’s 35%.
When asked about PodcastOne’s recently introduced premium service, Pattiz seemed in we’ll-see mode: “One of the beauties of digital is that you can see how you’re doin’ while you’re doin’ it.”
Although “I could find another 300 shows tomorrow,” Pattiz limits the Podcast One stable to 200 shows; because those shows “are our business partners, on a revenue-share basis. Because we’re not sold-out,” he says he owes it to them to focus on existing acts for now. And he favors acts that come with a loyal following. “Our first show was Stone Cold Steve Austin!”
And he says his phone IS ringing: “Talent agents are looking for digital solutions for their clients. Their clients want to own their work rather than just get paid for it.”
For more from RAIN Summit West, hit www.KurtHanson.com
Tomorrow here: My notes from NAB2016.
Holland Cooke (www.HollandCooke.com) is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke; and meet HC at TALKERS 2016: Bridging the Generations on Friday, May 20 at Hofstra University.