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Report from the RAIN Summit

| September 6, 2017

By Holland Cooke
Media Consultant


AUSTIN — The declining number of radios per household is a big deal, in the view of RAIN News publisher Kurt Hanson.  Smart speakers “are replacing the clock radio and kitchen radio.”

From his State of the Industry remarks at a well-attended event:

  • As sales plateau, “everyone who wants [a smartphone] now has one.”
  • New smart watches will have self-standing connections, not tethered to a nearby smartphone like Apple Watch.
  • Bluetooth headphones are selling well, having a big impact on users’ experience.
  • In-car? “Broadcast radio will be moved down to a second-class position in the center stack,” as so-called connected dashboards proliferate.  There are 38 thousand in the USA today; 118K+ are forecast by 2022.  Ford has open-sourced its groundbreaking Sync system, and will now handshake the driver’s smartphone, so familiar phone app icons appear on the dashboard.
  • For stations, streaming “simulcasts are not a strategy.” Consumption is down from last year.
  • “Podcasting revenue numbers are great.”

 For AM/FM broadcasters that’s whack-on-the-side-of-the-head stuff.  But RAIN Summit topic one was a name we’re hearing lots lately…


Edison Research President Larry Rosin offered highlights from two recent “smart speaker” studies he’s conducted, one for NPR, the other for Pandora.

  • 65% of users surveyed say they “wouldn’t want to go back to life-before they owned one.”
  • 57% have a paid subscription to an Internet audio service; and
  • 28% say the smart speaker led them to subscribe.

He reckons that “Christmas is going to be a big, big deal for this category” (Amazon’s Alexa line, Google Home, et al).

In which room are owners using these devices?  (Or “primary device” in households with more than one.)

  1. 52% in the living room/family room/den
  2. 24% in the kitchen
  3. 12% in the master bedroom
  4. 7% “other location”
  5. 5% other bedroom

And with 70% saying they listen to more audio now that they have one or more smart speakers, this clearly has game-changer potential.  Note owners’ responses to “How you you listen to audio most often?”

  1. smartphone/tablet: 28%
  2. AM/FM radio: 20%
  3. smart speaker: 18%
  4. speaker connected to smartphone: 17%
  5. computer: 8%
  6. iPod/mp3 player: 7%
  7. CD: 2%

What kinds of audio are smart speaker users using MORE?

  • 65%: music
  • 28%: News/Talk
  • 20%: podcasts
  • 18%: audiobooks

With the number of in-home AM/FM receivers declining – and smart speakers a convenient way to listen to station streams – these devices are opportune.  Interestingly, peak usage is evenings, when broadcast radio use tapers-off.

But Rosin reckons “they’re not just ‘a new radio.’  These things are computers you can talk to.  They’ll be in every room of your house.”  What users are asking from their digital concierge:

  1. 69%: Listen to radio
  2. 58%: Listen to music, not including AM/FM
  3. 46%: Get the weather
  4. 42%: Tell me a joke
  5. 40%: Ask a general question
  6. 27%: Set a timer
  7. 26%: Control home devices
  8. 23%: Check date or time

Sound bites from a separate RAIN session, “Smart Speakers, Radio and How to Seize the Audience:”

  • Bryan Moffett COO, National Public Media: “NOTHING gets the agencies more excited than ‘voice’ [smart speakers].”
  • Rob McCracken, Director of Digital Solutions Group, E.W. Scripps Company: “Terrestrial broadcast is still the most powerful way to get people to use this device. People are going to learn from somebody how to use these devices. It should be you who takes their hand.”

 Also heard at RAIN Summit…

Carolyn Gilbert, President, NuVooDoo:

  • “They [listeners] have choice now. We have to work to be the choice.  There’s no barrier to entry.”
  • “They [advertisers] don’t care about your ratings. They care about their cash registers.”

Seth Resler, Digital Dot Connector, Jacobs Media:

  • “If you’re not in iTunes you’re not podcasting.”
  • “Pick the person most interested in doing a podcast, a self-starter,” not biggest station star to whom it’s a chore.
  • Launch a pilot season, a finite number of episodes, perhaps 6. Then evaluate/tweak.

John Rosso, President, Market Development, Triton Digital:

  • “What do you focus on? You can’t do everything well.  Look for an initiative that you can get the whole company behind.”
  • And contrary to the popular notion that podcasts can become the new farm team for on-air talent: “Podcasting should NOT be a training ground. You’re putting your brand on it.”

Vince Benedetto, President/CEO, Bold Gold Media Group: “The broadcast business model is still a great model, the margins are fantastic if you do certain things well in a small community.  The art form is more what’s-in-between-the-music than the music itself.”

Attend virtually?

Next best thing to being here for the NAB + RAB Radio Show: Many sessions are being streamed and archived.  Hit

More tomorrow from Texas.

Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet; and he covers industry conferences for Talkers.  Follow his real-time Tweets from the Radio Show @HollandCooke.

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Category: Analysis