Radio in an On-Demand World: When Everybody Zigs, Zag

February 19, 2019

Conversations about radio’s evolving role in an on-demand world are inescapable.

Yet, despite a variety of efforts for more than a decade, consumers continue to resist listening to significant amounts of linear programming on smart devices.

Meanwhile, downward pressure on spot revenue, continues to increase.

In the midst of this, the words of Henry Ford come to mind, “the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

Whether we’re talking about audience size, consumption dominance, profitability or other key metrics, the numbers are overwhelmingly in favor of radio.

Much can also be said about the incredible demographics working in radio’s favor, which advertisers tend to overlook in favor of placing ad buys on platforms with click farms and bot traffic.

Meanwhile, our value proposition with advertisers has never been so compelling, our audience is built on three things: education, employment and income.

The higher your education level, the more you work and the higher income you have, the more you listen to radio.

These insights reflect research from Deloitte, which Tim Moore from Audience Development Group highlighted last week in his Midweek Motivator column. It tees up a very compelling elevator speech: the more education, employment, and income a person has, the more radio they listen to.

This article Radio: Revenue, reach and resilience should be required reading for everyone working in radio as well as our advertisers.

In addition, as the world grows more fragmented and individualistic, radio’s ability to deliver a shared experience becomes even more important and enduring.

If you have teenagers using social media, you’ve likely heard about the growing amounts of research that connect usage with depression.

In social media, posts are almost always about self-promotion and curating the perfect life. Meeting a celebrity, taking an amazing vacation, front row seats. The list goes on.

In reality though, there’s a very real cost.

According to research in Psychological Science, unusual experiences alienate us from our peers. “Extraordinary experiences are both different from and better than the experiences that most other people have,” the authors note, “and being both alien and enviable is an unlikely recipe for popularity.”

Turns out, we think that seeing or doing amazing things will make us feel better than people who haven’t; it actually makes us feel worse. It creates isolation and loneliness.

The article continues, “We don’t realize the extent to which we are influenced by people around us.”

These insights about the importance of shared experiences and being part of a peer group, are at the heart of our audience amplification strategy, which leverages Super-Fans of your brand to reach even more of your best listeners.

By empowering your P1s to Surprise and Delight their family, friends and co-workers, while tuning in and enjoying “can’t miss moments” on-air, it taps right into the power of shared experience, which is fundamental to radio’s ongoing competitive advantage in an on-demand world.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Doug Smith and everyone at DMR/Interactive, thanks for reading and working to drive radio forward.

Andrew Curran, President and COO


Multi-Tasking Through a Crisis: Valentine’s Day 2019

January 28, 2019

If you’re looking for the next crisis, you’ve come to the right place. Candy conversation hearts, the iconic Valentine’s Day candy, won’t be on store shelves this year.

Necco (New England Confectionery Company), the parent company of Sweethearts, ceased operations back in July.

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Now Americans are faced with the terrifying prospect of having to use their own words to express their love.

For any station that wants to save their listeners from this nightmare, the candy is being sold online, but due to anticipated demand, rationing has already begun.

Fortunately, plans are already in place to resume making the candy hearts next year. In the meantime, Krispy Kreme is stepping up to help fill the void.

krispy

With people wearing multiple hats and often finding that there aren’t enough hours in the day, how do we navigate the crisis of the moment and infinite distractions without sacrificing what’s truly important, but often not urgent?

Multi-Tasking Redefined

For many, multi-tasking is a necessary evil. Sitting through a meeting, means falling behind on email, so you pick up the phone and take a quick look.

Turns out, not all multi-tasking is created equally. According to Harvard Business Review,  there are “two types of multitasking — concurrent multitasking, in which you do two or more activities at the same time (talking on the phone while driving) and serial multitasking, in which you switch rapidly between tasks (preparing your next meeting and answering an email, being interrupted by a colleague, checking Twitter).”

Turns out, serial multitasking boils down to rapidly switching between activities. However, when we’re trying to do more than walk and chew gum or talking on the phone while driving, “there is a stop/start process that goes on in the brain. That start/stop/start process is rough on us: rather than saving time, it costs time (even very small micro seconds), it’s less efficient, we make more mistakes, and over time it can be energy sapping.”

All is not lost. According to an article in Fast Company, “While true multitasking–doing two or more things simultaneously–is rarely effective, sensible toggling among activities can be fruitful. ”

In fact, according to MIT research, “people who juggle between two and four projects at a time tend to be more productive than those who focus exclusively on one. This way, you can continue making progress in one area when you’ve temporarily run out of steam in another.”To help determine, whether or not multi-tasking is appropriate, Fast Company put together this matrix.

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Whether the next crisis is real or imagined, the communities we serve turn to radio for context and information, so these skills are essential.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Doug Smith and everyone at DMR/Interactive, thanks for reading and working to drive radio forward.

Andrew Curran, President and COO


A Few Things We Discovered This Year

December 28, 2018

As we head into a weekend filled with college and NFL football and get ready to ring in the New Year, here are several insights we discovered in 2018.

Smart Speakers are taking away occasions from Smart Phones. Especially among those who are trying to cut back on screen time. Meanwhile Voice Command is shaping up to be a zero sum game. Unlike screen displays, the algorithm for voice only returns a single result. More here.

Technology and AI aren’t going to kill off the workforce. “Once, the whole of humanity were farmers, now only 3% of the population work the good Earth.” AI will automate boring work and free people up for better jobs that haven’t been created yet. More here.

Negative, repetitive thoughts are a fact of life. Most people have 50,000 negative thoughts per day. Radio provides an oasis from all that noise and negativity. More here.

Winning the streaming battle is proving to be a hollow victory. As revenues have grown for streaming audio platforms, so have the losses. More here.

There’s a tremendous appetite for AM/FM Radio to tell its story with strength and confidence. Whether it’s Westwood One’s Everyone’s Listening blog, Bob McCurdy’s column or Radio Rally Point, there are powerful stories being told. Radio’s glass isn’t half empty or half full, it’s overflowing with 9 out of 10 minutes of audio going to AM/FM. More here.

Look forward to another year of learning and discovery in 2019.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Doug Smith and everyone at DMR/Interactive, thanks for reading and working to drive radio forward.

Andrew Curran, President and COO


Retail Fights Back: Lessons for Radio from Brick and Mortar

November 27, 2018

Despite the massive growth of online shopping, brick and mortar still drives 90% of sales.

That’s right, e-commerce will be just 10% of all U.S. retail in 2018.

That 10% however, represents over $500 billion in sales, so retailers have adopted a radical new strategy to drive in-store foot traffic: “be less annoying.”

After being slow to respond to the convenience of online shopping, retailers from Walmart to Macy’s to Target are not just increasing their e-commerce efforts, but are doubling down on their core business.

With an early Thanksgiving this year, retailers are looking to maximize the 32 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which also includes a rare 5th weekend. This combination along with a strong economy should allow Nov and Dec retail sales to hit $1 TRILLION for the first time.

When it comes to making sure the item is in-stock before leaving your house, much of the guesswork is gone at big box retailers.

Local store inventory is available online along with the location of the product mapped in the store.

Perhaps more significant are “skip the line technologies” where employees at Target, Walmart, Macy’s and other retailers can “help shoppers pay and check out from anywhere in the store.”

In terms of giving people a reason to visit and generating buzz, pop-up shops and local artists making Instagram worthy designs that people will want to photograph and share are elements that can’t be replicated in an online shopping cart.

Other approaches such as in-store exclusives, dedicated events, maximizing the use of available floor space to include waiting areas with comfortable chairs and televisions are all strategies that retailers are bringing to life as they seek to surprise and delight their best customers while “maintaining a laser focus” on their core.

OPPORTUNITY FOR RADIO TO SHINE

As retailers continue to reinvent the in-store experience, the combination of radio’s employed audience with money to spend and the ability to have air-talent describe first hand how the revamped shopping experience is something that listeners don’t want to miss, creates a tremendous opportunity with an important advertising segment.

In addition to the unrivaled reach that radio delivers these national brands, the audio dominance of AM/FM radio compared to streaming and podcasting remains undeniable.

The opportunity to “be less annoying” is something that also applies to AM/FM radio. While many people focus on high spot loads, when it comes to user experience, a strong case can also be made for improvement in other areas.

On-air promotional inventory is regularly utilized to highlight smart speaker skills as a way to interact with the station, even though the actual skill being promoted doesn’t work as described or take you to the station stream.

Radio’s ability to get listeners to hear a message and take action is essential to our business model. Anything that risks undermining our credibility, especially in an emerging area as important as voice, should be carefully examined.

There’s a great opportunity to re-imagine station remotes, starting with the name. Instead of having a couple of hung over interns sitting under a tent, spinning the prize wheel, radio could borrow the retail concept of a pop-up location and breathe new life to station appearances, especially in Hot ZIPs.

Request lines and questions on social media that go unanswered are all begging for radio to follow retail’s lead and “be less annoying.”

As Rolling Stone recently reported, album sales (across download, CD and vinyl) are in a tailspin that only appears to be accelerating. Presumably, this will continue to drive streaming royalties and limit the ability of pure-plays to turn a profit.

In the midst of cord cutting, misdeeds by social media platforms and brand safety concerns, AM/FM radio has the opportunity to grow revenue and demonstrate leadership as audio’s biggest and most profitable platform.

As you look ahead to 2019, there’s a great opportunity to revisit your approach to the fundamentals and maintain a laser focus on those employed listeners who matter most to your ratings and revenue.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Doug Smith and everyone here at DMR/Interactive, thanks for your work to drive radio forward and Happy Holidays.

Andrew Curran, President and COO


Lessons from the Dugout: Something to Chew On

October 28, 2018

Before pitching the game of his life to clinch the World Series for the Red Sox, David Price had to win the first post season start of his career, which came against the Astros in the ALCS. Following that game, Price saved a unique souvenir, “I got the bag of sunflower seeds I was eating in the ninth inning.”

Sunflower seeds have become the modern version of chewing tobacco in dugouts. In fact, on their way to winning the record setting 18 inning marathon, the Dodgers made a shrine of paper cups and bananas with sunflower seeds poured on, “as an offering to the baseball gods.”

However, success in baseball along with Nielsen ratings isn’t based on superstitions or gimmicks. Sunflowers offer a couple of meaningful takeaways, which radio can benefit from.

Sunflowers start the day facing east and as the sun progresses across the sky, the face of the flower follows along, resetting itself each night back to the east.

In a similar way, winning stations follow their core, employed listeners and map the customer journey, understanding the unique opportunities that exist throughout the day, whether it’s winning a tune-in or other types of brand engagement.

Heavy listening P1s tune-in on average 31 times per week, not to a single station, but to radio overall. How many you win depends on your strategy both on-air and off.

Considerable time and effort is spent on the on-air product, minimizing tune-out and growing TSL. Rightfully so.

It’s equally important to generate top of mind awareness off-air, when your core listeners are away from the radio. After all, listeners can’t tune-out if they never tune-in.

With repeat and varied touch points, focused on the life of the listener, you can drive in-car and at work tune-ins, while also keeping your station top of mind during the other parts of their day when they are away from the radio. This approach maximizes brand loyalty and mindshare, so you win their next listening occasion.

Mapping the customer journey for advertisers is also critically important, especially as it relates to radio’s unrivaled ability to deliver targeted messages to employed consumers with money to spend.

However, the real magic of sunflowers is found below the surface in their root system.

Each sunflower has a deep and extensive root system that goes well below the surface.

In a similar way, winning stations match a strong signal with a deep and extensive set of roots in the community.

Being entrenched in your local market is a key point of differentiation for stations that win the ratings and revenue battle.

The ability to have roots not only in your current HOT Zips, but also in neighborhoods where measurement will occur down the road, helps set winning brands apart.

For more information on mapping the customer journey of your employed listeners and building deep roots with those who matter most, contact win@dmrinteractive.com.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Doug Smith and everyone here at DMR/Interactive, thanks for your work to drive radio forward.

Andrew Curran, President and COO


HOW TO MAKE MONEY WITH AMAZON: START SELLING THEIR INVENTORY

October 1, 2018

In March of 2017, we highlighted that Amazon was “fast becoming an ad platform.”

Just a year and a half later, the tech and retail giant rebranded their advertising business into the intuitively named, Amazon Advertising. The initiative reflects the platform’s rapid growth and maturation from being lumped into the company’s “Other revenue” category last year to being on pace to generate over $8 billion this year.

As radio ambitiously rolls out skills to drive at-home tune-ins, Amazon prepares to launch voice assisted ads on Alexa.

Like Facebook before it, Amazon would likely have hockey stick revenue growth with or without millions of dollars in free promotional inventory from radio encouraging listeners to check out the platform.

However, there appears to be a disconnect between the valuable on-air inventory being given to promote smart speakers and a clear monetization strategy for radio.

In the meantime, Amazon’s advertising strategy continues to accelerate.

Within radio, there’s near universal agreement that spot loads are too high.

Yet we run promotional inventory that highlights another rapidly emerging advertising platform that by 2020 will likely be larger than the entire radio industry, while we struggle to promote our core on-air product that drives over 90% of AM/FM’s revenue.

Adding insult to injury, we’re not reaching digital natives with a smart speaker, streaming message. Instead, we are taking that message directly to our employed, core listeners who seek us out and continue to listen on actual radios, essentially undermining our own self interest.

Perhaps this valuable on-air inventory could be repurposed to reinforce and promote on-air listening, while mixing in an occasional smart speaker promo, using a ratio that reflects the amount of listening that we would reasonably expect the devices to contribute 12 months from now.

Meanwhile, spending time off-air, crafting a compelling value proposition for your employed listeners, which will keep your station top of mind on voice activated devices and in the car along with a corresponding monetization strategy is certainly time well spent.

Worth noting, even a voice activated world without presets is very much a moving target. Take for example the MIT Media Lab, which is already developing technology that can generate search commands based only on what you’re saying to yourself. As Popular Science describes it, “It’s like having Siri listen to your internal commands.”

Until then, we are playing checkers, while Jeff Bezos plays chess.

As evidenced by his recent interview in Forbes, “Friends congratulate me after a quarterly-earnings announcement and say, ‘Good job, great quarter,’ and I’ll say, ‘Thank you, but that quarter was baked three years ago.’ I’m working on a quarter that’ll happen in 2021 right now.”

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Doug Smith and everyone at DMR/Interactive, thanks for reading and working to drive radio forward.

Andrew Curran, President and COO


Open Letter to Radio 2018: We’re Making the Turn with Abundant Wind at Our Back

August 29, 2018

An Open Letter to the U.S. Radio Industry,

The last 12 months have seen a variety of significant milestones involving AM/FM Radio.

Some of the most notable events include:

– iHeart is in the process of massively cutting its debt as it navigates bankruptcy.

– Entercom closed on its acquisition of CBS Radio.

– Cumulus emerged from bankruptcy.

– Nielsen has included radio data in advertiser planning tools including Local Media Impact, a cross-platform resource.

– P&G, the world’s largest advertiser, rediscovered the power of radio to sell its premium consumer products to our employed listeners.

The magnitude of these changes, both individually and collectively, is difficult to fully quantify at the moment, but the significance will be felt for years to come.

Each one serves to enhance the vibrancy and strength of AM/FM radio, the 800# gorilla of audio.

Meanwhile on the digital audio side:

– Amazon eliminated its investment in original podcasting on the Audible platform.

– Pandora, once believed to be a “radio killer,” has seen Spotify overtake its lead for Average Active Sessions.

In fact, “winning” the streaming battle is proving to be a hollow victory. As revenues have grown for both platforms, so have the losses, while spot revenue for AM/FM continues to put billions to the bottom line nationwide.


Spotify has lost nearly $2 billion and Pandora has lost more than $1 billion in recent years. For its part, when talking about Apple Music, CEO Tim Cook says, “we’re not in it for the money.”

In a recent Fast Company article, Cook continues, “Music inspires, it motivates. It’s also the thing at night that helps quiet me. I think it’s better than any medicine.”

With a perspective like that, it’s not much of a surprise that Apple has long been critical of platforms using algorithms to select the music. As their CEO says, “We worry about the humanity being drained out of music, about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world instead of the art and craft.”

The “art and craft” of song selection sounds very much like a tip of the hat to radio programmers, from the head of the first U.S. based trillion dollar company nonetheless.

As we embark upon another Labor Day weekend (the unofficial holiday for radio’s core, employed listeners), there’s ample reason for those working in and around radio to appreciate the current wind at our backs.

Let’s use this momentum to enhance our core business model and push even harder to drive overall growth for our industry to $20 billion by 2022 (#20×22) as we continue to serve our local communities (links refer back to the previous Open Letters to Radio).

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Doug Smith and everyone here at DMR/Interactive, thanks for working to drive radio forward.

Happy Labor Day,

Andrew Curran
President and COO
DMR/Interactive