As the NFL Turns 100: Radio is Now on the Clock

October 1, 2019

Heading towards their 100th season, the NFL faced massive headwinds: concussions and brain injuries, half empty stadiums, kneeling for the National Anthem, and steadily declining ratings.

In fact, “Super Bowl ratings and viewership have now declined in four straight years, the longest streak of declines in Super Bowl history.”

Despite this combination of existential risks, the NFL remains a money making machine with revenue expected to grow from $15 billion currently to $25 billion in 2027.

Meanwhile, national brands like Lowe’s are not just walking towards the NFL, they are running to be associated with the shield.

“Let’s face it: The NFL is dominant,” Lowe’s Chief Marketing Officer Jocelyn Wong said. Lowe’s came to the NFL after ending a 17 year relationship with NASCAR.

Similarly, when Papa John’s cut ties with the NFL, blaming the player boycott for slumping sales, the league had a more valuable agreement with Pizza Hut finalized in 24 hours.

The NFL is 100 years old and facing smaller numbers of teenagers playing the sport as well as increased competition for their target audience’s time and attention.

100 years old, $15 billion in annual revenue, concern over the next generation and increasing audience fragmentation. All of these elements could be used to describe radio.

So what’s the difference?

“We have obsessed a lot over the last three or four years on game presentation, which I think matters,” said Barry Rolapp, the NFL’s chief media and business officer. He continued, “We always pay attention to them (the ratings), but it’s not as much week-to-week or year-to-year. It’s about how is it trending generally.”

This unrelenting focus on the user experience has resulted in reduced TV breaks. In addition, the NFL is riding the wave of two massive macro level forces: the popularity of fantasy football and the legalization of sports gambling.

Both factors give diehard fans reasons to watch more football, thereby driving occasions and time spent.

Radio: First in Audio

The original commercial broadcast on KDKA in Pittsburgh in November of 1920 provided election results. A century later, our democracy in action will once again be the biggest story of 2020.

According to Pew Research more Americans get their news from radio than printed newspapers or social media. Among those who get their news from social media, “57% say they expect the news they see on these platforms to be largely inaccurate.”

In addition, it’s increasingly difficult to figure out “real news” from manufactured/fake outrage. A reliable source of news and context is essential, especially for our employed listeners who are too busy to sift through all the daily drama.

Politicians governing and conducting diplomacy via Twitter is not going to end with the Trump Administration. It might be bad for world affairs and our republic, but it’s great for driving ongoing tune-ins.

In addition, the ability for music stations to serve as an oasis and provide an escape from the political craziness is an enormous macro level force that will continue to generate listening.

Also, just like in the NFL where Father Time remains undefeated, musicians won’t live forever. With so many icons in their 70’s, their passing will provide ongoing opportunities for radio to connect and engage with the audience.

Whether it’s Dolly Parton, Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney, even the Boss turned 70 last week, time doesn’t stand still. Factor in all those artists who will pass far too early and our employed A25-54 core audience will be looking to radio to celebrate these legendary lives.

Radio’s first 100 years have been filled with ongoing innovations in the face of new technologies and changing business conditions.

The reach of radio and the ability of stations to connect with the employed listeners who have money to spend with advertisers is a tremendous competitive advantage.

Not all listeners are created equal. By continuing to recruit and engage the heavy listeners who matter most to your ratings and revenue, radio is investing in a high margin business model, while using our strong local AM/FM brands to simultaneously grow incremental digital, podcast and event revenue.

Here’s to the next 100 years!

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

Andrew Curran, President and COO

Open Letter to Radio: Focus on Your “Bread and Butter” and “Get Better”

August 29, 2019

Labor Day 2019

An Open Letter to Radio:

The last time the Radio Show came to Texas (Austin 2017), advertising giant P&G took the stage and encouraged radio to focus on your “bread and butter,” namely broadcast radio. “It’s a gimme. You’re selling water in the desert, you have what I want. How can you fail at selling me what I want?”

The reason this advice was necessary? John Fix from P&G recounted hour-long meetings with radio companies where for 50 minutes, “I will hear about everything you’ve never done but want to. I hear about podcasts you’ve never broadcast. I hear about targeting, and what I really want to talk about is how you can touch 93% of the United States.”

Radio is a daily companion for employed consumers, who advertisers need to reach. Meanwhile, people who are out of the workforce don’t listen to a lot of radio. They also don‘t have much disposable income to spend with advertisers.

As Procter & Gamble has ramped up its investment in radio, its stock price has followed suit and is trading at an all-time high. Not a bad testimonial for radio, especially for buyers and advertisers skeptical of radio’s enduring strength and dominance in a digital world.

As the saying goes, it’s harder to stay on top than it is to get there in the first place.

For radio to continue to grow and deliver strong ROI to advertisers, those of us working in the industry need to keep getting better.

In that regard, insights into athletic performance and what separates champions from the rest of the field are both interesting and informative.

Researchers have found that champions consistently have a unique reaction to challenges. They view obstacles in a positive light – as opportunities to grow – and overcome them thanks to a “never satisfied” attitude.

This runs in contrast to almost champions, who blame setbacks on external causes, become negative, and lose motivation.

Most notably, researchers have discovered that the best goal is also the simplest: Get better. 

Champions are driven from within. Their primary concern is self-improvement. They hold themselves to high standards, but judge themselves against prior versions of themselves, not against others.

Almost champions on the other hand, focus on external benchmarks, like national rankings or how they compare to rivals.

The research also found that champions seek empowering, lasting mentors. Coaches that empower their athletes and take a longer-term perspective. This differs from the experience of almost champions, who recall their coaches as being focused on immediate results, “often seeming to drive the bus more than the performer.” Not surprisingly, almost champions change coaches frequently whereas champions maintain long-term relationships.

These insights on what separates champions from others applies across radio: programming, sales, promotions, on-air, imaging, management, research, consultants, marketers, software providers, and on down the line.

Advertisers need people across radio to keep getting better and to continue delivering what they can’t get on any other platform – maximum reach to an employed audience with money to spend.

2019 has proven to be an important year for radio and 2020 should be a bumper crop that sets the tone for a new decade as we focus on growing industry revenue to $20 billion by 2022 (#20×22).

We are grateful to work with talented and dedicated professionals across markets and formats as we together enhance radio’s highly profitable business model and ensure an ongoing commitment to operating in the “public interest, convenience and necessity.”

This letter is the latest installment in an annual series that started in 2016, written to coincide with Labor Day, radio’s unofficial holiday, a claim made possible by the dominant percentage of listening that’s delivered by employed persons across markets and formats. Earlier editions of the letter are available here: 2016, 2017, 2018.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Doug Smith, Jen Clayborn, and everyone at DMR/Interactive, thank you for working to drive radio forward.

Happy Labor Day!

Andrew Curran
President and COO

Amazon Treasure Truck: Inspiring Radio to Raise the Bar

August 9, 2019

With 1 million subscribers across 25 markets, the Amazon Treasure Truck is once again expanding its footprint with an aim to “deliver even more delight.”

It’s a pop up carnival featuring curated daily deals designed to foster brand loyalty and create “new daily habits.”

It’s also an advertising vehicle (both literally and figuratively) as Amazon puts the advertiser and their featured deal of the day on full display.

Supplies are limited, prices are low and the trucks don’t stay in one location for long. According to a article in Vox, “people come out rain or shine for the Treasure Truck.”

Along with picking up your purchase, most stops include free samples, but this is not some discount dumping ground.

“Everything given out on the truck must have a rating of four stars or higher on Amazon’s website, and if the rating slips, the giveaway will be canceled, the goods returned to wherever they came from.

In contrast, most radio remotes have become a box to be checked, which can’t be over soon enough. In a similar way, the prize pickup experience at stations is also a non-event.

Amazon Offers a Roadmap

As the saying goes, “success leaves clues.” Your Super-Fans and Amplifiers have tremendous passion for your brand. Give them and your advertisers an event that demonstrates the true power of your station and leaves them wanting more.

In the article “5 things you should know about Treasure Truck,” Amazon offers the following advice:

1. You’ll always be greeted by smiling faces – meet the delight squad.

2. Treasure Truck runs on happiness.

3. Act fast to get the treasure before it’s gone.

4. We love dogs. And wearing costumes. And especially love dogs wearing costumes.

5. Most treasures come in nifty red bags. Because treasure chests are too heavy to carry home. And these are reusable.

Smiling faces, fostering happiness, demand that exceeds supply, encouraging people to express their personality, taking home a bag that shows you’re part of the tribe.

None of these are out of reach for radio remotes and prize pick ups.

If you’re looking to further elevate your promotional efforts and front desk experience, here are a few more of our suggestions.

Cross reference advertiser locations with your Hot ZIPs as you schedule remotes. Segment your text and email databases into four geographic quadrants, allowing you to push targeted and relevant messages.

When it comes to prize pickup, roll out the red carpet and treat everyone in your target demo like they are a Nielsen panelist or diary keeper.

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

Andrew Curran, President and COO

Alexa: What Do Radio and Prime Day Have in Common?

July 8, 2019

Amazon Prime Day grabs so much market share – there’s a downturn in retail foot traffic not just for the day, but for two weeks surrounding the event.

That’s what happens when consumers gobble up 100 million items and spend $4.2 billion as they did last year. Up 33% from a modest $2.41 billion haul back in 2017.

Radio has also started cashing in on Amazon Prime Day as the e-commerce giant surged from outside the top 100 advertisers to #13 for the week last year according to Media Monitors.

In addition, rivals including e-Bay and Macy’s, have bolstered their investment with radio and stepped up their game for what truly has become Christmas in July for retailers.

According to a powerful study commissioned by Westwood One last year, “Heavy AM/FM radio listeners represent half of all Amazon Prime Day purchasers.” 

The blog post recap continues, “Full time employment and having kids in the home makes AM/FM radio the engine of e-commerce. According to Nielsen, the vast majority of AM/FM radio listening comes from Americans with a full time job. AM/FM radio is the soundtrack of the American worker. Most AM/FM radio programming formats over index with homes with children.”

These insights are also backed up by independent reporting, including Business Insider, which says, “While Prime members buy an average of $1,400 a year worth of stuff on the website, regular customers only spend $600.”

The disposable income that a regular paycheck provides certainly helps fuel this increased level of spending.

Winning More Occasions From Those With the Most to Give

Nobody knows the value of Prime members better than Jeff Bezos. Here’s what he said back in 2016: “If you look at Prime members, they buy more on Amazon than non-Prime members … they’re looking around to see, ‘How can I get more value out of the program?’ And so they look across more categories – they shop more. A lot of their behaviors change in ways that are very attractive to us as a business. And the customers utilize more of our services.”

Deepening the connection with the heavy users who have the most to give, thereby winning more occasions. Well said Mr. Bezos.

In his ongoing effort to recruit more Prime members, while keeping the ones he already has engaged and spending, he’s once again raising the bar.

This year as Amazon celebrates its 25th anniversary, Prime Day is now a two day extravaganza (July 15-16) with over 1 million deals along with a kickoff concert with Taylor Swift and friends on July 10th at 9pm that can be streamed, you guessed it, on Amazon Prime Video.

At a time when just 8% of consumers describe themselves as brand loyal according to the latest insights from Nielsen, focusing on the employed, heavy users who matter most applies as much to your business as it does to Amazon’s.

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

Andrew Curran, President and COO

Desire Paths: When Best Laid Plans Go Astray

June 12, 2019

Architects and planners regularly apply sound design principles to help pedestrians navigate public spaces. Despite their acumen and expertise, people also have their own ideas and like to blaze new trails.

While this can be maddening to some in the urban planning community, others find it fascinating and embrace it.

It’s been described as “collective disobedience.” It also reflects our innate desire to find the shortest distance between two points.

The response to these paths usually takes one of two forms.

The authoritarian approach typically involves “blocking it off with some type of obstacle – a fence, a bush, a pile of brush, a sharply (if, in this case, politely) worded sign” (as pictured above).

Meanwhile, the democratic approach is to observe and learn as people vote with their feet. It’s an approach typically found on college campuses, where new paths are made permanent with pavement. For example, places like The Oval at The Ohio State University shown below.

This democratic approach is certainly more iterative and collaborative, but it stops well short of blindly formalizing every whim of the crowd, which can lead to a chopped up and “manic accumulation of concrete.”

As it turns out though, adopting a democratic approach to urban design rather than fighting to maintain an old school authoritarian model will more effectively meet the conditions and realities of planning public spaces and communities in an emerging Climate Responsible world.

Relevance to Radio

All of this presents an interesting analogy to the ongoing evolution of media consumption. Long gone are the days of the authoritarian delivery model as exemplified by Walter Cronkite’s famous closing line on the CBS Evening News, “That’s the way it is.”

When it comes to music consumption, waiting to hear your favorite song has given way to on-demand access to an entire library that’s available on your phone or smart speaker. As a result, the best programmers, like innovative urban designers, continue to evolve.

Just as paving every foot path is not good planning or design, neither is blindly championing user driven content as we continue to see on social media along with brand safety concerns among advertisers.

The professional curation of great content delivered by trusted personalities who inform and entertain is incredibly important and powerful. In addition, while radio is sometimes criticized for being too corporate and authoritarian, flipping a format, launching a morning show, and spotlighting new music are all examples of a democratic approach to programming.

Whether it’s public spaces or listening to the radio, people vote with their feet. Ratings also help ensure a democratic approach to programming. Are people utilizing the available audio sidewalks or do programmers need to pave new ones? In the case of ESPN Deportes, the sidewalk is being removed altogether.

For our part, we’ve been encouraging listeners to create their own path with station contest times. Dating back to the days of faxed-in contest entries, mailed-in reply cards and continuing today with mobile activations, we invite listeners to customize their contest times on a listening grid.

These heavy listeners get the very real benefit of maximizing their chances of winning, while specifically thinking about where they can fit more occasions with the station into their work day and commute.

Concrete paths aren’t permanent and neither are station formats. By adapting to changes in listening behavior over time, radio remains the 800 pound gorilla of audio and the best place for advertisers to reach the employed consumers with money to spend.

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

Andrew Curran, President and COO

This is Your Captain Speaking: Lessons from 39,000 Feet

May 13, 2019

After 105 years of commercial aviation (including buzzing the beach to land in St. Maarten), airlines are the definition of a boom or bust industry. In recent years, low oil prices, a strong economy and favorable labor contracts have helped unleash robust profitability.

What has been their secret to success? For U.S. global heavyweights – Delta, American and United, it’s a strategic focus on those who matter most. Specifically, high value and frequent business travelers.

Even Southwest, the industry’s most consistently profitable airline for 45 years, has undergone a strategic shift as they aggressively compete for business travel.

According to American Airlines, business travelers represent just 13% of their total passengers, while delivering 50% of the revenue. As a result, business travelers generate 6.7 times more revenue than leisure passengers who fly the airline just once per year and see travel as a commodity.

Over the last few years, basic economy has gone bare bones as carriers have realized they aren’t competing with each other (in this tier of seats) for passengers who expect top notch service. Rather, they are competing with low cost carriers like Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit, where you pay a la carte for everything beyond the bare minimum.

Not All Passengers (or Listeners) Are Created Equal

Business travelers spend more and travel more often. Same is true for your heavy listeners. They consistently deliver more occasions and TSL. It’s not simply about executing on-air strategies that keep them listening longer. By definition they have more time to give and come back more often. The key to ratings and revenue is for your brand to win more of these occasions from the heavies.

For airlines, it’s why frequent flyer programs are such an important part of their strategy. In fact earlier this year, American Surprised & Delighted their Concierge Key members with gifts allowing them to say thank you in a unique and personal way.

Earning and keeping frequent flyer status is so important that Delta just made headlines with Reclaim My Status allowing elite customers to keep their Medallion status despite a downturn in travel following a life event.

Hold onto your flotation device, because according to Delta, “We’re always looking for new ways to take care of our customers and that includes injecting even more empathy into travel … Loyalty goes both ways.”

Speaking of empathy and focusing on what matters most to business travelers, Delta is also currently testing free wi-fi on its flights.

Like audio, aviation has grown exponentially in recent years with more than 42,000 cities around the world being connected by a direct flight. More than double the number from 20 years ago. Meanwhile, passenger counts have also increased from 1.5 billion to 4 billion annually.

Yet, by focusing on the few who matter most (business travelers who spend more and fly more often), legacy carriers are consistently generating billions in annual profits, despite increased low cost competition and online booking sites that help passengers find the lowest cost flights.

As you know from your own recent travels, flights have never been so full.

Delta’s Reclaim My  Status initiative is a great reminder of the upcoming changes in PUMM levels as the school year comes to an end.

Who are your most important working parents and what’s your strategy to interact with them directly off-air this summer? With school out, their listening patterns will predictably change, despite no loss of affinity for your station or Nielsen doing anything wrong.

It’s not just the end of the school year or the Christmas season that changes listening habits. Life events can happen at any time. One of our clients recently received a comment from a loyal listener in their database who mentioned a death in the family, which caused them to drop everything for a couple of weeks, including listening to the radio.

As life returned to normal, they started listening again and reached out to let the station know how nice it was to hear their favorite personalities again and how much they missed the connection. The sympathy card this listener is about to receive from the station will certainly be prominently displayed all summer, not to mention the conversations it will create about the station with family, friends and co-workers. Safe to say, our client will be the only brand sending a sympathy card.

In the immortal words of Delta Airlines, “Loyalty goes both ways.”

For its part, American isn’t worried about trying to super-serve the equivalent of their cume – the 87% of passengers who fly only once per year.

Their efforts are focused on the heavies who provide a disproportionate impact.

For radio, heavy listeners deliver on average 4x the occasions and TSL as light listeners. As a result, it’s another reminder that not all listeners (or airline passengers) are created equal.

In fact, merely capturing audience data is easy. It’s about building relationships and using data analytics to identify those who matter most today, so you can increase their occasions, while deploying a strategy to cultivate more heavy listeners including the ones you’ll need tomorrow to continue driving ratings and revenue.

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

Andrew Curran, President and COO

Voice Command: Leveraging the Smart Home to Win the Connected Car

April 15, 2019

The combination of smart devices, mobile technology and voice command is changing consumer behavior before our very eyes.

Our homes have become a hub of smart and mobile technology impacting everything from TV viewing to changing the thermostat.  

Radio consumption is no exception. As Bob Pittman mentioned to Caroline Beasley, “Alexa turned out to be the new radio.”

Maximizing the Opportunity

While the internet provides for seemingly infinite capacity, human evolution has not kept pace. We are still limited by how many things we simultaneously pay attention to and create habits around in our daily lives.

As a point of reference, despite more than 2 million apps being available to download, people spend virtually all of their time with less than 10 apps, while their top 3 drive 80% of consumption. Three out of 2 million is the definition of a long tail.

Moving to the physical world, the limits of our mental capacity are alive and well. Research indicates that people across big cities and small towns visit just 25 places in the midst of their daily lives. In addition, despite the ability to have thousands of connections on LinkedIn and Facebook, offline, we only have active relationships with 150 people.

This never-ending digital abundance held in contrast with our scarcity of attention is a fascinating dynamic.

Leading the way in this fight for our attention and loyalty are the companies making the devices, notably Google, Apple and Amazon.

With all the promise of voice command, radio’s ability to generate Mind Share is going to be imperative. Not only is AM/FM radio offering curated, linear programming on a device built for on-demand personalization, but we’re competing to form habits and drive usage against every brand with a voice command strategy.

In addition, when voice commands are given to smart speakers, a single result is produced. Compare that to search results shown on a screen, which include multiple options both paid and organic. That means voice command becomes a winner takes all proposition.

While voice command skills need to work effortlessly, Top of Mind awareness comes first. Either your brand is asked for by name and you win the Moment of Truth or the occasion is lost.

Let’s Keep Our Eye on the Prize, We’re Playing with House Money

When it comes to fleeting attention spans and limited recall, radio’s position as the largest reach medium is a tremendous competitive advantage. People know us and love us.

Smart speakers around the house can be our development sandbox. 75% of radio consumption takes place outside the home. As a result, we can test and measure different voice command strategies that provide an incremental lift with more at-home listening, but the real win for radio will be when this smart home strategy carries over into the connected car and we continue to dominate drive time consumption.

In a world of global brands using chat bots and artificial voices to interact with consumers, radio’s local brands and real personalities will shine even brighter and provide a significant competitive advantage.

When it comes to who’s interacting with your station via voice command today, it’s your existing Super-Fans and P1s. According to Matt Bailey, president of Integr8 Research, “people who do still own a radio beyond their cars are four times more likely to stream a local FM station.” He continues, “Listeners who use radio do so because-they really like radio! … Instead of trying to win over the self-curation control freaks, or conversely the listeners who don’t care that much about music in the first place, radio should seek to maximize listenership from folks who already love radio.”

Further insight in this regard, comes from what we’ve discussed about heavy listeners for years. They give radio 31 occasions per week, compared with light listeners who provide just 7 occasions. As a result, your heavy P1s are the ones being consistently exposed to your smart speaker promotional inventory and email newsletter messages. These are the listeners who know your station inside and out, including their favorite benchmarks and when they air.

Remind them that if they get home early, they can still enjoy their favorite drive time feature, simply by pulling up the station on their smart speaker. Not only are you engaging those employed, heavy listeners who matter most to your ratings and revenue, but you’re actually generating more listening occasions. All that practice at home will continue to pay off as the competition for drive time and work place engagement increases.

These voice command insights will also help accelerate the development of habit formation as we acquire more heavy listeners by continuing to grow Mind Share for your local brands and win hard fought listening occasions.

We also know that even your best P1 listeners spend 94% of their lives away from the radio, so as you build momentum on the home front, your investment in an effective off-air messaging strategy related to voice command can be leveraged to accelerate momentum.

In the meantime, not generating sufficient traction with your voice command strategy? We can help drive Top of Mind awareness with those employed, heavy listeners who matter most.

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

Andrew Curran, President and COO