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

Do You Hear an Echo? Amazon is Fast Becoming an Ad Platform

March 7, 2017

The Amazon Echo has received a lot of attention from radio in recent weeks. First, as a way to increase in-home listening after being described as “Radio’s Next Can’t-Miss Opportunity.” More recently as a theory to help explain how an online stream went to #1 with a bullet in Tampa.

There’s a third angle that is also worthy of radio’s attention and consideration. The role the Echo will play in helping Amazon increase its ad revenue. Amazon’s fastest growing billion dollar division isn’t drone deliveries, it’s advertising. Currently, it’s lumped in as “Other” revenue in their financials.

According to Business Insider, on a recent earnings call, Amazon’s CFO, Brian Olsavsky, agreed that while it’s “very early” to discuss the full potential of ad revenue growth, he acknowledged it was a “good strategy” for the company.

With half of US households already belonging to Amazon Prime, the ability to connect purchase data to ads being served gives them visibility into the full customer buying cycle in a way that Facebook and Google can only dream of.

According to Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of the world’s largest advertising group, WPP, what keeps him up at night isn’t his 3 month old daughter… it’s Amazon.

As reported in Business Insider, “Nobody in the online ad business has more data about the way we shop, how often we shop, and what items we look at and decide not to buy.”

Yet the proliferation of Echo devices also presents a unique opportunity for radio to regain at-home listening after radios began disappearing from households during the last decade.

We can also use this opportunity to be thoughtful about developing a strategy that keeps your station Top of Mind and puts our best foot forward on a device often purchased initially as a personal assistant. Radio has a tremendous value proposition and dominant market share in audio.

Crafting a compelling value proposition for why your station should be Top of Mind for listeners on voice activated devices is time well spent, especially as voice command also becomes more prominent in cars. To get started, drop us a note and let’s talk about how we can incorporate your on-air Can’t Miss Moments and brand position into a compelling message strategy to those who matter most.

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

Table Stakes: What It Takes to Play the Game

February 20, 2017

Verizon and Walmart have each recently made significant announcements that are generating headlines. However instead of being credited for innovation, these investments are necessary to simply keep up.

For Verizon, it’s unlimited data and for Walmart it’s 2 day online shipping.

Walmart is hoping that by using a $35 minimum order for free 2 day shipping, they’ll be able to gain ground on Amazon Prime. However, it’s already a juggernaut with half of U.S. households belonging to Prime and even more importantly, those households spend nearly twice as much per year as non Prime households.

According to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, the average Prime member spends “on average about $1,100 per year, compared to about $600 per year for non-members.”

In a story about the shift in strategy in recode, Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce division said, “in today’s world of e-commerce, two-day free shipping is table stakes.” At the same time, he called the initiative “the first of many moves we will be making to enhance the customer experience and accelerate growth.”

Switching gears from online shopping to the mobile devices and carriers people use to make such purchases, Verizon is now offering unlimited data.

Just last month on an earnings call with investors, Verizon CFO Matt Ellis announced that adding an unlimited plan is “not something we need to do right now.”

However, corporate strategy can quickly evolve, especially when stock price is underperforming. As reported in MediaPost, “Verizon shares have dropped about 2.3% over the past 12 months, compared with a 78% surge for T-Mobile and a more than threefold gain for Sprint Corp., which has also been aggressively pushing unlimited plans,” observes Bloomberg’s Crayton Harrison.

In both cases, express 2 day shipping and unlimited mobile data, which previously commanded a premium from customers, are now baseline expectations.

Table Stakes for Radio

When we view radio through this lens, many items quickly come to mind as table stakes … engaging personalities, strong music position, multi-platform social media presence, video production, streaming, station mobile app, and most recently, Alexa voice command integration.

However, all of it has become table stakes and no longer provides a long term competitive advantage that can be leveraged and aggressively monetized.

In a world of infinite content creation and distribution channels, the old model built on scarcity and licenses, has been replaced with a new model built on abundance. In this environment, doubling down on your content might not be your best bet. After all, how much content do your personalities actually create when you analyze your clock?

According to Harvard professor Bharat Anand, author of the book, The Content Trap, media companies have “a bias towards content, product and quality.” Yet the real opportunity is to leverage your content to empower listeners to connect with each other.

Want more proof of this strategy? Look no further than Facebook.

Just three years ago, in 2014, Facebook crossed $10 billion in annual revenue for the first time. Overall, it was much smaller than radio. The following year, in 2015, they eclipsed radio for the first time with $17 billion in revenue and in 2016, they started to significantly pull away, generating $26 billion in ad based revenue.

What did Mark Zuckerberg say earlier this month as he reported earnings? “Our mission to connect the world is more important now than ever. Our business did well in 2016, but we have a lot of work ahead to help bring people together.”

What does Wall Street think of this audience connection strategy? Facebook’s market cap is currently $385 billion, $200 billion more than Comcast, the largest media company that focuses on generating content. In fact, you could add Comcast ($180B) and Disney ($170B) together and still fall more than $30 billion short of the market cap of Facebook.

Whether it’s crowd sourced content or professionally generated, the billion dollar question is how does your content connect the audience with each other?

Is your target demo working moms? How are you helping them share dinner recipes or summer camp options for their kids? As a community forms around these conversations, there will be plenty of opportunities to monetize this audience generated content.

Similar to hosting a party, you make sure the guests are having a good time by joining the online conversation, add a few on-air mentions and moderate the inappropriate comments, while letting those at the party do most of the work generating the content themselves.

It starts with knowing your listeners by name and understanding that in a world of infinite content, there are new ways to evolve and grow, which connect listeners to each other and transcend the transmitter.

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

Andrew Curran, President and COO

The World Has Changed: Has Your Marketing Strategy Evolved With It?

January 19, 2017

The explosive growth of technology and mobile continues to accelerate. Yet within this changing landscape there are fundamentals that guide best in class brands.

The Marketing 2020 initiative was launched by Adobe, the Association of National Advertisers, and Millward Brown Vermeer to identify best in class strategies and structures.

In fact, their goal was to methodically study what separates superior marketing organizations from the rest.

According to the Harvard Business Review, the research included “in-depth qualitative interviews with more than 350 CEOs, CMOs, and agency heads, and over a dozen CMO roundtables in cities worldwide.” In addition, quantitative surveys of more than 10,000 marketers were conducted in 92 countries.

From this research, several insights were identified that are significant to radio.

Financially Outperform Your Peers with Data. Top performing brands not only use analytics to improve targeting and delivery of marketing messages, but also incorporate the ability to combine data about what consumers are doing with an understanding of “why they’re doing it.”

Among leading organizations that effectively leverage analytics, the role and impact of marketing touches every corporate function, which also helps to ensure consistency in budget and execution.

The Trifecta of Winning Brands. The Marketing 2020 study revealed the consistent delivery of three essential elements by leading brands.

Functional Benefits: The job the customer is expecting – morning caffeine from Starbucks.

Emotional Benefits:
Fulfill the customer’s emotional needs – drinking Starbucks coffee has become a status symbol.

Societal Benefits:
Helping create a better world – Fair trade coffee and baristas earning a living wage.

For most stations, the Functional Benefits include entertaining companionship along with music and local content. The Emotional Benefits are the enjoyment that listening brings to a commute and work. The Societal Benefits would be the frequent charitable opportunities such as supporting St. Jude’s or Children’s Miracle Network.

This is a different approach than blasting everyone in your email database the same message. That’s where analytics comes in. Data segmentation can also be used to generate stronger ROI for advertisers and help secure sponsorships and annual buys.

The goal is to create a Total Experience with your brand by providing personalized messaging and relevant touch points that generate deeper engagement and consumption.

Not only is this level of sophistication possible for your stations, but consumers are expecting it. After all, your brands are not just being compared to the station across the street, but against global brands and the immersive experiences they are providing your listeners.

In addition, when your latest marketing campaign has come and gone, you have an ongoing asset with your audience database that you can continue to leverage and monetize as you drive ratings and revenue.

Think, Do, Feel: Marketing Centers of Excellence with Distinct, but Integrated Functions

Think: Leveraging data analytics to refine the target and messaging strategies as well as optimize the ROI.

Do: Developing content and creative along with seamlessly executing the multi-platform marketing plan.

Feel: Focus on maximizing the impact of each target consumer’s experience with the brand: on-air, online and at station events.

Although the pace of change continues to accelerate, data analytics and mobile provide amazing opportunities to offer engaging touch points with those who matter most to your ratings and revenue.

To read the entire Harvard Business Review article and for more information about leveraging these Marketing 2020 insights for your station, contact

Food for Thought: The Bottomless Bowl of Infinite Scroll

December 9, 2016

Ever noticed you or your spouse scrolling endlessly on Facebook? What starts as a quick look turns into 10 minutes of time spent randomly wandering through Facebook.

It’s no accident… welcome to the bottomless bowl of infinite scroll. This doesn’t just apply to social media, it’s hard wired into human DNA. According to Cornell University, when someone is given a bottomless bowl of soup, people eat an astounding 73% more than if they have to refill their own bowl. This type of behavioral economics is a key aspect of the Facebook business model, which worth noting, generated $7 billion in revenue during their latest quarter.

Humans are inherently lazy. While you might think that it doesn’t take much effort to click on a link at the bottom of a story, it’s more effort than Facebook believes is necessary and they are not alone.

But what about page views? Take a look at ESPN… the Worldwide Leader in Sports. As the bottomless bowl moves from one article to the next, the address in your URL changes without the user doing anything. Here’s an article about the NFL MVP race, as you scroll from one article to the next, pay attention to your URL.

Meanwhile for daily newspapers including the legendary Page Six, it’s still a page view strategy built on one and done.

Not to be outdone, while trying to increase page views and time spent, radio websites are almost exclusively one and done as well. When you click on a story or article on any station site, you can scroll to the bottom of the bowl (article) in 3-5 seconds. True both on mobile and desktop. Radio would do well to emulate Facebook and ESPN, while distancing itself from the user experience found on local newspaper sites.

On-air, radio isn’t just competing with stations up and down the dial and it’s even more true online.

The people visiting your website are highly engaged fans. Why not keep their attention longer and keep your brand top of mind with an updated web strategy. It could be the perfect gift to give yourself this holiday season.

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

Andrew Curran, President and COO, DMR/Interactive