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

20 Years and $400 Billion Later: It’s Still Day 1

April 17, 2017

Amazon is now worth $420 billion with a stock price just below $900 per share, but for Jeff Bezos there’s no time to rest. It’s always Day 1 and this has been his unrelenting mantra for 20 years.

In his recent letter to shareholders, Bezos shared why it’s so important for Amazon to maintain a start up mentality.

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

According to Bezos (see full letter here), the best way to maintain this Day 1 vitality is “obsessive customer focus.”

For Amazon, there are many advantages to being customer-centric, but the best one is “customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied … Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf.”

Bezos continues, “Staying in Day 1 requires you to experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, protect saplings, and double down when you see customer delight.”

As a young Vince Vaughn said twenty years ago in the movie Swingers, “You always double down.”

The Desire to Delight Customers

Compare Amazon’s approach, which is even brought to life with the smile logo on the tail of Amazon Prime airplanes with the current state of passenger airline service.

As blogger Gary Leff told The New York Times, “There’s a lot of blame to go around, not the least of which is the overall culture of aviation where customer service issues have become law enforcement issues.”

This wasn’t always the case. Prior to the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, “the government controlled airfares and routes, and airlines vied to differentiate themselves with meals and leg room.” Over the last decade, airlines have unbundled services, making checked bags and meals, “pay-per-use options.”

Radio deregulated 20 years ago and in the time since, are we operating more like Amazon or the major airlines?

For the last 10 years, PPM markets have been engaged in longitudinal samples. Yet many stations still arbitrarily restrict winning (and listening) with their contest rules: “An individual may win a Contest or Sweepstakes only once per six (6) month period unless otherwise specifically stated.”

Taking it one step further, some in radio still refer to listeners who demonstrate brand loyalty by regularly playing along with station promotions, as “contest pigs.”

Even before the 1996 Telecom Act, it was difficult for a listener to get someone in the studio to answer the phone. Now on social media, when everyone gets to see in plain sight listeners being ignored by a station, how many questions and comments go unanswered?

The good news is that more and more stations are demonstrating Day 1 thinking. For example, embracing tools like Promosuite Next, which empowers the front desk to Surprise & Delight select listeners as they come in to pick up their prize. These listeners in turn are posting about the great experience with their favorite station even before they get back in their car.

Other clients are using our audience visualization and mapping tools to plan promotions and events that maximize the impact to both core listeners and advertisers.

Best of all, the benefits of providing enhanced customer service to Super-Fans and Amplifiers are self evident and when the necessary tools are provided to empower your team, it allows radio to consistently achieve Day 1 thinking.

From there, opportunities exist to expand Surprise and Delight efforts, which further drive marketing ROI by increasing listening occasions with Top of Mind Awareness.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Doug Smith and everyone at DMR/Interactive, thanks for reading and working to drive radio forward with Day 1 thinking.

Andrew Curran, President and COO

Drone Racing League: Fantasy Sport for the Real World

March 20, 2017

When you first hear about the Drone Racing League (DRL) and its $100,000 salaries, you have to double check to be sure you’re not reading an article in the Onion. However, as the facts come into focus, you start to wonder why you never heard of it before.

For starters, founder and CEO Nick Horbaczewski comes from Tough Mudder where he served as Chief Revenue Officer. If that sports background isn’t enough, investors include Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

As a newly minted startup, last year DRL signed a broadcast deal with ESPN and secured a sponsorship with Bud Light. Overall, 28 million people watched the first season of races.

This year, Allianz Insurance has been secured as a global title sponsor and the second season is set to be broadcast by ESPN and Sky Sports into 75 countries. The upcoming season consists of six global tournaments starting in Miami and finishing in London.

This is for real.

According to Business Insider, “The drones reach speeds of up to 80 miles-per-hour … all the league’s pilots fly the same drones, made by DRL.” In fact, “16 pilots will compete in three of the first four races in Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Boston to accumulate league points. The top 12 will go through to the semi-final in Munich from which the top eight will compete in the London final.”

Traditionally, most sports leagues are focused on live events, but that’s not the current model for DRL. According to Horbaczewski, “We’re focused on post-produced content. It’s the most compelling way to see this.”

Meanwhile, CNBC reports that DRL pilots can earn $100,000 per year which allows them to focus on the league full time and potentially become modern equivalents of NASCAR drivers, which is having significant problems of its own with attendance and ratings.

The Connection to Radio

Reading a Sports Illustrated article from earlier this year (they’re as good at securing major PR placements as they are at sponsors), the opportunity for radio came into focus.

“Sports leagues are not companies. They’re ecosystems. In the center of it is this thing called your league. That’s really just the gravitational center, and you need to get an orbit around you, all of these other people. You somehow need to make it all happen at once. You need broadcasters, you need fans, you need athletes, you need sponsors, you need venues. You need to get everyone aligned and rotating around this idea every step of the way … No one of them is enough but all of them together in alignment creates a sport.”

If sports leagues aren’t confined to being companies, then in a similar way, there’s an opportunity to re-imagine radio.

Your station isn’t a frequency on the dial. It is an ecosystem. In the center of it is this thing called your brand. That’s really just the gravitational center, and you need to get an orbit around you, all of these other people. You somehow need to keep it happening all at once. You have a signal, personalities, music, listeners, sponsors, email club, website, mobile app, stream, social media platforms, live events, station vehicles, street teams, charitable fundraisers and contests. You need to get everyone aligned and rotating around the value proposition of the brand every step of the way … No one of them is enough but all of them together in alignment creates an ecosystem that can compete and win in a mobile world.

In our recent column about the Illusion of Infinite Choice, several thoughtful observers raised questions about whether station apps have enough Top of Mind Awareness and stickiness to make them one of the three apps that people consistently use on their mobile devices?

While there are a variety of perspectives to consider with that line of questioning, fundamentally radio has an opportunity to think bigger and more holistically. If stations are an ecosystem, the question becomes is each local brand strong and relevant enough that people are consistently making it a priority and seeking it out across platforms?

This would include engaging with a social media post from the station or even better, engaging with something posted by another listener, opening a station email, listening on-air or to the stream, spending money with an advertiser or attending a station event.

None of these elements are sufficient on their own, but together each one contributes to a thriving local ecosystem that has monetization opportunities throughout.

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

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: For Your Favorite Charity

December 19, 2016

The iconic Salvation Army Red Kettle embodies generosity to others during the holiday season (it also recently got some further love during a Cowboys game). In December alone, Americans donate $70 billion to charities nationwide.


Although many people take time off the week after Christmas, it’s crunch time for non-profits with 10-12% of all donations for the year coming in between 12/28 – 12/31. In addition, two-thirds of all giving during the year, comes from just 5-10% of donors.

The handful of households that make a significant difference is as true for radio as it is for non-profits along with the realities of limited time and resources.

Leading charitable organizations embrace this concentration, because it is much more efficient and effective to generate donations from a few (heavy P1 listening), rather than trying to get $1 from every household in town (cume).

Meanwhile lesser non-profits take the approach of focusing on donor acquisition, which actually comes at their own expense.

A Leaky Bucket

As reported in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, for every 100 new donors added, charities lose 103. That’s the definition of a leaky bucket, especially considering individual giving peaked in 2005 and still hasn’t recovered more than a decade later.

A big part of the problem is that new donors are less loyal then repeat donors. In fact, just 19% of first time donors are retained compared to 63% retention for repeat donors.

But here’s another insight that leading non-profits know … heavy donors (those who give $250+) are 150% more likely to continue giving than those who give less than $100. Not only are they worth more, but they are also more loyal.

Obviously every major donor at some point made their first gift and every current heavy P1 had an initial tune-in, but the driving force for successful charities and radio stations alike is to get more out of your current fans before recruiting new ones. In addition, there’s an opportunity to understand the characteristics of your current Super-Fans, so you can focus your recruitment efforts to get more people just like them.

Charitable organizations that regularly outperform their peers follow these donor retention strategies, which have a variety of relevant applications to radio.

1. Send donors a personalized thank you after each donation. By “personalized” it doesn’t simply mean a mail merge, but rather for example, a picture of someone who directly benefited from the gift. Sounds like a lot of work, but it’s twice as hard to replace a donor.

In radio, do we cross reference people who purchase tickets to a station event with people in the VIP email club and send these Super-Fans any acknowledgement? How about people who come to a remote at your station’s #1 advertiser? Simply look at the entry forms for the giveaway and if they’re in a Hot Zip, drop them a note.

2. Learn about your donors, including their philanthropic passions, family, and employment. For most stations, in depth listener knowledge is defined as the database records that have a name, address and email.

Are they employed? If so, what’s their regular work schedule? Do they have kids? All basic information that can be systematically gathered over time, which will allow you to better engage and monetize your audience.

3. Schedule donor-centric events such as networking opportunities or appreciation luncheons. Many stations just rolled out the red carpet for their client holiday parties. Ever done something similar for your best listeners who drive your ratings? An easy place to start would be to super serve contest winners who come to pick up their prize vs. getting them out the door as quickly as possible.

4. Be confident and ask for the next gift. Don’t just assume you’ll automatically get it. Just like charities need to consistently ask for the next donation, we need to ask for the next tune-in. The most common reason people don’t give is that they weren’t personally asked. Yet, charities believe all they do is ask people for money. What’s the disconnect? The request needs to be personal, frequent and compelling.

Same is true for listening occasions. People have a lot of choices and if they aren’t literally in front of a radio, are they going to Google your station homepage to find the stream and start listening? Cut out the middle man and make it easy on your audience with direct links to listen online.

Some underestimate non-profit organizations, because they focus on the mission and overlook the strategic component that’s essential to ongoing success. For more information on maximizing your approach to the few who matter most to your ratings and revenue, drop us a line.

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

Happy Holidays from all of us here.

Andrew Curran, President and COO, DMR/Interactive.