|Radio tries to figure it all out
The Radio Show opens with new confidence.
The early take from hallway chats and drink-in-hand late-night conversations in Orlando is that radio’s doing pretty well, at the moment. Most folks buy into Saga CEO Ed Christian’s “Modest sluggish growth” observation and figure that radio revenue could grow as much as low single digits here in Q3. They can live with that. Nobody’s sure about Christmas and Q4 – but that’s nothing new. Some station buying/selling deals are already being talked about, quietly. And attendees are liking the upscale Rosen Shingle Creek facility. (The NAB/RAB are offering a nice nightly rate of $159, a steep discount from the rack rate.) There are plenty of bistros, nooks and crannies to talk business or just catch up. And the energy level’s high. Attendance isn’t what it would’ve been five or ten years ago – but many of the Very Large Companies aren’t sending their folks, except for group executives or people appearing on panels. (Or perhaps folks at stations nominated for the NAB Marconi Awards to be handed out tomorrow night.) Yesterday the facility hosted the RAIN internet radio-focused Summit, and you’ll be reading coverage of that in today’s NOW Newsletter. Also about the quiet stuff, behind the scenes -
The shadow convention around the Radio Show.
There’s always one of these, a floating confederation of private meetings held by groups, vendors, media brokers and hopeful station buyers. One of the largest gathering at this year’s Radio Show is Dave Ramsey’s Affiliate Executive Council. Not only does the Nashville-based self-syndicated talkshow host seek input from his affiliate stations and share ideas – last night he treated the Council members to a night out watching the Blue Man Group stage show at the Universal theme park. (Earlier in the day, away from the Radio Show, Ramsey hosted his EntreLeadership 1 Day Event for more than a thousand people, in partnership with Clear Channel.) Some brokers are at the sumptuous Rosen Shingle Creek, but some chose to be off-site at other hotels – for privacy, and also perhaps to set themselves apart. Today the Radio Show begins in earnest, with the first sessions and welcoming (and agenda-setting) speeches by NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith and his RAB counterpart Erica Farber. Then the Radio Show will hear from the first woman ever to lead the FCC – interim Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn.
How to teleport yourself to Orlando – Some Radio Show sessions are being streamed live or offered on-demand.
Those include today’s 11:55am to 1pm (Eastern time) Advertiser Lunch, featuring State Farm executive Tim Van Hoof and OMD’s Sumeet Kanwar. Also streaming today – the 4pm opening remarks of Gordon Smith and Erica Farber. In addition to the selected streams, the Radio Show’s making some of the sessions available on-demand, like today’s “Advertisers Speak,” sponsored by Local Focus (9am) and “Radio, Record Labels and Artists,” sponsored by Vallie Richards Donovan Consulting. There’s also the 2;30pm “State of the FM-enabled Smartphone.” Tomorrow’s online offerings include “Radio and the Connected Car,” sponsored by Radionomy (9:15-10:30am), and “Jocks on Jocks,” featuring Jim Rome, Amani Toomer, Bobby Herbert and Tom Tolbert. Want to take a quick jaunt to sunny Orlando? Check the online possibilities for streaming and on-demand viewing of select Radio Show sessions here.
Next year, in Indianapolis – the 2014 NAB/RAB Radio Show goes to Indy, for the first time.
That preserves the usual rotation between the east coast and midwest/west coast, and takes the show to Indy, which has plenty of convention space. There's a "Save the date" note in this year's program for September 10-12, 2014. Indianapolis is also the hometown of Emmis, of course - as Philadelphia, which hosted the Radio Show twice in the previous decade, was the hometown of B101/WBEB owner Jerry Lee, who helped guide it there.
From the RAIN Summit-Orlando –
Finally, radio’s talking directly with AFTRA about streaming ads and the “move-over fee.” Saga’s Steve Goldstein says reps from Entercom, Saga and some other radio groups recently sat down with union officials to chew over what everybody agrees is a complicated situation. As Triton Digital’s Mike Agovino told the Ad-Insertion panel, the ground rules for paying voiceover talent were almost accidentally set in place years ago. Goldstein says union talent gets a “move-over fee” for having their work used in another medium, which is standard stuff in contract negotiations. But the assumptions about a supportable talent fee made a decade ago aren’t working today, and therefore many radio groups aren’t even trying to do a 100% simulcast. (The kind of simulcast that Arbitron needs to give Total Line Reporting credit, under its new rules.) There were lots of references to Smokey the Bear on this RAIN panel - because such generic PSAs are often substituted for broadcast ads, if enough Internet-only ads aren’t sold. To Agovino at Triton, the future direction is clear. He answers moderator Kurt Hanson’s question about his vision this way – “what we’re seeing is a migration of audience from one-to-many broadcast delivery to one-to-one IP delivery.” He says “strip away Clear Channel from the pack” of terrestrial operators who stream, and “the rest of the broadcast radio world has not grown its digital radio audience. It’s a flat line.” For Agovino, there’s one strong ray of sunshine – last week’s Clear Channel revenue-sharing deal with major label family Warner Music Group. That shows that radio and record companies understand that “it’s all media” that can be explored and monetized.
“If we continue to think of streaming as an extension of the tower, we’re playing the wrong game in the wrong ballpark.” Greater Media’s Tom Bender tells the RAIN ad-insertion panel that “the pure-plays have come up with a better product and are able to draw a straight line” to their listeners and their results, which advertisers like. He says radio has to “take a hard look at that.” What else could radio offer? Subchannels, on-demand products, or make the morning show available 24/7 – all kinds of things, beyond a simulcast stream. That prompts Natalie Swed Stone of OMD to perk up and say “I think it’s a losing strategy” to do a straight simulcast. She asks “how will listeners tolerate 15 minutes of commercials” in an hour’s worth of a simulcast. Saga’s Steve Goldstein says “we’re getting hurt because we are still in our own box,” by taking “our terrestrial brand and then putting on crappy Smokey the Bear commercials. There has to be another way.” Natalie and Mike Agovino got into an interesting exchange, where he said a 60” spot online doesn’t make sense for listeners. Natalie shot back that “a 60” spot on the air is insanity.”
Entercom CEO David Field says radio didn’t turn into a dinosaur – “or a fossil.” Some folks in the seats at the RAIN Summit must’ve wondered about having a terrestrial radio group CEO talk about how that medium’s remained vital despite what happened about 12-13 years ago - iPods and satellite radio rolling out about the same time. More recently, the threat in the news has been Pandora. But to Field, “the pie is growing.” His view is that “new forms of listening are largely succeeding” because they’re adding listening, not replacing broadcast radio. David’s skeptical about Pandora’s claim to have 7% of America’s total radio listening, figuring that the true number is closer to 4.4%. He says radio can offer promotion that Pandora never could, and he cites the $34 million raised by Entercom’s all-sports WEEI in Boston for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in the last 12 years. David also contends that “broadcasting is two to three times more efficient,” since the client gets the demo they bought – plus all kinds of spillover from the “bonus weight” of listening that all stations pull outside a target demo. The Entercom chief came to a room full of Internet radio pros to talk mostly about terrestrial radio, and also to prop up the confidence of broadcast radio. But on a later “Internet Radio Marketplace” panel with GroupM Next, there was new research about one of the RAIN Summit’s leitmotifs (recurring themes, in opera talk). Namely, the “connected car.” GroupM says when you ask potential car buyers what they’d like in a new car, a significant number desire an in-dash Internet radio. And when you break out younger demos, that feature ranks much higher. That suggests that broadcast radio, which used to own the dashboard, is in for a fight. And the carmakers know it.
Kurt Hanson says in some ways, the future is already here. Kurt’s RAIN audience is familiar with his fascination with 1960s pop culture like the original Star Trek TV show or The Man from U.N.C.L.E” (a motion picture re-make’s in production now). For the Orlando RAIN Summit, Kurt mused about the 1966 TV show “Time Tunnel,” as a metaphor. Years ago, it would’ve been unimaginable that someday humans would have a super-powerful computer in their hand that would replace their camera, alarm clock, wristwatch, calculator, record library, radio and so much more. But we have it, in today’s smartphone. Same for the iPad and other tablets, which are approaching 50% penetration in just a few years. Kurt talks about “the primacy of the smartphone” today. (And who knows what devices we’ll be carrying in just a few years? One of the RAIN attendees was showing off his Google Glass wearable computer.) Solid attendance at this year’s RAIN, with more chairs carted in for the opening session on “the Internet Radio Marketplace.” Hanson and RAIN’s Jennifer Lane also handed out their Internet Radio awards, and then entertained the crowd at the cocktail party sponsored by Pandora and RCS Works – always one of the best industry bashes of the year.
Doing business – at the Orlando Radio Show and elsewhere –
• Radionomy, known for its user-generated radio platforms, adds a new free product “for commercial broadcasters.” CEO Thierry Ascarez, the U.S. Country Manager, doesn’t pull any punches – “as consumers increasingly turn to streaming...many traditional AM/FM broadcasters are trying to do it themselves, using archaic streaming methods that will soon be obsolete. [While] others have simply put off its adoption and are losing important listeners.” Radionomy promises analytics, integration with social media and “revenue based on accumulated listener hours.” It’s a barter product.
• Abacast starts offering song-skipping on station streams, which should produce longer listening spans. They’re in beta at Federated Media’s hot AC WMEE, Ft. Wayne (97.3), where the player (using the patented Personalized Live Radio technology) substitutes another song from the station’s own playlist, in lieu of a song that’s skipped. Federated Media’s Director of Interactive Media James Derby says “the feedback from our user base has been extremely positive,” letting users “stay on our stream” instead of seeking alternatives.
• Jelli “user-controlled radio” cuts a deal with Focus 360. Jelli says it will be “powering Focus 360’s ad network via Jelli’s RadioSpot platform.” That’s the first time Mike Dougherty-run Jelli has worked with a third-party advertising network to power ad-serving and reporting. The companies say the combination will “reduce the workload of Focus 360 affiliates while increasing compliance and control” for advertisers.
• AdsWizz adds Online Radio Solutions to its roster of pure-play Internet broadcasters that includes Fusion Radio, Idobi and Digitally Imported. As usual in such announcements, they mention being able to “precisely target audiences based on listening device, geo-location, registration data and context,” to serve the appropriate ads. Also at AdsWizz, there’s a new President of North America. That’s former Skype general manager Don Albert, who worked at eBay before that. In the industry’s very early days of 1999, he helped found the Mobile Marketing Association and was its first Vice Chairman. Alexis Van de Wyer, a panelist on yesterday’s RAIN Summit Ad Insertion panel, is CEO of AdsWizz.
iBiquity offers its first “HD Radio Guide App for iOS and Android.”
The Maryland-based iBiquity worked with Bottle Rocket on the new app, which sounds pretty cool – it knows where you are, so it can offer a menu of available HD Radio stations and signals. The station guide “also allows users to connect instantly with their favorite stations through SMS, phone and social media networks” – and one section of the app shows you the various models of HD Radio receivers available for sale. Also from iBiquity – a redesigned consumer website, the fruit of work done with HUGE Boutique on the site design and with Texas Creative. Again, the spotlight’s on discovering HD Radio content, at HDRadio.com – here.
Pacifica sidelines the GM at its Washington, DC WPFW (89.3).
“Troubled” is the adjective that’s all too easy to associate with various Pacifica situations, and this time it’s apropos at the foundation’s non-commercial news/talk/jazz station in D.C. Current.org says “Pacifica has placed John Hughes on paid administrative leave and appointed an outside consultant as interim GM.” That’s Michelle Price, per Washington City Paper. Beyond that. Current says the station’s asking its staff not to talk about Hughes, “on the air, in public, in email, social media or in the press.” Last week’s note from Pacifica’s interim chief executive Summer Reese says “the less said the better, as I do not want the station to potentially incur any liabilities because of public discourse on this matter.” So things are a bit delicate. The recent flareup at WPFW centers on moving its studio and offices outside of temporary space in D.C. to Silver Spring, Maryland. John Hughes took over at WPFW in 2011 and tried to re-work the lineup of volunteer programmers – guaranteed to stir up unhappiness – and to grow the listener base. Back on July 25, Summer Reese told a conference call that WPFW is in “a pretty critical financial situation.”
Some indie labels worry about being frozen out by Clear Channel-style radio-label revenue-sharing deals.
The USA Today story headline – “Congress to consider radio royalties for artists” - probably overstates how likely Congress is to step into the decades-old controversy. Rep. Mel Watt, a North Carolina Democrat who’s the wrong party to be pushing this in the House, still plans on introducing a bill about a performance royalty for broadcasters. There is some Republican sentiment for such a bill. And last week’s Clear Channel terrestrial/digital revenue-sharing deal with the giant Warner Music Group was definitely noticed in Washington, as a step toward a free-market solution that wouldn’t involve Congress. But USA Today finds David Macias of Nashville’s Thirty Tigers records thinking that these private deals could be problematic for the small players. As the paper puts it, stations might be “more inclined to play songs produced by labels with which they have business deals.” Macias likes the approach of the Watt bill.
Rush Limbaugh’s latest affiliate in Fargo is “The Flag.”
Limbaugh’s changed stations here a half-dozen times – very unusual turnover for him. His Premiere show was just dropped when Midwest Communications flipped KRWK (101.9) from talk to “Rock 102.” Rush’s latest home in a very active market for talk radio is Bakken Beacon Media’s conservative talk “Flag” WZFG at 1100, licensed to Dilworth Minnesota. The Fargo Forum quotes Flag principal Scott Hennen saying they’re glad to welcome Limbaugh back for a second time. Rush’s 11am-2pm show (Central Time) will air right after Hennen’s own local show.
Four stations around Las Cruces, New Mexico are sold, in a deal worth nearly $4 million. Sellers are the co-owned Sunrise Broadcasting and Richardson Commercial Corporation, and the buyer is Ron Stone-led Adams Radio Group. The stations are “Great Country” KGRT, a Class A at 103.9. CHR “Hot 103.1” KHQT, also a Class A. Regional Mexican “La Gran D” KKVS, a full Class C at 98.7. And talk/sports KSNM at 570, running 5,000 watts day/155 watts at night. They’re all licensed to Las Cruces except for KKVS – whose city of license has a radio connection. A long-ago network radio show offered a prize to the town that would change its name to the show name of “Truth or Consequences.” And the name stuck. Broker on the deal – Jim Hoffman.
Alec Baldwin originates a popular podcast based at New York Public Radio’s WNYC, but it’s ending. The Hollywood Reporter says “Baldwin was keen to continue the program [but] the issue was securing the funding.” Baldwin’s podcast (named “Here’s the Thing”) has been downloaded something like six million times since it launched in October 2011, and it does well in the rankings of iTunes podcasts, partly on the strength of guests like David Letterman. THR says Baldwin may carry the podcast idea over to his newest employer – MSNBC, for whom he’ll do a Friday evening show called “Up Late.” Baldwin continues to anchor “The New York Philharmonic This Week” on classical WQXR radio (105.9), the sister of WNYC.
Mark Bolke joins the RCS broadcast software company as its new National Software Sales Manager. The former Minneapolis radio programmer went on to work with the Bill Richards programming consultancy, and spent nine years with Joe Knapp at A-Ware Software/MusicMaster. He's also been a backbone member of the board of the not-for-profit Conclave, serving as President and Treasurer. At RCS, he'll report to Neal Perchuk, VP of Sales for the Americas. RCS President/CEO Philippe Generali calls Bolke ("BOWL-kee") "a natural fit."
It wasn't a stunt, really, officer - Randy Kabrich shares another story from his time programming then-top 40 WAVA in Washington DC - "I hired the job applicant from yesterday's story, the guy who'd flown in late one night to National Airport, and who was with me in the candy-apple red station van the night that (coincidentally) the Capitol was bombed. After all that, he amazingly he still took the job. Perhaps because he was out of work and available immediately. His name was Jon Anthony and he had just left Kicks104 in Nashville. He starts doing nights at WAVA and a reporter from the Washington Post calls wanting to know if we had anything to do with the incident at the White House that evening. He puts her on hold, calls me and I tell him to give her my number. She calls and I asked why she thought WAVA would have anything to do with a incident at the White House, as I am already skittish enough from the van in Capitol Parking Lot incident. She responded, I guess you haven't seen the car. You should turn on the news. A car tried to run through the North Gate at the White House, and it was completely 100% covered in WAVA bumper stickers, from its roof to the ground. There wasn't a bit of paint visible anywhere. Of course the driver had nothing to do with our station." Got your own story? (You know you do.) Email "You Can't Make This Up" - Tom@RTK-Media.com.
Tomorrow, a report from Day 1 of the NAB/RAB Radio Show in Orlando, from the sessions, the keynote and more. Lots of nice comments here in Orlando about this NOW Newsletter, and some folks who say “I start my day with you.” (Also – “I’m ashamed to tell you how early in the morning I read it.”) Thanks for spending time with NOW, and thanks for supporting what we’re doing. Enjoy your Wednesday – Tom.
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