|Nielsen’s committed to “Total Audio”
“No industry has a stronger story with reach than radio.”
Nielsen’s EVP Megan Clarken underlines the 93% weekly reach figure that the company’s been touting, and says that figure’s even slightly higher for 18-49s. Meanwhile, the overall “audio landscape is expanding,” and she says the time spent with streaming audio is “significantly higher than time spent with video.” There are plenty of opportunities for broadcast radio and that’s the thrust of the 2016 Nielsen Client Conference that continues today in the DC area. At the same time, there are painful reminders of radio’s deep challenges – especially with “the class of 2015,” a cadre of University of Florida students followed (and focus-grouped) over the course of four years. Let’s get to it, Day 1 of the Client Conference -
Nielsen’s ready to put its foot down over the new digital product – name TBD.
You can’t say that an entire company like Nielsen is “impatient” – but its executives are clearly tired of keeping the service in “pause” mode for so many months. At the beginning, the new service would incorporate only the over-the-air signals of broadcast stations plus their streams. None of the “digital native” services like Spotify or Pandora. But they’re coming, sometime in 2016. Nielsen’s SDK (software developer kit) permits it to report census-level listening online, meaning that it tracks every user (by embedding in an app or browser). Nielsen’s been saying all year that it’s ready to go, in terms of technology. But it confirms here at the Client Conference that there are still differences of opinion among broadcasters, agencies and advertisers. The still-unresolved areas include a debate about whether a station should get Total Line Reporting status if different ads run in the stream and over-the-air. Also whether you’d be able to peek inside the combined number to see how much was contributed by broadcast and stream. And whether to report in “average minute” – common in the digital sphere – or the “average quarter hour” metric long ago enshrined by broadcast radio. The new service – name not yet settled upon – would also grapple with the question of geo-targeting of ads.
The new digital service would begin with two preview months…
Just as Arbitron did with the PPM service as it began to become “currency” in 2007. After that, you’d need to be a subscriber to see all the data. But over 2,500 stations have already integrated Nielsen’s SDK into their streaming audio players, and that’s a promising start. And down the road, this would all be cloud-based, so software updates would be easier to accomplish. Among the advantages of the new service would be the ability to track podcasts spun out of a station’s morning show or YouTube clips.
New PPM in-station monitor is “a total redesign.”
Much of the PPM news at the Nielsen Client Conference comes from the company’s Chief Engineer Arun Ramaswamy, who lists the advantages of the new monitor – it stores results for 90 days (so you can go back and check specific days). And there’s a minute-level display of what’s happening with the encoding, etc. Current users of the Voltair processing units will be tempted to compare their $15,000 units with the new PPM encoder/monitor from Nielsen (which comes free, and doesn’t do processing, just encoding and analysis). Ramaswamy shows charts from a test of a dozen Washington DC/Baltimore stations showing (as they did in at the NAB/RAB Show in Atlanta) that “39% of the station/demo/daypart combinations had rating point gains,” using the “enhanced CBET” software. Typically those rating point (not share) gains were 0.1. That broke down to 46% of news/talk-based formats seeing gains versus 34% of music formats – similar to what we’ve been hearing. When you look at noisy listening environments, the story’s similar – talk-based formats benefited more with enhanced CBET. Rollout of that next-gen software is underway, with about 65% of encoding stations upgrading in Baltimore, but only about 22% so far in Philly. Nielsen will continue to test the enhanced CBET versus Voltair (and is looking for cooperative statoins). What’s ahead for PPM? An improved design for the meter carried by panelists (not exactly a Steve Jobs-approved design). Nielsen VP Denise Safko answers the inevitable question about using smartphones as meters. She asks “Do I carry my smartphone differently from how I carry my PPM?” You might plug in your cellphone when you get home and leave it an another room. Battery life for smartphones is a real consideration.
“The Class of 2015 cannot live without their phones,”
Nielsen’s Dr. Ed Cohen and University of Florida Dr. Sylvia Chan prove that with videos taped with a group of U. of Florida students followed – a la the movie “Boyhood” – over a period of four years. Their attitudes toward Facebook shifted somewhat over the period from 2011 to 2015 and they clearly discovered Snapchat and Reddit (while ditching BlackBerry phones and iPods). But the “series of lessons” learned include this one – “You’ve got to be available on their phones, preferably on an app.” Because to the Class of 2015, broadcast radio is something that exists mostly in cars. (And many of them aren’t driving cars very much.) Drs. Cohen and Chan say “you must have a mobile strategy” to reach this generation. Also that “everyone is on Facebook and radio can leverage that finding.” And these lessons - “in social media you have to be relevant” (just saying “like us on Facebook won’t cut it). That posts should be funny, useful and/or informative. That “news breaks on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms,” and from there, stations “can deliver the news.” That radio “may be free, but it has value,” and just telling people it’s free devalues it. And that there’s talent out there to be found, but not in the traditional places. And from Dr. Chan - “You need to have a feedback loop,” to gauge what’s working.
“Tuning behavior,” looked at across 36,758,846 occasions.
It’s an elementary-sounding question – how do people listen to the radio, exactly? Coleman Insights President/COO Warren Kurtzman and RCS Worldwide President/CEO Philippe Generali present “the components of tuning behavior,” subtitled “switching versus tuning.” In other words, what happens when listeners switch on a radio, then turn it off, or switch to another station? Crunching Nielsen data from the 48 PPM markets, they find that “nearly two-thirds of all listening occasions [not listening minutes, but occasions] are the result of switching on and off.” In other words, somebody turns on the radio, listens, then turns off without seeking a second station. Their “second big finding” is that “listening occasions that start with turn-ons last five minutes longer than those that begin with switch-ins,” where you switch to a second (or third) station. The “third big finding” is that with P1s, a station’s most partisan listeners, turning on and off without switching to another station “accounts for more than three-quarters of all P1 listening occasions.” There are differences by demo and format, as you’d expect. About 48% of those age 12-34 do some switching (punching over to a second station). But that happens just 25% of the time for older demos. And about half of listeners to CHR, rhythmic and alternative rock were involved in switching. The comparable figure for sports is only 38% - and less for formats with older appeal like gospel (15%) and classical (13%).
“Radio has lost its balls,” says Donnie Simpson.
He recalls a radio station environment where “We used to have a DJ rolling up and down the hall, rollerskating.” (D.C. radio fixture Simpson didn’t name that onetime WPGC Washington jock, but it sounds like Albie Dee.) Donnie says “now when you go in a station, everybody’s quiet.” He’d been away from Washington DC radio for five years when he was coaxed back by the chance to do afternoons at Radio One’s urban AC “Majic 102.3” WMMJ (and TV at its related TV One channel). He and his former WPGC PD Jay Stevens regaled yesterday’s Urban PD Clinic at the Nielsen confab with stories of how things used to be. (Next week, we’ll let Donnie tell the story about the $40,000 Corvette he accidentally gave away.) But while Donnie did utter the “lost its balls” comment while talking about how homogenized radio is, he also thinks a lot of today’s music is that way, too. He says “when I left [five years ago], I said I don’t want to be a part of this any more...it had lost its magic.” Part of Simpson’s appeal is his spontaneity. When Garth Brooks was coming to DC years ago, Donnie played snippets of several Garth songs, which earned him a visit from management. But the next day – and he still smiles over this – the front page of the Washington Post Style section featured Garth. And it asked “How big is Garth Brooks? Even Donnie Simpson” at urban WPGC played some of Brooks’ country music on his show. Still, Simpson’s enjoying his return to DC radio – and he’s leading the station in ratings now.
“Super fans” are 10% to 15% of the audience…
Says Andrew Curran at DMR Interactive, following Donnie Simpson and Jay Stevens at the Nielsen event. He spoke about ways to “mobilize your marketing with the power of super fans,” and he opens up asking what clients want in the way of mobile and social marketing. The answer? To go viral. But that’s not always possible, and Andrew suggests something else – the desirability of generating conversation by a station’s super fans. He says the best super fans are “amplifiers” who are “experts on your brand.” So stations had better know “who likes your station, know what to tell them, because sharing comes naturally” to those people. And that means getting to understand mobile, because “our best listeners” turn the radio on 31 times a week – while they’re checking their smartphones 150 times a day, or more than a thousand times a week. Curran says it again – “Radio gets 31 listening occasions a week, while phones get a thousand...so it’s incumbent on radio to develop a mobile strategy.” That helps stations “super-serve those who matter most,” because theyspread the word about events or enthusiasms that strike them. He advocates some old-school tactics like getting listeners into the studio for a visit (the pics will be posted on social media before they’re even home).
From the Rumor Mill – Alpha may close on Digity, next week.
That would be faster than we expected. Alpha founder Larry Wilson has been busy touching his private jet down around America, lining up financing for his $264 million deal that would add Dean Goodman’s Digity radio group to Wilson’s Portland, Oregon-based Alpha Media. Digity opens up markets like West Palm Beach and San Jose to Wilson – who’d reportedly love to take just one more radio company public, as he first did with Citadel. The deal’s backdrop is the desire by Garrison Investment Group to close out its interest in Digity – thus the push to find a buyer like Alpha, willing to swallow the entire group in one big gulp.
Two notable ratings streaks continue in Ottawa.
Canada’s federal capital is measured by Numeris (the former BBM) via diary, and ratings historian Chris Huff shares his findings from the Fall survey – “For Bell Media’s AC Rouge 94.9 CIMF, this is the 70th consecutive #1 in the Ottawa Francophone ratings, dating back to 1992. But this is also the smallest share since Spring 1992 for CIMF, a 17.7 share with age 12+ AQH share.” In Ottawa’s Anglo ratings, this is the 17th straight #1 for CBC-1 news/talk outlet CBO, at a 22.9. In Hamilton, Ontario, Chris says Durham Radio’s country “KX 94.7” CHKX snaps the 14-year winning streak of Bell Media’s AC CKLH, with its largest share ever, a 9.6. Out west in Winnipeg, Chris says “In the Spring, CBC outlet CBW ended the 16-year winning streak of Corus news/talk CJOB, and in this Fall book, CBW extends its lead with its largest share ever, a 15.3.” See how the Numeris consortium handles the ratings for those markets plus Halifax (15th consecutive #1 for CBC-connected news/talk CBHA), Quebec City and more, here.
Legal marijuana advertising is still under scrutiny by the feds…
As Oregon newspapers that depend on the U.S. Postal Service are finding out. The Bend Bulletin says if those papers “run ads for the region’s booming marijuana industry, they might be violating federal law.” That’s based on last Friday’s memo from the USPS office in Portland, that “it’s illegal “to place an ad in any publication with the purpose of seeking or offering illegally to receive, buy or distribute a Schedule 1 controlled substance” – like pot. That’s even though it’s legal at the state level. Oregon voters went for medical marijuana in 1998 and recreational marijuana last year. But the Postal Service could potentially intercept any newspapers sent through the mail, if they carry ads for state-legal pot businesses. That illustrates the tension that communications attorneys and state broadcasters associations have been reporting when it comes to stations opening up a new advertising category. Many are still counseling stations to play it safe.
“Mike & the Mad Dog” to reunite for a one-time live gig at Radio City Music Hall, and the social media chatter about the March 30, 2016 charity event is clangorous. Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo were arguably the biggest pairing in sports radio ever, but they split in 2008 when Russo jumped to Sirius. That ended a partnership that dated back to the early days of Don Imus doing mornings on an all-sports station. (Both Russo and Francesa would drop by the Imus show.) Russo and WFAN-AM/FM New York (660/101.9) afternoon host Francesa have been making friendly overtures of late, and that has fans hoping for a more permanent reunion (which would probably mean Russo leaving SiriusXM). Yesterday, Russo made a surprise appearance with Francesa on the Fan. More from CBS here.
The RTDN Foundation hands out its highest honors to Scripps CEO Rich Boehne (the First Amendment Leadership Award), and to CBS News Radio reporter Cami McCormick and NPR executive producer of newscasts Robert Garcia, among others. CBS News VP/Radio Harvey Nagler says Cami (“CAM-ee”) “has reported from battlefields in the far corners of the world, before and after she was seriously wounded by an IED in Afghanistan in 2009.” Also being honored are Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian (sentenced by Iran’s Revolutionary Court) and Tim Tai of the University of Missouri, who stood his ground as a journalist while covering the student protests there. The Radio Television Digital News Foundation also honors NBC News veteran Tom Brokaw with its Lifetime Achievement Award, at the March 19 black-tie event in D.C.
Stamford, Connecticut is nice, but Dennis Jackson prefers New Rochelle, in New York’s Westchester County, for his translator at 103.1. Scott Fybush at NE Radio Watch says “W276BV Stamford, CT refiles its application to relocate, this time as a directional 85-watt signal relaying WVOX New Rochelle/1460.” Jackson tried to move the translator once before, but was stalemated by Bridgelight’s same-frequency W276AQ Ft. Lee. The odds look better, now that Bridgelight has filed to move from 103.1 to 102.3.
Google formally folds Songza into “Google Play Music,” and re/code says the quartet that sold the curated playlist service to Google insists they’re “not hung up on losing their baby.” The Songza brand goes away, though not its notion of building playlists around moods. It had about 5.5 million subscribers when Google acquired it in July 2014. Re/code says Google’s also opening up the Canadian market to the free tier of its Google Play Music.
In Seattle, non-com KCTS-TV merges with the local “Crosscut” news site, plus the startup “What’s Good 206,” named for the original Seattle area code. KCTS/Channel 9 Director of Community Partnerships Enrique Cerna deftly pulls in a local radio angle – “Over the past week, there has been a loud expression of outrage and disappointment about the proposed sale of KPLU to KUOW. Loyal KPLU listeners and supporters are not only upset about the sale but also about losing the award-winning KPLU news staff. Once again, the headline is that local journalism is taking yet another big hit.” But about his own station’s announcement, he can say “Not today…In fact, local journalism and content are getting a much needed boost. KCTS 9 announced today that it is merging with Crosscut.com, the award-winning, daily news website” that began eight years ago. All eight staffers at Crosscut join the newly-named umbrella “Cascade Public Media,” and the four who were part-timers at Crosscut are going fulltime. More from KCTS here, and an outside look at KCTS “absorbing” Crosscut and the much smaller, Millennial-focused What’s Good 206 from the Seattle Times here.
Cuba stuff - This isn’t the first FM companion for Alpha’s WJNT/1180 in Jackson, Mississippi. Here’s a followup to Monday’ story about Larry Wilson’s Alpha paying $113,000 for an FM translator at 96.9 to pair with talk WJNT. NOW Reader Paul Burt says “official online documentation for WJNT-FM1 is hard to find, but for 16 years, WJNT has employed a 500-watt ‘night-only’ FM signal. It is used to maintain the AM’s nighttime signal in light of offshore interference – 1180 being the frequency of Cuba-aimed and Cuba-jammed Radio Marti.” There’s a reference to a “booster” – a very uncommon thing for an AM signal – in the sale documents when Alpha acquired the former-Inner City/later-YMF cluster in Jackson. That booster at 103.3 has been running on Special Temporary Authority since December 20, 1999.
Chicago-market WRDZ La Grange/1300 closes from Disney to Polnet, in a deal worth $3,450,000. Ironically, Polnet also owns the Zion-licensed 1500 signal that also once belonged to Disney, when it was scarfing up major-market stations to fortify its lineup of Radio Disney O&Os. 1500 is now regional Mexican WPJX. WRDZ becomes Polnet’s fifth AM station in Chicago, including Polish-language “Polskie Radio 1030” WNVR Vernon Hills. Walter Kotaba-led Polnet also has Polish-language low power TV station WPVN-CD/Channel 20. Brokers on WRDZ – Bill Schutz for seller Disney, and Richard Kozacko for buyer Polnet.
Rob Stadler hires on at Cumulus news/talk WYAY Atlanta (106.7) for duties as executive producer and also morning-show anchor. Stadler “was the voice for morning news and information for newly three decades on [hot AC] Star 94 WSTR,” says Rodney Ho at the Journal Constitution. Rob earned two Murrow awards and “best newscast” honors from the Georgia AP. He’s also anchored in Miami (WIOD) and Columbus (WNCI), and was news director for WSNY in Columbus.
Johnnie Hood was one of the founders of the Southern Farm Network and a member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters Hall of Fame, for his work based at Raleigh’s news/talk WPTF (680). Sorry to pass along word that Johnnie Hood has died in Land O’Lakes, Florida at 72. WPTF owner Curtis Media says Johnnie started at WGBR/1150 in his hometown of Goldsboro, North Carolina, and by 1985 he’d been elected president of the NAFB. More about Hood from Loyless Funeral Home here.
The Hoarders – Gary Glaenzer of No Bull Technical Services in Jacksonville, Illinois says “When we consolidated some operations, I had to find room for 'my space' in the now-crowded building. I focused on the old storeroom, because it was huge, and had lots of room for remote gear, antennas, spare equipment, and room for a big work area. Only one problem - this 15 x 20 space was packed to the overhead with old chairs, file cabinets, obsolete 'stuff' and (you can't make this up) 20 years worth of old contest entry forms. Boxes and boxes of them. We had a 5-yard dumpster brought in and filled it to overflowing three times. It would have been four or five times, but the local 'scroungers' discovered what was going on, and asked us to set anything with salvageable scrap metal aside for them.” Jog your own memory? Share your favorite radio story with the industry. Email “You Can’t Make This Up” – Tom@RTK-Media.com.
It’s Day 2 of the Nielsen Client Conference, which sounds like it’s back on as an annual event, after Nielsen skipped 2014. We’ll do our best to recreate what’s happening in the main room with Arbitron leaders such as EVP Matt O’Grady – and also the hallways. To reach this highly-engaged readership with your company’s marketing message, contact Kristy Scott - Kristy@RTK-media.com or phone 818-591-6815. See you back first thing Monday - Tom