Radio Ideas Festival hivio Explores Future Of The Medium
June 20, 2013 at 4:32 PM (PT)
Asking the questions "Is radio special? And what does it mean if it isn't?," consultant and event co-founder MARK RAMSEY opened the first HIVIO "radio ideas festival" event on radio's future in SAN DIEGO TODAY (6/20) by looking at the medium's recent past, showing radio usage on a steep decline over the last 33 years, but pointing out that radio isn't dead but also "isn't special," affected by the same external forces as other media.
He urged radio to plan for the future based on reality rather than myths, developing "unique and compelling content" and utilizing new platforms to disseminate them. Radio should be in the content business, he said, not the tower business.
RAMSEY listed the 14 "jobs" of radio, the things listeners "hire" the medium to do, in the manner of HARVARD professor CLAYTON M. CHRISTENSEN's theory of businesses being "hired" by consumers for certain tasks. Among the jobs, from most to least vulnerable:
Favorite music: Most vulnerable to competition
Soundtrack: Background to other things, also vulnerable Entertainment
Now: A sense of immediacy
Inform and Educate: Highly vulnerable, except when radio gets deeper into the information
Discovery: Heavy competition
Culture Immersion: Undercredited, he said, helped by a "really well-executed" format that brings a station into the popular culture
Companionship: A voice in the car with you, not easily duplicated
Easy Convenience: Moderately defensible, but "habits change"
Local: Increasingly competitive
Belonging: A sense of community, hard to duplicate
Betterness: Something to make life better. "Where the digital revolution is taking us," RAMSEY noted.
Star Access: Least vulnerable and most defensible of all, RAMSEY said, citing HOWARD STERN as an example and asking why stations are not moving in that direction.
From the Digital Agency Perspective
After UBER's SAMANTHA MIGDAL gave a presentation on the ride app and service and how it works, digital agency MINDGRUVE.COM CEO CHAD ROBLEY discussed, among other things, developing a digital strategy using an email database for JIM ROME in the early 2000s that "unraveled" when ROME's show became a CLEAR CHANNEL property and traditional radio thought processes took hold, and how to convince clients to take chances and innovate. ROBLEY said great brands are "authentic" and elicit emotions, delivering on clearly-established promises, citing NIKE and APPLE.
At the Zoo (a/k/a Conservation Organization)
MICHAEL WARBURTON, Brand Manager of SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL, explained his organization's rebranding of the zoo's WILD ANIMAL PARK near ESCONDIDO to SAFARI PARK, saying that the name "caught up" to what the park had become, and the repositioning of the operation from the traditional meaning of "zoo" to its work on conservation and saving wildlife from extinction.
Radio Worth Watching?
VADIO.COM Founder BRYCE CLEMMER offered a presentation on "Traditional Media in a Digital Age," urging the industry to create "radio worth watching" and saying with regard to adapting to new delivery media that "you don't keep up with the devices, you keep up with the experiences." The challenge, he said, is to evolve offline content into online experiences people want.
Hangouts and Hashtags: Google+ and Radio
A presentation by GABRIELA D'ADDARIO and MAGGIE FERRANTE on GOOGLE+ explained the service and using it for events and on-air hangouts, as well as establishing communities and using hashtags to create landing pages that can be promoted on the air.
Pandora In Depth
RAMSEY followed lunch with a chat with PANDORA's CTO TOM CONRAD, who joked that he is "flabbergasted" with his company's growth and said that the radio industry has made "a lot of smart moves" in recent years in response to PANDORA's success. He said that he sees a "lot of progress" from radio in using IP delivery and that radio remains strong in things like personality in which his company has yet to succeed.
CONRAD discussed his company's focus in its initial stages with perfecting the delivery of customized music streams; asked what one non-music element he would want to hear on PANDORA, he recalled listening to MUSIC CHOICE channels on cable and thinking they sounded "robotic" and said he would look for something to help PANDORA avoid that sound but would want it to be related to music in some way. He also discussed the rationale behind the company's subscription model, noting that the people for whom paying to eliminate commercials is worth a monthly fee would be difficult for advertisers to reach anyway, so taking them out of the advertiser pool does not affect the service's attractiveness to advertisers.
Referring to the cap on free mobile listening in place at PANDORA, CONRAD said that he is "envious" of radio's time spent listening and said that the cap slightly reduced PANDORA's ratings. And consultant GABE HOBBS asked whether PANDORA might be able to overcome traditional animus and work together, since PANDORA and traditional radio have strengths that complement each other (such as radio's strength in finding talent); RAMSEY joked, "surprisingly, LEW DICKEY's not here today").
From Paper To Digital
U-T SAN DIEGO President-COO MIKE HODGES brought to HIVIO the perspective of a newspaper looking to transition to being a multi-platform digital content company (the paper, sold by COPLEY PRESS to local real estate magnate DOUG MANCHESTER in 2011, changed its name from UNION-TRIBUNE in 2012 and added video programming to its offerings).
HODGES cited the need for leadership and explained how his paper's new ownership let several members of top management with mostly newspaper experience and mindset go in favor of managers from more diverse backgrounds, with the goal of having the strengths of newspaper and digital managers complimenting each other. He said that he does not see a day when digital advertising revenues alone will reach the level of profitability that print has enjoyed, but that the company has looked instead to develop other streams of digital revenue, including an early GROUPON-like daily deal program.
HODGES outlined the approach the new ownership took to revitalize the operation, starting with redesigning the core newspaper product, then revamping the website, dropping its longtime SIGN ON SAN DIEGO brand and replacing it with the official abbreviation of the paper's name. He added that he outsourced the web design task to MINDGRUVE.COM because he could not get good developers to work for what they perceived as a newspaper. HODGES pointed to television as poised for a major disruption with the rise of online, on-demand viewing, which prompted the U-T to establish its online video operation. He said that using the newspaper's nickname as the primary brand was done to take advantage of the paper's heritage (he noted that some still call the paper the UNION-TRIBUNE, joking that they are "all over 65"), and he said that the company is at least 5 to 8 years and possibly longer before the paper becomes more expensive to produce than it generates in revenue, becoming a loss leader.
The Numbers Game
TRITON DIGITAL CMO PATRICK REYNOLDS offered his view that digital audio is "starting to happen" and used some numbers from SAN DIEGO to show that a large about of listening to radio online is from outside the market (only 41.5% is within the market), representing a large opportunity, he said, for sales. Of overall average active sessions measured in SAN DIEGO in MAY, 67% were to PANDORA; REYNOLDS noted that over 4.754 "stations" were listened to in SAN DIEGO in MAY, including stations from all over the country. He also asserted that the people with whom radio will be doing business have changed, moving from the traditional ad agency (illustrated by a photo of the "MAD MEN" cast) to younger buyers who are more focused on new media, data examination, and "what's next" (even PANDORA, he said, will be challenged to keep bringing new things to the table. Increasingly, REYNOLDS said, buyers want just a part of a station's audience, not the whole number, and are asking for specificity in that regard.
REYNOLDS dismissed the competitive threat posed by a merged ARBITRON-NIELSEN ("It doesn't keep me up at night") and agreed with a questioner that it's surprising that stations don't routinely require listeners to log in so that demographic information can be assigned to streaming measurement.
NATIONAL COMEDY THEATRE's GARY KRAMER offered his reasons for radio talent to delve into improvisational comedy and ran some of the attendees through improv exercises. KRAMER said that he hears "more right than wrong" on radio but criticized "morning zoo" shows who put interns on the air "because they need a third" and are "just chatter." He also criticized HOWARD STERN for dwelling on topics ("I'll turn on the show an hour later and they're still talking about GARY's sandwich -- MOVE ON!").
Opportunity in Social Media
SOCAST COO SANDY HURST closed out the day with a presentation on radio's "crisistunity" (borrowing a term from HOMER SIMPSON) and social media, with statistics showing how social media are drawing more traffic than search and examples of how his company has integrated social media with station promotions.