RAIN Summit West 2015 Tackles Hot Topics In Online Audio
April 13, 2015 at 3:30 AM (PT)
The RAIN SUMMIT WEST in LAS VEGAS filled SUNDAY with sessions that explored digital audio's growth and future. The 14th annual seminar at the WESTGATE HOTEL (formerly the LAS VEGAS HILTON and LVH), which once again served as a prelude to the NAB SHOW, added panels this year looking at podcasting, spoken word programming, and advertising valuation.
Sessions kicked off with a panel of representatives from companies offering their services to help stations drive traffic to their digital and traditional stations using social media, data collection, and online marketing, including PRESSLAFF INTERACTIVE's RUTH PRESSLAFF, BOOSTABILITY's KELLY SHELTON, JUMPWIRE MEDIA's GAVIN MCGARRY, and VENDASTA's GEORGE LEITH. RAIN's BRAD HILL then gave a rundown of results from a survey of RAIN readers, including that they see moderate growth of ad loads for streaming media, a slight increase in digital ad rates, growth in sales to the auto, retail, and consumer goods sectors, and moderate growth in podcast adoption and ad revenues. The survey respondents said that the top issues for internet and streaming audio are increasing audience, increasing advertising effectiveness, and reducing royalty rates.
ABC NEWS RADIO's STEVE JONES moderated a provocative panel on spoken word programming online, asking the panel whether, pitched the concept behind the hit public radio podcast "SERIAL," they would have bought it, and while the panelists praised the show, TALKSPORT's KURT EDWARDS noted, "We don't know how many people have actually listened to it," a sentiment that was later raised again in the contest of monetizing the podcasts, when the uncertainty of who is hearing the shows and spots (as opposed to raw download numbers) was raised by ADLARGE's JAY GREEN, who noted that news from the iAB due this week might show that the issue is being addressed. (DEEZER's BETH MURPHY noted that her company's STITCHER does track to some extent who among their listeners is actually listening to what: "It's possible," she concluded.) Regarding what's "popping" in the sector, MURPHY said that "short, snackable, digestible content" is hot, while EDWARDS said that in the U.K., comedy, technology, and business podcasts are filling a need not served by broadcast radio (his company is partnering with BLOOMBERG to create a business station for the U.K.). And regarding millenials, who, JONES noted, make up a large percentage of agency buyers, GREEN said that spoken word programming is "booming" with that group, unlike in the past.
The next panel's look at the use of "big data" in ad sales was highlighted by 7DIGITAL's SIMON COLE asserting that what radio needs to concentrate on is "turning all listeners to registered users,' because while PANDORA knows "a ton more" about its users, radio has large numbers that could be useful with registration information attached. NIELSEN's JEFF WENDER added, "It's not about big data anymore, it's about the RIGHT data," but warned that registration might not be accurate absent third party validation of the information. In the last moments of the panel, WENDER also raised the issue of privacy in collecting user information.
In a presentation on programmatic, WIDEORBIT's BRIAN BURDICK raised the issue of digital video getting ten times the CPMs of digital audio despite not being 10 times more effective; RDIO's ANTHONY BAY followed with a pitch for cooperation between his operation and broadcasters, calling for partnerships to "remix, reconceptualize, and reinvent radio for the digital age." After lunch, DAVID OXENFORD's regular legal panel looked at licensing issues, with BMI's DAVID LEVIN and attorney GARY GREENSTEIN debating what scenario would be best for artists.
EDISON RESEARCH's LARRY ROSIN offered information from the INFINITE DIAL study focusing on in-car audio, breaking down usage of media between cars older than the 2009 model year (61% of cars on the road) and cars made in 2010-present (39%). In each case, AM/FM radio leads, with 85% of usage regardless of age of the car, but when the usage is narrowed to "most used," the margin is much lower (and, in newer cars, drops to 48%). In newer cars, iPODs/smartphones are making major inroads, and satellite is used more in newer cars than in older cars.
TRITON DIGITAL's JOHN ROSSO led a panel on measuring ad values for online audio, including PANDORA's HEIDI BROWNING noting the value of being able to correlate product sales to individual buyers using device IDs; SPOTIFY's MICHAEL JACKEL added that buyers expect that the services know more about their audiences than traditional media. BROWNING asked why, if the average human attention span is 8 seconds, radio spots run 30 to 60 seconds. And when KATZ RADIO GROUP's MARY BETH GARBER asked from the audience what percentage of first-party registration for the streaming services has been updated or vetted within the past year, JACKEL parried by saying, "I don't know. How many for iHEARTRADIO?"
A podcasting panel headed by PODCASTONE's NORM PATTIZ featured TOM LEYKIS remembering how, in 1997, MEL KARMAZIN told him that CBS RADIO did not have email because "you can't monetize the Internet" (PATTIZ added, "He said it was a utility, like the gas company"); LEYKIS noted that commercial radio, overleveraged, cannot afford to spend on online content the way NPR does (like hiring a staff to produce "SERIAL"). OXFORD ROAD CEO/founder DAN GRANGER remembered the success he saw at CLEAR CHANNEL in using talent endorsements and recounted chasing down ADAM CAROLLA in a parking lot as CAROLLA was getting his podcast up and running and suggesting that his clients would work well with what CAROLLA was doing. SLATE/PANOPOLY MEDIA's ANDY BOWERS said that podcasting is "like radio was in the teens and twenties -- we're just learning what works." He added that "audio on demand is the wave of the future for spoken word programming." And the panel addressed the effect of increasing brand advertising on podcasts (GRANGER, saying "I feel sad," noted that it might dry up opportunities for performance-based clients like his), the success of "SERIAL," and CBS' move into podcasting (PATTIZ, whose company could not reach a deal to work with CBS, nevertheless said that the move brings credibility to the format and that "at this stage of our development, we sink or swim together").
Consultant JOANNA BLOOR helmed a contest between streaming audio service startups that led to a vote crowning REACHT as the winner; and RAIN founder/Publisher KURT HANSON gave his annual State of the Industry address, opening with a customary STAR TREK reference (a tribute to the late LEONARD NIMOY) and pointing at developments like "exciting" new products and services like UBER, ZIPCAR, APPLE's CarPlay and watch, HBO NOW, and "SERIAL," transitions in consumer use of media, the huge growth of PANDORA and SPOTIFY while broadcast stations' streaming simulcasts have flattened, and how what works online are "new products and brands designed for the new medium."