Talk Radio Ratings Among Topics At Talkers New York 2015
June 12, 2015 at 12:17 PM (PT)
The TALKERS NEW YORK 2015 seminar FRIDAY (6/12) at the INDIA HOUSE in the Financial District looked at issues facing talk radio, focusing a great deal on measurement woes and the sales problems they present.
MIKE FRANCESA started the proceedings with a pep talk about the radio business, advising, "Live and local, it has to go back to that no matter what part of the business you're in ... it has to get back to the community, it has to be live and local ... (but) digital has to be a part of it." Among his other thoughts: "Radio is Twitter's father ...The guy who marries Twitter and audio's gonna make a fortune" and "You have to figure out what you do with the secondary and tertiary applications of your content. He discussed how his show goes from on the air to various podcast and digital platforms. "You're not just broadcasting anymore," he said, "You're a content provider ... you should get something for that." "I've never gotten a straight answer all these years on how they're monetizing the website," he complained, noting that he has not approved the "minimation" cartoons CBS RADIO is making with his show. "This stuff is gonna be used, abused and worn out," he said, adding that talent needs to be compensated for it.
Ratings were the subject of the opening panel, moderated by PREMIERE NETWORKS' SEAN HANNITY, with JON MILLER of NIELSEN AUDIO on the panel defending the company's measurement against jibes by HANNITY; MILLER said he thinks that the company's measurement is accurate, and said that the company is about to launch its digital audio measurement service that will cover all broadcast, streaming and podcasting, adding, "We're not there yet, (but) we're close."
RAB Pres./CEO ERICA FARBER responded that "We do know that audio listening is at an all-time high," but that "looking for one number" covering all listening "is complicated," leading to "looking at apples and oranges and trying to come up with one number ... NIELSEN is trying very hard" to come up with that figure. She revealed that she is a PANDORA listener and, in a shot at the accuracy of the registration system, joked that to that service, "I'm a 28-year-old female."
SALEM's PHIL BOYCE said that his company's stations felt that the fastest-growing segment of their audience -- digital -- was not being counted, but thinks that the answer is being found and sales are picking up. Consultant GREG MOCERI asserted that "we're gonna get this" (proper measurement of listening), but added "I hope we get it sooner than later" and voiced concern over sample size problems.
SCRIPPS MILWAUKEE Radio VP/GM TOM LANGMYER raised the issue of VOLTAIR, the controversial processing device that may affect PPM ratings, noting that he spoke this morning to two programming executives at two different companies that saw significant increases after installing the device. AMPLIFI MEDIA founder STEVE GOLDSTEIN talked about the "systemic issue" of the significant drop in listening among 25-54 adults who are migrating to different platforms, suggesting that the content needs to be tailored to the new platforms rather than "shoving" radio shows out as podcasts. "The average age of Talk radio listeners is 62," he said. "That's a problem."
In a talk with TALKERS' MICHAEL HARRISON, CUMULUS EVP/Content and Programming JOHN DICKEY addressed the ratings problem by noting that "The ratings are accurate ... to a point" but that the information does not include a margin of error. "We are all buying a product that we are unfortunately, for better or worse, representing as chapter and verse" to advertisers. "We can't handle the truth -- the margin of error is a lot greater than we represent to advertisers," DICKEY said, adding that the cost of fixing that is too great and "We have to work backwards" to arrive at a solution that makes sense.
He admitted that no radio company has been adequately selling Talk radio on a qualitative basis. "Our guys can't sell Persons 35-64," he said, noting that 25-54 are what agencies are looking for. "You would think Madison Avenue would wake up" to the drawbacks of marketing to cash-poor millenmials "on their parents' couch" saddled with college debt, DICKEY said, but he said that demographic shifts are "working in our favor" with aging Generation Xers beginning to need readers. "We are heavily invested in the format" (Talk radio), DICKEY said, but added, "the question is, what is that format? ... We gotta look for the way forward ... it's gotta be broader than what it is." He advised programmers to "find different things" from the typical Talk radio political focus.
A general "Big Picture" panel moderated by HARRISON brought CBS RADIO's CHRIS OLIVIERO, FOX NEWS' ALAN COLMES, consultant HOLLAND COOKE, PREMIERE's JULIE TALBOTT, CUMULUS News-Talk WABC-A/NEW YORK's CRAIG SCHWALB, the BOSTON HERALD's JOE SCIACCA, and SIRIUSXM host KAREN HUNTER together to discuss issues like partisan political Talk radio's future, AM/FM versus digital for the future, the shortage of women in talk radio, online radio, and more.
After a luncheon with awards including Humanitarian of the Year LARRY YOUNG of RADIO ONE News-Talk WOLB-A/BALTIMORE; Woman of the Year ROBIN QUIVERS of SIRIUSXM's HOWARD STERN SHOW; Lifetime Achievement Award HARVEY NAGLER of CBS RADIO NEWS; and Freedom of Speech Award HOWARD B. PRICE of ABC, TALKERS' MIKE KINOSIAN moderated a panel called "Generating Talk Radio Revenue in a Changing Paradigm," with SALEM NEW YORK VP/GM JERRY CROWLEY touting his cluster's revenue growth while noting that selling to "Main Street" "is not in vogue today, it's not sexy... but the strength of radio may be in that." TOM LEYKIS outlined his experience creating THE NEW NORMAL at a time when streaming was still not optimally working, growing the business after three years of "paid sabbatical from CBS" used learning the basics of the digital world. "We don't have a long-distance number," he noted about his cost-cutting actions, asking the audience when the last time they paid for a long-distance call was; he said that he grew with sales with "smaller advertisers, more advertisers." RON HARTENBAUM discussed his WYD MEDIA AD SALES' joining DGtal MEDIA and how his company finds new clients; KATHY CARR offered a progress report on growing the HOWIE CARR RADIO NETWORK in NEW ENGLAND. The recent unrest in BALTIMORE was the focus of HEARST BALTIMORE Radio President/GM CARY PAHIGIAN's comments, in which he noted that the situation showed off what News-Talk WBAL-A's news department can do, "and it showed ourselves what we CAN do." He also discussed the different sales focuses in BALTIMORE and in his previous market of PORTLAND, ME, where local sales are paramount (comparing it to his first small market job, he said, "Things have changed, but they haven't"); he said that he thinks News-Talk is "one of the easiest formats to sell." BOLD GOLD MEDIA GROUP President/CEO VINCE BENEDETTO spoke of the challenges facing radio in a market like SCRANTON-WILKES BARRE and getting into radio as a relatively recent entrant after separating from the AIR FORCE. "I don't think radio is fading at all," he insisted, noting that stations, through the addition of digital and social media, are "reaching more people than they ever had.
A panel of talk programmers followed, with consultant VALERIE GELLER, iHEARTMEDIA EVP/Programming CARL ANDERSON, CUMULUS SVP Programming MIKE MCVAY, BELL MEDIA News-Talk CFRB-A (NEWSTALK 1010)/TORONTO PD MIKE BENDIXEN, and HEARST News-Talk WBAL-A/BALTIMORE PD SCOTT MASTELLER in the segment. MCVAY noted that some morning shows on music stations, including one that competes with his own stations in SALT LAKE CITY, are de facto talk shows with no music; the key, he said, is to "connect with the audience you're trying to attract," a credo he said his morning show with BRIAN WILSON and LARRY O'CONNOR at News-Talk WMAL-A-F/WASHINGTON is doing. ANDERSON said that talent needs to take control of the business side of their shows, including client meetings and calls to clients outside of meetings and shows to build a relationship stronger than those based on ratings. BENDIXEN expressed that stations tend to be "too obsessed" with reaching demographics they don't have, and should be happy serving the demos they DO have; he explained the thought process behind hiring then-Mayor ROB FORD for a weekend show, capitalizing on the attention the controversial politician drew, and noted that FORD was replaced as Mayor by JOHN TORY, another CFRB host. He also criticized PDs who think that there is no place to develop talent, saying that there are many night and weekend dayparts and short segments that can be used for new talent; GELLER agreed, saying that she likes how BENDIXEN is willing to "try stuff." MASTELLER talked about trying different things and taking chances, and the perspective of coming into News-Talk after years at ESPN RADIO. GELLER added that stations and shows need to be on all platforms "so your audience can find you."
GELLER also noted that the effect of "SERIAL" was helped by both its cliffhanger "what happened next?" format and the boost it got by being launched with an episode of the already successful "THIS AMERICAN LIFE." KINOSIAN insisted that "they didn't invent" the format, but GELLER shot back "nobody invented anything," pointing to the driver of great content on a new platform with the ability to launch through its sister show.
Next was a panel called "Variety, the Spice of Life," including CBS RADIO Sports WIP/PHILADELPHIA's TONY BRUNO, syndicated hosts THOM HARTMANN, DOUG STEPHAN, and DR. JOY BROWN, RADIO ONE News-Talk WOLB-A/BALTIMORE host LARRY YOUNG, and SAGA Rock WAQY (ROCK 102)/SPRINGFIELD, MA morning co-host MICHAEL BAXENDALE. And the proceedings concluded with "Navigating a Talk Show Hosting Career," moderated by CUMULUS News-Talk WMAL-A-F/WASHINGTON PD and newly-promoted Corporate News-Talk PD BILL HESS and including iHEARTMEDIA News-Talk WOR-A/NEW YORK and syndicated morning co-host TODD SCHNITT, HOUSTON-based syndicated host MICHAEL BERRY, BOSTON-based regionally syndicated host HOWIE CARR, iHEARTMEDIA News-Talk KHOW-A/DENVER host MANDY CONNELL, CH HOLDINGS News-Talk-Sports KTRS-A/ST. LOUIS host MCGRAW MILHAVEN, SIRIUSXM host DAVID WEBB, and CUMULUS News-Talk WPRO-A-WEAN/PROVIDENCE host DAN YORKE representing the talent side.