Thursday At The Radio Show: PPM Encoding, Programming Challenges, Connected Cars
October 1, 2015 at 7:20 PM (PT)
The RADIO SHOW, presented by the NAB and RAB continued TODAY (10/1) in ATLANTA, with panels and sessions looking at programming, sales, management, and measurement. The NAB and RAB announced attendance of 2,170 this year, up from 2,079 in INDIANAPOLIS last year. Next year's show will be held in NASHVILLE at the OMNI HOTEL SEPTEMBER 21-23.
More Saving. More Doing
The HOME DEPOT's MICHAEL HIBBISON and his agency reps DIANE FANNON at THE RICHARDS GROUP and CARAT, USA's ED GORMAN joined the RAB's ERICA FARBER for the annual advertisers' breakfast session to discuss the ATLANTA-based retail giant's use of radio. The panel looked at how client and agencies work together to get the desired message out, and what HIBBISON is looking for in "big data" (validation of the perceived return on investment, engagement, impressions).
Programming: Rising To The Challenge(s)
The biggest challenges facing radio programmers were tackled by presentations from NUVOODOO's LEIGH JACOBS, TUNEIN's JOHN DONHAM, and EDISON RESEARCH's SEAN ROSS at a morning session moderated by EMMIS/AUSTIN's CHASE RUPE.
JACOBS offered research on "PPM Likelies" showing that advertisers are underestimating radio's reach, thinking that radio reaches around 60% rather than the actual 93% figure, and overestimate the percentage of listeners exclusively using streaming options (which is closer in NUVOODOO's research to 10% overall and 18% for those 14-24). In truth, those likely to participate in PPM measurement use more radio as well as more streaming and podcasts. PPM likelies are also more likely to use smartphones, and 25-54s lean towards Android devices; they also overindex on contest participation, voting in elections, and enrolling in retail rewards programs. FACEBOOK is their top social media outlet, but INSTAGRAM is quickly rising. JACOBS noted a close correlation in attitudes about radio (mostly positive) between those most likely to participate in PPM measurement and those who say they stream audio for an hour or more every day.
DONHAM focused on "predicting the future," starting with asserting that what people really want from connected cars is their smartphone on the dashboard. "The cell phone is the center of the universe," he said, pointing to the increase in "smartphone addiction." Chiding satellite radio's implementation on the dashboard, DONHAM said that "browse is not turning to search," something that radio is not built to serve ("radio can't make the bridge between browse and search"). Demonstrating AMAZON's voice-controlled Echo system by asking for news, then Triple A KGSR/AUSTIN via voice commands, DONHAM noted that radio's interface of selecting stations on a dial has been surpassed by search, but that there is an opportunity for the industry to adapt to the new search-based paradigm. Turning to content, he called on-demand music like SPOTIFY, PANDORA, and other companies provide a "bloodbath" and touted his company's approach in providing access to niche content (comparing terrestrial radio's six EDM stations versus 1,338 EDM streams available on TUNEIN). A winning platform, he said, offers "everything," meaning making deals to air the best content, like his company's deal to stream MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL; he pointed to NETFLIX as an example of a company that has adapted to become a content company as well as a distribution platform, and the U.K.'s GLOBAL RADIO as a similar company that moved from a local to national brand and then created exclusive content.
ROSS said he is "largely encouraged" by radio's progress in addressing its challenges. He suggested that the industry's trumpeting 93% reach "doesn't solve everything with the listener" who has to suffer through long stopsets; on those heavy spot loads, ROSS offered that sponsorships might help alleviate the problem. He also warned that radio has lost its status as primary workplace listening, replaced by custom streams, possibly solvable by fixing spotloads and concentrating on creating new streams designed for workplace listening. ROSS called for innovation, saying that companies like SHAZAM and PANDORA exist because radio failed to address the obvious needs itself and instead "outsourced" the solutions for those needs (he warned that there remains a need for "NETFLIX for radio" and that "it would be a shame" if the answer came from someone other than the radio industry).
The Connected Car For Programmers
Another series of presentations on how programmers can prepare radio for the connected car included consultants ALAN BURNS and FRED JACOBS and ENTERCOM Classic Rock KSWD (100.3 THE SOUND)/LOS ANGELES PD DAVE BEASING.
BURNS' presentation offered video conversations with six connected car drivers, a virtual focus group telling what they listen to in their cars (mostly a mix of broadcast, streaming, satellite, and podcasts; none are exclusive radio listeners), what they're looking for (BURNS characterized it as "connect me to my particular time and place"), and why they aren't listening to radio when they choose other options (owning one's favorite songs, dissatisfaction with "complaining" talk radio, and, most prominently, commercials, of which they say there are too many that are too repetitious or uninteresting). Radio, BURNS pointed out, is no longer exclusive, and has a "skip" button -- the buttons that take listeners out of radio and to other options; he advised stations to improve commercial production, make interruptions (talk segments) more engaging, focus on local, not to kill off personality, and to "know your audience."
JACOBS focused on the role of the car dealership in educating drivers about the capabilities of the new in-dash systems. He showed a video talking to manufacturers and dealers about the training process and the need to help consumers understand how to use the features now available to them. JACOBS also cited some of his company's TechSurvey 11 information showing that 89% of prospective car buyers considering AM/FM radio among the most important new car features, but he noted that nobody goes to the dealership asking for it because it's assumed to be there.
Voltair: We're Not Just For, Well, You Know
GEOFF STEADMAN of 25-SEVEN SYSTEMS and the TELOS ALLIANCE offered his case for the Voltair audio processor at an information session in the RADIO SHOW Marketplace, stressing the box's utility as more than just a way to affect PPM decoding. STEADMAN focused on the processor's monitoring and reporting capabilities and upcoming Version 2.2 with an analyze-only mode and PPM Layer 2 compatibility as well as its utility providing history reports and logs for programming use.
"It's not just about NIELSEN encoders and meters," STEADMAN said, pointing to several factors he said play into a station's performance under the PPM, including content, the order of equipment in the signal chain, on-air processing, and the panelists' acoustic environment and listening habits.
Nielsen Explains The PPM Encoding Upgrade
Keeping the PPM theme of the lunch hour going, NIELSEN EVP/Managing Director, Local Media MATT O'GRADY and Chief Engineer ARUN RAMASWAMY presented a "PPM Encoding Update" in the Marketplace as well, previewing the release of the new CBET encoding monitor next month. RAMASWAMY outlined what the company considers the new enhanced CBET algorithm's key benefits, pointing out how watermarks have to be masked to "hide" them from being audible but still allow for detection; he said that the changes are intended to make the codes "more robust and stronger," improving code detection in challenging acoustic environments without compromising audio quality. He added that the new codes will be uniform across all stations, a veiled reference to how the use of Voltair is not unanimous and equal among all clients. And he explained the company's lab testing, including looking at audibility, making sure detection rates for each encoder type are uniform in all sound environments, exaggerated high noise tests, testing content (both music and spoken word) supplied by clients, and testing behavior and performance for short durations or channel surfing.
In lab testing, RAMASWAMY said, the enhanced version of the CBET watermarks substantially increased code detection rates.(one detection per minute is all that is necessary for credit; the enhancement increased the number of minutes that four detections took place). The legacy CBET had problems, he said, with talk formats in certain ranges that have been remedied in the lab testing of the enhanced version, bolstered by testing in a market where PPMs are circulating but are not being used as currency. The enhanced CBET was then taken to PPM markets like BALTIMORE and WASHINGTON for real world testing using 19 stations in a variety of formats (the testing used the legacy code on one layer and the enhanced version on a separate layer). The result showed improved detection in high-oise environments, boosting AQH persons by 15%, with 39% of examples (stations, demos, and dayparts) showing a 0.1 point ratings gain after rounding (all but two gains were a tenth of a point). Impact on ratings of the enhanced CBET was higher for Adults 55+ (45%); afternoon and morning drives were impacted the most among dayparts, tracking the dayparts with highest listening levels.
RAMASWAMY said that the launch of the enhanced CBET is planned for OCTOBER after testing and review is completed; it will launch first in WASHINGTON and BALTIMORE and a client webinar will be held to explain the particulars of the upgrade process. The upgrade is planned to go live in all PPM markets in NOVEMBER, with the enhanced encoding monitor planned for 2016.
The FCC Weighs In
FCC Commissioner MIKE O'RIELLY opened a session on radio regulation with remarks that took aim at pirate radio (citing his draft enforcement plan of last week), AM revitalization ("the good news is that the wait is almost over" but the bad news, he said, is that the AM-only translator filing window seems to have been removed from the plan; he praised fellow Commissioner AJIT PAI for spearheading the proposal and Commissioner MIGNON CLYBURN for introducing the plan during her term as acting Chair of the Commission), and other possible reforms.
Media Bureau Chief PETER DOYLE and Media Bureau political programming expert BOBBY BAKER took the stage with the NAB's LARRY WALKE after O'RIELLY to discuss the agency's activities on AM revitalization (pointing to the concern of an inadequate supply of open frequencies for FM translators or an inadequate supply at the right locations ("we believe that big market AM stations will be minor players" in the translator market, DOYLE said)), political ads, and more.