Radio Group Heads: It's All About Perception
September 18, 2008 at 12:35 PM (PT)
Contrary to popular belief, radio's glass is half-full, not half-empty. That was the common refrain from five radio group executives, who asserted that radio's problems are a matter of perception rather than reality at an NAB RADIO SHOW "supersession" in AUSTIN THURSDAY morning.
EMMIS' JEFF SMULYAN, repeating a sentiment expressed by NAB President and CEO DAVID K. REHR in his "state of the industry" address on WEDNESDAY, insisted that "the problem we have is one of perception ... radio still matters," while CBS RADIO's DAN MASON asserted that "there's nothing wrong with radio. Radio is not in charge of the U.S. economy ... We are doing quite well." ENTERCOM's DAVID FIELD said that while radio listening is down, "If we put that in a context of a time-strapped world...actually, radio's doing particularly well."
Addressing the resistance among advertising clients and agencies to radio's story, FIELD insisted that "we have to control the narrative out there ... We're the people who should be gaining share in a big way ... it's shameful that we're not," he said, adding that changing the negative perceptions is the duty of "the people in this room."
Discussing content, MASON said that "we don't need to reinvent ourselves on how we program," noting that radio still reaches 235 million people weekly. "There is no industry that can communicate to a local community with local content like radio." But NRG MEDIA's MARY QUASS stressed the importance of the bond between stations and listeners, offering that "technology can help us reestablish that bond ... We have to start listening to our audience" using new technological methods.
Regarding innovation online, discussing his company's expansion of Sports WEEI-A/BOSTON's website, which hired several sportswriters away from the BOSTON HERALD and GLOBE, FIELD said that ENTERCOM is "investing significant money ... to create dynamic multimedia platforms." QUASS cited some of her small-market stations' online efforts, lauding their creativity and asserting that "the key is to open your mind" and stop looking at market size as limiting opportunity.
Group PDs Talk About Talent, PPMs, More
A session with group PDs THURSDAY morning, moderated by GREATER MEDIA's BUZZ KNIGHT, featured ENTERCOM's PAT PAXTON, LINCOLN FINANCIAL's JOHN DIMICK, BORDER MEDIA PARTNERS' JOSE SANTOS and CBS RADIO's GREG STRASSELL, who covered a range of topics from dealing with talent and influences to focusing subordinate PDs on prioritization.
Among other things, STRASSELL offered his checklist of what makes a great radio station, including whether it connects to its community, whether it sounds local, whether it's interactive, whether it's creating momentum, and whether it "has a soul." He also suggested that "we can conquer new media by doing what we do best, which is to provide good content."
"We need to develop the next PIOLIN, we need to find the next LUIS JIMENEZ," said SANTOS. "We have to continue to search for great talent." He said talent has to be developed to be ready in the event the major syndicated hosts go away. STRASSELL shared his stories about finding talent from nontraditional sources, like Sports WFAN-A/NEW YORK's JOE BENIGNO, who was discovered as a daily caller to the station. PAXTON noted that Sports WEEI-A/BOSTON also hired a caller, and added that "if people don't make mistakes, they aren't trying hard enough," adding that he'd rather have to pull a talent back from trying too hard than to have a talent afraid to take chances.
PAXTON's advice to smaller market talent wanting to move up is "don't quit ... if you quit, you don't love it enough." STRASSELL said he would prefer to hear three-minute "pods" of best bits from talent than longer airchecks. DIMICK's advice to talent was to "hang on," and get noticed via e-mails, calls and sending podcasts. SANTOS told the story about meeting a weekend jock in SANTA ANA who didn't give up, finally got hired in SACRAMENTO, and is now the top syndicated Spanish language morning host, EDDIE "PIOLIN" SOTELO.
On the PPM, STRASSELL said "the listener wins with electronic measurement" because it eliminates guessing and introduces faster response to what does and doesn't work. SANTOS said his concern is for the next wave of format rollouts affecting Spanish-language stations and dealing with sample problems; he said "I don't disagree with" the methodology, but voiced concern with sample sizes and advised stations to just concentrate on creating a good product. DIMICK said that he "can't wait" for the metering results to start coming in for ATLANTA and noted, regarding sample problems, that differential survey treatment for diaries in certain markets was a problem as well. "I'm really excited about it," DIMICK said about the PPM, although he warned PDs about making decisions too quickly based on the information generated, especially on a minute-by-minute basis.
'Radio Heard Here': The Status Report
A year after the NAB's Radio 2020 P.R. campaign was launched, O'KEEFE BRANDS' KELLY O'KEEFE, who developed the "Radio Heard Here" promotion, explained what's been done since the inception of the campaign. He said that results of the campaign so far include success in getting radio into more devices, including the AOL RADIO application (with CBS stations) on iPhones.
O'KEEFE said that in the time since Radio 2020 was launched, the industry had created an ecosystem, assembled a "nimble creative team of partners," and "squeezed a tight budget to create materials to allow fans to become 'evangelists.'" The group also created two blogs (one for creative, one for consumers) and websites. He said, "there is an army of radio fans out there" and the website is aimed at creating a community around that. Print, outdoor, and online ads were launched, and new radio PSAs (one voiced by actor Malcolm Jamal-Warner) are being released as well. A YouTube video about radio's response to Hurricane Katrina has been posted, with more interviews on the way. A library of new stock photos of people listening to radio is being readied, and a partnership with several colleges is in the works. An ad campaign in Advertising Age magazine is launching in OCTOBER.