December 9, 2014
If there's one constant in this business, it's the inevitability of non-stop change -- especially on the digital end. Once again, Jacobs Media will be kicking off the New Year by conducting the most comprehensive research survey on radio and its relationship with high technology. Stations across the country in every format are invited to take part in TechSurvey 11, where their own listeners can be surveyed to discern just how much digital technology has impacted their world -- and how that impacts their radio usage. Here, Jacobs Media Pres. Fred Jacobs outlines how this year's survey addresses the most pressing concerns.
Let's do a quick recap of Tech Survey 10 -- what, in your mind, were the most important revelations your study found?
We did a couple of things differently that worked out extremely well. We asked a question to determine if people were willing to register for streaming. It didn't seem like that big of a deal at the time, but over the course of this year, it's turned out to be a very revealing and actionable finding. Part of the reason for that is that broadcast radio and advertisers need a starting point when it comes to providing more accountability, much in same way many digital advertising platforms provide. Being able to gather zip code and other info from people who register for streaming is essential now; our study found that seven of 10 people who stream stations are willing to provide such information. We're going to track that again in 11.
A couple other findings, from a social media standpoint, have turned out to be very important. In the past, we asked essentially the "cume" question for social media, as in which platforms they have profiles on. Then on TechSurvey10, we followed that up by determining the social platforms they use on a daily basis. This daily engagement question produced a monster discovery that Facebook was the only platform with massive everyday usage. Not only did 95% of respondents use Facebook, but nearly three-quarters of them used it on a daily basis.
The only other platforms that really scored respectable daily engagement numbers were Instagram and Twitter, with about 15% each. The cool thing from this question series is that it enables us to start producing digital footprints by format within the basic social media footprint. Every format can be broken out by platforms for cume and daily engagement - and we'll do that again in TechSurvey 11.
And if a station opts to purchase its local data, we can actually produce a specific social media footprint for your audience. That becomes valuable to anyone in this medium in that it can help them make decisions about allocating money and staff to working the social platforms that matter to your core listeners.
Another piece of the puzzle: Lori Lewis has been looking into the different ways people enjoy social media platforms. She felt, from the beginning, that Facebook has been all about connecting family and friends, while Twitter's following has been interesting in that people use it to find our what's going on in the news, which is a big deal.
We also found something that seemed so basic yet is not a given anymore; it has to do with how people wake up in morning. Since forever, we've had this comforting image of the clock radio sitting on the night stand that wakes the audience up to our morning shows. But in TS10, we learned that the reality is that for many demo and format groups, the smartphone has pulled into a tie - or even is in the lead - when it comes to serving as that morning alarm. This is especially the case in the younger formats, where the smartphone is well ahead of the curve. That really has huge implications for broadcast radio; when people start their days with ringtones and not our stations, which obviously weighs pretty heavily on getting a great start for our morning shows. By the way, this is a reason why your mobile app needs to have an alarm clock feature that plays your station stream.
What revelations from TechSurvey 10 did you feel warranted further examination in TechSurvey 11?
Part of our challenge is to continue to track things over time, while we introduced new question avenues. We've now got 10 years under our belts and the long view tells an amazing story. Some of the staple questions on the survey include audio streaming, video streaming, smartphone and tablet ownership, Pandora and satellite radio subscribership - they're all connected, as is the ownership in social media.
One area we're going to jump more into is NextRadio; I think it's really important to drill into awareness of and interest in the FM chip in smartphones and interest in it. We've talked to Jeff Smulyan, Paul Brenner and the NextRadio team, and we believe it's really important to start tracking NextRadio now, using this first year as a benchmark. .
Another part of the NextRadio story deals with a question we've never asked -- what about people's data plans and to what degree, if any, do their data plans impact smartphone activity. Some people have unlimited plans, but we continue to run into people in focus groups who talk about how, at a certain data point in the month, they slow things down to avoid additional charges. We want to know to what degree this happens, and how it impacts their usage.
We're also going to make a deeper dive into connected cars, which shouldn't be a shock to anyone reading this. We now have a sizable percentage of our sample that drives around in either vehicles with high-end systems or vehicles that have the ability to use Bluetooth or AUX-IN jacks. How have these features impacted what they listen to?
We also want to learn about whether consumers feel that "connected cars" are too complicated. What kind of training orientation are they getting from their dealerships, and how is that affecting their ultimate in-car choices?
One final thing: We're hoping not to have one of those OMG findings, but you never know. We have never asked whether people even have radios anymore, and do they have them where they live and where they work. We've probably have been as guilty as many people who have worked in radio their entire careers and just assume there are radios at home and at work.
We found this out early on with The Bedroom Project, which took a deep dive into young people's homes and dorm rooms. In that study, we ran into a number of Millennials who didn't have a radio where they lived. We want to quantify that question and its implications on broadcast radio. This is something that has to be measured -- even if the results turn out to be unsettling.
With so many new avenues to explore, are you concerned that the TechSurvey will become too big and expansive in scope?
Every year, there are more things to ask about than the year before, so we make cuts here and there and skip some things we've done in past years that aren't as important anymore. We need to be mindful of length, but we also have to ensure that each year's survey contains dynamic new questions. It's a process.
Do all these issues you mention impact all the radio formats, or do you have some questions strictly geared for specific formats?
We actually tried that last year and the result, frankly, was disappointing. We put it out there, but we didn't get a great response to the format questions. Maybe people felt the survey was already pretty comprehensive.
Considering the commotion it is attracting, will you delve more into Spotify and streaming services?
All the different streaming services -- Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, Slacker -- are all included, and we will be able to rank them so we have a running total for year-to-year comparisons. And we'll be able to break it down by age, gender and format -- again, if you purchase your local data, you'll see how specific pure-plays impact your specific market and audience.
Another area that is sometimes overlooked is podcasting. As it continues to become more prominent, we will continue to include questions about on-demand programming, like podcasting and its growth curve. There has certainly been a lot of buzz about podcasting and programming.
TS10 told us that podcasting is a more popular activity among fans of spoken word formats. But that personalization, customization and on-demand content will become more important over time to more and more listeners. I do think there's tremendous potential here for radio brands and their pursuit for digital revenue as we move forward, so it's essential for us to capture this data in TS11.
How has customer feedback impact how you tailor each year's TechSurvey?
We get questions when we present the survey about specific areas, with suggestions to cover them in next year's study. We evaluate them to find a way to work them in. We have reached a point where while we hope not to take anything for granted, we have established a basic trust with our stakeholder stations that after 10 years, we've got a pretty good fix on what we need to find out.
Do we think people are pleased with the results? The actual cost to purchase local data is still very low with an entry fee of $300-$500 per station depending on market size. Even if stations don't pay that fee, participating stations still receive all the national data and receive an invitation to our webinar. The difference is that paying for the local data and the Media Usage Pyramid provides great insights. If I was programming or managing a radio station, what would really excite me here would be getting an incredible look at my audience that otherwise I would never get to see at a point in time when change is all around us. You need this level of data in order to make smart, strategic decisions about your brand.
What do you offer that the major groups can't get through their own in-house research?
In callout, music tests and perceptual studies, they rarely if ever have the time ask the questions that we ask in these TechSurveys. It's essential to find out what people are doing when they're not listening to their radio stations. Everyone's now focusing on digital revenue, but you need a road map in order to take advantage of the opportunity.
What about content questions -- not just about music, but of the quality of the air personalities?
Beside the technology questions, we also ask about the "whys" behind broadcast radio listener. It's interesting because we've learned that personalities play a significant role in the enjoyment of radio in just about every format. Whether they are cutting through and making a difference is very brand dependent. Stations that purchase their local data have a basis of comparison between their audience and how their format fans perceive DJs and hosts. The importance of local also continues come back in every survey we do.
One last time: How can radio stations get involved in the survey -- be it as a subscriber or a non-subscriber?
Broadcasters should visit www.jacobsmedia.com/techsurvey11 to sign up. At that point, they have the option of either paying for their local data or participating at no cost. For the former, they can pay in either 2014 or 2015 depending on how their budget picture is shaping up. Subscribers get to participate in our executive summary webinar and receive all their exclusive local data, along with their format and national totals. It's a great investment in their brands.
But if finances are tight, any station with a solid e-mail database can participate at no charge. While we cannot provide local data, any station that takes part in TS11 will receive an invitation to the big webinar. So either way there's value to participation.
Last year, nearly 200 stations representing 11 formats from across North America took part in TS10. We want to be as inclusive as possible.
We go into the field in mid-January, so there's time to sign up this month. It's as simple as going to www.jacobsmedia.com/techsurvey11 and filling out the simple form.
They can also contact Lisa Riker at Jacobs Media for more info: firstname.lastname@example.org
There's no other survey like this in radio where this many stations from across the entire industry come together for a collective research study. This is a great opportunity for stations to participate in something very special at a time when information about where media and technology are headed has never been more compelling.