January 5, 2016
With the new year comes new challenges and opportunities ... and many of those will undoubtedly be discovered in Jacobs Media's TechSurvey 12, its annual deep-dive into the media and digital consumption of America's radio listeners. Some of the results will be publicly divulged at the Worldwide Radio Summit in Hollywood on Thursday, April 4th at noon. Yet the most important data will be exclusively given to stations that sign up for the data by January 11th. Here, Jacobs Media Pres. Fred Jacobs describes the pressing issues that will be examined in TechSurvey 12
Let's do a quick recap of TechSurvey 11 -- what, in your mind, were the most important revelations your study found?
One of them, and we'll explore of this in TechSurvey 12, is the connection between the way people consume TV from an on-demand standpoint and how that impacts what radio does with podcasting. When it comes to on-demand listening, we found a larger percentage than we thought who have interconnected TVs -- four of every 10 have Smart TVs. We're going to drill deeper into that, to examine the changing ways in which people watch video, whether it's YouTube or Netflix, to see if that impacts the way they ultimately consume radio or audio. We expect that to be one of the big findings in TS12.
Last year, for the first time, we drilled into NextRadio and, to be honest, were a little surprised by some of the things we learned. The impact of data plans on usage and streaming was a big deal and it really does set up conditions to make NextRadio successful. We're going to go back in 12 and look at that again.
Also, for the first time we asked the question -- in retrospect, it's so fundamentally obvious but was never asked before -- just how often people change their car pre-sets. Last year, we learned that three-quarters of our 41,000+ respondents rarely if ever change settings - whether it's a 2002 Saturn with a basic AM/FM set-up or a brand new Audi with Audi Connect.
This has major implications with newer cars being sold. It will require training in how to use the dashboard system. If customers are not being shown how to specifically preset AM/FM radio stations easily and clearly, they can get lost in all the new content in the dashboard. That's a real concern for those of us in radio. There is also the dealership training piece in terms of whether it's part of their routine to specifically show new car owners how to set their favorite stations. It's clearly important to radio's long-term health - and we'll delve into that further.
Is this something that radio should let dealerships do by themselves? Shouldn't they come up with their own materials so radio's offerings are top-of-mind and easily accessible?
That's exactly what we talked about at DASH. One of the things we learned at our conference was that Pandora is already well down the field with exactly that process. They are talking to dealerships about offering their own visibility program with kiosks, brochures and videos. As a result of our findings and what we learned from Pandora -- who presented at DASH on just what they're doing inside dealerships -- it's not just a good idea, but it's imperative that radio step it up when it comes to showroom visibility.
We have already interviewed a number of dealership trainers on what is top-of-mind for them to teach consumers when they pick up a new vehicle. They're not always thinking about explaining how to tune in and preset AM/FM radio to consumers. So if a new car buyer doesn't ask about it, radio access could get lost or skimmed over by something not on anybody's radar screen.
What new areas will TechSurvey12 delve into?
There are a bunch of never-before-asked questions this year. We're going to ask about fantasy sports participation. We think that could be very interesting, where we could learn a bit more about the audience and how they spend their time (and money).
We are going to ask about listeners' initial opinions toward autonomous driving. We'll also ask smartphone and tablet owners how often they use voice commands like Siri and Ask Google. And we're going to ask about vinyl.
Back to the video piece, we're going to ask about binge TV watching, which can be tied to podcasting. These questions will help programmers get a better picture of what their listeners are doing when they're not listening to radio, so they can optimize all the ways to get radio in their worlds.
You mentioned streaming services and podcasting, and how they performed last year. In your deeper dive this year, will you be able to deal with its potential for ROI - essentially ask listeners if, how or how much would they pay for it?
There's not much we can do about the sales part in TS12. That comes down to the metrics that station podcasters are able to pull out right now. Remember, we're at a very embryonic point with podcasting. A lot of people running around the podcasting space are trying to come up with the right numbers that can make podcasts a financial success, but as everyone will still tell you, only a small percentage of entities or people in podcasting are making a lot of money. Although the platform has been around for 10+ years, it is still early days in the monetization department.
One of the big events in podcasting has been the success of Public Radio's "Serial" podcast. The other big podcasting news came when Scripps and Hubbard decided to invest in the platform, so there is a lot of interest on both sides of the spectrum for podcasting. Even All Access has jumped in.
We're going to try to flesh out more info on what kinds of podcasts have an impact on real time listening, as well as the types of podcasts the radio listening audience enjoys.
The radio industry has a lot of work to do in terms of optimizing the potential of mobile apps and podcasting. Radio has a tremendous opportunity to be a big player in both places.
Is the pace of technological change and advancement increasing ... and if so, how should radio keep up with the constant change?
That's right, it continues to move at breakneck speed. The price of admission goes up every year. It puts the radio industry in a very challenging spot. To be able to, as you suggest, keep up with the changes, it's more important to focus on the changes and opportunities that really matter to your company or your brand.
Unfortunately, many radio companies and stations are still struggling to define their overall digital strategy. What we've learned over the past decade is that you can't do it all and do it very well. You have to pick and choose the areas where you'll have the most amount of impact and would be most meaningful to your audience.
Radio companies often struggle with the fundamental basics of digital strategy. That's we do these TechSurveys. What we present at your WorldWide Radio Summit is the aggregated results of 40,000+ respondents who listen to 200+ stations, but the stakeholder radio stations see the "secret sauce" - the data specific to their hometown listeners. They learn what their audience is involved in when they're not listening to their station. That kind of info provides you with data to make smart strategic decisions about which direction to take your station in the digital ecosphere.
Where do personalities fit in with the TechSurvey? Do you have questions that quantify their importance?
It varies by format, of course, but yes, one of things we started doing a few years ago as our surveys began to mature, was essentially ask listeners this: With all this technology out there, why do they still listen to AM/FM?
There's a long list of possible reasons why people enjoy broadcast radio, but when you look at our studies in aggregate, DJs and personalities are usually the #2 factor, second only to music.
By format, however, it can be very different. Personalities play a bigger role on Top 40 and Sports radio, but results can vary greatly when you drill it down to individual stations.
We learned a few years ago that for the Mainstream Rock format, personalities can supersede the music at many of those stations. That may be more of a statement about the quality of rock music as it is of the personalities on these stations. But either way, personalities really matter a lot for broadcasters. Especially when you look at the competitive spaces radio is now competing in -- pure-plays, podcasting, video streaming -- personalities are proprietary building blocks that sets your station apart.
Should smaller market stations interpret your results differently, or at least use them in a different fashion?
I'm not sure it's as much of a smaller market/larger market difference as it for stations that are part of mega-corporations and those owned by the "ma and pas." One advantage local markets have is that there are fewer stations to compete against when the geographic footprint is a lot smaller. For instance, working with a car dealership or two in Kankakee, IL is a lot less arduous than it could be considering 100 or more dealerships in a metro like Chicago. In some ways, smaller market radio has an advantage in that there's less ground to cover.
Yet regardless of size or ownership, everyone has a limit on what resources they have to work with. The beauty of a study like this is that it shows you what audiences are doing both locally and nationally - and one thing you do find out is that streaming and mobile apps are critically important.
We haven't broken it down that way; perhaps we ought to think about market size. I can tell you that when you look at small market vs. large market, the differences have narrowed quite bit over the years. Gone are the days when people who lived in the top-10 markets were a heck of a lot more sophisticated than those in smaller markets.
The deadline to participate is January 11th as a stakeholder or even as a non-subscriber. How has the response been so far, and what would you say to those who are still on the fence about participating?
The deadline is Jan. 11th, but there's a three-week window where we will still take stations after that. We would hope stations are registering for the survey because they want exclusive information regarding their particular market and listeners, and not just a national overview.
In terms of participation, we're actually on target with where we were last year, which was outstanding -- 222 radio stations across the nation, with more than 41,000 responses. The interest is at least as strong this year. That validates the TechSurvey concept, and we're thrilled to be able to continue this initiative into its twelfth year.
What I would say to stations on the fence, who have never participated before, or who last participated a couple of years ago, is that we are living in a rapidly changing environment. Stations don't just compete directly with other stations in their markets. The competitive landscape is expanding fast. In order to truly survive and thrive, stations need to look beyond the Nielsen numbers --- especially at a time when Nielsen itself is working so hard to supply measurement for these other audio sources. That should tell broadcasters something about the big world outside of radio.
Those who do participate will help them better understand their own turf. It's the wisest economic investment in audience research a station can make. At the top end, larger markets pay $500 while smaller markets pay $300. These days, that's Fed Ex money.
TechSurvey is a great way for stations to kick of 2016 - with an insightful digital footprint of their audience, and the challenges they face moving forward.
To sign up for TechSurvey12 and for more info, click here.