Stacey Lynn Schulman
March 15, 2016
The recently released Nielsen Comparative Networks Metrics Report is just the latest of a series of studies and data points that indicate the true strength of radio when it comes to audience reach and engagement. The next - and more difficult -- step is using that info to convince reluctant advertisers to use radio more often to sell its product. Just how to do that in the face of advertiser interest in digital and "shiny new toys" such as Net radio and streaming services? Katz Media Group EVP/Strategy & Analytics Stacey Lynn Schulman offers her insight into accomplishing just that.
What were you doing before joining Katz? And what made you go for this opportunity?
Prior to my position with Katz, I worked at the TVB, a trade association for local broadcast TV. Before the TVB, I worked with Turner, where I ran all the research for Turner Networks, except for the news division. And before that I was the President of the Consumer Experience Practice at the Interpublic agency network. I've basically spent my life looking for insights.
Why come to Katz? Interestingly, I started my career at Katz with an internship and it was my first job out of school. I started working in local media, then segued to national media and marketing. The reason I came back is that I truly believe we're going to see a renaissance in localism. In my mind, local is the new black. I don't know if markets have completely come around to that perspective, but we are starting to see evidence of it. I was excited to have the opportunity to re-join Katz, and to expand beyond TV to the radio side.
How has the company and your duties at the company evolved?
At Katz, we are focused on leading the charge to bring more dollars into the radio sector and drive growth for our broadcast partners. Katz continues to evolve and adapt to the evolving industry and invest in the future.
Mark Rosenthal, joining the team as CEO, signifies a very exciting step forward in Katz's further growth. Mark comes from big media brands, including Interpublic where he and I worked together. His experience brings a lot of energy, and he's excited about bringing new opportunities to marketers.
As for me, I bring 20+ years of insight and analytical expertise to the company at a time when data has become the backbone of corporate decision-making. My role has evolved from simply streamlining the way we report information to clients and the marketplace to being a central figure in how we build the Katz brand and our capabilities for a new world.
What are the most pressing challenges facing radio today?
Radio has been around the longest of any of the media. And even after decades of technological disruption - from TV, to the Internet, digital platforms and now pureplays - we're still reaching the most number of people daily. According to Nielsen research, the actual weekly reach of AM/FM radio is 93%. It's very powerful to be able to tell folks that fact.
The challenges facing radio are really "perceptual" among media traders and marketers, and it keeps us from getting our fair share of media dollars. Radio is doing great and we -- from our sales people to our industry leaders to the media that cover our industry - have to remind media buyers that consumers still look at radio as an exciting, formidable medium. We need to continue telling that story in as many ways as we can with as many storytellers as we can.
Radio's story needs to be told by a greater variety of radio groups, power players and advertiser clients in a wider cross-section of mainstream and trade media. When people reference "Viacom," "Time Warner" or "Discovery Networks," they know and understand these TV brands both for their content and their specific role in the TV landscape. We can't expect the RAB and a few larger radio players to do all the heavy lifting for our industry. We need to get to the point where radio brands and their leadership -- from Alpha to Zimmerman -- are just as recognizable to CMO's as Jeff Bewkes and Time Warner. The force of our collective voices can only propel us to be seen as an Industry -- with a capital "I" -- that is worthy of greater investment.
What are the best or most efficient ways to meet those challenges? How should radio use this information?
A lot of radio's most compelling data is anecdotal, but what's wrong with storytelling? Isn't that exactly what marketers are doing in their ad content? Instead of pitching radio with an overload of facts, we need to continue to remind people and demonstrate the emotional connection radio has with listeners. That's our strongest suit.
Radio is America's companion; it's the best friend in the seat next to you in the car. Radio's personalities talk directly to the listeners, and listeners have an emotional connection to their station, its personalities and its brand. Listeners trust and rely on these personalities for information whether its news, sports, weather, traffic, community events, gossip - or products and services. In Oprah Winfrey's heyday, everyone in the industry knew that if you could get Oprah to talk about your product on her show, you'd sell product. Radio has been doing that since its inception, but we need to continue to better tell those stories.
What should radio be prepared to do in the future?
Embrace change and the digital environment. Digital is not the future; it is now - radio is digital.
Much of the content that is consumed on digital media and platforms actually come from the analog media - so it's never about the platform as much as it is about the content. It's a mistake to pit broadcast against digital media. Most broadcast media actually are digital today.
Radio has to start looking at streaming audiences as proxies for our analog ones. Agencies and marketers are looking for more accountable ways of finding audiences and we must be able to segment and sell our audiences the way advertisers want them.
Technology will play a huge part in that transformation, specifically programmatic, which has transformed how advertising is bought and sold, and is already an important method of ad buying in digital. At Katz, we believe it's crucial to bring radio buying and selling into the digital age. That is why we are launching Expressway from Katz, a programmatic buying exchange that's scaled for the radio industry. That's really important, in that no other medium has figured out how to get together on one platform.
Remember, our content is already running on digital half the time. They shouldn't be fighting it, but embracing it. Programmatic will allow sellers to proactively pursue and generate greater value for marketers. Automated buying and this rich data will allow radio to tap into what is likely to be a $40 billion programmatic and digital ad buying pool by end of 2016.
How can a corporate radio group that heavily uses syndication and voicetracking take advantage of localism?
The media today are providing two distinct and important functions. First, they provide a pure sense of tangible community through "localism" -- weather, traffic, sports, and community events. Second, they provide connectivity in a world that has become increasingly virtual. It's this second function that syndicated content fulfills, and it's very important. It gives everyday people a cultural touchstone to rally around. It's also the reason that mass media can never really go away. Despite our desire for personalized experiences, we crave a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. Mass media is the connective tissue that brings people together.
About the Nielsen Comparative Networks Metrics Report ... what special insights did you glean from them?
The most compelling finding out of the Comparative Networks Metrics Report is that it exists in and of itself. Nielsen has been doing cross-media reports for years, but they haven't exactly been comparative metrics. They've been using different metrics specific to each media, so they couldn't make an apples-to-apples comparison. This new report is an opportunity to make that comparison; this is the first time they're doing it, which is great.
What's also very compelling about the report is that it found that radio attracts not just the biggest demo; it's consistently delivering more than 90% of every demo on a weekly basis. Not even TV can do that. It also dashes the perception that young people have abandoned radio to listen to Pandora. They're still listening to a lot of radio.
What are the most overlooked nuggets of info?
What people often overlook is that even though there are large increases to digital platforms, after growing for so long, its penetration has become relatively stagnant. Only smartphone penetration is still growing, but even that grew just three points and it may be plateauing soon; we'll have to see how it goes forward. The big growth trajectory of digital is gone; its future growth will be incremental at this point.
Advertisers pay top money to place ads during the Super Bowl - and put a lot of money into the creative of those spots. Is there any way radio could convince advertisers to create spots of that quality?
The only reason people talk about those commercials is because the ad community has decided to pull out their big guns and spend all of their money on those few hours of time. I wonder about the diminishing value of those spots when they release them beforehand through digital channels. I also don't believe that translates into brand value and loyalty. True, it gets their message out to a lot of people at the same time, but that doesn't necessarily mean that people are going to use those products or try those brands. Most of the brands advertising during the Super Bowl are fairly established brands; their brand value is already at peak level. The Super Bowl won't change that more than incrementally.
On the other hand, radio DJs and personalities provide opportunities to talk about new products that people haven't heard of, as well as talk about their experience in using those products. That can do amazing things for a brand. DJ endorsements are equivalent to a word-of-mouth recommendation, which has been touted by many research studies outside the radio sector as the most effective force in the consumer decision journey.
What are the short-term and long-term prospects for the future in radio?
It depends on how you define short and long term. You can't stop doing the things that are close to your listeners, but you do have to start building an infrastructure, to plan and build bridges of programmatic and digital. Every consumer has a real life and virtual life; it's no different than what radio has with an analog life and a digital life. As soon as we navigate those to sway consumers, the better we will all be.
I believe radio can grow its share because it has some of the most incredible stories to tell. Radio reaches an incredible amount of people; it's efficient and affordable; it moves product through an emotional connection; and it builds brand identity and loyalty -- all things marketers want. No other medium can do what radio can do.
Is the change happening faster than ever before?
The velocity of change is overwhelming - and not just for people in this industry. That's one reason we're starting to see a return to community, and to localism. People who are overwhelmed with the fast pace want to be reminded and connect to what's real -- their actual relationships. It's great to have all of this technology to connect us, but in many ways, it still falls flat compared to actual experiences. Our industry continues to provide real experiential opportunities for people to come together in live events and even in one-on-one conversations with DJs. It could be as local as talking about the new coffee shop around the corner; all of that makes for experiences that are more real and less pixilated.
What do you hope to be doing five years from now?
Five years is a long time in this business. A lot of things will change. Five years from now, my job will be part big data analytics management and part ethnographic experiential expertise. I'll be using two sides of the brain -- creative and qualitative - and not in a way that's currently used. It'll all be first-party data, with more humanized information.