October 16, 2012
The digital revolution in radio goes far beyond streaming, websites and social media. Its repercussions can be felt in the back office, which is one reason Jeff Haley left the RAB to join Marketron. Using digital platforms, products and services can not only increase the efficiency of radio's back office operations, it can also positively impact the bottom line. Here's how Haley sees it happening:
Why did you decide to leave the RAB?
I was very happy to continue with RAB, but when the opportunity with Marketron presented itself, I thought it was a challenge I couldn't refuse.
I read reports elsewhere that some in the radio community that were unwilling to aggressively sign on to the digital strategies you were behind at the RAB. Any truth to that?
No, not at all. The RAB realizes the value of digital growth in radio and has offered several strategies to capitalize on that. Some radio groups are more aggressive than others -- that's each station's choice. But overall, the RAB has been proactive in securing the potential for growing digital revenue.
So why Marketron? Did you consider other options besides Marketron for your next career stop?
The reason I chose Marketron was that working here continues to allow me to have a broad horizontal view of the industry, as we have over 1,400 customers and serve over 6,500 radio stations across the U.S.
Secondly, I believe that innovation comes from advancing technology. Marketron has been very aggressive in that regard. The technological roadmap that's now underway, including the new tools we are presenting our customers with, are things that will really drive efficient revenue.
Much of what Marketron currently does is streamline back office functions and to make business information available throughout the company. Is that their main focus at Marketron, or are you looking to use the technology to do research or programming?
The first job you outlined is essentially the one thing that's on our plate, and that's taking data that has historically been a distinct function of the back office of an organization, and using our tools to move it seamlessly throughout the broadcaster's business, so everyone is sharing that information and acting on it in real time. That alone is a phenomenal development. Once we set up that kind of platform for our clients, there are a lot of services we can add to that. By improving the ability to access and interpret the information stations can generate by using our tools, it makes it easier for organizations to drive incremental revenue.
Do you show prospective clients specific examples of other stations using Marketron tools to generate more revenue, as a way to influence their decision on working with you?
Our platform isn't fully rolled out, so it's hard to judge the exact impact on a customer's ROI. Our tools can generate a wide variety of results. I can say that our customers use our products and they're very a happy with them. We're always moving to develop our tools to better improve a station's efficiencies, but we don't want to put specific numbers on what they can do. It depends on the station's unique situation and how it uses Marketron's products.
Marketron recently acquired Emmis Interactive. What was the reason you decided to make that move?
We believe the greatest value is that Emmis has embedded a number of tools and digital products that complement what we offer, and it would be faster for us to acquire them than to build them ourselves. Two of the main tools are BaseStation and GeoStation, which give a radio station the ability to look at and analyze listeners in a geographic fashion. Let's say you're a listener who registers to win free tickets in a promotion. Your name would pop up as a dot on a map. So your listeners can appear in distinct demographic groups, which can be analyzed not just by the programming department, but also by the sales department. They can take that data, go to local advertisers and say, "Look at all people who signed up for this promotion. They all live right in your neighborhood -- here they are!" A programmer can review this data online; these are very sophisticated tools we're talking about.
The second reason why we acquired Emmis is the people. We think there's a great group there. People like Rey Mena and Deb Esayian are tremendous additions to our team.
Don't other radio groups have their own digital tools, and if so, is it hard to integrate what you offer to what they've implemented?
We're having lot of discussions with radio groups that have their own proprietary systems. As broadcasters' systems become more complex and innovate at a faster pace, it's somewhat of a distraction for them to pay constant attention to all the technological advancements. Marketron feels it's better to have our technology available for them because we're constantly updating it. It's also easier for an organization to go about their operations when they don't have to worry about technology. Additionally, it's better to have a third-party provide software solutions for them rather than have it provided by one of their competitors.
The Marketron website lists radio groups such as Saga, Univision, Lincoln Financial and Next Media. Does that infer that the medium and small radio companies are more willing to work with you than the bigger groups?
I wouldn't characterize Saga as a small operator. We do business with companies ranging from Cumulus to Connoisseur - we're currently involved with 6,500 stations among our 1,400 customers. We have the means to serve large and small broadcasters quite efficiently.
Where does your company fit in with mobile advertising? Do you expect you produce to help spur revenue growth in that platform?
I think the mobile space is going to make a huge impact on Radio. If you look at the interactive business, you can see the influence of the web explosion and of mobile. The ability to operate a successful media business is really complex when you live in a mobile environment. There's no question in my mind that the magnitude of growth in mobile will be enormous.
When, as you said, you're in a rapidly changing business environment, it must be difficult to constantly look ahead to stay ahead of the changes and evolution of the technology.
We think there's a lot of change on the horizon for the broadcasting business, but we're taking it one day at a time. We like our business as it is, and above all we always want to do two things for our customers. We're known to offer the very best in service, and we also want to be known as an innovator. The only way we can do it is by working hard at both things consistently.
Just how often do you find the need to keep updating your products?
Quite frequently. For instance, Insight, our reporting function, was first launched in June. Our 2.0 update came out last month at the NAB Radio Show in Dallas. We expect that when working with a web-based solution, we can update and innovate on a highly frequent basis.
Are you comfortable that you have enough quality staffers to provide that customer service, as well as to keep innovating your products?
We think we do it pretty well. We have a support staff of over 60, which includes the client service group that both implements our technologies as well as supports them on the IT side. We're hoping to develop some tools to make it easier to implement our product into stations, as well as make it easier to self-service. But just having the right tools and products isn't enough to guarantee success. It always comes down to how we're going to use the information we generate more efficiently and successfully.
Even with all the talk about the potential for digital revenue growth, as well as using new technology to improve station operational efficiency, do you still meet resistance with radio people who still "don't get it?"
It's a learning process. Broadcasters have to be open to running their business in a different way than before, but I wouldn't say it's tough to sell them on it. It's just a matter of communication. We also have to learn how our customers want to use our products where they see value in them.
Last month, Marketron held a User Symposium to showcase your latest products to your clients. How big was it and how did it go?
It was terrific. We invited a small group of customers and we showed them not only our new products, but new ways to use the ones we already have. It was the first time we did something like that, and the feedback we received from our customers was very positive. The Symposium also gave our customers an opportunity to meet with other operators who use our products, enabling them to have a dialog with product folks, IT folks and other users. We're very pleased with the Symposium's results.
Will this be a regular event?
Sure, we'll do it every year.
Is your business competitive in a sense where you have to make sure your products and services are better than other companies that offer the same basic thing?
We think we're doing things that are more innovative than other products in the marketplace. The key distinctions between Marketron and other companies are the ways we go about running traffic and billing. We're building an open platform that will have a number of different parts and services bolted onto the platform. Other vendors in this space are running closed-end proprietary systems that, sooner or later, have to be completely rebuilt. When you're on web space, you can create an open architecture that allows for continual innovation.
When you create a web-based system, are your tools susceptible to viruses or blackouts?
We have redundancies in place and don't expect blackouts or viruses to be an issue. Any software solution generally doesn't have to rely on one kind of activity to operate. We believe that with our new cloud architecture, the problems that you mentioned will not be an issue.
Where do you see Marketron developing as a business entity in the future? Have you already set long-term goals in that regard?
It's a little too early for that. I've only been here for few months, but we are very positive and bullish on the future for both Marketron and the broadcasting business. We're trying to help the industry grow for a greater future.