Happy 2010!

Phil Bernstein is a blogger in Portland, Oregon. He's also an account manager with Portland's Clear Channel radio stations. And he writes about advertising. He's on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, too.

Writing about marketing so that his customers can see his thinking differentiates him from virtually every other radio sales person out there.

This is the kind of person that is the future of radio - forward thinking and ready to tackle the marketing of his customers businesses with some marketing of himself. Hats off to Phil!


Are Podcasts Dead?

On Friday, Leo Laporte, founder of the This Week in Tech network of programs, spoke at the Online News Association conference in San Francisco. His comments and the questions from the audience afterwards can be seen here.

The speech is very interesting and it exposes Laporte as a true renaissance man. One of his more controversial comments is a statement that "Podcasting is dead." This is quite jarring, since it comes from the guy who many of us think as "Mr. Podcast" (OK, Leo, "Mr. Netcast"). He has built a very nice business by delivering 20+ podcasts weekly to an audience now in the millions worldwide. Leo goes on to say that he began to feel that podcasting was "dead" about a year ago and began building a streaming platform so that his network was prepared for the transition. Today, the TWIT Network delivers all its programming both through audio podcasts and via live streams. When there are no live programs to stream, they replay recently recorded programming on the stream.

Of course, he didn't mean that podcasting was history and that no one is listening anymore. Podcasting has reached a plateau in its growth. Leo noted that for most veteran podcasters, growth began to flatten out about a year ago. To grow audience beyond the people who are willing to put up with podcasting's current rather chunky user experience, a new archetype needs to emerge. Leo feels that this new archetype is a combination of live and on-demand streaming... different than podcasting's "store and forward" approach. New dedicated devices like the Roku will provide this kind of service to consumers. In fact, Leo said that he was teaming with Mediafly to provide his network's offerings on the Roku device.

Many people listen to podcasts right at their PC - either not realizing that they can go portable with their iPod or just not caring too. Many others take their content with them - to the gym, on the road, to work. I have found that loading up my iPod with programming that I want to listen to allows me - with minimal effort - to listen both at home and on the road. My TSL for broadcast radio dropped precipitously when I began doing this and it has not recovered. One of the reasons for this is content; however, the main one is convenience. I can listen to what I want, when I want. The broadcast radio over-the-air streaming model doesn't allow for that, yet, although the new iPod Nano is providing a baby step in that direction with the "pause listening" feature. On-demand streaming might, but only when the technology reaches mobile platforms.

On-demand streaming is coming - Flycast and other similar services provide a rich portable mobile experience, mixing live broadcasts with some "on demand." Until ubiquitous wireless broadband is available - and at a price that can be absorbed by the masses - this will remain a platform suffering from similar restrictions to growth that technologies like podcasting are experiencing. Some sort of local storage of content will be needed for some time to come. Many technical folks feel strongly that the wireless IP network is not yet up to the demands of delivering streaming content to portable devices. Today, with relatively few people (some subset of iPhone, Android and Blackberry users) accessing audio streams while mobile, it's not an issue. Globally, the iPhone has sold about 20 million units. That's just the population of New York. Imagine all 300 million Americans trying to stream audio at the same time! It's not a scalable model yet.

So - to answer my rhetorical question - no, podcasts aren't dead. Podcasts are just going through the same rapid evolutionary process as other delivery vehicles. Smart people, like Leo, are finding ways to augment the audience that the podcast delivery mechanism provides. Others are building alternative distribution channels to iTunes. The concept of podcasts will be with us for a while - until the practical application of technology provides a better solution.

iPod Shuffle - VoiceOver feature is a great promo vehicle for radio!

Apple this week released their latest iteration of the iPod Shuffle, a diminutive digital audio player that has no graphical user interface. In fact, until this version, the only user interface it has had is the navigation button.

With the new iPod Shuffle, Apple has added voice navigation, allowing the listener to press the navigation button and hear the title and artist of the song that is currently playing.

The title and artist information comes from the ID3 tag in the audio file metadata. This could make for an interesting promotional opportunity for creative radio station. Here's one way it could be used:

Let's say the I101 is an indy rock station that promotes local, unsigned talent. These acts distribute tracks via the station's website (free). In return for promoting their act, the station edits the ID3 tag in the track (with the artist's permission, of course) to include a station promo. For example:

Title: "Drivin'" Artist: "Rich Hannon, brought to you by 103 RNR where music matters"

Listener downloads, listens, presses button to hear the title/artist and also hears the station promo!

So - let me know if you use this idea and how it works. There's definitely a lot of potential here.

Radio's Social Community

Neal Bocian, an agency guy who is a keen observer of the radio scene, has again posted a terrific commentary on radio, this one addressing the issue of how local radio personalities make the brand of a radio station. Here's a quote from the article:

Every personality on a radio station has a job to do, and that job is no easy task. They have to create unique content every day to engage their listening audience. That personality is the moderator of a “community”. A community analogous to communities you find online, like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s people who can relate to that DJ, whether its their programming including views on subjects, poking fun at people, news events, satirical opinions- the list goes on and on. What’s most important is that they add value to the station, and changes the “vanilla” flavor to something that adds “spice” for the listeners. There is such a disparity between “cookie cutter voice tracked programming,” to a personality who can relate to the local community and listeners alike. It is like going from one end of the spectrum to the other. Yes, radio stations CEOs can save money by eliminating the talent on air and replace it with voice tracked programming, but at what price? You save a salary but you deteriorated and cannibalized your audience as a by-product. That same audience you worked so hard to acquire.

When you read the entire article, you will see that he has a different perspective from the normal radio pundit. Neal is someone who believes that the medium is unique in its ability to deliver results for his clients because of the personalities social connections to the local community.

We're interested in your comments - please write!

Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble and more at Radio Ink's Convergence 2009

Convergence 2009 took place 2 weeks ago in San Jose. This is Eric Rhodes' second gathering of folks who are working to bring radio across the chasm of convergence. Unfortunately, I (and many others, I am sure) couldn't make trip this year - but Eric has posted some video of the event on YouTube. To make it easier to access, here's what he has posted so far:

Opening Presentation (A twist on the rather viral "Did You Know?" meme)


Convergence - Day 1


Convergence - Day 2


Robert Scoble eating lunch


Obviously, these are just tidbits of the entire program. I can't wait for Eric to post more complete versions of some of the sessions so that those of us who were unable to travel to San Jose this year can learn from his great work.

Thanks, Eric and team for putting on this great conference!

Monetizing Technology

Alan Mason, a consultant to the radio industry and partner in the GoodRatings consultancy, made an interesting comment in an article today:

Take Twitter on the other hand. It's jumped from nothing to more than five million active consumers in a short period of time. Raise your hand if your station as more than five million people in the cume.
But it's not about Twitter, it's about why consumers use it and how it will help you engage your consumers. That's the important part, the level of relationship you have with your listener us where the money is, not with the technology itself.
If you want to monitize technology you need to get into the technology business. In radio, it's still about how many people listen, and how passionate they are about you, not about whether you twitter or not.

The technological tools that are available today are not going to make you money unless you find a way to tie them to your core business - radio. For example, you're not going to be able to monetize your twitter feed; but, you could use it to drive listeners to your advertisers by using tiny urls and measure the click-through response. Just an idea.

Social Media and Radio Advertising

So - in listening to a great podcast called Marketing over Coffee, I discovered an interesting example of the way a local business is utilizing social media to market their business. The example cited was a Caminito Argentinean Steakhouse in Northampton, Massachusetts. A case study was done on this restaurant by a social media marketing expert, Jason Falls. You can read it here.

How does this apply to radio?

Caminito's is exactly the kind of place that I would expect to find advertising on the radio - but apparently they aren't. They have, however, built an interconnected web of social networking connections that bring people to their restaurant. This is exactly the sort of thing that a radio station could do for a local advertiser; use the talents of your in-house web experts to build a complete campaign around radio and social networking. Use radio ads to drive people to the advertiser's social networking points of contact, like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Yelp!, and so on. Provide creative ways for the advertiser to interact with their customer. For example, Caminito's has a blog that is frequently updated with cooking tips and other information that relates to the restaurant. It works because it is not pure marketing - it has value to the reader that goes beyond the pitch for the restaurant. For example, January 13th's post was on "Ten Tips for Seasoning Food." So - not only do you learn something about seasoning food, but you also get a sense of how much these guys put into their restaurant. It's really quite brilliant.  Here's one of a dozen or so videos that they created on food preparation:


One thing that radio sales teams have been brilliant at over the years is showing local advertisers how to use radio in concert with other media to produce results. Using the power of radio advertising and social networking, you'll be able to amp up the results - and make them tangible to your advertiser.

Signs of the season - Christmas carols whilst cleaning out your desk...

This weekend, as I was preparing for the week, I ran across John Gorman's site and this post on some of the signs of the season:
Radio: The Grim Reaper is the new Santa Claus: "I’ll tell it like it is. The Grim Reaper is the new Santa Claus.

It’s a bummed-out Christmas for our industry.

The bad news far outweighed the good.

A survivor of a recent massacre called to tell how surreal it was. One of their other stations had changed to its annual continuous Christmas format – and its music was being piped through the building as terminated employees were being escorted from the building.

There’s nothing like being ordered to leave the premises while Burl Ives sings ‘Have a holly jolly Christmas.’

Our industry used to be fun. On a good day it didn’t seem like work – and even the bad days were good."

(Via John Gorman's Media Blog.)

Pretty eerie stuff.

After getting your attention, John gets down to the meat of the matter - that radio needs to focus on doing better radio. This means many things, but above all it means keeping the passion in the presentation - whether delivered via 100,000 watt transmitters or streamed via WiMax or anything in between.

One of the most powerful tools that radio people have at their disposal theses days is the concept of "social networking." This is no secret to anyone who has been following the radio cognoscenti recently; but how we go about it is still somewhat opaque to most.

The fact is, radio has been a "social network" all along. People have a shared experience listening to their favorite station; some contribute "user generated content" (calls to Limbaugh and Hannity), some attend concerts, remote broadcasts, listener parties, live recording sessions, and so on. This social networking around radio has been going on since well before I was born. It's what attracted many of us to the business to begin with.

So - we need to expand our social networking experience to take advantage of new venues, whether they be Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or an iPhone application like Radiolicious. Use technology like Messagecasting (customized messaging to RDS displays on radios) to create even more powerful ties to your people (for example, crowdsource an event by messaging over Twitter and your Messagecasting channel). Tie it all together with a way for your advertisers to tap into this powerful network.

This is what radio folks have been doing forever. But, we have strayed from the path of providing genuineness to our listener. One thing we can't do is be disingenuous with these new social networking tools. That is the kiss of death, since the response mechanisms for the listener are so available, so immediate.

There's a challenging year ahead, but we can make this the year we re-confirm that radio does connect to lives in a powerful way.

Study: Radio Influences Online Behavior « Audio4cast

Jennifer Lane, of Audio4cast, posted this interesting bit yesterday:

Study: Radio Influences Online Behavior « Audio4cast: - December 17, 2008

A new study of ‘Digital Influencers’ finds that radio plays a significant role in their online behavior. MS&L, a communications firm and part of Publicis Groupe, partnered with Ipsos to survey nearly 1000 people whose online behavior defined them as a Digital Influencer because they frequently researched and passed on information online. The study found that traditional media - newspapers and magazines, television and radio - played a ‘vital role in igniting the process that leads influencers to share information online’. 84% of those surveyed said they go online to learn more after hearing something on the radio or seeing it on television."

(Via .)

It is vital for marketers to provide a way for listeners to easily access their information - an easy to remember web address is probably best - in the content that they are presenting on the air. Imbed this information into your audio content and use the new "messagecasting" tools available to radio stations to present metadata about the audio content over analog RDS and HD Radio Data Services. With these tools, you can combine an audio message with textual information like a web address, Twitter name or Facebook group.

When you are building your radio marketing campaigns, focus on your core market of influencers and provide a way for your message to go "viral."

Radio and Social Media

Monday, Radio Business Report ran an article on Media Mixing - social media and radio. It is a well thought-out analysis of how radio stations should approach the combinations of social media (like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and so on) and their "brand."

The author, Marivic Valencia, has a Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/techpr. I added her to my friends list; she quickly returned the favor. We exchanged a few tweets about her article. My questions were about how a station might use its RDS "Now Playing" feed as a Twitter feed as a way to serve the audience through Twitter.

Then, today, I read a post on the site Social Media Influencers about a research study that says that corporate blogs are among the least trusted types of blogs out there. The study, from Forrester Research, says:
"...people do not trust corporate blogs –which rank below newpapers, portals, wikis, direct mail, company email and message board posts in the trustworthiness stakes."

There's a great graphic that illustrates the problem - showing that email from people we know is the most trusted source of information with a score of 77%; magazines, Radio and TV are all clustered around a 39% (Radio, magazines) and 38% (TV) score. "Social networking profiles from a company or brand" and "company blogs" rank dead last, trusted by only 18% and 16% of respondents, respectively.

So - where does this put the social networking efforts of radio stations? The answer is obvious - they need to be "real" and not a confection of the promotions department. A feed of the "Now Playing" information can be a good thing - it's real - and should be experimented with. But this should be augmented with personal posts by the talent at the station - making the feed useful beyond knowing what is on the air right now. Also - it would be good for the station to follow their followers; you'll get some great insight into what's going on with your P1s - because that's obviously who your followers are.

Bottom line - because of Radio's personal and local nature, a radio station's social networking efforts will reap great rewards for both the station and the listener. But keep in mind that if you aren't honest and forthright with your social networking, you'll end up at the bottom of Forrester's next study.