Group PDs session addresses social networking, PPM


Some of the top names in radio programming sat down to talk about where we are now, where we’re headed and how we should shape our future.  Panelists included Rick Cummings, President/Programming, Emmis Communications; Jim Farley, VP/News and Programming WTOP Radio DC; Steve Goldstein, Saga Communications EVP; Gene Romano, EVP/Programming, CC Radio; and Jay Stevens, SVP/Programming Content, Radio One. Cyndee Maxwell, Former Editorial Director/Associate Publisher, R&R, moderated. 

All panelists agreed that social networking tools help with ratings and expand reach. You’re adding to total audience reach and the number of advertisers looking for highly targeted demos and new promotional tactics are served with social networking add-ons as well. But what about the revenue side? How do you monetize it?

“We’re sponsoring texts—that was an easy sell for many of our advertisers to understand,” said Goldstein. “And it tells you how many people have seen the message. I was listening to WMMR here in Philadelphia and I heard them offer a discount coupon for Pella windows on the morning show if you text in right now. That’s very actionable.”

Said Farley: “We’re still looking for the ways to monetize it. We’re using it, it’s the Holy Grail.”

On promoting the new iPod Nano with FM and iTunes tagging built in, Farley said they immediately bought 10 of them and they are giving them away everyday in their “Mystery Newsmakers” section, saying “Apple with the iTunes has finally become cool because it receives WTOP Radio.”

“The reality is we have got to get FM tuners into every mobile device, everywhere possible,” said Stevens. “Your MP3 player, Blackberry, cell phone, etc…”

As well, all of these devices should be able to receive radio because radio is the emergency voice in times of trouble. And remember when 9-11 struck…cell phone networks in DC and NYC were overloaded and no one could make calls for hours.

Cummings made the point that Steve Jobs may have been looking to bump up sales. “It’s clear to the music industry and it’s clear to the people at Apple—radio sells records. That’s always been the case. That’s the reason that he decided to put FM in there—iTunes tagging generates revenue. What I love about it is this helps radio get its ‘cool back’ with the 12-30 year olds in the US. They have more choices in their world…this brings radio back to their top-of-mind.”

When asked what trends are in store for radio’s future, Farley quickly answered, “Back to News.” Goldstein supported that, but added that spoken word is the trend to look out for (what TRN CEO Mark Masters has been saying for years). “Spoken word is huge and becoming bigger. If you just take an AM talk station and put it on FM, you’ll almost instantly drop your median age by about 10 years. I think spoken word is more unique content than music. Some of it will be national and some of it will be local.”

Farley noted that every one of us that operates in a PPM market should thank Arbitron, “not for the local sample size, not for the crushing costs, but for freeing us from ‘teaching to the test’. The diary world is nothing more than a memory test, and far too many programmers spend far too much time trying to manipulate that system to get people to think they listen to your station more often or to just to remember your station and write it down. There are plenty of people that say what’s wrong with education in America is that teachers teach standardized tests. They no longer worry about giving kids a well-rounded solid education. We’ve been liberated by PPM because as bad as it may be in some areas, at least it measures actual radio listening. That frees us in PPM markets to just do good radio.”

“…We all knew we got away with murder in the past—it was a popularity contest,” concurred Stevens. “Now it’s a real-time, who’s doing the best radio, who’s programming the best.”

…and more PPM thoughts from Goldstein:
“…It’s nice to have real data to show. There’s a morning consultant, Steve Reynolds, who said ‘cut the foreplay and get to the sex.’ And he’s absolutely right. It’s a six-second world and people don’t have patience. So the number one takeaway is get to the meat of what you’re doing, faster. It doesn’t mean shorten it, it doesn’t mean shut up, it doesn’t mean go away. It just means give them the best stuff, right away.”

Romano has noticed that going to PPM doesn’t hurt star talent (i.e. “The Quarterback”) such as morning show hosts who can entertain almost continuously with playing minimal songs. However, PPM has crucified some of the developing talent which can’t keep a shtick going for long stretches, just due to inexperience. “It has made us really re-think how we manage talent (read: have them play more songs an hour) and to have a different talent plan for each of the talent and then define their role.”

Cummings made a good point about having to program better to younger listeners: “I’ve been coming to these NAB shows for 25 years and for the last 10 years I’ve noticed increasingly that most of the people that are at these shows are my age. I’m not seeing 20-year olds at these shows, and it’s not just because of budget cuts. It’s because tweeners are not interested in our business. This is because we have not embraced the digital world. We have two major challenges before us in our industry right now. One is to right-size our business. The second thing is we must embrace the digital world—the way we transact business, the way we do different content, etc. If we do not do that, we will not have 20-year olds coming back to this show. That’s where they are. And until we do that, we’re not going to solve that problem.”