Inside Radio News

AM/FM’s Share Of Smart Speaker Audio Listening Climbs To 24%.

Newly released data from the latest Smart Audio Report delivers good news for broadcasters: the share of time spent listening to AM/FM radio on a smart speaker rose to 24% in 2019, up from 18% in 2018. The latest numbers are derived from Edison’s ongoing Share of Ear survey, which employs a 4,000-person national sample of persons 13+ and has been conducted online and offline since 2014.

With 77% share of ear, music dominates listening on smart speakers. Spoken word audio captures 23%. That parallels the break-out on all devices: 76% for music, 24% for spoken word audio.

The rapid adoption of smart speakers is helping spur what’s being called an audio renaissance.

Yet smart speaker owners spend more time listening to audio at home on their mobile device or on an AM/FM radio receiver, than via an Alexa or Google Home-type device. Citing Share of Ear data, the Smart Audio Report says smart speakers capture 17% of audio listening at home, compared to 31% for a mobile device and 19% for AM/FM receiver. Keep in mind that this is among the 60 million Americans that own a smart speaker. Computers came in fourth with 17% of audio listening by device at home, followed by TV audio channels (6%), internet-connected TV devices (5%) and CD players (2%).

The study also broke out share of time spent listening to audio sources on a smart speaker. Streaming audio captured nearly half (46%), followed by AM/FM radio in second at 24%, then owned music (10%), SiriusXM (8%) and podcasts (5%). Within the streaming piece of the smart speaker audio pie, Amazon captured the largest slice (15%), which isn’t surprising when you consider its Alexa devices currently dominate the smart speaker market in the U.S. Pandora was close behind with 12% followed by “other” at 10% and Spotify with 3%.

The Smart Speaker Habit

The Smart Audio Report, conducted by Edison in tandem with NPR, also includes data derived from a national telephone survey of 1,002 adults 18+ from Dec. 31, 2019 through Jan. 5, 2020. While topline results were first presented during the 2019 VOICE Live event at CES in Las Vegas, Edison released additional findings Thursday. Among the 60 million people in the U.S. owning at least one smart speaker device, one third (33%) say they use the device several times a day. More than one in four device owners (27%) said they use them nearly every day, 21% at least once per week, and 8% once per month or less. Just over one in ten (11%) smart speaker owners say they never use them.

The data shows that 54% of the U.S. population has used some type of voice-command technology, such as voice assistants on smartphones, smart speakers and other devices. Of those who use voice assistants, 24% say they use the technology on a daily basis.

"This latest report again shows the steady growth in smart speakers and the substantial use of voice activation across platforms," said NPR CEO John Lansing. "NPR sees these increases reflected in the continuing growth of listening to NPR radio streams and podcasts on smart speakers. We're eager to see that growth continue."

As earlier reported by Inside Radio, 24% of the U.S. population owns at least one smart speaker, up from 21% in December 2018, 18% in December 2017 and just 7% in January 2017. Not only are an increasing number of American households adopting smart speakers, but the research shows households that utilize the technology currently own 2.6 such devices, up from 2.3 per household at the same time last year and only 1.7 in 2017. Indeed the number of smart speakers in U.S. households has grown by 135% in two years, from 67 million in December 2017 to 119 million in December 2018 to 157 million in December 2019.

Awareness of smart speakers jumped from to 84% in December 2019, up from 77% in December 2018, 75% in December 2017 and 62% in December 2017.

Inside Radio News

Report: John Malone’s Liberty Global Exploring Bid for Univision.

John Malone may have eyes for Univision, according to a new report.

Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter, says the billionaire’s Liberty Global, Liberty’s investment arm —with the help of Hemisphere Media Group—is considering a bid for Spanish-language broadcaster Univision.

There are other potential suitors in the mix, however. Bloomberg says private equity firm Platinum Equity has also expressed interest, in addition to Viacom CFO Wade Davis, who is said to be backed by institutional investors. Final offers are due next month.

Liberty Global has said little about the matter. “This is a small investment that Liberty Global Ventures is exploring,” Matt Beake, a spokesman for the international cable operator, said in a statement. Malone is frequently on the prowl for M&A opportunities, recently kicking the tires on an increased stake in iHeartMedia.

Bloomberg’s sources say no final decision has been made—and it’s possible that none of the interested parties will make an offer.

Miami-based Hemisphere Media, a Spanish-language media company that targets Hispanic TV and cable networks, owns five U.S. Hispanic cable networks, two Latin American cable networks and a TV network in Puerto Rico. It also has ownership interests in other media properties in the U.S. and abroad.

Univision’s owners, in addition to CEO Vincent Sadusky, have made no secret of their desire to sell. The company had $7.4 billion in debt as of late September.

Univision was purchased by billionaire Haim Saban’s Saban Capital Group and a consortium of private-equity firms in 2007 for $13.7 billion. It was the king of Spanish broadcasting at the time, but the outlook has changed dramatically since the purchase. It has struggled in an increasingly competitive marketplace, and it has lost ground to rival Telemundo, which is owned by Comcast’s NBCUniversal.

Univision in 2017 rejected a takeover offer from Discovery Communications, another media property in Malone’s ecosystem. Univision also nixed an IPO in 2018.

After Nearly Two Decades At SiriusXM, Kid Kelly Exits.

SiriusXM VP of Pop Music Programming Kid Kelly has exited after nearly two decades at the satellite broadcaster. Kelly also handled day-to-day programming of the “Hits 1” and “Venus” channels.

Kelly, who was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018, is also creator and host of the syndicated “Backtrax USA” program.

“After a long tenure at SiriusXM, Kid Kelly is no longer with SiriusXM, and we wish him the best in his new endeavors,” a statement from the company read. “His programming responsibilities are being taken over by SiriusXM Vice Presidents Alex Tear and Lou Simon.”

Kelly is forever associated with New York powerhouse CHR “Z100” WHTZ, where he served as night talent, Assistant Program Director and eventually Operations Manager over three stints with the station.

Tear joined SiriusXM/Pandora in September as VP/Music Curation and Programming after serving as Senior VP of Programming for iHeartMedia Miami and PD of CHR “Y100” WHYI.

Tear was brought in to partner with the programming teams to “further build Pandora’s listener base and maximize music assets across both the Pandora and SiriusXM platforms,” according to a memo from President/Chief Content Officer Scott Greenstein.

Simon is Senior Director of Programming at SiriusXM and host of Sunday night program “The Diner” on the “Volume” channel.

Sales At P&G, Radio’s No. 2 Advertiser, Up 5% To $18.2 Billion.

Procter & Gamble boosted its radio advertising in a big way last year, more than doubling the number of spots it aired, compared to 2018. On Thursday the consumer packaged goods giant reported net sales rose 5% to $18.2 billion during the last three months of 2019, compared to the same period one year earlier.

“We delivered another strong quarter of organic sales growth, core earnings per share and cash returned to shareowners,” Chairman and CEO David Taylor said in a press release. While net sales rose, it was a mixed quarter for P&G as revenue fell short of estimates for the first time in five quarters, hurt by a stronger dollar and a struggling baby segment, which includes Pampers diapers, according to CNBC. P&G’s health care business, which includes brands like Vicks and Oral B, saw organic sales growth of 7%. P&G stepped up its radio spending on Vicks in 2019, making it the No. 12 advertiser of the year, up from No. 37 in 2018. Last week Vicks was No. 2. P&G’s beauty business reported 8% organic sales growth, driven by double-digit growth in skin and personal care products.

P&G’s fiscal calendar is configured such that October-December 2019 is its second quarter for fiscal 2020. Taylor said the company’s first half results “enable us to further increase our outlook for the full fiscal year across each of these metrics and to increase our commitment of cash return to shareowners.”

During its 2020 first fiscal quarter (July-September 2019), P&G’s net sales rose 7% to $17.80 billion, topping expectations of $17.42 billion.

On iHeartMedia’s Q3 2019 results call last fall, Chairman & CEO Bob Pittman cited P&G as “the most prominent example” of a major advertiser reallocating ad dollars from other sectors toward audio. P&G, he said, has been “a vocal leader about their shift back to radio and... just matched its strongest quarterly sales growth in over a decade. And we believe its performance since shifting its media mix back to include radio is no coincidence.”

The world’s largest advertiser in 2019 increased the number of spots it aired on radio by more than 100% with a grand total of 3,671,569 in 2019 compared to 1,803,412 in 2018, according to data from Media Monitors, which tracks radio advertising in 85 markets. That made it the No. 2 parent company advertiser at radio in 2019, up from No. 5 in 2018.

For the week of Jan. 13-19, 2020, P&G placed six brands in the Top 100 radio advertisers, based on spot volume: Cold remedy Vicks at No. 2 with 50,694 spot detections, tissue brand Puffs at No. 45 with 11,183, deodorant Secret (49 with 10,993), toilet paper Charmin (50 with 10,959), paper towel brand Bounty (52 with 10,175) and laundry detergent Tide at (90 with 6,558).

Another Christmas Station Sets New Market Ratings Record.

Day Two of the Holiday 2019 PPM numbers show another all-Christmas station setting a new PPM era ratings high. This time it’s in Phoenix, where KESZ scored an astonishing 19.2 share (6+) for what ratings historian Chris Huff says is the largest PPM share ever recorded in the market. The iHeart AC shattered its previous record of 16.5, set in the Holiday 2015 book and repeated one year later, by nearly three shares.

The latest numbers from Nielsen show slightly more all-Christmas stations out-performing their Holiday 2018 numbers than falling short of them. In Baltimore, Entercom AC WLIF rose to a 16.0 in Holiday 2019, beating the 15.2 it had one year earlier. In Boston, Entercom AC WMJX climbed from a 14.5 in Holiday 2018 to 15.2 in Holiday 2019. Similar year-over-year gains were made by Bonneville AC KOSI Denver (12.8-14.4), Entercom AC KYXY San Diego (8.4-11.1) and iHeartMedia AC WASH (10.4-12.9).

Five all-Yule outlets didn’t do as well this past holiday season as they did in 2018. But in most cases that was due to new competitors. In Detroit, iHeartMedia AC WNIC fell 17.9-14.8 year over year. Some of that listening went to Entercom soft AC “98.7 The Breeze” WDZH which pulled a 4.9 in its first year with the Kringle format. In Minneapolis, iHeartMedia classic hits KQQL declined 12.6-11.6 from Holiday 2018 to Holiday 2019. In Seattle, Hubbard AC “Warm 106.9” KRWM dropped 11.2-9.2 but some of the Christmas share ended up on Entercom soft AC “94.1 The Sound” KSWD, which notched a 5.1 during its maiden Santa fling. Some went to Sinclair Broadcast Group AC “Star 101.5” KPLZ-FM, which had a 4.4 Entercom AC KEZK-FM St. Louis (15.6-14.2) and Cox-Apollo soft AC “105.5 The Dove” WDUV Tampa (13.7-11.2) also showed year-over year declines, although Tampa sported a new Christmas convert in 2019 – iHeartMedia hot AC “Mix 100.7” WMTX Tampa, which pulled a 6.0 share. And when you’re racking up double digit shares, it’s hard to imagine programmers crying in their egg nogs.

No. 1 Across The Board

The Christmas format topped the ranker in every report released Thursday, including Miami a market that for several years had no 24/7 Christmas station. For the second year in a row Entercom AC “101.5 Lite FM” WLYF-FM filed Miami’s Christmas hole and was tied for No. 1 in the Holiday 2019 book with Cox-Apollo AC “Easy 93.1” WFEZ. Sleigh bells rang at the top of every major market report released Wednesday, except for Atlanta where the holiday music format was No. 2.

Christmas wasn’t the only winner in the Day Two of the Holiday 2019 ratings. In Minneapolis, University of Northwestern St. Paul contemporary Christian KTIS-FM came in second place with an 8.2, which Huff says is the largest share in the station’s history. And Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications classical WETA Washington’s 4.3 is largest share since March 2016.

Nielsen’s Holiday survey covers the period from Dec. 5, 2019-Jan. 1, 2020. Unless otherwise noted, all numbers quoted are Persons 6+, AQH share, Mon.-Fri., 6a-midnight.

Burning Man CEO’s Advice To Marketers: Allow More Big Ideas.

As CEO of Black Rock City, the organization that oversees the annual Burning Man event in the Nevada desert, Marian Goodell says she’s learned a lesson that anyone in marketing should find useful. “We need to be playful; we need to be innovative; we need to allow more big ideas to surface – and we need to help others manifest them, giving people the opportunity to think differently and be themselves,” she said on the latest episode of the iHeartPodcast Network’s Math & Magic: Stories from the Frontiers of Marketing podcast. Goodell told iHeart CEO Bob Pittman, the podcast’s host, that her transformation from corporate life into leading a creatively-driven organization, that now has an operating budget of $45 million, offers a life lesson to others assessing the path through life. “The transformation is listening to what you are able to do and what you want to do when it comes in front of you [and] knowing enough about yourself,” said Goodell.

Started in 1986 on a Bay Area beach, Burning Man is now an eight-night event that attracts 80,000 people to Black Rock City, a temporary city erected in the Black Rock Desert each August. And while Goodell admits the event’s popularity has ebbed and flowed through the years, she said there’s no denying that it’s become a mainstream event since its early origins. “Culture and the world certainly changed. Media got ahold of Burning Man,” she said. “People are looking for ways to connect and Burning Man strips everything away and gives people an opportunity to connect.”

In a time when Americans seem more divided than ever, Goodell said Burning Man avoids political and religious divisions. “The goal is really to bring people together and connect to collaborate and do things greater than ourselves,” she told Pittman. “People are often surprised when conservatives are at Burning Man. It’s really quite rewarding to see people of different political backgrounds finding they have something magical in common. And in this day and age we need more bridges to understand each other.”

Burning Man has also become international with offshoot events in Israel, South Africa, Japan and Argentina. “What was a temporary community on the desert floor is not a temp community anymore. It’s a really a global, active engaged community year-round,” said Goodell.

Pittman told listeners of the podcast that’s become a regular at Burning Man, saying the event challenges what someone thinks they know and challenges their belief in what’s possible. “For anyone on the creative side of the business, it’s a great way to open your mind,” he said.

Experts: Ransomware Is A Fact Of Life, And Vigilance Is The Best Defense.

Ransomware is a major problem that’s on the rise, one that has brought the infrastructure of numerous companies—including several in broadcast radio—to their knees, costing millions of dollars and imposing substantial lost productivity in the process.

A webinar on Wednesday that featured several experts on the topic sought to provide guidance on how malware can be avoided.

One key piece of advice: Watch what’s happening to the competitors in your space, whatever that may be.

“Often what we see in cybersecurity generally, but in ransomware in particular, is a focus on individual industry segments,” explained Mercedes Tunstall, a partner at the New York-based law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and an expert on cybersecurity. “So you will see cybersecurity threats that run through financial services companies, healthcare companies… A good way to potentially identify that this may become a more real and present risk for you and your company is if you hear that there is a ransomware attack or cybersecurity attack in a company that is similarly situated to you that possibly is using industry-specific software or methodologies, data exchanges, that kind of thing.”

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ransomware is a type of malicious software, or malware, that denies access to a computer system or data until a ransom is paid. It typically spreads through phishing emails or by unknowingly visiting an infected website.

The radio industry has been hit on multiple occasions. An attack on Urban One cost the company more than $1 million and led to the hiring of a chief information officer to help combat the problem. Last year Oregon’s Gorge Radio said a ransomware attack shut down regular local programming on five of its Bicoastal Media radio stations. Entercom was also victimized last year, with hackers reportedly demanding $500,000 in ransom.

In fact, the attacks have become so commonplace that it’s led to industry-wide calls for stations to be vigilant in taking the necessary precautions.

John Hunt of management consulting firm Guidehouse said it’s key for individuals and big and small businesses alike to be proactive in avoiding victimization.

One strategy he said, is to be vigilant about who you connect with on social media. Another is to be alert for questionable email messages. A popular tactic among cybercriminals is phishing—or sending someone an email with an attachment that looks legitimate but, upon being opened, unleashes a malicious code.

“Maybe you’re saying, ‘I would never fall for such an email,’ but you’d be surprised,” Hunt said. “The emails can be very customized and look like they’re coming from your friends. They look like they’re relevant to your life. Sometimes they look like they’re from your CEO or a legitimate business partner.”

According to Emsisoft, which manufactures anti-malware software, ransomware attacks in the U.S. last year affected at least 966 government agencies, educational establishments and healthcare providers at a potential cost of more than $7.5 billion.

Entercom Teams With Claritas On Podcast Ad Attribution Tool.

Direct response advertisers who’ve dominated podcasting have had a relatively easy way to know their ads were working just by looking at how many times a special discount code was used. But as podcasters and other digital audio publishers work to attract more blue-chip brand marketers, new attribution tools will be needed. And that’s led Entercom to strike a deal with Claritas to use its data to help show advertisers how their podcast and other digital audio ads translate into sales.

Entercom will incorporate Claritas’ identity graph into the information that it provides marketers. The Claritas tool encompasses a proprietary data set of over 120 million households and more than one billion devices. That allows the company to compare the buying behaviors of those households that listened to the podcast to those of similar non-listening audiences. Claritas says its analytics tool allows marketers to accurately isolate and measure the effectiveness of each channel, message or partner in their campaigns – not just podcasts. In doing so, marketers will be able to measure each specific portion of their campaigns and give an advertiser the return on investment feedback they’re seeking.

Ken Lagana, Executive VP of Digital Sales at Entercom, says the company will integrate Claritas’ measurement technology capabilities into its existing radio and digital audio attribution suite. By doing so, its clients will be able to calculate the total lift in business outcomes directly attributable to podcast and digital audio streaming. They will also be able to break out lift by the different components of a campaign, like target audiences, creative, geographic location visits and other variables. “This new tool helps us fill a critical gap in the industry and allows us the ability to offer clients the opportunity to accurately measure ROI for podcasts and other digital campaigns,” said Lagana.

When Entercom bought Cadence13 and Pineapple Street Media last year, the company said it wanted to come up with ways to devise new measurement capabilities for podcasts. That included giving the company’s Advanced Audio team a directive to expand the existing attribution capabilities they were offering to over-the-air and digital ad buyers to clients who were spending money on podcast ads. “Podcasting is a critical and exciting business segment with exponential growth opportunities,” said Lagana.

It is not the only data that Entercom is relying on to sell podcasts. Cadence13 was among the podcast companies that signed with Nielsen last year when it launched its Podcast Listener Buying Power Service. It uses data from Nielsen Scarborough to help podcasters understand what their listeners buy and where they shop, while allowing advertisers to target audiences with specific interests and buying habits.

Claritas sees a growing opportunity to expand its service into podcasting and called the Entercom alliance a “game changer” in that effort. “With podcasting taking off so aggressively, and continued growth across all digital channels, we see our partnership with Entercom as a major strategic win to help the industry effectively shift the paradigm in the podcasting, streaming and other digital channels,” said VP Matt Drengler in a statement.

Claritas is also working with a handful of other podcast companies such as PRX, which relied on the research company’s data when it released a snapshot of PRX listeners in October.

ESPN’s Traug Keller Saved ‘Mike & Mike.’ But He Regrets Letting Colin Cowherd Get Away.

“Mike & Mike” endured on ESPN Radio for almost 18 years, but the show was almost over before it even got out of the gate.

In an interview with the New York Post, Traug Keller—who is retiring from ESPN as the sports broadcaster’s Senior VP of Audio —said saving the show from being deep-sixed in the early 2000s was his proudest accomplishment.

“The show had been on for 18 months,” Keller recalled. “The TV [executives] in the room said, ‘We are not seeing any ratings results from this, we probably should switch it out.’ I remember holding my ground and saying, ‘No way. In radio, you have to let things bake. The medium works differently than television. It takes time. If you have people who can get along and can create a community, you have to give them at least a couple of years.’ They backed off and ‘Mike & Mike’ had a spectacular run.”

The show, which featured Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, eventually made its way to television, landing on ESPNews in 2004. In 2006 it began a long run on ESPN2, where it remained until its demise in 2017.

Keller also lamented letting Colin Cowherd jump ship. “I do regret letting Colin Cowherd get away,” Keller said. “I think he is a great talent.”

Cowherd, who joined ESPN in 2004 as a replacement for Tony Kornheiser, left for Fox Sports in 2015.

Another characteristic of Keller’s time at ESPN, according to the Post’s interview: emphasizing the idea of “ESPN Audio” as opposed to “ESPN Radio.” The former, the newspaper said, broadened the network’s perspective.

Keller, who will be replaced by ESPN New York’s Tim McCarthy, won’t be retired in the classic sense. He’s joining America Magazine, a Jesuit-affiliated bi-weekly, where he hopes to expand its multimedia initiatives as its Chief Operating Officer.

McCarthy will take over ESPN’s local stations in New York and Los Angeles. Scott McCarthy—who is unrelated to Tim—will lead the national network.

A substantial component of Keller’s time at ESPN is his role in facilitating the proliferation of podcasting, a topic he addressed at length in a March 2018 interview with Inside Radio.

“I think the thing that looms the largest is that the industry needs to find unified and consistent measurement across the board,” he said. “We are working with a few vendors and other big podcast players, so it is something that I expect to happen soon. Podcasting has already grown so much, and that will take it to the next level. There is no denying that people are listening to podcasts by the millions, it really has been fascinating to watch the growth and fun to be a part of it—so now we need to get that measurement piece done.”

NY Lawmaker Wants to Tax Companies That Make Money From Consumer Data.

A Democratic lawmaker in New York State thinks companies that generate income from consumers’ data should pay a tax.

Earlier this week, Assembly member Stacey Pheffer Amato introduced legislation that calls for a 5% tax on gross revenues of companies that make money from data shared by state residents. The measure would also create a so-called “data fund” to distribute the money to residents, MediaPost reports.

“New York’s consumers should also be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data,” according to a memo from Pheffer Amato. “Turn on your phone, check your email, watch TV, browse the web, drive through a toll or, talk to a friend on the phone. In all of these activities, data about our actions, behaviors, likes and dislikes, mood and feelings, purchases and choices are being recorded by a huge variety of organizations that never will inform you of the data they collect, sell and share.”

A similar measure was introduced last year in the state senate. Opponents say a data tax could encourage tech companies to take their business to other states.

MediaPost’s report notes that last year California Gov. Gavin Newsom floated the idea of a “data dividend” that Silicon Valley tech companies would pay to residents.

What Will Impact Radio In Washington This Year

By Frank Saxe

    The clock is ticking on the 115th Congress and if its first half accomplishments are any indication, legislation that would impact radio may struggle to gain traction in the coming months. No issue looms larger for radio than a performance royalty and music copyright reform. But unlike in years past, today the radio and record industries are talking.

      There’s more than just a potential performance royalty keeping radio’s lobbyists busy. Washington insiders say that although conventional wisdom says not much gets done in an election year, the best chance of a legislative action impacting radio is passage of a bill that would allow stations to tap into the fund paying for the TV spectrum repack.

        The elevation of Ajit Pai to chairman of the Federal Communications Commission a year ago has delivered a number of regulatory changes that have long been sought by broadcasters as he’s followed through with his pledge to “take a weed whacker” to FCC regulations. Washington insiders think it’s a course Pai will continue down in 2018.


        SummitMedia country KFDI-FM Wichita (101.3) morning co-host Tim Burger exits. “After an incredible 3 year run I am no longer a part of the morning show on KFDI,” Burger wrote in a Facebook post. “I am so grateful I was able to be part of a heritage radio station that the people in Wichita have turned to for over 50 years.

        Chuck Sullivan is named Senior VP/Market Manager for Entercom Denver, effective Feb 3. Sullivan, who succeeds the recently retired John Fullam, was most recently Senior VP/Market Manager for the company’s Milwaukee and Madison properties.

        Lynda Lopez returns to Entercom news WCBS New York (880) as Midday News Anchor and Special Projects Reporter. Lopez, who served as News Anchor and Correspondent for the station from 2009-2016, succeeds Pat Farnack who retired in December 2019.

        Lotus Communications AC “94.9 Mix FM” KMXZ-FM Tucson promotes weekender Syndi Long to afternoons. “Syndi will be a great addition to the 94.9 Mix FM family. She has proven herself over and over again with her high energy and talent,” OM/PD Larry Mac said in a release.

        The Inside Story On Nielsen’s New Podcast Listener Buying Service.

        Nielsen last month unveiled its Podcast Listener Buying Power Service, a qualitative measurement service that shows insights into podcast listeners’ buying habits. Nielsen says the new service will leverage Nielsen Scarborough’s nearly 30,000-person database to connect specific types of listeners with particular advertisers and specific program-level insights. It also matches podcast listeners with their buying behavior.

        Six months after the project was hatched inside Nielsen, five podcast companies that have signed on as charter clients—iHeartMedia, Cadence13, Stitcher, Westwood One and cabana—are just weeks away from getting their hands on the first data. Podcast News Daily caught up with Bruce Supovitz, Nielsen’s Senior VP of National Audio Services, to get an inside look at the Podcast Listener Buying Power Service and what may be next for Nielsen in the podcast business. An edited transcript follows.

        A good place to start is probably a description of how the Podcast Listener Buying Power Service works?

        We start with Scarborough USA, the very well-known and accepted qualitative database that’s been used to plan and buy various media for years. People have used it to buy and sell radio, television, cable, newspapers, internet, and sports. The challenge was there wasn’t a lot about podcasting in there. So from that large database we do ask a question about whether someone was a podcast listener in the past 30 days. So we use that pool of people, which is rather robust, to re-contact and complete an online survey that we have developed that focuses strictly on podcast listening habits and preferences.

        The Scarborough sample is quite large.

        Scarborough USA is a 200,000-person sample and we know from that there is a pool of people, probably 15-20%, that we know have said they listened to at least one podcast in the last 30 days. So that’s our starting pool and from that we can re-contact those people who have already filled out a rather in depth booklet that talks about whether they are planning to buy a car, change insurance, do home improvement. And even deeper than that, it asks about some specific brands and categories, for instance, which big box home improvement store they shop in or which insurance company they use. So it’s not just intent to purchase, which is very valuable, it does drill down to brand-specific names. Planners and buyers have been using this for radio, television and cable for a long time but there was never anything specific tying back to podcasts. So that’s what this service is going to do.

        What sort of questions will you ask people who listen to podcasts?

        We created a questionnaire of about a dozen questions of things that you would normally think about, such as do you listen to podcasts? How often do you listen? How much time do you listen? How many podcasts do you listen to in an average week? What’s the typical length of a podcast? What devices do you listen to podcasts on? How did you hear about or discover podcasts? What kind of apps do you use to listen? We ask a question in there as a nod to radio stations, asking if they listen to a podcast from a local radio station. We even ask a question if they’ve purchased something after they’ve listened to an ad in a podcast. We ask a lot of questions that paint a very good picture about the type of person, whether they’re a light, medium or heavy user of podcasting. And then we top it off using the 18 Apple Podcast categories and ask them to identify their favorite formats and genres.

        So what does that get you?

        If a planner is given instructions to make a buy for a large brand, the brand has told them what the demographic target is and other qualitative criteria. And then they’re presented with 700,000 podcasts to choose from. Now they can go into this and say they want to reach Women 18-49 who listen to five or more podcasts a month, use the following apps and are fans of true crime and then tie that exactly back to a brand and a competitor’s brand to see what the indexes are and the coverage composition. From a pre-buy attribution point of view, that’s really very powerful stuff.

        Will you get to program-level data?

        We are going to allow subscribers to have the ability to submit a limited number of program titles to us for inclusion in the survey. That way, when the data comes out, they will see their own programs—they won’t see the other program titles—and walk in to the buyer and show their downloads and a direct profile of their program and the people who say they listen to the show and the places they shop. That’s very powerful.

        The Podcast Listener Buying Power Service is a twice a year product, correct?

        The first release will be coming out later this month for the very first time. It’s going to be available to clients through our Prime Lingo, a very user-friendly web-based piece of software. We will probably be targeting our next release in December and then in 2020 we’ll look to have a two times-a-year release schedule.

        How did this service come together?

        We’ve been in this space for a couple of years talking to podcasters about what they need and solutions. We are doing a very large business with media analytics for our podcast clients, which are the brand lift and ad effectiveness studies. We’re engaged with a large number of podcast sellers, where we do these studies focused on an advertiser and what their ad recall, resonance and reaction was from listeners to that spot on the podcast. Those are very campaign-focused. What we like about that is it helps people on both sides. The agencies and the advertiser get to see how their campaign resonated. The podcaster can use it to generate revenue and ad sales. We see the Podcast Listener Buying Power Service as the next step. What else can we do to help podcasters drive sales, specifically brand dollars? We heard from podcasters and agencies that they need analytics about podcast listeners. And here we are sitting with this fantastic database that’s been used for years and is widely accepted. So we linked that to podcasting.

        How will this compare to some of the other research that we see on podcasting?

        Anyone can do a questionnaire or a study on podcast listening, but how many can link that data back to the same people who said that they bought or planned to buy the following products. That’s what we feel is the Nielsen advantage of having a big dataset and why some very large podcasters have signed-up for this service before the first data even came out.

        You’re launching with some big names. Have you heard from any other podcasters considering it?

        We are definitely going to add clients. Some were talking a wait-and-see and weren’t as familiar with Scarborough as others that have taken comfort in the big companies supporting this. But we’ve been getting inbound inquiries from as far away as the U.K. and Australia from podcasters who want us to offer the service in their countries. As well as podcast divisions within larger media companies that are just beginning to explore podcasting and, when they saw this announcement, they’ve been reaching out to Nielsen to find out more.

        What do you make of that?

        I think it’s the natural evolution that people want data and they want it tied to the brands and they want attribution. This once again gets them closer to that. If you’re an average CMO or an ad agency and you’ve been presented with the challenge to purchase “new ears” and podcasting is red-hot. So how do they begin? It’s a pretty big universe out there. This helps them.

        So this is part of the bigger effort to bring more ad dollars to podcasting?

        Yes, and surround podcasting with tried-and-true data analytics that have been acceptable and advertisers know that works.

        What feedback have you had from the ad community?

        They’re excited. There’s a lot of interest and they say there’s a ton of podcasts out there and they need help to narrow that down to the type of listener and that this is going to be a big help for them.

        Can you give us a sense of how big a focus podcasting is within Nielsen?

        In the Nielsen Audio division, it’s one of the fastest-growing segments for us in terms of year-over-year work with clients. It’s also a natural extension of working with our audio clients because not only are podcasters big in this space, but radio groups have taken positions in podcasting companies, have created podcast divisions, and it’s important to them to reach as many ears in as many distribution points as possible. So it’s a strategically important thing for Nielsen Audio and the work we’re doing is growing rapidly.

        So is this new service a step toward eventually having Nielsen podcast ratings?

        The two are distinct and definitely different. We have a technology that could measure podcasting and we tested it years ago. That approach requires that each mobile app put our code on it and then you collect the consumption through that code. In order for that to be successful, you need all the apps to participate to have a good collection of data. And if you don’t have all the apps, and specifically if you don’t have some of the major podcast apps, then you have an incomplete picture. You don’t get the whole environment and I think people want to get everything they can, that’s what they’re used to in the digital world. The habits and behaviors of people using two different apps aren’t the same so we can’t just model this out. So we decided that while the industry was deciding amongst itself what measurement means, instead we’ve turned our focus and resources to helping people generate dollars from advertising campaigns using our insights. But just because we’re not doing it today doesn’t mean we’re not going to do it tomorrow.

        Editor’s Note: Bruce Supovitz will be among the panelists on the Evolution of Podcast Advertising panel at the Podcast Movement conference in Orlando today (Aug. 1) at 9am.