Inside Radio News

Media Ownership Lands On The Supreme Court Steps This Week.

The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and expected battle over her replacement, has put the Supreme Court in the headlines in recent days. For broadcasters, the Court will play a pivotal role in the fate of media ownership limits well before Ginsburg’s replacement is confirmed. The Court is scheduled to discuss this week whether to hear an appeal by the FCC and National Association of Broadcasters seeking to reinstate several updates to the ownership rules.

The case is pinned on a 3-2 vote in November 2018 when the FCC decided to abolish the newspaper-broadcast and radio-TV cross-ownership rules, rework the radio AM-FM subcap regulations, and relax several television ownership restrictions, including allowing the same company to own two of the big network affiliates in a single market.

Several public interest groups challenged the moves and, in a 2-1 decision, the Third Circuit concluded the agency had not adequately analyzed the potential effect of the regulatory changes on female and minority ownership of broadcast stations. In their appeals to the Supreme Court, the FCC and NAB have said the court’s decisions have frozen in place decades-old ownership restrictions that have long outlived their competitive usefulness in light of dramatic upheavals in the media markets.

President Trump over the weekend nominated Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Ginsburg vacancy and Senate Republicans have pledged to confirm her before Election Day. Even if that timeline slides, Pillsbury attorney Scott Flick thinks nine justices could ultimately decide the media ownership case.

“We are still some time away from the case being argued before the Court. As a result, there is a good chance a new justice will have been confirmed by then,” said Flick. “The immediate effect of that is it reduces the likelihood of the Third Circuit’s decision remaining in place because of a four-four split.” If there is a tie vote, it leaves the lower court decision in place.

Before then, it will take only four votes by the eight remaining justices to hear the FCC and NAB appeal. The Supreme Court remains one of the few block boxes in Washington, and predictions are notoriously difficult. But Foster Garvey attorney Brad Deutsch said that if they accept the challenge, it would be a good indication the conservative majority has the support to overturn the lower court’s ruling. That’s because if they want to affirm the Third Circuit, the justices would simply allow the appellate decision to stand. “There would be no motivation to take the case,” said Deutsch.

New Justice May Not Cast A Deciding Vote

Ginsburg’s death may further tilt the Court to the right, but there is already a conservative majority that may be willing to overturn the Third Circuit and put the updated media ownership rules back on the books. “On the substance, I’m not sure this is a case that will need another conservative vote to get them to five, especially since you have a nice combo already for the conservatives in upholding government action plus getting rid of regulation,” Deutsch said.

The Third Circuit’s decision may have set up the Supreme Court to decide along such political beliefs. Attorneys say the dissenting opinion of Third Circuit Judge Anthony Scirica offered them a road map. He said the majority failed to consider the realities of a rapidly evolving marketplace. He also said that the FCC’s existing rules are built for a pre-internet marketplace and “no longer serve the public interest” and should be repealed or modified.

But Flick said predicting how any new justice will vote on such an appeal is a speculative venture, as media ownership views don’t always split neatly along liberal and conservative lines.

“To the extent the Third Circuit’s decision blocks ownership deregulation on the theory that the FCC needs to give greater consideration as to how those rule changes would affect media diversity,” said Flick, “many would argue that the likelihood of the FCC’s appeal succeeding increases if a justice aligned with conservative views is confirmed.” Still, he said it will depend on Barrett’s views on media ownership. And it’s a position that broadcasters won’t know until a ruling is in their hands, since it is unlikely media ownership will be one of the issues that come up during a Senate confirmation hearing.

For three times in 17 years, the Third Circuit blocked the FCC’s media ownership revisions from taking effect. Deutsch thinks that morass could help convince the justices to get involved.

“Not to grant cert means this mess just continues forever,” he said. “Whether it’s the court’s fault or the Commission’s fault, nobody seems to know how to get out of this. And so for that reason alone I think the Supreme Court might take the case.”

Inside Radio News

iHeartMedia Launches Short-Form Sports Network On 500 Affiliates.

Aiming to fill audience appetites for short-form sports updates, iHeartMedia today launched the iHeartSports Network across 500 broadcast stations and their digital streams throughout the country. The company says the new network will deliver short-form national, regional and local sports reports to listeners in multiple formats that index high for interest in sports, including rock, country, hip-hop, classic hits, news, talk and sports.

Initial affiliates were not disclosed but the company says the new sports radio entry will deliver a monthly reach of 75 million listeners, and feature some of the biggest names in sports, including TV sportscaster Cris Collinsworth, Premiere-syndicated radio personalities Colin Cowherd and Dan Patrick, Fox Sports1’s Joy Taylor and other hosts.

One year ago the company rolled up all of its sports assets into iHeartRadio Sports, a website that aggregates its sports radio stations, podcasts and personalities with the latest sports news.

In making the announcement, iHeart cited research from Scarborough showing 83% of sports fans want a daily update, along with other research indicating that almost two-thirds of sports fans do not have the time to seek out additional desired information.

“This is a product driven network responding to the interests of our listeners,” said Greg Ashlock, President of iHeartMedia Markets Group. “People are passionate about sports and this will deliver the timely regional and local coverage they care most about along with the biggest national stories.”

Entercom Taps Ad Tech Exec Sarah Foss As Chief Information Officer.

With data and analytics playing an increasingly important role in advertising, Entercom has filled its Chief Information Officer opening with an exec who brings 25 years of experience in the media technology business. Sarah Foss joins the company from FreeWheel Advertisers, a Comcast-owned company that provides media planning, buying and selling services for linear and digital TV. She replaces John Graefe, who exited in December.

“This role is critical to our success in the constantly evolving media landscape and we’re thrilled to have Sarah on board,” Executive VP and Chief Financial Officer Richard Schmaeling said in a release. “Her strong business acumen and enriched media technology intellect is incredibly valuable as we continue to evolve and elevate our business.”

Entercom says Foss will provide direction and oversight for the design, development, acquisition, operation and support of the broadcaster’s enterprise technology systems and programs. She'll also work with Entercom execs across functions to “create a vision for how digital, data and analytics and new technologies can help create a differentiated experience and drive efficiency in operations,” the company said Monday.

Before working as Senior VP of Strategic Initiatives at FreeWheel Advertisers, Foss was General Manager of Ad Tech for media processing platform Imagine Communications.

“I’m thrilled to be joining Entercom at this exciting time in media,” Foss added. “We have a unique opportunity to leverage outstanding content and deep community relationships to reach new, targeted audiences through our digital and broadcast platforms. Smart technology choices will accelerate this for us.”

Foss is also a co-founder of Tech Bae, a tech-focused organization for women in the media and advertising industries to connect for mentoring, networking and community. She recently completed a decade of service to the Alliance for Women in Media in multiple board functions and is an honoree of several industry awards.

It’s ‘Epi And Bebo In The Morning’ On ‘Exitos 96.5’ Orlando.

Cox Media Group rolls out “Epi and Bebo In The Morning” on the recently launched Spanish CHR “Exitos 96.5” WOEX Orlando. Epi Colon and Bebo Adames are longtime market personalities who most recently hosted mornings on Florida Broadcasters Spanish R&B WURB (1140).

“I've been watching Epi and Bebo's connection to the Hispanic community for years, and I'm very happy to have them as a part of our team” Brand Manager Estee Martin said in a release, adding that the duo will deliver “the best music, entertainment and energy.”

Cox Media Group launched “Exitos 96.5” on June 29 on what was WDBO-FM, with the previous news/talk format moving to WDBO (580) and simulcast on the Orlando-licensed W297BB at 107.3.

“While Exitos is a new radio station here in Central Florida, the names Epi and Bebo are very recognizable because of their years of work here in the community,” VP/General Manager Jason Meder added. “We are very excited about having these live and local personalities kick off our weekday lineup every morning.”

In addition to WURB, the duo previously worked at Entravision tropical WNUE-FM (98.1) in the Melbourne-Titusville-Cocoa market and former Spanish CHR “KQ-103” WHKQ Orlando.

“I am very excited that we're able to fill a large empty space that has existed for years in our Hispanic community – a radio show that really sounds like us,” Colon remarked.

“I am super excited to be a part of such a huge project. I'm ready to bring joy to the Hispanic community in Central Florida,” Adames added.

Elvis Duran Gains First Canadian Affiliate, Toronto’s ‘Proud-FM 103.9’ CIRR-FM.

“Elvis Duran and the Morning Show” has picked up its first Canadian affiliate, Evanov Radio Group hot AC CIRR-FM Toronto. Branded as “Proud-FM 103.9,” the 50-watt class A1 station is said to be the world’s first full-time LGBTQ+ commercial radio station, having launched in 2007.

Duran and the crew make their Great White North debut Oct. 5 through a partnership between Premiere Networks and Bell Media’s network syndication arm Orbyt Media.

The partnership has also brought Premiere-syndicated radio shows “The Breakfast Club,” “The Bobby Bones Show” and “The Woody Show” to Canadian listeners.

“When first learning of the opportunity to share our show with Toronto and the world’s Proud-FM fans, my heart skipped a beat,” Duran said in a release. “My husband, Alex, and I have been listening to Proud-FM for quite some time and have always been moved by its energy and spirit. Our show is a perfect fit for this most festive station. We can’t wait.”

The show name is tweaked slightly for the new affiliate, listed as “Elvis Duran and the Proud Morning Show” on the station website.

“We are very excited about this stage in the evolution of Proud-FM,” President/CEO Paul Evanov added. “Along with a new look, the appointment of a dedicated Brand Manager, Jaret Sereda, many programming elements and features have been added or refreshed. Chief among these is the addition of the world-class ‘Elvis Duran and the Morning Show.’ Proud-FM is the show’s first Canadian affiliate, and we’re confident it will resonate with our audience.”

Evanov said the syndicated program will include local elements such as news, weather and related information. “While the program’s entertainment value has universal appeal, Elvis Duran on Proud-FM will also sound uniquely Canadian,” he continues.

News Bites: ‘Postmodern,’ WGLT/WCBU, KOMO/KVI, iHeart Apple Watch App.

News Bites for September 28...

...Entercom has expanded the “Alt 92.3” WNYL New York weekend specialty show “Postmodern” across a dozen of its modern rock stations. The program, hosted by Scott Lowe, airs Sundays from 7-11am on affiliated stations, with custom programs for “Alt 92.3” and KROQ-FM Los Angeles (106.7). “Postmodern” plays alternative hits from the 80s and 90s and debuted on “Alt 92.3” in 2019 and is now also airing on KROQ-FM, KITS San Francisco, KVIL Dallas, WSFS Miami, KNDD Seattle, KNRK Portland, HFS@104.9 Baltimore, KKDO Sacramento, WQMP Orlando, KRBZ Kansas City, WRXL Richmond and WLKK Buffalo. Mike Kaplan, Senior VP of Programming, Alternative Format Captain, tells Inside Radio the show will not be carried by “Alt 94.9” KBZT San Diego, which will continue to air the late Steve West’s “Legends of Alternative,” which is now hosted by station on-air personality Bryan Schock.

...Mike McCurdy, Program Director at Illinois State University news/talk/jazz WGLT Bloomington (89.1) and Bradley University news/talk WCBU Peoria (89.9), announces he will retire Sept. 30. With McCurdy’s retirement Ryan Denham is named Content Director for the two stations. Additionally, Jon Norton is named Audio Director; Ariele Jones joins the full-time staff and will host “All Things Considered;” Joe Deacon joins the WCBU newsroom; and reporter Dana Vollmer moves from WCBU to WGLT. “I’m very excited about the team we’ve put together at both WCBU and WGLT,” General Manager R.C. McBride said in a release. “Professional local news has never been more important, and our user data over the last six months show us as much. But for us to continue – and grow – this essential public service, community financial support is critical.”

...Sinclair Broadcast Group news KOMO-AM/FM (1000/97.7) and “Talk Radio 570” KVI Seattle will carry the presidential, vice presidential and gubernatorial debates live. All debates will run commercial-free and will be followed by post-debate fact-checking and analysis from ABC News on KOMO, while KVI afternoon host Kirby Wilbur will provide analysis and listener reaction on “Talk Radio 570.”

...iHeartRadio’s brand new Apple Watch app is now available in the App Store. “Listeners want the option to leave their smartphone tucked away safely at home,” a blog post announcing the new app read. “That’s why iHeartRadio for Apple Watch has been designed to operate as a standalone app—meaning it can be used alongside the iHeartRadio iOS companion app as a remote control, or operate completely on its own when you do choose to leave your phone behind.”

Report: Wondery Considering A Sale Amid Other Options For Its Future.

The podcast studio Wondery has reportedly hired financial advisors to look at options for the company, including a possible sale. Bloomberg says the Hernan Lopez-led Wondery could fetch as much as $200 million from a buyer. That would be twice what the company was valued for last year when it raised money from several venture capital firms. It would also be one of the largest deals in the industry to date. The record was set earlier this year when SiriusXM agreed to buy Stitcher for $265 million in cash and another $60 million in potential payouts, based on Stitcher achieving certain financial metrics in 2020 and 2021.

A sale is not the only option on the table. The advisors will also look at whether Wondery should instead raise more money or bring on new controlling partners. Bloomberg says that might take the form of a special-purpose acquisition company, allowing a blank check company to be created and leverage the public markets to raise the capital needed to acquire Wondery.

If Wondery were to sell, Spotify could be among the potential bidders; a company that has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to grow its podcast business, although Lopez said on a podcast earlier this year that they had never approached him about doing a deal. Other bidders could include iHeartMedia and SiriusXM.

Bloomberg says hurdles to a potential sale could be the fact Wondery doesn’t own the intellectual property for all of its shows. It also notes that Lopez still faces federal bribery charges involving soccer TV rights deals related to his previous job at Fox Entertainment. He has pleaded not guilty. “The events that the government alleges happened anywhere between five and 15 years ago and had nothing to do with Wondery, and I had nothing to do with them,” Lopez said in June.

Wondery’s payroll has about 65 employees, all of whom either own company stock or options. The company’s investors include Greycroft Partners, Advancit Capital and Waverly Capital.

A two-decade veteran of the television industry, Lopez founded Wondery in 2016. It has created podcasts like Dirty John, Dr. Death, Over My Dead Body and WeCrashed and Imagined Life that have morphed into shows for television. “We have 16 shows set up in TV development, four ordered to series,” Lopez told Podcast News Daily in August. That has helped propel the company’s revenue. It reportedly is on track to have revenue of more than $40 million in 2020, a growth rate of roughly 75% compared to a year ago.

Podtrac said Wondery was the sixth-largest podcast publisher in August with 8.8 million unique U.S. listeners and 57 million global downloads and streams.

Wondery has also expanded beyond just creating content, launching its own app. The app showcases the company’s portfolio of podcasts and offer users another way to access the platform’s $5-per month subscription service, Wondery Plus. “We are very happy with the engagement levels and the number of downloads – but to be clear, the majority of our listening still comes from our traditional podcast partners,” said Lopez.

Wondery is not the only podcast company exploring its options, including a possible sale. In February, Audioboom hired an outside financial advisor to explore “strategic options” for the company, including a potential sale. New York-based Raine Advisors is providing advice as the company also looks at strategic partnerships and potential merger options. The company said in July that process is “ongoing” and that it has “engaged with a number of interested parties.” Audioboom earlier told investors the sale process could take longer than expected because of the pandemic.

Nonprofit Seeks $7 Million Judgement Against Talk Radio Network For Unpaid Loans.

Talk Radio Network, the Oregon-based syndicator run by Mark Masters, has been sued by a nonprofit religious organization founded by his father, Roy Masters, which alleges the network reneged on over $7 million in loans it issued between 2004 and 2011.

Foundation of Human Understanding (FHU), a California nonprofit headquartered in Josephine County, OR, is seeking a $7 million judgement against TRN for a loan it granted the radio network in September 2004 that came due on Sept. 2, 2014. The suit claims TRN “has failed to pay any amounts due to the plaintiff” under the note. In addition to the unpaid principal, the nonprofit is seeking unpaid interest and collection and legal costs, along with post-judgement interest.

FHU was founded in 1963 by Roy Masters, an author, talk show host and the creator of a form of meditation. His eldest son David is a director of the nonprofit and Roy’s son Mark is a board member.

The $7 million loan isn’t the only promissory note TRN has allegedly defaulted on. The suit claims FHU made several smaller loans to TRN from 2008-2011 that total $21,220. TRN hasn’t made any payments on the smaller notes, which also matured on Sept. 2, 2014, according to the suit.

Originally filed Aug. 24 in Oregon State Circuit Court in Josephine County, TRN on Sept. 24 filed to have the suit moved to U.S. District Court in Medford, OR.

The suit suggests TRN’s troubles may run deeper, claiming the Oregon Secretary Of State revoked the authority of TRN to transact business in Oregon as of June 9, 2016.

No stranger to the courtroom, TRN in April 2016 filed a sensational, 44-page lawsuit against Cumulus Media and Westwood One, alleging antitrust violations, unfair competition, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty, among other claims. The allegation was that the companies monopolized the independent syndication ad rep market and abused their position as a rep firm to advance their own syndicated programming at the expense of TRN’s. Compass Media Networks, WYD Media Management, WYM Media Management, former Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey and former Westwood COO Charles Steinhauer were also named as defendants.

A U.S. District Court tossed the antitrust complaint and TRN in 2017 appealed the decision. In 2018, when Cumulus was undergoing Chapter 11 reorganization, TRN asked the bankruptcy judge to allow it to proceed with its appeal. After the judge granted the request, TRN took its case to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Medford, OR, appealing the lower court ruling in February 2018. But TRN later joined with the other radio networks in voluntarily asking the court to dismiss the appeal in August 2018. Terms of the out-of-court settlement weren’t made public beyond the parties telling the court that each side paid its own legal expenses.

At its height, TRN had 350 affiliate stations nationwide and was home to some of talk radio’s most popular conservative personalities, including Michael Savage and Laura Ingraham.

OK, Boomer: Why Aren’t You Being Targeted By Radio Advertisers?

According to a new blog post by Annette Malave, Senior VP for Insights at the Radio Advertising Bureau, marketers are missing a big opportunity when it comes to baby boomers, or those born between 1946 and 1964.

“According to Deloitte,” she writes, “boomers will be the wealthiest generation in America through 2030. As of 2019, boomers were among the most affluent households, yet this group is rarely targeted. In fact, only 10% of marketing budgets are allocated to boomers, despite them outspending every other generation by $400 billion annually.”

Malave’s post analyzes the collective profile of the 55- to 64-year-old segment and notes that 91% of them are reached by radio weekly. Those who tune in end up listening for 15.4 hours weekly, which exceeds the adult average of 12.8.

Radio listeners in the 55-64 age group, the post says, are 32% more likely to spend $1,000-$2,000 in home improvements; 54% more likely to spend $7,500 or more on remodeling; 22% more likely to spend $120-$149 weekly on groceries; 26% more likely to purchase or lease a $40,000-$50,000 vehicle; and 46% more likely to own a vacation home, farm or investment property.

“Despite the pandemic,” Malave writes, “boomers are still financially stable. Based on a Gfk-MRI survey (August), 59% believe they are in the same shape financially as they were a year ago despite the pandemic. Advertisers should take note to continue to target this group as they are brand loyalists. Based on this same survey, 77% plan on returning to their favorite brands.”

They’re also likely to be spending once the COVID-19 pandemic is finally over —and they’re likely to be doing it in physical brick-and-mortar locations. According to the post, they’re 32% more likely to purchase shoes; 30% more likely to purchase clothing; 23% more likely to purchase groceries; 16% more likely to purchase home improvement supplies; and 15% more likely to purchase furniture.

Congress Wants FBI Probe Into Spanish-Language ‘Disinformation’ Efforts On Florida Radio.

Florida’s battleground status in the presidential election has made it a hotbed for political misinformation targeting the Hispanic community. At least according to members of Congress, who are asking the FBI to investigate what they say has been the role of local radio and newspaper outlets in spreading false information. Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL) and Joaquin Castro (D-TX) want the FBI to look into whether there are any ties to coordinated efforts from foreign actors.

One incident they cited in their request was an Aug. 22 broadcast on Grupo Latino de Radio’s Spanish-language news/talk station “Radio Caracol 1260” WSUA Miami, which they said aired a 16-minute segment that featured an anti-Black and anti-Semitic rant that claimed the U.S. would fall into a dictatorship led by “Jews and Blacks” if Democrat Joe Biden wins in November. “The program further claimed that candidate Biden is leading a political revolution “directed by racial minorities, atheists and anti-Christians and supports killing newborn babies,” said the letter from Mucarsel-Powell and Castro to the FBI.

Grupo Latino de Radio apologized for the broadcast, explaining the show was a paid program. The contract with the show’s producer was reportedly cancelled and the money it paid to WSUA returned. “Those derogatory statements don't reflect the points of view or positions of Caracol 1260 AM, its management, talents and employees,” the station’s content director Roberto Cespedes said in a statement to The Hill.

In another instance, Actualidad Media Group’s Spanish news/talk “Actualidad Radio 1040” WURN Miami reportedly aired an interview with a guest who said the Black Lives Matter movement involves “brujería,” or witchcraft, and “a vote for Biden is a vote for that.”

It isn’t just radio that is under scrutiny. El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister publication of the Miami Herald, included an insert in its Sept.11 edition that claimed American Jews support “thieves and arsonists” and equated Black Lives Matter protesters with Nazis. The newspaper later apologized.

“As we rapidly approach Election Day, Latino circles in South Florida have witnessed a surge in posts containing false or misleading information on social media,” said the lawmakers in their letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray. “While disinformation on social media is, itself, problematic, even more concerning is the fact that disinformation originating on social media is now shaping and pervading more traditional media outlets in South Florida.” They are asking the FBI to keep a special focus on any efforts of foreign actors to spread disinformation ahead of Election Day in the state.

The lawmakers stopped short of saying the radio and newspaper outlets are working for the Russians, but they point out Florida was a target of Russian interference in 2016, when the election systems of two state counties were breached.

For weeks political operatives have been warning they have seen an increase in disinformation efforts targeting Hispanics. In Florida it is of particular concern since one out of five eligible voters in the state is Latino. Mail ballots have already started to be sent to Florida voters.

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.


        Entercom VP/Corporate Communications and Public Relations Jennifer Morales exits the company for soon-to-be-announced role.

        McConnell Adams is elevated to Director of Content for Townsquare Media Lansing. Adams has been serving as Brand Manager of CHR “97.5 Now FM” WJIM-FM and AC WFMK (99.1). He succeeds Chris Tyler, who exits.

        Andy Winford, Program Director at Cumulus Media “Kat Country 103.3” KATM Modesto, adds the PD title of sister “93.7 Kiss Country” KSKS Fresno. 

        iHeartMedia soft AC KSOF Fresno (98.9) adds “Valentine in the Morning” to its on-air lineup, effective immediately. Teri-Ann Schlesse moves to middays with the addition of the program, which is based at hot AC sister “104.3 My FM” KBIG Los Angeles.

        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.