Inside Radio News

Broadcasters’ COVID Playbook: Pivot, Innovate and Reinvent.

Navigating the pandemic during the past year forced broadcasters to pivot, to innovate and to reinvent how they create programming – all while keeping their employees safe and informed. Broadcast executives reflected Monday on what one called “the news story of the century” during the opening session of NAB Show Premiere, a series of webinars during the next several weeks that will touch on a variety of topics.

Hearst Television President Jordan Wertlieb called COVID-19 “the news story of the century” and said Hearst TV stations had to move quickly to safeguard their own employees. Within 48 hours, its TV stations in 26 markets set up the vast majority of their employees to work remotely, said Wertlieb, who also serves as Joint Board Chair of the NAB.

Striking A Balance

Salem Media Group President of Broadcast Media Dave Santrella said the Christian-focused conservative broadcaster’s radio stations worked to strike a balance between communicating the severity of the outbreak without instilling fear and panic in the minds of listeners. At the same time, on-air hosts accustomed to working in state-of-the art facilities were suddenly hanging blankets in the basements of their home to improve the acoustics of their new makeshift air studios.

Some employees were dealing with a much graver situation: the loss of family members from the deadly virus. “It was just a big ball of hair for us to deal with at the same time,” Santrella said in the panel discussion moderated by NAB Chief Operating Officer Curtis LeGeyt. Salem and other broadcasters were also moving to cope with sudden and deep losses in advertising revenue. “It was mind boggling how quickly local and national evaporated overnight,” Santrella said. “We needed to pivot our entire industry.”

Emily Barr, President and CEO of Graham Media Group, said TV viewing soared to levels not seen for 8-10 years. That was followed by a dramatic spike in online usage, in some cases increasing by 200%. TV usage has since fallen back to pre-pandemic levels but online consumption is still elevated, she added. “This is a testament to how much trust there is on the part of these local viewers and users who look to us because, for the first time, they realized, ‘I need to figure out how to deal with this here where I live,’” Barr said.

As companies and stations worked to keep audiences informed about the fast-evolving health crisis, audiences took notice, the broadcasters said. “This was a great reminder for us of the role we play in our communities,” Santrella said. It also fostered greater innovation. “It allowed us to launch some new platforms and try some new things, because we needed to find new ways to generate new revenue,” said Santrella. During second quarter 2020 the company launched Salem Now, an on-demand pay-per-view video platform. “That’s done tremendously well since its launch and that would have never happened if it weren’t for the pandemic.”

More Frequent Communication

With a rapidly changing situation, the trio of execs said they placed a greater emphasis on more frequent communication with their own employees. Barr took to writing a weekly newsletter to employees while the number of companywide wide communications disseminated by Wertlieb in the past year was more than the previous eight years combined.

While the country was trying to figure out how to cope with the pandemic, LeGeyt noted that it was also dealing with enormous issues surrounding racial injustice that came to a head with civil unrest in the streets of cities across the country. “Last year may have been one of the most important years in local journalism that I can remember,” Wertlieb said. Local broadcast media, he added, was able to give context to what was happening in its markets while remaining apolitical and not resorting to sensationalism.

Coverage of racial injustice issues underscored “the importance of broadcast radio and television better representing the diversity of the communities we serve,” said LeGeyt. Barr suggested the industry is coming to the realization that “we do not have enough representation across every level of our station operations. We haven’t done as good a job as we should have and this past year has been a very big awakening.” To address this, Graham Media last year hired a senior level Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. It has also leaned more heavily on gaining perspective from minority members of its workforce along with input from community leaders. “I want to see some substantive change on our level and I want to see it now,” Barr said.

Inside Radio News

RAB: Radio's Rebound Driven By Listener Motivation.

The importance of understanding what motivates radio listeners at various times of the day is the focus of the Radio Advertising Bureau's latest entry in the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) “Marketing Maestros” blog. “Radio is seamlessly experienced throughout a consumer's day, regardless of platform, with motivations for listening ranging from companionship to escapism to mood elevation,” RAB Senior VP of Business Development Tammy Greenberg says. “Listeners rely on the medium to connect them to the content they desire when they want it, how they want it, and where they want it.”

Citing research from Nielsen, Audacy and Jacobs Media, Greenberg shows how the combination of listener loyalty, trust in radio personalities and the importance of stations' local focus have fueled a post-pandemic rebound for the medium.

According to Audio Amplification: Defining Engaged Impressions, Audacy's study in partnership with Alter Agents, over-the-air listening and streaming across all formats tend to be anytime occasions, with significant peaks in listening when people wake in the morning, and while they are out and about or commuting to work and school, while podcast listening is reserved more for time alone. “Listeners lean into the audio that suits their moods and interests,” Greenberg says. “In turn, audio has the power to improve a listener's mindset, moments, and receptivity.”

The blog post also emphasizes the importance of listener trust in radio, noting that 60 percent of adults 35–49 and 54 percent of adults 18–34 consider radio spots very or somewhat trustworthy, according to Nielsen's March 2021 Total Audience Report. “In order for brands to earn and maintain trust and loyalty among their target audiences, they need to not only look inward and toward their consumers, but to look at the environments for which their advertising is running,” Greenberg says.

A major factor in that trust, according to Greenberg, is the importance of radio personalities. Jacobs' report of its annual measurement of consumer likelihood to recommend a radio station to others reaching an all-time high in 2020 is attributed to consumers gravitating to personalities and programming they were familiar with and could count on. “Radio influencers' proven track record to drive trust, build brands, and drive word of mouth is undeniable,” Greenberg says. “Audio endorsements by radio personalities increase receptivity and consideration, with 80 percent of listeners trusting and valuing their favorite personalities’ opinion and 77 percent indicated they are influenced by a radio personalities brand and product recommendations.”

As to the renewed focus on local marketing, RAB points to research from Jacobs Media's 2021 Techsurvey reporting 49 percent of consumers strongly agree that one of radio's primary advantages is its local feel, and Nielsen's Total Audience Report showing 74 percent of urban dwellers feeling it was very or somewhat important to shop in person at local businesses, compared to 67 percent of suburban and 70 percent of rural residents. “Local advertising is more important now than it has ever been, [with] consumers recalling advertising for locally owned businesses at a greater pace than national or online retailers,” Greenberg says. “Radio is the solution for marketers to engage hometown consumers, providing the trusted environment that will build loyalty, influence decisions, and the local insight to create relevant connections.”

Entravision Is Transforming Into A More Digitally Focused, International Company.

Entravision Communications has filed its annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission after missing last month’s deadline. The SEC, which had issued a noncompliance notice last week, had given Entravision until September to make the filing. The report did not include any bombshells – the company had said the delay was due to unexpected bookkeeping delays related to its $29.9 million purchase of a majority stake in Cisneros Interactive in October. But the 87-page document does detail how digitally focused Entravision has become during the past year.

Revenue at the Hispanic-focused Entravision bucked the pandemic trend, increasing 26% in 2020 to $344 million. Television makes up the greatest share of the revenue at 45%, but at the current pace that TV lead will be overtaken by digital in 2021. Entravision says 43% of its revenue last year was generated by its digital segment as revenue more than doubled, soaring 108% to $143 million. And the company reported its digital revenues shot up a staggering 424% to $105 million during the fourth quarter as Cisneros was absorbed. “Our total digital revenue was about 60% of total revenue in Q4, and we expect that trend to continue in 2021,” CEO Walter Ulloa told analysts on a recent conference call. Digital now easily dwarfs radio at Entravision, which said last year’s $46 million in radio revenue accounted for 13% of its total revenue.

Historically, Entravision’s annual report notes, it was focused on increasing its television and radio presence in U.S. Hispanic markets including Texas, California, and cities along or near the U.S.-Mexico border. Based on what is happening in digital, Entravision’s acquisition strategy has evolved. “In order to enhance our product portfolio in our digital segment, we have focused our strategy more on acquisitions of high-growth digital advertising companies in new markets for us, such as Latin American and Europe,” it says.

Ulloa told analysts last month that their Cisneros Interactive deal will serve as a template. It sells digital audio and display advertising in 17 countries across Central and South America. “We are looking to grow our digital portfolio,” he explained. “In addition to growing our digital business organically, we also look to grow our digital efforts through acquisitions, including acquiring complementary businesses in similar geographic regions as Cisneros Interactive.”

Juan Saldívar, Entravision’s Chief Digital, Strategy and Accountability Officer, told Inside Radio in January that the company is also “actively looking” in emerging markets in Africa and Southeast Asia. “If you have the technology, knowhow, and process, you have to run to the last corner of the world,” said Saldívar.

Growing Global Footprint

The transformation of Entravision is already making it more of an international company with nearly as many digital full-time employees (120) in Argentina as work at Entravision Radio in the U.S. (146) as of Dec. 31. The company also has 92 digital employees in Spain, 22 in Mexico, 20 in Brazil, among dozens of others across Latin America. Including TV, four in ten Entravision employees now work outside the U.S.

As many radio groups have learned through the decades, operating beyond the U.S. borders brings less certainty to the business climate. Entravision has had a quick lesson in that as its digital operations in Spain – home to programmatic platform Smadex – as well as Mexico and Argentina, were some of the worst affected countries by COVID-19. “Nonetheless, most of our employees in our digital segment work remotely and we have not seen a significant interruption in our digital business to date,” its annual report says.

Programmatic Puts Pressure On Margins

Beyond simply targeting digital ad dollars, Entravision explains in its annual report that one reason it acquired Cisneros Interactive was in response to a growing trend seen in the U.S. as more digital buys are being done programmatically. It is an evolution it is also seeing internationally, and that is changing the digital business already.

“Advertisers are demanding more efficiency and lower cost from intermediaries like us. In response to this trend, we are offering programmatic alternatives to advertisers, which is putting pressure on margins,” the company tells investors. “We expect this trend will continue in future periods, likely resulting in a permanent higher volume, lower margin business in our digital segment,” its annual report adds.

Ulloa said an impact of the pandemic is digital usage has increased worldwide, especially in Latin America where it has accelerated internet adoption and penetration. “In 2021, Entravision will continue exploring the most prominent growth markets around the globe,” he said. “It's already 60% of total revenue.”

Objection To Digital-Only AM In Tampa Is Dropped; Second Digital Flip Cueing Up.

The low-power advocacy group REC Networks has dropped its objection against WMGG Tampa-St Petersburg (1470) converting to an all-digital signal. “So far, REC is not aware of any interference that is being caused by WMGG’s operation,” says REC Networks founder Michelle Bradley. “If anything, we are seeing many positive comments about the WMGG all-digital operation on social media,” she wrote in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission.

NIA Broadcasting flipped the switch in January, making WMGG an all-digital operation. The move came after the Commission approved a proposal last October giving owners of AM stations the option of powering down their analog transmitters. WMGG is currently simulcasting the regional Mexican format originating on the company’s “Caliente 96.1” WTMP-FM (96.1) and the Tampa-licensed translator W270DU at 101.9 FM. Owner Neal Ardman tells Inside Radio that so far, he has not received any complaints from listeners missing the analog AM signal.

REC Networks says NIA Broadcasting did “jump the gun” by not filing a 30-day advance notice alerting the FCC of the planned change. That is something that is required under the rules adopted by the Commission. It is designed to not only alert listeners that the signal would be vanishing from their analog-only receivers but also alert other stations to the potential for interference.

But Bradley says now that the original 30-day consumer and industry notification periods have passed, some of the issues raised in REC Network’s objection are now moot and there is no reason for the FCC to cancel WMGG’s permission to air a digital-only signal. “It’s time to put this issue to rest and move forward,” she said, adding, “We welcome the new all-digital AM system in support of revitalization of the AM band.”

Meanwhile, NIA Broadcasting is preparing to go all-digital on a second AM in the market. Ardman says they are slated to take delivery next week on a second digital transmitter which they will use to make R&B oldies WTMP (1150) an all-digital station as well. WTMP also simulcasts on a pair of translators – the Egypt Lake, FL-licensed W271DL at 102.1 FM and the St. Petersburg, FL-licensed W248CA at 97.5 FM.

Music Companies Ask Court To Release Money Owed Them By Owner Ed Stolz.

The coalition of record labels, music publishers and other rights holders that won a $1.3 million copyright infringement suit against Royce International Broadcasting say it has been three years since their victory and they have not seen a penny. They are asking a federal judge to release the $1.7 million that Royce owner Ed Stolz has deposited with the court to cover not only their judgement but several years’ worth of legal fees that have been amassed as Royce has repeatedly taken legal maneuvers to avoid paying them or see his three FMs sold to cover the outstanding damages.

The group, including Sony/ATV, Universal Music, and Warner Music Group, accuse Stolz of using “underhanded tactics” and “obstructionist conduct” to block the sale of CHRs “92.7 The Revolution” KREV San Francisco, “104.3 Now” KFRH Las Vegas, and “Hot Hits 97.7” KRCK-FM Palm Springs, CA and prevent payment to the music companies and other creditors. They say Stolz has deposited $1.7 million with the court to avoid being sent to jail. But he has still refused the unconditional release of the funds. The music companies say Stolz is acting as if it were a “negotiation” despite the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision ordering him to pay.

District Court Judge Jesus Bernal has scheduled a hearing for May 10 in Los Angeles on the request, which includes $107,523 in attorneys’ fees that the companies say they are “rightfully due” as they attempt to collect their lawsuit’s judgement.

The companies alleged the Stolz-owned stations had played music in their catalogs without obtaining the required licenses. Bernal earlier awarded the music companies damages for each of the eleven copyright violations named in their complaint, some dating back to 1981. Stolz appealed the judgement, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the verdict.

Now the fight over whether to release the money comes as Stolz and the music companies again wait to hear from the Ninth Circuit. Stolz has filed an appeal with the appellate court asking it to overturn the district court decision not to dismiss the receivership put into place to manage and sell the three FMs. The receiver, broker Larry Patrick, has lined up a $6 million deal to sell the stations to religious broadcaster VCY America.

The appeal may stall the sale’s finalization, but VCY America could soon replace the CHR programming on the three FMs with its religious teaching format. The broadcaster has signed a $5,000-per month local marketing agreement with Patrick to operate the stations. It has not yet said when a format change could take place, but VCY America has told the court it has spent $80,000 to buy the equipment needed to bring the stations into compliance with their licenses. It has also retained contract engineers in San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Palm Springs to begin formulating a remediation plan.

Meanwhile in Washington, Patrick and VCY America on Friday again asked the Federal Communications Commission to reject an attempt by Stolz to block the proposed sale. They alleged that Stolz made “false claims” about Patrick and VCY to delay the FCC’s approval of the sale. They also request the FCC “take such further action as may be just and proper” against Stolz for the delay tactic.

If the sale of the three FMs goes through, it would leave Stolz with “790 Talk Now” KBET in Las Vegas and two FM translators in the Palm Springs, CA market.

Spring Fix-Ups Have Home Depot Barreling Up Spot Count Chart.

The Home Depot, radio’s third largest advertiser for 2020 is going full bore for spring planting, mulching and fix-ups. The home improvement retailer rose from No. 41 last week to No. 6 on the latest Media Monitors list with 40,707 spot incidences for the week of April 5-11. That’s nearly triple the 14,880 spot total of the previous week. Rival Lowe’s has yet to ramp up to this level of radio presence, clocking in at No. 47, followed by Menards at No. 73.

Meanwhile other home and commercial improvement services are taking to the airwaves to market their wares. CertaPro Painters aired 7,464 spots in the most recent monitored week and home furnishing retailer IKEA placed 9,079 spots to rank at No. 70.

Beyond Home Depot, the biggest mover on the latest spot tracker is National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which drives into the top spot with 84,590 airings, up from No. 14 the week before. It displaces sister government agency Centers For Disease Control & Prevention which slips from No. 1 last week to third in the latest report.

Department stores are marketing their new spring lines of clothing, led by Macy’s at No. 13, Kohl’s at No. 42, and Walmart at No. 92.

With Americans out and about hunting for bargains, seven Fast Casual and Quick Serve Restaurants are using radio to lure hungry shoppers in to refuel. McDonald’s, as usual, is out front at No. 15, followed by Taco Bell at 17, Dairy Queen at No. 20, Wendy’s at 32, Dunkin at No. 79, Church’s Chicken at No. 82 and Chick-fil-A at No. 84.

For the week of April 5-11, 2021, the top ten on the Media Monitors tally are National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at 1, Indeed at 2, Centers For Disease Control & Prevention at 3, iHeartRadio at 4, Progressive at 5, The Home Depot at 6, “Operation Midnight Climax” podcast at 7, “Good Assassins Hunting The Butcher” podcast at 8, GEICO at 9 and Merrill at 10.

SiriusXM Joins Broadcast Radio In Securing MLB Streaming Rights.

Broadcast radio stations aren’t the only ones that have negotiated streaming rights into their baseball play-by-play deals. So has satellite radio. SiriusXM and Major League Baseball have expanded their agreement to include additional streaming rights starting with the 2021 MLB season. For the first time SiriusXM subscribers with a streaming-only subscription now have access to live play-by-play broadcasts of every MLB game on the SiriusXM app and on connected devices and speakers in their home.

The deal opens up another pipeline for baseball fans to access the official radio broadcasts online. The 2021 season marks the first time many MLB games are available via streaming audio directly from local flagship AM/FM radio stations in their home markets. “Over the course of the off-season, Major League Baseball decided for the 2021 season they would allow teams to go to their flagship radio stations and make arrangements with them to do streaming as well,” Don Martin, Senior VP of Sports Programming for Premiere Networks told Inside Radio in an interview in late March.

Now those official radio broadcasts, which are simulcast on 30 play-by-play SiriusXM channels – from both the home and visiting team announcers – are streaming on the SiriusXM app. The 30 play-by-play channels are also available on vehicles equipped with next generation SiriusXM 360L radios.

The new agreement also includes a multi-year extension of SiriusXM’s rights to broadcast every MLB game.

In addition, SiriusXM and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum will present an exclusive new podcast series, Black Diamonds, starting this month. Hosted by museum president and historian Bob Kendrick, the podcast will showcase the history of the Negro Leagues, highlighting the players, people and events that shaped them, as well as spotlighting the leagues’ achievements and innovations during a time of segregation and inequality.

NPR To Remain On College Station KVCR – For Now.

A motion at last Thursday's San Bernardino Community College District board meeting delayed a plan to eliminate NPR and PBS from the college’s news/talk KVCR-FM (91.9) in order to make it a more student-run outlet. While there is no timeline for the plan, board members expressed hope that the station could be integrated into the college to better train students for media careers, and that it could continue providing NPR and PBS along with local reporting.

After hearing more than two hours of comments from members of the public before discussing the proposal, intended to eliminate the station's $1.2 million annual deficit and provide more value for students, the board unanimously approved a motion by Trustee John Longville that interim Chancellor Jose F. Torres “make a focused, immediate effort to produce a serious plan for the best uses for this district’s broadcast facilities and that existing KVCR staff, media faculty and local community representatives all be involved in this effort.” Board members said they hadn’t wanted to eliminate the national partnerships and that the presentation by Torres didn’t constitute a “plan.” “The proposal before us today appears to be flawed in serious ways,” Longville said.

KVCR staff suggested the station could more than cover the deficit by rebuilding its marketing program, supporting an investigative journalism program or other investors, and continuing providing PBS, NPR and journalism from professional Inland Empire journalists, while rebuilding an internship program that would let students learn from them. “Students are welcome in the studio,” KVCR host Rick Dulock said. “We just need to rebuild the connection that was broken. It wasn’t broken by us.”

“We need to be clear that we want to transition,” trustee Gloria Harrison said. “KVCR should integrate with the college, but that doesn’t mean losing the local reporting or partnerships with PBS and KVCR. We need to be clear that it has to be an educational endeavor for our students and our community.”

Students said they resented not having access to the studio. “Over and over again my professor had to tell us that the studio was closed to us for the class even though we were supposed to get lab time within the studio,” San Bernardino Valley College student Ben Zambrano said. “We never got our lab time in that class, and still to this day I haven’t stepped foot inside of the studio.”

“How exactly will students get training if there is no station?” said Priya Jha, a professor and Director of Media and Visual Culture Studies at the University of Redlands who said she had sent students to intern at KVCR for years. “I am stunned that the chancellor fails to recognize that the housing of an NPR/PBS station is an honor and that it ought to be showcased as part of a unique educational experience.”

Capitol Hill Attorney Charlyn Stanberry Joins NAB As VP of Government Relations.

Charlyn Stanberry, an attorney with Capitol Hill, consulting, teaching, journalism and nonprofit experience, has joined the National Association of Broadcasters as VP of Government Relations, effective Monday, April 1. Stanberry will report to Shawn Donilon, who runs the trade group’s Government Relations department as Executive VP.

“Charlyn has exceled on Capitol Hill, in the private sector and in the legal community, and commands expert knowledge of the legislative process,” NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith said in a press release. “America’s local broadcasters will greatly benefit from Charlyn’s work on their behalf and we are delighted to welcome her to NAB.”

Stanberry joins the powerful lobbying group after serving as Chief of Staff for Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY). She earlier was Clarke’s Legislative Director and Counsel. Stanberry is also an adjunct professor at the University of the District of Columbia where she teaches Foundation Civics and Ethics & Values.

Stanberry’s resume also includes work as VP of External Affairs for IT and interactive TV company Net Communications, counsel for the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) and as a professional staff member for the Congressional Black Caucus. She served as a regional voter protection director in Florida for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run.

Stanberry also serves in leadership capacities for several philanthropic organizations, including Junior League of Washington, the Washington Bar Association Educational Foundation and GWAC Foundation. In 2020, she received the Lawyer of the Year Award from the Washington Bar Association, the Public Sector Award of Excellence from Women in Government Relations and was named a Top 40 under 40 Nation's Best Advocate from the National Bar Association.

Stanberry holds a J.D. from Florida International University’s College of Law and a B.S.B.A. and M.P.A. from the University of Central Florida.

Her arrival comes days after the NAB announced that Chief Operating Officer Curtis LeGeyt will step into the President and CEO role held by Gordon Smith for the past 12 years, effective Jan. 1, 2022. Le Geyt came up through the ranks at NAB through its Government Relations department.

Jeff ‘Woody’ Fife Re-ups With iHeart, Keeping ‘Woody Show’ In Place Until 2028.

Jeff “Woody” Fife has signed a long-term contract extension with iHeartMedia to keep “The Woody Show” based in mornings at iHeart’s “Alt 98.7” KYSR Los Angeles and nationally syndicated by Premiere Networks until 2028.

“Woody is one-of-a-kind – and it shows in his ratings success, in L.A., across the country on the iHeartRadio digital service, locally in key markets and on our other iHeart platforms,” Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, said in a press release. “His unique talent, combined with his unbelievable work ethic, are key to his success and we are delighted to continue this journey with him.”

The 25-year radio veteran began his career while in high school as a nighttime on-air personality in Pittsburgh. While working at then “Live 105” KITS San Francisco, Woody brought together real-life friends Ravey, Menace and Greg Gory for what would become “The Woody Show.” Relocating to St. Louis, “The Woody Show” ruled the market’s airwaves in mornings, based at Emmis modern rock “105.7 The Point” KPNT. The show made the move to L.A.’s “Alt 98.7” in April 2014 and is currently the No. 1 show in the market with Persons 18-34, Persons 18-49 and Persons 25-54, according to Nielsen.

Asked to describe his show in a 2018 interview with Inside Radio, Fife said, “I have always had a hard time finding the right words—so, I actually asked our listeners to tell us how they would elevator pitch the show to people. We took what they said and put it into a Zagat/Yelp style review: The Woody Show is highly interactive, socially engaging appointment radio. It is described by listeners as “authentic,” “raw,” “unapologetic” and “recess/happy hour on the radio.”

“Woody is a true morning show savage,” added Lisa Worden, VP of Rock and Alternative for iHeartMedia and Program Director for Alt 98.7. “There is no one better to anchor mornings on our flagship ALT 98.7, and his commitment to excellence is bar none. And LA agrees.”

“The Woody Show” entered syndication in June 2017 via Premiere and is currently heard in more than 30 markets including Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Las Vegas, Austin, Kansas City, Raleigh-Durham, Indianapolis and New Orleans.

“I am thrilled to stay ‘work married’ to iHeartMedia. This has been, and will continue to be, one of my longest and healthiest relationships,” said Woody. “I wouldn’t be able to do what I’ve done to this point without the incredible support of people like Bob Pittman, [Southwest Division President] Kevin LeGrett, [Chief Programming Officer] Tom Poleman, [iHeartMedia Markets Group President] Greg Ashlock and Lisa Worden. There isn’t another company better positioned, with a clearer vision for the future than iHeartMedia, and I’m beyond grateful to be a part of that.”

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.

        PEOPLE MOVES

        Crawford Broadcasting's contemporary christian station, WDJC,FM, Birmingham, AL adds Kim Adams to handle the 7 pm to midnight shift, effective April 19.  Adams was most recently heard on Crawford's WMUZ in Detroit, where she has a new show also launching on April 19. Other experience includes mid-days with the former "98.7 The Breeze", WDZH, and 7 years as Meteorologist for WDIV TV in Detroit.

        Nashville Public Radio outlet WPLN (90.3) has hired Juliana Kim as the newsroom’s first Education Reporter, starting May 3, 2021. For the past year, Kim has been a reporting fellow at The New York Times, where she covered the New York City school system through the lens of kids and families.

        The Misadventures of Cam Cooper will debut April 19th (2-7 p.m.) on the Radio One's mainstream urban radio station in Charlotte. Cooper joins a line-up that includes The Morning Hustle, 6 a.m. until 11 a.m., and Jackie Paige in middays.

        • Updated

        iHeartMedia country “95.5 The Bull” KWNR Las Vegas welcomes back Lois “Double L” Lewis, who will host late mornings (9am-12pm). Lewis, who was heard on the station from 2016-2018, will continue as MD and midday personality on co-owned country KNIX-FM Phoenix (102.5) and in middays at hot AC sister “Mix 96.9” KMXP. 

        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.