Inside Radio News

Radio App Developers Given More Runway To Innovate With Ford Sync 4.

As radio looks to new ways to interact with listeners in connected cars, Ford is swinging the door open for broadcasters to build new options, features and controls into their apps. The latest iteration of Ford Sync (Sync 4, if you’re keeping score) allows radio apps to control the dashboard radio, change the audio source and enable automatic switching from over-the-air to station stream when the vehicle drives outside the station's signal range.

Once a Sync-enabled app is paired with a vehicle, it has the ability to read certain sets of data from the radio itself, such as RDS, signal strength, the radio source and whether the radio is turned on or off. This data allows developers to build new features into their app, Scott Burnell, Global Lead, Business Development & Partner Management at Ford Motor Co., told an online audience Wednesday at the Jacobs Media Virtual CES 2021 Tour. Among the possible features are control functions that can change the radio band and frequency, make sure it’s picking up the HD Radio signal, and switch from HD1 to HD2 and other multicast channels.

If the station app is designed to detect signal strength and GPS location, it can be enable automatic switching so a listener doesn’t lose their favorite station’s programming when they drive out of range. Sync 4 also enables overlays and interactive advertising on dashboard screens. And those screens are getting larger with more visual real estate, ranging from 8 inches and 12 inches all the way to 15.5 inches in some vehicles.

“This is where the innovation comes in vehicles,” Burnell said. “As we create these features and permissions, your development team can play around with them and figure out ways to have an impact with what your app is doing, what your broadcast is doing and maintain that connection with your listeners when they’re in Ford vehicles.”

Those larger dashboard displays will also allow motorists to have multiple apps running and visible at the same time. A navigation map could be displayed while a station app is running and accessible in the background. Moreover, the fourth generation of Sync “gets a lot smarter,” Burnell noted. Once a user creates a profile, Sync can learn about their needs and wants and how they operate the vehicle. It collects their preferences for things like seat and temperature settings and favorite radio stations. That profile can be taken into other vehicles. “It learns that you like this station at this time of day or that morning show and other driver habits,” Burnell said. Using AI and machine leaning, Sync also makes smart suggestions.

When Jacobs Media President Fred Jacobs popped the question, “What is the future of FM radio in the car,” Burnell gave the industry something to think about. “The reality is content is content and you need to concentrate on your core competency, whether that’s music, sports, talk radio, or entertainment,” Burnell began. “The matter in which you deliver shouldn’t matter. You need to deliver it the way consumers want to have it and consume it.”

Burnell explained that Ford is “agnostic” to what its customers want to listen to – and how they want to listen to it. But when it comes to how hardware and development costs impact the buyer, that’s where the rubber meets the road. “We’ve got hardware that can bring in content over an IP stream … and we’ve got hardware that can bring in content over an FM radio wave. And they’re essentially doing the same thing when you take away the lens of being a broadcaster,” Burnell continued. “If you’re a content consumer and two things are doing the same thing and you have to pay for both of those, which direction do you think you’re going to evolve to?”

Inside Radio News

DOJ: More Review Needed Before Changes Are Made To ASCAP, BMI Consent Decrees.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Makan Delrahim said Friday that, after a two-year review of the consent decrees that govern how music is licensed by ASCAP and BMI, more work needs to be done before any revisions to the decrees are made. With the DOJ’s Antitrust Review of the decrees now closed, Delrahim used a speech to the Vanderbilt University Law School to spell out a series of recommendations that he thinks his successors and Congress could consider.

“There is significant reliance on the decrees within the licensee community,” said Delrahim.

The now-closed review resulted in nearly 900 comments filed with the Department of Justice from radio, songwriters and music companies. Despite the overarching realization that the decrees remain a key factor in how much is licensed, Delrahim said he still believes the ASCAP and BMI guidelines are probably not the best long-term solution.

“In a well-functioning, competitive market, when it comes to determining license rates and compensation, consent decrees that continue in perpetuity are not the answer,” said Delrahim. “Rather, a properly functioning market is the best method for determining the rates that properly reflect supply, demand, and each party’s relative contribution to the music ecosphere.” He thinks the music marketplace has been “far more adaptive” to changes in technology and consumer preferences than decades-old court judgments. “Nevertheless, the Division recognizes that changes in the music marketplace, as well as in the ways Americans consume music, continue to require the Division to monitor the decrees and, where market realities require, seek to modify them to promote competition” said Delrahim.

His findings hand off any further review to the incoming Biden administration. Delrahim used the public forum to share his thoughts and recommendations about changes his successors and Congress could consider.

One of the more specific recommendations the Antitrust Division is leaving their successors is how often the consent decrees should undergo scrutiny. Rather than the current ad hoc basis, Delrahim suggested a regular analysis be adopted.

“The ASCAP and BMI consent decrees should be reviewed every five years, to assess whether the decrees continue to achieve their objective to protect competition and whether modifications to the decrees are appropriate in light of changes in technology and the music industry,” said Delrahim. “In all of these efforts, competition must be the watchword. Competition for the benefit of consumers, competition for the benefit of innovation, and most importantly, competition for the benefit of the artists and songwriters without whom the American music industry would not exist.”

COVID Sidelined Potential Revisions

It has been nearly three years since Delrahim first directed the Antitrust Division to review more than 1,300 consent decrees, including those governing music licensing. The process eventually eliminated more than 850 decrees. Delrahim said Friday that while the DOJ determined the ASCAP and BMI decrees could not be terminated, he would have liked to have made modifications. But he said “continuing disagreements” among artists and the music community, putting such household names as Jon Bon Jovi and LeeAnn Rimes on different sides of the issue, slowed things down. The COVID-19 pandemic also made it impossible to conduct the face-to-face negotiations he thinks would have been necessary. In the end, Delrahim said the DOJ concluded “the decrees remain necessary to ensure the decrees continue to satisfy their purpose to protect competition and do not act as an impediment to innovation.”

The MIC Coalition, a group that represents broadcasters and other music users such as restaurants and bars, welcomed the decision. “Maintaining this framework will ensure that millions of American businesses can efficiently and fairly pay for the right to play and perform live and recorded music, which is crucial as venues struggle to open their doors again in the wake of the pandemic, and as more Americans access music from an ever-growing array of platforms,” it said in a statement.

The National Association of Broadcasters said it is also “very pleased” the DOJ will not move to change the consent decrees. “We appreciate the willingness of DOJ to have an open mind and to conduct a comprehensive review of all of the possible issues raised by stakeholders concerning modifying or eliminating the decrees,” said NAB President Gordon Smith. “Broadcasters look forward to continuing to work with the performance rights organizations for the mutual benefit of songwriters, music licensees and listeners.”

ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews and BMI President and CEO Mike O’Neill said they were “disappointed” that no action was taken by the DOJ. “We knew that reaching consensus would not be easy. It soon became clear that key industry participants could not agree on how best to move forward,” they said in a joint statement. “The formal close of this review means we can put this matter behind us for the near future.” Matthews and O’Neill said they were encouraged the DOJ’s approach has “evolved” during the past eight years as it now considers songwriters “the backbone” of the music marketplace.

Look Ma, No Local: Entercom Imports All National Talent For ‘Alt 98.7’ Detroit.

Entercom imports talent for its recently launched “Alt 98.7” WDZH Detroit, plugging in personalities mostly based at the company’s “Alt 92.3” WNYL New York.

“Cane & Corey” are added to mornings (6-10am), Joe “Brady” Blum takes middays (10am-3pm), “The Church of Lazlo” with Julia will air in afternoons (3-7pm), Kevan Kenney is in nights (7pm-12am) and Bryce Segal can be heard in overnights (12-6am).

So far, no local talent are part of the lineup.

“When we launched Alt 98.7 a couple of months ago, we committed to providing the listeners of Detroit a new home for today’s top hits in alternative music, and today, we’re thrilled to announce the station’s inaugural on-air lineup,” Senior VP/Market Manager Debbie Kenyon said in a release. “This collection of talented personalities from our leading alternative brands nationwide will deliver an energetic slate of programming, no matter what time of day our audience is listening.”

“The Church of Lazlo” originates from the company’s “Alt 96.5” KRBZ Kansas City, while the rest of the Motor City lineup is based at WNYL. “Cane & Corey” host mornings there, “Brady” is the new afternoon host who replaced Chris Booker and Kenney and Segal host nights and overnights, respectively.

After a short time playing Christmas music, Entercom scrubbed the former soft AC format on WDZH in November to fill the hole in the market from the demise of modern rock tastemaker “89X” CIMX, across the international border in Windsor, ON. The station launched by playing 10,000 songs in a row, commercial free.

In its final soft AC days, WDZH posted a 3.7 in the October 2020 PPMs. In the December 2020 survey (Nov. 5-Dec. 2), “Alt 98.7” posted a 3.4.

KNUC Seattle Picks Up ‘The Bobby Bones Show’ For Mornings.

Hubbard country “98.9 The Bull” KNUC Seattle goes syndicated in mornings with the addition of the Premiere Networks-distributed “The Bobby Bones Show.” Bones and his morning show cast, Amy Brown, Lunchbox, Eddie and producer Ray, succeed Cory "Fitz" Fitzner, who stepped down in December to focus on his role as host of “Bob Kingsley’s Country Top 40.”

“We are excited to welcome The Bobby Bones show to their new Puget Sound home,” Brand Content Director Scott Mahalick said in a release. “Bobby, Amy, Eddie, Lunchbox and Ray will keep you smiling and on your toes every day.”

Since Fitz stepped away, “98.9 The Bull” has enlisted country artists to guest-host mornings, including Big & Rich, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, Little Big Town, Scotty McCreery, Florida Georgia Line, Blake Shelton with Luke Bryan, Sheryl Crow, Darius Rucker and Uncle Cracker.

“The Bobby Bones Show” will makes its Seattle debut Tuesday, Jan. 19.

“Seattle is one of my favorite cities in America,” Bones added. “I’m extremely excited to be on one of the premiere country stations in America. From top to bottom the team at The Bull is what many stations strive to be. I’m lucky that I get to join and be a part of such greatness. Consider me the luckiest guy in country music right now.”

Fitz joined “98.9 The Bull” in April 2019, coinciding with the appointment of Mahalick to Brand Content Manager. He was previously heard in the market at Entercom country “100.7 The Wolf” KKWF for a dozen years, exiting in April 2017. At the time, Fitz succeeded Tim Leary, Claire Beverly and Karen (Red) Daiss.

More Public Radio Stations Drop Radio Simulcast Of ‘The Daily.’

The fallout from the New York Times’ retraction of major portions of the “Caliphate” podcast continues. The influential KCRW Los Angeles (89.9) has announced it will no longer air the Times-produced news podcast “The Daily.”

Paul Bennun, Chief Content Officer at KCRW, said they felt the move was needed to maintain the station’s journalistic standards. “We have concerns about how the Times has handled the aftermath of the erroneous reporting in its audio series ‘Caliphate,’ which was featured on “The Daily,” and what this revealed about practices in their audio team,” he said in a statement. The show had been airing from 2:30-3pm PT.

The move follows a similar decision by Houston Public Media’s “News 88.7” KUHF Houston which this week said it has suspended airing of The Daily. Houston Public Media did not say The Daily was gone for good, but only “until further notice.” KUHF is airing BBC World Service programming in the timeslot (10-11pm) for now.

In addition, University of Texas KUT Austin (90.5) and Marfa Public Radio have followed suit, according to Vulture. Marfa Public Radio operates a network of five radio stations serving West Texas.

According to American Public Media, which syndicates “The Daily,” the podcast is heard on more than 200 public radio stations nationwide. Nielsen said it has a radio reach of more than 1.5 million listeners each week.

The decisions by KCRW, KUHF, KUT and Marfa Public Radio follow a letter sent this week from the Public Radio Program Directors Association to the New York Times over what public programmers believe are ethical lapses by host Michael Barbaro. The Times last month retracted “Caliphate,” saying the series did not meet the newspaper’s standards for accuracy. The podcast was based extensively on the story of a Toronto man who created a false identify for himself, sharing stories of how he traveled to Syria to take part in killings for Islamic State. Canadian police have since charged Shehroze Chaudhry, who called himself Abu Huzayfah in the podcast, with perpetrating a terrorist hoax.

The public radio program directors are critical of what they say were attempts by Barbaro to influence coverage of the incident on the podcast while also failing to disclose his personal relationship with “Caliphate” Executive Producer Lisa Tobin, his fiancée, during an episode of The Daily which sought to set the record straight. The Public Radio Program Directors Association also accused Barbaro of reaching out to several journalists in an “attempt to influence their coverage” of the errors made in the production of Caliphate. The Association also criticized how the New York Times dealt with two of the team members behind the series.

Sam Dolnick, Assistant Managing Editor at the New York Times, sent a letter in response telling public radio programmers he believes the paper has been fully transparent about where things went wrong.

“We believe we’ve handled what was a significant journalistic lapse with accountability,” said Dolnick, who oversees the podcast team. “We are deeply committed to continuing to pursue ambitious audio journalism and have already begun implementing changes that will make our audio report even stronger,” he said.

Dolnick also told the radio programmers that Barbaro also “deeply regrets” sending messages to media outlets that were viewed as an attempt at stifling criticism.

FCC: 19 Call Letter Changes During December.

The Federal Communications Commission reports there were 19 call letter changes on radio stations across the U.S. during the month of December. The changes are the result of a mix of format changes, rebranding and deal-making.

The monthly update includes one in Los Angeles where oldies “1260 K-Surf” KSUR became classical “K-Mozart” KMZT as Saul Levine’s Mount Wilson FM Broadcasters returned classical music back to the AM band in the L.A. market. The “K-Surf” programming continues on the HD2 channel of “Go Country 105.1” KKGO.

A format change in Columbus, OH has returned the “CD” brand to the market. Delmar put the WWCD call letters on what had been WMYC (1580) and the WQCD call letters on what had been WDLR (1550). Paired up with the Columbus-licensed translator W225CS at 92.9 it launched “CD 92.9” looking to capitalize on the former “CD-102.5” brand name that was used in the market.

Delmar did not let go of the WDLR call letters though. They moved them to 1270 AM where the classic hits “My 96.7” format now airs, paired up with the Maryville, OH-licensed translator W244DV at 96.7 FM.

In Cedar Falls, IA two Townsquare Media stations not only swapped dial positions, but they also traded call letters as country “K-98.5” KOEL-FM moved to 92.3 FM, taking its call sign along with it. Heading in the reverse direction was CHR “Q-92.3” KKHQ-FM which took its call letters and moved up the dial to 98.5 FM.

In the Kalamazoo, MI market, Midwest Communications grabbed the appropriate WTOU call letters for its adult R&B station “The Touch” on what had been sports WQLR (1660).

In Tennessee, Forever Media’s launch of the talk “Tennessee Patriot Network” put the WTJF call letters on what had been country WLLI Jackson, TN (1390) to match what is now sister WTJF-FM Dyer, TN (94.3).

And Educational Media Foundation closed a $3.4 million deal to buy nine FMs from Flinn Broadcasting last month. That led to one call letter change so far as WQJB, State College, MS (104.5) morphed into an affiliate of the contemporary Christian “K-Love” network with the new call letters WLXD.

Read the FCC’s complete monthly update on call letter changes HERE.

Longtime Radio Voice Of The San Diego Padres Ted Leitner Steps Away From The Mic.

The radio voice of the San Diego Padres for the past four decades, Ted Leitner, is leaving the broadcast booth for an ambassador role with the MLB team. Affectionately known by Padres fans as “Uncle Teddy,” Leitner began calling Padres games in 1980.

“I will miss everything about the Padres broadcast that I have been privileged to be a part of for so many years,” Leitner said in a statement. “I've had the best seat in the house in San Diego for over four decades, and I've had the honor of working alongside Hall of Fame broadcasters while watching the greatest players to ever wear a Padres uniform… While the broadcast booth will always be in my heart, I look forward to working more closely with the San Diego community and our loyal fans in the future.”

Leitner, who was just named the California Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sports Media Association, will continue as the play-by-play announcer for San Diego State football and basketball.

Stepping into the primary play-by-play announcer role is Leitner’s partner of the last five seasons, Jesse Agler. Tony Gwynn Jr. will join Agler on broadcasts, serving as color commentator.

Gwynn Jr. grew up listening to Leitner and Hall of Fame broadcaster Jerry Coleman during his father’s 20 seasons with the Padres. “I knew nothing about broadcasting other than being a kid listening to these guys,” Gwynn said in an MLB.com article. “Ted shaped that voice in my head when I was playing in the house at a young age.”

Gwynn, Jr., who co-hosts afternoons on the Padres flagship radio station Entercom’s “97.3 The Fan” KWFN, has filled in on game-day broadcasts in the past and served as an analyst for Fox Sports San Diego. “Working in the booth with him, for me, was like the ultimate,” he continued. “I got to see what his prep was like, what he did to get ready for these games.”

Agler also cites Leitner as an influence. He says working beside Leitner since 2016 was “like getting a PhD in – not only baseball broadcasting – but in San Diego sports. He's one of the most important and beloved figures in San Diego sports history, not only because of his work with the Padres, but his work with the Aztecs, his work on TV, his work in talk radio.”

Juliet Huddy And Frank Morano To Host ’77 WABC Early News.’

Red Apple Media talk WABC New York (770) adds a new local morning news program, “77 WABC Early News,” hosted by overnight personality Frank Morano and Juliet Huddy, with local news updates from Deb Valentine, “Traffic on the 7’s” and sports with Sid Rosenberg.

Huddy, a former Fox News Channel host who joined the WABC morning show in April 2018, was most recently partnered with Curtis Sliwa from 12:15-3pm. Sliwa will continue solo in the daypart.

“Juliet Huddy and Frank Morano will combine their decades of radio experience for the all-new ‘77 WABC Early News’ bringing the Tri-State area all they need-to-know to start their mornings right,” CEO John Catsimatidis said in a release. “Huddy and Morano are two well-respected radio powerhouses. We could not be more excited to put them together for a jam-packed hour of news, traffic, sports, businesses and much more.”

President Chad Lopez said bringing Huddy and Morano “together on the airwaves is an asset to 77 WABC. The 77 WABC Early News will be a must-listen for New Yorkers, bringing two unmistakable personalities in one hour.”

This is the latest in on-air lineup changes at the legendary New York radio station. To start the new year, the station ended its relationship with the Westwood One-syndicated “Ben Shapiro Show,” which is now airing on Salem Media Group crosstown talk “970 The Answer” WNYM. At WABC, afternoons are now occupied by Rudy Giuliani (3-4pm), Lidia Curanaj (4-5pm) and “Cats at Night” (5-6pm). Bill O’Reilly was added to the lineup in September 2020, where he hosts the one-hour “Common Sense with Bill O’Reilly” from 10-11pm.

The station has also recently added weekend music programming hosted by Joe Piscopo, Tony Orlando, and “Cousin Brucie” Morrow.

News Bites: Univision, Country Radio HOF, Borrell-RAB, ‘98.1 The Phantom.’

News Bites for January 15...

...Cuts at Univision Spanish news/talk WAQI/WQBA (710/1140) Miami include José Alfonso Almora, Father Alberto Cutié and Pepe Forte, El Nuevo Herald reports. In Chicago, company layoffs include Aureliano “Auri” Salgado, midday co-host at regional Mexican “Que Buena 105.1” WOJO and Spanish sports WRTO (1260) host Hector Lozano, according to Chicago media reporter Robert Feder. “It’s incredibly painful,” Univision Chicago President/GM Doug Levy said. “These are people I’ve worked with for many, many years who have made a great contribution to our mission. This had nothing to do with anybody’s performance.” The layoffs come shortly after the company was sold to Searchlight Capital Partners and a subsequent executive shakeup that had Pierluigi Gazzolo appointed to the newly created role of President and Chief Transformation Officer.

...The Country Radio Hall of Fame Class of 2020 will be honored during CRS 2021: The Virtual Experience. The inductees will be honored with individual presentations in the morning and afternoon of each day of the virtual conference, Wednesday, Feb. 17, through Friday, Feb. 20. The 2020 Country Radio Hall of Fame inductees include Cumulus Media “New Country 96.3” KSCS Dallas morning host Mark “Hawkeye” Louis, Entercom WYCD Detroit (99.5) morning host Chuck Edwards, and former Mid-West Family Broadcasting WAXX Eau Claire, WI (104.5) PD/MD/on-air personality Tim Wilson. CRS is also honoring three “off-air” radio broadcasters, including Beasley Media Group founder George Beasley, former KSCS Dallas and WKHX Atlanta General Manager Victor Sansone, and veteran country radio programmer and former R&R VP/Country Editor Jim Duncan.

...In conjunction with the upcoming Borrell-RAB Digital Benchmark Report “Defy the Gravity of 2020: Radio’s Digital Sales Rise,” the RAB will present a live-video presentation featuring Borrell Associates CEO, Gordon Borrell. The ninth annual digital benchmark report will be released in early February, followed by the live-video presentation that will take place Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 12pm (CT). During the session, Borrell will share insights into 2020 digital sales and opportunities for areas of growth for 2021. Registration information can be viewed HERE.

...Townsquare Media is now simulcasting country “Y95” KCGY Cheyenne, WY on KLEN (106.3), ahead of a presumed format change at KLEN, which was also country-formatted as “106.3 Cowboy Country.” “We thank all the loyal listeners of 106.3 Cowboy Country KLEN-FM and invite everyone to update their radio station presets to 95.1 FM to hear all your favorite country music along with the stellar line-up of folks you love,” a web posting read. KCGY is licensed to Laramie, but provides full market coverage in the Cheyenne market. The market is also home to Northeast Broadcasting Company country “103.3 The Range” KRAN and iHeartMedia country KOLT-FM (100.7), which are in a three-way tie with Townsquare Media classic rock “101.9 King FM” KIGN for first in the Spring 2020 book with a 7.1. KCGY is not rated, while KLEN posted a 2.4.

...Cumulus Media launches rock “98.1 The Phantom” KTLT Abilene, which will serve as a complement to the co-owned classic rock “102 The Bear” KHKS. “98.1 The Phantom” is utilizing programming from the company’s Westwood One Rock 2.0 24/7 music format with an intent on pulling listeners from Townsquare Media modern rock KEYJ-FM (107.9). KTLT was most recently sports-formatted as “The Ticket.”

...LiveXLive Media will exclusively livestream the iHeartRadio Album Release Party with Why Don't We. The event will be broadcast across iHeartMedia CHR stations on Friday, Jan. 15, at 8pm. “As our partnership continues to grow and strengthen with iHeart, we are happy to share this experience with audiences worldwide via our exclusive livestream,” LiveXLive CEO Dermot McCormack said in a release. “The energy around this group is extraordinary as is the music. Fans won't be disappointed.”

Podcasting Is Growing, But Executives Tell CES It’s Only Just Begun.

Most of the annual CES conference is about new tech developments and gadgets, but content cannot be entirely separated from the conversation. In the past that has largely meant video. But as an audio renaissance captures more attention, the annual Digital Hollywood event put the spotlight on podcasting as more big tech companies see it as a new content piece of their business.

The past year has brought about continued consolidation of the podcast industry. The most recent deal was Amazon’s purchase of Wondery. Some podcasters may worry about the impact, but Wondery CEO Hernan Lopez thinks it a good thing for the business since an industry that a few years ago could not get the attention of investors now sees multimillion-dollar deals.

“All the initiatives that we have under a small company are going to be put in front of more podcast listeners all over the world as a result of us partnering with Amazon,” said Lopez. “When I started Wondery five years ago, it was really difficult to get traction whenever you were trying to raise money or get the attention of advertisers. Podcasts weren’t getting a lot of love to be honest. But over the last several years we’ve seen podcasts take their rightful space in the minds of advertisers, listeners, investors and various players in the media ecosystem.”

Chris Corcoran, Chief Content Officer at Cadence13 which became a wholly-owned division of Entercom in 2019, agrees interest by Amazon in podcasting is good for the industry overall. “Consolidation happens in any space that continues to accelerate. There’s also still a lot of amazing independent creators out there,” he said. “But it shows especially in a pandemic year that podcasting and audio in general is in a new golden age.”

Stitcher became part of SiriusXM in October when its $325 million sale from the E.W. Scripps Co. was finalized. Chief Revenue Officer Sarah Van Mosel said she quickly discovered the advantages of scale as they operated alongside SiriusXM and its Pandora app. That included leveraging relationships in sports, comedy, entertainment as well as a mountain of data and ad tech massed by Pandora.

“The trend in consolidation is really towards scale,” Van Mosel said. “Listeners are there, and now we’re taking it to that next level so the monetization can really follow.”

With more than 100 million Americans listening a month, podcasting, unlike some other technologies, is showing itself as content format that will approach mass scale, according to iHeartPodcast President Conal Byrne. “It is a mass reach medium that is here to stay and won’t stop growing,” he said.

Bryne thinks a lot of new listeners will come from outside the U.S. “When you think of the tech players coming into podcasting in the next few years, especially Google and Facebook, you start to think about this as an internationalized medium and then instead of talking about 100 million Americans a month, we’re talking about a billion international listeners.”

In the meantime, Byrne said being part of iHeartMedia gives his team scale while also keeping in perspective that podcasting is “just getting started.” He noted podcasting still doesn’t have the 91% reach of AM/FM radio.

Moses Ajibade Soyoola, President of OtherTone Media – the studio just launched by Pharrell Williams – said those numbers have given “validation” to podcasting but he still sees a lot of growth within reach. “The influx of big-name celebrities into podcasting within the past year as other types of production has halted by the pandemic is a good thing for the medium overall, and it goes a long way to broadening the base of listeners,” said Soyoola.

But during Thursday’s panel, podcast executives agreed that just being famous doesn’t guarantee a series will work. The show still needs to be good, especially for non-scripted shows, they said. “There’s no magical fairy advertiser that is just going to swoop in with a million dollars because a show is what it is,” said Van Mosel.

Most podcast revenue still comes from advertising, but it is not the only moneymaker. Wondery has found success by licensing its intellectual property for television development. Of the 55 podcasts created by Wondery, 19 are being developed for TV with five already ordered to series. The result was a quarter of its 2020 revenue came from business other than advertising.

“One of the reasons we’re batting above average is when we greenlight one of those narrative, storytelling shows, we’re thinking with the same framework of a television development executive,” said Lopez. “We’re thinking about characters, story, and how we’re going to get people to care about what happens to each of the characters to bring them from the first episode to the last.”

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

        Red Apple Media, which owns talk WABC New York (770) and simulcast partner WLIR Long Island (107.1), names Emily Pankow General Counsel. Pankow began her legal career at parent company Red Apple Group and has been working across the company’s portfolio of business interests for fifteen years. 

        New York Public Radio names Rebecca Kaplan Haase Senior VP of Sponsorship. Hasse comes to the public media outlet from Hearst Communications, where she oversaw sales and content distribution for the company’s King Features. Prior to that she spent 11 years at The Washington Post, working within the advertising sales department. 

        Jordy Culotta, co-host of the “Off The Bench” morning show at Guaranty Broadcasting “104.5 ESPN Radio” KNXX Baton Rouge, has exited the station. T-Bob Hebert continues in mornings solo.  

        Townsquare Media “92.9 The Bull” KDBL Yakima, WA Brand Manager/morning host Jim Pearson exits. Pearson joined the station in March 2020, following a 16-year run at iHeartMedia country KTOM-FM Monterey, CA (92.7).

        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.