Inside Radio News

Cox Media Group Names Daniel York President And CEO.

Three weeks after Kim Guthrie announced her departure from Cox Media Group as President and CEO, the company has appointed Daniel York as her successor. York most recently served as Senior Executive VP and Chief Content Officer of AT&T and subsidiary DIRECTV. As President and CEO, York will manage all aspects of CMG’s media platforms, including its radio and TV divisions, and will oversee its long-term strategic priorities.

The changing of the guard comes six months after affiliates of Apollo Global Management closed on their purchase of CMG’s 90 radio and TV stations and related businesses from Cox Enterprises, which kept a minority stake in the new company.

“I’m excited to welcome Dan as the President and CEO of Cox Media Group,” David Samburu, Co-Lead Partner of Private Equity at Apollo, said in a press release. “He has an outstanding record of leadership in this industry, and of operating efficiently, creating strategic vision, and inspiring organizations to innovate and grow.”

Steve Pruett, who was named Interim CEO upon Guthrie’s exit, will continue as Executive Chairman. In handing the baton to the new CEO, Pruett pointed to York’s extensive experience in media, content, distribution, operations and leading large organizations. “Most importantly, he embraces contemporary thinking as the media landscape continues to evolve,” Pruett said. “We have full confidence he is the right person to lead CMG in the next phase of the company’s growth.”

While Guthrie’s career path was steeped in radio, Los Angeles-based York’s background is in video. He assumed his most recent post as Chief Content Officer at AT&T after the telecom giant purchased DIRECTV in July 2015, where York served in the same position. Before joining DIRECTV in 2012, he was President of Content and Ad sales at AT&T. He’s credited with helping build AT&T’s video business over the past 15 years from a start-up to become the nation’s largest pay TV provider and the world’s largest licensor of content. His oversight there included all content activities including licensing, operations, strategy, investments, original content and compliance. He also ran AT&T’s ad sales and regional sports networks.

Before joining AT&T in 2004, he was Senior Vice President of Programming and Development at video on-demand provider In Demand Networks, a joint venture among Comcast, Charter Communications and Cox Cable. He started his career at HBO where he held various management positions, including VP/GM at HBO/Time Warner Sports.

In the press release, York professed admiration and respect for “the unparalleled quality” of CMG’s radio and TV stations, digital and advertising platforms and its “unwavering commitment to journalistic integrity. The past few months have underscored that there is no substitute for the most important and valuable content in the ecosystem, market-leading local news and entertainment,” York added. “I look forward to working with the Board and the CMG team as we continue to enhance our partnerships with our advertisers, content providers and distribution outlets to best serve our communities and millions of viewers and listeners.”

Inside Radio News

Forecast: Podcasting’s Audience To Top 105 Million In 2019.

Pointing to what it calls “tremendous” audience growth for podcasting last year, analysts at eMarketer have significantly increased their outlook for how many listeners the medium will have in 2020 and during the next few years.

The firm expects the total reach of podcasting in the U.S. to hit 105.6 million listeners this year, a boost from the 78.9 million listener estimate it released earlier. The forecast was finalized prior to the coronavirus pandemic as quarantine measures altered podcast listening habits. But eMarketer says that despite the disruption it expects the U.S. podcast audience will grow 14.8% this year. “We expect listening habits will return to normal in the second half of the year,” said Forecasting Analyst Peter Vahle, “so that by the end of 2020, we’ll see the strong growth in podcast listeners we were anticipating.”

It wasn’t difficult to see a revision was required. The firm earlier predicted there would be 76.4 million podcast listeners last year but now says its tally missed the mark by more than 15 million. It estimates there were 92 million monthly podcast listeners in the U.S. last year. Analysts expect reach gains to continue through 2022, although at slowly declining growth rates.

Beyond just hit shows, eMarketer credits new ways to access podcasts for the stronger-than-expected growth rate. That includes more consumers using smart speakers and streaming audio services. In a blog post the firm points out that the number of smart speaker users grew 22% last year to more than 73 million. At the same time the number of digital audio listeners surpassed 206 million.

Survey: Remote Work, New Communication Modes Will Outlast Pandemic.

Local media companies implemented a wide range of changes in how they operate to respond to COVID-19. But whenever the pandemic finally subsides and something closer to normal emerges, some of those business practices may become standard operating procedure, according to a survey of local media leaders conducted by the Local Media Association. “Remote work, new modes of communications with ad clients, new products, and workforce cost reductions may have the most staying power once the crisis abates,” says LMA Chief Operating Officer Jay Small.

The trade group’s “Crisis and New Normal” survey wrapped up Friday, May 22 with 127 responses from proprietors of media groups, local newspapers, TV and radio stations, digital news sites and companies providing products and services to local media. The sample tilted more toward local newspapers and local digital agency service providers – less than a quarter of participants operate local TV or radio stations.

Still, the survey results provide a broad overview of the action plans local media companies put in place to maintain operations and keep some level of business flowing during the crisis.

Almost nine in 10 respondents (89%) said their companies enabled remote work for employees as COVID-19 took hold, and most of them (62%) also implemented technologies to support that remote work. TV and radio broadcasters were more likely to implement remote work (100% of broadcast respondents said they did so) and enable technology (92.3%).

More than half (55.1%) of the total sample also made changes in how they communicate with advertising or business clients. Nearly half implemented ad-dollar matching or discounting programs, as well as business status (“We’re Open”-style) directories.

A write-in response from Tom Sly, VP of Revenue at The E.W. Scripps Co., describes how one local TV broadcaster responded. It’s a scenario that may sound remarkably similar to many radio station operators. “We’re running our entire businesses remote,” said Sly. “Master control for all of our TV stations is happening from kitchen tables and home offices. … Fifty percent or more of our news anchor teams are broadcasting from home studios, [and] podcasts are being produced at home in closets or makeshift studios. Through this crisis we have not missed a newscast or a story. We’re producing differently and in fact producing more local content to inform our communities than we do in normal times.”

Compared to responses overall, broadcasters were less likely to implement workforce cost cuts (38.5% vs. 46.5% overall).

With all 50 states in some phase of reopening and some radio employees slowly beginning to return to the office or studio, the focus is shifting to which operational changes will persist, fully or partially, past “crisis mode” and become part of a company’s new normal. Here’s what LMA’s survey found:

  • 63% who enabled remote work for employees plan to keep enabling it, and 70% of those who implemented technology to support remote work will keep it, too.
  • 75% who developed new products and services during the pandemic expect them to carry on past the crisis.
  • 57% who changed the ways they communicate with clients plan to retain all or some of those changes.
  • 53% of those who implemented workforce cost reductions will keep those.
  • But only 22.5% of those who put forth ad-dollar matching or discounts during the crisis expect to carry those programs forward.

The survey found no consensus among local media company leaders about when their company, the local economy and society reach a “new normal.” Half said nine months or less, and the other half said more than nine months. Not many respondents expect a fast escape from crisis mode — only 7.2% said three months or less.

Futuri Media Sees Spike In Usage On Station-Specific Mobile Apps.

Futuri Media says it has seen a spike in usage of station-specific mobile apps during the COVID-19 pandemic. The tech company reports a 25% increase in sessions on apps it has developed for client stations since early April across various market sizes and station formats.

Station apps have also recorded increases in other engagement features, including its Open Mic tool, which allows users to send audio messages from their phones directly to stations, and Flash Contesting, the company says in a release. Interest in Breaking News push notification content is also up.

The Country Listeners National Survey Report 2020, conducted by Futuri and the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications and presented at CRS 2020, found 44% of AM/FM country radio listeners have their favorite stations’ app installed on their mobile device, a number that grows to 48% when looking at 18-34 AM/FM country listeners. While these stats are country format-specific, Futuri says station app growth is consistent across a variety of formats.

“As consumer habits continue to change due to COVID-19 disruptions, audiences want new and different ways to engage with their favorite radio station brands,” CEO Daniel Anstandig said. “Content-rich station mobile apps are a critical complement to aggregator presence, giving listeners ways to stay connected with their favorite brands, personalities, and features beyond just streams, websites and socials, and sales teams new ways to generate digital revenue.”

WNWS-FM Files Non-Compete Complaint Against Former Host Dan Reaves.

Wireless Group talk WNWS-FM (101.5) Jackson, TN says former host Dan Reaves did not honor a one-year non-compete when he joined Grace Broadcasting Services talk WTJS (93.1) just three weeks after he left WNWS-FM.

Reaves did his last program on WNWS-FM on Friday, May 8, telling management he was pursuing interests outside the radio industry, according to a farewell post on the station website. At the time GM Larry Wood thanked Reaves for “his many years with us and wish[ed] him all the best.”

On Wednesday, May 20 Sears appeared on the “George B. in the Afternoon” show on WTJS to announce he was joining the station, where he would host 8-11am, the same slot he held at WNWS. Sears officially started at WTJS on Tuesday, May 26.

His former station has filed a temporary restraining order to prevent Reaves from remaining on air. “Dan broke the promise he made to me personally, and a legal commitment to our company which has supported him for 20 years,” Wireless Group President Carlton Viers told the Jackson Sun.

In the suit, Wireless Group claims Reaves signed a non-compete agreement that prevents him from joining any radio or TV group in West Tennessee for one year. The agreement is dated June 24, 2001, the Jackson Sun reports. Catching wind that Reaves was joining the competition, the company sent a letter on May 18 notifying him that he would be in breach of contract if he joined the station.

Wireless Group has also filed a suit alleging Sears violated his contract, intentionally interfered with its business and revealed company secrets to a competitor.

Reaves told the Jackson Sun that Grace Broadcasting Services has hired an attorney to review the lawsuit.

News Bites: Jim Donovan, Entercom New York, WFLC, ‘DeDe In The Morning,’ CBS News.

News Bites for May 29...

...Good Karma Brands sports “ESPN Cleveland” WKNR (850) names market broadcast legend Jim Donovan “The GOAT of ‘KNR,” the bracket-style competition of the station’s past and present personalities conducted during the past few weeks. “During his run to the Championship, Donovan was rarely tested. He beat each of his competitors by more than 40%,” a release read. “To win the title, Donovan dispatched current and former WKNR personalities Jordan Zirm, Jimmy Hanlin, Matt Fontana, Emmett Golden, Casey Kulas and Nathan Zegura.” Fan engagement throughout “The GOAT of KNR” bracket competition was at an all-time high on the WKNR’s Twitter account, the station reports. During the tournament voting, @ESPNCleveland had more than 1.7 million Twitter impressions, 236,724 Twitter engagements and 207,470 votes.

...Entercom New York wins ten 2019 New York State Associated Press Association News and Broadcast Contest Awards. The company’s NYC news outlets WCBS (880) and WINS (1010) were recognized in 11 categories. In addition, WCBS received first place in eight categories, including “Outstanding News Operation, Radio I” for the second year in a row. 1010 WINS was awarded top honors in two categories, Digital Presence and Weathercast. The stations received second place recognition in five categories collectively.

...Cox Media Group CHR “Hits 97-3” WFLC Miami, which rebranded as “Quarantine Radio” in March is now “Under Construction” with website graphics saying “Reopening June 3.” It’s unclear if this will be a station rebrand or full-on format flip. Stay tuned.

...Midwest Communications rhythmic AC “Stacks 92.1” WQTX Lansing adds the Compass Media Networks-syndicated “DeDe in the Morning.” “The playlist on Stacks 92.1 has a very fun, upbeat vibe,” OM Terry Stevens said in a release. “We needed a morning show that fit that vibe – all fun and no drama.”

...The cuts at the CBS News division include Pentagon reporter Cami McCormick and correspondent Dean Reynolds, according to Huffington Post and New York Magazine contributor Yashar Ali.

Colorado Broadcasters Association Launches ‘ReBoot Colorado’ Initiative.

A new public service effort to help kickstart Colorado’s economy by supporting small, independent businesses and restaurants is the result of a partnership between the Colorado Broadcasters Association (CBA) and Sukle Advertising & Design.

The “ReBoot Colorado” initiative is designed to support small businesses recovering from the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The statewide effort seeks to drive customers to local businesses and independent restaurants. TV and radio spots feature Colorado business owners, with the tagline “Making commercials during a pandemic is hard. Supporting small business is easy.”

The CBA will distribute the spots to more than 315 radio stations and 10-plus TV stations throughout the state. A companion ReBoot Colorado website has been launched with assets for small business owners, including signage and logos for social media posts.

“Small business truly serves as the foundation of our economy, while driving innovation and competitiveness. My parents were small business owners and I was too,” CBA President and CEO Justin Sasso said in a release. “It’s important to note 67-cents of every dollar spent with a small business stays in that community. Buying local means you are also supporting the people these businesses employ. The shutdown of commerce here in Colorado was unprecedented and it became immediately clear that something needed to be done to remind Coloradans that businesses need their support now, more than ever.”

Holistic View Of Listening Data Shows Radio’s Resilience.

Three months into the coronavirus pandemic, a growing body of evidence shows radio listening has remained remarkably resilient despite radical changes in consumer behavior. As of Week 2 of Nielsen’s May PPM survey, total week listening was at 82% of its pre-COVID level and up 22% from April’s low while weekend listening came in at 94% of its pre-COVID level, up 34% from April.

Although Nielsen audience estimates are the currency radio is bought and sold on, they’re not the only barometer of how Americans use radio. Any form of research has its inherent shortcomings and neither PPM nor diary measurement is considered to be perfect. Some researchers believe PPM is less reliable under the homebound circumstances listeners are experiencing during COVID. The thinking is that listening has shifted from the car, workplace and gym to the home where wearing the meter is less likely and challenged by changes in people's behaviors.

A broader view of radio listening trends across multiple data sources can provide a more holistic picture. In addition to PPM, that includes diary measurement for the vast majority of radio markets, growth in online listening and surveys of media consumption from trusted industry research organizations.

Nielsen diary data from the March survey in continuously measured markets shows little change from the pre-COVID time periods, with AQH and cume down a single percentage point.

A perceptual study conducted by Nielsen from March 20-22, just over a week after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, found 28% of Americans are listening to more radio since the virus outbreak, compared to 17% who are listening less.

Survey results issued by media buying agency Mindshare in late April showed similar results with nearly a third (31%) of Americans saying they are listening to more radio than prior to the outbreak. And 34% of respondents in a study from Havas Group conducted from March 31 to April 6 said they’ve increased radio consumption.

Urban One Focuses On The Bounce Off The Bottom: ‘We Are Optimistic.’

During an otherwise distressing quarterly earnings call, Urban One pointed to at least one ray of light: Ad sales outweighed ad cancellations during the month of May for 15 out of 16 days for which data is available. That marked something of a turnaround from April, when cancellations were outweighing the amount of radio revenues being booked on a daily basis. While the African American-targeted media company has endured $14 million in ad cancellations since the coronavirus pandemic brought the economy to a standstill, company execs say they believe they have found the bottom and are now managing to increase ad dollars.

“We are hopeful that we will do the same in June and now it is really about what the bounce off the bottom looks like and the recovery,” CEO Alfred Liggins said Thursday, adding that no one knows when that will occur. “We are optimistic and hopeful that we will come out of this. We just don’t know at what rate, but we are super focused on maintaining our liquidity, cost control and grabbing the kinds of revenue shares that we are used to, even in a declining market.”

The company reported first quarter 2020 revenues of $94.9 million, down 3.6% from $98.4 million in the same period in 2019. Radio segment billings decreased 5% with the sharpest declines in the company’s Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis and St. Louis markets. Charlotte, Columbus and Philadelphia grew billings in the quarter. National radio ad sales were up 1.9%, local was down 5.7%. On a same-station basis, excluding Detroit where the company sold urban AC “105.9 Kiss FM” WDMK to Beasley Media Group in August 2019, net radio revenue was down 0.7% but fell a steeper 5.7% excluding a surge in political advertising.

Billings at Reach Media, which syndicates shows from Rickey Smiley, DL Hughley, Russ Parr and others, dropped 4.1%. Digital revenues declined 14.8% to $6.3 million from $7.4 million, mainly from lower direct revenues. Revenues at the company’s TV One cable TV segment were largely flat at $47.5 million, compared to $47.8 million in the year ago period.

Liggins recounted an all too familiar scenario of month-by-month revenue trends in the first quarter. "We got off to a great start to the year, with robust political advertising pushing same-station revenues to +3.2% and +13.2% for January and February, respectively,” he said. “Then the impact of COVID-19 hit our radio markets, and March rapidly turned from positive to finish -14.1%. On a same station basis, radio advertising for April was down 58.3%, and Q2 is pacing -58.1%.”

Like countless other companies, Urban One responded by aggressively reducing fixed costs – to the tune of $30 million through furloughs, layoffs, cutting back on discretionary spending and what Liggins described as “significant” salary cuts.

“They say if you do something in preparation or [out of] fear of calamity, you should actually go a step further and do more because you probably haven’t done enough,” Liggins told investors during the company’s earnings call. “And I think that we took that approach as it related to our cost base going into Q2.”

CFO Peter Thompson provide the blow-by-blow: $9 million in savings from delaying Tom Joyner’s Fantastic Voyage cruise; $2 million from cancelling a slew of radio station events; $8 million from layoffs, including $4 million that are expected to be temporary. Another $4.5 million came from reduced or delayed marketing; $2.5 million from lower sales commissions and rep fees; $1 million from spending less on TV programming; and $1.5 million from reducing travel and office expenses. “We expect to continue these cost saving measures through at least the third quarter, depending on the return of normal advertising revenue,” Thompson said.

Urban One also drew down $27.5 million from its line of credit.

The company recorded a Q1 net loss of $23.2 million or 51 cents per share compared to a loss of $3.1 million or seven cents per share for the comparable period in 2019. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA, a measure of cash flow) increased 16.6 % to $32.3 million from $27.7 million one year earlier.

HD Radio Developer Xperi Now Backs FCC Review Of ZoneCasting Proposal.

Xperi, the developer and licensor of HD Radio technology, has said a proposal to create an FM booster-based system to allow broadcasters to geo-target their signals “shows some progress” but it’s also worried about the impact it could have on digital radio. In a boost for advocates of geo-targeting, Xperi said it now believes the Federal Communications Commission should move forward with a proceeding to examine the ZoneCasting system designed by GeoBroadcast Solutions.

Earlier this month Xperi said it believed the FCC needed to gather more specific information on how ZoneCasting could impact the HD Radio user experience. Its focus was on the way digital receivers are designed, blending between analog and digital audio during initial tuning or under weak signal conditions. Transitioning between zones where digital content differs from analog content could cause further disruption to the user listening experience according to Xperi, which predicted it would also increase confusion about the proper operation of HD Radio receivers.

But Xperi and GeoBroadcast Solutions have been in discussions during the past several weeks, and Xperi said it has been given assurances that the next demonstration of ZoneCasting will take digital radio into account. In a letter to the FCC this week, the company didn’t reveal where it will occur but it said the test will involve local broadcasters and will be overseen by outside engineering consultants from Roberson and Associates. Xperi will also take part in the test, providing technical support and evaluation of the results.

“Given our conversations with GeoBroadcast and the planned demonstrations, Xperi suggests the Commission continue with the process to move toward a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” Xperi General Counsel Paul Davis told the FCC. He suggested the additional testing will give all parties “ample time to explore these various issues” before determining if ZoneCasting should be approved by the agency.

The impact on HD Radio isn’t the only concern raised about ZoneCasting. Four big radio groups, including Beasley Media Group, Cumulus Media, Entercom Communications and iHeartMedia have said ZoneCasting remains largely unproven technology and worry a widespread deployment could create unintended negative consequences for the industry. The companies urged the FCC to hold off on advancing a rulemaking, labeling such a move as “premature” without more vetting. The group pointed out there has only been one real-word experimental test of the current generation of ZoneCasting technology on Alpha Media’s rock WIIL, Union Grove, WI (95.1). They called that a “slim basis” for the FCC to proceed with a potential change to booster rules.

The system it has been developing since 2011 would allow an FM station to use a series of FM boosters around a market to offer localized programming and advertising. GeoBroadcast Solutions has said it would only require a change in the rules governing FM boosters by the FCC to be allowed. Proponents argue it would help radio better attract ad dollars and help put the medium on a more level playing field with digital media.

That has won it the support of more than 80 radio owners, including larger operators such as Urban One and Educational Media Foundation, who have said it will help stations compete by offering clients the ability to geo-target their ads. They’ve also said it will allow stations to offer hyper-local news, weather, high school sports, and other content. The National Association of Broadcasters has said it believes ZoneCasting deserves more review, and it sees the FCC rulemaking as a way to facilitate that.

In a statement, GeoBroadcast Solutions said it was “very pleased” with Xperi’s decision to encourage the FCC to move forward with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. “GeoBroadcast Solutions has been continuously refining and simulating the models that will successfully integrate geo-targeting within HD radio, and look forward to working closely with Xperi in the field and at our headquarter laboratory in Chicago,” the company said. “We are confident that by working closely with the industry our technology will continue to be refined.”

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.


        Frank Canale exits his role as Program Director of SummitMedia rock “T-95” KICT-FM and classic rock “The Fox” KFXJ (1045) Wichita.  Canale joined the stations last year from Townsquare Media classic rock “96.5 The Fox” KBYZ and classic hits “Cool 98.7” KACL Bismarck, where he served as PD.

        Ayesha Ahmad is named Chief Marketing Officer of New York Public Radio, parent company of news/talk WNYC-AM/FM (820/93.9), classical WQXR-FM (105.9), the Gothamist, WNYC Studios and The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space.

        John Hamilton, who hosted weekend travel show “On the Go” on Cumulus Media news/talk KGO San Francisco (810) for 33 years, has passed away at the age of 85.

        Sherri Powers is upped to Chief Engineer at Beasley Media Group Detroit. Powers, who has been with the cluster for 22 years, most recently served as Assistant Chief Engineer.

        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.