Wow – a two-day breather for me. Meantime, Paul Jacobs has been very busy and reports in from his recent experience at Convergence. Paul had a busy schedule, moderating a panel, and then being a fly on the wall, watching and learning. Here’s his “take” on this year’s conference. – FJ
There’s nothing like a couple of days in Silicon Valley to recharge the batteries at Radio Ink‘s Convergence conference. It was another great event, but it felt different than past years. Previously, the discussions centered more on “what’s going to happen.” This year, it felt more like “this is happening all around us.”
Most of the presentations focused on the real world and the solutions and applications that attendees could take back home and implement. This is progress – we weren’t talking about elementary issues: whether a station should have an app or who at the station should post on Facebook. Instead, this felt more like graduate school where the discussions debated the best solutions and approaches.
Here are some of the highlights and key takeaways:
• While Lew Dickey is technically correct that everyone is still trying to figure out the streaming business model, there was unanimous agreement that we are not only close to a breakthrough but when it happens it’s going to be big. Pandora’s Doug Sterne and Verve’s Tom Kenney provided detailed insight into what advertisers want and how fast the biz is growing.
One big takeaway from Kenney: CPMs for local mobile ads are higher than national ads because Main Street businesses value the ability for a consumer to bring their phones into a store with an ad or coupon they received from a local radio station – similar to the way newspapers have done business for decades.
• Without question, the dashboard revolution got a ton of attention. Forget the noise you’re hearing about AM/FM radios being dropped out of the “center stack.” More importantly, it’s time for radio to be proactive and invest in the dashboard. Valerie Shuman and Buzz Knight led a spirited discussion and shared ways that radio needs to rethink its automotive future.
But the missing link is that while the automotive sector is radio’s largest advertiser, and the car is the top location for listening, the two industries don’t really talk to each other. Radio has no presence at CES or at automotive conferences, while the auto industry is moving ahead with innovation ranging from app integration with AppLink to GM’s announcement about Wi-Fi coming to the car. With or without radio. Radio needs to grab a seat at the table. Quickly.
• The social media panels at Convergence actually focused on practical, effective approaches instead of a lot of random theories. That’s a welcome change. It feels that some clear-headed leadership, vision, and best practices are emerging through the efforts of Nicole Kelly (who was really strong despite her glittery Converses), Stephanie Winans, and others like our own Lori Lewis. These thinkers are taking the industry by the hand and leading it toward social media success and relationship-building for our brands.
Social media seems to be moving into a more mature phase. Finally.
• Norm Pattiz (pictured) still has his fastball…and a wicked curve. His keynote really stirred things up, as this legendary innovator is reinventing the world of podcasting with his new company.
• Visionaries Leo Laporte and John Dvorak not only were a great stand-up act but reminded me of the two old guys in the balcony on the Muppets, Statler and Waldorf. But in between the laughter, these tech innovators showed the incredible value of great content combined with vision and guts. They’ve built successful businesses by focusing on what’s important to consumers, along with high level partnerships with sponsors that break the mold. A real highlight.
• And finally, whatever you do, never sing or do karaoke if you’re doing a keynote presentation (you had to see it to believe it).
Thanks again to Eric, Deborah, Ed and the Radio Ink team for putting on an excellent and important conference, and including Jacobs Media on the agenda. We value our presence at Convergence and congratulate them on putting together a strong event.