RAIN Drops

April 12, 2013

Along with a couple hundred other committed souls, Paul made the journey to Las Vegas last Saturday to participate in the RAIN Summit West conference that precedes the NAB Convention.  And as we know, what happens in Vegas ends up on the JacoBLOG. – FJ

On Sunday morning, I was fortunate to participate on a panel at Kurt Hanson’s RAIN Summit West.  If you’ve never been, it’s like a fast-paced roll through a media and digital supermarket, as the sessions bounce from radio’s role in the car to streaming to monetization to mobile to . . . . everything.

While reflecting on how to summarize the “takeaways” from RAIN, the easy route would be to provide a factual report on each panel, but you can read the trades for that information.  With the benefit of several days, multiple cities, and a lot of airplane time, here’s what’s bouncing around in my brain about the issues that were covered at RAIN that we’ll be talking about for the next few months . . . or years.

• Between the data from the Arbitron/Edison study and various panels of experts, radio is successfully evolving its content to digital.  That’s right – a sizable percentage of listeners are accessing their favorite stations via multiple platforms – on-air, online, mobile, via social media, and more.  When we release the results of Techsurvey9 in two weeks, there will be even clearer evidence that this digital shift is taking place.  Outstanding.  But now what?

The two 800 pound gorillas are 1) How to measure all of these varied platforms, and 2) How to monetize them?  The toothpaste is out of the tube – the audience is shifting.  Now it’s the responsibility of our industry to develop a credible way of measuring the ways that our content is being used so we can provide it to advertisers in a format that they can use.  The days of AQH and CPPs are effectively over, as are sole reliance on the tower and transmitter.

As an industry, radio needs to move, and move quickly, if we want to take this rapidly occurring digital transformation, turn it into something that will grow and stabilize our brands, rather than hamstring them.

• Thank you, Eric Rhoads.  While you may have caused several automakers to scratch their collective heads, a major topic of conversation at RAIN, the NAB, and in the hallways and lobbies was radio’s future in the car.  This is an issue that we’ve been banging the drum about for years, and now we’re proud to be part of the solution with our jacAPPS/Ford partnership.  The RAIN panel that I was on featured experts from all facets of this issue.  The NAB covered it as well in their Digital Strategies sessions.  And people couldn’t stop talking to me about it.

And to further underscore the importance of the issue, the NAB’s CEO, Gordon Smith, took it on in his keynote address.

But while there’s a lot of discussion, there’s also a tremendous amount of confusion.  Will broadcasters have to pay each carmaker for access?  What is the user experience like?  How does it all actually work?

Radio’s not going away in the car, but our industry needs to get up to speed about what’s really going on in the minds of the automotive industry, auto dealers, and consumers.  We need to immerse ourselves in this world, attend automotive and electronics conventions, and create engagement at the highest levels with the automakers.  They are a valuable partner and a significant opportunity, but too many people in radio haven’t even driven a car with a digital dash, much less know enough to have a reasoned conversation about it.  If you would have attended RAIN, you would have gotten that message loud and clear.

Have you driven a Ford lately…or a Toyota or a Cadillac or a Chevy…is a question that everyone working in radio should answer with a “Yes”…this weekend.  Rent, test drive, and experience what your audience is already doing in growing numbers.

• We’re no longer in the “radio” business.  Virtually every panel said this without directly saying it.  Here were the two “money quotes” from RAIN that should really help shape the thinking of the industry moving forward:

From the IAB’s Michael Theodore: “What we’ve seen a lot more this year is the agencies are moving to a place where they are looking to buy audience and not necessarily a platform or a device.”

From ESPN’s Audio Senior Director Patrick Polking (via Inside Radio) while discussing how advertisers want integrated campaigns, “Scale is going to be very valuable and it’s something we need to get to.”

So, are we going to continue to hire “radio” salespeople to tend to a heritage spot business model that’s showing minimal growth, or are we going to shift our emphasis to a comprehensive sales approach that provides multi-platform, creative solutions for advertisers, because that’s where the dollars are going?  One thing is certain:  if the industry doesn’t get out of the “radio box” and begin to take advantage of its documented digital success, there are going to be a lot more empty offices and sales cubicles in radio stations in the coming years.

• We’re drowning in “the next big thing.”  There are so many new companies out there with the next breakthrough digital idea that will change everything that it’s getting really hard to intelligently sort them all out.  We take a lot of these pitches at jacAPPS and Jacobs Media, and there is a surge of creative thinking and entrepreneurship happening.

But along with that comes a lot of boondoggled concepts that shouldn’t ever see the light of day.  Maybe this is just the hazards of an innovative time.  And maybe the real talent comes with connecting the dots and identifying the good ones.  I don’t have a solution for this, other than I wish they all could define themselves on a post card, because it’s getting really hard to sort them out.  Sometimes great ideas get buried by the tonnage.

• It’s all about content.  How many times can we hear this?  Just do it.  New platforms, channels, gadgets, and cool startups mean nothing if there’s nothing truly compelling, interesting and remarkable about your brand.  With all this excitement, that sometimes gets lost.

Thanks to both RAIN (and the NAB) for including our company in the mix.


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2 Responses to RAIN Drops

  1. Bob Bellin on April 12, 2013 at 8:08 AM

    I think your “its all about content” paragraph is the real money quote. The connected car just levels the content playing field which ends radio’s convenience advantage.

    Devices, delivery methods, apps and data pricing will all sort themselves out around the content consumers want. And radio could bring some real value to most, if not all of the ones that are competing with it successfully. (Are there any radio people out there who don’t know/discuss how they would improve Pandora?)

    Fewer than 10 people are making most of the content decisions for the industry. They’re very smart people, but there are plenty more of those smart people in radio and the industry would be well served by turning their creative intelligence loose in search of new ways to engage its audience.

    • Fred Jacobs
      Fred Jacobs on April 12, 2013 at 10:15 AM

      Couldn’t have said it better, Bob. The technology is important – but the reasons why people listen to your station is paramount. Appreciate the comment.

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