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What Would You Have For Your Last Meal?

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Rachel Belle loves food and loves to talk about it.  So, when Bonneville Seattle President and General Manager Carl Gardener kicked off one of the more aggressive podcast initiatives in commercial radio, Rachel was standing at the front of the line.  Belle is a long-time newscaster and personality on KIRO’s popular afternoon show, The Ron and Don Show, and a freelance food writer, who has written for Lucky Peach and Eater. 

Carl and his team ran an internal competition for podcast ideas and Rachel proposed interviewing celebrities about what they would like to eat for their last meal and then digging into the history and culture of that dish.  It is a provocative and fun podcast and Rachel’s platform to talk about her passion – food.  It is also a marvelous example of the ingenuity of radio people thinking beyond the transmitter.

I caught up with Rachel recently.  

STEVE: Which came first, the interest in podcasting or the interest in food?

RACHEL: Oh god! The interest in food! I mean, I've been interested in food since I was a little tiny kid, so before podcasting was invented.

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I grew up in one of those families where when you're eating breakfast you're talking about lunch and then you're talking about dinner and my dad, who was born in Romania and grew up in Israel, was just really into food and that's something I picked up from him.  I grew up about 40 minutes outside of San Francisco and we would often go into the city to eat dim sum. I ate chicken feet when I was, like, three years old and my dad used to eat the eyeballs off of fish and so I grew up being somebody who likes to eat weird things.

STEVE: How did you end up with “Your Last Meal?”

RACHEL: It must have been about ten years ago, I was researching something online for a story I was working on and I came across a website, a really crude website, one of those really 90s ones with bad fonts, and it was a list of the last meal of every prisoner who had been executed in Texas. I started reading everybody's last meals -- most people wanted fried chicken -- and I became morbidly curious and obsessed with the topic of last meals.

When KIRO decided that they were going to introduce some new podcasts, they said that we could pitch, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

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STEVE: How was the Mario Batali interview? 

RACHEL: Oh, that was really great -- there's a quality in people… I just interviewed Paula Deen this week and she has the quality as well, where they act as if it's the first time they've ever been interviewed, as if it was the first time they've ever been asked that question. He's just genuinely excited about food, he doesn't seem like he's gone the way of the celebrity chef who is no longer in the kitchen.

STEVE: What’s the difference between a broadcast and podcast?

RACHEL: Moving from broadcasting to podcasting has been a little bit more difficult than I thought.  I record my podcast in the same studio where I record my broadcast stuff and it's hard for me to switch my brain from being more newsy, to being more casual and talking about food and a lighter topic.

I am trying to be more conversational, which is easy for me when I’m doing live radio, and interacting with another host. But my podcast is very produced, and requires a script, so I’m working to sound like myself while reading something.

My podcast means more to me than any other thing I've worked on because it's really personal

STEVE: I am sure you are multi-tasking like everyone else in radio – how important is the podcast?

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RACHEL:  My podcast means more to me than any other thing I've worked on because it's really personal. It's not as good as I want it to be because I don't have the time with all my other job responsibilities to do it exactly how I want.

STEVE: What's the synergy between KIRO and your podcast?

RACHEL When one of my podcast episodes can transfer to the talk radio format, I put together a feature story that I can play on the talk show that I'm on with Ron and Don. A couple of months ago my guest was Justin Britt, a Seattle Seahawk and the NFL was all over the news because of the debate over players refusing to stand for the national anthem, so it was easy to boil the podcast down into a feature and promote Your Last Meal on the radio.

We also do this cool promotion where listeners can, for example, text “Pizza” to 98973 and they will automatically receive a text with a link to the podcast. When we announce this on air, we see our text line blowing up.

STEVE: That’s brilliant.  How is the show doing?   

RACHEL: We have been at it about a year and getting about 20,000 downloads per month, so we have a way to go, but every month it is rising.  And we are making money.  We have a sponsor. 

STEVE: Um, so what would your last meal be?

RACHEL: My last meal would be raw oysters. I love them. I don’t even need any condiments. No lemon or mignonette. Ever since I shucked my first fresh oysters, straight off of Washington beaches, I like them plain. Just their natural sweet, briny, mineral flavor.

STEVE : Thanks for talking with us and coming up with such a clever and original idea.

We are pleased to have played a small role in the development and introduction of "Your Last Meal."  It represents the synergy and potential of a passion channeled by a skilled broadcaster.  That is a winning combination.  

Listen to the podcast here

I will be speaking at Radio Ink's upcoming Forecast conference about Digital Audio: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Audio Business

I will be speaking at Radio Ink's upcoming Forecast conference about Digital Audio: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Audio Business

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Six Tips To Turn Stations Into Podcast Specialists

This appeared in the October 25, 2017 edition of Inside Radio:

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Podcasting is blowing up and radio stations are eager to exploit the growing space. After all, who knows audio better than radio programmers? But extending a brand to a new platform requires presenting the content differently—what works on one may not translate to the other, as one expert stresses.

Amplifi Media founder Steve Goldstein presented the “Six Ways Podcasts Are Different From Radio” last week at the NAB Show New York, in partnership with the New York State Broadcasters Association:

  • Radio Leans Back, Podcasts Lean Forward. Radio basically does all the work for you, from interviewing guests to curating a unique music mix. People have to actively seek out podcasts. “No one will hear the podcast unless they opt in and find it,” Goldstein said. “There is that friction in having to go find the audio somewhere.”
  • Radio Is Joined In Progress, Podcasts Start At The Beginning. “With podcasts, everyone begins at the same place. In that sense it’s a lot more like television,” Goldstein said.
  • Radio Has To Immediately Attract Attention, Podcasts Are Appointment Listening. With radio it’s, ‘be compelling right away or send the audience down the dial.’ Podcasts are destination programming on a topic of interest to the person who went through the hassle of having to download it.
  • Radio Is Mass Appeal, Podcasts Are Narrowcasting. Radio’s mission is to aggregate as large an audience as possible. Podcasting is much more narrow in appeal. “Podcast topics are not designed to hit home runs but a great health and wellness podcast intended for a specific audience can amass great success—without having to shoot the moon,” Goldstein said.
  • Radio Content Is Perishable, Podcasts Live On. After it airs, broadcast content disappears into the ether while podcasts remain available for consumption. “That’s also the downside. It’s always available—among all the other hundreds and thousands of shows.”
  • Radio’s Always On; Podcasts Have Start, Stop And Delete Buttons. Broadcast radio can either be tuned in or tuned out but podcasts have more playback options, such as pausing the content and re-starting it.

Hometown Podcasts That Hit Home Runs

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Goldstein also used his presentation to highlight a handful of radio personalities he thinks are hitting it out of the park with their podcasts. Among them are “The Tom Barnard Podcast,” hosted by the top-rated Minneapolis morning man, who’s heard on Cumulus Media classic rock “KQ92” KQRS. Then there’s “Your Last Meal with Rachel Belle,” featuring the KIRO-FM Seattle host interviewing stars about what their last meal would be. Belle then does a deep dive on the dish’s origins, preparation and cultural influence. WTOP-FM Washington, DC’s “Capital Culture” explores DC life beyond politics and traffic. Premiere Networks-syndicated morning man Bobby Bones’ “BobbyCast” offers in-depth interviews with country music makers. And at rocker KISW Seattle, morning man BJ Shea’s “Geek Nation” explores tech while “An Acquired Taste” by “Elvis Duran & The Morning Show” cohost Bethany Watson talks about women’s issues in a light and fun way.

Also, “Enough About Me With Kirk Minihane” gives the WEEI-FM Boston morning show cohost an opportunity to stretch out on topics and with guests in a way he can’t within the confines of morning sports radio. “I wanted to talk with people long-form in a way I couldn’t do on the radio show,” Minihane told Goldstein in a video played at the conference. The biweekly podcast averages 50,000-60,000 downloads but sometimes spikes over 100,000. Minihane says it’s helping turn a younger audience on to the morning radio show. “When something spikes, whether I get into a fight with somebody or I have a big guest, you can definitely feel it,” he said. “We had Lenny Dykstra from the Mets on and we went back and forth screaming at each other for 10 minutes,” Minihane added. The station played it the next day on the morning show to cross-promote the podcast. “When they’re good, we play them and promote them,” Minihane said.

Several of these examples illustrate what Goldstein sees as radio’s golden podcast opportunity: local podcasts. “Local is the missing component in podcasting today,” he said. “Radio is very well equipped to do local podcasts—both public and commercial radio.”

By Paul Heine.

Originally appeared 10/25/17 Inside Radio. Reprinted with permission.   Read it here

 

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Things We Are Learning About Smart Speakers

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Technological change in the commercial radio business has always seemed slow and a bit begrudging.  Whether it be streaming, HD, smartphones or podcasting, the business has not experienced the ferocious erosion of other media which has forced rapid change and innovation. Think print. So, it is remarkable to look at radio’s prompt interest in smart speakers and not be somewhat amazed at how fast the business is embracing these devices.   

Certainly, a large part of the interest is getting radios back into homes; a key area that has eroded significantly over the years.  And it certainly makes sense for radio to be on smart speaker devices, since music, and audio in general, top the list of uses. From that standpoint, it doesn’t feel like a big digital reach to get a station onto smart speakers. In fact, TuneIn and iHeart have done it for most radio stations by default. 

However,  based on what we are seeing,  just "checking the box" by getting your station onto smart speakers is not likely to move the needle. 

Back in April, my company Amplifi Media, joined forces with Jacobs Media/Jacapps to create Sonic AI, a business that develops “skills” for smart speakers.  We work with radio stations and podcasters to create great user experiences on these devices, and with some 20,000 “skills” already in existence for Amazon’s Alexa, fighting for attention and repeat use on smart speakers is quickly becoming more critical.

Here are some observations we have gleaned from our own work:

Having the right invocation name is key – There is still great confusion among potential users in accessing stations by name, especially if the name is common such as Mix, Star, or Lite.  We have seen a lot of stations make mistakes by developing non-intuitive invocations.  One thing we know, is that searing language and ideas into listeners minds takes clarity and time. An invocation that seems logical and simple to recall tops the list. 

Although smart speakers are hot, almost 90% of people don’t have one yet – Education, teaching and familiarization are important.  We council stations on exactly how to talk about smart speakers on the air and present on mobile and web. People are becoming more comfortable with voice command devices (Siri, Cortana, Google Home etc), but there is still a learning curve. 

The Amazon “dial” is more competitive than the local radio dial – We have conversations with stations assuming they will see an immediate “pop” with listening once their station's skill is up and running, but with 100,000 radio stations, 400,000 podcasts and 5 large streaming services, many stations have been disappointed that their station streams aren’t getting lots of traffic.  Hey, remember, radio stations haven’t exactly taken off in the streaming world - compared to "pure-plays" - and a lot of that has to do with generic content, bloated commercial loads and plenty of "pure-play" competition. Some radio stations streams still suffer from technical issues and Smokey The Bear PSA's.

Thinking beyond the stream – We are content guys.  Since we pooled our resources, our common thinking has been informed by what we have learned with our own digital initiatives – Jacobs/Jacapps with deep learnings about what content works on mobile devices and Amplifi on what “prints” in podcasting. In each case, it is significantly different from over-the-air AM/FM.  

Our contention from the start has been that a station’s stream may not be the big win on these devices

Entercom KISW, Seattle morning show BJ & Migs skill is part of the overall "Open 99.9 KISW" skill

Entercom KISW, Seattle morning show BJ & Migs skill is part of the overall "Open 99.9 KISW" skill

Our contention from the start has been that a station’s stream may not be the big win on these devices, so we have focused our resources on creating and developing engaging listener experiences that are easy for listeners to follow and highlight top featured segments of station audio.  We use custom audio from talent to host “skills” and enable client stations to feature top benchmark content, podcasts and original “Alexa-only” moments. 

Skill design can be brutal – Data we are seeing shows that only 3% of the 20,000 skills developed for all brands are used more than once. Sure there is the novelty of playing around with these new devices, but who really needs to go to “Taco Facts, or "Nicolas Cage Trivia" more than once.  By the way  – CNET has a fun list of "30 Alexa skills nobody needs."

We have seen the “Mcdonalds-ization” of "skills" where you can buy one for $59 dollars.  If only everything were that simple. 

Get more quarter hour credit – Picking the right content can result in PPM credit.  It is “early innings” and we can’t say yet stations are blowing off the doors with increased quarter-hours, but we are seeing benchmark features out-pull full morning show podcasts and the same appears to hold true with Alexa skills.  People seem to gravitate to bite-size content such as “The Bizzare Files” from the skill we developed for Beasley's WMMR, Philadelphia.  It's the top feature of the "Preston and Steve" morning show.  

Our learnings are rapid. 

We have more we are eager to share.  One thing we know for sure is that simply being “on” a smart speaker isn’t going to be enough for most radio stations and repurposing the stream merely places a station in a more crowded sea of choices than the local radio dial.  

More about Sonic Ai here

I will be speaking at two events this week at the NAB Show, New York on podcasting and smart speakers

I will be speaking at two events this week at the NAB Show, New York on podcasting and smart speakers

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NPR Is Beating Commercial News/Talk in Top Markets

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While NPR continues to dominate and grow its podcasting business, it doesn’t look as though it is forsaking its terrestrial station base.  Last week Jarl Mohn, President and CEO of NPR laid out a declaration that should alarm many of America’s commercial news/talk stations in PPM markets.

Mohn's goal is to have NPR’s News/Talk stations outperform commercial News/Talkers in all 50 PPM markets.  NPR stations are well on their way as the leading radio news source in 20 of the 50 or so Nielsen PPM markets according to NPR.. 

In those 20 markets, NPR has more weekly cume listeners than their commercial news/talk competitors.  If I were doing this in speech form, I would stop and repeat that sentence.

In 20 markets, NPR has more weekly cume listeners than their commercial news/talk competitors.

Mohn drilled down further to weekly drive time numbers among Adults 25-54 and found NPR stations with more listeners than commercial news/talk stations during Morning Edition in 26 PPM markets and 28 markets during the afternoon show “All Things Considered."

All of this may have seemed unrealistic a few years ago, but several things have conspired to bring us to this point.  NPR’s news delivery has markedly improved. They have, according to Mohn, "doubled down on journalism."  The delivery feels more contemporary in structure and style. Their significant focus on digital and mobile platforms has certainly aided their traction and growth, especially among younger demographics. They are, for example, the default news source on Amazon's hot Echo devices.   The news cycle, of course, has been friendly, but that has been the case for most news organizations.  

At the same time NPR has been focused on building its news assets, many commercial radio stations continue to cut already lean newsroom staff and budgets making them increasingly vulnerable. All of this is with the backdrop of persons-using-radio being challenged and the average age of commercial News/Talk stations on the rise.  

Mohn is a content guy by background, moving effortlessly from commercial radio to cable TV and now public radio. He sees the need to innovate beyond the FM band, which at times has been controversial in public radio, but has resulted in the development of robust NPR assets on many digital platforms.  They lead on time-shifted and original podcast content including the development of NPR One, a mobile app that continues to evolve. They were early into the exploding smart speaker sector.

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NPR has created an enviable culture of innovation and experimentation. Much of this is chronicled at the recent PRRO “super regional” conference, and a deep dive on Ken Mill's excellent Spark blog.  

All of this is in contrast to a frightening complacency in commercial News/Talk. You can listen to many stations and they sound the same as years ago and most have not built a meaningful digital presence. Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers last week urged the expansion from on-air to online platforms as part of keeping the medium pertinent. 

Commercial News/Talk radio is unambiguously in NPR's crosshairs.

Now is the time to for commercial radio to use its formidable assets to build, rebuild, and develop its own culture of innovation on multiple platforms.  

 

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The Power of Audio At Advertising Week

This is Advertising Week, a large four-day event with nearly 100,000 attendees so big it takes place in over thirty venues all over New York and covers marketing from angles ranging from programatic to brand building to how to market to Gen Z.  BTW, that session was called "Gen Z Doesn't Care About Your Brand."  A reminder that advertising has significant challenges connecting with an ever-changing mix of media and platforms.

Tuesday included The Power of Audio Summit, a three hour block with 4 sessions devoted exclusively to podcasting.  It was a well attended series that focused on the rapid growth of podcasting, monetization strategies and some star power with ABC Radio bringing Robin Roberts and Rebecca Jarvis to showcase their podcasts.

Here is a summary via Twitter: 

When you think about it that way ....

When you think about it that way ....

Estimated to rise to 13 Billion this year just on the Apple platform

Estimated to rise to 13 Billion this year just on the Apple platform

Matt Lieber Co-Founder Gimlet, Erik Diehn, CEO, Midroll

Matt Lieber Co-Founder Gimlet, Erik Diehn, CEO, Midroll

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Steve Jones, VP General Manager ABC News Radio, Robin Roberts, GMA + host of "Everybody's Got Something" podcast, Rebecca Jarvis, Chief Business Correspondent + host "No Limits" podcast

Steve Jones, VP General Manager ABC News Radio, Robin Roberts, GMA + host of "Everybody's Got Something" podcast, Rebecca Jarvis, Chief Business Correspondent + host "No Limits" podcast

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The overall theme for the conference - "Great minds think unalike"

The overall theme for the conference - "Great minds think unalike"

 

Podcasting certainly is having its moment, hailed for innovative content, its youthful demos, low commercial load environment that defies ad blockers and DVR forwarding along with effective host read ads.  

How were the radio sessions?  Of the over 270 sessions, there weren't any that I could find.   

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The New Radios

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Sometimes technological innovation takes away. Sometimes it gives.

Walk into any Best Buy and look for an AM/FM radio and it will be difficult to find one, but there are "new radios" right at the front of the store.  

Digital has changed so much of legacy media. The music business was famously rocked by theft and illegal sharing on platforms like Napster. The movie industry filed suit against VCR makers, but later made billions with VHS tapes, DVDs, and streaming video. Print publishers now reach more people than ever — but on digital platforms.

Today, television has evolved to a predominantly on-demand medium, having crossed the 50 percent threshold from live viewing a few years ago. People watch shows at a time of their choosing. 

So, where is commercial radio in the vortex of digital change? It is at a remarkable inflection point; streaming and mobile are becoming giants and forcing the rethink of AM/FM-only distribution strategies.  

Audio listening is growing, however, people are accessing and listening to audio on new devices that don't have AM/FM dials. 

The "new radios" in the front of the store are smartphones and smart speakers and how people listen to audio on them is different than linear AM/FM.   

People are accessing and listening to audio on new devices that don't have AM/FM dials

Since Marconi, commercial radio has been making content for one-time use — on the air and gone. According to multiple sources, less than 1% of commercial radio listening in PPM markets is to time-shifted audio. In an on-demand, Netflix-loving world, that doesn’t portend good things for radio.

According to Edison Research, 1 of every 5 minutes of audio is now heard on a smartphone — as streaming and podcasts become more popular, and in-car systems like Apple CarPlay proliferate, that number is certain to rise.

Smartphones have become audio entertainment hubs, not surprisingly, with the highest use among 18-34-year-olds. Anyone with millennials in their lives sees the generational shift and expectation with media to on-demand. 

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At the same time, another significant change is underway in millions of bedrooms, kitchens, and family rooms: “smart speakers,” led by Amazon’s Echo, are on fire. Over the years, radio has lost a great deal of at-home listening. With some imagination by commercial radio, smart speakers have the potential to increase at-home listening.

The category is so fertile, we partnered with Jacobs Media to create Sonic AI, a company that develops audio "skills" for smart speakers. Among the things people do most with smart speakers is listen to audio. That's great news.  The choices, however, are vast and far greater than the local radio dial - 100,000 radio stations, 400,000 podcasts and music and spoken-word content with low commercial loads, from services including Spotify, Amazon Music, and Pandora,  

This smart speaker audio "superstore" of choice, suggests that stations that simply "check the box" by putting their stream on the Amazon Echo and don't go any further will likely be disappointed and more significantly, miss out. The on-demand potential for these devices is significant. 

Every platform has distinct attributes, and just slapping broadcast content on smart speakers and smartphones is not going to be enough.

The biggest potential win is the opportunity to share great, curated “bite-size” content and to develop original, device-specific content to entice people to engage with smart speakers. Local TV news has done a masterful job of using the same newsroom that creates the 6 o’clock news to develop distinctive content specifically for mobile apps and now, smart speakers. We like that type of thinking, for smartphones and smart speakers. 

The "new radios" have opportunity written all over them: Most of the audience misses as much as 80 percent of a top-performing morning show’s content, so time-shifting top content is a natural fit. In PPM markets, content listened to within 24 hours is accretive to Nielsen ratings, effectively creating an opportunity for extra quarter-hours. That’s something radio has never had before.

Unlocking the potential of the "new radios" involves new strategies for each platform.

If you don’t believe me, just ask Alexa. 

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Things Apple's iPhone Helped Destroy

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Apple introduced its new iPhones yesterday including the iPhone X. On this 10th anniversary it's worth pausing for a moment to appreciate the tectonic change smartphones have made in our lives.  We now text, map, app, take selfies, talk to Siri, Shazam songs, run our calendars, listen to streamed audio, etc. - all on one extraordinary device. 

It is hard to believe that when I picked up my first iPhone in 2007, there wasn't even an app store.  At the time, getting weather and stocks instantly seemed remarkable.

In the same 10 year span, smartphones have been the catalyst to a huge path of business destruction - think Kodak and taxis.  

The New York Times has put together a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the wreckage.  And it all starts with a device that was ubiquitous to the success of the radio business, which is now mighty hard to find.  Watch the video below. More from the NY TIMES.

And oh yes; some things it did not destroy - it put rocket fuel into podcasting with a little purple app.

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Here is How Radio and Podcasting Work Together Magnificently

Steve Goldstein (L) and Kirk Minihane (R) at the Radio Show in Austin, TX.

Steve Goldstein (L) and Kirk Minihane (R) at the Radio Show in Austin, TX.

Podcasting has been both a trouble spot and curiosity for commercial radio.  While the sector is blowing up, commercial radio is responsible for less than 1% of the audio listened to in podcasting.  Part of the slow adoption is a concern among managers and programmers that on-demand audio will diminish the ratings eco-system so important to commercial radio.  In short, a fear the ratings will go down. 

At last week’s NAB/RAB Radio Show in Austin, I was invited to do a keynote on podcasting.  As part of the presentation, I had the good fortune to bring to the stage WEEI, Boston's Kirk Minihane.  In addition to co-hosting Kirk and Callahan, one of the top morning shows in Boston, he also hosts his own successful podcast Enough About Me.  Since its inception two years ago the podcast, which is released bi-weekly, has grown to an impressive 150,000 monthly downloads. 

One of the things which attracted Kirk to podcasting is the ability to break out beyond the restrictions of a fast-paced morning show. "I am not a huge fan of guests on the radio show" he said.  He wanted to be able to take his time and interview Boston sports and media stars in a less frenetic environment, and podcasting was the ideal vehicle. 

Minihane is a longtime podcast fan, listening to shows ranging from Marc Maron, podcasts about running, comedian Joe Rogan and Serial (first season) to David Axelrod many of which he listens to while running.  He notes that ads read by hosts sound better and "seem perfectly natural."  

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Minihane said the podcast was part of his vision during a contract negotiation and he received a great deal of support. "Management wanted this to happen" he told the crowd. WEEI General Manager Phil Zachary and Entercom VP of Digital Strategy, Tim Murphy spearheaded the venture's conceptualization and development plan with Kirk.  

Minihane told the crowd that the podcast is not an island.  He regularly plays segments from the podcast during the morning show.  For example, he had a contentious 10 minute interview segment with the Mets' Lenny Dykstra which made for great content on both platforms. Kirk said; "It's cross-promotion that wasn't available before."  

Answering the question about whether the podcast has siphoned listeners from on-air, he told the crowd that the podcast numbers continue to grow at the same time the morning show ratings have ascended.  In fact, the morning show has risen to the top spot in Boston over the past few months and part of that includes a rise of younger (25-34) listeners matching the younger profile of most podcasts.

Asked about whether the podcast attracts new listeners or they mostly come from the radio program, he felt that social media indicators showed that the podcast was exposing him to new listeners, and some who were not familiar with him on WEEI. 

Kirk's advice: “If you’re on the air and there’s something you’re passionate about that you don’t get to talk about on the air, do it. If you find a core loyal audience, advertisers will follow. And what I’ve found is that people who found the podcast didn’t know me on the radio, and then have tuned in there and liked what they hear.”

"Enough About Me" is a great audio brand extension for WEEI and a great tool in moving a top market talent onto multiple platforms.  

Congratulations to Kirk for the foresight and Entercom for the leadership.  It was a pleasure having him during the keynote session, Radio's New Strategies and New Platforms which I shared with Fred Jacobs.  Fred covered an important study his firm assembled about how radio can look better in the dashboard.  More coverage about both parts of the keynote here

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Radio's New Strategies and New Platforms tomorrow at the NAB/RAB Radio Show

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On Wednesday of this week at the NAB/RAB Radio Show in Austin, Fred Jacobs and I will lead a two-part headliner session.  

The car is going through significant change as an entertainment platform. Every new car has a lot more tech and more listening choices. Fred will reveal key findings from a recent NAB study on in-car presence which will be critical in protecting radio's in-car moat.

I'll follow by laying out the opportunity and strategies for commercial radio to make headway onto two major platforms - podcasting and smart speakers.  These are two important platforms for radio to master, and the time is now as more audio choices proliferate and compete for listener attention.

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I will have as special guest, Kirk Minihane from WEEI, Boston.  Kirk is co-host of the WEEI morning show and an early adopter to podcasting. His podcast is among the biggest original content shows coming from radio. His story is a great one and shows how talent can and should master multiple content platforms.

Join us for the "Fred and Steve Show, " tomorrow, September 6 at 4pm at The Radio Show.

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8 Takeaways From Podcast Movement

A full room of radio people at Jacobs Media hosted "Broadcasters Meets Podcasters" track

A full room of radio people at Jacobs Media hosted "Broadcasters Meets Podcasters" track

Three years ago there were seven people from the radio business at Podcast Movement. That's not hyperbole.  Along with public radio and hobbyists, there were only seven radio people.  I was one of them.  I was the first commercial broadcaster to speak at Podcast Movement. Three years later, it looks a lot different. A significant contingent from the radio business was at last week's conference, including several radio group heads. That says a lot about the rapid ascension of podcasting in general, and broadcasting specifically.  

Some of the major themes heard at Podcast Movement:

Invigorating, energetic, transformative, frightening, opportunity, dynamic ad-serving, lots of radio-people, commercialization, smart-speakers.

Here are 8 takeaways from the conference:

  • The industry is evolving rapidly – It was a cottage industry dominated by hobbyists, enthusiasts, small business and public radio.  Now we see well financed aggregators, radio networks, radio groups, publishers and investors.  Even Google was on hand.  
  • Young demos excited about audio - Sure, it's a YouTube video-centric generation, but most of Podcast Movement's 2,000 attendees are younger than a typical radio gathering and energized about audio storytelling and conversation.  There is an intimacy and authenticity about listening to podcasts unmatched in other media, which is clearly attractive to this demo.  Forbes Magazine ran a piece recently about millennials eschewing blogs for podcasts.  That feels evident here.  
  • There is money out there – No one could miss the investment in the category.  Just in the past couple of weeks Entercom announced its deal with DGital Media (now Cadence13), publisher platform Art19 attracted top investors.  More financial announcements are forthcoming. Even some of the smaller podcasters smell the scent of cents, spending time in sessions on subjects like "dynamic ad insertion." 
  • Radio was there in force – The “Broadcaster Meets Podcaster” track assembled by Jacobs Media was packed. Seeing some radio group heads on hand was encouraging.  It finally feels as though there is some traction, but commercial radio has a great deal of catching up to do.  BTW, I will be discussing radio's path to podcasting during a keynote at the upcoming Radio Show in Austin.  

The hallmark of podcasting is the innovative content and fresh ideas that come from fertile minds not bound by linear thinking and structure

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  • There is energy in new content ideas – The hallmark of podcasting is the innovative content and fresh ideas that come from fertile minds not bound by linear thinking and structure.  I listened to and met people who are fearless in creating something that hasn’t been done before. I met with a guy who runs an HVAC business in Florida and married his knowledge with podcasting.  His podcast has rapidly ascended to must-listen status in his industry and along with it, he has attracted sponsors from major HVAC vendors. He is bringing in dollars that would be the envy of any radio organization.
  • Public Radio’s leadership is unmistakable – They continue to lead in content, sales and thinking. Listening to Dean Cappello from WNYC, New York and Tamar Charney from NPR detail the thought, planning, R&D, resources and iteration behind their efforts is incredibly impressive.  I have been told that podcasting now out bills broadcast at WNYC.  When you think about it that way, you can see why the effort is so significant. Jennifer Ferro, President of public giant KCRW, Los Angeles was on a panel I moderated entitled “What Radio Execs Think of Podcasting.” Jennifer said they use their podcast platform of 28 titles to introduce KCRW to younger listeners, many of whom do not listen over the terrestrial signal. They are using their voice effectively on multiple platforms. 
  • Teach – There is an openness and collegiality of sharing.  Conversations abound about best-practices and content ideas that is characteristic of an early-stage industry.  There is a sense that everyone is on a common journey. 
  • Content creators are data-starved – It’s hard operating in the blind. At previous Podcast Movement conferences, there was little data to share or inform. This year Larry Rosin and Tom Webster of Edison Research headlined a keynote with well received podcast data.  My company teamed up with Nuvoodoo Media for a well attended session in which we debuted new data and video excerpts of 1-on-1 focus interviews with millennials (details forthcoming).  These were the industry’s first significant studies. 

Podcast Movement was once again inspiring and exhilarating.  As Alex Blumberg said at last year's conference, "it's the second golden age of audio."   It sure feels that way.  

Here is coverage from All Access

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I will be speaking on podcasting and smart speakers at a headliner session entitled: Radio's New Strategies and New Platforms on Wednesday at 4pm at the Radio Show.  My special guest will be Kirk Minihane of WEEI, Boston who has brilliantly combined morning radio with a succesful podcast.   

 

 

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To Make a Successful Podcast, Start With These Eight Essential Questions

According to Apple, there are now over 400,000 podcast titles out there. Last I looked there were 35 on the subject of woodworking and over 40 on fly fishing. So, as you think about selecting a topic and leaping in to develop your own podcast, there are some critical questions which jump ahead of which mic to use.

Good product design always starts with the end user in mind. I didn't know I needed a new blender, but Ninja made a great case. Same goes with podcasting. If your podcast doesn't provide a clear perceived benefit and value right from the start, the chance of garnering a following is pretty limited. 

We have too many conversations without solid answers to these core questions

Content that resonates with listeners successfully answers these 8 key litmus test questions:

  • What is the podcast about? - What is the elevator pitch?
  • Why this podcast? - You could pick lots of subjects.  Why this topic? Knowledge?  Authority?  Credibility?
  • Why this podcast now? - Has something changed in the world, showbiz, news-cycle, to make the timing right?
    • What makes this podcast different/unique? - What is the fresh take?
    • What makes this podcast better than others in the category?
    • People click on podcasts with an expectation - What will they feel during/after listening?
      • What will they learn? 
      • How will it make them feel? 
      • Will they smile? Laugh? Cry? Think? 
    • Who is going to listen to this podcast?  - Who is the target listener?  Age?  Location?  
    • How will the podcast be discovered? - Social?  Broadcast? Print? What is the promotion catalyst? Frequency of cross-marketing?

    Many broadcasters are now looking to get into podcasting. We applaud that. We, however, have a lot of conversations without solid answers to these core questions, which in our view, will often impede success.

    A version of this ran in my column at All Access

    HOW PEOPLE REALLY LISTEN TO PODCASTS 

    At Podcast Movement in Anaheim we have teamed with Nuvoodoo Media to present the findings of a series of breakthrough one-on-one focus groups with millennials. This first-ever series covers many topics including:

    • How many podcasts are they really listening to per week?
    • Where are they listening to podcasts?
    • What impact do the ads have?
    • Which podcasts do they listen to?
    • How do they find new podcasts?
    • Do they listen all the way through a podcast?
    • And more ..... 

    Thursday, August 24, 11am - watch the trailer:

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    Just because you can drop an F'bomb in a podcast .....

    At last week's Morning Show Bootcamp in Atlanta, it was exciting to see so much young talent on their way up, honing their craft, taking notes, exploring and exchanging fresh content ideas. Goodness knows commercial radio needs to move past "The Almost Impossible Trivia Question" to remain relevant and vital as more audio choices proliferate. 

    Many, if not most, attendees pay their own way to the conference which makes the event even more remarkable.  

    There was, however, one troubling moment I have not been able to get out of my head.  

    It occurred during a very good panel I was on, which covered among other things, podcasting and smart speakers.  We polled the room and found many had started podcasts.  A terrific and quantum change from two years ago.  Several, however, told us they chose to augment their normal over-the-air morning show with an "extra" podcast show that is unfiltered and blue.

    That might seem "exciting" and "dangerous" for broadcasters who must adhere to FCC regulations for over-the-air content, but going blue is hardly novel and hardly dangerous.  Watch YouTube. 

    While Howard Stern still drops an F'bomb here and there, and it fits his brand image, the novelty wore off a long time ago.  Stern is great because of compelling content, with our without, the bombs.  

    Taking an established brand and augmenting it with a couple of "dick jokes" feels lazy and not likely to move the needle for podcast listening. There are over 400,000 podcast titles out there and plenty have some edge to them.  

    As radio hosts think about a podcast strategy, it should be driven with thoughts of developing great, fresh and unique local content. BJ Shea from KISW, Seattle has a podcast called Geek Nation where he and his team spend time on gaming, tech, gadgets, board games and comics.  It's something his daily show can't easily accommodate, and is a great brand extension, especially in hi-tech Seattle (and beyond).   

    There were many great podcast ideas, like Geek Nation, shared at the conference. 

    As radio hosts think about a podcast strategy, it should be driven with thoughts of developing great, fresh and unique local content.

    Long term success in all media is driven by topic knowledge, passion and authenticity.  Asking people to make the effort to find and download a podcast is not likely to occur without a clear listener benefit.  

    We have many conversations with broadcasters looking to add a podcast, and some have difficulty answering these deceptively hard key questions (we have more, but this is where we start):

    • What is the podcast about? - What's the elevator pitch?  
    • Who is going to listen to the podcast? - Is the station's current audience the target or reaching beyond?  Age?  Interests?  
    • Why should they listen? - What will they learn?  How will they feel? How will they benefit?

    The success bar in podcasting is high. Most content creators will not win by lowering the bar, but rather by innovating with fresh and compelling ideas.  

    Many of the people attending last week's Morning Show Bootcamp have the innate talent and ability, if it can be channeled and developed. It is harder than it seems.  

    Podcast is different than broadcast and many are learning that simply checking "the box" by posting a podcast probably won't be enough.  

    Original content is what moves the needle.  


    At the upcoming Podcast Movement, we have teamed with Nuvoodoo Media to present the findings of a series of breakthrough one-on-one focus groups with millennials. This first-ever series covers many topics including:

    1. How many podcasts per week?
    2. Where do they listen?
    3. What impact do the ads have?
    4. Which podcasts do they listen to?
    5. How do they find new podcasts
    6. Do they listen all the way through a podcast

    Thursday August 24, 11am - HOW PEOPLE REALLY LISTEN TO PODCASTS.   Watch the trailer:

     

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