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The New Morning Shows: BuzzFeed in the Morning

Where audio content originates and how it is listened to are rapidly shifting.  Earlier this year, The New York Times began “The Daily,” a 20-minute morning show which has been ripping up the podcast charts.  It was followed shortly by NPR’s morning podcast entry “Up First,” designed to reach NPR listeners who prefer accessing content on-demand.

The latest morning show is a four-minute daily roundup from “Buzzfeed.  Reporting To You,” takes things a step further with Amazon’s Alexa in mind.  Instead of push notifications, newsletters or even podcasts, the BuzzFeed audience can now just ask for the morning’s top news on their smart speaker from a trusted source with a fresh take.

“We wanted to make something that stood out, sounded different and most importantly – sounded human," said Eleanor Kagan who is director of audio for BuzzFeed News.

While available on Amazon’s Echo, it is also published in podcast form.

Savannah Sellers taping Snapchat's "Stay Tuned"

Savannah Sellers taping Snapchat's "Stay Tuned"

BuzzFeed’s announcement closely coincides with a new twice-daily Snapchat news show in partnership with NBC News.  It is a two to three minute highly produced morning and evening news program published at 7am and 4pm.  

Nick Ascheim, head of digital at NBC News said; "We’re certainly walking before we’re running, but we’re actually sort of jogging before we’re running.” The show, "Stay Tuned" is a compendium of four or five of the top stories of the day and has a crew of 30 creating the daily program.  

Snapchat reaches nine times more 18-34 year-olds in the U.S. than the top 15 TV networks.  NBC already has a successful Snapchat show about The Voice.  E! has a program called “The Rundown” which draws about 7 million viewers.

BuzzFeed, of course, is a millennial monster.  

It is not difficult to see where this is going and the implications for broadcast radio.

Morning shows used to be the exclusive domain of radio, but platforms now enable "new competitors" who don't own a broadcast transmitter, to reach a mass audience.

These are big content creators pushing beyond their silos and developing programming on multiple platforms to extend their brand and reach.

Audio is having a moment as an exciting platform for big companies to create new content and interesting morning alternatives.

Good morning. 

 

Happy to be appearing with this all-star crew at Morning Show Bootcamp in August

Happy to be appearing with this all-star crew at Morning Show Bootcamp in August

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Webinar Replay: Changes to Radio Listening in the Home

Earlier this week, Amplifi and Jacobs Media joined forces to present a webinar about how smartphones, podcasts and smart speaker devices are impacting listening in the home.  We have had requests for a replay, so here it is:

 Click the link below for the replay of the webinar which offers thoughts and recommendations.

Steve Goldstein

 

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Why Radio Needs To Get Voice Assist Speakers Right

Today, television is primarily an on-demand medium, having crossed the 50% threshold from "live" a few years ago. People watch shows at a time of their choosing. 

Commercial radio has not yet mastered time-shifted audio. According to Nielsen, listening to time-shifted commercial radio in PPM markets is less than 1%.

All of that is poised for change as smartphones become entertainment hubs and millions of smart speakers make their way into bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens across America.

Radio can now more easily be consumed at a time of convenience on a device of the listener's choosing. 

In a fragmented listening world, new devices and platforms are a remarkable opportunity for audience retention for radio in ways that could never have been done before, and it opens the door to the possibility of increased occasions of listening. 

At-home radio listening has declined significantly and radios are sitting in closets and attics. But with 11% of Americans already having access to smart speakers, and 27 million due to be sold this year, as we like to say, smart speakers put radios back into the home. 

These devices are hot.  This past week Amazon held it's Prime Day and blew the doors off of last year's sales of Amazon Echo and Dots.  Three times as many sold.

Along with the excellent folks at Jacobs Media, we recently started SonicAi, a joint venture focused on developing "skills" for smart speakers. 

Here are some things to think about:

1.     Being there is not an automatic win - Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora and thousands of radio stations from around the world are a simple voice command away. That means it is crowded and stations need to think about how they will distinguish themselves. 

2.     What's your name? - Smart speaker systems default to Tune-In, and iHeart, but for your station to be selected, the devices must be able to differentiate station names. There are 55 stations named "Kiss" on iHeart, and 44 named "Mix" on Tune-in. If your station uses a name such as Mix, Lite, Amp, Star, or Z104, "claiming" and registering the station's unique name and creating the proper "invocation skill" is critically important. On Amazon's Echo, if you said "Z100," up until recently, you were connected to a country station in Indiana. 

3.     Think beyond the stream - We are content guys and we don't think the station stream is necessarily the big win on these devices. There is a significant opportunity to create interactive engagement with listeners. 80% of a top performing morning show's content is missed every day. We are working with clients on the vast opportunity to re-think and repurpose "bite-size" benchmark content and create exclusive content for smart speakers to drive traffic. 

4.     It's accretive - If your station is in a PPM market and time-shifted content is listened to within 24 hours, it can mean extra quarter hours for your station. Delayed viewing in TV is accretive and now radio has a time delay strategy.  

5.     Think "bite-size" content - With podcasting, we see stations posting 3 and 4 hours of content and hoping listeners will sift through it. That's a pretty horrible experience. We think curated "bite-size" content works much better in this environment. 

It is truly early innings with these remarkable devices and more (including Apple Homepod) on the way. The arc and expectation of listeners - especially millennials - is that great content be available at a time of convenience on all platforms. We are hyper-focused on getting radio stations past sending all their best content out over the air and on its way to the dwarf planet Pluto. Sometimes technology disrupts, in this case it is poised to aid broadcasting. 

You can see more at http://www.sonicai.com/

 

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The Shiny New Thing: Smart Speakers In Homes Result In More Audio Listening

If you are an audio content producer, the most important thing you should know about the ascension of smart speakers is this; smart speakers in homes result in more audio listening.  A change in overall consumption and listening behavior is the most significant finding from a major new study from Edison Research and NPR.  The Smart Audio study debuted at the RAIN Podcast Business Summit this week. 

Smart speakers are showing up in family rooms and living rooms (52%), kitchens (25%) and bedrooms (24%).  In many cases, places where radios or other audio devices did not exist before or had been relegated to the basement - one interviewee said she gave her radios away.  

Tom Webster, Vice President, Edison Research

Tom Webster, Vice President, Edison Research

Podcasts get a great boost from these devices, with 70% of smart speaker owners listening versus 45% of non-owners.

If the top takeaway is more audio being consumed, the next are the giant themes of ease of use, choice and time saving

If the top take away is more audio being consumed, the next takeaways are the giant themes of ease of use, choice, and time saving. Edison VP, Tom Webster noted that much like the old Star Trek TV series, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, these devices mark the start of the era of talking to computers. Apple's Siri was the first iteration, but smart speakers remove the need to put a thumb on a device. The magic of just using voice to execute commands was clear throughout the video interviews with users during the presentation. One woman was calling up music while holding a newborn, kids chose music to dance to, a man asked for sports scores, another added to a grocery list. 

Will these devices be the shiny new thing that ends up in a drawer like a fidget spinner?  The study shows how rapidly smart speakers are being integrated into everyday life which suggests this is not a fad. In fact, 45% of owners expect to purchase another device and many households already have more than one.  65% wouldn't go back to their life before the smart speaker.

All of this amounts to another burgeoning and critical platform in this golden age of audio, that extends beyond the radio. New audio opportunity awaits.  Mastering it with distinctive content among a cornucopia of choice and instant gratification will be the challenge for audio producers.  

We post more about "skills" development for smart speakers at www.sonicai.com 

Edison/NPR have a webinar on June 28 with the full presentation.  Well worth it.  

 

Pleased to be at Morning Show Bootcamp this August in Atlanta

Pleased to be at Morning Show Bootcamp this August in Atlanta

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The Biggest Thing to Happen to Podcasts Since Serial Just Happened.

The new Podcasts App will look more like Apple's Music app

The new Podcasts App will look more like Apple's Music app

Today’s world is loaded with things people have said were improbable – see 2016 election - and then there is the impossible. Those with a history in podcasting have said Apple will never share data on when and how long people listen to podcasts. 

Another ‘impossible” tumbles. 

Last week at Apple’s developer conference, they announced that its Podcasts App gets a big, and much needed refresh this fall with IOS 11.

Along with significant design changes, finally Apple will open up in-episode analytics enabling content producers to see when and how long people listen – what they skip over and importantly if/when they bail out. 

Sample Analytics shown at WWDC17

Sample Analytics shown at WWDC17

Up until now, Apple, which accounts for around 70% of all podcast consumption, provided sketchy download information which did not correlate to actual listening. Producers knew how many times a podcast was downloaded but no data on what was actually listened to. 

The advent of analytics will likely result in change for many podcasters by revealing real listening behavior. They will finally see what listeners like, and conversely, dislike and creators will be able to fine-tune the content accordingly. 

Apple's new analytics are likely to be a wake-up call for many producers and possibly a reset in the advertising community

The data will be aggregated and anonymized so no personal information is revealed. This means podcasters, or podcast advertisers, won’t be able to create addressable targeted content to individuals or groups.  That is the expectation from other digital media platforms such as Facebook or YouTube, but unlikely to happen with Apple having no monetary play in podcasting.  It will, however, provide much needed currency, ROI and a bunch of other things advertisers have been looking for in order to justify and shift more dollars into this hot sector. 

Sample analytics shown at WWDC17

Sample analytics shown at WWDC17

For years, commercial and public radio have tweaked their content in response to listening patterns. Apple's new analytics are likely to be a wake-up call for many producers and possibly a reset in the advertising community, answering questions about whether ads are heard or skipped, when shows are stopped and a much needed resolution for many podcasters as to how long their podcast should be.  

Who's listening to all this stuff? We are about to find out.  

Apple is not the entire market for podcasting, so it will not be the final word on all listening. Given its dominance, however, the data will likely be used as a proxy for the business.  

This surprise announcement sets the stage for the next phase of podcasting. More data is good.  

At the developer conference, Apple announced that there are now 400,000 podcasts and 14 million episodes.  Apple is approving 1,000 new podcasts each week.  Wow.  Who's listening to all this stuff?  We are about to find out.    

I will be moderating a session with iHeart morning host Elvis Duran and VP of podcasting for iHeart, Chris Peterson at the upcoming RAIN Podcast Business Summit on June 21.

 

 

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New Amplifi Media Podcast Infographic

Podcasting continues to grow. Here is a handy downloadable Amplifi infographic we put together with some of the latest podcast stats.  Enjoy. Thanks to Edison Research/Triton Digital for the great work they do.   

This August at Podcast Movement, we are joining with Nuvoodoo Media to present a first-of-its-kind video focus group study of real podcast listeners. Where do they listen? How long? Which apps? What turns them off?  What turns them on? How do they discover podcasts?  More details forthcoming.

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Why Can't Music Be Played In Podcasts?

Among the most frequent questions I am asked about podcasting is why music can't easily be licensed and played. I roll into some general legal mumbo jumbo about mechanical recording fees, publisher rights and other arcane music rights issues.  But enough of that.  Lets talk directly to someone who knows.  David Oxenford is a partner in the Washington law firm Wilkinson, Barker, Knauer, LLP.  David is well known in broadcast circles and has a long history working with media companies on a wide array of issues.  He also represents webcasters and digital media companies on copyright, music licensing and other regulatory issues.    

Steve: Why is podcasting different from streaming and what's blocking podcasters from playing music?

David: The difference is the rights that are involved.  Streaming involves the “public performance right.”  There are organizations in place to collect public performance royalties that cover both the musical compositions and the recorded songs.  For streaming, if you pay ASCAP, BMI and SESAC - and now GMR - you pretty much have the public performance rights to all musical compositions - also called the “musical work” – the words and notes of a song.  If you pay SoundExchange, you get the rights to publicly perform all the recorded songs legally released to the public in the United States.  With the rights to publicly perform the musical compositions and the sound recordings, you have what you need to do an Internet radio-type of streaming operation. 

Podcasts, though, are not viewed as public performances.  Instead of transmitting programming like a radio station, a podcast is viewed as a recording of the program – listeners are making copies of the podcast program onto their smartphone or tablet.  Under the Copyright Act, a recording does not involve the public performance right, but instead the right to make “reproductions” of the musical work and the sound recording. As the music is combined in a podcast with words and other sounds in the recording, it also invokes another right of the copyright holder to authorize “synch rights” or “master use rights."  To get any of these rights, you need to go directly to the copyright holders – usually the publishers for the musical works and the record companies for the sound recording – and negotiate for each song that you want to use.

Instead of transmitting programming like a radio station, a podcast is viewed as a recording of the program – listeners are making copies of the podcast program onto their smartphone or tablet.

Steve: Is there a path in the works that would change this for podcasters?

David: There's no nice easy way to get a license for podcast rights.  There is no place where you can pay one fee to a collection society or some sort of clearing house to get all the rights that you need to an unlimited amount of music.  There are a few online companies that try to match rights holders and users.  There are other sites that provide a user a price list to acquire the rights to use certain songs for certain defined purposes.  But these sites often offer rights only to independent releases, not the hits that you’d hear on the radio. Maybe one day someone will come up with a simplified system of clearing these rights to the “hits” for podcast uses, but I don’t know of one that exists now. 

Steve: I'm often asked about whether there is a right to use short clips of audio like 20 seconds, is there any such thing?

David: There is concept of what's called “fair use” where you can use a limited amount of a copyrighted work without specific permission of the copyright holder.  However, fair use comes with all sorts of caveats, and there are no simple formulas like “20 seconds is OK.”  There simply are no hard and fast rules as to what constitutes fair use.  Every time I talk about digital music rights, I make clear that there is no fair use exception for a use that constitutes only thirty seconds of a song (or even five seconds, ten seconds or twenty seconds). It is a myth that if you use only one of those limited amounts of a song you cannot get in trouble.

There are no simple formulas like “20 seconds is OK.”

Instead, a fair use analysis depends on a number of different factors.  One factor is the amount of the work used, but that is just one factor.  Another factor is the type of use.  If the clip is used in a commercial message, it is unlikely to ever be fair use.  But if it is used in a news report or in an educational program, there may be a better argument depending on the other factors.  Another factor to consider is whether the claimed “fair use” interferes with the ability of the copyright holder to monetize the work - for instance, if you are using the song as part of a produced intro that airs each week at the start of your podcast, that is the kind of music that an artist can be paid to produce, so it is unlikely to be seen as a fair use. 

All of these factors are weighed on a case-by-case basis to see if it is a fair use, and you may not know for sure until you are sued and a judge makes the decision.  But some uses are more likely to be seen as a fair use.  Commentary and criticism is a traditional area where fair use is often found.  If, for instance, you're doing a concert review or a review of a new album and you play short snippet of a song and talk about the guitar riff or the texture of the vocals or the meaning of particular lyrics, and you're just using enough of their song to illustrate the point that you're making, that is more likely to be fair use.  But I’ve seen cases where a podcaster in a music review uses too much of the song, and the copyright holder has complained.  There simply are no bright line tests as to when a use is a “fair use” and when it can get you into trouble. 

Steve: There are hundreds of thousands of smaller podcasts that average just a couple of hundred downloads and there is a notion that they are so small that no one is going to listen or find that they are playing music.

David: In connection with any sort of copyright violation you always hear that argument. You may think “If I do it, no one is ever going to notice and I'm never going to get caught.” But, while your podcast may only have a few people listening at first, if it goes viral and is heard by thousands of people - which presumably is what every podcaster is hoping for -  a rights holder can find out about the unauthorized use.  And even if you just have a small audience, if the wrong person hears it, you may get a demand letter or some other claim for compensation.

Steve: What type of money are we talking about here?

David: There is this concept under the Copyright Act called “Statutory Damages.”  That means that the copyright holder does not need to be able to prove that they were actually damaged by your use of their music.  All they have to prove is that you infringed on their rights, and they can be entitled to collect damages. A court looks at the infringement and can assess damages of anywhere from $500 to $150,000 per infringed song. Noncommercial users who were acting in good faith end up at the lower end of the scale.  Commercial companies, who knew that they needed rights and just didn’t bother to obtain them, end up owing higher damages. 

Steve: I haven't read a lot about podcast infringement but I assume that as podcasting becomes more of a thing, infringement would become more of the thing.

David: I think that's exactly right. As you get more big name podcasters and big name players doing podcasts, you're more likely to see these kinds of lawsuit develop.  We’ve recently seen a rash of cases where photographers have come after broadcasters for use of photographs on broadcasters’ webpages without permission. There are a number of lawyers who specialize in these photography cases, and they troll the Internet looking for infringement.  While we have not seen that yet for music in podcasts, it certainly could happen – and no podcaster wants to be the test case. 

If you are considering taking your morning show and putting it into a podcast format, take the comedy bits - don't take the music.

Steve: What about radio stations repurposing their broadcast content to podcasts? 

David: None of the traditional licensing fees for broadcasting (like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC) cover podcasting.  If you are considering taking your morning show and putting it into a podcast format, take the comedy bits - don't take the music.

Steve: And I would assume the same thing is true if a radio station is doing original podcast content.

David: That's correct.  Most of the more established podcasters are commissioning original music specifically written and recorded for the podcast.  Find a local band or musician, have them record their own music for your podcast, and pay them some money.  Get an agreement in writing where the musician agrees to license their rights to your podcast, just so that no questions arise down the road.  And make sure that the local musician is playing their own songs – no covers of songs written by someone else – as even the rights to the musical composition must be cleared.

Steve: What makes sense going forward? 

David: I would like to see a platform created where a company that wants to do a podcast can come to one place and easily buy the rights that it needs to include specific songs in its programming.  I have talked to a couple of companies that are looking at creating platforms where at least some songs are available at set prices.  I hope that this kind of platform develops in a big way to ease licensing. It would benefit both the podcaster who can eliminate the licensing risks and the music rights holders who can get a new stream of revenue. 

Steve: David, really helpful.  So for now, there is no easy path to having general music in podcasts.

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You can follow David's excellent posts at Broadcast Law Blog

 

 

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Podcasts' Need For Speed

Plenty has been written recently about the ideal length for a podcast. Quick answer: some are too long, some are way too long and some are fine. You can go back to my previous blogs for views on that.

A recent conversation about podcast length with Edison Research President, Larry Rosin yielded a different tack. Larry is an avid podcast listener and I wondered how he consumed so many. 

He was kind enough to pen some thoughts for Blogstein:

Over the last few months there has been a spate of opinions put forth on what is the ‘ideal’ length of a podcast.  I would like to inject a new variable into the discussion – speed.

I consume an enormous number of podcasts, and many people can’t understand how I fit them all in.  My main trick is that I listen to one category of podcasts using the 1.5X speed option on my iPhone.  That’s right – I listen at 50% higher speed than the recording.

Now – I don’t do this for all podcasts. I do this for what I refer to as “banter-casts” – that dominant category of podcasts which consist of two or more people talking among themselves in an unscripted fashion.  And I don’t listen at 1.5X speed just to get through them faster – I enjoy them much more at this speed.  You should try this.  It turns out that many people speak at a pace that is vastly below what your ear and brain can follow; speeding them up actually improves the sound.

"I listen at 50% higher speed than the recording" 

For instance, I love Bill Simmons, but man he speaks slowly.  Now, he sounds ‘wrong’ to me when I hear him at ‘normal’ speed.  He sounds great at 1.5X.

If someone speaks quickly, it can at times be hard to follow at 1.5X.  Probably the perfect speed for ‘banter-casts’ is more in the 1.3X range.  But almost no one sounds better at real speed than they do at 1.5X.

Meanwhile, there are the ‘cinemacasts’ – scripted dramas and other highly produced podcasts such as RadioLab or This American Life etc.  I’ve tried, and for me these don’t work at a higher speed.  Doubtlessly this is because they have been so ruthlessly edited in the first place.  There is no empty space and speeding up just ruins them.  (Maybe they could handle a little speeding – but not 1.5X.)

So – a couple of thoughts: 

  1. If you produce a banter-cast, maybe you should consider pitching your shows up?  Send it out at 1.25X or 1.3X – whatever sounds best on a listen.  You may find you have just created a better-sounding, more vital show.  And to be sure you’ve created a shorter one!
  2. My ideal player would allow for more variable speeds.  There are probably shows that would still sound good at 1.7X, but more to the point I’d love to have 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4X available.

Speeding up one’s podcasts probably is not for everyone.  But this is something we all should be experimenting with.  For me, 1.5X has changed my entire perspective on this medium for the better.  I get more enjoyment in less time.  How long is my ideal podcast?  For the ‘banter-casts’ that I like…it’s 2/3rds of their original length!

Larry Rosin is the President of Edison Research.  Edison works with Fortune 500 companies, countless media companies including numerous podcast and streaming related businesses, and since 2003 has been the sole provider of election exit poll information for the top networks and newspapers.  

 

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From Broadcaster To Podcaster

This post originally ran as a part of my AM/FM/PODCAST column in All Access

Mike Carruthers had a syndicated radio show for 37 years that faded.  Now he has a breakout top 50 podcast.

For 37 years Mike Carruthers hosted a successful 90 second syndicated radio feature carried by top radio stations of all formats across the country including WBZ Boston, KOMO Seattle, KXLY Spokane, WJRZ, Rochester and WNNC Charlotte, but in recent years, station clearances dropped and subsequently revenue dwindled.

So, after over 9000 episodes, Mike ended the radio show.  And like so many other radio programs, that might have been the end.  However, Mike reinvented the feature, and it is now a top 50 podcast.

I spoke with him about the reinvention of “Something You Should Know:”

Podcasts are different from broadcasts — you have done both.  What are the biggest differences?

The big difference starts at the listener experience. Since a listener proactively choses a podcast, he or she is more invested than a radio listener who listens to whatever happens to be on. So there isn’t as much need to dazzle and keep the listener from leaving because he or she made the appointment in the first place. So as a producer, my focus is on the content – not so much about what’s coming up and giving reasons for listeners to stick around. If the content is good, they’ll stay.

Also, podcasting is more relaxed. I guess because it’s recorded and you can always go back and edit or do it over – and things don’t have to time out perfectly. It’s not as “strict” as radio.  Frankly I think it is more fun to do a podcast. I can be myself and take my time. I really enjoy the freedom.

But there are a lot of similarities which is why I wish more radio people would get into podcasting. 

How does your podcast differ from the radio feature in construction/length?  

The two are very different.

The radio feature is exactly 90 seconds and runs five days a week. The podcast is 30-40 minutes- twice weekly. For the radio show, I find 3 or 4 “nuggets” that the guest says and write my part around it. For the podcast, I use the entire interview with a little editing. Also, the podcast typically contains 2 guests and some other interesting “intel.” The two are very different.

Also, the network commercials in the radio show are sold by United Stations and I never hear them – they are inserted at the distribution point. For the podcast, all the commercials are read by me and are typically endorsement-style commercials.

Why not just take the short form content you have already assembled and put it into podcast form?  

I actually did that. It ran for many years on iTunes. I never really knew what to do with it. All the experts said there was no real market for a 90 second podcast – it is just too short. For people to go to the trouble to download and listen to something that only lasts a minute and a half seemed to be asking a lot. I guess I believed them so I never really tried to do much with it. When I decided to launch the long-form podcast I pulled the short form version from iTunes so there was no confusion. 

Who did the radio show target? Who does the podcast target?

That’s an interesting question – because the real answer, from a producer point of view is, that the radio show targeted program directors and the podcast targets listeners. The only way I could get my radio show heard was to design and produce a radio show that PDs would accept. In the early days that was a lot easier. And in those days we had a lot more music stations so the audience was split 50/50 male and female. We still have a few music stations, but it is harder to attract new affiliates.

The radio show has always been sold to advertisers as primarily a 25-54 program. For the podcast, I am trying to go a little younger. Wondery, the podcast network we are affiliated with, conducted an opt-in survey (so not that scientific) but they found our audience skewed female – and younger than the radio show.

Why did the radio show run out of gas? 

The network radio business just isn’t what it used to be. There is a lot of downward pressure on ad rates and there just isn’t the advertiser demand there once was. It has gotten so hard to acquire new affiliates – and, over time every show loses affiliates. As a result, the audience declines, the revenue declines and it continues to spiral downward. I was making far less than I used to. It is hard to watch the decline when there really isn’t any hope of it coming back. It was time to pull the plug.

People in radio think there is no little or money in podcasting.  It sounds like you would disagree.  

Oh my! There is a lot of money in podcasting and more and more advertisers keep showing up.  For now, it is mostly direct response advertisers – but the cost per thousand rate advertisers pay is MUCH higher in podcasting than radio. There are a lot of people making a lot of money in podcasting. Sure, most people who have a podcast don’t make money but most people with a YouTube channel don’t make money either. If you can attract an audience you can’t help but make money. Anyone who says there is no money in podcasting doesn’t understand the math. 

What does Wondery do for you?  

They do a couple of things really well. Hernan Lopez, the CEO is one of the smartest guys I know when it comes to the business aspects of podcasting. I learn something every time I talk with him. Wondery is very good at selling advertising. They have great relationships with the ad agencies and are constantly developing new ones. In a sense, they work much like a radio network like Westwood One or Premiere. They represent podcasts to advertisers. Also, all the shows under their banner help each other with cross promotion. They have a good relationship with Apple which enables their podcasts to get on the “feature” page on iTunes which is very valuable real estate and drives a lot of new listening.

What kind of traffic/downloads are you getting? 

When we started, I was getting 10 -100 downloads a day. Frankly it was discouraging. But I kept at it – along with the help of my partner Ken Williams who was one of the founders of Dial Global Radio Networks (later Westwood One). He is also one very smart media guy and we kept trying things and experimenting and after about 4 months made onto the Top 100 chart of all podcasts on iTunes. That was a game changer. 

Now, 8 months after launching we’ve gone from 100 downloads a day to an average of over 8,000 downloads a day and our audience has grown by a one-third every month since Dec..

What are the top factors in people discovering your podcast?

Getting on the iTunes chart was the biggest thing. But before we got there, we were just doing the standard promotion with the key being consistency. I can see why people give up on podcasting because it is hard to keep at it on those days when it doesn’t seem like it is working. Having guests promote their appearance on social media has been very helpful. But it isn’t like there is one magic way to promote. It’s doing a lot of little things consistently that grows the audience over time. 

Advice for other long time radio people thinking about podcasting and other platforms?  

There’s a learning curve. While podcasting is similar to radio, there is a lot to learn.  But I certainly think it is worth the effort. With radio talent employment opportunities dwindling, doing a podcast seems like a natural transition for radio people. I have a training program for people who are seriously interested. You can find information at: http://www.perfectyourpodcast.com/platinum-training/

Frankly I would love to see more commercial radio people in podcasting. The skills and talents radio people have developed are exactly the ones that so many non-radio podcasters struggle with. For example, the ability to project a personality, to interview and draw people out, to add production value, to use your voice to convey emotion, to be brief and get to the point, etc.

Like many people, I always considered myself a “radio guy.” Radio is all I have ever done since I was 16. But sometimes progress dictates change. I am thankful I found podcasting because it uses the skills and talents I have used for years in radio while allowing me to grow in a whole new medium. 

Congratulations to Mike.  I’m not sure whether it was foresight or necessity that was the driving force, but reinvention is often a necessity in the entertainment business.  And, hey, it’s still audio … in this case, just not emanating from a transmitter. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Raise Your voice: Seven Top Questions About Voice Assistant Devices

We teamed up with Jacobs Media a few weeks ago to launch Sonic Ai, a company focused on developing skills and strategies for the new exploding category of voice assistant devices.

Not surprisingly, there is a great deal of interest in the radio business regarding these devices. The potential for radio is significant as it brings "radios" back into the home.  

We returned recently from presentations and meetings at the NAB, and The World-Wide Radio Summit.  We have also been on a series of conference calls with radio stations and groups.  Here are seven of the top questions we are being asked:

Are these things really a big deal?

Like a rocket ship.  They will grow 130% this year.  It’s one of the fastest electronic product introductions in history. Somewhere between 7 and 11% of Americans already have access to these devices. Analysts expect 27 million to be sold by the end of this year.  Microsoft just announced their “Cortana” device and Apple is expected to enter shortly. 

Very funny parody which ran on SNL Saturday 5/13/17

You know you have made it into the mainstream when Saturday Night Live does a parody:

Why is this good for radio?

It is becoming harder to find radios in the home.  The younger the individual, the less likely they are to have a radio where they live. We have seen various studies including Jacobs Techsurvey ’13 and Edison Research’s Infinite Dial which estimate over 30% of millennials don’t have a radio at home. Just walk into any Best Buy and see if you can find radios, or clock radios.    

On the other hand, voice assistant devices are at the front of the store and end up in bedrooms, family rooms and kitchens.   

Effectively, this puts a radio back in the home.  But it also puts Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music and every other radio station stream one simple voice-request away.  So, while we love the idea of radio back in the home, we don’t think having a stream of the station is an automatic win.

What do people do on these devices?

Topping the list is audio, from various sources including streaming services, podcasts and radio stations.  People love to ask questions, get the news, check sports scores, turn on lights and more options appear seemingly daily.

Who are using these things?

Unlike many devices which start young, this one has pretty broad appeal.  However, it’s centered with millennials (18-34). 

On the Amazon Echo, the system defaults to Tune-in, so why do we need you guys?

We knew you would ask that one.  Try your station and see if the Amazon or Google devices find it.  It works pretty well for stations with call letters as their main invocation. But it doesn't work handily for a lot of stations.  

Stations utilizing names such as Star, Kiss, Lite, Amp, Mix, Z104, can be a problem for the Echo.  There are 55 stations named “Kiss” on the iHeart platform and 41 named “Mix” on Tune-In.  The device gets confused. The way around this is for a station is to build a proprietary naming “skill” for identification so that the system recognizes "More 101."   That circumvents the problem. We design and build those. 

Important?  If you have an Echo go ahead and say “play Z100” and you will likely get a country station in Indiana.  

But there is more to it than a station stream.  

There are thousands of radio stations on these devices, what can a station do to differentiate itself? 

Our mantra as content guys: What else can we do beyond the stream?

We are thinking about this question non-stop and developing "smart skills" which feature specific morning show content, station features, podcasts, promotions, news, and original content. 

For stations with big morning shows, 80% of a top performing morning show’s content is missed every day. This is a great opportunity to build an effective time-shifting strategy making the content available at a time more convenient for the audience.  

We are also developing exclusive original content that compliments our clients strategic goals. 

Will listening on these devices help my ratings?

If your station is in a PPM market and the content is listened to within 24 hours, your station will get Nielsen credit.  This potentially unlocks listening.  It has been a huge win for TV networks who see their ratings rise as much as 40% from time-shifted viewing. 

We are working directly with Amazon and Google to maximize the potential and the user experience in this new category of the connected home.    

As Gimlet Media's Alex Blumberg says, "it is the second golden age of audio."  With so many new platforms and so much great content, it is hard to disagree.  

 

 

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The Right Length for a Podcast is ...... D.W.M.T.

The debate continued last week in trade papers and blogs over how long a podcast episode should be.  Many with long experience in podcasting point to the top ranked podcasts, which typically run about an hour, as the ideal length.  A significant number are produced by public radio with a history of hour-long show blocks, and while some are time-shifted from over-the-air broadcast, most - 24 of the top 30 podcasts - are organically built as podcasts. 

The argument from longtime podcasters, is that since it is a lean-forward medium in which people select a show, podcasts appeal to an engaged audience with an expectation and desire for longer and deeper dives into topics. 

The other side of the debate comes largely from commercial broadcasters and podcast aggregators who know the tyranny of getting listeners to hang through precious quarter-hours of over-the-air broadcasts and worry about listener drop-out.  

While indeed there is currently a bias to longer podcasts, there are two new entries, which are tearing up the podcast charts and their length may be instructive.

The Daily from the New York Times runs about 20 minutes and has had 27 million downloads since its inception in February.  NPR’s new “Up First” began a few weeks ago and rocketed to the top of the charts and runs about 12 minutes each day.  Both are thoughtfully constructed with busy commuters in mind and clearly the short length is part of the appeal and success of these programs. 

The optimal length for a podcast is not easy to determine. There are hard-to-listen-to shorter podcasts and engaging longer ones. The larger, and more complex issue goes back to an old Winston cigarette commercial; "It's not how long you make it, but how you make it long." Quality rules.

Here is another thing to consider; audio is generally consumed while people are engaged in other activities, whether it be driving, walking the dog, cleaning the dishes, or at the gym. Through many focus groups and studies of listening patterns I have seen over the years, people stop listening when they are done with an activity.  No one sits in the car at the parking lot at work.  No one stays on the treadmill longer – okay that one may just be me. 

Content should be designed with the end-user in mind.  One clear finding in just about any media use study is people report an abundance of choice and a scarcity of time. What's the listener attrition on longer podcasts episodes?  Do people look at time codes and determine the length they want?

Print and digital journalists, have experienced a change in consumption largely dependent on time, place and device in use.  A brief mobile news update in the morning is potentially different than a weekend read. 

While at The Worldwide Radio Summit last week, I was reminded of the importance of actual use patterns driving podcast length. Fred Jacobs, President of Jacobs Media debuted Techsurvey '13 in which they collect data from thousands of audio listeners. The accompanying chart shows varied activities - note people could choose more than one option for this question.

 

When audio creators look at content development through the prism of the end-user, and factor in how and when people actually consume the program, it should inform some of the architectural aspects of the show.

Here's a good axiom to follow - DWMT: "Don't Waste My Time"

More than ever, listeners penalize media outlets for wasting their time. So here's a good axiom to follow - DWMT: "Don't Waste My Time."   

Go as long as you must......then stop.

Few will stick around if they are not being informed or entertained. They have choices.  

At Podcast Movement this August, my company, Amplifi Media and Nuvoodoo will team to present a breakthrough video study in which we interview real people about how they relate, react and listen to podcasts. Do they look at time codes?  Do they bail on longer podcasts? Do they select by the subject line?  It is revealing and might change some thinking about the relationship between podcaster and listener.  

 

 

 

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Amplifi Introduces New Joint Venture With Jacobs Media - SONICAi

For the past few years, I have been immersed in the world of on-demand audio.  The proliferation of the smartphone and great new audio content have been the catalysts to sharp growth in podcast consumption.  Today, 67 million people listen to podcasts each month, and among 18-34-year-olds, the growth and penetration is impressive and points the way to systemic change.   

While listening to podcasts is getting easier, there is still plenty of friction in selecting, downloading and playing them.  What if that process was reduced simply to asking for a program and it magically started playing? 

That is the promise and potential of voice assistants.  According to data from Jacob Media’s latest Tech Survey report, 11% of households already have access to one of these devices. That is crazy fast.

Amazon’s Echo, in particular, has become a juggernaut in a short period of time.  Along with Goggle Home, sales are projected to hit 27 million units this year.  Gartner predicts that 75% of U.S. homes will have one by 2020.  That’s less than three years away.    

The implications for podcasting and radio are huge.

All of this is the catalyst to a new and exciting partnership we are announcing today:

Amplifi Media is joining forces with Jacobs Media’s Mobile App Development unit, Jacapps. 

Today we are debuting a new joint venture, SONICAi.”  This new company develops “skills” for voice command devices.  We strategize, design and create spoken word software for voice assistants.

Our partners in this new startup are two longtime friends and business associates, Fred and Paul Jacobs.  We have a long history. Fred and I worked together at ABC Radio in the 70’s and later when I lived in Detroit, there were countless excursions to a rib place nearby. Jacobs Media was a valued partner during my time with Saga Communications.  In addition, Robert Kernen, who heads Jacapps, is a longtime colleague.  All of this creates a perfect environment for the development of solutions and strategies for broadcast and podcast. 

Joining us is Lee Davis.  Lee is a top-flight media manager, having run WFAN, and WINS in New York and headed national sales at Univision Radio.

We are not the first to this space.  But we’re positioned as the company where a team of strategic programmers will attack radio’s opportunities to accurately access radio streams and go beyond to create “skills” that we believe will drive ratings, revenue, and brands.

We also see voice assistants as a leveler on the playing field for podcasts.  On these devices, it is just as easy to access a podcast as Spotify.  Just ask. 

Radio continues to be challenged in the home.  With some imagination, these devices open pathways to engagement with listeners which go way beyond a station stream.  Our vision includes audio clips, features, podcasts and services which are designed for time shifting, retention and growth. 

For podcasters, discovery, ease of navigation and easy to recall utterances will be key growth factors. 

Here is a video which describes what SONICAi – or Sai – is all about:

The website is SonicAi.com

We are very excited about this new venture and the possibilities and solutions ahead with voice assistants.  

I am looking forward to speaking about podcasting at Canadian Music Week on Wednesday (4/19) of this week in Toronto.  

I am looking forward to speaking about podcasting at Canadian Music Week on Wednesday (4/19) of this week in Toronto.  

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