What does the future of radio look like? Is the dial dead or is it just undergoing a massive transformation as we all move to mobile? What about upstart industry disruptors like Pandora or Spotify? Are these the future of this industry? How do you engage listeners while they listen to the radio? How do you start that important conversation?
These questions, and many more, is exactly why I asked Patrick Reynolds, EVP Marketing at Triton Digital to come on for an episode. They seemed to be doing the right things in helping advertisers and radio stations move the mobile needle forward and this episode shows why they are the leading in this space.
Listen to the audio version now: [audio: http://blip.tv/file/get/Untether-Triton246.mp3]
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Hello, everybody, and welcome to UNTETHER.tv. This is the place to come to each and every day of each and every week to find out how people are building companies in the mobile space. How they’re manipulating the existing spaces into mobile and how they’re leveraging this great platform. Well, we call mobile but smartphones, iPads, the dash in your car, the dash in your kitchen, the dash in your living room, for some good and innovative uses.
Today, listen, I used to be a radio listener. Boy, did I ever listen to the radio – Top 50, Top 10 radio. So it’s certainly talk radio, news radio, you name it. I listen to it. But I have not turned on the radio in my car, I swear to God, since I got my iPad two-and-a-half years ago, or my iPhone two and a half years ago.
So, what is going on in the radio space? There is an innovative company called the Triton. and I’m sitting here with Patrick Reynolds, who is the EVP of Marketing for Triton. And we’re going to talk about what they’re doing in the radio space. And I love this. It’s almost, like, I wish I was listening to the radio. We’re going to get perspective on what Triton is doing. We’re also going to dive into that conversation about the future of radio and the way that we define radio, and what is radio with all of these, you know, streaming services coming online with Cloud streaming services, like Pandora and such. It’s going to be a really interesting conversation.
I’m not even going to go into it anymore. I’m going to bring Patrick in and welcome him. Patrick, thanks, man, for doing this. I really appreciate your time.
Patrick: Appreciate the invite. I’m happy to be here talking with you.
Rob: How cool is the radio space? What you guys are doing is pretty amazing. I love the innovation of what it is because it just makes sense. When I read the press release about what you’re doing, it just struck me like, why isn’t everybody doing this? So, why don’t we just start? What are you guys doing at Triton? What do you do there, and we’ll jump off there.
Patrick: Well, in the simplest terms, we provide technology to media companies, and we have a particular emphasis with radio. So that can be everything from hosting their streams and delivering their content to a measurement platform that allows people to know how many people are on the other end of those streams. We have things in our applications and services division like check in radio that you just mentioned that allows somebody that would formally have to be the eleventh caller can now use their smartphone and respond to a call from the station, and then either, it could be content, it could be tickets, it could be merch, it could be a number of things. So we also do ad insertion in-stream as opposed to over the edge. So, we have a broader array of things. But everything we do is pretty much oriented around making a formally traditional media digital.
Rob: What we’ve been watching, or if listen to what people are talking about is the crumbling of the old guard, which is nobody needs this band of radio, like, AM died first, so to speak. And now, it’s just gospel channels, right? And as Springsteen says, “Gospel channels with lost souls looking for salvation in the AM dial”, right? And then there’s FM which was greater quality but all of a sudden, I don’t know if listening or listenership is down in radio. I’m going to assume that the advent of podcast and streaming technology has wiped out radio. Is that an accurate statement?
Patrick: No, it is not an accurate statement. It seems that there is a lot of friction, you might say, between sort of the new radio and the old radio. And we honestly keep out of that thing. We work with many of the very largest traditional radio companies. There is CBS, there’s your Clear Channels, Entercom, Cumulus, et cetera, et cetera. And we also work with people like Pandora, Slacker, AccuRadio, and a number of pure play, Internet only radio stations.
But I do think it is incredibly fair to say that radio is changing. You might even say it’s sort of molting. It’s kind of shedding its skin with morphing into something quite different. And it’s really in no way diminished. And in many ways, it’s actually, it’s offerings are becoming enhanced through the application of technology. So, I really would not say that it’s crumbling. You’ll still find, I’m sure, good numbers of the strongest radio stations. You might say it’s possible. I suspect this isn’t really my area of expertise. But I might suspect the technology is killing off the weaker ones because if you have a weaker signal, an AM or FM station, and it’s competing against the really excellent digital offering whether it’s from the Pandora, or even from like an iHeartRadio from Clear Channel, people are going to spend their time where they perceive the best quality of contact to be. But I don’t think it’s crumbling. I don’t think it’s eminent that in two to five or ten years even there will be no AM-FM, and it will all be digital. But I do think it’s changing and right now it’s a mix. And that mix will continue to find kind of its own level over time.
Rob: So, why don’t we talk about this? There is a slight delay in our audio and our video. So, we’ll work this through but why don’t we, when you say that it’s changing, how are you seeing this changing? Because the way that I consume radio is still coming from a transistor ultimately. Like traditional radio stations, you know, the Clear Channels of the world. All of these massive, I mean, what Clear Channel has 70% or 75% of the radio stations of the airwaves in the United States.
It’s pretty massive as a company, but how are they changing the way that they get in front of a listener? Are they changing or are they trying to change? And are things like Podcast and Slacker and Pandora just kind of showing them the way. And ultimately, they’re going to dominate or are we witnessing the birth of brand new radio companies or media companies?
Patrick: Well, I think that the answer is all of the above. We are witnessing the birth of new companies, but I also think that the older companies are changing. You brought up a couple of really good points there. I think it’s important to say that both sides are really learning from the other. I think there is a number of things that Pandora and Slacker see in terms of established best practices from something like a Clear Channel or CBS, Entercom, Cumulus, et cetera. When they say, “Ah, that’s very smart.”
Patrick: I also think that, without a doubt, the larger traditional companies are looking at the market share that these newer companies are able to gobble up in relatively short order, and I’m thinking, “Ah, there’s obviously something going on there, and the consumers are voting with their ears.” In other words, the online numbers are growing, growing, growing, and this is something to be reckoned with.
What’s interesting about this is there’s really two ways for a traditional . . . you said we’re kind of all coming from an over- the-air sort of perspective, kind of. So, you take a CBS or Clear Channel as an example where there are two offerings that they have. The first is a simple simulcast essentially of what’s over the air. You can listen to via your computer or via your mobile phone increasingly. That’s one thing.
But if you look at iHeartRadio, for example, it’s not a simulcast. It is taking all of the stations content aggregating into a big bucket, if you will. And letting people go down the path that is most interesting to them in a non-station, non- format specific way. So, it’s very much listener driven.
Patrick: So, that’s a key difference there. But the other thing is, you have to remember that Pandora, which is clearly the 800-pound gorilla in the streaming area, does not have an analog equivalent.
Patrick: There is no tower to refer to. So they’re inventing things very much from a digital perspective as a Slacker and a number of other people. But you know, Spotify would be another one. So there’s really a number of things that’s not as simple as a unit dimensional thing as radio was for decades and decades. It’s now very, very multifaceted and if you look at a Slacker or even Pandora, north of 50% of their audience is being consumed via mobile.
Rob: Yeah, that’s crazy.
Patrick: It’s an amazingly large number.
Rob: Well, let me put a different hat on here when we talk about this because I’m of the age. I’m 41. I mean, radio was a very important aspect of my life. Listening to baseball games. Listening to radio. Listening to music when I was a kid and probably up until the first iPod that I bought. You’re consumed on radio. I had a tape deck that I used to record right off of radio. So, radio has been very influential. But I look at this and I think, okay, Pandora, but at its heart Spotify, Pandora, these guys, is it just not Radio 2.0?
What we’re witnessing is, like, I used to walk around with a transistor radio. Listening to the radio station and it was portable. I carried it with me. It was this small, right? It got smaller as I got older. But what we’re really seeing here is radio 2.0. It’s just a different delivery mechanism. I don’t need a tower. I just need a cell tower, ultimately. Is that what we’re seeing here?
Patrick: Well, going back to the prior, that’s one way. So, for example, I grew up in Buffalo, New York, right? So I can listen to 97 Rock in Buffalo when I get a little lonesome for my hometown, if you will.
Patrick: And in fact, my mobile is very much that portable radio that everybody used to have. I literally open it up and I can go to, for example, we have a product, Check In Radio. I can go to Buffalo 97 Rock and listen to it just as though I was there. It keeps me connected to that community, right?
Patrick: So, that’s a simulcast of something that is over the air that is now streaming as well, and it broadens the reach because you can access that from anywhere in the U.S., and in some cases abroad. The second chip, though, is not simulcast where it’s more listener directed. So, at the end of the day 97 Rock, God bless their heart, gives me what they think I want, what’s best for me, what I want to hear. If I go to Pandora or Spotify, or iHeart, to a degree, I am co-program director.
Patrick: I feel like listening to Wilco or something in that area, and then from there we can kind of go back and forth, metaphysically speaking, about what I’m going to get; or in the case of Spotify, literally I want to listen to these songs exactly. So it actually gets more into the iPod area. So, I guess the point is Radio 2.0 is not a single delivery mechanism. There are a number of ways, and it has more to do with consuming wherever, whenever, however you want, and less to do with whether it’s simulcast or player based, or playing in the space. It’s just a new way to consume music.
Rob: I’m fascinated. How long has Triton been around, kind of looking at this space?
Patrick: We’ve been doing this for five years, as such. And it’s really kind of an interesting story. We kind of call it creation myth here. But, you have two guys that are really in competing companies in the traditional radio space, and they basically at the same time come to the conclusion that radio is inexorably, at that time, moving toward IP based delivery. It’s moving digitally. And nobody’s really paying much attention to it at that time. Nobody’s really saying, well, how are we going to do that, literally from how will it be delivered, what’s the technology that will deliver a stream, to how will it be measured?
Advertisers aren’t going to know what’s going on there, so they can’t spend their money. Who’s going to measure that? Who’s going to insert ads into the stream that are different than the ones over the air, because there are royalty implications and all those other kinds of things. So, these two guys, God bless their heart, they figured things out very quickly, formed the company, made a series of investments and acquisitions, and just straight sweat equity, and we’ve grown up into a company of about 250 people, now that it’s five years. And we’re working with some of the biggest people in the business on both sides of the equation around the globe.
Rob: So, they saw this in the distance coming, obviously? I’m still involved with some of the radio stations, and they are just figuring out how to work around this whole podcasting thing. What do they do? We don’t want to give it away. We want you to listen in real time. We don’t want you to have access. How do we monetize this? So, they’re just coming to terms with it now. And these guys were, five years ago plus, thinking about this. Do you think that it was a hard sell back then, to say, listen, this is coming? Watch out. Watch out.
Patrick: It absolutely was, and to a degree, it still is. I won’t lie to you. A burning platform is a really powerful motivator; and five years ago, certainly there was not a burning platform. These guys had done it their way for a long time and had been very, very successful doing that. They were making good money; they were held in high regard. It was still a media that was on most buys, and things were really good.
To a degree, that is the case today. Although, I really think that, on the advertising side, I think it really is inescapable, but those numbers are declining as dollars switch from all traditional media, including radio, to digital. And that has become more of a burning platform, where now people are saying, hang on, hang on. We’re losing money. We’re not getting in on the buys. What do we have to do?
Oh, we have to be online. Oh, we have to have the measurement to take us online. Oh, we have to be able to segment audiences online. Oh, we have to have one-to-one communication online. Oh, we need to let the audience participate, too; and instead of us just beaming out to them, we have to be able to receive information back from the audience. So, all these things have made us kind of very busy in the last couple of years.
Rob: Was the vision in mobile? You said 50% of consumption now, from some of these major brands, like Pandora and Spotify. This is what’s really intriguing is that we took radio into the car, and we used to take it to the beach with us already. But now we’re taking it in a different form in the smartphone format. Was that a surprise to them, or did they see that coming, as well?
Patrick: I think we’d be lying if anybody saw the rapid adoption of smartphones that you’ve seen now. I don’t think anybody ever anticipated that. I thought that they thought inevitably there would be a way that one could stream analogically on the phone. I don’t think anybody saw the proliferation of smartphone, the proliferation of really good bandwidth and the way that you could do things elegantly and in some cases more elegantly than you can on your desktop with your mobile. We’re smart, but we’re not that smart.
Rob: Yes. Well, you know what? For me, I think when it hit me very clearly was when I could spend $9.95 a year on mlb.tv and get every single game streamed to my iPhone at the time, first my web browser and then my mobile device. Then all of a sudden, it was over for me. Pure radio? I’m in Ottawa and while we have radio stations, we don’t have radio personalities on these stations. There’s nothing intrinsically of value for me to listen to. When I saw this, that was the game changer for me.
For all intents and purposes, the radio as I knew it was dead, the new radio that I’m about to embark on is incredible. It’s laid rise to TV stations and podcasts like on UNTETHER.tv and a bunch of other ones, hasn’t it? When you’re looking at this and you think how are you able to compete as a radio station with what used to be a regulated environment in your area, to now in Ottawa we have, maybe nine radio stations, but we have probably 1,000 podcasts emanating from a small city. What has that done to change this landscape?
Patrick: Ottawa may be the exception. I can’t speak to Ottawa, which is a lovely place and I’ve been to several times, but I can’t really speak to the radio scene there. Take where I’m talking to from is Boston. Boston has literally one of the strongest stations in the country and certainly the strongest station in the area in WEEI, which is a sports station, so they do have loads of personalities and they talk 24/7/365 about the New England sports scene. People bow at their altar.
They have incredible content, personalities people respond to. They have an incredibly local spin on things, which I think is really, really important. It in no way feels like a syndicated program that could be coming from anywhere. You’ve got guys with accents this thick talking about the neighborhood bar and the gossip about various players and such, and it’s really compelling stuff. So I think being local and being very topical and, to a degree, being very narrow makes them very powerful, and I think that’s the thing about your program and podcasts, the thing that people love about them, especially me, is you can be very, very narrow.
I don’t want to know about something that’s this wide, I want to know about something that’s this wide and I want to go deep. That’s the beautiful thing about digital. There are a lot of narrow cast stations, too. I think AccuRadio does a really good job of this. Where I like all country, they have an all country station. I can go and I can listen to something very much in one vein without stuff that I’m not particularly interested in.
Patrick: I think if you’re a wide station without personality, without a lot of localization, that’s a tough deal.
Rob: I think this happened and I think this happened quite effectively during the ’90s and early 2000 before this mobile revolution came along for radio stations. They made radio stations efficient hit generators, which was basically they said, hey, digital for us is great because then we don’t have to keep the inventory, we can just cue up 30 songs, hit play, insert some ads. We don’t need a D.J. There’s no more Johnny Fever; there’s nobody spinning records.
It homogenized the sound of radio, not only the U.S., but across Canada. It created mega hits, one hit wonders, but mega hits and then that’s what they played. And then, a feature of radio became you’ll never hear the same song played twice during the work day, during working hours and that was a feature. Back in the day, it was at the whim.
Now, you said it so well, the future is going to be highly personalized, narrower, local radio for them to succeed, which is a massive shift. It’s back to the olden days of radio. Is that an accurate picture that I just painted of what happened?
Patrick: I think you have and in a lot of ways this is back to the future where this is getting back to, guys, how do we come up with really compelling content that people want to hear, and I do think that radio lost its way there a little bit in the last ten years. It became a bit bloodless, if you will, right?
Patrick: Sort of got cold.
Patrick: So now you back to focusing on coming up with incredible content, right? And then, I think, the second thing is you figure out how to give it to people when, where and how they want it. They don’t have to consume it on your terms.
Patrick: If my schedule is such that I can’t listen to your show, from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m., I can listen to it from 10:17 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., or whenever I get done with it.
Patrick: Time shifting is really, really important and it’s just greens fees in a digital culture and if you come from a live broadcast culture, it’s a little bit anathema. But I think everybody is wrapping their head around it, and the people that are really getting on that train are doing very, very well. I think you’ve summed it up great: you can’t just beam out at people one way, one time and say, “Catch it if you can” anymore.
Patrick: People are going to be more demanding and say, “I’ll take it when I want it, how I want it, where I want it, and you’ll give it to me or I’ll find one of these legion of other people out there who will.”
Rob: And that’s like, just mobile has pushed retail back in the hand of the consumer where you’re definitely in control as a consumer when it comes to retail now but research and pricing and all that kind of stuff, it’s the same thing that’s happened here. It’s like, “Well, I used to be kind of constrained by my geography about what I could catch.” So you’re Boston, I’m a Yankees fan, right?
Patrick: Me too.
Rob: Oh, good. You admit that in Boston?
Patrick: Yeah. We’re closed doors.
Rob: That’s good. Well with Yankees, you used to be able to get, late at night, WCBS 880, right, which is their flagship radio station, but I could get it on my AM radio if I held it up in a certain way, and I could catch, maybe three innings before it would fade away. But gone are those days, right? So now the world is mine. So that’s got to put the fear into some radio stations and embraced by others, but how do these guys turn this into revenue? I think that’s one of the biggest things. It’s a hurdle. It’s got to be a hurdle.
Patrick: Well, it is and it isn’t. It’s all in how you look at it. That’s a perfect example, right? So before that station, I think you said it was WCBS?
Patrick: In Buffalo, I want to say it was WPIX, if I recall correctly. That may have been the TV station, but I did the same thing, rigging, you know, coat hangers to try to get the station, and that was the best you could do.
Patrick: Fast forward. Now, you could listen to that game in all but HD quality from Los Angeles, San Francisco, south Florida and all parts in between, right? So, inherently, you’ve widened your audience. You’ve exposed your content to a much bigger net than ever before. So that’s a good thing, right?
Patrick: You’re driving audience, you’re driving viewers. And then the second thing though of going back to this theme is that radio provides depth to what was once just why. So now you can check in to the Yankees game and you say, “Who replaced Bobby Mercer in right field for the New York Yankees?” You can check in with the answer, you can win merch, et cetera, et cetera. I would call that indirect commerce and here’s what I mean by that. It’s not necessarily something that the station can, or even should sell, but what it does is it grows the engagement, which is an awful word, but it grows the quality of time spent listening that you have with that property. It proves that you’re attentive.
Patrick: Also, it is inherently social. So you can say, “Hey, I just won this,” put it on your social graph, your Facebook or Twitter and now it goes sideways as well. So, again, you can reach a much wider audience but with that audience you can go much deeper and talk to them on a one-on-one basis and then it’s kind of like an hourglass, right? They can go and get apostolic on your behalf and say, “Hey! Everybody tune into this station because they are doing blah, blah, blah and you can win, or you can hear it or you can get free content, et cetera, et cetera.”
Rob: So, it is. I think of audiences, right? So you take a podcast like this.
Rob: I’ve been doing this for 18 months. I have built up an audience.
Rob: And it’s been an audience that started with zero. When I put up my first video, I had zero views. It was terrible, but I had zero views. And gradually what’s happened is I’ve increased my audience but then I look at a newspaper with an established footprint and a radio station with an established footprint in listenership. And these guys have a very huge advantage because they have an existing audience that’s listening to this. So to be able to turn what they’re doing into a mobile piece, or a web piece, it would seem like this is a broadcaster’s dream to be able to say, “Listen, OK? You’ve got an audience. Now what you’ve got to do is fill in the digital side.” Is that what you’re seeing or is that not it?
Patrick: No. It can be and in other ways it’s not. I’ll be honest with you. So I’ll give you three people in the media space that I think do an exceptional job of what you just said.
Patrick: They are in no particular order, ESPN, Discovery Network, and National Public Radio. So, they use the bully pulpit, again, of their broadcast platform to drive awareness of all of their properties, online and offline, but they do an absolutely fantastic job, all three, of what we said earlier, which is taking their content and packaging it in ways that is appropriate for the delivery mechanism and the audience.
So, they have sort of one set of reporting, one story that you can download as a podcast. You can watch that live on the television. They talk about it on their radio. They have blogs about it, and it’s basically doing one thing, one time, and then just sort of spinning it in different ways for different channels. And they extend their content so brilliantly, I think, those three. So, they do exactly what you just described. They have the bully pulpit. They’ve got a big brand, and they can say, hey, check out our podcast. Check out our website. Check out our live streaming. Check out ESPN 4. Do all these things, and it’s really powerful.
Now the converse to that, though, is the very traditional station, or media property across any channel, who has been very successful over a number of years, done a lot of good things one way, and I would just put this under the heading of “muscle memory is a powerful thing.” They don’t know how to do it another way; though some of them actually do know how to do it, but they just flat don’t want to do it, because they believe in the way that they’ve done it, or they just don’t have the wind in their sails to do it differently.
I guess the third component to this is consumers also get a vote in this. So, if you have been known for fifty years in a particular way, and I’m making it up, let’s say the Wall Street Journal, you are a very traditional, conservative, financially- oriented newspaper. For them to come out and say, we’re cutting edge, left wing podcast is going to be a bit of absurd. You can say it, you have the bully pulpit, but nobody’s going to believe you. You are what you are at the end of the day. So, that’s another thing. A lot of times these bigger companies have a massive overhead, a massive brand image in place, and it’s hard to steer a ship that big.
Rob: I often don’t think about that aspect of it, because audience is audience. And what you’re doing is you’re changing behavior, consumption behavior on the listener side. I come back to if I was trying to explain to my father that you go to a podcast, you go here and download this podcast. It just would be a challenge for him. It’s just better to let him listen to the radio, whatever he listens to.
But you guys haven’t given up on terrestrial radio, have you? The product that you guys announced at the beginning of October was this head scratcher that said, why aren’t people doing this more often? Which is, for contests, and checking into the radio station based on your proximity, and the contests that run to be able to check in to say, yeah, I’m interested in winning that without having to call in.
When I saw it, it made absolute sense, and I had that moment where I asked myself, why didn’t I think of that? I’m sure everybody did. But, first of all, what were you seeing out there that made you jump into that? And the second thing is, what are the radio stations saying when you go and pitch this to them?
Patrick: Well, they’re saying much like you, like duh, why didn’t we think about that?
Rob: That’s the answer.
Patrick: It’s a fairly near in idea for sure. You know what; I think there’s a little bit of a fixation, frankly, if I’m being very honest with you, on shiny things in the digital world. I would say this is very much an evolutionary thing. It’s not a revolutionary thing. We looked for an opportunity where through technology we could take a current business process that was a little bit floogie for both the publisher and the listener.
We simplified it and made it just a little bit more robust, a little bit easier, put some sort of tentacles on it so that it had a few more bells and whistles than you put in an analog world and they said, “Yeah. That’s a dumb-dumb simple prospect. Let’s just do that.” And it makes all the sense in the world, especially when we’re giving it away, literally. So, it’s just a way to employ technology to make a business process just a little bit better for all parties.
Rob: It might be so simple, but these are the things that resonate with people. It’s that next step. So, a lot of times this technology is shiny. Look around me. I see shiny things. But we often overlook the idea that’s right in front of our nose, that’s right here, but our eyes just can’t see. And this is one of those ideas. It just shows, look, you got to think about next steps, not grand vision, but what’s the next step that you can do to engage with an audience. Engagement is tough, but to communicate with them, to reach out to them, or to get them to identify themselves, saying that I’m actually actively listening? And you know that on the eleventh caller you got 11 listeners, right?
Patrick: I think you have to do both, really. You have to pick the low- hanging fruit as well as you do have to dream big plans, and you have to have longer term vision. But, I think one of the great things about radio, and we try to work with them on this, is they’re pretty good listeners. They get a lot of feedback, and when they say, hey, this is a pain point. Let’s just go ahead and bang that out and fix that, while we’re working on reimagining some other things.
Rob: How does mobile from this point impact the radio? There’s always bandwidth constraints, or consumption concerns around bandwidth. Certainly, for me it was, if I listen to a full baseball game on a 3G network, what’s that going to cost me ultimately at the end of it? If I listen to every game, how much is this going to cost in bandwidth consumption, whereas radio ends up being free.
But, you know, I have an order when I get into my car. First, I put my iPhone and hook it up to my Blue Tooth piece, and if I’m listening to a podcast, I’ll throw in a podcast. The second thing that I do is I might go over to TWiT.tv, Leo Laporte’s channel, and see what he’s broadcasting live, because it’s relevant to me. And then, I might listen to some music, and then I might listen to some silence. And then, I might remember that there’s a radio attached to my car, and then go to my radio. How do these companies transition to mobile, and what do you think is the broad play for these guys? Where does radio go from there?
Patrick: Well, it’s a very good question. There’s a lot of different perspectives on it, but I think what’s really critical is that we think of mobile as THE way to deepen relationships with audience. The marketing landscape, the advertising landscape, in many ways has been really clear cut. So, we advertisers have taken anything that people used to like and made it all but unwatchable or unlistenable. One of the major issues that we have with terrestrial radio is you’ll have these giant radio blocks where there are three minutes where you can go grab a soda, grab a coffee, go to the bathroom and come back.
Patrick: Because you know there’s nothing on there that you want to hear. And television has this same thing, and I actually think that online, vis-à-vis display, is arguably the most egregious case of this, where it’s just interruptive marketing at its absolute worst. And so, I think the worst thing that people could do would be look at mobile as this untapped arctic shale, or whatever they call that, where we can just drill-baby-drill, and just drop ads in there, and eventually people will learn to hate that, too, in short order.
But what I think it’s great at is delivering content, and really creating a dialogue with your audience. For example, hey, if you heard this song, check in here. You check in, and maybe you get some ring tones, maybe you get song lyrics, maybe you get tickets, maybe you get merch. Here’s something that you can spread to your social network. It shouldn’t be about selling, selling, selling, advertising, advertising, advertising. I think if we think of different ways to use the mobile, say, oh, I’m traveling. I’m in Saskatchewan, and I see that The Tragically Hip is playing here, because it’s got a local know-how that I don’t have. Oh, I’m going to check that out.
So, if you look at it as a way to deliver actual consumer benefits, and not just as an advertising platform, I think what you’ll find is indirectly it’s going to grow your sales, because your audience is going to grow and grow and grow, and it’s low cost growth. Because largely, the audience is growing itself by people saying, hey, this is a great station. They deliver great content. This is really cool. Check In Radio is really cool. I can go to a concert and I can upload video and pictures, and stuff from the concert, that maybe a station sponsored.
We have a product that’s really cool coming out now called Digital Ivy that allows for user-generated content to be uploaded via mobile really simply. So, I think there’s a lot of things that people can do to have dialogue with their audience, that does not have to be inherently commercial in nature, that is going to be a really, really good thing to both grow audience, but really strengthen the bond between a media property and its audience. And I hope that everybody thinks of it, at least partially in those terms, so that this is a really robust platform that we can really build off for a long time.
Rob: I want to shift it to really about helping or facilitating these radio stations, or content producers, to actually make some money because ultimately that’s what they have to do in order to stay in business. I mean, maybe, guys like me, who do this as a hobby, don’t. I’m not looking to monetize this and jam it full of ads. But I think about this very much around, so once I’ve got listener engagement. So, they’re coming back and forth with me. OK, so, now I’m going to figure out, OK. They’re an audience. I know my audience type. I know who they are. Now I’ve got to match it with something that allows me to generate some revenue.
So, I’m on the road. I’ve got my radio. I mean, it’s true, I was in California. I was listening to an Ottawa radio station to get some news. You know, I was gone for a long time. I wanted to get the news. That kind of stuff you can’t do. But because I’m over there, how do these guys leverage that, an audience building exercise like this and generate some revenue from it? Can they?
Patrick: Well, in that example, you could actually turn the camera around and say, “I’m an Ottawan,” if that is the proper expression.
Patrick: In California, rather than just going back to Ottawa for your content. You can say, “OK but I don’t know my surroundings here. Let me use the local-ness of radio to help me kind of navigate this area.” And by the way, there may be a terrific restaurant or a coffee shop four blocks from where you stand. Because we have your mobile and it is not at all inconceivable that we could though despite what I just said prior deliver you an offer via mobile to go check that out.
That is a way to tap into extremely hyper local dollars that is really not doable if you’re advertising to the entire Los Angeles DNA. It’s just not cost effective for the local coffee guy or local pizza guy. And conversely, if you are listening to ads only from Ottawa, it doesn’t really help you a ton if you’re standing in sunny California.
Rob: No, it doesn’t.
Patrick: So this hyper local door that gets open via mobile is going to be a really powerful revenue generator for sure in the not too distant future.
Rob: So, do you see ad mediators or intermediaries that actually say, “Listen, when you’re broadcasting through a mobile device, we’ll give you rev share.” So that it will bring us under the umbrella and so you, Ottawa company, or you, California radio station, or you, California, wherever you broadcast, but we’re not going to do local display. We’re localized. We’re going to do proximity- based advertising. And you kind of build up that Google AdWords type of business around radio, and geo-location. And based on time of day and weather and all that. That’s where we’re going, right?
Patrick: That is where we’re going. And there are some people that are actually well down that path right now. I think, it’s kind of a heady distinction but it’s critical. There is no more critical distinction to make in terms of the monetization from my perspective. Forever, the whole industry has been built on buying distinctions, OK?
Patrick: So, you buy WXYZ and you get all of their audience. You don’t want all their audience, but you get all of their audience.
Patrick: In a digital context, you’re buying audience, not stations. In other words, if I’m listening to WABC versus WXYZ, I’m still me and it’s not fundamentally different how I’m consuming that. So, you’re buying me. You are people that are 40 to 45 living in Boston, males. You should be buying whatever I’m listening to. It doesn’t matter. So the shift is going from buying stations. It has a lot of waste to buying audience which is very, very precise. And we can do that through mobile because it has so much DNA attached to it in terms of who is using it.
Rob: It fundamentally alters the way that these companies or that media is consumed and the radio is broadcasting. Because you’re right, I just envisioned when I check into a contest. Hopefully you’ve pulled over or you’re not driving your car. But you checked into a contest and it would be somewhat overwhelming. I would assume that. Because they checked in, you’ve now got not just–no, you’re number 10. OK, you’re number 11. You got one guy. Say, there is a hundred people that checked in. You’ve got a 100 people that have identified themselves that are marketing opportunities ultimately further down the road. So, it really is a fundamental change in behavior for the radio stations and the consumers as well, and the listeners.
Patrick: And the agencies.
Rob: And the agencies. We haven’t even talked about that.
Patrick: The agencies are a really important part of this equation where we’ve got publishers over here, we’ve got audience that’s driving a lot of change over here. We have to make sure that there is a really straight line between publisher and audience and right in the middle of that is agency, because they have to understand both ends just really, really clearly. So if they’re kind of over here, you get a disconnect where either the space is being undervalued, or it becomes too complex because we’re using an outmoded process.
Patrick: So we have to just make sure that all those things line up very straight.
Rob: So how do some companies, or how if you’re in mobile or you want to leverage mobile and you’re a radio station or a podcast, what kind of advice would you give somebody who is trying to develop an audience through these mechanisms by building a deeper relationship with these guys? Do you walk them through a process? Is there something that you can impart on some of the folks here?
Patrick: Yeah, I mean, it’s a bit of a long answer but we would sit down with them and try to figure out their business goals. For example, you said, “I’m not trying to get rich off this deal.” where there are people who . . .
Rob: I lied. I totally lied. I’m totally trying to get rich off this, right?
Patrick: That’s very Canadian.
Rob: That was the humble guy. Yeah, exactly.
Rob: I don’t know what happened. But, no, I don’t need it. No, no, no, no.
Patrick: Some people that are more overtly capitalist than you, let’s say.
Patrick: So we try to get to the root of that, right? And then we figure out what their objectives are and then we would basically say, “Let’s make sure that you are leaning into and leveraging the channel for what it is. Don’t take offline the best practices that you may know from another life or current life and just assume that they translate to online.” Very often, they don’t.
Patrick: That’s the first step. The second thing is: we make sure that, again, you are giving up the content that your audience wants in the way that they want it, not necessarily the way that you want to deliver it. And then, we just try to put some rigor around it, where’s there’s metrics that you can chart your progress. You said, “On day one, I had no downloads.” Well, OK. On day ten how many did you have? Where do those come from? What device were they downloaded onto? Were those male or female? Were they in the U.S. or were they in Canada?
You have to get very sophisticated on your analytics so that you can say, “Ah, this group is responding, that group is not. I can either, sort of, lean in to the group that is or try to impress via my content, the group that’s not.” And just put some rigor around it because the blessing and the curse of digital is you get overwhelming feedback in real time.
Patrick: In many ways, offline is just a hell of a lot easier, I’ll be honest with you, because, “I think it all worked great and let’s just assume that it did and go grab a drink”, you know?
Patrick: You get digital, you have all this stuff in very short order that says, “That worked great here, but that didn’t work at all.” and you have to be constant course corrections.
Rob: So how would a radio station adjust as often as they need to? That’s one of the things, agility is key here, isn’t it? You don’t want to over adjust or jump too soon or move too fast, but there’s got to be a way to say, “That didn’t resonate. OK. We’ll adjust course.” But, I’m doing this with a $150 mic, Skype, $200 camera and a Mac Book Pro and a bunch of other equipment, but you could literally broadcast from anywhere, on any subject, and not have that overhead.
Patrick: That’s right.
Rob: So how does a radio station pivot like this or adjust like this?
Patrick: It’s tricky. And the nimble do and they’re doing well and the more complex organizations, I think, struggle with it a little bit more. I think that, to sum up this whole thing, is that the people that are embracing mobile and social, particularly, uniformly are doing the best.
The reason is those pivots are not being driven by the ivory tower. Those pivots are being driven through dialogue with audience, which is something that both social and, particularly, mobile give you. Don’t guess about where the audience is wanting to go or just don’t do it on faith. Get feedback based on either data feedback, nobody’s doing this and we want them to, or literal feedback, “Hey, what do we think about this?”. Form communities, let everybody participate and get a vote and you’ll really get a better sense of the pulse of your audience.
Rob: So we painted a really great picture for this because we’re talking about Radio 2.0, Radio 3.0, just a different delivery mechanism. Some are still going to be over the air waves. And I think, you know what? So many people thought and spent so much money on spectrum, on wireless spectrum, and then all of a sudden what we’re doing is broadcasting music and talk again, just on a more expensive spectrum. But we already have these AM and FM channels that are more than appropriate for carrying this kind of content.
Rob: So, I get conflicted there. I say, why do we spend so much money on spectrum just to recreate what we had in spectrum? So, let’s mix it up a little bit and do something innovative. As you said earlier, don’t bring old school thinking into the new school. That’s where I have a conflict of this. It’s, like, God, we’re just doing this again. Let’s do something different which is what appealed to me about the way that you, guys, took this very simple approach about checking into contests. What future conflicts are we going to see? What’s going to be a barrier? How is this going to resolve? But, really, what are the stumbling blocks or the potential stumbling blocks that we’re going to see here?
Patrick: Well, I think, the two gathering storms are audience . . .
Rob: That’s a better way. That’s a better way to describe it. What are the gathering storms? [Laughs] Thank you.
Patrick: Yeah, the two gathering storms are really audience. The audience story is you have these pure plays that are now getting of the size that they are shaking the establishment of traditional radio. They are formidable.
Rob: Do you have, like, so these are Pandora, these are Slacker?
Patrick: Slacker, Spotify.
Patrick: I don’t have that line of sight into the U.S. members, but I know that they are monster in the U.K. and abroad. So, they’re getting audience now that is obviously significant. And if I’m a traditional radio station, they’re not exactly what I do. But they’re close enough that it gives me pause.
Patrick: So, the hearts and minds stuff of audience is one gathering storm. The second is different but related, and that is hearts and minds of advertisers. As those guys, because they have demonstrated audience, because they have things like audience segmentation where I can do men only, or I can do a certain age only, or I can do a certain zip code only . . .
Patrick: I have much more sophisticated tools in many respects than the digital world versus traditional. I’m now going to get potentially a disproportionate share of the balance, which is really where the rubber meets the road. So, if I used to make a $100–nudge, nudge, wink, wink–as a traditional radio station, and I’m now making 80 or 70.
The forecast for next year is 65 in certain places. I’ve got a problem. As you said earlier, I’ve got a huge overhead. I’ve got a large organization. I’ve got lots of mouths to feed. What do I do? Whereas these guys are much nimbler. They are much quicker. They are much less encumbered. They are often financed in a different way than I am. And they’re ready to lock and load. And they can make pivots in a moment’s notice. So those are the two things that I think bear watching over the next months and years.
Rob: As we see, in kind of traditional television, cable television . . .
Rob: As we see in the traditional print industry, and now we’re seeing it, obviously, in the radio industry, these industries are being uprooted. Being turned around, disrupted. Whatever you want to call it. This is happening. And it’s happening at a rate that is quick and sort of caught them off guard. But, then I look out and I see ABC and CBS and NBC and these guys aren’t going to disappear. And I see these massive radio conglomerates in the U.S. These guys are not going to disappear. What’s their move? Do they walk in here and say, “Look, Pandora, you’re mine.” “Slacker, you’re mine.” Like do they start arming themselves? Do they go out and are they going to be forced to buy or, at least try to buy Spotify? Did you see that coming down the road?
Patrick: I certainly see continued M&A.
Patrick: Where you saw a Clear Channel buy a company called Thumbplay.
Patrick: And I think it was instrumental in the iHeart Radio.
Patrick: I think there will be more of that. I don’t know necessarily that it’s going to be a traditional radio station buying a digital station. Whether to have an enhanced product sweep or addition by subtraction, if you will.
Patrick: It could be somebody like Google that’s going to be coming in and buy somebody like Spotify and I’m completely making this up. But, it could be a technology player buying with another technology player to really go in for a kill shot on the weak ones.
Patrick: That’s a possibility that you could see out there. And at the end of the day, we really don’t care because they’re all God’s children in our eyes. And we’re working with everybody. And we just want the people that want to aggressively go after the future rather than looking back at the past. We want to be friends with and do business with. And we have some of those in each camp. We have some of those that are pure play digital, and we have some of those that are very progressive, traditional radio guys and we work great with all of them.
Rob: It is pretty incredible when you think about that. It’s going to come down to audience development and growth. Obviously, this is why Google looks at Hulu, it is a distribution company, and it is the way Google would look at Spotify because it is just another cheap avenue to get ads out to their audience, done in an effective way. So yeah, you are right; this is a pretty interesting time to be a part of this, isn’t?
Patrick: It’s very cool. I got into this business because I thought that this is going to be a wild ride. I don’t have any idea where it ends or how it ends, but I like a good roller coaster and it has not disappointed. It has got incredible hairpin turns, ups and downs, it is a blast. It is full of really, really interesting, smart people on all sides of the equation, and it has been nothing short of fantastic so far. I think it is just getting heated up now, and I think this year and the next are going to be really wild times.
Rob: I couldn’t agree with you more because when I look out at the mobile horizon and people ask, “What does that mean in mobile?” And I say, “Well, at some point it is not going to matter, you are not going to use the word mobile. It’s just going to be you are going to consume all kinds of different content, video, audio, print, digital print, directions, coupons, money, all those kinds of stuff.”
So name an industry that is not going to be disrupted by this. I think that when a step in technology comes like this, you see a massive change in a stable industry, and that is what we are seeing right now, this flux, everybody is trying to figure out what is going on. Nobody knows the way but they’ve got to try everything. They’ve got to try or else they are done.
Patrick: They do and the other thing is that you don’t know that it is the last wave, much the same way that nobody really saw this 4G world that we live in even two or three years ago. Everybody is certainly trying to get up on their board and ride it as long and as hard as they can, but you honestly don’t know that there is not a meteor type of technology that is right behind it that makes you about-face and go down another path, which is what is so awesome about this.
You do the best you can with the information you have available at the time, and there are certain underpinnings, foundational strategic things that if you do correctly, you don’t get caught completely unaware. You just have to ride it. Technology is just ever changing, and you just go with it.
Rob: I love it. What a great way to finish off. It is an absolute joy ride that you are on here. You could be at the pinnacle of success and then turn around and realize that everything that you have built, that entire mountain that you built and are standing on top of has crumbled before you, right as you reach the apex. You hope that it does not happen, but it certainly happens to a lot of industries today, a lot of companies today and it is because of a little disruptive thing called a mobile device. It’s just kind of crazy. Who knew a phone would have this power?
Patrick: Not me.
Rob: Yeah, not anybody. At least, we have got to be honest. I did not see it, you did not see it, nobody saw it and anybody who said they saw is full of it. Now we are just living it, which is the greatest part. Where can people find out about you guys? What is the best way?
Patrick: There’s the site, and there’s ways to contact us. There’s demos and all kinds of things we work with and all kinds of good stuff there, but we’d love to hear from you.
Rob: You guys are a 250 person organization out of Boston.
Patrick: We are spread throughout the world actually. There are people from Los Angeles to Boston, in terms of West to East in the U.S. and everywhere in between. We have people in London and Switzerland and Spain and Asia. You name it, we’re all over the place.
Rob: I have one question about this. Are you seeing the same things across the globe or are we at differing stages? You almost got out of here. Are they differing stages across the globe when it comes to this kind of stuff?
Patrick: They are at differing stages. A lot of the challenges are common, but there are many that are very unique and a lot of it has to do with the royalty structures from country to country. Some people have a very definite burning platform to be streaming, others have a burning platform to not stream because it is financially prohibitive, and so that is really on a country-by-country basis. Everybody is thinking about similar things, but the reality on the ground is quite different from country to country.
Rob: I can imagine. I figure we can talk about this forever, and I will have you back on, Patrick, because we have got to see how this thing evolves over the long-term and see if there is a fork in the road or a new technology that comes in, or an adjustment that happens in this space. But certainly, who would have thought?
I get excited about newspapers and their opportunities. I get excited about television and its opportunities. I get excited about radio and their opportunities. Some of these guys are going to disappear, but I just wish they would kick it up a notch and it seems like what you are doing at Triton is just that; helping them kick it up a notch.
Patrick: That is what we’re doing.
Rob: I have been speaking with Patrick Reynolds, who is the EVP of Marketing for Triton. Go to www.tritondigital.com, and take a look at what they can do. There are some great resources up there and if you are a radio station and you happen to be listening, or a content producer, you should get in touch with them. If you are running contests on the radio, I swear, just do a simple thing about checking into your radio station, something like that is a no-brainer, you just have to do it. It grows your audience. It helps you create a relationship with your audience. Two-way dialog over radio, unheard of, unheard of, unheard of.
This is it. Patrick, I really appreciate you doing this, thank you for your time.
Patrick: I appreciate the time. This has been a lot of fun, I hope we can come back and see how the story ends.
Rob: I think this will be a long-term story. Thank you guys who are still watching and listening. You know that I appreciate the fact that you do this each and every time that you do. It might not be every episode, but every episode that matters you guys are listening to, so thank you so much for doing it. If you have any feedback, comments, suggestions, critiques, whatever it is reach out at [email protected], I do respond to every single email that is sent my way and I really appreciate the feedback and the comments. How is that for two-way dialog out of there, Patrick?
Rob: That is as far as we get. Thank you guys for watching. Patrick, thank you for participating. This has been another episode of UNTETHER.tv. See you next time.
In a career spanning twenty years, Patrick Reynolds has covered the marketing spectrum. Having spent time in multiple top-tier advertising agencies (holding business, media, and creative leadership positions), he has led hyper-local targeted campaigns, groundbreaking global campaigns, and everything in between. In addition to advertising, Reynolds has been a marketing generalist with CMO stints at Tweeter Home Entertainment Group, Ando Media, and now at Triton Digital Media.
A graduate of St. Bonaventure University, he resides in Boston with his wife and two children.