Thursday, January 31, 2008

"If you want to be here, you need to fight for your dreams." Paulo Coelho

"Obstacles never come from below but from those who never managed to reach the top and are blocking the way." Marcel Bealu

"One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." Andre Gide

Image: giallo by grazie, davvero. Wonderful. Thank you very much.

From TED 07, Professor Ben Dunlap tells the amazing story of Sandor Teszler

Italian red: Rosso Salento 2005. Negroamaro 70%, Primitivo 30%. A good value under $10.

Congrats & cheers: Live from LA - Five CEOs discuss the status and future of audio-anchored advertising. A program presented by (think)LA and SCBA. Moderated by Kyle Acquistapace, EVP, Deutsch/LA. Get info on the webcast here

John Hogan, Dan Mason, Jeff Smulyan, Gary Stone, Farid Suleman. Alfred Liggins scheduled to appear did not. Following is live blogging, an attempt to get close to what was said while missing stuff, getting some things wrong, incomplete etc. I reserve my right to amend, revise, extend. Apologies for not being even close to exact here...

Opening round:

John led the group. He feels there is a disconnect between the perception and the reality of radio effectiveness and relevance. Trouble with slides (ouch).

Dan framed his comments by talking about engagement, passion and excitement. Dan is excited about the coming world of PPM and the new buying tools that Arbitron will debut this summer. He speaks of the power of radio to engage. He talks about the incredible lift, increase in reach that the meter reveals vs the antiquated paper diary. Dan gave some great examples of radio's powerful influence, blood drives, alerting folks to important news during an emergency, he singled out WWL and praised them for their service during Katrina. Dan said his first car had an 8 track but he still listened to radio, later he had a cassette deck and listened to radio, then a CD player, then a CD juke box changer, now Sat radio, MP3/ipod connection and he always listened to radio and still does everyday just like the majority of Americans.

Jeff shared that while the total percentage of population listening to radio weekly is down slightly, the total numbers listening are up (increase in population). Jeff's sense is tagging is the next killer app. He sees a day when there is a radio in every device, every phone and PDA and he says the industry is committed to making it happen.

Gary talked about the incredible and rapid growth of Latino radio, and Latino media. Media is important in the lifestyle of his audience, a part of the fabric of everyday.

Farid's opening comment was to indicate he agreed with those before him and would rather not put everyone to sleep with a repetitive rehash. Bravos to Farid for having the courage to tell the truth - radio has hurt radio. When radio should have been focusing on developing solutions for advertisers we were busy, as a consequence of consolidation he says, trying to take the business away from the other radio guy.

Major theme: Perhaps the most common of all themes cited - radio having a problem of "perception" vs reality. Dan said if he heard one more negative comment about radio he would turn into a werewolf. Jeff spoke about the industry working on a common initiative to reposition radio and change perceptions. Gary feels that radio sellers have been beaten down by buyers since 2001 and might be buying into some unfair and negative perceptions. He said sellers need to get more creative and sell more than spots and dots.

2018: Kyle kicked off the speculation - what will radio look like? John said the future is not bright if we think we are only in the radio business, we need to expand beyond AM and FM and into the ever increasing number of HD channels, into the online space, into cellular - then the future is a whole lot brighter. Focus on radio's core strength - connecting with an audience. The future is really, really bright if we can make the technology work for us. Dan said it's about engagement, the ability to call people to action, to target, even geo-target an audience. We will be able to aggregate audience with electronic measurement, pool numbers, serve an advertiser better. Never losing the fact the radio reaches out and touches, engages. Farid feels radio time spent will go up, more fragmentation, more options in the home, agreed with the suggestion of longer commute times (part of the scenario set forth by Kyle when he asked the question). Farid sees a greening up of the roads, no billboards, newspapers have disappeared from the face of the earth. The revelation of cell phones causing cancer will end the use of cells. Google will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Clear Channel. (Farid is such a kidder) Gary's sense is targeting will get more fragmented, more fine. Jeff feels we already have a relationship with 95% of the community, where there was once a national media experience (early broadcast), now we are living in a niche world, the narrowing and fragmentation will continue. John's sense is the cellular platform will be the most narrow of all, individuals electing what content they wish to be sent - customization. Distribution platforms will allow a great amount of program diversity.

HD Radio: Jeff says the awareness of HD Radio is good. The mission is replace the one billion radios now in the market. He gives Peter Ferrara credit for a job well done. Dan said this is about HD chips. No one packages content better than radio. All we need are the appliances, we have the spectrum.

Q&A: Question to John - What is the status of Less is More? It has been extremely successful in that it made our stations better and forced us to change our perceptions and think differently about our listeners and advertisers. It caused us to address the quality of radio creative. LIM is a little in the rear view mirror. It's not the length that is important it's what the advertiser needs. Question to panel - numerous audio options in a single device - wifi, bluetooth, iboc - is there room, is there an industry group that is meeting with the manufacturers, who is making the sales calls? Jeff says the answer is yes, the HD Radio Alliance is working on this for HD but the NAB, RAB and others will work on this as well. Question to panel - I feel like this is a technology conference, where's the discussion about entertainment? We should go back to being in the entertainment business - why are we not entertaining any more? Why are we not people's best friend any more? Radio has forgotten what made it great! Jeff responds - the fact is we reach 95% of the American public, we are entertaining listeners. John responds - you ask where has the fun gone? Radio today is as good or better than it ever has been. Question to panel - how do we repurpose content and monetize it in the gaming space? Jeff responds his guys are working on it. John says his group is working on several adver-games. The first question was not a question but a positive comment by a buyer. Missed one of the questions. A buyer to John about the CC sellers being aggressive in their pitching of digital assets. Several IMs and a cell call covered her comment and John's response.

My take: Great job by Kyle as moderator and fine job of welcoming remarks by Mary Beth Garber. This morning's panel serves as a strong exhibit that radio CEOs need speech writers. As a group they were ok when they should have been far more inspiring. Each well spoken but no orators in the group this morning (while each is capable of delivering a much better performance, all that was needed was the right assist and prep). Poor John Hogan - he was first up and while he deserves major props for only using three slides he had trouble with ppt. What was clearly needed was more story telling. They all could have told some great stories. We got a tiny bit of that in Dan's opening remarks when he talked about listening to radio as a child and the power of disc jockeys to influence, persuade. The biggest missed opportunity was the failure to use examples of killer audio. Nothing sells radio better than GREAT audio.

Bonus: "Create tension! Without tension, brands become blands" so says Tom Asacker. As usual, he's right on the mark. Read his wonderful new article The Yin and Yang of Marketing via PDF here. Kudos, Tom! Very well done.