Recently let go WIP Operations Manager Andy Bloom – can I call him Andrew? – did a Q & A with Jeff Blumenthal of the Philly Business Journal, the publication you do Q & As with when you badly need a job. Bloom talked a bit about his career, how sports talk radio has changed over the years, and explained why he didn’t always discipline hosts for saying something that was just stupid but not spiteful. It’s not incredibly long or in-depth (it seems like Bloom just wants to sharpen his interview answers), but there is this part where Bloom, a former radio executive in a major market, displayed a fundamental misunderstanding for the medium slowly encroaching on his chosen field– podcasts:
Are podcasting and satellite radio existential threats to terrestrial talk radio, like the stations you ran at WPHT and WIP?
“There are all sorts of alternatives now. It doesn’t mean that radio is dead. If radio dies, it will be because of suicide. It has to respond by being platform agnostic and trying to deliver the product in the way people are using it. On-demand is a way of life for TV. The measurement of how much programming is being DVR’d is a big issue for TV right now. They want total viewership to include DVR and there will be the same issue with radio and streaming. I think eventually they will be counted together.”
Do you think podcasting can become a really profitable business model?
“Serial, the podcast on NPR, is very successful, though I am not sure how they monetize it or if it would work for a company like CBS or one of the other major networks. Adam Carolla also has become very successful with it.
I would say very few of them are making significant amount of money because there are so many of them and the cost to buy them is so little. So I think they need to figure out a better business model.
But people want to listen to what they want to listen to when they want to listen. And podcasting can micro-target, where radio is largely macro-target. Overall what it’s doing to radio is essentially death by a thousand little cuts. It’s siphoning away listeners because there are so many of them now.”
- He’s spot-on with regard to radio needing to be platform agnostic [meaning: it doesn’t matter where or how you listen, just that you’re listening]. But the fact that his go-to analogy is the DVR, and not Netflix, YouTube or whatever, gives you a little glimpse inside the mind of a career broadcast media man. DVR is a challenge for TV, for sure, but the extension of that format is on-demand streaming content and services. From a business standpoint, DVR is sort of like the infant version of Netflix– both allow you to watch what and when you want, but streaming services allow you to choose who your bill comes from and typically subscriptions, not advertising, are the core business model. To understand the struggle of on-demand content, you need to understanding streaming, not the DVR.
- “They want total viewership to include DVR and there will be the same issue with radio and streaming. I think eventually they will be counted together.” ??? I find it delicious – DELICIOUS! – that Bloom, who along with former underling Josh Innes was so eager to dismiss the combining of over-the-air and streaming ratings because they weren’t in their favor, thinks they should be combined. But, of course, this makes sense, and it meshes with what I’m hearing that Nielsen, the company that estimates radio audiences, will begin combining the two perhaps as early as this year.
- How, on Earth, does Bloom, who reiterated his belief that ratings are the sole determinant for what makes a good show, not understand how they monetize Serial (or any podcast, for that matter)? Same as radio: ADVERTISING. Have you ever listened to Serial? There’s an exclusive Mail Chimp spot before the music even starts. You know how expensive that thing is when there are hundreds of thousands or millions of listeners? Ditto for Bill Simmons’ podcast – let me tell you about Stamps.com – and countless others. Of course this would work for a company like CBS. It’s the same model. The difference between podcast and radio advertising, working in podcasting’s favor, is that advertising on podcasts is more organic, more natural, and substantially more effective. Why? Because podcast listeners actively choose to listen to a given host or show, not passively by virtue of it playing in the background in the car. When someone stops listening to a podcast, typically, they press pause, which means there is likely much more attention being paid whens ads pop up. And since listeners are going through the two-step process of choosing a show and downloading it or otherwise seeking it out, the ad read, coming from the host they implicitly trust, makes the message that much more effective. This isn’t me spitballing, there have been countless articles written on this. Podcasting doesn’t need to figure out a better business model– radio does. Radio relies on archaic estimations of audience and tricks to keep listeners tuned in for an extra 15 minutes in a constant effort to game the system and therefore advertisers. Podcasts can report much more precise listener data and deliver way more bang for the buck to advertisers. Podcasting’s biggest problem is scale and finding a way for smaller shows (like ours) to make money. It needs a solution like the web had with ad networks, which allowed independent websites to begin monetizing 10-15 years ago. It’s not hard to make money, but it is harder to find an audience. Seems someone working in the field should know all this.
Read the full thing here.