Trends for Radio in 2011 – Talking with Jim Kerr

Triton Media’s Jim Kerr peers into the crystal ball to anticipate what is ahead for radio in 2011.

Jim is VP Strategy for Triton, and so is at the center of change in the radio industry.  Together, we touch on some of the key themes of change Jim outlined in his recent article in Venturebeat.

Jim is a sharp observer of radio’s potentialities, and I strongly urge you to tune in to his predictions (click below).

We also talk about the challenge posed to radio by hyperlocal platforms like Groupon and AOL’s Patch, and how radio can meet these platforms on their own terms – and ours.

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  • john ford

    yea man. I'll bite.

    So let me pose just one question? What does this really…have to do with broadcasting?

    let's sum this up: gather data, quantify ad data, redefine data value, re-quantify ad data for database ad slumlords, re-utilize data for re-distubition via mobile.

    So where is the big idea? it's just hive data following hive data 'ad' infinitum 'ad' nausea. Someone show me the big idea! It's just more regurgitation of the cloud/hive. Where is the programming? Where is the big idea? Who is the leader here?

    Sorry to sound so pessimistic, but someone please come up with an original, creative idea. Not just more non-personal, non-human, in-compassionate “let's shuffle the numbers in the database one more time!

    Thank you

    that is all.

  • I'll let Jim nibble on this too, John.

    But for starters, all of these facets are driven by the hundreds of thousands of relationships uniquely cherished by the average broadcaster – to say nothing of the client relationships that are so hard earned over the years.

    Does Groupon have that? No. Does Patch have that? No.

    The real question is “what is broadcasting in a digital age?”

  • john ford


    Case in point. Get a groupon deal for let's say half off some dining establishment. On entry to the restaurant, inform the server of the groupon. He/she will likely tell you that it doesn't include the tip, probably roll their eyes and deep in their heart know that you are a cheapskate. The owner will undoubtedly realize you will never return as a “regular” customer, that the 'deal' is the only reason you are there. It's a loss/loss for them. And they know it.

    Tell the owner you heard about them on the radio, and you're very likely to get a completely different experience/reaction at the establishment.

    You've hit it on the head Mark, because it's personal. The listener indeed has a personal relationship with said radio station. The groupon user is just a clicker in the cloud. The business owner knows this, even if they don't have an understanding as to why they inherently know it. As does the user/listener. This is why a live spot beats groupon every time. This is why a personality/human trumps the collective hive.

  • Thanks for the reply. I do appreciate what you are saying and understand. However, philosophically I just do not agree with what I believe is a false definition of terms regarding the hive of data that is somehow known as “social media.” (and even a fragment of this philosophy would take more text than disqus could ever possibly handle) Social media defined, as one small example, in an I’m single/couple 1/0 query in a database is pointless. The myriad of choices and concepts of relationships (as in real relationships) can not be categorized as 1/0 single/in relationship. (or even in multiple choice). A relationship is a hell of a lot more complicated than two/five/or even thousands of possibilities. (ask any therapist you happen to see…) Humans/personalities create relationships, databases don’t. All the monkeys with typewriters in the world have yet to create one real relationship, everyone who listens to Howard or Rush feels they do.

    Thanks for playing along

    thanks for playing along.

  • John, what if your favorite station is KQRS in Minneapolis, but you don't like the Rolling Stones. Would it be valuable if the station had a strong enough relationship with you that they could send you a broadcast stream–just for you–that doesn't include the Stones? What if you are living in St. Louis, but you're a Steelers fan. Wouldn't it be good if the station could include a bit more Steelers sports coverage–just for you. What if you are renovating your house, and the station sends you a coupon for Lowes?

    In short, this isn't data slicing and dicing, this is a radio station knowing more about YOU and then providing things that YOU want. In grand terms, this is a shift from broadcast to personalcast. That this process dovetails with how consumers are now engaging with media is a big win fro programming, while the fact that it dovetails with how digital agencies are engaging with publishers and media companies is a big win for sales.

    Looking at this as a database slumlord play is completely ignoring where social media has gone with the interaction of content and user profiles. Putting modesty aside, most companies are adding sharing and “tweet this” links and calling it social media. Triton is taking the actual listener and his or her likes, opinions, and behavior, and allowing you as a content provider to better serve them, while also going to advertisers and allowing radio to better serve them.

  • John, there are undoubtedly issues with margins and ROI with the Groupon model, but let's be fair here–as a category it's less than a year old for all intents and purposes. They are still figuring out what works. I will say this, your description of local advertiser reception to Groupon couldn't be more off base. If local advertisers hated Groupon, it's gross sales wouldn't be near what it is. Those enormous numbers aren't coming from Hill Holiday. They are coming from local mom and pops and regional retailers.

    It's nice to think that radio will win because it's personal, but when you walk in the door with an invoice after Groupon walked in with a check, reality will smack you in the face. Now, as I said in the interview, this doesn't mean radio is a lost cause, it means you need to fight the Groupon battle and come armed with a different mindset and a different set of tools.

    You touched upon another major asset for Groupon. When you enter the establishment with a Groupon, the owner or manager knows the deal worked. How many people go into a restaurant and say, “Oh, I heard about this place on the radio.” An answer of “zero” is probably the closest accurate estimate.

    Again, it's nice to say that if you ignore something it will go away, but to do so when it is stealing tens of millions of dollars worth of business out of your pocket is dangerous.

  • According to the wsj, and groupons own numbers, “Groupon says its research shows 22% of its customers make a repeat visit to a business after using its coupons” If that's what groupon admits, what's the real number?

    Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/

    A rice university study says the numbers is more like “15% came back a second time to purchase products at full price.”

    more: http://www.screenwerk.com/2010…/

    lots of numbers here in the survey. However, I particularly love this quote:

    One restaurant owner observed that ‘Most of the Grouponers were what we call ‘deal- seekers’; they felt entitled to special treatment, didn’t spend more than what the Groupon itself cost, they didn’t tip, and most won’t be repeat customers.” Yea, duh!

    As a sometimes groupon user, I can only say that I don't use it much anymore. Whenever I visit a restaurant with a groupon, I was always treated like a second class customer. Another issue as a consumer is the “broadcasting” nature of the service. Many of the “deals” are way beyond my zip and of no real interest to me. I have no interest in getting my nails done, beauty lotions, museum membership, a car wash or an oil change 25 miles out from my zip. Yea, I understand all that reach, but target me (if i'm part of your data hive, then use the data by god!). I just delete the deals every day.

    Oh, and there must be a reason rush says, “Just mention Rush for blah, blah discount” I'm sure it's more that zero. Just sayin.

  • Scr8tv

    Blah, blah, blah, blabah… yes radio needs this and digital has that. The bottom line is radio companies are NOT investing in digital like digital invests in digital. Who spends more digital Facebook or Clear Channel… Google or Cumulus? Pandora, Amazon you name it the digital companies don’t get thier toes wet they dive in. Amazon just invested $13 million in their Groupon offer… thats probably more then any single radio company’s total investment in digital.

    Wanna see the game buy a ticket… wanna be in the game buy a team.

    I understand the economies but radio is not in the game and will most likely never be. Optimisim does not make you a player only a believer.

    And why must I watch or listen to this Mark when I can read 10x’s faster?

  • Again, John, you’re making it more complicated than it needs to be. There are shades of grey, but if I state in my Facebook profile that I “like” the Black Eyed Peas, it’s probably not a bad idea to play the Black Eyed Peas for that person. Gordon Mclendon didn’t sit in the soda shop and examine the social dynamics of the people popping nickles in the jukebox, he just noticed that the kids liked the same songs.

    Look, social profiles aren’t going to make someone shout “baba booey” on a news program because they adore Howard Stern, but they can make a Howard Stern fan happier when they go to the station website and the station provides a lot of Howard Stern content. Say someone hates Howard Stern, and you don’t give them Howard Stern content, that’s nice, too. I’m not sure how knowing more about the likes and behavior of one’s audience suddenly became a bad thing.

  • There is no doubt that Groupon has made some mistakes and enemies along the way with local merchants, but you have to look beyond these individual trees and take a long hard look at the forest. Groupon's location targeting will get better. The margins for local merchants will improve. But beyond all that, even a 15% return rate is going to be seen as a positive. 15% versus zero comes down to an assessment of ROI. “I am giving this product/meal/service away for 25 cents on the dollar. Of the people who bought it, 15% will return and may become regular customers. What's my cost of acquisition? Is this an investment worth making?”

    The scary thing here is that we are talking about real verifiable numbers. This is the future that local advertisers are going to be considering as the normal way of business. In national advertising, it's already there. Dollars are rushing out of traditional media and flowing to digital. It's a flood of dollars moving that way. Why? Because merchants feel they have a better view of what the return will be on their investment. I mentioned this in the Venturebeat article that Mark cites–this national disaster for traditional media is going to start hitting local media this year. You will have clients going to radio and saying, “Groupon just handed me a check for $2,000, and I'm seeing 15% repeat business with a cost of acquisition of $2.53. What do you have?” THAT is the issue.

    Triton is all over this, and we're in constant discussions with our radio partners about finding ways to combine the best of radio's assets with the changing rules of the game. But one mistake we simply can't make is to assume that the rules of the game won't change. The are changing as you read this.

  • Jim,

    I totally get (or at least believe I get) the points you are making and applaud your company and the information you are passing along to your broadcast and non broadcast clients. Thank you.

    My real point, I believe, isn’t complicating things, it’s taking it back to what I believe is the core of the issue (in the statement of my original post). The human. Gordon Mclendon watched. Lee Abrams hitchhiked. Great ideas come from individuals, not from an endless stream of hive data chasing itself (enter Pandora). Programmers have become so time taxed from consolidation/downsizing that they have no time to use their best resource, their individual “great” idea. Enter the data driven collective cloud. Why worry about the next great idea, we already have no time, let’s rely on this database to chase around all of this data. And it’s OK, because it’s “Social.” Like I said, where is the BIG IDEA! I believe (philosophically) we have reached the point where we stand on the crossroads between not having the time for the big idea and eventually not needing it. The collective does not create great ideas, people do. Steve Jobs “invented” the iPhone, the “collective” the Android. The individual creates the “passionate” and “great” idea, the hive creates by committee. Which one is “insanely great?” So I digress… where is the BIG IDEA?

    thanks for your thoughtful insight.


  • Chris Souchack

    And the more personal it gets…. the BETTER radio will SOUND!

  • On your first point, you’re right – Facebook spends more on digital than Clear Channel. Unfortunately, Facebook lacks the thousand or so radio stations, to say nothing of the advertiser relationships, that Clear Channel has. The bar is not as high for Clear Channel (as an example) as it is for Facebook. We can vault that bar.

    In answer to your final question, I know that video and audio are not for everyone. But there is a dynamism to video and audio which text lacks. Why should I listen to your radio station’s talk show when I can read 10x faster?

    Some interviews are accompanied by text transcripts, and I edit those myself. So which would you prefer, more transcripts and less content or more content and fewer transcripts? 🙂

  • Jerms

    The location based app for radio came out last year. http://www.locationgogo.com it's also on facebook.

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