Online Radio Summit at Wizard Academy

Attended the Online Radio Summit this week at the Wizard Academy in Austin, TX.  Fifty geniuses in the Tower, led by the astonishing Roy H. Williams.  Roy defined the Grand Unified Theory of Internet Radio — music, personality, information (news, sports, etc.) and advertising that is RELEVANT to the individual listener — and asked “Who is going to do it?  Apple?  Google?…”

Eric Rhoads, publisher of Radio Ink, was next up.  He called it “connected audio entertainment” which more accurately describes where things are going.  Keen insights from a radio insider.  “Know where most kids get their music?  YouTube…”  He spoke about the end of radio’s “exclusive franchise” of the automobile and set the RIP date as twice the length of the car ownership cycle.  An interactive discussion (as is the wont of Wizard Academy) made the point that radio is not relevant during disasters.  “One FEMA station is all you need…”  EBS stations suffice in emergencies.

Justin Chimienti of Pandora led the next discussion, assisted by Ronda Joines out of Pandora’s Dallas office detailing HUGE NUMBERS of listeners.  (No wonder they had to scale back internationally.)  I don’t see Pandora developing the Grand Unified Internet Radio project because they are deficient in so many areas — the human voice / personality, sports, news, etc.  Their ability to make advertising relevant is very interesting, however.  (Simply, they ask you, “Buying a refrigerator in the next year?  Getting married?” and so on.)  And they have a very light advertising load, at least for the moment.  Drop me a note if you want Justin’s phone number.

IDOBI was there, too.  National sales manager Michael Hamer put it in plain terms.  IDOBI has more listeners in the major markets than the biggest local radio stations.  And an advertising price point that every radio buyer needs to know about.  Seriously.  Call / write if you’d like Michael’s number.  IDOBI has a solid demographic, an AQH of about 88,000, and flat work-hours listenership from 10a to 8p.  Seems like a great national network buy.

Both Justin and Michael are long-time radio people — true professionals — and behave like great people to do business with.

At the heart of the Online Radio Summit was the identification of limiting factors.  Chief among these is the question “Can you guarantee that any particular listener will hear MY ad, a certain number of times, within a certain duration?”  FREQUENCY appears to be a limiting factor with Pandora as it is a unicast system.  IDOBI does not have this problem as everyone hears the same song (or ad) at the same time.

Mobile usage and the gap between usage and mobile radio buys were highlighted by JP Englebrecht.  This presentation immediately Got Your Attention as the material was fact-checked and honed by a savvy, insightful analyst who fingered the key factor in each data set reviewed.  Shocking, scary stats, if you’re in print or radio.  But noting the opportunities, too, as usage of mobile and internet far outstrip the ad spend.  (And no, Noob, we’re not talking about banner ads.  These guys are so far past banner ads…  Early in the meeting Jeffery Eisenberg asked, “When is advertising not an interruption?”  That’s the question these guys are answering.)  JP threw the  numbers up on the screen.  Everyone saw, “Wow.  What a very different world.  How do I get my people on mobile?”

Sidebar — One of the [many] delightful qualities of a Wizard Academy class is the sharing of information and resources.  JP Englebrecht patiently waited for us to copy down the sources of his data — slashes, dots, domains and hyphens be damned.  He was there to share information he felt was important.  (I, for one, am quite grateful.)  He didn’t just SAY something or have an opinion, he had the stats from squeaky-clean sources.  Awesome.

Ray Seggern was then collared by Roy, and spoke as a Wizard of Ads partner.  Ray’s presentation was concise — focused on the key element he needs to drive success for his advertisers.  I learned a lot about what is required to create a predisposition towards a certain company in the mind of a potential buyer.  It almost sounded magical, but that’s no surprise to anyone who has attended Wizard Academy.  That’s what they teach there, how to manufacture magic.

Another sidebar of it’s own [it seemed to me] happened after Ray was finishing up.  Roy took the dais and asked, “What makes an interesting character?”  This launched a spontaneous [again, it seemed to me] dive into character arcs, narrative arcs, character diamonds and style guides.  He ran us through a series of video ads then broke them down.  Why they work.  What was represented.  How it made the viewer feel.  The crossover between the ads (TV, fake) and the business (real trucks, real people) made me appreciate the depth of understanding that Roy has concerning businesses in general, and the levers that move people to action.  An example of detail — “ALL of Mr Jenkins trucks are Number 17, just like in the ad…”

This class-within-a-class was very valuable to me as I consider how to imprint a Personality on Radio Newark.  I’m going to spend some time thinking about character diamonds and style guides before long.  But first, I’m definitely going to make the station’s mobile presence MUCH bigger.

Wizard Academy arms you with the tools needed to PERSUADE people.  It is a school for the imaginative, the courageous and the ambitious.  There is a spirit there not often found.  I suggest that you go see for yourself.

Steve Worden

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