Author: Warren Kurtzman, John Boyne, Sam Milkman, Jon Coleman, Jay Nachlis, Jessica Lichtenfeld, Meghan Campbell

How to Connect With Your Audience in a Crisis

Tuesdays With ColemanAs the world has turned upside down for the foreseeable future, the team at Coleman Insights has been engaged in conversations with our clients about how to navigate the new landscape. We recognize the ability of radio stations and other audio-based media to shine in moments of crisis, and there are already numerous examples of this occurring. On the other hand, we also recognize the lack of an “adversity road map.” There is no playbook that dictates how each brand should respond. Should you continue to deliver your format without any significant modifications? Is this a moment to break format completely and provide relevant crisis information instead? These are difficult strategic decisions. The specific choices are also hard.

Our consultant team has been having ongoing internal discussions about strategies for the audio entertainment industry. The result is the following special Thursday edition of Tuesdays With Coleman, a compilation of thoughts and ideas our team would like to share with you, with the understanding that there is no single solution for everyone.

  • Recognize unusual times call for unusual measures.

Everyone has something to contribute during a global emergency. Regardless of what your brand regularly delivers, your listeners are affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and your response should reflect this. Your brand has a voice and a platform to be heard when listeners need it the most. Known, trusted personalities should play a major role and leverage the intimate connections they have with their listeners.

  • Consider the role of your brand in COVID-19 coverage.

Understand the need your brand fulfills.

News brands have a responsibility to provide comprehensive, relevant coverage. These brands might consider whether there are opportunities to go outside the typical format. For example, does more long-form programming or an increased number of updates make sense? These decisions should be determined by the role of the brand–in this case, being a provider of constant, reliable and trustworthy information during the crisis.

Listeners may be visiting your music station to get away from news coverage, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to stay connected. Does it make sense to employ a “We’re following the news so you don’t have to” approach? This allows talent to play a reassuring role; listeners can count on enjoying content on a music station without feeling like the world will pass by if they aren’t watching CNN or Fox News at that moment.

A full-service Adult Contemporary station may play a more personality-forward role of providing news and information. On the other hand, if your brand primarily provides comfort and escape, like a Soft Adult Contemporary radio station, constant news updates may be a harrowing intrusion and contrary to your brand. In fact, brands built on comfort and escape should lean in to that image, as it is particularly valuable when the real world is more chaotic.

  • Recognize that listening patterns are likely in significant flux.

If many people aren’t going to work or school, typical in-car commute listening levels no longer apply. What about everyone who is temporarily working from home? Or businesses that have been forced to close, like bars and restaurants? Will radio listening increase or decrease?

Reduced commuting will have a significant effect on listening patterns

With that in mind, consider the impact on how people may be consuming your station, podcast or streaming service and the programming options you may have.

With entire families now at home throughout the day, what about specialty programming geared to them during traditional at work hours? Should you do this on your main platform or would offering this through podcasts, separate streaming channels, etc. make more sense?

Aggressively promote all your listening platforms, keeping in mind that smart speaker listening is heavier at home than in the workplace and a surge of at home listening may be taking place.

  • Provide increased authentic and actionable listener engagement.

Listeners will find comfort in others going through the same issues. You may find yourself broadcasting from your home, which may be out of your comfort zone. Rather than trying to project a sense of business as usual, embrace the change! If the dog barks, the child screams or the husband sighs in the background, that’s real life. It’s exactly what your listener is going through. Let sharing be the mantra–you could, for example, have listeners upload pictures of their home offices to your social pages and share yours.

Find experts to feature on your shows. You don’t have to have all the COVID-19 answers yourself, and some of the best content is being generated by personalities across multiple formats interviewing those on the front lines of the crisis.

Anthony Fauci is the director of the NIAID

NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) Director Anthony Fauci has been extremely media-friendly in providing crisis guidance

Consider taking more listener phone calls. Allow them to share feelings and information that may be valuable to other listeners.

Think about brand-appropriate actionable advice you can offer listeners that is applicable to the current environment (i.e., how to work at home while the kids are in online school, the best binge-able series on Netflix or which delivery services have waived their fees).

Modify your tone. Be empathetic to the new needs of an uncertain audience.

  • Rally your community.

In times of crisis, “Community” surges to a higher level of importance on the Image PyramidSM. As they would with aggressively promoting a Base Music or Talk position, brands should be going over the top with their community efforts. Build real community bulletins (here’s what is open, new hours for grocery stores, new restrictions, etc.). Be the voice of the community, invite listeners to participate and share as appropriate. Listeners will tell people where they can buy toilet paper (well, maybe they’ll share that information), who delivers groceries and how to find free learning resources for kids. Post the information on your website.

Don’t just think of your community as your market. Your community is your audience. A Hip Hop station and Classic Rock station will not rally the same communities, but each has the power to inspire, engage and activate their respective followers.

If you make a concerted effort now to think about what you can really do for your community and your audience, your efforts will create a halo over your brand when things settle down.

Consider reading two Tuesdays With Coleman posts in which we covered the important role of radio in a crisis:

Here’s to Local Radio and Waffle House

The Power of Radio in Tough Times

All of us at Coleman Insights welcome your input and would love to hear your thoughts on how audio brands can best serve our communities during this challenging time.

We’re all in this together.

Warren, Jon, Jessica, Sam, John, Meghan & Jay

Outside Thinking Gives the XFL a Better Chance to Succeed

Tuesdays With Coleman

The North American sports landscape is littered with failed launches of major leagues to compete with the established players. In basketball, the ABA collapsed, and four remaining viable franchises joined the NBA in 1976. A similar thing happened in hockey three years later when the WHA failed in its effort to take on the NHL.

No sport, however, has seen as many failed professional major leagues as football, as the NFL has fended off competition from many upstarts, including the WFL in the 70s, the USFL (featuring Donald Trump as a franchise owner) in the 80s, the UFL roughly a decade ago and the very recent AAF, which was shut down after eight weeks of play in 2019.

When Vince McMahon, best known for his leadership of World Wrestling Entertainment, announced his intention to launch the XFL, many rolled their eyes in anticipation of the next major football league failure. (Full disclosure: My wife, pictured here with wrestling legend Hulk Hogan, worked in sales marketing for what was then known as the WWF 30 years ago.) Increasing the skepticism of many was the fact that McMahon launched and failed with a previous incarnation of the XFL in 2001.

Sharon Kurtzman and Hulk Hogan of the WWF

Yet, here we are four weeks into the inaugural season of this new incarnation of the XFL and—while it is far from a runaway success—there are numerous signs that the league is off to a good start. Television ratings, which provide a quick, early read, reveal that the games are attracting roughly two million viewers each on the major broadcast networks and about half that on cable networks. These audiences are comparable in size to college and NBA basketball games that have aired nationally in recent weeks. Not surprisingly, ratings—as well as game attendance—have declined since the opening week, but they remain decent. Furthermore, the XFL is generally receiving coverage from the sports media as a credible entity and even the often toxic world of social media is not rife with posts and tweets criticizing the league.

XFL New York Guardians opening day against the Tampa Bay Vipers

Before I outline the positive moves the league has made, let me take you back to 2001 and the first version of the XFL. It featured tons of WWE-style “attitude” and cast itself as a macho, hardnosed alternative to the NFL (which XFL executives derided as “the No Fun League”) and its recently-initiated rule changes designed to enhance player safety and promote greater sportsmanship. The XFL celebrated the violent, in-your-face side of football and threw in sexy cheerleaders as a bonus. It was created by people reacting to anecdotal negative comments they were hearing from football fans, and as a result, these people vastly underestimated the strength of the NFL and miscalculated what fans wanted out of football. In other words, the first incarnation of the XFL was a classic case of Inside Thinking, with its backers rolling out a strategy based on what they believed the public thought of the NFL and they craved as an alternative.

Today, however, McMahon and company seem to have learned from their previous failure. They are acting like Outside Thinkers, viewing the potential opportunity for another professional league from the perspective of the fans.

What has the XFL gotten right?

  1. They conducted research. XFL executives have been open about the fact that they took the time to ask football fans what they were seeking in another football league and they learned that the quality of the play was more important than the attitude, violence or sexy cheerleaders the first version of the XFL delivered.
  2. They invested in the product. Based on what it learned in the research and knowing it would be working with a lower caliber of players than the NFL, the XFL had more than 1,000 players converge in Houston for 18 days of intensive training camps before the season began. Having the camps for all eight XFL franchises in the same city allowed for greater quality control, improving the chances that each team would put its best foot forward when the season began.
  3. They took care of distribution. All XFL games are airing on major television networks, with weekly games on ABC and FOX and remaining games on their ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2 cable networks. The league is also offering a streaming video option via fuboTV.
  4. They didn’t directly challenge the dominant player. The XFL season started immediately after the NFL season and, perhaps more importantly, the league did not repeat its earlier mistake and waste energy on bashing the NFL. Instead, the league is trying to ride the coattails of the dominant player and get the most passionate football fans to keep following the sport after the NFL season ends.
  5. They innovated appropriately. Part of what is capturing fans’ interest are the differences between the XFL and the NFL. This includes subtle things like the broadcasting of play-calling by the coaches, in-game sideline interviews with players and embracing gambling. It also includes bigger rules changes, such as the XFL’s attempt to bring back excitement to kickoffs without risking player safety and the options for one-, two- and three-point conversions after touchdowns.

One can argue that the first incarnation of the XFL only did one of the five items above, as it was a joint venture with NBC, which aired its games during primetime.

Will the XFL survive? I honestly do not know, but its embrace of Outside Thinking makes me believe its chances of being around five years from now are infinitely better than any of its predecessors.

 

Doing Well by Doing Good

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A common theme in this blog is how brands should learn as much as possible about what its consumers expect from them and—if those expectations are in line with what those consumers want—deliver on those expectations as often as possible. I like to think that we’ve done that since launching Tuesdays With Coleman more than two years ago. The audio entertainment industry professionals who come to our blog expect us to deliver insights into trends in marketing, branding and the consumption of radio, podcasts, music and streaming audio.

For our last installment of Tuesdays With Coleman in 2019, however, I am going off-brand to discuss something very different: corporate responsibility. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, there is little denying the polarized nature of our society and the increasing difficulty with which governments—here in the United States and elsewhere around the globe—can get things done and improve the lives of their citizens. It is easy to sit back and lament that fact by complaining on social media and blaming others for this predicament; the hard work is doing something to help communities and the needy.

In August 2018, Coleman Insights announced that it was joining Pledge 1%, a global movement by companies to integrate giving into their DNA. Specifically, we pledged to donate 1% of our profits, 1% of our employees’ time and 1% of our services to community and charitable organizations. Since we started this initiative, we have donated thousands of dollars and our employees have given hundreds of hours to a wide array of organizations that help people in need and make our communities stronger. We even delivered a research project on a pro bono basis to a college radio station so that the students could get “real world” exposure to the process before pursuing careers in media. To learn more about our Pledge 1% efforts, I encourage you to visit the page devoted to them on our website.

Coleman Insights employees volunteered at a food pantry as part of its Pledge 1% initiative

Coleman Insights employees recently volunteered at a local food pantry

I was inspired to send our company in this direction by Marc Benioff, the chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce. Coleman Insights uses Salesforce to drive many of our business operations, and while the decision to use their products and services was initially made because of the value we thought they would deliver to our business, we are incredibly loyal to Salesforce and continue to increase our investment because of the company’s commitment to giving back. Marc wrote about this in an excellent New York Times Opinion piece in October, and even if you do not agree with his politics, I challenge you to not admire the man for his commitment to philanthropy and equality for all.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff commits the company to donate one percent each of time, profit and product to charitable causes

Much like how Marc writes about how companies can be more successful by engaging in activities that help their communities and by providing equal opportunities for their employees, we are feeling the same kind of impact at Coleman Insights. Thanks to a solid economy and strong commitments to research-based strategies by our clients, I am happy to report that we have achieved strong financial results while also taking our Pledge 1% game to a high level. In other words, we are doing well while also doing good.

Why am I making this the subject of our last blog of the decade? Please be assured it is not to pat us on the back; instead, I have two goals. First, I want you, our readers (and many of whom are our customers) to know as much about us and our values as possible. If working with a company that is committed to giving to those in need is important to you, I hope we can enjoy a productive business relationship in the future. Second, and far more important, I urge you and the companies you work for to take a close, hard look at Pledge 1% or other models of giving to the communities you serve. If we all spent a little less time fighting over how to help people and improve society and more time doing the work required to make things better, the 2020s will be a little brighter than the 2010s.

On behalf of everyone at Coleman Insights, I wish you a happy holiday season and a safe, healthy and peaceful New Year. Tuesdays With Coleman will return on January 7th with our “regularly scheduled programming!”

Content Repeating Is Not Content Creation

Tuesdays With Coleman

I treasure all Coleman Insights clients, but a specific client of ours holds a special place in my heart. This client is a stand-alone FM music station in a small market that more than holds its own against multi-station clusters owned by some of the biggest groups in American radio. It would be nice to claim that their success is due to their commitment to research—despite their status as a stand-alone in a market outside of the Top 100, they do a Plan Developer strategic study or a FACT360 Strategic Music Test every year—but their consistent commitment to maintaining their station’s strong brand and delivering content designed to be as appealing as possible to their audience should be equally recognized. They also deserve credit for their long-term retention of one of the best programming consultants in the business.

This client’s passion for delivering great content resulted in an email exchange between the general manager, the consultant and me that highlighted a point that I don’t think can be reiterated too often: Radio programmers should not confuse content repeating with content creation. If they do, I fear their stations will become less relevant in the increasing competitive audio consumption landscape.

The exchange centered around how the station’s morning host handled contestant Blair Davis’s hilarious introduction of himself on a recent episode of Wheel of Fortune. Davis told host Pat Sajak about his “loveless marriage,” described “his old battle-axe” of a wife and claimed to have been “cursed” by having three stepchildren. It was a funny joke that Davis and his family were in on and the clip of his appearance went viral immediately.

Our client was thrilled that his morning host was on top of this viral sensation; I, unfortunately, had to play the role of wet blanket. The problem wasn’t the topic itself—it was timely and relevant. The issue was with how it was presented. Rather than generating fresh content based on the story, the host instead did little more than playing the audio from Wheel of Fortune, which many of the station’s listeners may have already heard or could easily find on their social media feeds. Sure, radio personalities should talk about things that are happening in pop culture, but if all they do is repeat content that was created elsewhere—or at least do not do something to add to that content—radio will be in trouble.

What could a radio personality do with content like the Wheel of Fortune introduction? Examples include having listeners call in and do their own version of a Blair Davis-style introduction. Or how about if a morning show did a bit with celebrity impressions where famous people did their own introductions using the Blair Davis approach? I am sure people who are more creatively inclined can come up with better ideas than mine, but the point that you should take away from this is that radio can’t be in the content repeating business and must be in the content creation business. The latter is a lot harder, but I believe it is essential for radio to continue to thrive.

In our research, we continue to see that music stations seen first for the music they play (the Base Music Position layer of their Image Pyramid) are the ones that tend to have the strongest ratings in the long run.

We also continue to see that stations that are perceived as more than “jukeboxes”—in that they have developed the upper layers on their Image Pyramids—engender greater loyalty from their listeners and therefore also enjoy greater ratings success. This development of additional imagery beyond their Base Music Positions is even more important today, as consumers have so many options for listening to their favorite music wherever they are. That’s why music stations have to create and not just repeat nonmusical content. The industry’s goal should be to get other media platforms to repeat the content radio stations create.

Too Many Messages!

Tuesdays With Coleman

Regular readers of Tuesdays With Coleman and loyal Coleman Insights clients know of our affinity for Outside Thinking, the ability to look at any business, product or service from the perspective of its customers or users. Furthermore, those of you who have listened to my colleagues and I espouse on Outside Thinking know that understanding the obstacles that often prevent businesses from communicating what they stand for and offer is vitally important. One of those obstacles is the concept of “Too Many Messages.” When brands—through their product, advertising and other communication efforts—communicate multiple messages about what they stand for, the result is a lack of consistency in the messages that get through to consumers.

A few years ago, my colleague Sam Milkman ran into this guy:

This t-shirt has too many messages on it

Even though Sam didn’t know him, he begged him to let him take his picture. Why? Because the radio station t-shirt he is wearing is one of the best examples of violating the Too Many Messages rule we’ve ever seen. The shirt inundates anyone who sees it with at least three major things it wants you to know about the Magic 101.7 brand: (1) it plays “Continuous Lite Rock,” (2) it features John Carter’s morning show and (3) it offers “the no-repeat workday.”

The point here is that this guy in the t-shirt could have walked past many people the day he wore it, and if we polled those people afterwards, each of them would have taken away different perceptions about Magic 101.7. Some would just remember the brand name, some would recall the kind of music the station plays, some would retain John Carter’s name and some would think about the station’s no-repeat workday feature. Very few of them would retain all four messages and the overall population of people exposed to the shirt would remember inconsistent mash-ups of the various messages.

Despite our efforts to discourage breaking the Too Many Messages rule, we see radio stations and other businesses do it all the time. Why? We can chalk up some of it to human nature; when advertising budgets are tight and you get that rare opportunity to tell consumers about your business, you want to tell them as much about it as you can. However, I think it mostly happens due to a lack of strategic thinking and understanding of how consumers’ brains process information. It probably also happens because some people just don’t buy into the Too Many Messages rule. I’m sure the Inside Thinker who designed the t-shirt above concluded that it wasn’t too complicated and that consumers would “get it.”

Fortunately, we have proof that consumers don’t get it via recent research from Millward Brown, a subsidiary of Kantar, the global research behemoth. Millward Brown’s specialty is measuring the effectiveness of advertising and they offer their clients a service called Link™, which measures how consumers respond to advertising copy across many dimensions.

Using Link, Millward Brown was able to determine how well ads featuring multiple messages manage to get any single message through to the consumer. As the accompanying graph reveals, not very well. Even by adding a second message to an ad, the likelihood that consumers take away either of them drops from 100% for a single-message ad to only 65%. By the time fourth messages are added to ads, the best likelihood of a message getting through to consumers drops to 43%.

The more messages you try to communicate the lower the likelihood of communicating any single message

What does this mean for your business? It means that you should focus on the most strategically-important message to get across to your target audience to the greatest extent possible. If you’re in radio, this should flow from knowledge you have on the state of your station’s Image Pyramid and which layer is most in need of development. If your music position needs development, focus your advertising solely on the music you play and resist also promoting your morning show or another benefit listening to your station offers.

If you’re trying to grow the audience for a podcast and you believe—as most research in the podcasting space has confirmed thus far—that there’s a large untapped audience consisting of people who aren’t aware of your podcast, keep the message focused on the “elevator pitch” for your podcast and don’t spend a lot of time explaining all of content elements of the show. If you own a hot dog stand that recently expanded its menu to include bratwurst, don’t advertise the addition of bratwurst until you know that your image for hot dogs is strong enough to support the development of imagery for other items on your menu.

I should stress that this applies well beyond what you do with your advertising, especially if you are in radio. Think about the messages your listeners are exposed to when they tune in to your station. Are they focused on helping your station develop the one image that is the next step in the construction of your Image Pyramid, or do they hear a music image promo in one break, followed by a promo for your morning show in another break, followed by another break in which your air personality encourages listeners to visit him at the station’s tent at the upcoming community festival downtown?

When he portrayed Curly in the classic 1991 movie “City Slickers,” I doubt Jack Palance thought his “secret of life” would apply to the “Too Many Messages” rule. My take? Nearly 30 years later, Curly’s recipe provides good marketing advice:

 

Seven Solutions for the Podcasting Brand Challenge

Tuesdays With Coleman

If you read the last two installments of Tuesdays With Coleman, you are aware of the brand-building challenges that exist in the podcasting space. Two weeks ago, I wrote about how Joe Rogan is the biggest brand in podcasting, but that only 14% of monthly podcast listeners are aware of him on an unaided basis. Last week, we revealed new podcast research that indicated none of the top 20 most-listened-to podcasts are familiar to at least half of all monthly podcast listeners.

None of this is terribly surprising given the nascent and highly fragmented nature of the medium. Nonetheless, for any podcast that seeks out mass appeal success, building a brand is a necessity.

Fortunately, there is a route to building strong podcast brands, as my colleague John Boyne and I shared in our “Outside Thinking for Podcasts” presentation at last week’s massive Podcast Movement conference in Orlando. The first step on that route is to recognize that if you are engaged in podcasting, you need to go beyond content creation and think like a marketer. If you do, you will take an Outside Thinking approach to the medium and recognize that (a) you must teach people about podcasting, (b) combining great content with strong branding is crucial for success and (c) such success is not measured by download or listener counts but by having satisfied listeners.

Coleman Insights presenting at Podcast Movement

John Boyne and Warren Kurtzman presenting “Outside Thinking for Podcasts” at Podcast Movement

This means that you need to go beyond telling listeners, “Download wherever you get your podcasts,” and be more specific about where they can get your content. Your podcast’s website should go beyond that and provide step-by-step instructions for finding, downloading and listening to your podcasts.

Here are seven ways to build your podcasting brand:

 

  1. Have your elevator pitch down.

If you can’t succinctly articulate what your podcast is about, why people should listen to it and what differentiates it from other podcasts, it will be very difficult to build a brand. Once you do have that pitch, be sure to communicate it frequently, even to your existing listeners.

Another way to think like a marketer is to:

 

  1. Give your podcast a memorable name.

Your podcast needs to stand out among the more than 700,000 active podcasts competing for listeners’ attention. Does your podcast have a name that is searchable and memorable? If not, change it.

Building a strong brand also necessitates taking advantage of the fact that podcasting is an aural medium; great audio brands have their own unique sound and feel. Some of the best ones:

 

  1. Use jingles and other mnemonic devices that help consumers remember them.

Beyond jingles and mnemonic devices, there are things you can do with your podcast’s content that help with brand building. One is:

 

  1. Utilize a consistent structure.

This is important because meeting consumer expectations is crucial to building a brand, a reality for virtually every category of products and services. Examples of such consistency include making sure that your podcast follows a regular release schedule and having the flow of your podcast’s content follow a similar pattern with each episode.

Taking this a step further, your podcast should:

 

  1. Utilize benchmarks, recurring segments or features.

Think along the lines of David Letterman’s signature “Top Ten” lists or Jimmy Fallon writing “Thank You Notes” every Friday night.

Another content-based practice that helps with the brand building process is to:

 

  1. Make sure your topics are on target.

The topics you cover on your podcast should be not only of interest to your target audience but also aligned with what they expect from you. This does not mean that you can never deviate from those expectations, but when you do, you better make sure your content execution is outstanding.

 

Finally, we should not ignore that even if you think like a marketer and have all these things—a strong elevator pitch, a searchable and memorable name, mnemonic devices, consistent structure, benchmarks and on-target topics—your podcast’s ability to build a strong brand will require that you:

 

  1. Advertise your podcast.

Don’t despair, however, if your budget won’t allow for billboards in Times Square or television spots during the Super Bowl. A good marketer recognizes that there are many ways to get the word out about a product or service beyond traditional media advertising, with social media (paid and organic), being promoted on other podcasts, endorsements, cultivating reviews, your own website, search engine optimization, content marketing and public relations all representing other options for building a brand.

 

If you weren’t in the audience in Orlando (or you loved our presentation so much you want to see it again!), I’m happy to announce that Coleman Insights will host a free webinar at 2:00 PM EDT on Thursday, September 12th, when John and I will re-present “Outside Thinking for Podcasts,” which will cover many of the suggestions above in more detail. Click here to sign up for the webinar today!

The Podcasting Brand Challenge, Part 2

Tuesdays With Coleman

Last week, I wrote about one of our findings from a podcast research study we recently fielded with a nationally-representative sample of 1,000 18- to 64-year-old American monthly podcast listeners. The headline referred to how Joe Rogan is the biggest brand in podcasting, as The Joe Rogan Experience enjoys a level of Unaided Awareness that is more than twice that of any other podcast.

The flip side of that proclamation is that—at 14% Unaided Awareness—Rogan’s brand isn’t that big. This is because of the nascent state of podcasting and the incredible fragmentation of the medium. With current estimates stating that there are more than 700,000 active podcasts available, building a strong brand in this space continues to be a huge challenge.

Yesterday, we released additional findings from our study that provide a different perspective on branding. Prior to fielding our podcast research in May, we gathered the latest available top 20 most-listened-to podcasts list from Podtrac from March and asked respondents about the top-ranked podcasts on an aided basis. Stunningly, not even one of them was familiar to at least half of monthly podcast listeners, with TED Talks Daily leading the pack at 43%. The only other podcasts that were familiar to at least 30% of the study’s respondents were The Daily, TED Radio Hour and The Ben Shapiro Show. Perhaps even more striking is that some of the podcasts on the top 20 list—Hidden Brain, Up First, The Moth and Invisibilia—are familiar to between only 8% and 12% of monthly podcast users. (Note that The Joe Rogan Experience does not participate in Podtrac’s measurement and therefore we did not test its Aided Awareness.)

We share this data not to criticize podcasters, but instead to make sure they open their eyes for the need to build brands. Without well-known strong brands with which many consumers want to affiliate, few podcasts will attract large, loyal audiences. This is a tremendous task given the previously-mentioned fragmentation of the industry—as making a podcast stand out in an incredibly crowded marketplace is very difficult to do—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary to accomplish.

My colleague John Boyne and I will share ideas on how podcasts can build brands when we deliver our “Outside Thinking for Podcasts” presentation this week at Podcast Movement in Orlando. We will talk about how even if content creation is your forte, looking at your podcast from the outside perspective of a good marketer is crucial to building a successful brand. This will include tips about helping listeners find your podcast and things you can do with the content of your podcast that will facilitate brand building.

This latter point is important because brand building does not have to completely depend on marketing activities like advertising and search engine optimization. In fact, as we often cite with our Brand-Content MatrixSM, success is most often derived through the delivery of content that provides a great “in the moment” experience for the listener and reaffirms what they expect from your brand.

Brand Content Matrix

In our presentation, John and I will talk about how memorable brand names, structure, mnemonic devices and benchmarks can help to overcome the many obstacles that stand in the way of building great podcasts.

We hope you can join us at Podcast Movement this week…almost as much as we hope the air conditioning in the Rosen Shingle is up to the task of Orlando in August!

Joe Rogan and the Podcasting Brand Challenge

Tuesdays With Coleman

Yesterday you may have seen news coverage of our podcast research data about the Unaided Awareness levels of the leading podcast brands. Our press release covered the “sexy” part of our findings, specifically that Joe Rogan has the biggest brand in podcasting.

The less sexy, but far more important aspect of our findings pertains to what we’re learning about brand development in the podcasting space. Next week, my colleague John Boyne and I will be sharing more about what we have learned in our “Outside Thinking for Podcasts” session at the Podcast Movement conference in Orlando, but in advance of that, we would like to add to the discussion around podcast brand development here.

At Coleman Insights, we are bullish about podcasting. It represents a great opportunity for the many talented content creators in the radio industry to leverage their expertise and expand it to a new growing platform, while also providing an opportunity for fresh, new voices to enter the audio entertainment space.

The ultimate success of the industry, however, will depend on its ability to build brands. By that, we mean brands that are well-known, that are perceived as providing content that is compelling to large numbers of consumers and that are associated with attributes with which consumers want to affiliate.

To date, such brand building has been awfully slow.

While the sexy headline from the podcast research data we recently reached was about Joe Rogan, the bottom line is that only 14% of monthly podcast users are aware of Joe and his show, even though his podcast has been available for a decade. The more significant finding of our podcast research, however, is that Rogan’s relatively low Unaided Awareness level dwarfs that of any other podcast. In fact, none of the four other podcasts that finished among the five best-known in our podcast research—Serial, The Daily, This American Life or My Favorite Murder—achieve Unaided Awareness levels above 6%.

In fact, our research finds that podcast users are about as likely to mention a platform or a category when asked to name podcasts as they are to mention a “big” podcast brand like Serial or The Daily. For example, 5% of podcast users mention NPR when asked to name a podcast; 4% of them say “music” and 3% say “sports.” A parallel here would be to ask people who use streaming television to name shows and have them answer Netflix or Hulu instead of Stranger Things or Orange Is The New Black.

Podcasting Unaided Awareness

By contrast, in most research we conduct with radio listeners, it is not unusual for individual station brands to exceed Unaided Awareness levels of 50% or more. One can certainly argue that most of these radio brands have multi-decade head starts on podcasts when it comes to brand building, but such an argument misses the point. No matter how great a podcast’s content is, its ability to attract an audience will depend on people knowing about it and having—at a minimum—the “big idea” of what the podcast stands for in their minds.

How does a podcast build a brand? We hope you can join John and me at Podcast Movement next week when we share how applying Outside Thinking can make that happen.

Preparing for Daily Radio Ratings

Tuesdays With Coleman

One of my favorite Facebook features is Memories, which allows me to start most days with reminders of life events I shared in years past. A few weeks ago, I woke up to reminders of a great business trip I took across Canada ten years ago.

On that trip, my colleague John Boyne and I delivered breakfast presentations on four consecutive mornings in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto at the invitation of NLogic (then known as BBM Analytics), the software arm of the Canadian ratings service. Its president asked us to share our early learnings about PPM in the United States just before the audience measurement service was rolled out in his country.

I bring this up because a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see the “next big thing” when it comes to PPM and, as a result, many of the items John and I covered in those breakfast presentations are worth revisiting.

This “next big thing” is coming this month from Media Monitors and its name says it all: Audio Overnights. Yes, it’s true, after making the leap from quarterlies to monthlies to weeklies, the radio business is about to join the world of “dailies.” This means that after constantly reminding our clients in PPM markets that “It’s only a weekly,” we’re now going to have to hold their hands through the ups and downs they will experience as they download the ratings from yesterday onto their computers.

Media Monitors

I am not going to use this week’s blog to rehash Jon Coleman’s landmark “Top Ten Things to Do as a New PD in a PPM Market” article (although, if you want to remind yourself of its teachings, I invite you to review the piece here), which encapsulated much of the material we covered in our presentations to Canadian broadcasters. Instead, I am going to focus on four of the items in Jon’s article that address the changes most stations see in their PPM performances on a short-term basis.

One of Jon’s ten “things” is the need to understand how PPM works and that it—like all research—is prone to statistical wobble. This will be especially true when we start looking at PPM data on a daily basis, as it will be possible—likely, in fact—that there will be occasions where your audience will grow from Wednesday to Thursday and the daily data will tell you the complete opposite. Thus, it is important not to fixate on individual days; what you must do instead is look for longer-term trends in daily data before you start to raise questions about a station’s performance.

Another point is that while programmers—thanks to some extent to tools that have been introduced by Nielsen Audio in recent years—have a better understanding than they used to of panel dynamics, they will need to recognize that panel behavior will have a huge impact on daily data. We usually talk about panel dynamics in terms of respondents entering and leaving a panel, but when we look at daily data, we will experience the impact of panelists dropping in and out of in-tab daily. You can already envision scenarios where a panelist who is a reliable contributor of quarter-hours of listening to a station experiences a life event that prevents him or her from carrying their meter—or, less dramatically, that causes a break from his or her usual pattern of listening—on a given day and the impact that this will have on the daily numbers.

Portable People Meter

Just as we discourage our clients from obsessing over weekly or even monthly PPM data, we feel this is even more important once Media Monitors delivers Audio Overnights to its customers. Avoid downloading the numbers every day and don’t make an event out of it when you do. Instead, look at a bunch of individual days’ data at the same time and watch for patterns by aggregating the data. Outside of when there was a major event that you would expect to drive a big spike or decline in listening, don’t lose the forest for the trees by hyper-focusing on data for an individual day.

Lastly, evoking one of our favorite philosophies about research, avoid confusing correlation with causation. The former is when your ratings go up or down at the same time as you or a competitor made a change and you incorrectly assume that the numbers reflect the impact of that change. It is only through other research that gives you more insight into the hows and whys of listeners’ behavior that you can connect the two with confidence.

I am not going to pass judgment on the introduction of Audio Overnights; they’re coming and we will be prepared to help our clients interpret the data. With that said, I am confident that programmers who follow the tenets of Outside Thinking and understand how consumers make the decisions about what to listen to when will be the ones who will not obsess over daily data and use the tool correctly as a guide that will help them raise the right questions about their station…and not as an answer for why their stations perform as they do.

Winning Through Analytics and Intuition

Tuesdays With Coleman

This is a very difficult blog for me to write. You see, I’m a huge English soccer fan who spends far too many weekend mornings in a pub watching matches with my fellow members of North Carolina Spurs, the official local supporters club of my favorite team, Tottenham Hotspur. To say that I have become a rabid fan since I began closely following the English Premier League more than a decade ago is a bit of an understatement; my wife and I even made sure to attend a match in London before they tore down my team’s ancestral home—White Hart Lane—to make way for its beautiful, new state-of-the-art stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur

Me with my wife Sharon at White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur’s former stadium

And now I am going to write about a glowing New York Times article about Liverpool. I hate Liverpool—I believe it’s codified in English law that if you’re a supporter of one of the Premier League’s “Big Six” teams you have to hate the other five—but the piece supports a concept that is incredibly aligned with our experience of working with radio stations at Coleman Insights.

So why is this a challenging blog for me? This past Saturday, Spurs lost a heartbreaking 2-0 match to Liverpool in the final of the Champions League. For the uninitiated, the Champions League is an annual competition between the top clubs across Europe and is the closest thing the continent has—short of the World Cup—to America’s Super Bowl. It was amazing that my Spurs advanced as far as the Champions League final, but to get so close and just miss out on being crowned as the champions of Europe was also bitterly disappointing.

Even if you have no interest in soccer (or football, as everyone outside of America calls it), I encourage you to read “How Data (and Some Breathtaking Soccer) Brought Liverpool to the Cusp of Glory,” which ran in the Times about ten days before this past Saturday’s final. It talks about how Liverpool’s plan to rebuild after several less-than-successful seasons was not only based on luring away manager Jürgen Klopp from the German club Borussia Dortmund, but also on the hiring of a director of research named Ian Graham and using the data-based insights Graham produced for making decisions about the direction and strategy of the club.

Graham is but one of numerous examples of how analytics is revolutionizing sports. Sports executives, managers and coaches are increasingly making decisions—about what players to recruit, about where to position those players on the field, court or ice, about what strategies to employ, etc.—based on incredible reams of data that advances in technology have made readily accessible. It’s why Major League Baseball games feature more player shifts in the field than fans of the games have ever seen before and why three-point shots have become a much bigger factor in NBA games in recent years, even though they have been a part of the game since 1979.

The parallels to radio programming here are striking. Jürgen Klopp is the program director who is succeeding by blending together the science he is getting from his researcher Ian Graham and the art that comes from his instincts and years of experience coaching soccer. One of my favorite lines in the Times piece describes how “the tactics he chooses end up being a mix of the data-driven and the intuitive.” As a researcher, I can really relate to Ian Graham, who “wants the club he works for to win, but he also wants his judgments to be validated.” Very few things give me greater satisfaction that seeing one of our client stations enjoy great success because of things their management team learned from the data and insights we provided to them.

Jurgen Klopp Liverpool FC

Liverpool FC manager Jürgen Klopp has embraced analytics in his coaching strategy, which helped lead to a championship

If a sports franchise can use insights derived from data to make consequential decisions on things like which players to attract and shots to take, radio stations should use the same advantages for decisions ranging from which air talent to attract to types of music to play and features to run. In fact, most successful radio stations do exactly that. The programmers that lead them possess great instincts and creativity; they put them to work within strategic frameworks that are supported by research.

May 15th marked my 24th anniversary with Coleman Insights; as I embark on my 25th year with the company, my belief that the best programmers know how to blend art and science is as strong as ever. Are you using high-quality data and research-based insights to make decisions about your strategy? If you are not, I strongly encourage you to do so if you want to remain relevant in a world that is increasingly reliant on data and analytics.

Even if all was right in the world and my Spurs—who also use analytics, but weren’t the Times article’s subject—defeated hated Liverpool, the fact that Liverpool has experienced a significant turnaround in its on-field performance since Ian Graham was added to its payroll is evidence of the value of high-quality research. With another soccer season over, now all I must worry about is that my fellow Spurs supporters don’t gave me too much grief about writing something positive about Liverpool.