Tag Archives: content

Content Is King…Except When It’s Not

Tuesdays With ColemanYou likely heard last week’s story about Quibi’s decision to shut down later this year. Quibi is a streaming service focused on short-form video content to be consumed on mobile devices. It launched in April after 18 months of build-up, as founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman successfully raised $1.75 billion from investors and recruited an impressive array of partners to create original content for the platform.

Quibi fails

No matter how you look at it, Quibi has been a flop. Downloads of the app never came close to expectations, and while the company sold out its first year of advertising inventory generating $150 million, it was unable to convert a meaningful number of consumers who signed up for a free trial into paying subscribers. As of a few weeks ago, Quibi reportedly had about 500,000 subscribers paying $4.99 per month, pacing well below their target of seven million subscribers by the end of the service’s first year.

This blog post, however, is not about bashing Quibi. (To the contrary, Katzenberg and Whitman deserve a lot of credit for being forthcoming about their failure, most notably when they made a joint appearance on CNBC last Thursday.) It is also not a full post-mortem on what went wrong with Quibi; instead, I want to focus on what lessons we can apply from Quibi’s failure to the audio entertainment world.

Quibi CEO Meg Whitman and founder Jeffrey Katzenberg raised $1.75 billion from investors

Let’s start with what Quibi did right—it invested in creating world-class content. The company reportedly spent over a billion dollars on content creation; in fact, some of the content was strong enough that it garnered two Emmy awards and ten Emmy nominations overall. Furthermore, its user interface generally received positive reviews.

However, as we often see with podcasts, streaming services, and radio stations, having great content often is not enough for success. When appearing on ABC’s Good Morning America last week, IndieWire television editor Kristen Lopez summed it up perfectly, stating, “It’s not enough to have stars. It’s not enough to have original content. You need to be very aware of what the market will hold, what your audience is, and what they’re willing to pay. What are they watching? What are they talking about?”

You also need to build a brand. Despite all the hype and firepower around Quibi, awareness of the service paled in comparison to other streaming video platforms, including YouTube, TikTok, Snap, Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. Even among those aware of Quibi, we suspect that few understood what Quibi was or at least didn’t see it as something meaningful to them.

This means that you can create a podcast with outstanding content, but if few people know about it or think of it as something that meets a need for them, your chances for success are limited. This also means that you can launch a streaming channel that has the most perfectly curated playlist of songs for fans of a particular genre, but if another brand already occupies that position, you likely won’t attract many listeners.

We see this phenomenon play out with radio stations as well. Too often radio programmers will listen to a station and decide they can offer the same format in a superior manner, with better music and stronger personalities. This may be completely true, but if the station with the theoretically inferior content owns a position in the minds of consumers, it is going to be very difficult to win such a battle.

Beyond the need for brand building, there is an additional lesson applicable to audio entertainment from Quibi’s demise—the importance of distribution. A lot has been written about Quibi’s timing; launching a mobile streaming service during a pandemic when people aren’t mobile certainly sounds like a recipe for disaster. But what is perhaps more important is the decision to make Quibi available only via mobile devices. In an age where consumers want the content they desire on an on-demand basis, this sounds like a short-sighted decision. You couldn’t watch Quibi content on your laptop or the big screen in your living room (although, paradoxically, Quibi announced its availability on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Google TV on the same day it announced its closure), which presumably made the service far less attractive to consumers than it could be otherwise.

Whether you work in radio, podcasting, or streaming, keep the lessons of Quibi in mind. It is commendable to create the very best content you can, but if you don’t put as much effort into building a brand around that content and make sure its distribution allows your audience to consume it how, when, and where they want to, you are only doing half of the job.

 

 

 

 

 

10 Quotes from 100 Blogs

Tuesdays With Coleman

On October 10, 2017, we started our Tuesdays With Coleman blog series as a way to share branding, content and research strategy. Last week’s entry, “Seven Solutions for the Podcasting Brand Challenge,” was the final of three consecutive blogs about podcasting, centered around the increasingly popular Podcast Movement conference in Orlando.

It was also our 100th Tuesdays With Coleman blog.

We love a good benchmark, and 100 blogs feels like an opportunity to look back and mine some nuggets from the past couple of years. Since 100 quotes seems excessive, here are 10, curated from a wide range of topics, strategic advice and members of our team.

“We sometimes get too close to the product for our own good, and are unable to see it through the lens of our customers.”

Warren Kurtzman, in “Is Inside Thinking Blurring Your Strategic Vision?” explains the Coleman Insights principle of Outside Thinking and how to achieve results by changing your mindset.

“If Bill Belichick showed up to a station remote, what would he think of a station banner hastily hung behind a bored jock eating a cheeseburger?”

One of our most-read blogs, “What if Bill Belichick Programmed Your Radio Station?” features Jon Coleman imagining New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick as a radio station program director.

New England Patriots Bill Belichick

An aircheck session with Bill Belichick as your PD could get pretty intense.

“We’ve all become so hyper-focused on the now, the instant gratification of numbers, that it is easy to take your eye off the big picture.”

After attending a talk by marketer Seth Godin, I wrote “Direct Marketing Is Easy. Brand Marketing is Hard” to reinforce the value of brand marketing, despite its lack of trackability.

Seth Godin Internet Summit

Marketing expert Seth Godin

“The Trader Joe’s lesson is that you beat a leader not by being better. You win by finding the inherent weakness in their strength and creating your points of differentiation.”

In “The Branding Genius of Trader Joe’s,” Sam Milkman explores why Trader Joe’s is so profitable in an industry with traditionally low margins and how to apply the lessons to your brand.

Trader Joe's Hawaiian Shirts

“TV is looking for talent in new places and banking on that talent. Why can’t radio?”

In “When it’s Time to Hunt (for Talent), Go Outside,” Jessica Lichtenfeld makes the case that radio should look outside the industry to find fresh, new, memorable stars for the medium.

 

“Don’t confuse the lack of 90s music exposure with the desire for hearing 90s music.”

In “The 90s Music Research Conundrum,” John Boyne explains how compatibility, not appeal, influences 90s airplay on many Adult Contemporary and Classic Hits stations.

 

“It’s possible while you’re programming on intuition alone, your competition is making data-influenced decisions.”

In “How Research Won The Super Bowl,” Sam Milkman debunks the myth that Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was a crazy risk-taker in winning the 2018 Super Bowl, when in fact he used a combination of research and instinct to take down the Patriots.

Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson uses a blend of research and instinct

“There are a few iconic brands in every category and there isn’t much changing going on.”

In “Don’t Change Your Radio Station,” I explain how the instinct to “freshen things up” can be detrimental to brand growth.

 

“Chipotle doesn’t sell pancakes. Hip Hop stations don’t play Taylor Swift.”

In “Should I Play That Song On My Radio Station,” Jon Coleman warns that playing popular songs or even songs that test strongly on your station that don’t fit your brand is a slippery slope.

 

“The ultimate success of the industry will depend on its ability to build brands.”

Warren Kurtzman, in “Joe Rogan and the Podcasting Brand Challenge,” writes that while producing great content is very important, listeners won’t discover it if the brand isn’t strong.

Thanks for reading Tuesdays With Coleman. If you haven’t yet subscribed, we invite you to do so. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like us to cover, feel free to reply and let us know. It may just show up in one of the next 100 blogs.

 

 

 

 

The Three Ts of Content Execution

Tuesdays With Coleman

It doesn’t take too much exposure to Coleman Insights to recognize that we talk a lot about the twin goals of building strong brands and developing great content. My colleague Warren Kurtzman revisited these fundamentals last week when he wrote about what it will take for podcasting to pass the tipping point.

This week, I’d like to focus on the content development side of the equation. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or even a media researcher!) to tell you that better content comes from doing more of what the audience likes and less of what they don’t. The challenge comes in figuring out what exactly are those positive and negative drivers.

To help demonstrate to the podcasting industry what is doable on this front, on July 25th, iHeartRadio SVP/Podcasting Chris Peterson joined my colleague Sam Milkman and me onstage at Podcast Movement in Philadelphia to share content research we had done for two of their original podcasts. Chris introduced the session by stating, “Let’s learn what listeners really think rather than a download, which tells you nothing.”

Podcast Movement Session

(L-R) John Boyne, Sam Milkman and iHeartMedia SVP/Podcasting Chris Peterson

The Podcast Content Deep Dive: A Second-By-Second Look At Listening Behavior was the culmination of two separate mediaEKG Deep Dive® studies that analyzed a pair of iHeartRadio Original podcasts. One is The Ben & Ashley I Almost Famous Podcast, featuring former cast members of ABC-TV’s The Bachelor; while the other is Business Unusual with Barbara Corcoran, hosted by the real estate mogul and Shark Tank celebrity. For each, we recruited a sample of their target audience to listen to the podcast. Then, using the mediaEKG meter, we were able to collect granular in-the-moment feedback on what they were hearing. What caught their attention? What grew their interest? What lost them? We then followed up with qualitative questions to help us understand why they rated content the way they did.

While the details of the research are fascinating, let’s be honest: What works for a podcast specializing in The Bachelor universe may not work for everyone.

But, stepping back, there are broader lessons of the research that are applicable to many and that are evident in much of the content research we do. We refer to these as “The Three Ts” – Topic, Treatment and Tone.

Ben and Ashley I Almost Famous Podcast

  1. Choosing the right topic means choosing something to talk about that your audience wants to hear about and—importantly—wants to hear you talk about. In the case of Ben and Ashley I, their topic selections have a very clear impact on the second-by-second performance of the show. When talking about the current season of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, their odds of success are high. But, the further they get from that bullseye topic lane, the better their execution needs to be in order to cut through. In our presentation, there are some fun examples of this, as well as a creative example of how the show cleverly extends its topic lane.
  2. For Barbara Corcoran’s podcast, the lessons of the research primarily relate to her treatment of various topics. There are certain ways that Barbara can espouse business advice that really work well for her. For example, Business Unusual’s target audience reacts really well to Barbara’s highly structured, step-by-step treatment of how to do things like ask for a raise or speak well in public.
  3. Finally, it is important to understand the optimal tone for a segment. Different tones for the same topic can have wildly different outcomes. For example, think about how differently one could cover the latest news out of the White House. Stephen Colbert may take a humorous tone, while Fareed Zakaria may take a more serious, professorial tone. Meanwhile, someone else may take an almost unhinged, ranting tone. Same topic + different tone = totally different outcome.

Business Unusual Barbara Corcoran

Want to learn more? On Wednesday, September 5th at 2pm EDT, Sam and I will deliver The Podcast Content Deep Dive: A Second-By-Second Look At Listening Behavior via webinar. We’ll dig into the specifics of how listeners react to these two podcasts, and you’ll learn more about how topic, treatment and tone play out in each. Our goal is to help podcasters and broadcasters think more and learn more about how The Three Ts can help them develop great content.

Click here to register for the webinar, and we’ll talk with you then!

Engaging Content: Everything Old Is New Again

Tuesdays With Coleman

Late last year, I wrote about the ads on your radio station fitting its brand. One of the things I touched on is the benefit of having your station’s own hosts and personalities reading your ad copy. At the Worldwide Radio Summit earlier this month, the benefits of host-read copy came up once or twice. I was a bit disappointed that no one got into the subject in depth, but then, there were a lot of topics to cover in only a couple of days. (Please feel free to use this idea for next year, no credit necessary!)

Having a station’s personalities read ad copy meets with mixed responses, to be sure. This is in part because brands have spent so much money on agencies that create slick, well-produced commercials, and those commercials have become the norm. But this is actually how ads began. Radio hosts in the 1920s and 1930s read their own copy (check out show announcer Mike Wallace in this 1947 episode of Sky King, reading a PSA), and as television entered more homes, this method continued as media changed around it. Gertrude Berg, a (now sadly ignored) dynamo of radio drama, took her character Molly Goldberg to television in 1949—and she continued to record advertisements for Sanka.

Gertrude Berg Molly Goldberg

Gertrude Berg as Molly Goldberg. Berg wrote over 5,000 episodes of the radio version of “The Goldbergs” (no relation to today’s ABC hit)

Note that it’s Molly, not Gertrude Berg, who touts the benefits of the now-iconic instant beverage. The audience saw no discernible break between their favorite show and the ad. A few years later, during her eponymous show on NBC, Dinah Shore took a moment, walked off to one side of the set and urged her viewers to “See the USA in Your Chevrolet.” Again, the transition from content to advertisement was seamless.

Peter Weir made fun of this—and of the blatant product placement in which some shows indulge—in The Truman Show. Remember how Laura Linney’s character was always being zoomed in on while she talked about a product? Same idea.

Laura Linney The Truman Show

Laura Linney as Hannah Gill acting as Meryl Burbank

Interestingly, the podcasting world has picked up on the benefits of host-read copy. A recent Nielsen study tells us that when an ad is read by a podcast’s host or hosts, that ad is much more likely to be seen as authentic and less likely to sound forced. This, I imagine, was the same back in Gertrude Berg’s and Dinah Shore’s days. Copy read by a host benefits shows as well as advertisers—listeners are savvy, and they know how long an ad break usually is, whether it’s on their favorite station or during their favorite podcast. Over the years, listeners have trained their brains when to tune out and when to tune back in. But when the host is reading the copy, they’re more engaged. They don’t immediately tell the difference between show and advertisement. As listeners, we trust our hosts, just as viewers in 1953 trusted Dinah Shore. We often talk about making sure your station features authentic, spontaneous content—why not expand that into your ads as well? Live ads—or ads that sound and “feel” live—offer your listeners a seamless experience.

The listener savviness I mentioned before also comes into play when gauging a host’s actual interest in the product he or she is advertising. I, for one, fully believe that Marc Maron, host of the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast uses stamps.com and wears MeUndies. On the other side of the coin, one of the podcasts I love and listen to faithfully features a host-read ad that I do not believe for one second. I don’t stop listening when she starts talking about the greatest haircare product in the world, but I do roll my eyes a bit—it takes me out of the moment. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Is that an argument for that podcast to drop the advertiser? Not at all. I see it as an opportunity to coach the host in methods of how to sound more enthusiastic than she is. After all, program directors often coach radio talent during breaks, so why not expand and coach them on spot reads? 1949 television viewers truly believed that Sanka filled Molly Goldberg with joy, and from what I understand, that didn’t come naturally to Gertrude Berg.

It’s important to remember that the hosts on your radio stations are just as much a part of your brand as the music is. Your loyal listeners pay attention to what they say, so why not use them to your advertisers’ advantage? If it sounds old-fashioned to you, remember that well-read copy, like great content, almost always sounds fresh, engaging and spontaneous.

Sometimes, everything old is new again.