Tag Archives: iheartmedia

The Extraordinary Podcasting Opportunity: A Conversation with Hetal Patel

Hetal Patel is the Executive Vice President of SmartAudio Intelligence at iHeartMedia. In a conversation for this week’s Tuesdays With Coleman blog, we discussed her recent talk at the Audio Intelligence Summit, “Podcasting Trends & Mythbusters: What to look forward to in 2023.”

That turned into a wide-ranging discussion on generational differences and habits in audio consumption, how to connect on a deeper level with younger consumers, an untapped opportunity in podcasting, and our mutual adoration of “Extraordinary Attorney Woo,” a Netflix show from South Korea featuring a lawyer with autism in the lead role.


The Audio Intelligence Summit, a conference focused on how audio and audio advertising can be utilized effectively, was held in New York in February. Of the myths surrounding podcasting she covered in her talk, I asked Patel which myth bothered her the most. She described the lack of education surrounding platforms and publishers.

For example, iHeartRadio is a podcasting platform, but it is also a publisher. Stuff You Should Know and The Ron Burgundy Podcast are published by iHeart, but you can hear them on Spotify, Apple, and “wherever you get your podcasts.” On the one hand, it’s a somewhat unique dilemma to podcasting. Patel offers an analogy: “If you watch a video from a publisher like Vox, CNN, or Fox on Facebook, you know the content belongs to those publishers. But many people who listen to an iHeart show on Spotify may think it’s a Spotify show. Other publishers probably feel the same thing when consuming content on the iHeartRadio app.” This poses a challenge on the advertising side, when buyers don’t necessarily recognize that their ads travel with the content to each platform.

Stuff You Should Know is published by iHeartRadio, but is available on multiple platforms

To me, it’s a classic example of Inside vs. Outside Thinking. Inside Thinking occurs when you’re too close to the product, and you make assumptions about consumer behavior based on your own experience. Outside Thinking is adopting the mindset of your target consumer (in this case the buying community).


Patel is struck by the primary reasons people listen to podcasts, and she shares the differences between Millennials and Gen Z. “Millennials listen to podcasts for productivity. They listen to learn something. Gen Z seeks companionship, which makes sense. The levels of loneliness are highest in America right now. While digital media was made to keep us together, it has done the exact opposite.”

This led to diving into a startling statistic from a 2021 study by the Survey Center on American Life on the state of American friendship. In 1990, 27% of Americans said they had three or fewer close friends. In 2021, nearly half—49%—claimed to have three or fewer close friends. The percentage of Americans that said they had no close friends quadrupled, from 3% to 12%.

Percentage of Americans that say they have (x) number of close friends. Source: Survey Center on American Life

When you begin to consider several pieces of information together—younger consumers choosing podcasting for companionship, the decline in the number of close friends, and the increase in the mental health category in podcasting—the role of companionship to reach younger listeners is evident.


When talking about the diversity of younger consumers, Patel mentioned that over 50% of Gen Z and Gen Alpha are non-White, meaning an opportunity exists to deliver content targeted to these consumers. She believes earlier assumptions within the industry that Black and Hispanic consumers aren’t interested in podcasting were fundamentally incorrect. “When we launched the My Cultura network, a slate of Hispanic-targeted podcasts, we learned one in three Hispanics who had not given podcasting a shot said it was because there wasn’t content relevant to their interests. It wasn’t a discovery problem, it was a content problem.”


Ask Hetal Patel about video’s role in podcasting, she’ll tell you she certainly sees one, but what you’ll really unlock is her love of audio. The key for the industry, she believes, is recognizing what makes it so special.

She asked me, “When was the last time you watched TV without a cell phone in your hand?” Long pause. “Point made.”

“When was the last time you listened to a podcast while focused on your cell phone?” “Point made.”

“The engagement, the curiosity, demands the listener commit to it.”


When Patel told me that she started watching Korean TV and cinema during the pandemic, I had to ask if she’d seen “Extraordinary Attorney Woo,” a Netflix show I happened to have just started watching a few weeks ago and am in love with. Her face lit up.

We love the show for similar reasons. The South Korean show is about an attorney with autism but connects on several deep levels. At its core, it is a show about inclusivity, kindness, warmth, and respecting others. It’s one of the only shows she’s comfortable watching with her 7-year-old, and we agree there’s nothing like it on American television.

As she puts it, “When you see someone different, it’s human nature to distance ourselves when we should be warm.”

Funny how the conversation all fits in. Companionship, inclusivity, intimacy = extraordinary.

What I’ve Learned After Six Months of Voice Tracking

In the past, I have used this blog to write about WVBR, the first stop in my radio career. The station, in Ithaca, New York, has a commercial FM license and is owned by a non-profit corporation consisting of students at Cornell University, where I earned my undergraduate degree. I spent four years as an air personality on WVBR and I was the station’s general manager from 1985 to 1987, where I had a team that included iHeartMedia’s Tom Poleman, SiriusXM’s Steve Blatter, CNBC’s Jessica Ettinger, and syndicated host Todd Schnitt helping me run the station.

WVBR Ithaca

WVBR is still going strong today, staffed by a dedicated group of Cornell students and community volunteers, and offers an Alternative music format during the week and a wide array of weekend specialty programming. I have remained an active alumnus of the organization and—after serving on its board of directors from 2006 to 2014—currently serve in an informal advisory role.

When the pandemic lockdowns hit, WVBR faced a crisis, as many of the student volunteers who normally hold down air shifts would be unable to do so. This created an opportunity for alumni and other non-student volunteers to step up and provide at least a minimal level of personality for the station’s now-automated programming via voice tracking. With a lot more time on my hands while the pandemic kept me working from home and not spending my usual eight to ten nights a month in hotel rooms while traveling for business, I decided to seize the opportunity. Thus, more than three decades after I hung up my headphones, I was back on the air, hosting a weekly four-hour show of Alternative music from my home more than 500 miles away in North Carolina!

Warren Kurtzman WVBR Cornell

A picture of a much younger version of me, when voice tracking didn’t exist

I am pleased to report that “Wednesday With Warren” is still growing strong and tomorrow marks the 29th week in a row I’ve hosted the show! As I reflect on the past six months, I’ve learned a few things about using voice tracking:


  1. It takes a lot more time to do a good show than I realized. When I volunteered to do this, I incorrectly assumed that it would not require much of a time commitment. I quickly learned, however, that if I wanted to do the show right—in other words, go beyond reading liners, station promos, and song introductions and talk with knowledge about the music I’m playing and relevant events in the community—it required a good deal of preparation. I am getting more efficient as the weeks pass, but I still find that I must put a minimum of two hours into the show each week, even if recording the breaks themselves takes me less than 30 minutes.


  1. Nothing replaces listening to the show live. I can listen to my recorded breaks repeatedly before I upload them to the station, but nothing helps me get better at this than listening to how they fit into the overall live flow of the radio station. Since work commitments often prevent me from listening to my show live, I use DAR.fm to record all four hours of my show and listen to the full playback, critiquing myself along the way and making notes for things I should try to do better the follow week.


  1. It can be a lot of fun! I find myself talking about my show with many of my friends, describing it as my “passion project.” Even when my crazy business travel life resumes, I intend to keep the show going for as long as WVBR needs me to do so.


  1. I made a very smart career decision in 1987. This experience has added to my respect for air personalities; it is hard to do this well and only the most talented and dedicated people can create compelling content, especially when using voice tracking. There was a time when I naively believed that an on-air role was going to lead me to my career goals. Thank goodness I made the move to the research side of the business all those years ago!


I don’t believe anything will ever be as powerful for radio stations as truly compelling and highly entertaining personalities who are “live and local,” but I am enough of a realist to recognize that voice tracking is here to stay. My experience with it over the last six months has convinced me that with effort and preparation, any air personality dedicated to their craft—and possessing more talent than me!—can use the technology to create compelling radio.

You can listen to “Wednesday With Warren” on WVBR between 9AM and 1PM Eastern time on 93.5 FM in the Ithaca area, wvbr.com, Live365, or TuneIn.












Radio’s Encouraging 2018 Outlook

Tuesdays With Coleman

For the first blog post of 2018, our three Senior Consultants—Warren Kurtzman, John Boyne and Sam Milkman—continue their roundtable chat to offer their thoughts on the radio industry and the role of research in 2018.

Coleman Insights Warren Kurtzman Jon Coleman John Boyne Sam Milkman

Senior Consultant Sam Milkman, Founder Jon Coleman, Senior Consultant John Boyne, and President Warren Kurtzman


I think we need to start a discussion of how the radio industry looks in 2018 by looking at the largest radio companies.


There are some very positive signs that started to take shape at the end of 2017.


Right. Entercom’s acquisition of CBS should make it a stronger player, iHeartMedia continues to deliver strong operating results and will hopefully reach a deal with its bondholders soon. Cumulus should emerge from Chapter 11 as a healthier entity.


With the three industry leaders in stronger financial positions, I’m hopeful we’ll see more investment in their products, meaning investments in people and talent, research and marketing. It’s pretty exciting when you see the medium-sized players—the Hubbards, Bonnevilles and Beasleys of the world—expanding their portfolios and investing in their products. They are seeing the results of those investments.


That’s good for everyone, from listeners to advertisers to radio industry employees.


I think radio is really figuring out its place in the digital space now, too.


Definitely. The industry is increasingly going to advertisers with multi-platform solutions instead of just selling spots and that’s causing an increasing percentage of station revenue to come from digital.

On the content side, I think it is important that stations remember that all their digital assets are an extension of their brands and should be consistent with what’s coming out of the speakers. Visitors to a station’s website, readers of a blog, someone checking the station’s Facebook page should all clearly understand what the brand stands for.


Smart speakers will play an important role this year.


They will, and that’s another good example of radio embracing new technology. Many stations and companies were very quick to integrate their brands into Alexa Skills, running promos instructing listeners to use it, and are figuring out how they can utilize it to generate more in-home listening.


We continue to see pretty big changes going on in the research side as well as a result of technology.


Quality control is more important than ever. Technology allows us to measure things differently and recruit research participants differently, but it also opens up a whole bunch of additional factors that require researchers’ attention.


Yes, I think quality control should be a consideration for any research company you decide to go with. We need to spend more time explaining this to our clients and the industry as a whole.


Let’s do a little of that now! It all starts with using high quality sources of sample. It’s amazing how many vendors of questionable sample pitch their wares to research companies every day. We’ll talk about this more in future blogs, but one thing we need to stress is how much using high quality sample impacts the accuracy of the data research companies deliver.


Another of our biggest ongoing investments is in online security, which helps make sure that the people who participate in our studies are who they say they are. There are things we do to prevent hackers and “professional test takers” from getting into our studies in the first place and then advanced analysis tools we use once we have the data to weed out respondents who don’t meet our quality control criteria.


My last thought is that as an industry, to get better, we need to constantly examine pre-conceived notions of what consumers want. We have to always ask if there’s a better way of doing things.


I agree, Sam. To circle back to where we started this discussion, I believe our ability to do that should be enhanced by the improved health of our customers. It’s really fun to be bullish on the radio industry as we begin 2018; coming to work every day in an environment where there’s investment rather than cutting is dramatically more satisfying!