‘Let’s Embrace Mobile. It’s Our Birthright’

Jeff Haley Preaches the benefits of radio’s scale and live local content
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Jeff Haley Preaches the benefits of radio’s scale and live local content

RAB President/CEO Jeff Haley delivered opening remarks at the 2011 Radio Show in Chicago. Here are excerpts.

We remain today a little under 3 billion shy of our 2007 high-water revenue mark of $20 billion. I’m quite confident that we are well on our way back to that number. But there are those who doubt our strengths.

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‘Nobody has as broad and deep a platform as our nearly 11,000 broadcast radio stations. … Frankly, they won’t ever.’ © NAB

Some look at our top five categories and they see secular radio issues in our cyclical media world. I do not.

Some look to nascent pure-play audio brands and see a radio problem with innovation. I do not.

Some look to the flattening growth rates of all measured media and lump radio in with all the rest. I do not.

I reject the shallow and simplistic analysis that reflects more of a preoccupation with the old metrics of the past than a focus on what lies ahead.

I do see short-term cyclical impact in our top five categories that challenge us to find new advertisers.

I do see incredible innovation across the whole sphere of audio that we have learned from and will continue to learn from.

I do see a growing diversification in our revenue mix to become true marketing partners to our advertisers rather than just spot sellers.

In other words, the glass is half full, not half empty. If we remain focused there’s a great future ahead.

With the idea of focus in mind I want to share with you three things among all others that I believe matter in this very confused and shifting media world today. These three things really matter; and radio’s position with regard to these issues is why I am so optimistic.

First: Scale matters.

Second: Live and local content matters.

And third: Mobile matters.

So let’s talk about scale, live and local and mobile, and how they indicate great things ahead.


As far as scale is an issue in media today: Nobody has as broad and deep a platform as our nearly 11,000 broadcast radio stations.

There are niche players who after 10 years have barely scratched 20 million subscribers. There are exciting new IP and mobile businesses that have captured a share of the formerly non-sponsored music collection, or stored music experience.

None have near the scale that we have, and frankly, they won’t ever. The cost, and one-to-one technology being used, are just not as efficient or scalable as broadcast radio.

That doesn’t mean they are not worthy of attention, and it doesn’t mean we can’t learn from and out innovate these new entrants.Over the next few days you will surely see some amazing new products on the market and on the horizon from your fellow broadcasters.

One issue with scale is measurement — credible data that advertisers can count on. This is an issue across the entire Web; but lately there have been players out there touting duplicative “listener hours” in an apples-to-oranges comparison for our unduplicated longstanding cume metrics. At a claim of just 3 percent of our reach, it may not be worthy of mention, but if we’re talking about audience size, let’s be fair and measure apples to apples.

If you wanted to compare “listener hours,” say 1.8 billion “listener hours” for second quarter [Ed. Note: a statistic recently cited by Pandora], that claim includes duplicate reach across your user base; so it might be more fairly compared to our “broadcast hours” against the base of people who use radio. Or, live, 24/7 radio across 10,766 commercial stations, times the 12 weeks of a quarter, times the U.S. population of 12+. Do that math and you get 6.1 trillion listener hours for broadcast radio — 6.1 trillion.

Yes, that’s absurd. And more importantly it’s irrelevant to our advertising customers. They deserve better than self-generated data; and I urge all of us to pay attention to the hype and understand that this data is not scale.

Scale is what enables Eddie Combs from Sears or Neil Golden from McDonalds to communicate their messages within well-targeted, appropriately formatted, live and local content to every market in the U.S.


And why does live and local content matter?

Because live and local content has context and it’s personally chosen by you and me. We tune in daily to hear live hosts bring us a connection to our communities.

This is an incredibly successful formula for scale. It should be of no surprise to us that the number-one show on television for the last eight years is music-formatted, tours the country city by city and is hosted by a radio DJ. “American Idol” is as much a derivative from the radio business as it is anything else.

Live and local, format-by-format radio matters all across America. And if it’s not because of content, consider what it was like to live in America this past summer. From Missouri to Alabama in June. From Washington, D.C., and the Northeast corridor last month, or Texas and San Diego last week.

We have had the perfect storm of natural disasters: tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, wildfires and city-wide blackouts. When disaster strikes, the power is out and the cell towers are inoperable, it’s live and local broadcasters that matter; and sometimes it’s a matter of life and death. No other medium comes close in scale to saving and building community in times of crisis than the live and local content of radio.

Our birthright

One of the key reasons for this is we are mobile. Our one-to-many technology was designed to be mobile, and it’s always been mobile.

Today mobile means a lot more because of the explosion in newer technology, which sometimes confuses the issue as to who invented this technology. We did.

It’s our responsibility to be vigilant defenders of our turf. Our distribution strategy can’t yield the mobile channel to someone else in the audio space.

We don’t confuse music collection consumption with live radio; but we shouldn’t yield the space either. In 2008 at the RAB conference in Atlanta, we set a five-year goal to have FM radio wherever you find a speaker or headphones. To date, FM receivers are in 70 percent of the MP3 market and growing nicely in smartphones.

We need to continue our push here. Consumers embrace new technology and we should embrace them wherever and however they want to get our content. This does not mean one channel replaces another, and anyone who tells you they know where this is all going is just plain crazy — but we know it matters. Let’s embrace mobile. It’s our birthright. Let’s go out and innovate in this space and create the new frontier for radio.

The scope of what’s possible is immense. Song tagging brings us Buy from FM; there’s a potential return path for advertisers. We could utilize consumption data for audience measurement. The technology exists to do all of this today. But it is what we choose to unite on and innovate around that will really make mobile matter.

So let’s build a common interactive mobile platform for radio.

Let’s continue our push for FM on cellphones.

Let’s respond in a united way to advertisers who want us to show them the road ahead.

I ask you to keep in mind what matters over the next few days: Scale. Live and local content. Mobile.

And let’s work together in the longer term to build a bright future for this great medium of ours.

Comment on this or any story. Write to radioworld@nbmedia.com with “Letter to the Editor” in the subject line.


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