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TagStation Builds a Radio Attribution Ecosystem

Industry initiative seeks to provide a standard around which OTA broadcasters can coalesce

Paul Brenner is among industry leaders who believe radio needs an “end-to-end, industry-standard data attribution platform.” He and his colleagues at TagStation and NextRadio are trying to build just that; and they spent much of the recent NAB Show telling others about it.

TagStation is the arm of Emmis Communications that developed the NextRadio app, which combines local FM radio reception on smartphones with internet connectivity. But TagStation is about more than FM chips in phones; and now it’s working hard to position its Dial Report attribution platform — which uses user data from NextRadio as well as other station apps — to play a crucial role in measuring digital audiences for terrestrial stations.

The company describes Dial Report, which was introduced last year, as the “only first-party attribution and listener intelligence platform measuring the performance of radio.” It provides analytics and insights about advertisers’ on-air campaigns by measuring results and listener behavior, giving location-based data, demographics and radio listening data within 48 hours of spots airing. Furthering this effort, TagStation in April announced a collaboration with Ad-ID.

We checked back in with NextRadio CEO/President Paul Brenner.

Radio World: You said it’s important for the radio industry to focus on “fighting back against platforms rather than chasing brand-based protectionism.” Can you explain?

Paul Brenner: Radio needs a common industry-supported metadata content and reporting solution to provide the same level of detail about consumer behavior and campaign performance that platforms like digital, TV and out-of-home advertising capture. In other words, selling audience is the innovation needed, and a common platform is a necessary part of the solution. A shift towards census-based, data-driven programming and selling has to occur if OTA radio wants to fight for share of advertising dollars and compete with non-broadcaster platforms now and in the future.

RW: Why do we need an industry-standard data attribution platform and what role should one play?

Brenner: Post-campaign affidavits and AsRun logs compared back to the initial ratings-based radio investments are no longer sufficient for proving radio works. Our team hears that firsthand from advertisers and agencies. There is even further proof when you look at how advertisers are shifting dollars away from radio towards attribution-enabled platforms selling the value of their audience and how marketing investments are more targeted to the desired outcome.

Historical radio looks like this: Sell airtime based on ratings, reach and frequency. Build packages where digital or NTR are add-ons or “value adds” to grow the investment or affect the results. Radio has a large enough and broad enough audience that selling airtime based on a much more detailed, specific, census-based audience should be the planning exercise. Digital measurement should be aligned with radio measurement to make that audience even more valuable.

The role broadcasters can play is to work towards a unified system and strive for better processes. Metadata is the origin of offering insights into how radio drives consumer action, and how that correlates to the advertiser’s radio buy, down to the creative level. An end-to-end industry-standard data attribution platform could facilitate a consistent method for inputting radio and advertising content. Consistent and accurate tagging for over-the-air advertising is a critical first step towards achieving the granular level reporting that data attribution provides.

RW: Presumably Emmis wants NextRadio and Tagstation to be at the center of any such data attribution system. Why should the broader industry consider taking such an Emmis-based approach?

Brenner: A significant challenge any industry faces when working to provide accurate reporting and data attribution is scale. Therefore, radio must admit that not one single broadcast group alone can deliver the scale needed to compete with non-broadcaster platforms with attribution. We’ve also recognized that radio stations invest a lot of time and money into their own streaming apps and other playout systems. Both of these points were key factors that motivated us to introduce individual station apps into our offerings.

Individual station apps and websites can use all TagStation metadata, thereby utilizing the cloud platform to power metadata and album art, not only in the NextRadio app but in the car dash and other station-owned apps time-aligned with integrated playout systems. A single-source content management system with multi-channel distribution capabilities is not only convenient and more cost-effective for operational staff, but it also reduces the element of human error and increases the accuracy and reliability of radio performance and campaign attribution.

We have worked tirelessly to develop an inclusive end-to-end radio metadata content management service and reporting solution for both commercial and non-commercial broadcasters. This solution was built by broadcasters for broadcasters, starting with and maintaining our roots in valuing equality and fairness for all broadcasters and leadership around the FM chip smartphone project.

RW: Where do we stand with your efforts to get more phone makers, including Apple, to activate FM chips in their devices?

Brenner: Android smartphone makers supporting FM chips and NextRadio currently stands in the mid-90 percents of all new phones sold. FM-enabled Android phones are at saturation with development. The key going forward with Android is to show that consumers will use the technology so the handset makers stay friendly. Use it or lose it.

With Apple, our focus has been on support for CarPlay and a prototype with FM-enabled earbuds that Blackloud announced at the NAB Show, and we have a NextRadio non-production version that supports those earbuds. If the NAB would like to support that solution, then we will move forward. Until then we will continue with the streaming version of NextRadio for iOS and focus on CarPlay in the future.

RW: What other questions were you asked by radio industry executives and technologists at the show?

Brenner: Data attribution and our end-to-end platform were the main story lines at the spring show. TagStation, NextRadio, individual station apps, websites and auto data inside the Dial Report are all major components that people did not fully realize given so much attention historically placed on FM chip and NextRadio. The consistent questions from radio industry executives, both operators and vendors, was, “How can we get more involved?” The vision was clear and people jumped into the conversation with great interest.


In April, TagStation announced a collaboration with Ad-ID, a joint venture of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (“4As”) and the ANA, the Association of National Advertisers.

Ad-ID is a standard for identifying advertising assets across all media platforms. It’s described as a secure, web-based central source for the registration of unique IDs that ensures all assets are delivered correctly across all media.

Dial Report Senior VP of Revenue Generation Lisa Pike said TagStation is working with some Ad-ID customers as part of their data process to measure performance of radio ad campaigns. “It is clear that the radio industry would benefit from having the same tracking standards that the TV and digital industries enjoy today,” she said in the announcement. Harold Geller, executive director of Ad-ID, said the organizations share the goal of improving radio’s ability to track and measure its performance.

The groups argue that spot tracking can be impeded if there are gaps or incomplete information due to inconsistent use of older advertising asset codes within station trafficking. Dial Report measures radio performance directly from radio station playout systems; integrating Ad-ID codes directly into playout systems, the company said, will enable better tracking.

“The first and most valuable step in our data attribution process is to verify that all spots belonging to a brand are identified correctly across our entire network of broadcasters,” said Ben Husmann, SVP of product development for Dial Report. “Dial Report uses the Ad-ID API to fill in the blanks and expand spot metadata to include accurate and complete information such as advertiser, product, copy points and more.”

As part of the collaboration, the companies plan a webinar on Wednesday, May 23; info is at