NEW YORK — It felt eerie stepping into The Javits Center during morning tear-down after Hillary Clinton's non-celebration the night before. But two levels down, the place was buzzing. NAB Show/New York, now in its second year, is not a radio conference, but as media morph there's plenty here that radio broadcasters need to hear.
"Primetime is now all the time."
How does Bob Gruters fit his whole title on a business card? He's Facebook's U.S. Group Lead, Tech/Telco, Entertainment, Restaurants, and Multicultural. He defined a term that's easy to relate to: "Nomobiphobia:" the fear of being without your mobile device. "Mobile has changed us" and "mobile has changed business" he proclaimed. When he shared that the average person looks at his/her smartphone 30 times a day — and young people 127 times – I felt young again.
"What happens in an Internet minute?"
150 million emails are sent.
Amazon rings up $203,596 in sales.
Uber arranges 1,389 rides.
Google replies to 2.4 million search queries.
The iTunes App Store delivers 51,000 app downloads.
Netflix shows what adds up to 69,444 hours of video.
No wonder corporate is barking for more-more-more digital revenue.
"A growing world of connected storytellers"
As Gruters described "The Future of TV," I kept hearing "radio," and thinking "podcast" and "video via social media."
"There are more mobile devices on this planet than people." Enabled by that-thing-in-your-pocket-we-used-to-call-a-phone, anyone/anywhere/anytime can "connect with a global audience. You actually are broadcasting." And are we ever. Gruters paused after announcing the following stat, to let us digest it: From the beginning of time to 2003, mankind had created 5 gigabytes of digital stuff. Now we're adding 5GB every 10 minutes. Which inevitably results in…
"The Paradox of Choice," which he reminded us is the title of the Barry Schwartz book I have previously recommended here. "People are watching an hour more of television content per day than they did 10 years ago." There are 900+ channels, but the average viewer uses 17.
Gruters shared that "per every measurement study we've done, it's not 'TV vs. mobile,' it's 'TV plus mobile.'" He calls our modern media gluttony "the squeeze," i.e., on your smartphone while watching TV. As a broadcaster, "you compete with EVERYTHING. The best content in the world is competing with a cat video."
"People turn to mobile to discover entertainment." Accordingly, Gruters recommends, "don't change what you're doing. Do think about how somebody's going to consume that content on a small screen." As we "re-invent what's in our tool kit, get comfortable being uncomfortable. Test-and-learn, test-and-learn, test-and-learn."
Access to their devices by no means earns us listeners' attention, as other NAB/New York speakers remind:
Jonathan Farb, Chief Production Officer, Listenfirst Media: "Just because you have a Broadcast Live button on Facebook doesn't mean that every situation is live-worthy."
"Today Show" host Al Roker, also a digital content trailblazer: "Your phone allows you to be a broadcaster. Just because you can do it doesn't mean you should. The point is to create programming that other people want to watch."
"Television" = video, "radio" = audio
And even those lines are blurring, as Roker reckoned that "most people don't know what I look like," since the first two hours of the "Today Show" are, effectively, morning-drive-radio-on-TV, programmed to be heard while busy working folks get ready to leave home.
As radio scrambles to catch-up with mushrooming consumption of on-demand audio, Roker is already there with video: "I call it 'television' whether it's your TV, your iPad, your phone, whatever. It's 'television.'" After his day job on NBC-TV every morning, Al is CEO of Al Roker Entertainment, which is producing Internet programs, some live (Google "ChefShock") others on-demand.
Asked what makes live streaming content work well, he offered the same success formula that's clicked with on-air programming: It's the combination of personality and/or format and/or story. Regarding ChefShock — a two-hour live anything-can-happen cooking show, hosted by engaging twentysomething Justin Warner – I asked "What was your biggest surprise launching the show?" "How quickly we could do it," Roker admitted.
Again, I thought of radio. Anyone can create Internet content. But – as we train sales reps to ask prospective advertisers who use the Internet well – "Unless we tell our listeners, how will they know it's there?"
"Connecting Dwell Time to Outcomes"
For decades, radio programmers begged for off-air promotion money, to convert that new cume to Average Quarter Hours; then sales pitched ratings rankers. Fast forward to present day, with advertisers choosing among so many new digital competitors.
Live events are "high-risk/high-reward" in the estimation of iHeart VP/original content Ina Burke, in the NAB/New York session "Opportunities for Brands & Marketers." "We DON'T know what Miley Cyrus is going to say on stage," she shrugged, but special offerings are becoming more attractive than the traditional dots-and-spots model as Programmatic advertising sales shifts control to buyers.
"Flyover America sent a message. This is an earthquake the likes of which we haven't seen since 1980."
NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith served two terms in the United States Senate (R-OR). He quipped that "people used to ask me 'Do you miss being in the Senate?' Now they ask 'Are you glad you're not there now?'" With Donald Trump's surprise win still hanging-in-the-air in the building where Hillary Clinton had planned to claim victory, Smith reckoned that "the media needs to do some self-evaluation," now.
Career interviewer Soledad O'Brien – late of NBC-TV and CNN, now hosting "Matter of Fact" for Hearst Televison – seconded that, noting that "we used to pre-interview guests to ascertain their expertise;" and now the process is now too often a "he'll-say-that-so-you-say-this" set-up.
In a sit-down session where O'Brien and Smith interviewed each other, she chuckled about how generational media consumption habits are. "My 16 year-old daughter doesn't understand the concept of 'Must-See TV.' 'So if you missed it that night, you couldn't see it?'"
Why were the polls so wrong?
In the "News and Social Platforms" session, a couple thirty-something PhDs described a disconnect between published opinion surveys and what they were seeing on social media in the final weeks of the presidential campaign. Based on what they were tracking online, "there was every indication that this would come out the way it did," despite predictions from flabbergasted pollsters.
While in New York, I was interviewed on that subject by Ed Schultz on his TV show, and I noted what I regard as "a tech backlash." Before Howard Dean screamed in 2004, he was the front-runner, and broke new ground mashing-up what we now call Big Data. Candidate Obama took it to a new level in 2008 and 2012. While McCain and Romney street teams were going door-knocking door-to-door with clipboard and ballpoint pen, tablet-toting Team Obama knew precisely which doors to knock on. And pollsters were getting techier.
Meanwhile Trump was drawing Taylor Swift-size crowds for rallies, and clearly winning the lawn sign battle. In my travels, I've been struck by how many Trump lawn signs were homemade! In both cases, these are low-tech/high-touch tactics that played well in states where voters were irked at being called "fly-over." Lessons for radio? Promote off-air, like radio used to. And do events, and show-up wherever you can press the flesh. If competing stations are robotic, you win.
Holland Cooke (www.HollandCooke.com) is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke. And see his vide "Make Money with Endorsement Spots" this month on TalkersTV and YouTube.