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Eight Things I Takeaway From HIVIO

hiviologo_finalHIVIO is a made up word pronounced as a mash-up between hive and radio (HI-vee-oh). While billed as radio’s FIRST ideas festival, this is a concept that is going on its third year in London with radio futurologist James Cridland and “NextRadio.” Regardless, Mark Ramsey assembled an invite-only gathering of radio folks in San Diego to sit and listen to thought leaders and brand builders from outside the radio industry; from Google and Pandora to the San Diego Zoo and Uber. The festival was live streamed and is now being carved into individual videos to be released in the coming weeks.

(This was a big topic of conversation on Radio Stuff Podcast with an interview with Ramsey and loads of clips)

After sitting through the six hours or so of streaming video, I was agitated, inspired, embarrassed, hopeful, and at times confused. Here are eight of my big takeaways.

1. For radio to thrive it needs four things: strategy, innovation, creativity, and unique content. These concepts were echoed through the day in part of whole by every presenter. Mark Ramsey’s opening presentation set the tone, “It’s time in this radio industry of ours to stop saying, ‘where did that work?’ and start saying, ‘why not here, now?’”

Chad Robley, CEO of the digital agency Mindgruve touched on those ideas too saying radio’s advantage over digital competitors include established listener engagement, brand equity and reach – and he pointed out, “you have permission to innovate on top of that and reach across platforms.”

2. Radio is losing respect from people who want to be fans. Presenters were at times laughing AT  — and at times speechless of — radio’s inability to “get it.”

Michael Warburton of San Diego Zoo snickered at the prospect of radio pitching website banners ads as a digital solution.

Patrick Reynolds, Chief Strategy Officer of Triton Digital, was dumbfounded, literally speechless for five seconds and visibly taken aback when a radio person asked if they had plans to compete with PPM-type measurement devices.

3. Radio is afraid. Mark Ramsey calls them hard questions that need to be answered, I call it resistance to innovation and change. The fear radio has of the unknown keeps us rooted in the past. This was most evident to me during the presentation of the Google + hangouts, when the women presenting could barely finish their prepared remarks due to constant haranguing from radio folks worried that Google + is going to swipe their listener databases. Really? Aside from what the women pointed out, “Google’s motto is do no evil,” Google + has 500 million users – I’m guessing their not looking to pinch the data of a couple thousand P1s you’ve collected. It also confused me, since Google+ is a social network and the industry happily hands listeners over to Facebook and twitter with reckless abandon.

4. Radio is losing listeners, fans and supporters, because it’s hard to listen to. This point was hammered home by Bryce Clemmer, Founder of Vadio.

“When I rented cars on trips for meetings, I never use Sirius or anything, because I felt like I was a loyal listener to broadcast itself and therefore I actually went through this thought process: I want to support the broadcasters that I’m trying to innovate. But, at the same time, after I’ve been traveling for a year now, it kind of became unbearable. And the reason being is because there were so many commercials, the experience itself — there was so much repetition, and naturally as a human you can’t deny if it’s not a good experience, you’re not going to use it. No matter who you are.”

5. Radio isn’t trying hard enough to be great. Shows need to worry about every detail. It’s not good enough to be “good enough” anymore. San Diego Zoo Global brand manager Michael Warburton talked about why they spend so much money and time to make things great.

“Because it matters to a lot of people. If a consumer or client or anybody sees that you’re willing to put ‘all in’ and make something as great as it can be, they are going to appreciate it that much more.”

More specifically, Gary Cramer, the founder of the National Comedy Theater, pointed out the problems with most ensemble talk shows…

“You don’t have some person who is an intern who you throw on air, because you need ‘three’ and they’re just all over the map. So many morning zoo shows are just a nightmare to listen to, because they don’t have a cohesive plan as to where to go. I think they’re just chattering and saying whatever comes to their mind. And they’re not going one direction.”

(For an idea who of who’s doing it right, Cramer points at Mark & Brian, Kevin & Bean, and Phil Hendrie)  

6. Pandora has keyed in on radio’s advantages. While radio is bemoaning PPM and FM in cell phones and crying over lost placement in the dashboard, Pandora is busy studying what radio is doing right. Pandora CTO Tom Conrad said there are “all kinds of things” radio does especially well that Pandora hasn’t touched yet..

  •  Local community integration
  • On Air Personalities
  • Spoken word content

When pressed on one thing Pandora may key in on, Conrad was cautious, but his personal ambitious is to make it feel less robotic and add more life to the music service. 7. Radio needs to emulate Pandora’s filter for hiring people. I blogged about how radio and internet competitors are taking different approaches to hiring for similar positions here. Conrad has a few filters that are worth stealing: HIRE PEOPLE WHO ARE:

  • Smart
  • Self-motivated
  • Passionate about some aspect of their work
  • And who are… not assholes.

8. Radio needs to step up in a big way. Triton Digital’s Patrick Reynolds has these words of wisdom for radio broadcasters.

“Be everywhere, starting with mobile. Anything that plugs in is capable of delivering audio and you have to be in all those places.” – even if it’s your toaster.

“Invest in understanding (your) audience. Where does it come from – geographically? When does it come – day part-wise? On what device does it come? What registration data do I know about it if anything?”

“Where sneakers to work, because it’s going to get disrupted on an ongoing basis and you’ll be running around ragged.”

And eight other things overheard…

“Radio is in a great position to disrupt itself.”

“Radio needs to operate more like start-ups.”

“Why are you on Pinterest? Facebook? twitter? vine? Why do you even have a website?”

“There is an expectation of having a higher purpose… a “return on mission” as important as “return on investment””

“…build a relationship with consumer, be relevant in their lives, tell stories, be innovative, always do and try new things.” (Talking about San Diego Zoo, but could just as easily be radio)

“It’s not the new devices that are innovation, it’s what people are doing on those devices.”

“Get in the middle of transactions.”

“They’re all going for your audience. It is critical you invest mind share and invest in resources to fight for your audience.”

  1. Bob
    July 5, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    Larry, you seem so smart and informed. How then, did you subject us to such cheap programming on KIRO-FM. Mainly one or two hosts giving their opinion about subjects. Rarely a guest, expert or interview. What cheap-ass shit that is.

    • July 5, 2013 at 1:10 PM

      Bob, thanks for commenting. I’m happy to have this discussion if we can keep it civil and keep it to specifics. Thanks – Larry

  2. July 6, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    You’re right. Broadcast radio has really missed the boat. When I first moved to Seattle about 12 years ago, there were some pretty good stations (I’m a bit of a radio snob, having grown up listening to NYC stations and later Boston). Stations like KEXP have shown us that it’s still possible to do great radio and keep a loyal fan base. Most of the other stations haven’t realized how to beat the increasing competition from digital airwaves and all the other audio options. Their response has been to change their programming to appeal to some imagined mass audience with an older demographic that likes retro rock music from 40 years ago. And everything is canned — no personality, no real branding, i.e., “We Play What We Want.” What radio needs is a real strategy, focusing on audience, competition and some creative thinking about how to leverage what broadcast is capable of delivering.

  3. July 6, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    Thanks for the great summary, Larry!

    One correction…what Cridland does in the UK is quite different from this event from what I can tell. Hivio is all about ideas from OUTSIDE radio.

    • July 6, 2013 at 7:32 PM

      Mark, it was my pleasure. Great job putting it together. You’re right, Cridland’s radio ideas festival doesn’t feature outside the industry speakers, though at the heart of both events there seems to be a similar feeling and intent of helping radio evolve and grow in these ever changing times.

      • July 7, 2013 at 11:53 AM

        nextrad.io – run by Matt Deegan and I for the last three years – does mostly use bright, positive speakers from the radio industry across the world, and attracts an audience who wish to learn from each other and collaborate on radio’s future. It’s all made up of short, authored presentations – and you can watch nearly everything, free, online – in that respect, just like Hivio.

        I’m genuinely delighted at the success of Hivio – it’s always great to inject new ideas into any industry, whether they come from outside or inside; and great to see this event available for others to consume online. It might not be the first radio ideas conference; but it’s certainly a first for the US: a hermetically-sealed radio landscape that can benefit from thinking different.

        But I’m also disappointed that conferences like these need be so adversarial. This isn’t a place to score points about whether people “get it” or not; nor a place to pointlessly separate great audio content by the platform it’s on (audiences don’t care). In the US, Australia and most European countries, radio (on whatever platform) reaches 90% of the population every week: we should be proud of it, celebrate it, and learn from the great wealth of knowledge that exists in the radio industry to make radio even better: not denigrate it.

        This message brought to you by http://nextrad.io/conference where tickets are now available. Come to the UK, spend your lovely American dollars, and marvel at the fact that we have Starbucks just like you, and CBS (yes, that CBS) does all the advertising on the Subway! See the Queen*! See Big Ben! See Wills/Katherine’s new baby! Fly over on the Saturday and get cheaper airfares! Do it with BA, rather than (shudder) United, and start your British experience even earlier! Get a cute stamp in your passport! Hurry, hurry, hurry! All tickets must go!

        * Queen not guaranteed

  1. December 17, 2013 at 12:55 PM

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