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Media's New Deal: Dan Granger interviews Entercom CEO David Field

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A transcript reproduced with permission from Oxford Road Presents: Media’s New Deal. This transcript aired: 5 May 2020

Dan Granger:

Hello and welcome to this episode of Media’s New Deal presented by Oxford Road. Media’s New Deal is a limited run series focused on helping you adapt your business to the perpetually shaped shifting media landscape in the age of coronavirus. We know people are suffering and we know there are real heroes on the front lines to whom we’re all eternally grateful. But for the rest of us, we have another war to win and it’s economic. The better we perform at our companies, the faster we recover. We know our businesses are struggling, but we’re optimistic that we can evolve our strategies, our offerings, and our teams. This is not a space for fear and anxiety. This is a place for bold leaders to engage in serious conversations about how we’re going to fight through this and come out stronger on the other side.

Dan Granger:

I’m your host, Dan Granger, founder and CEO of Oxford Road. Over the next few months, I’m going to speak with top media executives and industry leaders, giving you a behind the scenes briefing on what’s really going on from the people who are leading the charge. You’ll get up to date insights on where things are headed and practical advice so that you can win no matter the circumstances. This program is produced by the editorial team behind Oxford Road’s weekly publication, The Influencer. Special thanks to Bianca, Kyle and Jennifer for helping to make this happen. Welcome to Media’s New Deal.

Dan Granger:

Now before we get started, we have to thank the sponsors who make this possible. And the first one I want to acknowledge is NetSuite by Oracle. Can you imagine running your business right now if you don’t have a clear view of your financials in this environment? America is ready to get back to work. But in the new economy, if you’re going to win, you have to have every advantage to succeed.

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Dan Granger:

All right, let’s get to it. Our guest today is the great David Field. David is a true legend who has taken his company, Entercom Communications, from 15 radio stations and $35 million in revenue to 235 radio stations and $1.6 billion in revenue. This man is audio royalty. David is chairman, president and CEO of Entercom, which is a leading American media and entertainment company that reaches, get this, over 100 million people each week across the nation’s top 50 markets through its premier collection of highly rated radio stations, digital platforms and live events. Entercom is one of the country’s two largest radio broadcasters, just to give you some perspective, and the nation’s unrivaled leader in news, sports radio, not to mention owning assets such as radio.com, Cadence 13, the podcast network.

Dan Granger:

And before joining Intercom, David was also an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. Not too shabby. He’s also the three time … David, your resume’s too good. I’m sorry. He’s a three time recipient of Institutional Investor Magazine’s best CEOs of the year. He’s a two time recipient of Radio Ink’s radio executive of the year. And this man is a giant in broadcasting and has been awarded as such. But most importantly, David is a great guy. He’s someone that always keeps his door open for crazy ideas, which I know firsthand and he’s not afraid to make bold moves. David, you’ve been a great friend to me in Oxford road and I’m so pleased to have you with us today. Welcome.

David Field:

Yeah, what a very gracious and generous introduction. It’s a pleasure to be here and looking forward to our conversation today.

Dan Granger:

Thank you. So first things first, how’s everybody doing? How’s your family? Is everyone healthy?

David Field:

Well, thank you so much for asking. Everybody is doing well. I knock on wood as I say that. But obviously these are very trying times for all of us and I certainly hope Dan, you and your family and everybody is well on your end.

Dan Granger:

Yeah, thank you. No, we’re blessed. We’re good. Now listen, I know that as an industry we’ve got a lot to be optimistic about in the long term, but the short term, it is what it is. And so I’m excited to spend some time later talking with you about the longterm opportunities here. But if you would, let’s start by just helping us understand the challenges that Entercom has been facing off with as a byproduct of the health crisis. Tell me what’s going on.

David Field:

Sure. So we look at this on a couple of different levels. First and foremost was the health and safety of our teams. And we moved very quickly in the earliest part of March to move to remote broadcasting so we could safely separate our folks and make sure that we could operate through the pandemic. And fortunately that has all gone very well thanks to the great leadership of our folks all across the country. And then of course there’s the economic impact of the situation. And as we’re all aware, it’s taken a great toll on advertising and we’re seeing that across virtually every sector of the ad economy. And because a significant number of our clients are local businesses that are closed for various incendiary reasons, it has taken a significant toll on us economically.

David Field:

And so our first order of business is making sure that we can navigate through that and at the same time, make sure that we are positioned to come out of this as a strong, robust, healthy company that is not only fully competitive but built to thrive. And then I’d say the last part, and certainly not the least, is that radio has always played an extremely important role during times of crisis. And whether it’s hurricanes or tornadoes or terrorist attacks and so forth, radio serves as a lifeline for a large portion of the public and as a company, which very much values live and local broadcasting. And as you noted earlier, has strong presence as many of the leading news stations across the country. We have been working very hard to make sure that the people across the country and the markets that we serve are fully informed on the latest happenings, that they’re getting really important valued information on how they can cope in their communities and that we provide respite and entertainment and companionship as well as we all struggle as a society to get through this.

Dan Granger:

David, I know that Entercom oversees a myriad of different business units, audio, your business, like mine, is at its core, but that that has different fragments. There’s podcasting, there’s radio, there’s smart speakers streaming radio.com of course. Which in your portfolio have been the most impacted by this and which have been the least?

David Field:

Well, it’s rapidly evolving, right? So initially from a listener standpoint, we saw great disruption in the month of March in terms of the stay at home orders, which of course took people off the roads. I imagine most of your audience is aware of the fact that about 40% of our audience comes from cars sitting. So of course that was affected. So we saw a big surge in listenership at home and a decline in listenership in cars as you might expect. We’ve been seeing over the last couple of weeks as people have somewhat adapted to the realities, we’ve seen listenership continuing to increase over the last couple of weeks off of where it had been. That’s on the radio side. On the digital side, March was a record month for us. It was also a record month for us from a podcasting standpoint. And so we actually had total audience, both in terms of-

David Field:

We actually had total audience both in terms of MAUs and TLH hit record numbers in March, which I think is testament to the fact that we’ve been able to diversify our business as an audio leader in all three of those key areas, over the air, podcasting as well as digital audio.

Dan Granger:

I’ve got to ask you to define your acronyms. We’ve got people with all kinds of different backgrounds listening. Mostly marketers. Can you give me the definitions please?

David Field:

Of course, and apologize for that, too. MAU is monthly average users, and TLH would be total listening hours. Those key metrics in terms of consumptions levels from an [inaudible 00:16:47] standpoint.

Dan Granger:

And David, you’ve got approximately how many people working at Entercom today?

David Field:

About 6000.

Dan Granger:

\6000. And tell us about some of the hard decisions that you’ve had to make as a leader to preserve the health of the organization since the crisis started.

David Field:

This is one of the truly horrible aspects of this and we’ve seen it across our country now with… I believe, the latest data shows about 30 million Americans having filed for unemployment now in the last few weeks, which is unthinkable and obviously doing great harm to our society and we are, sadly, not immune from that. When you look at the impact on advertising expected to be 30 ish percent, possibly more, and of course nobody knows the time horizon and you think about a business that has, as you noted earlier, about a billion six in revenues, you do the math and it’s a very substantial impact on our operation and of course we don’t slow down one beat in terms of our continuing to serve the public and provide 24/7 coverage to our audiences.

David Field:

And so we have had to make some tough moves. We’ve had to lay some folks off and put some other folks on furlough, at the same time we’ve attempted to share the sacrifice across the organization and have implemented salary reductions, and a number of other measures to minimize the number of layoffs but at the same time, make sure that we’re doing what we need to do from a fiduciary standpoint to navigate through in this obviously very trying situation.

Dan Granger:

And I know that you’ve personally made sacrifices in that vein, which I applaud you for walking the talk on that. I will just tell you on a much smaller scale, obviously not 6000 people, but some of the hardest days of my professional career was about four years ago when I had to do some layoffs. I think there was like PTSD from that as a leader, the impact of having to go through that. I can’t think of anything that takes a larger toll, no matter which side of it you’re on, so how are you doing personally with so much weight on your shoulders?

David Field:

I’m fine, thank you, and I have a lot to be thankful for, and it’s really as you’re the CEO of your business, you understand that you’re responsible for and doing the absolute best you can do for your team and for your customers and for your communities and so forth. So as we’ve been going through this, we have made sure that even though we’ve had to make some tough but necessary decisions, we’ve also made sure that we are there for our teams and we are there for our communities. So we launched a fund last week, and we’re not looking for donations from our team, this was strictly funded from the company, to provide additional financial support to those members in our team who are going through the most unusual hardships related to Covid-19. So helping those who are facing the worst brunt of this because of medical situations or significant others that are essential workers in health care and that’s causing ripple effects in the family, et cetera.

David Field:

So we want to make sure we’re there for them and at the same time, doing a number of thing working within our communities to take advantage of what radio broadcasting does best, to raise funds, raise awareness and do other things to help our society cope with the horrors of the pandemic.

Dan Granger:

So you reach 100 million people and-

David Field:

Actually 170 million. I did not want to correct you before, but I will.

Dan Granger:

That’s a lot of people. I would imagine you’ve probably got thousands if not tens of thousands of businesses that transact with Entercom over the course of a year. Do you have a sense, just to give people that are listening a sense of the scale of what you’re dealing with, about how many companies are you transacting with?

David Field:

You’re right, it’s in the tens of thousands and what’s special about it is that it includes the largest of the largest companies in the United States. So if you went through the Fortune 100 or Fortune 250 or what have you in the Untied States, a very high percentage of them are customers, but at the same time, we’re also dealing with small to medium sized local businesses with a handful of locations. It keeps us real and it keeps us grounded in terms of the full range of customer types that we work with.

Dan Granger:

And do you feel like when you look across those tens of thousands of companies, do you feel that you’re just a composite in terms of how you’ve been impacted of the whole country proportionally or do you feel like you’ve had more or less impact than the average?

David Field:

In terms of the financial impact on our company?

Dan Granger:

Correct. Are you getting hit harder or not as hard as the rest of the country?

David Field:

I think the short answer, Dan, is I don’t know. I know that we have a very dedicated, passionate team of local and national marketing executives all over the country that are all highly dedicated to their clients. From the very beginning, our mantra was reach out and talk to all of your customers because we are all reeling in this, we’ve all been punched in the nose and everybody is trying to work through it. We need to be there for our customers. So, we were reaching out to find out how they were doing and what we could do to help and we have stepped up in a number of cases to go above and beyond and make sure that we’re there for our customers who are going through the toughest of times.

David Field:

An example of that might be where in several of our markets we have posted restaurant openings and all sorts of other information for clients so we can help the public become aware of the happenings in those restaurant communities and as you can imagine in markets like New Orleans, that’s exceedingly important where it’s such an important part of the economy and obviously those are such important businesses that employ so many.

Dan Granger:

David, do you have a sense, by percentage and you probably have to estimate here, but what percentage of your customers just had to stop cold on their advertising simply due to the government mandates?

David Field:

I don’t know that number. I could only guess but I would imagine it is a third possibly, give or take, of our client base.

Dan Granger:

Yeah. That’s extraordinary, in a bad way. In terms of companies… we have a smaller sample that we’re working with, but we see companies that literally were not allowed to operate, and then you’ve got those that are kind of in the middle, which is really what this podcast is designed to speak to, the people that do have some jurisdiction where they’re making advertising choices not because they cannot operate, but because this may not be the ideal time for them to operate.

Dan Granger:

Do you have a sense of… if you were to… and I appreciate that you’re giving us an educated guess and we won’t hold you to more than that, but do you have a sense of what percentage of customers pull back that could have continued operating but because of the climate just decided to play it a little more conservative?

David Field:

So I don’t know, but here’s what I do know, we’ve had a high number of situations where customers had a knee jerk reaction to either reduce or eliminate their advertising and what’s different today about what might have been true in radio a generation ago is we now have really strong analytics and attribution data. So we’ve been able to sit down with many of our customers and demonstrate to them how effectively their advertising is delivering for them and in a very high percentage of those cases, they have recognized that it’s important for them to continue to invest in their work with Entercom to ensure that they’re able to achieve their business goals and I will tell you, it would be a far worse situation today if we didn’t have that really good attribution data from our Entercom Advanced Audio Team.

Dan Granger:

So one of the things that’s really been helpful for me is that we are so over indexed on direct brands, direct to consumer brands that were really built to avoid retail and brick and mortar, right? Tell me if you agree or disagree with this statement, we are all direct brands now. Just to give it a little bit more context, I feel like even when we are allowed to go back, not everybody’s going to, even if we do go back, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to have to go and all figure out how to operate remote again. There could be a second wave, which everybody’s talking about. So the question is, do businesses and the types that transact with Entercom, do we all need to have that capability now to try to have… to remove our dependency on physical contact?

David Field:

It’s a really important question and I think that we, as a company, are operating from the standpoint that we need to perform for our customers and deliver great outcomes in order to ensure that our business grows and thrives in the future. It’s really hard to know the answer to your question because I do believe that we get back to normal at some point. We know this is not Armageddon. We know this will pass and better times are ahead and I fundamentally believe that I will be in concerts and football games and crowded restaurants and bars in the future and so we will see normalization in many respects in our society.

David Field:

But, we need to be resourceful and nimble and adapt to the situation as it rolls out.

Dan Granger:

I think that’s helpful. What kinds of advertisers do you see thriving in the next few quarters? I know that if there’s going to be a back to normal state, that’s a ways out. So just thinking about the rest of the year, what types of businesses stand to be the most successful?

David Field:

Well, it’s hard to predict, right? Because there are some obvious industries that are busy now and perhaps busier than ever. You think about tech, you think about pharma, you think about home improvement, lawn and garden, obviously DTC businesses, groceries, consumer staples, insurance and on and on, but I also think that in many respects, the necessity of messaging authentically to the public is going to be more important than ever before because of the changing circumstances. You think about the context of what was the right message for a brand at the end of March, early April, and how different it is today and undoubtedly how different it will be in weeks or months beyond as the social rules of engagement change, the mindset of the public changes, going back and forth from pessimism to optimism, the imperatives of our society and so forth and so I think advertisers more than ever need to be nimble with their messaging and I think that that’s going to be true as some of these businesses that have been shut down are ramping back up and trying to bring back customers, it’s going to be very, very important to get that right.

David Field:

And I think that radio with its unrivaled reach, its inexpensive production and the ability to change production on the fly and in addition, the authentic nature of that platform, that one on one connection between our audiences and the listeners lends itself very nicely to that. We’re reaching out across all categories and trying to be helpful even for those that are currently shut down but we know that their needs will come soon.

Dan Granger:

So David, in light of everything that’s happened, have you had to adapt corporate strategy in material ways you can talk about? For example, are there initiatives you’ve had to shelf or at least change the time tables on? What’s different in what Entercom is able to do against its goals for the future?

David Field:

So the short answer is yes we have. But, what we have tried to do is remain adamant about our focus longer term on insuring that, as I noted earlier, we come out of this strong and healthy, robust, fully competitive, et cetera. So lets take an area like sports gambling. We have most of the leading sports talk radio stations in the United States and we are fortunate to be the home of about 50 or so pro teams. And in a world in which sports gambling has been becoming a bigger and bigger part of the landscape, that’s an area where there aren’t any sports to gamble on, unless you want to gamble on the virtual Kentucky Derby this Saturday or-

David Field:

On the virtual Kentucky Derby this Saturday or some other virtual event. So clearly areas like that have come to a halt. But as we look down the road, I’m very much working on plans to ensure that our podcasting business, our digital audio business, our local broadcast radio stations and so forth have the investments they need so that we are not going to be hindered in terms of our opportunities by this tragic situation.

Dan Granger:

So talk to me about how Entercom is doing against the broader radio landscape. In other words, are you ahead behind or on par with how the industry is being impacted?

David Field:

To me, this is a moment in time where I really don’t look at us competing with our brethren and radio. I really look at them as brothers and sisters and partners all doing great, great work to help the public and our nation cope with this and go through it. And admire a lot of the things they are doing. And there’s been sort of, I wouldn’t say unprecedented, but there’s been a great deal of collaboration across the media. And I think that’s terrific.

David Field:

The one thing I guess I would add is that we have always been a company that has doubled down on what I would call engaged impressions. Meaning that we have the most news stations, the biggest sports stations, and an amazing group of local personalities across the country. And as a result, the engagement we have with our audience is I think is second to none.

David Field:

And as a result, when you look at the March data from Nielsen, our total listening hours performed much better than the industry averages, which I think is a reflection of that deep engagement. And so that’s something that we’re very happy with and I think also is a great thing for our customers.

David Field:

But again, in the bigger picture, I’m really proud to be one of many broadcasters doing a lot of great things to do our share, a small share of helping our nation move forward one step at a time.

Dan Granger:

Well, and I want to validate that. I feel like David, I have seen you in this leadership position. You guys kind of catapulted up to where you are and I feel like you have brought a spirit of comradery to it and I feel like the elbows probably aren’t as sharp as they could be. And I think that’s probably a good thing for the industry. So I just want to affirm that, that’s how I’ve experienced you both personally and in the public.

David Field:

That’s kind of your Dan. Thank you.

Dan Granger:

Yeah. So let’s talk about the opportunity that this marketplace represents. One person’s bust is another person’s boom. And I know that we work with a number of companies that are actually positioned to do well. Whether things in the current environment all the way up to going back to some version of normal. Is there a greater opportunity now from an inventory standpoint?

Dan Granger:

Because when you’ve got 30% of the customers, whether that’s 20 or 37 shut down suddenly. I imagine there’s a lot of inventory that becomes available. And with so many brands that have to pull back or advise to pull back, what is the opportunity for those that don’t have to do that? Like what’s your pitch to those companies for what Entercom can offer now that maybe you couldn’t in terms of value in the past?

David Field:

Well, let me come at that a little bit differently because first of all I think that we have been doing, we’ve been using more of our inventory on public service announcements and other messaging to the public, which has been helpful. And we’ve also done some things to support some of the most afflicted industries in some of our markets and can be helpful in that regard. And we’re also seeing today is there is somewhat of a turn in temperament.

David Field:

The term may be too strong, but there appears to be, and you’re seeing this in some of the data that’s coming out in terms of industry surveys and I should say business surveys and consumer surveys. That people are becoming incrementally more, let’s say incrementally less negative in terms of where of where we are. And I think that we’re seeing a lot of businesses who have been on hold or have been cut back now talking to us about in an era in which things are opening up again in many States to a modified extent, increasing their advertising or thinking about coming back.

David Field:

And so we need to recognize that it is a rapidly moving playing field and we have to be thoughtful about that. Dan, we absolutely are continuing to have performance-based conversations with customers and to be open to being good partners and making sure that we are able to work with our clients in ways which are mutually beneficial, even if those are somewhat untraditional.

Dan Granger:

Fair enough. In other words, we’ll get a good deal, but it’s going to be behind closed doors is kind of what I would say that maybe you can’t. But I think there are deals to be had and I think I’m seeing an open-mindedness in the marketplace to opportunities that might’ve gotten laughed out of the room six months ago. And now it seems like if you are in a position to buy, there is real opportunity to be had. At least that’s been my experience.

David Field:

I might say it a little bit differently. Right? So from my standpoint, I think that we have always been a company that believes that it really comes down to the ROI for the client. You can always find a cheaper option for advertising, if you search crime low you will find it. But ultimately I would think what every business person wants is the highest ROI. And we believe that the quality of our products, whether it’s again our sports stations or news stations are unequaled local personalities, our podcasts, which I think we’ve done a pretty good job of focusing on some of the most premium titles.

David Field:

And making sure that whether it’s Dr. Brene Brown or whether it’s a Malcolm Gladwell or Ronan Farrow’s [inaudible 00:39:43] the new series with Jon Meacham that we just launched Hope, Through History, which is talking about America’s struggles with some of the biggest existential threats in our history.

David Field:

All of that quality yields higher quality audience engagement and outcomes. And so we have always, I think provided fair and compelling of value to customers and will continue to do so and provide great ROI and so doing.

Dan Granger:

Thank you for that. And one of the things I like about Entercom’s strategy is that as somebody that’s focused on performance marketing, I’ve always found that spoken word programming yields the best returns for advertisers. Impression against impression, even audience levels being equal or composition. There’s something about people talking about the news, talking about current events, having an opinion, having a voice that that drives a consumer behavior when the ads come on.

Dan Granger:

And I think that your company has over-indexed on that type of programming, which on the buying side I found to be very useful. So listen, I want to ask you about the impact on listenership and here’s what’s hard like I’m going to say real plain. A lot of people are calling bullshit on the numbers that have come out on local radio stations. Because we know how many of us are trapped at home.

Dan Granger:

You think about, okay, it’s not a home channel. We know that the ratings that came out a couple of weeks ago, we’re only capturing part of the month. But could you give us a sense of how the shift might be happening? So that if I listen to a local affiliate and let’s say the AQH, that’s average quarter hour. Like you take a picture of the audience that hears when an ad comes on, that’s your average quarter hour.

Dan Granger:

Let’s say I’m a local station in Pittsburgh that reached, that has an AQH in the morning of 30,000. How many of those people went away altogether and how many of those people switched over and are now still listening, but now they’re listening on radio.com?

David Field:

There’s a lot there in your question.

Dan Granger:

Yep, yep.

David Field:

Let me share the data that I have and let you and the audience draw their own conclusions. And first let me say that clearly there was a tsunami that hit the country as we all were hit with this lurching stop to our way of life. And Americans are resilient people and we adapt, and we dust ourselves off and we plow our way through.

David Field:

The March data showed that radio, Nielsen data, showed radio retain 96% of its reach and 90% of its average [inaudible 00:42:55] audience. Entercom did a little bit than that. The purpose of your question, it’s really an industry question, so let’s deal with those numbers. And you’re right, the end of the month was worse than the beginning of the month.

David Field:

What we have seen since then is that each success of week and day, we’ve seen progress as the audience levels have improved and are returning directionally towards normal, which makes sense. So yes, there is a short-term disruption and we are clawing our way back to normal and that the level of disruption, I think it’s safe to say is much smaller than some of the critics would have you believe.

David Field:

Because the cynics who think that people only listen in their cars, forget that about 60% of listening is at home or at work, or in other in non-car locations. And that about two-thirds of driving still existed in terms of mobility. So it’s not like cars have come into a halt.

David Field:

What we’ve also seen is that there’s been [inaudible 00:44:00] in smart speaker usage. I’ve seen data saying as much as double, albeit all still a relatively small base. We’ve seen significant growth in streaming across all platforms. So whether it’s mobile, computer, smart speakers in the home have all been up double digits. And the other thing is that when you look at some of the other data out there, Dan, I think it’s interesting.

David Field:

So Mindshare released a study yesterday and showed that 31% of the audience says they’re listening to more radio than ever. And by the way, 26% said listening to more podcasts. And I think there’s a little bit of a burnout effect in that you can only watch Chris Cuomo or Fox News or MSNBC or whatever your news channel of choice is, there’s only so much. There is a news fatigue out there and as a result Mindshare, and I’m quoting here, “Biggest increase in non-streaming entertainment was in podcasts and radio.”

David Field:

And then Havas came out with a study yesterday as well, and I apologize for going on school on here. But Havas said that “There was a surge. They’ve seen a big surge in radio listenership across demographics, particularly in millennials.” So 18, 24, 25, 34, 35, 44 all up significant double digits.

David Field:

So there’s a lot of data and evidence to suggest that there has been a surge in radio listening. And I have no doubt that again a little bit of disruption here, yes, but not long standing. And a lot of increased audio consumption across these other platforms that are enduring the benefit of the business both today and going forward.

Dan Granger:

And I think that’s helpful for a very complex and difficult question. And I do think that this is kind of leapfrogging us forward in terms of earlier adoption of technologies that we might not have used. And so I think this will be a boom to streaming, to smart speakers to podcasts.

Dan Granger:

So if I could just followup on one fragment of that topic. Streaming is up how much? And forgive me if you already said that.

David Field:

So streaming on radio.com is, let me say a couple of things. Our total listening audience is up significantly. We have a very strong double digit increase in total listening hours. I’m hesitating, Dan only because I’m not sure if we’ve given up these numbers publicly yet and so I’m a little hesitant to do so.

Dan Granger:

No, that’s fair. I get it.

David Field:

Strong double digit increases in streaming. Strong double digit increases on podcasting. Our podcast, it’s interesting. Triton now has just come out with their first measurement and I think it’s the best measurement that we’ve seen from anybody in terms of the true size of the podcast audience. And they came out and said we’re the second largest and one of our competitors was not listed, although it looks like we would be right there with them anyway.

David Field:

So let’s just say we’re second or third in terms of our size and we believe with the most premium product and download surging to 158 million in the month of March. So we’ve seen tremendous amount of growth across all that. And as I said before, when you take together our digital audio, our podcasting and our over the year, we grew substantially in the month of March in terms of total listening hours, which we’re pretty happy with.

Dan Granger:

That’s helpful. Okay, so David, I’m going to switch gears for a minute here and we’re going to jump from the kind of business conversation is something that is deeply personal to me, very human in spirit. And what I want to invite the audience to be a part of is something that we’re doing …

Dan Granger:

To invite the audience to be a part of is something that we’re doing right now and we’ll continue to do after the crisis subsides. It’s called the Koala Corps and it’s very close to my heart. One of the things that I think this epidemic has caused for us, like one of the greatest hardships, you’ve got number one, people that are suffering and dying from this. But, one of the more complicating factors is that those people that are suffering have to be isolated from the people who otherwise might be able to visit them, to care for them, to give them human contact and support no matter what happens. This is a torturous event for that reason.

Dan Granger:

The thing is that’s not something that’s unique to this particular season that we’re in. It happens every day at children’s hospitals across the country where you have children that have life threatening illnesses, who are alone in bed with no one to comfort them. Many times, this is because you’ve either got a single parent, you’ve got working parents. Sometimes, you have parents that just aren’t in the picture at all. Our youngest daughter, she was in children’s hospital the first six months of her life. My wife and I, when we went through that experience, we saw how important it was to just have physical comfort in between medical treatment that we were very fortunate to be able to provide. But, we saw so many kids that couldn’t get that. We vowed that we would do something about it.

Dan Granger:

And so spearheaded by my wife, we launched something called the Koala Corps, which is specifically devoted to raising money to develop programs inside of children’s hospital, to get volunteers to come in and hold the kids. Actually, there are a lot of volunteers that want to do it. There are a lot of people that do do it, but there’s usually not enough resources to get a facilitator to train, to screen, to manage, to schedule the volunteers. And so, you’ve got this supply of helpers, you’ve got a great need of help, and we needed somebody to bridge the gap. So, we created this, I’ll call it an entity, but truly all we do is raise money that goes directly to children’s hospital to solve this problem.

Dan Granger:

I want to invite anybody that’s listening or watching or actually just listening to donate to this by going to koalacorps.com. That’s K-O-A-L-A-C-O-R-P-S-DOT-COM, koalacorps.com, and give what you can because the coronavirus is going to come in, as you said, David, at some point, it’s going to go away. But, this is a forever problem and it’s something that people can be a part of, so we want to invite you to give and participate in that.

Dan Granger:

Okay. If you’re getting something out of this interview, please make sure that you subscribe to Oxford Road Presents: Media’s New Deal on iTunes, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also visit oxfordroad.com and subscribe to The Influencer. That’s our weekly newsletter for industry updates and thought leadership. We have some incredible interviews coming out in the next few weeks, so keep coming back. Now, let’s get back to our conversation with David. David, podcast, it’s been all the rage. We were seeing projections that in 2021, it was going to be a billion-dollar industry. Some people are forecasting that happening even sooner. Do you think that we’re still on track for the same growth of that industry or do you think that this has changed all that?

David Field:

I think podcasting continues to grow robustly. It would be hard to say that it will be completely impervious, but I think it’s pretty much going to be on track here in 2020 from what we had hoped for.

Dan Granger:

Okay. In terms of… Let’s talk about consumer habits, which is something we were touching on earlier. I agree with you, we will be back in sports stadiums again. People will be going out in public eventually. But, what consumer habits do you think are permanently changed? What do you think is going to stick?

David Field:

Always dangerous to answer a question like that in a recorded medium because it leads to an embarrassing episode of your podcast. Five years from now, Dan, when you play back my forecasts, it would terribly-

Dan Granger:

I know.

David Field:

… be silly. But now, look, hard to say. We are social animals as people. I, again, believe that I cannot wait to be back watching baseball on a beautiful spring day with the sun out surrounded by a cross-section of the public, just enjoying the sounds of the game. It’ll be incredibly joyful for all of us to have those kinds of moments. I cannot wait to be on a crowded arena floor watching live music or on a crowded theater or restaurant, et cetera. We are social animals. We will be back there.

David Field:

That said, I think remote work is going to have some traction going forward. I would suspect you’ll see more working at home. I don’t think it’ll be a sea change or completely binary switch, but I think that we’ll see more working at home as part of the working menu, so to speak. I also think business travel will probably be diminished for quite some time, not out of fear but just out of productivity and a recognition that Zoom or GoToMeeting type gatherings are pretty darn effective. They’re not the be-all and the end-all. We will still travel and we will still go to conventions, but there’ll be some diminished level of travel accordingly. Those are just two.

Dan Granger:

I think that’s helpful and prognostication, it is inviting embarrassment if anybody checked, so I feel you on that. Do you feel like radio is uniquely positioned or audio is uniquely positioned to be useful in environments like this? How do you demarcate the difference between how people engage with something like TV or Netflix and an audio content? How does it uniquely serve people?

David Field:

I think radio remains the best medium at local, personal, authentic connections. Rather than attempt lawfully to articulate that, let me direct you or anybody so interested to go… There’s a story that was just printed in New York Magazine’s… I think it’s vulture.com is their digital arm and I believe it’ll be in the New York Magazine this coming issue. It speaks about the night guy at WFAN, which is our sports station in New York and his relationship with his audience. At a time, when there are no Mets games or Yankees games or Knicks games or Rangers games and so on and so forth, the very real, sobering, meaningful conversations and connections between the people that have listened to him for years is moving and talking about life-and-death kind of situations with family. No other medium does that. No other medium has that kind of deep, visceral connection from people who are strangers in many respects, but our personal friends and companions in others.

David Field:

I strongly encourage anybody to seek that article out if you want to get a sense for that emotional connection and why radio has such deep resilience in our society, particularly at a time when we are more disconnected than ever and those kinds of virtual connections are more meaningful than ever.

Dan Granger:

Yeah, that’s helpful. Now, when this whole thing has happened, I think most of us were glued to the news all the time. And then, we start getting some fatigue. If those of us that will admit to watching Tiger King, if we learned anything, it’s the people also need distraction. Do you feel like at this point in our management of the crisis that people are seeking more news or they are starting to move toward needing to hear about anything but COVID-19?

David Field:

Well, I’m probably a bad person to ask because I am a news junkie. I’ve just been a sponge in terms of everything I can soak up about every aspect of this and where it’s taking us. But by and large, I think that there is an exhaustion. There is a fatigue. The NFL Draft, the Michael Jordan series is a godsend for me and for people I know. You can only absorb so much news and it’s important to keep your mental health in balance.

Dan Granger:

We’re coming close to the end here. One thing that I know is top of mind for marketers is striking the right tone. At first, everybody immediately said, “Oh, no, our ads are tone-deaf. We have to change our message.” But then, as a byproduct of that, you had all of these companies starting to sound the same, opening ads with the soft music and in times like these. And then, there was criticism of, “Hey, look, we’re getting tired of that type of messaging. Don’t pander so much.” And so, it’s like a lot of brands just don’t really know where to land it. Do you have any advice for brands, at least in this stage because it’s changing all the time, but do you have any advice in this stage for how brands should think about hitting the right tone in their creative messaging?

David Field:

I would not hazard a guess on that because there are other folks like yourself who are a lot smarter at that than I am. What I would say is sort of obvious advice, which is be authentic and do not try to be what you are not. Be authentic and be genuine. Show warps if you’ve got them and make sure that audiences know that you’re authentic and real. Shameless self-serving plug here, radio’s best at that, right? Because your ability, and I’d say audio is best at it, but particularly radio, you can express yourself on this direct one-on-one platform knowing that you can frequently change that message as the situation evolved. I think that’s really, really important in this ever-changing moment.

Dan Granger:

That’s great advice, by the way. Okay, couple more things. Number one, this country has been so bitterly divided across political lines and I’ve found that’s affecting business what advertisers are willing to get close to, what they’re not because people are so entrenched in their positions. Has COVID-19 created a deeper sense of unity across party lines, do you think? Or, do you think the divides in this country are just deepening?

David Field:

I do think it has, so far, brought us much more together as a nation, not withstanding the fact that there are always going to be different opinions on the fringes of our political landscape. But, when you look at the data on most questions, you see much more unanimity and agreement across republican, democratic and independent voters than we’ve seen on most issues in this year.

Dan Granger:

Yeah. All right, last question. Is there any final advice you would give to marketers trying to plan out the next few quarters? Anything at all.

David Field:

Now, I repeat what I said before. Be authentic, be nimble. And then, the last thing I would say is don’t go into the turtle pose. Your customers and the public needs to hear from you more than ever. This is a time for the public to stay connected with your brand, to respect your brand and the values you’re expressing as we all go through this, and also to understand the changing circumstances of using your brand at a time when so much is changing in our society. Why is your brand important to me? Why are your products or services important to me? Is there a change in how I access your brand today in a world in which lifestyles have changed? I think it’s more important than ever that you’re messaging to public. I think that’s probably biased to 80%, 90% of the businesses out there today.

Dan Granger:

David, 170 million people is a lot and we know that it’s no small thing. And so, taking the time to put yourself out there and have such a candid conversation with us is greatly appreciated. I appreciate you. For show notes from this interview, information on upcoming guests and additional industry-related news, please visit oxfordroad.com and subscribe to our newsletter. Once again, if you liked it, subscribe or share on iTunes, Spotify, Google, or wherever you get your podcasts. Let us know your thoughts and send questions and comments in the comment section on the show. Above all else, never, never, never give up. We’ll talk to you next week.

Dan Granger:

Okay, David, we did it.

Dan Granger is CEO and Founder of Oxford Road, a Hollywood ad agency that helps the most innovative companies in the world acquire thousands of new customers every week, by getting influencers to recommend them to their audiences through traditional media channels like terrestrial and satellite radio, and television, as well as new media channels like Podcasts, YouTube and Blogs. Client examples include Hulu, Legalzoom.com, DollarShaveClub and Freshbooks. Influencer examples range from Ryan Seacrest, to Howard Stern, Adam Carolla, on down a list of hundreds of lesser known personalities with niche but loyal followings.

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