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Audacy, Like The Entire Economy, Is In Recession

Audacy may have been first but strap yourself in as the economy continues to deteriorate. I’m sorry to say, more workforce reductions from other companies in the radio industry are coming.

Andy Bloom

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Writing a weekly column is interesting. Interesting because nearly every column receives some feedback, but it is often surprising.

Last week, I wrote about Audacy announcing another workforce reduction of roughly 250 positions. I’m relatively sure that this column received more responses than any other I’ve written for Barrett Media since joining four months ago. For example, my LinkedIn profile views went up 150%.

While it isn’t surprising that a column about radio people losing their jobs got a big reaction on a website dedicated to radio, the nature of some of the responses caught me off guard.

More than the usual number of people who checked out my profile did so anonymously. I could see that many of them were from the broadcast industry, and several were along the eastern seaboard. That struck me as odd. The number of listeners that commented in support of air personalities was also unexpected.

Let’s start here: naturally, I’m not fond of the idea that the response to a bad quarter is to fire another 500 people. I also understand that upper management is trying to protect the other 4,500 employees and the shareholders. Further, Audacy didn’t do anything that every other major broadcaster has done at least a half-dozen times since 2008.

For that matter, Audacy did what every company does during economically challenging times. Ford just announced a reduction in its workforce of about 3,000. People close to me have spent their entire careers working for Ford.

Ford is remaking itself from a company that manufactures automobiles with internal combustion engines to one that makes electric vehicles (EVs). The most successful company producing EVs is Tesla, which recently laid off 229 people. Amazon-backed competitor, Rivian will shed 5% of its 14,000 employees.

One of the people who contacted me is a tenured sales rep from Groupon, who was one of 500-people laid off by the online discount merchant. They reported that Groupon took good care of them on the way out, which is better than the treatment most radio people receive when they lose their jobs, so there’s that.

Many eCommerce platforms that saw business swell during the pandemic are now making cutbacks, including Shopify (1,000 workers) and Wayfair. The Wall Street Journal reports that the home goods and furniture website would lay off nearly 900 people – 5% of its workforce.

Peloton – the trendy exercise fitness company whose exercise bikes were all the rage during the pandemic, has announced that it will lay off nearly 800 employees. That’s after letting 2,800 people go in February. Peloton is also starting to sell its merchandise on Amazon and raise prices.

Netflix, one of the enormous success stories of the internet age and a darling of the pandemic era, has already gone through two rounds of layoffs this year. Vimeo, the video hosting and sharing platform, another sweetheart of the pandemic, is cutting 6% of its 1,220 employees.

The real estate and mortgage markets are cooling to levels not seen since the great recession of 2008. Therefore, according to Business Insider, ReMax will lay off 17% of its workforce by the end of the year, and JP Morgan is cutting 1,000 jobs from its home lending unit. Even 7-Eleven is laying off 880 people from corporate jobs.

None of these companies will serve their customers better by trimming their workforce. By reducing expenses, they all will have a better chance of achieving their target profitability numbers for the upcoming quarters. That’s the reason for the cuts.

When companies across a wide range of industries resort to mass layoffs, the economy is in trouble.

The president, administration officials, and Nobel Prize-winning economists like Paul Krugman at The New York Times can continue to deny the U.S. is in a recession for a while longer. Still, eventually, the data will show that we’ve been in a recession for several months.

Audacy may have been first but strap yourself in as the economy continues to deteriorate. I’m sorry to say, more workforce reductions from other companies in the radio industry are coming. You heard it here first.

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Trump Town Hall Delivered CNN’s Biggest Audience Since March 2022

“It was CNN’s most-watched telecast in total viewers since President Biden’s State of the Union address on Mar. 1, 2022.”

Doug Pucci

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Photo Credit: CNN

The controversial May 10th town hall event featuring 2024 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was at the center of the news world during the week ending May 14.

The town hall, moderated by Kaitlan Collins and held at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire to an audience of Republican and independent voters who’ve previously voted for Trump, drew 3.308 million total viewers including 781,000 within the key 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. Those figures could not top Fox News Channel’s five most recent Trump town halls — two from Mar. 2020, one in May 2020, another in June 2020 and one post-election (on “Hannity”) in June 2021 — which ranged from 3.54 millions to 5.11 million. Nor did they best President Biden’s first post-inauguration CNN town hall from Feb. 16, 2021 (3.64 million total/902,000 adults 25-54).

Nonetheless, it was CNN‘s most-watched telecast in total viewers since President Biden’s State of the Union address on Mar. 1, 2022. It also delivered their best 25-54 performance since their New Year’s Eve celebration with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen from New York’s Times Square on Dec. 31, 2022.

A special edition of “Anderson Cooper 360” which followed the town hall on May 10 was cable news’ runner-up telecast of the week among adults 25-54 (as listed in the rankings at the end of this article.)

On the following night, for the May 11th edition of “AC360”, Cooper defended his network’s to carry the event, stating “the man you were so disturbed to see and hear from [on the night of May 10] — that man is the front-runner for the Republican nomination for president,”

Cooper added. “You have every right to be outraged today, angry and never watch this network again, but do you think staying in your silo and only listening to people you agree with is going to make that person go away?”

The May 11th “Anderson Cooper 360” posted 616,000 viewers including 137,000 adults 25-54, placing behind MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” and FNC’s “Fox News Tonight” although the demo delivery was a mere 2,000 viewers (aged 25-54) behind “Hayes.”

These figures were also on-par with its usual levels: for Monday May 1 thru Thursday May 4, “AC360” averaged 604,000 viewers and 141,000 adults 25-54 within the 8-9 p.m. hour.

Cable news averages for May 8-14, 2023:

Total Day (May 8-14 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.140 million viewers; 137,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.755 million viewers; 85,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.462 million viewers; 95,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.185 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.108 million viewers; 26,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.107 million viewers; 24,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.101 million viewers; 12,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.082 million viewers; 13,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (May 8-13 @ 8-11 p.m.; May 14 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.434 million viewers; 140,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.161 million viewers; 117,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.701 million viewers; 161,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.317 million viewers; 35,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.141 million viewers; 37,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.108 million viewers; 24,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.107 million viewers; 17,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.091 million viewers; 15,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.060 million viewers; 13,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. CNN Town Hall “Donald Trump and NH GOP Voters” (CNN, Wed. 5/10/2023 8:00 PM, 70 min.) 3.308 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 5/8/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.838 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 5/9/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.708 million viewers

4. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 5/10/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.692 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 5/11/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.665 million viewers

6. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 5/12/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.497 million viewers

7. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 5/8/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.289 million viewers

8. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Mon. 5/8/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.210 million viewers

9. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Thu. 5/11/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.181 million viewers

10. Anderson Cooper 360 “Trump Town Hall Analysis” (CNN, Wed. 5/10/2023 9:10 PM, 50 min.) 2.152 million viewers

263. Eric Bolling The Balance (NMX, Mon. 5/8/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.543 million viewers

428. Varney & Company (FBN, Mon. 5/8/2023 11:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.290 million viewers

450. Forensic Files (HLN, late Tue. 5/9/2023 3:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.267 million viewers

464. Highway Thru Hell “(1117) Know When To Hold Em” (TWC, Sun. 5/14/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.259 million viewers

518. Squawk on the Street (CNBC, Mon. 5/8/2023 9:00 AM, 180 min.) 0.223 million viewers

731. Cuomo (NWSN, Thu. 5/11/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.136 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top  programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:

1. CNN Town Hall “Donald Trump and NH GOP Voters” (CNN, Wed. 5/10/2023 8:00 PM, 70 min.) 0.781 million adults 25-54

2. Anderson Cooper 360 “Trump Town Hall Analysis” (CNN, Wed. 5/10/2023 9:10 PM, 50 min.) 0.438 million adults 25-54

3. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 5/11/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.338 million adults 25-54

4. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 5/8/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.306 million adults 25-54

5. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 5/9/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.298 million adults 25-54

6. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 5/10/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.277 million adults 25-54

7. Anderson Cooper 360 “Trump Town Hall Analysis” (CNN, Wed. 5/10/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.253 million adults 25-54

8. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Thu. 5/11/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.252 million adults 25-54

9. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 5/12/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.251 million adults 25-54

10. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Wed. 5/10/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.246 million adults 25-54

19. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 5/8/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.210 million adults 25-54

316. Forensic Files (HLN, late Tue. 5/9/2023 3:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.076 million adults 25-54

400. Shark Tank “Shark Tank 728” (CNBC, Thu. 5/11/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.059 million adults 25-54

402. Greg Kelly Reports (NMX, Thu. 5/11/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.059 million adults 25-54

510. Highway Thru Hell “(1116) Triple Play” (TWC, Sat. 5/13/2023 1:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.041 million adults 25-54

575. Mornings with Maria Bartiromo (FBN, Tue. 5/9/2023 8:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.035 million adults 25-54

612. Banfield (NWSN, Mon. 5/8/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.032 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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Nielsen Will Face Many Questions With Major Methodology Changes

Let’s consider the potential reasons for differences in results between the paper diary and an online version.

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I hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend! Last week, I gave a little history of the seven-day Nielsen radio paper diary which, if you believe the trades (and the trades are always right including this one!), could be replaced with an online version by late 2025

This week, I’ll discuss the issues surrounding what would be a major methodological change in a system that not everyone loves, but for the most part, everyone involved knows well.

Will the results differ when Nielsen changes methodologies? The answer is almost always a resounding “yes”. 

Even the smallest changes can affect the results and when results differ from expectations, someone will be upset or as I’ve told people for years, “We’ve never figured a way to create more than 100 share points in radio”. 

On a share basis, if someone gains, someone else has to lose. And for now, let’s not think about what might happen to usage levels.

Let’s consider the potential reasons for differences in results between the paper diary and an online version. The list is not exhaustive, but you’ll get the general idea of the complexity:

  • Will the sampling be the same as currently used? The Nielsen Audio sampling system has evolved over the years from using only landline telephone numbers to adding cell phones in 2009 (probably the first major survey of its kind to do that in the US) to using mail-out pre-surveys (the address-based sampling frame) ensuring the most everyone has a chance to be part of the sample.
  • Will individuals that fill out paper diaries be the same ones who fill out the online diary?
  • What will be the effects on response rate and proportionality?
  • Will the listening levels (PUR meaning Persons Using Radio) be statistically the same, in other words, the results could be different, but not due to the method?
  • What about the number of entries and the quality of those entries in the online diary compared to the paper diary? Will the online diary be easier or harder to edit when there are unclear entries?
  • The paper diary is completely unaided, in other words, the “diarykeeper” fills in whatever they think they’re listening to with no help from Nielsen. An online diary could include prompts.  Will such a version be tested?
  • Will diarykeepers be more likely to fill out the diary in “real-time” versus taking care of the chore at the end of the week? We know that a majority fill out the current diary after the fact.
  • For that matter, the “diary week” has been Thursday to Wednesday for nearly 60 years. Could that change and if so, what would be the effect of that change?
  • How will incentives be delivered? Currently, money is included with the package that includes the diaries, but I don’t think Nielsen wants to try using Venmo or PayPal or some other method to send out incentives. If there is one thing that’s been learned over time about survey incentives, cash is still king. That means plenty of mailings just as is done currently.
  • How many markets will be part of the test?
  • What kind of pretesting will be done? Will various designs be tested with focus groups or “one on ones” ahead of a major test? 
  • What will be considered an “acceptable” online diary? It’s easy to leave a question blank in the paper diary, for example, race and ethnicity, but the online diary could force an answer. Perhaps the online diary will offer “none of the above” or “I don’t want to answer this question”, but would options like that lead to more ascription (meaning filling in the data based on other information)?

You’ve just read twelve research and operational issues and almost certainly, I’ve missed something. The researchers inside of Nielsen have likely put together a longer list and also considered the costs and benefits. 

These and other questions will be asked by the various industry groups and committees such as the Media Rating Council, NAB’s COLRAM (Committee on Local Radio Audience Measurement), the NRRC (Network Radio Research Council), and the big ownership groups. 

My perspective is that this change should have taken place years ago. As noted last week, the original E-Diary had one easily fixable design flaw which should have been changed and then refined over time so that the industry could adjust. 

Instead, the early termination in 2007 and focus on the 48 PPM markets put the industry in the situation we have today. Nielsen Audio has painted itself into a corner. The online diary has to work because failure means the paper diary will be with us through most of this decade. 

The financial side of the house has likely figured the cost savings from the change which means “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” regardless of the test results unless the test is a complete disaster, which is unlikely. 

Further, any change means IT fixes which are often slow. Speeding things up requires the assumption that the test version can be implemented as designed, in other words, the programming changes will be done in parallel. If the test works well, you’ll see far faster implementation, which is great. If the results are controversial, you’ll also see a fast implementation, whether you like it or not.

Considering that the video side of Nielsen is facing an unprecedented amount of competition as well as criticism, the company would no doubt like to see even more profit from the near-monopoly radio service. The industry may complain, but the end result will be similar to the change to monthly rolling averages a few years back. 

If you don’t like it, find another vendor. Of course, competition in this field is rather limited.  My advice to the industry is to work together, ask a lot of questions, and fully understand what the outcomes mean for your companies, your stations, and your talent.

Let’s meet again next week.

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5 Media Sources You Can Count On To Deliver News, Not Misinformation

“This list will consume under 2 hours of your day and allow you to sound smart at dinner parties, pick a President, know the sports scores and go about your day.”

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The internet is a beautiful thing, except when it is not. At a tap of your finger it brings a world of information, or a firehouse of disinformation. Rabbit holes of conspiracy theories and unvetted “news” from every angle of the political, medical and economic spectrum. The internet is NOT to be trusted, and frankly the world needs to get off the web at least 22 of the 24 hours in a day. 

Gone are the days when trusted filters with long track records and editors with green-shaded visors poured over copy for sources and evidence. Today, we are bombarded with tweets, blogs, and aggregates written by anyone with a computer who claims “I do my own research”. 

So, as a public service I here now recommend the following list of 5 vetted, trusted sources of information and news which have systems in place to avoid misinformation, and when they make mistakes, retract and revise. Yes, the New York Times and many in the mainstream media made huge errors in the run up to the Iraq War, but they later admitted as such and chastised themselves.

This list will consume under 2 hours of your day and allow you to sound smart at dinner parties, pick a President, know the sports scores and go about your day.

1. Turn off cable news, unless there is a major breaking news; a new war, a school shooting, plane crash or otherwise. And then tune into CNN which has the world’s largest TV reporting staff, way ahead of any other domestic broadcast service. The rest of the time, CNN and the other major cable networks MSNBC and Fox are filled with comment and opinion. While that can be entertaining, it is not news and not necessary. My guilty pleasure is Rachel Maddow. 

2.  Watch one or more of the 3 evening network TV broadcasts and 60 Minutes on Sunday. Even watching all 3 nightly news programs takes less than an hour if you fast forward through the commercials. They are a quick 18 minutes of news, a summary of the top stories of the day reported with perspective and in most cases experienced journalists. They have seasoned editors who vet each story and best of all, there is no time for opinion. No commentators, just news. CBS is my favorite, NBC a close second. But that’s subjective, the most popular is my former place of employment for nearly 20 years, ABC. CBS has 2 excellent Washington political correspondents, Ed O’Keefe and Robert Costa, former newspaper reporters (Washington Post) with an emphasis on straight reporting, rather than looks and performance. NBC has Andrea Mitchell, Kelly O’Donnell and Peter Alexander, with years of experience. ABC has Jon Karl, Martha Raddatz, Pierre Thomas and the up and coming Mary Bruce, all of whom know their stuff. 

But perhaps most important, the process at the networks makes for few mistakes. Each script is reviewed by “the rim”. That consists of a senior producer, the executive producer and in most cases, the anchor/managing editor. Opinion, error and bias are flushed out. As are grammatical mistakes. 

3.  Respected national newspapers: The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. Reading the top stories in these papers takes more time, but each has more actual reporters than television, radio or blogs. Their reporting is straight and dependable. And in an hour over morning coffee you will be educated and filled with data and information that will be useful when you encounter the hate filled disinformation flooding your direction each day on the internet. 

4.  If you have time, move to the second tier of newspapers on line. More regional in their coverage….the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution or your local paper. 

5.  The Daily podcast. An arm of the New York Times, this half hour or so audio deep dive into one subject of importance makes one smarter. Each weekday morning the hosts who are decidedly not radio veterans with big voices or rapid fire cadences, interview a Times reporter about a story on their beat. From the Supreme Court to Congress to the White House and beyond. Another guilty pleasure: Countdown with Keith Olbermann, decidedly from the left, but smart and a great writer/performer. 

That’s it. We would all be better served by limiting our intake. Choose a few of the myriad of would be news organizations. Make your own list, chosen after they have earned your trust. I know I have left out the scores of narrowly focused internet outlets from Politico to the Daily Beast. Mostly because they are insider type publications or in many cases aggregators which merely take from other news sources and re-publish to the internet. I’m not saying don’t read them but they can be done without for the general reader. 

Also save your precious time by avoiding the tabloids, from the NY Post to the Daily Mail. And agenda publications like Breitbart and Daily Caller. They are not dependable, and they are filled with conspiracies and disinformation. 

Use Facebook, TikTok and Instagram to share memories and photos, not conspiracies. And Twitter to alert you to ongoing events or breaking news. But switch to your trusted sources after the alert. Since Elon Musk took over Twitter, my feed has become a deluge of hate and right wing drama. 

It’s hard to look away, but we would all be better off if we did. 

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