RAIN Summit Chicago on tuesday was an incredible event – in my opinion the best one ever. It was very well attended by and the agenda was packed full of interesting people. I could have spent several more hours at the cocktail party connecting with them all.
The highlight of the day – no slight intended to any of our wonderful speakers – was the keynote speech given by Tim Westergren. I found him to be insightful, geniune, inclusive and generous. Tim started his speech by thanking Kurt Hanson for all that he has done for the industry by creating RAIN Summits. He offered a toast to everyone in the room who has been involved in nurturing Internet radio, and he said he is excited about the prospects not just for his company, but also for their “colleague companies” in the space. That’s how a leader talks..
Tim then went on to share a lot of inside info about Pandora with the audience. He started out by telling everyone that he believes the future of radio is Internet radio and in particular personalizable Internet radio. He talked about all the valuable data they get from interacting with their listeners and told a story about how Pandora can use that data. Like the time they packed a club in LA for an Aimee Mann performance by telling all the folks who lived within an hour radius who had clicked “thumbs up” on an Aimee Mann song that she was going to be playing nearby. To further illustrate his point, he mentioned an obscure artist from Waukegan, Illinois named Jason Michael Carroll who had a local gig coming up. Pandora can find all the listeners who clicked thumbs up for that artist and live in the area (5300), and then look for other similar sounding artists and people who liked those artists and live nearby, and tell all of them about Jason’s show, and really impact the way an artist can grow its audience.
Of course, it’s not hard to recognize the value that sort of relationship with listeners can have on advertising as well, and Westergren spent time talking about the progress that Pandora has made in generating revenue. He listed lots of major ad agencies and advertisers who are now buying ads on Pandora and talked about specific ways they have produced strong results.
It was a little disappointing to read some of the trade coverage of Tim’s speech the next morning. I noticed that a couple of publications, despite all the consensus building remarks that Tim made, simply had to portray Westergren’s speech as an attack on radio. It was not that at all. In an informed and informative speech, Westergren shared a lot of details about the success of Pandora. And in my opinion, he spoke to the audience as a fellow radio guy, confident and excited about his product and sharing info as every speaker at The Radio Show will do this week.
If there was a threat, warning or shot across the bow in that speech, it was only a perception by those in the audience who refuse to acknowledge that the definition of radio has changed and now includes Pandora, Slacker and other digital audio platforms. Clearly advertisers have begun to see it that way as well. Closing the windows, locking the doors and arguing that it’s not so will not change that reality…
Here’s the first half of the speech. The second half is also available on YouTube. I’m President of RAIN Summits and am admittedly less than impartial..