It was wall-to-wall mavens and moguls at Michael’s today with EICs of those swanky design books (Architectural Digest, House Beautiful and Veranda) holding court in one corner of the dining room (I guess living well really is the best revenge), while the usual bold-faced names and social swans exchanged air kisses in the other. I was joined today by Paul Caine, CEO of audio content syndicator Westwood One, one of the nicest and most successful guys in the media biz (and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you just how rare a description that is around here). Paul has had himself one heck of a year having joined Westwood One (back when it was known as Dial Global — more on that later) in March from Time Inc., where he was EVP Chief Revenue Officer and Group President.
Since joining the newly christened Westwood One, Paul has been doing what he does best — positioning his brand in the best possible light for prospective advertisers. It was clear from talking to him he’s found a new calling as an audio content advocate. I had to begin by asking Paul why he left the Time Inc. mothership after 23 years and ahead of Time Inc’s planned spin-off after having had such a successful tenure and largely considered one of its rising stars. He had been responsible for global ad revenue for all of the company’s magazines, including People and Sports Illustrated, while spearheading new initiatives to roll out new ad products across all platforms. His name had been floated in several published reports as a possible successor to Time Inc.’s former CEO Laura Lang (coincidentally the man who got the job, Joseph Ripp, was seated on the other side of the dining room), but Paul told me that when he was first approached in January about his current job, “Initially, I wasn’t interested. I was not looking to leave.” It was only after talking to advertisers when, during conversations, the question ‘What about radio?’ came up time and again that Paul began to seriously consider making a move.” I had a great time at Time Inc.,” he told me. “The brands are fantastic. (Time Inc. editor-in-chief) Martha Nelson is fantastic and I’m optimistic about their future.” As far as the prospects after the spin-off: “What I know from afar is that they are uniquely positioned to succeed. Print is healthy.”
But audio content is what the future is all about, says Paul, and Westwood One has got over 225 million listeners a week to prove it. “We spend one third of our day listening to audio content — music, talk radio, sports, news.” The company is the only broadcast medium with exclusive rights to the NFL, NCAA, the Masters and EPL (English Premier League soccer) as well as serving as home for the radio broadcasts of John Tesh (who just celebrated ten years with the company), Charles Osgood, Dennis Miller and Billy Bush. “If all the consumers are there, there are great opportunities for advertisers.” Paul has also quickly realized “I needed to build relationships with consumers and advertisers not in the audio space.” When it became clear to him in talking with his executives who told him many people outside the industry that the company’s former name, Dial Global often caused some confusion (“People asked me, ‘Is it a soap company?'”), he approached the powers that be about a name change. In September, the company was rebranded Westwood One, assuming the name of the radio network Dial Global merged with in 2011 (which had originally been part of CBS before it was spun off into its own national radio network). “The rebranding has been one hundred percent seamless,” says Paul. “When you say Westwood One people (in the business) immediately know what that means. It has been absolutely effective.” The name recognition clearly plays a crucial part in getting advertisers to add Westwood One’s audio content to the mix although Paul is quick to point out direct response advertisers including retailers like in the ‘scale market’ Home Depot, Walgreen’s and a myriad of insurance companies are well versed in its advantages having had tremendous success on radio.
But there are more than facts and figures says Paul when outlining the strengths and advantages to bringing audio content into the advertising mix. To prove that, Paul gave me the exclusive on the preliminary findings of the biometric research conducted by the company in comparing consumer response to video, audio and text. The study found the video was the most passive medium for consumers and revealed that audio prompts the most brain activity among users. “Audio creates the greatest amount of theater in the consumers’ mind. It is a deeply connective medium.” I get it — Who doesn’t try to picture what their favorite deejay or commentator looks like when listening in the car? (I was heartened to learn that Delilah from ‘The Light at Night’ is as lovely as she sounds) Yes, said Paul. “When people meet who they listen to on the radio, they are usually blown away.” As far as those celebrities like Miller, Osgood and Bush who spend hours on the radio, it only enhances their brand across other platforms. “Celebrities love radio, because it makes their presence stronger.” And advertisers, says Paul, “like radio because it accelerates their print and television messages.” Paul also told me about Westwood One’s latest new product, sitesound, which can turn “any website into a radio station” providing 24/7 content. “I’m really proud of the work we’re doing around the power of sound, the rebranding of our company, the launch of new programming, the renewal of existing programming and the new distribution platforms like sitesound and the opportunity for growth.”
Westwood One’s impending merger with Cumulus Media will also do plenty to shore up Westwood One’s strength in the marketplace. Paul characterizes the “strategic” decision this way: “It gives us a trusted path of distribution in the total audio space of 10,000 stations (including those Cumulus owns and operates) and we are providing accelerated scale content. We used to confuse media with platforms when it was just TV, print and radio but there is so much more opportunity now. It’s a very exciting time.”
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Marketing man and political commentator Robert Zimmerman presiding over a table of glam power gals Allison Stern, Caroline Hirsch, Christine Kuehbeck, Nancy Silverman and Maureen Reidy.
2. Patricia Duff, Debbie Bancroft and Tiffany Dubin
3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Dave Zinczenko
4. Agent Boaty Boatwright
5. Esther Newberg
6. Dr. Gerald Imber, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman and Jerry Della Femina
7. DuJour‘s boisterous Jason Binn who told us he was with “some hard working folks” from Versace
8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia and Rosina Rucci ( sister of designer Ralph Rucci who heads up the house’s PR effort)
9. Star Jones
10. Paul Caine and yours truly
11. CNN’s Felicia Taylor
12. Beth Dozoretz
14. Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew
16. Fast friends who met while working together at FOX 5: Rosanna Scotto, Lynn White and Penny Crone
17. Attorney Michael Kassan
18. Jim Abernathy
20. Judy Gordon and author Jill Brooke
21. Quest‘s Chris Meigher
22. Producer Beverly Camhe
23. TV Guide Magazine’s Jack Kliger
24. Hearst’s Design Group head and House Beautiful’s EIC Newell Turner with Veranda‘s new EIC Clint Smith, Kate Kelly Smith, SVP and group publishing director of the Hearst Design Group and designer Ben Soleimani
25. Time Inc’s CEO Joseph Ripp
26. 48 Hours Mystery’s executive producer Susan Zirinsky
27. Architectural Digest EIC Margaret Russell and publisher Giulio Capua with fashinista Barbara Cirkva
28. PR maven Susan Blond
29. The Wall Street Journal’s David Sanford and Lewis Stein
30 People’s Liz McNeil and author Pamela Keogh
In the Garden Room: Saks Fifth Avenue’s departing CEO Steve Sadove (who will be joining the board at JC Penney) and squadron of ‘suits.’ We’ll be on assignment next week. See you back in the dining room on October 30th!
Diane Clehane is a contributor to FishbowlNY. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Please send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.