Paul Caine Sounds Off on Radio’s Next Act

Lunch At Michaels

LunchAtMichaelsIt 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.”

Diane Clehane and Paul Caine
Diane Clehane and Paul Caine
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.