Monday, June 24, 2019


Steven Goldstein
Media consultant, blogger and futurist Steven Goldstein, spoke at The Conclave Learning conference last Thursday (6/20) at the Delta Hotel in trendy northeast Minneapolis. 

Though most of conference attendees work in commercial radio, Goldstein’s messages are universal. He didn’t disappoint us.

He gave radio broadcasters a reality check about Alexa and her sisters.

Goldstein is the principal in AmplifiMedia [link], a consulting firm specializing in the use of digital platforms. 

We like Goldstein’s cool and rational approach to all forms of media. Plus, he sees media from a radio point-of-view. 

Before starting Amplifi, for two decades he was in charge of programming for Saga Communications, one of the most respected commercial radio operators.

We are frequent readers of Goldstein’s blog Blogstein [link] and we encourage you to check it out.

Goldstein’s presentation at The Conclave concerned digital platforms that are of great interest to broadcasters: Podcasts and Smart Speakers. He made news in his remarks about changes that are underway regarding Alexa.

He considers smart speakers to be a unique emerging platform where the user’s voice causes “frictionless” navigation and interactive activity.

Goldstein said the assumption that smart speakers are “the new radio sets” is flawed for four reasons:

1. Adaptation of smart speakers is moving fast but the reasons people using them are still evolving.

The penetration of smart speakers, to date, has out-paced ideas for uses for the devices. People are now encountering smart speakers in hotels, stores and other public places. But users are still in the “oh wow” phase. Now people are asking What more can Alexa do?

The coming trends are activities designed for the platform, particularly interaction. Simulcasts of radio programming are linear and seldom interactive. The takeaway is to not take current radio usage for granted because Alexa can do many different things.

2. Content designed for the smart speaker platform is different than older, linear content.

The fastest growing types of native content are on-demand “bite size” audio packages that are 60 to 90-seconds in duration. 

A prime example is The Bizarre Files [link], a weird and wild audio "bite" produced by the morning crew at WMMR, Philadelphia.
Yesterday on The Bizarre Files

3. Some people find using smart speakers confusing and the dropout rate is high.

Once a user has had Alexa play Louie, Louie and heard the weather forecast, what comes next?

4. Users want to have an experience.

An emerging trend is using smart speakers for interactive games. One of the most popular is Jeopardy for Alexa [link]. 

In January NPR introduced a Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me news quiz [link] for Alexa that has become very popular.

Goldstein advised radio broadcasters not to “just check the box” and be satisfied with Alexa simulcasts, move beyond the ordinary and engage with listeners.

Goldstein also hosted a panel focusing on podcasts that succeed. 

Our favorite panelist was a woman named Falen who is a member of the crew on The Dave Ryan Morning Show on Contemporary Hit station KDWB.

Falen noticed that some of the station’s listeners were seeking her out to talk about failures in love. 

Falen started a weekly podcast called Heartbroken [link]. It tells the stories of love lost through first-person storytelling and gentle interviews.

She got a chuckle from the crowd when she said she started the podcast on her own and didn't even tell anyone at KDWB she was doing it.

But everything worked out with management because Heartbroken had become so popular. She maintained ownership of Heartbroken but is allowed to do only one on-air plug per day. Falen told the folks at The Conclave that Heartbroken now has 150,000 to 200,000 downloads per month.

Like Goldstein, The Conclave provided ample news that attendees could use We had not attended The Conclave for quite a few years. We were pleasantly surprised by the large turnout (it is similar in size to the PRCC) and consistently high quality of information that was presented.

There were only two people from public radio at this year’s Conclave: Fred Jacobs and us. We hope that in future years more public media folks will attend the Conclave in future years. Thank you to Lori Lewis, the Executive Director of The Conclave, who kindly provided us with a press pass.

Memo to the PRPD: Consider Steve Goldstein as a speaker at next year’s Public Radio Content Conference.


Image courtesy of the Texas Observer
We appreciate it when people ask us about the effort to establish a NPR News/Talk station for the Rio Grande Valley (RGV). The only station in RGV ended on May 30, 2019. It is now the largest metro area in U.S. that does not have a local NPR member station.

Last Friday an excellent story on the Texas Observer website [link] by reporter Gus Bova provides a comprehensive summary of the situation.

Bova’s article -- In the Rio Grande Valley, a fight to bring back NPR – also appears in the latest edition of the Columbia Journalism Review [link].



  1. For me the fact that Alexa allows (in theory, not always in practice) easy access to a pubradio's station live streams is a good thing, but I agree 100% that you can't stop there.

    An awful lot of stations are already recording and posting their local newscasts as a podcast or in a podcast-like format for the NPR ONE app's architecture. Any station doing that who HASN'T created an Alexa "flash briefing" Skill for that newscast is crazy. Alexa is a perfect vehicle for such a thing, especially folks who have an Alexa in the bedroom or kitchen, and in the morning can say "Alexa, what's the news?" and get your newscast in a nice, easy-to-digest while getting dressed/making breakfast, two minute format.

    All the moreso because people are already using their Alexas to get the NPR natioanl newscast, and probably NYT's The Daily as well. Can you afford to be left out of that routine?

  2. So Falen launched her own podcast, well and good. The real question is: was she able to actually MONETIZE it?

  3. Apparently Joe O'Connor came down to WFAE with a mandate to slaughter the sacred cows because he did and the ratings shot up in response. Very impressive.

  4. "The fastest growing types of native content are on-demand “bite size” audio packages that are 60 to 90-seconds in duration. A prime example is The Bizarre Files, a weird and wild audio "bite" produced by the morning crew at WMMR, Philadelphia."

    The audio on the linked page is nothing more than uploads of their on-air feature... and they're not at all bite-sized. None are 60 or 90 seconds.

    While the feature might be popular to WMMR listeners, Bizarre Files would go more mainstream if it were treated as a stand-alone podcast.