Say It Now US Tour: Cat Thomas Interview

In the first of a 12 part series of interviews exploring the future of actionable audio advertising Charlie and Norbert interview Cat Thomas, Digital Media Director of the Beasley Media Group in Las Vegas. They talk about how these groups are embracing new digital channels and how they see the rise of smart speakers and listener behaviour around it.

Charlie Cadbury 0:06: Yeah. Nice. So it’s like very, very informal and you know, get to know you this should all be very friendly. Yeah, yeah. Can we have a little chat? Charlie? Thank you very much. It’s now live. Well, I’m here this morning with cats. Thomas from Beasley broadcasting group. And looking forward to an interesting discussion. Hopefully we can learn a little bit about where you’ve come from where we’re going. So, cat want to kick off kind of just trying to get to know you a little bit. So what’s your role? And what do you do day to day

Cat Thomas 0:40: actually, I am a Program Director. I’m also the digital program director and also the LM for our group here in Las Vegas. Jama 1057 Is the station that I run day to day. We have a five station group here kkl Z coyote country News Talk, as well as que OAS and de hot AC. And then I also oversee our digital operations where we’re continuing to grow our digital online presence, building audience building interaction through our social media, and also working on our streaming products as well.

Charlie Cadbury 1:17: Okay, cool. And then what’s you know, what two people think that you know, you’re the best in the world that what’s your what’s the people think is your particular expertise,

Cat Thomas 1:26 believe it or not, probably music and dealing with artists, management, and I’ve had a good ear for current bass music as as time has gone on. So it’s one of my strengths.

Charlie Cadbury 1:41 But where does your expertise actually like? What do you what do you really get? Really, really, really kind of get to get down?

Cat Thomas 1:47 You know, what, I’m good at a lot of things and probably not great at anything. I’m more of a Yes, more renaissance person where, you know, I am really good at structuring radio stations and branding radio stations, dealing with their music, creating larger audiences, through branding and all the tools that we have. I’ve, you know, really, I would say my strength is in understanding the audience’s needs, and being able to put together brands and products that really drive home and build audiences in the Las Vegas market.

Norbert Horvath 2:26 And what did you do before you actually entered this industry?

Cat Thomas 2:29 Believe it or not, I worked as an assistant golf pro down in Florida. Yeah, I went to school for radio at The Ohio State University. I have worked on air start off on air, became a promotions director worked into music director, did production, Assistant Program Director, dealing with music artists, concerts, things of that sort. And into program director, I spent a bit of time with another company, as the vice president of their top 40 and hot AC divisions, overseeing 47 stations across 42 cities, and came home to Las Vegas and happy to be working for Beasley here, great company and great brand bunch of stations. So it’s really exciting, kind of to build the brands here locally, and extenuate the successes that we’ve had,

Norbert Horvath 3:20 and are you actually doing what you imagined doing when you started out?

Cat Thomas 3:24 Pretty much. I mean, I’ve been very fortunate in the fact that I’ve got to, you know, do something I love. And, you know, I always joke around that I get, I get paid to play. So it’s kind of fun, it’s best job. Awesome.

Charlie Cadbury 3:38 It’s really nice to hear when you have dream dreams come true. And so kind of digging a bit further into that how how important as radio and audio been to you and how have you seen it change over the years?

Cat Thomas 3:52 It’s been my life. I mean, it’s, it’s really, you know, it’s technology is driven, I mean, you know, a lot of things that we were never able to do, we would have to, you know, outsource doing video pieces for our radio station. And now, you know, we have our own drone. I mean, I can go shoot, you know, different promotions from the air were before you’d have to hire a helicopter, it was cost cost effective to be able to do it. You know, we can broadcast from anywhere I can, you know, through technology, I’ve been able to, you know, update promos on the fly if if you know something happened radio, such an immediate industry. And if something happens, I can get the recording, put it together in minutes and then have it on the air within four or five minutes. Whereas before, you know we’d have to run somebody out with a microphone to get audio and then come back and transfer it and then spend hours editing it together before we could ever get it there. So technology’s really changed the industry and the fact that we can do so much more quicker and we can deploy more people with wide ranges of resource versus inabilities to make even a bigger and better product.

Norbert Horvath 5:03 And what was the first radio ad that you actually remember?

Cat Thomas 5:08 That would have been probably when I was a little kid, we were in Toledo, Ohio. And we were listening to a radio station for a local grocery store. And my stepmom called because they were doing a contest for an a&p to win $500 in groceries or something along those lines. And so that’s probably the first memory I get of, you know, an advertising was that they were giving away products, you know, on the air, and they were promoting the AP store brand.

Norbert Horvath 5:43 And why do you think that it’s stick stick?

Cat Thomas 5:47 Honestly, I think that the interaction with the audience was the most important thing that they were they were giving the audience a reason to, like their brand and to allow someone to interact with the brand.

Charlie Cadbury 6:02 And thinking, How do you think that radio advertising has changed since that?

Cat Thomas 6:09 In some ways, I think it’s become less creative a little bit. You know, it’s more about, you know, getting straight to the point of whatever, you know, thing they’re bringing across. But if you still think today, the most successful ads are the ones that leave you thinking or entertained. And I think that sometimes we forget that that is the most important thing. And I think clients Forget it, because you do have clients that will dictate I want this, this this exactly. Well, okay, if that’s what you want. But I think that, that we need to find ways to make it of interest to an audience to, you know, open up our audience for interactions and to find, you know, ways to really bring that emotion to an advertiser that that allows people to, to feel something more than just hearing an audio signal.

Norbert Horvath 7:02 That’s a good segue, actually. Because in terms of the attitude to audio in the future, what is the audios relevance and entertainment factor on your day to day, it’s gonna be more important or less important to us.

Cat Thomas 7:16 You know, I don’t think it ever was wasn’t important. I think, you know, maybe in some ways, we’ve allowed it to be devalued, or we’ve, you know, gone on to shinier things and that, but I think they’re, when we see we see, you know, whether it’s personalities or, or advertisements or promotions, that paint pictures in people’s minds and get them excited about, you know, events or things that are happening. And then I don’t know, if we’ll, we’ve lost our, really the excitement of audio. But I think that it’s up to us to find innovative ways to build audio into stories into interactions into becoming inter integrated back into people’s lives. And something we do in programming, we try to come up with, you know, things that are fun for the listeners that listen to, we try to play obviously, the best music they want to listen to, but music can’t be the only thing anymore, there’s, there’s more entertainment pieces that we need to bring to bear. And it a lot of times you look at it, the spots and dots that we say, you know, you hit spots, you hit dots, it’s kind of an old school thinking we have to find ways to position ourselves into our listeners lives. And that is really kind of the fun part of the audio.

Charlie Cadbury 8:45 Awesome. And, and from a consumer perspective, how is the way that they’re listening kind of behavior? How has that changed over recent years?

Cat Thomas 8:54 I think people get hit with a lot more than they ever had before. You know, we now have, you know, handheld devices, you know, our phones, we have computers, we have iPads, we have access to more entertainment, whether it’s audio video, you know, interactive than we ever had before, you know, you’ve got people who use Twitch, you know, where they’re there, you can, they can create their own shows, and then they can, you know, send people over to other shows, and back and forth. And they they interact with each other. You have, you know, interactive TV, you have interactive devices now, whether it’s Google Play Alexa, you know, Apple pods you you have the ability, you know, Apple broke that game with the Hey Siri, you know, you being able to, you know, connect people to things that they want. So, I would say that it’s it’s just so much more interactive, and there’s so much more out there that when you do put audio out or you do put programming out you Need to also tell people about a lot more than you ever had, it takes about 25 times for a single message to sink in, you know, so we have to, we have to talk about something, if we’re talking about giving away Pitbull tickets, we got to make sure that we’re we’re running that message 25 times before everybody in the audience is sort of at once. So you know that that saturation makes it much more difficult.

Charlie Cadbury 10:25 And so in terms of the total about that kind of drones kind of changing the game, and what other innovations have you seen, kind of come through recently, which you’ve been excited about?

Cat Thomas 10:37 I do, like I do, like the fact of, you know, through streaming and through the use of devices that people can take us with, with them everywhere, I think it’s been a big advantage for radio because, you know, as is now there’s, there’s, you know, there’s less actual am FM radios in homes, or, you know, we kind of saw ourselves losing that battle, because as am FM radios, were going out of homes, and people were, you know, listening on whether it was devices or other means, you know, you could listen to your TV, there’s, there’s music and value through your TV, it really kind of is even the game for us a little bit, it’s brought us it’s brought us back up as a more relevant entertainment factor, because people can have us on their desk with a with a device hooked to the internet, you know, they can walk around the house, and, you know, tell them to open up our app and, you know, play the station, and they can, you know, be a part of the station, where before we were a car, primarily a car, and then you know, we’d have different events and externals, but now we can be everywhere we can be on your phone, we can be a lot of places that we weren’t.

Norbert Horvath 11:49 And where do you see the biggest opportunities to grow. And in the coming years, for from your vantage point,

Cat Thomas 11:57 actually becoming more of a 360 partner, right, I think that’s why we call ourselves Beasley Media Group. Now, you know, rather who, you know, we started as a radio group, but now we really become more of an interactive group, you know, we have radio, we have the ability, you know, with our, through our websites and our apps, to touch people, you know, through through a digital means, which has been a game changer for us. You know, whereas before, we didn’t really have video now, you know, because of internet websites, social media, you know, video is a big part of what we do, you know, being able to, you know, have events and brand our station through through video and such as well. So, really the, we’re not just audio provider, we’re an entertainment provider. Whereas before, we are strictly stuck to a FM dial, you know, an FM dial position or a ham dial position. Now, we have so many more touch points, because of the you know, technology and because of digital now, there are a lot of servers next door. Yes, we have racks of those. And and I would say you know, the greatest innovation we’ve had is just the, you know, technology has allowed us to touch a lot more people than we could just do a signal base,

Charlie Cadbury 13:13 and the your customers open to changing their perception of you and coming to you as this expert.

Cat Thomas 13:19 I don’t know if they look at us different, I think they look at us, as they’ve always seen as our fans of our stations has always seen us as you know, a key to their local entertainment openings, you know, whether it’s concerts, whether it’s events, whether it’s music, whether it’s our personalities, I think what we’ve done is we be able to been able to create a lot more touch points than we ever had before we can, you know, we used to always count on people calling in the request line. Well, now we can pose questions on Facebook and they’re answering and we’re interacting with them on Facebook or Instagram, or you know, in you know, twitch or, you know, a lot of other multi level that we never had access to before. So I wouldn’t say that they look at us differently. I think they look at us as we offer more than we ever did before. And now if they liked our brand now they have more ways to interact with us they have more ways to play contests with us they have more ways to access us. And we have more you know, more things to tell him you know, day in the life of our jocks you know, when they’re out on the street, they can post something on social and people become connected to them as personalities because they feel like they’re living a part of their lives.

Charlie Cadbury 14:33 And so you think that kind of that two way kind of engagement between kind of your customers and yourself is like delivers value on both

Cat Thomas 14:41 sides? Oh, absolutely. I think the more the more interaction we have, you know, the more our brand becomes important to them on a daily basis and the more we become a part of their daily routine. It’s that’s not a bad thing for listeners and ratings.

Norbert Horvath 14:55 Do you find in terms of talent entering the industry, there is a heightened sense of wanting to participate in the radio ecosystem is their growth and interest.

Cat Thomas 15:05 You know, as we went, I think we went through a lot, but we’re starting to see that come back up. Because, you know, we, we have a lot of younger people are interested in digital. And, you know, it was interesting because I was actually at a showcase for a new artist. And we were talking about how people, you know, stream from the streaming services and use radio and that and she actually was said that she sat down with Taylor Swift of all people. And, you know, Taylor said, the difference is you can stream a lot, you can find streaming opportunities, and that type of stuff. And it’s awesome, because you can make a living doing that, and you get some exposure, but when you can get on the radio, it takes you to a whole new status level from from a star factor. You know, it’s like, if you want to become a household name, and you want to become, you know, you know, someone who’s seen in the industry as being a star, beyond just music, but in the in, in life and lifestyle, that that radio is what really adds that dimension to any up and coming artists, because there’s so many there were over 60,000 songs last year, I mean, streamed, you know, released for streaming, before, I believe, you know, back in then then 90s, the average was about 28 to 25,000 songs released. So, you know, more people are creating music and getting it out there. But we still have, beyond our music, we still have large audiences, because we bring more things than just the music. I mean, if we, if we just streamed that’d be fine. But the reality is, in a market like Las Vegas, it’s still only 20% saturation, 21 22% saturation. Just because it’s it’s just music, we have personalities, we have events, we, you know, tie into local sports teams, or local other local concerts and things going on, which have a high interest to people. So we have a brand that’s far more valuable than just spinning records.

Charlie Cadbury 17:11 And so, you know, we’re very keen to champion the future of this industry. And, you know, if I was just starting out something that sounds like you’ve had a long career that, you know, you actually kind of you dreamed, and then he made your dreams come true, right? If I was interested in a career in this industry, starting out today, where would be a good place to start?

Cat Thomas 17:30 Actually, I think in digital department and, and in street teams, on stations, because you have to get a feel for the for the industry as a whole. And there’s a lot of competition now for content creators. You know, there’s, there’s, you know, tick tock, there’s a lot of people who start content creation careers. And if you notice the ones that become highly successful, they find a niche. And then they, they continue to deliver on that niche, because that’s what the expectation of an audience is. And it’s kind of the same way with radio stations or anything else. If you, you know, if you listen to a radio station, you expect, you know, certain personalities, you accept the spec, certain concerts you expect. So that consistency helps draw an audience. So you, as these young people get into that, I think they start to learn that, you know, there is a consistency to their cadence that with their social media, if they want to get into, you know, our business there, they usually find a format that they like, or they want to be associated with, they’re usually drawn because, you know, there’s artists and, and music, but they also see some of our persons or personalities who become, you know, big community leaders, whether it’s, you know, being, you know, in game entertainment at a sporting event, whether it’s hosting concerts, whether it’s, it’s, you know, just being at community events are charity events in that and there’s a draw to that, that celebrity on a local basis that you sometimes don’t get online, you might get accolades from people in all different parts of the country, but then, you know, the kids at school don’t know who the hell you are. So, so yeah, sometimes that that that, you know, celebrity that you get from being in your local community is pretty exciting as well being recognized when you go to dinner and things of that sort.

Charlie Cadbury 19:22 Awesome. Now, to wrap up this there may be a few people that haven’t heard of the Beasley media group in the past if they are going to find out bit more about you and maybe tune into a station which tune in station so they tune into right now to get a taste.

Cat Thomas 19:37 Well, I mean, you’ve got it depends. We have so many I would say what is your tastes first. You know, if you check out our Beasley Media Group, you know, just Google Beasley Media Group. You can go straight to our sites and you can pick the brands and the style of stations based on format, city, whatever you want. So you can check out any of our stations across the country from you know, Boston to Vegas to you know, Florida to, you know, Detroit all over the all over the country and, you know, find out what format you like and follow that one.

Charlie Cadbury 20:10 Magic. Um, thanks so much for being so candid and I’m sharing today I really appreciate your tell Brian, thank you very much. Awesome, Norbert Horvath 20:18 great information. Thank you

Cat Thomas 20:19 one anything else on on your stuff, though, we’re about what

Charlie Cadbury 20:23 I think the fact that we’re pulling this all together, I think pushing forward, I think the pieces that you’re talking through about, you know, important to get a two week of engagement between you and your audience. And you know, that, that being an important part of growth, the fact that we’re going to changing as a group, and you’re open to new different types of technology to, to engage with people, and other than that all works, and then the fact that just just the fact that we’re pulling this all together, will pull a few of these kinds of things out as, as highlights and talking points kind of credit you and push that and

Cat Thomas 21:01 that’s fine. Is there anything else in particular you want that I missed on or they get too lengthy or too out of?

Charlie Cadbury 21:07 I thought I thought that was that was a brilliant, brilliant. So what we’re what we’re trying to do is, is just kind of a body of content that helps people who are interested to find out a little bit more and watch what we’re trying to do. It’s kind of like, you know, a establish yourself as someone who knows, he knows what you’re doing the kind of look at kind of an overarching trends. See, do a nod to kind of open technology and innovation and you know, there’s, there’s there’s a whole lot that we can find that people can find out more about exactly what we do. But then we’ll we’ll pull out the interesting, pertinent bits, which is signposts

Norbert Horvath 21:40 and really your succinct description on the evolution of radios? Exactly. That’s what we’re looking for. How do you see yourself evolving? And I think that those are really important, important data points for us, because we are servicing how your commercial mechanics work, in essence with our technology. So no, I find it very interesting. One question I have is because we made this content partner with the RNIB. Any radio station that lets us interview, we want to offer up the opportunity to provide a Alexa skill, a streaming skill, if you have, are you already on Alexa or perhaps on all of them? Okay, perfect. So in that case, that’s not really of interest to you. But if you haven’t, then we would love to furnish you with a streaming voice.

Cat Thomas 22:31 Okay, yeah, I mean, I can check the I’ll talk, actually, our head of digital is here Wednesday, so I can see if there’s anything in particular,

Norbert Horvath 22:41 yeah, or even just a one off or you want to do, I don’t know, if you can think of something that you want to have, I’m

Cat Thomas 22:46 interested when you guys roll out the the the ability to interact with, like commercial interaction, how that’s going to work and how we integrate that into our stations. That’s, that’s interesting to me.

Charlie Cadbury 22:57 Yeah. So that’s the only way we can pick that up separately. But that’s, um, that’s basically on a on a campaign by campaign basis, we create the ability for within Alexa for you to talk back. And then from the ad perspective is exactly the same creators to like 30/42, WAV or mp3, like it’s the same creative format, that goes out as the same ad slots, right. But just the crazy piece at the end, it means that we create the environment like like a landing page.

Cat Thomas 23:25 So let me ask you this, then on that, when you’re creating these, it’s for streaming only, so not necessarily for them. I mean, if a lot of stations now, especially in the US are going to what’s called TLR. Today, line reporting, where they’re moving the stream and what’s on the air are simultaneous. So if you did the ad on air, would you do if you’re listening on line, it’s just

Charlie Cadbury 23:56 it’s just like a different cleaner. At the moment, the call to action is to find out more, go to our website, you know, right. forward slash specials, right? And it’s just a different call to action. You can still say, No, you go to that you find out more on our website, or ask Alexis at open motors.

Norbert Horvath 24:15 What if you want to promote, let’s say, an app download, right so that we were doing that quite a bit with content rights owners across Europe and the US as well. So, to listen to the station from anywhere, make sure you download the Beasley just say download the BS nation. Write it down download download, download a five seven app, yes. And then Alexa sends a link to the download in the app store to your phone. So we reducing friction. There’s there’s a pickup there’s an audience journey continuity. And you know in terms of our tech, if I were to really super simplify it, it would be an in in essence, it’s going Think that’s WordPress for a lecture, right? And WordPress for Alexa can or WordPress can produce two kinds of content, it can create advertisement, and it can create content. Now we’re focusing exclusively on advertisement. But it doesn’t mean that within our capacities, if there is a larger, let’s say, branded content, in a partnership with a local business, or international or national or not nationwide business, you know, we can still produce engaging customer journeys.

Cat Thomas 25:32 Yeah, cuz in the US now, like I said, based on our Nielsen rating system, what what’s happening is if they listen on the screen, because it’s very hard for the meters to pick up like in phones unless you put the little add on and that type of stuff. So what they’ve done on the encoding is that any stream gets a plus 61%. So the more we get people listening via the stream who have meters, it actually is worth more than on air. And that’s so you see a lot of stations where we used to have two separate platforms, when we go to when we go to a commercial are we go to commercials, that would be different commercials that play online, versus what plays on the air. And now because Nielsen won’t give you credit? For that, they they’ll give you two separate credits, a lot of people go into single so everything gets credited to one ratings.

Norbert Horvath 26:32 And so so in the same approach that Nielsen or comScore Omniture do their ratings. Our tech allows the lesson to be gauged and measured. So we can create a view of the audience buy the lesson. And then we can correlate with the invocation. And then you have instant visibility. And the audience

Cat Thomas 26:56 could be listening on on a radio but then just say, Alexa Yeah, that’s

Norbert Horvath 27:00 right. That’s right.