Take A 2023 Techsurvey Deep Dive With Fred Jacobs


On Wednesday, Jacobs Media released its findings from its annual Techsurvey, which analyzes digital audio usage and trends among radio’s heaviest listeners. While we covered the general findings from the 2023 edition on Thursday, when you unpack that much data, you’re going to find points that stick out. Radio Ink sat down one-on-one with Jacobs Media founder Fred Jacobs to analyze some of those finer data points that could hold the biggest keys for predicting radio’s future.

Radio Ink: Techsurvey’s work-from-home data showed that the third of respondents who work remotely tend to be younger. It also showed their top three formats are news/talk, sports, and alternative. Then when you got to promoter scores, the formats with the best word-of-mouth share, the bottom three were… news/talk, sports, and alternative. It leads me to ask, is there some correlation here? Are younger listeners like Gen Z gatekeeping radio? 

Fred Jacobs: Well, keep in mind that one of the quote-unquote young demos for radio is Gen Xers, who aren’t exactly spring chickens. Look at the four formats that are most likely to be working from home: two spoken words, but also alternative and CHR. There’s probably a lot of action there, but the new sports formats are just really weird.

Their net promoter scores are always lower. They’re a harder group to please. They’re more likely to be on satellite radio. They’re into Twitter. They’re both great audiences in their own ways, but they’re very distinctive. And you can kind of see them standing out throughout a lot of the charts in Techsurvey because they are not milqtoast formats.

There’s clearly a lot of dynamics going on there, but I think it’s possible.

Radio Ink: When you discussed the most desired radio auto dashboard features, “artist and title of next song” was the third most wanted feature. Would that feature be a Program Director’s nightmare?

Fred Jacobs: It might be. The audience will say “I love Twofer Tuesday” and you go, “well, why is that?” “If they’re playing Led Zeppelin, I’m going to be around for both songs. But if they’re playing Journey, I’m going to be gone for both songs.” So it makes it easier to listen, but that doesn’t mean that it is ratings-friendly, right?

If somebody sees that the next band is somebody that they don’t like, they’re for the better part of a quarter-hour. This is the audience thinking about themselves. I would certainly think twice before I would go to a policy of “artist and title of next song,” but I do think there is a teasing element that the metadata could take on. Maybe not so much artist and next song, but certainly a contest coming up, a feature coming up that is intensely popular. The metadata reminds people, “hey, it’s coming in 10 minutes.”

Radio Ink: Another thing about the metadata – advertiser info on the display during commercials was the least requested features. Of course, advertisers want that. They love that. You did research for Quu recently and despite advertiser info being low on the list of things wanted in the dashboard, you found that display does make a serious impression on a station’s tech credibility. Despite the low numbers on that, is that something that stations should put more importance on?

Fred Jacobs: Absolutely, because the audience is never going to greenlight anything to do with commercials. We knew that would be at the bottom. Nobody looks forward to commercials, but they are a fact of life. And the fact that a logo comes on when the commercial comes on actually provides a lift in terms of recall and potential purchasing activity.

We saw some much stronger recall data when the logo of the store was used and also when the metadata was used in a very judicious way. Think about the dashboard as almost being like a mini billboard in terms of not having too many words to clutter things up. Mother’s Day sale is probably about the extent of how far you’d want to go from just a words standpoint, but yeah, it does work. The research showed that.

I’ve talked to the Quu people a lot about what they’re seeing, especially now that they’ve got it up at so many radio stations and the response to it from the standpoint of advertisers being happy with it is great. Part of that is because advertisers don’t get this kind of treatment from other platforms. Other platforms will run the commercials, but will not share their logos or give them an opportunity to put a slug line into the metadata. So here’s a unique advantage that radio has and I think it’s very powerful.

Radio Ink: Speaking of powerful, let’s talk about the reaction to potential radio subscription fees. The vast majority of those surveyed – radio’s P1s – said they would be opposed to paying even three bucks a month. In Radio Ink’s discussion of AM’s future in the dashboard, it’s been impossible to ignore the conclusion that audio that makes money for automakers money is safe. That’s  leading to the rise of subscription model services, that’s what’s leading to the Google dashboard, where GM is discussing taking out the Bluetooth connectivity. Obviously this would be a nightmare scenario, but if all audio goes subscription in cars to benefit automakers, would radio have a chance?

Fred Jacobs: Well, it might. What really influenced me here was what Bauer Media is doing in Europe. A year ago at the Canadian Music Week Conference, I got to interview Tobias Nielsen, who is the digital guru for Bauer. They’re actually doing this with a number of brands across the continent. He would not give specific numbers, of course, but it really felt like it was working exceptionally well.

From what I’ve been told, the mechanics of it are really good. Not only is it commercial-free, but there’s a certain number of song skips that a subscriber can utilize every hour. So it’s pretty attractive. And that was why I decided to try the question out here.

Honestly, I don’t really know what a good price-point is. I’m not sure anybody in the States does. But I shot Tobias a note a couple of weeks ago when I started seeing this data, and I am going to have a conversation with him in the not-too-distant future because I actually want to share some of these numbers with him. I don’t think they’re very impressive when I just look at them straight on like you, but it’s possible he’s going to look at this and say, you know what, you’ve got a lot more potential to make money here than you guys think.

Or maybe they are as bad as they look. So we’ll see.

Radio Ink: At the beginning of the Techsurvey presentation, you polled attendees about what they’re most concerned about in the year ahead. At the end, you presented the results and you seemed rather taken aback.

Fred Jacobs: [Laughs] So yeah, what actually won? The dashboard was number one. Gen Z, I think, was number three. And artificial intelligence was number two.  That sounds right.

Radio Ink: And you seemed very surprised by that.

Fred Jacobs: Maybe it’s just the ridiculous world that I’ve been living in now for the past 90 to 100 days or so, but yes, I expected AI to be the number one thing that broadcasters would be thinking about, just based on kind of industry buzz and a lot of the questions that people are asking me about clients, I thought that AI would be the runaway winner.

So I was a bit surprised. I think some of the change was influenced by the NAB Show. The future of radio in the car has also been really big this year mostly because of the AM story. But, I’ve been living with the car thing for so long now. I find it amazing that you know we’re probably in year 12 or 13, where we’ve been talking a lot about infotainment systems and the connected car and the digital dashboard.

This is what I’m blogging about today, this exact topic, because it did surprise me a bit that the car has more legs, so to speak, than AI.

Then certainly I was also surprised at Gen Z, honestly, because in my mind, no one talks about that. That’s just one of those topics that it’s absurd to talk about. Nobody wants to do any research among people under the age of 25. Maybe CHR 18 to 24 they’ll talk to. But teens are just completely verboten in the industry at this point. Even though I’ve spent a lot of blog post real estate talking about missed opportunities with Gen Z, what is the industry gonna do moving forward? We’re losing another generation of listeners. So I was surprised to actually see it.

It was fascinating for me and I may actually incorporate more polling questions in webinars that I do moving forward. It’s really helpful understanding who’s actually in the Zoom room. I’m a research guy, so I love this stuff. It’s always nice to get more data that you can actually look at and go, “Okay, here’s what people are really interested in.”


  1. To simplify it, let’s find out what they (the majority) want, give it to them on a platform they’re already using. Period. We do have a knack for loading up stuff that complicates the formulas – and we know that not everyone has the same tastes. Broadcasting originated as a medium for the masses – streaming, podcasts, and other services are definitely much more narrowly focused services.

    There is, no doubt, a room for all of it. Research is essential and the technology of the 21st century should really be aimed at making the best of finding our audience and making them love our product. Regardless of the product. Simplistic overview -but that’s me.

  2. Interesting observations — the Bauer Media reference is interesting. Yes, Absolute Radio brands have excelled as a subscription service and on DAB+ in the UK, where 1215 kHz is no more and 105.8 FM was taken from Absolute — making it a purely digital brand. But the UK did not choose IBOC and need not keep AM (MW) because of very different factors compared to North America. And, 10% of UK listeners don’t consume SiriusXM as they do in the USA. Could the Absolute model work here? Doubtful given the market differences


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