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Audience Migration To Radio Streams Is Accelerating, Group Heads Say.

With more broadcast radio listening occurring online, will a day come when radio consumption via the internet eclipses the over-the-air signal? Beasley Media Group CEO Caroline Beasley predicts her company’s total digital audience will exceed its OTA listenership within the next several years. “We're seeing more of our audience going to digital; that is becoming more and more important,” Beasley said in a ChannelChek Takeaway interview with Noble Capital Director of Research Michael Kupinski.

According to the third-quarter 2022 findings from Edison Research's ongoing “Share of Ear” study, 12% of listening to broadcast radio in the U.S. among persons 13+ now takes place online while 88% is done using a traditional AM/FM receiver. However the online portion jumps to 20% among persons 25-54. Men are clearly driving this growth, with their streaming share going from 9% in 2016 to 28% in 2022, vs. 6% to 10% among women 25-54. In just the past year, men 25-54's streaming share jumped from 18% to 28%, while women's share has stayed steady since 2020.

When Beasley talks about her company’s digital audience, she doesn’t just mean audio listening. She’s talking about the total audience for all the content Beasley Media pumps out. That includes text-based articles, video, and audio across station websites and apps.

Beasley Media’s total OTA cume dropped from 20 million pre-COVID to 16 million currently, she says. However, its total audience, including people reached via streaming, websites, and apps across all content types, has grown to 28 million. “That's the highest that has ever been; 57% of our audience comes from over the air and we're seeing that continuous shift.” Beasley said. “And I think that within the next several years, our digital audience will be greater than our over the air.”

To be clear, Beasley is saying that of all the content it produces, 57% is comprised of OTA listening.

She believes packaging over the air and digital audiences and selling them together, based on audience impressions instead of cost per point, will be a difference-maker in helping elevate radio’s share of the ad pie. “I really believe that will be the case going forward.” She added that the rep firm Katz Radio Group is developing technology that will make this possible.

New Content Strategy

The broadcaster is seeing more audience engagement as a result of a new content strategy adopted in mid-2022 that has on-air talent producing more original content for its digital assets. Air personalities are required to write and post two pieces of editorial content per day; and produce some form of video, whether a live video stream or video snippets of their show or including video within text-based articles. They are also required to respond to listeners who react to their social media posts. “We're seeing more audience engagement as a result, it's been very effective,” Beasley said in the ChannelChek interview.

At Townsquare Media, CEO Bill Wilson says the amount of listening to its stations taking place online is in the low 20% range. “It’s been growing quite nicely over the last several years” via listening on station mobile apps and the Townsquare radioPup app, which provides access to all of its streams. “More and more people listen via the app, and particularly in cars with more people plugging in their phone and listening through their Android Auto or Apple CarPlay,” Wilson says.

More At-Home Listening

But the biggest online listening driver for Townsquare has been via Alexa devices and Google Home, he said. “Over the last four years, we've been able to put radio back front and center into the home” as traditional tabletop radio receivers continue to vanish. With more and easier ways to access station streams, Wilson predicts the share of broadcast radio listening occurring online will double during the next four years.

With an audience profile that leans 50+, most listening to Salem Media Group stations continues to be over the air, according to Chief Operating Officer David Evans. “That demographic loves the radio,” he said in a ChannelChek interview. “That's how they learned to listen over the years and those habits take a lot to change.” Still, digital is the main revenue growth driver at the Christian- and conservative-centric media company. “We're making a big investment in both video content and in podcasting,” Evans added. “We are in the process of expanding our social media team to bring a much larger audience to our digital assets.”

Roughly one third of Salem Media revenue is generated by digital, one third from broadcast and one third from block programming the company sells to ministries. Says Evans, “As you look ahead, you're going to see digital as the number one revenue stream for the company and the growth vehicle.”

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