“Seventy percent of Americans say the main way they discover new music is FM radio,” iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman said during Country Radio Seminar’s “Heads of State” series Wednesday afternoon. The 30-minute pre-taped virtual interview moderated by All Access Music Group’s Joel Denver had Pittman sharing recent findings from an Ipsos study while highlighting the role radio has played throughout COVID-19.
“Radio is not just music,” Pittman said. “What all the stations have in common is companionship. We're hanging out and keeping you company and we found during COVID that that was particularly important to people.
“The number one place people found their information about COVID: radio. I think that says a lot about what we do for our audience.”
While Denver said radio has lost its younger demographics to the DSPs, Pittman refuted those claims. He said the reach of young people is the same as the 1970s when he was in programming.
Pittman added that the share of time spent on audio – including radio – is increasing and is now surpassing video. “I think what's also a surprising statistic is that the usage of radio, even among young people, is greater than social,” Pittman said. “So, they're spending more time every day with radio. So, I would debate any conclusion that says we are losing audience on the young end.”
The Ipsos study found radio as a major player in new music discovery. While Pittman says the DSPs also play a role, it’s obvious that radio still is king.
“Spotify, YouTube are great places to find new songs … but what makes a song massive is when radio picks it up,” Pittman said. “If you look at YouTube, you look at Spotify, anything else their play goes up in proportion to our play. When we start slowing down rotation, they start falling too.”
Pittman added that he looks at the DSPs as radio’s friends. Each platform can share its resources and findings to help promote new music.
“As an industry, we need to focus more on how consumers discover music,” he added.
While radio lags behind television in terms of advertisers, Pittman said the industry must work to better monetize the audience it has. iHeartMedia is doing this firsthand by embracing podcasts. Pittman estimates the company’s revenue for podcasting has grown more than 100% some quarters year-over-year. He adds that podcasting is a way to attract new people to audio and, in turn, create a major revenue stream.
Fittingly, Pittman described podcasting as “the most adjacent business to radio.”
“If Netflix was the TV on demand, podcasting was radio on demand,” he said. “It's host-driven, it's keeping people company so it’s a very similar experience.”
Pittman added that iHeartMedia’s strategy is simply to be where their listeners are with the products and services they expect. It’s a strategy that can also lead to financial gain.
“I don’t think as an industry we have a problem with audience at all,” he said. “As an industry, our need is to better monetize the audience we have.”