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Digital Execs On How To Cover The ‘Entire Continuum’ Of Listening.

Radio’s largest companies have drawn on their considerable resources and expertise to engage consumers wherever – and however – they consume audio. At the NAB Show New York, digital execs from iHeartMedia and Audacy talked about the trends they are seeing and where they are placing their biggest digital bets. While the technology for distributing content and serving ads has become more complex, what hasn’t changed is brands wanting to lean into household-name local personalities to deliver their message.

Carter Brokaw, President of Digital Revenue Strategy at iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group, said the company is bullish on the efficacy of audio moving into 2023. “We're hearing it a from the advertising community that they're looking for alternatives to sight, sound and motion,” he said. “And radio, digital streaming, and podcasting are really starting to hit the mark in terms of efficacy.”

For Audacy the focus is making it easy for advertisers to tap into the 250 million consumers it touches each month across all its platforms. “We need our advertisers to be able to tap into that, with ease and accessibility, across all devices, across all platforms and across content modalities,” said Tim Clarke, Senior VP of Digital Audio Content at Audacy. And while the backroom ad tech sausage-making that enables that has become more complex, what hasn’t changed in the growing audio space is brands wanting to lean into household-name local personalities to deliver their message. “We can offer a way in and a connection that lends equity and credibility, allowing us to rent that relationship to those advertisers so that they can connect with the audiences and the consumers that they need.”

With roughly 450 million downloads per month, Brokaw said iHeart has been running into a lot of advertisers that see podcasting as an effective marketing tool for bunding audiences by local markets, psychographics and genres. “It gives the marketing community a ton of optionality to start at a local level, and maybe progress up to a regional level, or start at national level and go down to a local level,” he said. Clarke stressed the importance of giving advertisers “easy access to those audiences in an advanced way.”

Influx Of Content Creators

While advertisers are drawn to audio for its efficacy, content creators see a different sort of attraction. “A lot of the creative community wants to move into audio storytelling and to me that is the most exciting thing about what's going on right now,” said Brokaw. That includes creators from the worlds of film and TV using audio to test new show concepts because it is inexpensive to produce “We're starting to see a lot of these big creators moving very feverishly into this idea that audio storytelling is a great way to capture attention in a compelling way and to test a lot of the stuff that they really want to work on,” Brokaw added.

While much of the cross-promotion has been driving radio listeners to podcasts, it is increasingly becoming a two-way street. Audacy’s 2400 Sports podcast studio leverages hosts from its portfolio of local sports radio stations in top markets to create podcasts devoted to individual teams. “What we see is we are bringing a lot of people into the funnel that way,” Clarke said. That is helping with discovery of local stations. For example, an out of market Phillies fan discovers sports WIP-FM Philadelphia evening host Joe Giglio through a Phillies podcast and wants to get more of his take by tuning into the station. “We found it is a great way to bring fans who are passionate about a topic and connect them to content that we create that they might not have known about or spent a lot of time with recently,” Clarke explained.

Both execs said the goal is to provide a wide variety of different listening experiences. For iHeartRadio that has involved developing an app that “covers the entire continuum of listening,” Brokaw said. It runs the gamut from live radio to artist-centric digital stations to on-demand content. “That was a great way to galvanize audiences who may not be spending much time in live listening experiences, but more on artists,” he told the NAB Show crowd. Consumers that prefer on-demand capabilities can be introduced to live radio streaming.

Access More Diverse Audiences

Clarke said on-demand is allowing radio to open its tent wider and become more inclusive. “What podcasting has done is allow us to access more diverse audiences and given us the ability to think about more quality, deep immersion,” he said. “Along with advanced capabilities and technology, we can reach more targeted audiences and create more effectiveness for advertisers.”

Technology is allowing these companies to surround the consumer with multiple touchpoints. A listener may tune into the morning show during their commute to the office, then switch over to an app or computer in the office. But COVID disrupted listening behaviors for many. “There was a moment in time where a lot of people who were missing that listening experience, were coming back to that on-demand asset later in the day,” Brokaw said. “So, it gave another consumption experience for them. It wasn't necessarily replacing it, it was just additive to that.”

The session was moderated by Stephanie Donovan, Global Head of Revenue at Triton Digital.

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