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Digital Outlook 2023: Revenue, Content, Podcasts, And User Experience.

A scan of radio groups' 2022 third-quarter earnings reveals a common theme: digital revenue is one of the biggest growth areas for the industry. Double-digit revenue increases from digital were reported by iHeartMedia (+23.4%), Beasley Media Group (+23.2%), and Townsquare Media (+16.6%).

The dollars, of course, follow content, whether that be radio station audio streams, podcast and on-demand content, or website posts. Digital priorities at radio in 2023 include content creation, a continued focus on podcasting, providing a first-rate user experience, and, of course, increasing revenue.

“We have many digital goals to grow in the digital space next year (and beyond),” Hubbard Radio VP of Digital Strategy Jeremy Sinon tells Inside Radio. “Our goals mostly fall into three categories: new content/digital audience building; digital marketing and growth (very social media heavy); and revenue.”

Beasley has been raising its targets for digital revenue each year. In 2023, its digital ad goal is “to represent 30% of our overall revenue,” Chief Revenue Officer Tina Murley says. To help reach that goal, the company acquired a white-label digital agency in June 2022, “which will allow Beasley to expand its customer base and offer diversified revenue streams,” Murley explains.

Streaming And Podcasting

In order to achieve digital revenue goals, a company’s digital content output must be spot on.

With 12% of listening to broadcast radio taking place via station streams (Edison Share Of Ear), companies continue to improve and build upon the listening (and revenue opportunities) taking place on station apps, streaming platforms, and smart speaker capabilities.

“We not only continue to iterate and evolve our owned and operated platforms like the iHeartRadio app for IOS and Android, but we also see huge growth on smart speakers, on [electronic programming guide] channels across OTT platforms like Roku and Xumo,” iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group CEO Conal Byrne says.

“A first-class streaming experience with our stations is something that Hubbard has prioritized and worked very hard at for more than a decade,” Sinon adds. “Thanks to that focus we have built our own proprietary streaming platform which we are constantly evolving. We are continually adding new features and abilities that we believe enhance listener interaction, enhance time spent listening, and simply enhance the user experience overall.”

In 2022, Beasley updated its station-specific mobile apps and continues to utilize “the latest technology to improve the speed and functionality to ensure the listener experience is ideal on every platform,” Murley points out. “We are also exploring integrating the QUU visual technology into our station apps so listeners will have a similar experience when streaming our content from a mobile app as they do over the air.”

In addition to broadcast content, station apps and websites also offer podcasts and on-demand audio content, which continues to be a digital focus among radio groups in 2023.

“Podcasting continues to be a huge growth engine for iHeartMedia with 59% of listeners trusting podcast hosts more than social media influencers, resulting in 60% having purchased something that they heard about in a podcast,” Byrne says. “This of course means that 54% of marketers, who currently use podcasts as an advertising vehicle, plan to spend even more next year. This medium is working for advertisers and therefore we will continue to support and invest in it.”

“Podcasts have shown us that there is an opportunity to have an audience in that space and still drive the audience back to radio,” Radio One/Reach Media Senior VP/Programming Colby Tyner adds. Reach Media recently added a syndicated radio show and podcast that is hosted by actress/comedian Amanda Seales to its offerings. The podcast version includes additional content not heard on the national radio show. “This approach so far has given us listeners in over 372 cities nationwide plus a global audience in places where we don’t have any affiliates yet we can see the data growing in real-time daily and it helps to recruit more affiliates to take the radio version of the show,” Tyner continues.

Hubbard’s local podcast focus has resulted in success with “digital exclusive” local brands, Sinon says. “Some of these were started several years ago, others are new as of this past year,” he explains. “We are very encouraged with these [podcasts] not only on their growing audiences but also growing revenue. We are very bullish in this area and fully expect to keep pursuing opportunities to create local digital brands where it makes sense.”

Whether broadcasting, podcasting, or writing click-worthy web content, growing digital revenue depends on content creators.

“Local talent is vital to our content strategy,” Murley says. “We believe every community is unique and should be served live and local content. What better way to engage with a local community than to have someone in that community speak with them?”

Byrne says, “At our core, we are a vast network of influencers and that extends down to the hyper-local level. From article content to social media growth to, of course, audio, radio, and podcasting.”

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