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Growing Revenue, Finding New Fans Top Radio’s Digital Priorities.

The expansion of radio to digital platforms has been a growth driver, both in listening capabilities and ad revenue opportunities. Streaming broadcast listening now accounts for large segments of overall time spent with radio and digital assets contribute a growing percentage of total radio industry revenue.

Managing and merging newer technology with legacy media, once thought to be a detriment, has evolved into one of the many strengths of the industry, although not without its challenges. Top radio digital execs share their thoughts in Inside Radio's multi-part Radio Outlook 2024 series.

The multi-platform effort is paying off for Beasley Media Group which has seen steady growth on its owned and operated platforms. “Our total audience has grown by millions since pre-COVID and we now reach more consumers than at any time in the company’s 62-year history,” says Chief Content Officer Justin Chase. “Today, 45% of our total audience is digital compared to only 17% in 2018, just five years ago.”

Long a digital frontrunner, Townsquare Media continues with “the same overarching mission since [the company] began thirteen years ago,” President of Local Programming Kurt Johnson explains. “Connect with listeners on every platform and provide broadcast and digital marketing solutions for our partners.”

The company’s focus on producing digital content “drives on-air and online audience and revenue growth,” Johnson continues.

‘Continued Strong Growth’

Audacy Chief Digital Officer and President of Podcast and Streaming J.D. Crowley says the group expects “continued strong growth in audiences, revenues, and margins across all three of our main digital businesses – streaming, podcasts, and our digital marketing solutions business.”

Growing audiences, and being available wherever they consume audio, has become an industry mantra. “We’ll have different strategies for different content pieces and different platforms but ultimately, everything comes back to finding new fans while keeping our current fans satisfied,” says Pratik Pratel, Senior Director of GKB Brandworks, part of Good Karma Brands. “We want to be where our fans are… regardless of whether they’re scrolling social media for information, wanting to passionately vent after a game, or just trying to unwind and decompress on YouTube.”

Cookieless Future

Last Thursday, Jan. 4, Google began phasing out third-party cookies from its Chrome browser, heralding a challenging new chapter in online advertising.

Chase says the transition “will drastically change the way we show ads on our platforms and how we monetize our impressions.” Beasley is pushing forward on its First Party Data Initiative, “where we’ll use our owned data for ad targeting rather than relying on third parties,” Chase explains. Additionally, Beasley will focus on segmented digital marketing in the form of push notifications via station mobile apps and websites, SMS, and email messaging.

Another megatrend expected to impact virtually every industry in 2024 is the proliferation of artificial intelligence. While AI has “tremendous potential for radio, it can’t deliver a local, original, topical, entertaining point of view,” Johnson says, adding that it’s best used for “research and idea generation.”

Audacy takes a similar stance, seeing AI “as a potentially powerful tool to unburden our teams, enabling them to spend more time on creative, stimulating, and important work serving our listeners and customers,” Crowley offers.

Beasley utilizes AI for “certain backend functions like commercial writing and production, as well as quality control for our digital content,” Chase says. “As time goes on, we’ll be safely and responsibly using it for more and more purposes.”

Underreported Streaming

Digital content measurement, diversification, and authenticity are also top of mind for radio groups this year.

Crowley says the growth and size of AM/FM streaming has been underreported, “but is finally getting the visibility it deserves. Some stations are now seeing one-third or more of their listening time coming from streaming.”

Pratel would like the industry to find common ground on podcast metrics, “specifically the currency of downloads.” He foresees major strides in this regard in 2024, “not just from an ability for creators to best serve their advertising partners but also for overall consumption data.

Daryl Battaglia, Senior VP of Measurement of Triton Digital, says in 2024 the industry will see “a broadening of the podcast listening audience, driven by growth from previously underserved segments of the population.”

In the last two years, “monthly podcast listeners age 55+ grew 22%, listeners in households with income less than $50k grew 29%, females grew 19%, and the Hispanic audience grew 16%,” Battaglia reveals. “This will result in more content production to serve those audiences, which will drive even more growth in listeners from these segments.”

Johnson believes the trend for the year is “content authenticity… what can you believe?” The upcoming elections will amplify concerns about trustworthy information. “As social media struggles to get its arms around this, local radio hosts will continue to be the trusted sources communities turn to,” he continues. “Whether our listeners hear it on our morning shows or read it on our sites, our apps, or our socials, they know it’s real. We take that very seriously.”

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