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How Radio Is Using AI And First Party Data To Pursue Growth.

Collecting first party data on listeners has been a hot topic in the radio industry for years. While some companies have moved faster than others in this area, the impending demise of third-party tracking cookies is hastening those efforts. To be prepared, Sarah Foss, Chief Technology Officer at Audacy, says that while companies need first party data, they need less than they might think.

Admitting that Audacy was late to the party on collecting data – it still doesn’t require listener registration for some of its digital platforms – Foss suggests companies look at first party data as a journey, not a destination. As listeners begin to trust that their experience will be better by sharing some of their personal info, they feel more comfortable sharing more of it, she said last week at NAB Show New York. “When we started, it was like, how much can we have,” she said during a panel titled “The Pursuit of Growth: Innovative Tech and Services to Enhance and Diversify Your Radio Business.” What Audacy learned was data isn’t necessary for every single listener to have a good experience and not every advertiser needs a server full of data.

Xperi collects reams of listening data from connected cars equipped with its DTS AutoStage hybrid radio platform. That’s helping radio stations tap into timely insights about how, when, what and where their listeners are engaging with their programming. “This data is growing rapidly for us,” said Juan Galdamez, Xperi’s Senior Director, Broadcast Strategy & Business Development. The data enables participating broadcasters to see “how many times your station is getting tuned to on a given day, or where your listeners are in the market when they're listening to your station, and what a session time looks like on a given day for your terrestrial station.”

Bringing Something Unique

While digital and television got to the first party data dance before radio, Foss said radio brings something unique to the table because it has local data and it still owns the car. Radio can “leapfrog” other media by “thinking differently,” she said, and listening to advertisers and listeners about what they want the digital experience to be for them.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is using metadata to help broadcasters create new content from their archived broadcasts. Christopher Bell, Global Strategy Leader for Direct to Consumer, Music, & Radio, AWS, said Amazon has been working with a radio network, which he didn’t name, to provide content management and storage for its archives to help the network create a series of anniversary programming, tied to key dates in their history. “They were really struggling to find the right content, gathering that all together, standardizing how it was created, tagging it with the right metadata, and being able to pull that information out and create new programming without having to create new assets,” Bell said.

Which Technologies To Prioritize

In an advertising world drawn to the latest shiny object, participants in the panel discussed how they decide whether to pursue a new technology and how they develop their initial strategy around it. For Audacy it must hit two of three goalposts. “It has to help us innovate, which for us is all about acceleration towards our multiplatform, distribution strategy,” Foss explained. “It has to help us modernize our current facilities,” she said, adding that the company still uses technology so old that it must buy replacement parts on eBay. “And it has to help us standardize.”

Foss said standardization has helped Audacy’s content producers be more prolific and its engineering teams get more support from corporate. Producers expected to create multiplatform content from one single show can now use technology that creates chapters from metadata, or get a 20-word tag to use on X or Instagram without having to write it themselves. Standardization is essential for building out radio technology for automakers, Galdamez said. “DTS AutoStage is standardizing the radio experience for each OEM. We're creating the standard experience that these automotive manufacturers, who are our customers, can go to market with and create efficiency for product development, and also create innovation when developing these radios.”

AI Use Cases

AI is, of course, the new technology that virtually every company wants to leverage. Xperi is using it to create “a more customized and personal experience when someone's getting into the vehicle” and to make radio “more discoverable” in an increasingly crowded infotainment system, Galdamez said.

Audacy is looking to gain “immediate productivity” from AI, Foss said. The company has tested and worked with enterprise tools that can “create easier, faster [sales] presentations and pitch decks” customized for a specific local advertiser. Or immediately do a password reset when needed by any of its 4,500 employees.

The panel was moderated by John Clark, Senior VP of Emerging Technology and Executive Director of Pilot at the NAB.

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