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Outlook 2024: Radio’s Biggest Opportunities.

One of the most revelatory findings from Borrell Associates fall 2023 survey of local advertisers and agencies was that ad buyers keep paring down the number of media partners they use. The average is now 3.9 media vendors, the median number is two and the most common answer from survey respondents was one. For radio companies offering a wide menu of digital and traditional marketing options, this represents both an opportunity and a challenge.

“Our opportunity and focus is to be the one vendor that can best serve our advertisers’ needs,” says Tina Murley, Chief Revenue Officer, Beasley Media Group. “By expanding advertising options and offering best-in-class content, and front-end and back-end service, we have an opportunity to grow our share of both radio and overall advertising revenue.”

Borrell CEO Gordon Borrell says 2024 will be about survival of the most useful. “It's really going to be tough with everybody competing in the digital space, all having virtually the same products [to sell],” he said during a webinar last month. “The question is, are you going to be really useful to that advertiser and be able to answer their questions. That will help be a very sticky thing for you to keep that advertiser in your stable.”

While local advertisers are reducing the number of media partners they work with, they are also demanding more accountability from them. “More than ever before, advertisers are assessing how much they are spending, where they are spending it, and are extremely focused on getting measurable results,” says Erik Hellum, Chief Operating Officer, Townsquare Media. “That is a challenge because we are defending our position more than in the past, but it represents an even greater opportunity.”

Hellum believes digitally savvy radio operators are uniquely positioned to deliver results for clients by combining radio and digital in a well thought-out campaign – one “that brands the client’s business in the mind of the customer while reaching them when they are ready to take action and make a purchase. If we successfully tell our story, use our full funnel assets to help our client, make sure that we are optimizing their campaign along the way, deliver best of class campaign reporting that shows how we did and how we can perform even better next time, we are set up to take much greater share of wallet from our clients,” he says.

Those efforts require a well-trained and versatile sales staff at a time when radio, like other industries, faces recruitment hurdles. “One of the biggest challenges for the industry is finding and retaining outstanding sellers, so we have made that a cornerstone of our strategy and will continue to do so in 2024 and beyond,” says Bob Proffitt, CEO, Alpha Media.

And while sellers are juggling what may seem like an ever-expanding product line, so too are radio brand managers. “There is an explosion of platforms for content,” says Dave Santrella, CEO, Salem Media Group. “ I think our challenge is to decide which platforms have the best opportunity for success in terms of both growing an audience and monetizing the ears and eyes.”

There may be no greater opportunity – and challenge – for radio during the next 12 months than AI. Santrella contends it will take some real trial and error to discover the best way to use the technology.

For Proffitt, one of the keys to future industry growth lies in relaxation of media ownership rules that are now 28 years old. “With the unregulated Big Tech companies now taking such a huge portion of local advertising dollars out of the market, and with there now being hundreds of ‘local voices’ in every market, the quarter-century ago concern about ownership consolidation limiting the number of viewpoints in a market rings hollow,” he says. “To be able to continue to provide excellent service to our local communities, the industry needs to be allowed to further consolidate.”

With advertising decision makers perpetually drawn to the shiny new object, radio leaders must double down in telling a unified story about the medium’s current relevance, says Greg Tacher, Executive VP, GMP Radio Reps. “Radio continues to be the clear front runner for reaching consumers in both a targeted and efficient way,” he says. “Radio’s current reach, and continued ability to connect with so many consumers, and yet so intimately, sets us apart: the better we can tell this story, the greater our opportunities in 2024.”

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