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Podcasting’s Growth Is A Having Spillover Effect On Radio, Industry Execs Say.

The growth of podcasting and streaming audio and the adoption of smart speakers have advertisers paying closer attention to audio. While final figures have not yet been released, PricewaterhouseCoopers projected podcast ad revenues would top $2 billion in 2022. The expanding audio universe and more advertisers making it part of their media plans is helping radio grow revenue, industry leaders say.

“The growth and enthusiasm in podcasting is remarkable and has sparked an audio renaissance,” says Greg Ashlock, CEO of iHeartMedia’s Multiplatform Group. “The momentum has caused advertisers to notice and add audio into their plans to take advantage of the passion and engagement. And once in the audio universe, brands realize they need radio for scale, as 75% of all audio consumption is still broadcast radio.”

Erik Hellum, Chief Operating Officer, Local Media for Townsquare Media agrees that radio is benefitting from heightened advertiser interest in all things audio. “That excitement is coming from fast growing categories that are fueling our growth – and reducing our dependence on auto – including legal, education, home improvement and recruitment,” Hellum says.

Beasley Media Group CEO Caroline Beasley says her company has seen “increased programmatic and direct audio revenue due to this proliferation.” And Josh Rahmani, Chief Revenue Officer at Radio One/Reach Media says the fast-growing podcast space is having a spillover effect on “all elements that surround the podcast ecosystem, such as terrestrial radio promos and digital/social elements to promote podcasts. This is bringing awareness to the power of audio and personalities which certainly helps more traditional audio in the marketing conversation,” Rahmani says.

Shifting Consumption Habits

The growth in podcasting parallels a steady creep up in the amount of AM/FM radio content being consumed digitally. According to third-quarter 2022 findings from Edison Research's ongoing “Share of Ear” study, 12% of listening to broadcast radio in the U.S. now takes place online, up from 8% at the end of 2019. “Listening habits are shifting from over-the-air to stream,” says Beasley. “Many of our stations are Total Line Reported which has a positive effect on ratings and revenue.”

The shift, driven by smartphone saturation – 88% of Americans 12+ have one – and slowly growing adoption of smart speakers (35% penetration) is helping drive additional listening occasions and reintroducing radio to new audiences, broadcasters say. “Distribution is critical to any business and the introduction of smart speakers has conveniently increased the number of touchpoints for consumers to enjoy audio wherever they are,” Ashlock explains. “A whole new generation of radio listeners are being introduced to our brands in the kitchen every morning or on the patio at a BBQ.”

While digital distribution has made radio accessible to a broader audience, it has also spawned an array of digital-only competitors. According to the 2022 Infinite Dial from Edison Research, 67% of Americans 12+ listen to streaming audio weekly. To hold their own against deep-pocketed digital competitors requires broadcasters to invest in next-gen apps and websites to improve the user experience and to promote them aggressively. And to integrate with all manner of digital devices and platforms to make radio brands available wherever and whenever consumers want to access them.

Leveraging New Technology

“Technology will play a more significant role in radio in the coming years,” Beasley predicts. “We continuously update our websites and mobile apps with the latest technology to ensure the best consumer experience,” she says. Moreover, the use of first-party data from registered users in tandem with client data from advertisers “will allow us to customize content for the end user and target consumers for our advertisers,” Beasley adds.

With its SmartAudio product, iHeartMedia uses first party data from 165 million registered users on the iHeartRadio app and applies that knowledge to its broadcast assets for targeting purposes. “Data is today’s currency and companies that have invested to provide the insights that brands demand will benefit,” says Ashlock.

Beyond distribution and ad targeting, technology is playing a growing role in how business gets done at radio. “Technology, streamlining processes, and backend automation will continue to play a role in what we do at Townsquare,” says Hellum. “We are always evolving our processes and platforms to maximize time for our AEs, drive optimal performance for client campaigns, and deliver insights to our customers.” That ranges from technology Townsquare has developed in house, such as its own proprietary CRM system, to partnerships with third party data partners such as Analytic Owl.

Artificial intelligence also has a role to play in radio’s technology set. “I believe AI will play an important role in the coming years from both a content and potential audio aspect,” says Beasley.

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