As listeners tune into radio across an assortment of platforms, over the air ratings don’t provide a complete picture. Consumers are engaging with radio across multiple touchpoints, including on-demand audio and video streaming, podcast downloads, websites and apps, and social media engagement. “That’s all essentially un-measured reach and it’s a big part of radio's story,” Jeff Sottolano, Executive VP of Programming at Entercom, said during the virtual Radio Show on Thursday.
Speaking on the panel, “Don’t Leave Money Behind: Are You Counting All Your Listeners,” he argued that modest declines in over the air Time Spent Listening ignore “the total impact of our brands, our talent and our content.”
While Nielsen, Triton Digital, Podtrac, Google Analytics and other providers use different methodologies to measure individual platforms, no one’s capturing radio’s entire audience enchilada. “Most operators understand who their audience is, regardless of the platform. The challenge is we don’t have a single measurement provider across all of these platforms with a unified methodology,” Sottolano continued. “Therefore, it’s challenging for radio to tell a total audience story and talk about how many de-duplicated consumers are being exposed to our content across all of these distribution channels.” Since advertisers use different currency to buy different media, it’s less of an advertiser problem and more of a PR issue, since it becomes more difficult to speak to radio’s relevance in an age where technological disruption has helped, not hurt, the medium.
Yet for a small market operator like Golden Isles Broadcasting – which owns clusters in Brunswick, GA and Huntsville, TX – ratings methodologies aren’t much of a concern. The most important metric is whether radio advertising makes the cash register ring. “If you’re a local business and you’re spending money advertising with our radio stations and it doesn't work, you’re not going to come back,” General manager Ira Rosenblatt told Radio Show attendees, adding that the Brunswick cluster’s advertiser renewal rate is currently 90%. “What do we have a 50-share? A 5-share? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that people that listen to our radio stations are spending money in the local market.”
While the main them of the panel was how radio can derive more revenueby better monetizing its accumulated audience,each of the three panelists, along with moderator Mike McVay, shared stories of how they pivoted to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Chelsey Maddox- Dorsey, CEO of American Urban Radio Networks, spoke about how they launched a “Praise In Place” program that combined syndicated inspirational personality Bishop Hezekiah Walker with local minsters for affiliate stations. “That’s tying in a big national name with a local minister and you can get it all though your smart speaker,” said Maddox- Dorsey. And while AURN’s syndicated talent are required to make market visits as part of their contracts with the network, those appearances became virtual market visits during the pandemic, causing talent to accelerate their tech skills to pull it off. “They’re willing, able and anxious to connect,” Maddox-Dorsey said. “Because people aren’t able to travel so much, they’re more willing to do daily availability. Because when they get off the air, where else are they going to go?”