The move toward increased data privacy by Google and Apple, the passing of more consumer-protecting regulations, and an ever-growing majority of Americans opting out of online tracking may represent an opportunity for radio and other audio media to more successfully compete with digital media, according to a report from audio research consultancy Signal Hill Insights.
“The good news is that the increased data privacy controls provide a window for audio to catch up in the data arms race and pick up a bigger share of ad dollars,” Signal Hill Insights founder Jeff Vidler says. “The sands are shifting under the feet of digital marketing as we march towards an online future that promises less personal tracking.”
While digital media's advertising revenue isn't expected to plateau anytime soon – with Zenith forecasting a 58% share of ad spend for digital in 2021, up from 48% in 2019 – there are signs that the era of Google and Facebook's dominance with advertisers, driven primarily by their sharing of consumer data, may be starting to wane. Much of the change is coming from the digital giants themselves, with Apple's introduction of “App Tracking Transparency” in April – as a result of which only 13% of Americans have consented to data tracking, at last count – and Google's plan to eliminate third-party cookie tracking in 2023.
Between an increase in privacy regulations and initiatives designed to limit the ability to target and measure online users – along the lines of the passing of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – and research showing four of five Americans feel the risks of having brands collect their personal data outweigh the benefits, “the future growth of digital ad dollars is starting to look a little uncertain,” Vidler says.
Among the ways Signal Hill's report suggests audio can take advantage of the squeeze on digital's data tracking are for radio to move to census-level measurement from small-sample meter- and diary-based methodologies. “Streaming of broadcast radio via smartphone and smart speakers is growing, bringing the possibility for large-sample, real-time measurement and targeting within reach,” Vidler says.
The researcher also recommends developing, and sharing with advertisers, large first-party data platforms, and helping clients build out their own first-party data. “As third-party cookies fade away, your listener data delivers greater value,” Vidler says. “Big music streamers like Spotify and Pandora are already there using data from listener sign-ups, but there’s no reason podcast and broadcast can’t be there too, given the even deeper listener engagement.”