Our short-attention-span, shorthand world loves to boil things down to just a word or two. We're constantly reminded to keep it brief, focus, and find a way to get our message across with fewer characters.
So, when we're asked by the people in our lives and those we meet along the way, “So, how's radio doing?”, what's the short and sweet response?
As we consultants are fond of saying, “It depends.” In this case, that's not a cop-out but an honest response to a complicated question. It does depend on…
Who you ask
Or whether you're talking traditional or digital
Sales or programming
Music or spoken word
Commercial or public
Compared to what?
In this tumultuous media environment, everyone's being graded on the curve. In a down sales environment, a “flattish” sales report might be a win. And given all the content options that provide a smörgåsbord of choice for both music and talk, hanging on to cume reach with little erosion has to be considered a victory.
But what does the data show? And how can radio broadcasters settle on a reality – true facts – they can explain to their boards, their stockholders, their staffs and their spouses?
Crazily, two charts ended up in my email box earlier this week that are designed to do just that – frame radio's listening appeal as well as its sales marketability.
So, let's start with the content piece. This is the greatest time to be an audio consumer in the history of media. Between podcasts, streams, and broadcast radio accessible on mobile devices, smart speakers, and of course real radios, most reasonably informed people can figure out how to access pretty much anything, anywhere, and at any time.
Here's the scoop. According to eMarketer, average time spent with any media among Americans is slowing to a crawl, clocking in at just over 12 hours a day (12 hours, 9 minutes to be exact).
You may think that amount of time is crazy high, but if someone is using two different media (using a website while listening to the radio for an hour counts as one hour using each medium).
So, while the amount of media consumption is little changed from last year, the big finding in this eMarketer data is that significant increases in digital time spent has offset the drop-offs in traditional media use.
eMarketer tells us that Netflix is a big driver here, but rises in digital audio consumption play a role here, too. And here they point to smart speakers and podcasts as culprits. And the eMarketer team expects another increase in digital audio when they calculate next year's numbers.
And then there's the sales piece. And for that, we go to the wizards at BIA Advisory Service. They've just published their 2019 estimates for the local media revenue pie. And it's an eye-opener:
When you're looking at nearly $150 billion of ad spend in local markets, the slice of your pie is a very big deal indeed.
Radio broadcasters will immediately note that when you add over-the air and online streaming, the medium is taking 10% out of this massive stash of cash. Even Mel Karmazin might have been reasonably pleased with that slice of revenue.
And interestingly, newspapers (print + online) are a tad lower – 9.7%. And when you're looking at this much advertising revenue, every tenth matters – a lot.
Note that television (again, over-the-air + online) is ahead of radio – but not by leaps and bounds. At 12.7% for TV's combined ad spend, radio is in the ballpark.
Of course, other “slices” reveal key takeaways. Like online/interactive draws 14% of this valuable pie, while mobile roars in at just north of 12%. But of course the #1 source of local media advertising spend is…
…direct mail – at a whopping 25.4%. You can ask yourself what local advertisers are thinking, but if you're looking for a fertile source from which to poach revenue, look no further than all the junk mail you receive every day in your snail mailbox.
So, that's the story – radio consumption and radio sales in two convenient charts. Is the business faltering, hanging in there despite the competitive threats, or actually excelling, all things considered?
Don't ask me.
BIA's Rick Ducey will be participating in our “Guest List” feature. He'll explain his company's new chart, and what it means to broadcast radio.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.