In 2009 the country was entering the Great Recession, and radio was faced with hurricane force crosswinds. Everyone was searching for solutions, including yours truly and all our clients. That is why I authored a white paper, “The New Radio Model,” that predicted the path forward based on a strategy of hyper-local content and multi-platform distribution of content.
With five-year updates to the New Radio Model in 2014 and 2019, I observed that the major radio groups were leveraging all digital platforms plus live events with sponsorships vs. pure radio buys. From 2019: “The monetization from digital distribution has exploded as consumer options for consuming original and re-purposed radio content have also exploded. Streaming, mobile apps, podcasts, playlists, satellite radio, social media, websites, smart speakers, and video are just some of the ways in which local radio content now flows digitally and monetization follows.” In both five-year updates, I wrote that commercial radio was not embracing hyper-local content but that public radio was, which is still the case.
Fast-forward to 2024 and the past five years witnessed unforeseen seismic changes to our country and the radioindustry. A concoction of factors included the pandemic, which universally changed broadcast listening habits and forced radio to fast track its digital strategies, along with profound changes in digital listening, an explosion of time shifted audio content, and advertiser’s newfound infatuation with audio, have worked in radio’s favor. This net positive comes in the face of decreased but remarkably steady tuning to broadcast radio, even among younger generations.
It is also clear that overall time spent with broadcast radio is declining as digital listening increases. The use of multiple digital access points will only snowball as use of FM radio will decline. Kerri Hoffman, CEO of PRX, notes that in 2023 the amount of on-demand audio listening is equal to linear audio listening (broadcast and streaming radio, radio services). She is quoted in a Nieman Labs article as stating, “The touchpoint has arrived,” calling this inflection point a gravitational pull toward digital for radio. Local “radio” has now reached the tipping point where “digital” content distribution should be the primary strategic objective. This is why many Paragon clients already employ a digital-first strategy, and how all broadcast radio will survive. With AI now upon us, the digital evolution will quickly become a revolution.
The second tipping point in 2024 is the healthy transition from “radio” to “audio,” which is driven by advertisers who now consider “audio” as a major advertising sector that includes radio. Local radio stations should transition their language from “radio” to “audio” to meet the advertisers where they want to be and bundle their content under one audio sales umbrella that includes streaming through mobile apps and smart speakers and websites, platform specific content via all social media content platforms and websites, audio-centric video, live events, and continued FM tuning.
As the cockroach of all media, radio is once again evolving with technology and the times. All signs suggest we’ve now reached the tipping point; therefore, I am updating the name of this ongoing five-year series to a “Digital Audio” model. For further evidence of why the transition from “radio” to “digital audio” is positive for our industry, here are articles that hit my inbox in a short period in December:
- Average Time Spent With Audio Remains Unchanged From A Decade Ago (Inside Radio)
- Listening Time To Radio’s Digital Streams Has Doubled Since 2015 (Inside Radio)
- Audio Is ‘An Afterthought No Longer’, Topping ’24 Marketing Trends (Radio Ink)
- Radio Ad Sales Predicted To Reach New ‘Digital Paradigm’ In 2024 (Radio Ink)
- Audio Is One Of Agency Giant WPP’s Top 10 Trends For 2024 (Inside Radio)
In a twist of irony, the growth of digital media has reinforced the role of audio as an emotional benefit. Michele Arnese, CEO of amp, a division of global ad agency WPP, said, “Sound is now part of the brand identity process and works hand in hand with visual creation experiences. Consumers will forget what brands say, probably they will forget also what brands do. But consumers will never forget how brands made them feel like. Sound is gaining momentum in the brand world because it’s responsible for that feeling.”
For those seeking more spiritual reinforcement, the Chinese horoscope for 2024 highlights the dragon as a symbol of authority, prosperity, and good luck, and suggests a time for renewal and establishing foundations that pave the way for long-term achievements.
Long live the dragon. And the cockroach.
More about Mike Henry.