Big Radio says the medium is repairing that by offering more
real-time data to advertisers, targeting beyond demographics to
locate narrow segments like auto intenders, setting up metrics
dashboards to offer buyers more accountability and offering
programmatic buying options.
"TV today is about three times the CPM of radio, so why are we
selling ourselves so cheaply?" asks Pittman. "That's a matter of we
have to get the data out, and make it readily available and in a
form advertisers really want, not in the manner we want to give it
to them. They don't want to receive faxes, they don't want a
spreadsheet, they want a dashboard, so we built these products and
are beginning to roll them out."
Taylor, however, says when buying national radio it can still
take 30 to 90 days to receive local station confirmation that an ad
has run—a lifetime compared with digital. "Unless [radio] can
fix the accountability side of things and the real-time reporting,
it's a bigger issue than ease of purchasing," he says.
"A lot of questions we get [from clients] are about
accountability and ROI: 'Can you tell me when a spot ran? I'm
getting real-time reporting from my digital campaigns—can I
get real-time reporting from radio?' " says Taylor. "A lot
of this goes back to the lack of investment. You couple that with
the programming and you have the perfect self-inflicted wound.
Layer on the additional pressures from streaming and podcasting,
and we do have what can be perceived as a dire picture."
"The issue, frankly, is not that these other audio media are
encroaching on radio's traditional ad turf," says the consultant.
"The issue is that everything is. Video games, digital, Netflix,
you name it. It's a battle for attention and radio is so big that
it can only shrink at the edges while these new platforms
Radio can get very defensive, and few people know that as well
as NYU Steinhardt's Miller. He is pretty much
persona non grata among Big Radio for a report he put out last
summer that said listenership was declining among young people and
connected cars presented a threat. After
Variety covered his findings in an article, the National
Association of Broadcasters and Nielsen
fired back a double-barreled retort, calling it a "silly"
study, rebutting key points and noting that the report was funded
by SoundExchange, a group lobbying for a "performance tax" in the
form of royalties to music labels.
Miller, a former radio executive who worked with Shannon in the
'80s at Z100, says it's true SoundExchange bankrolled the study and
that he's a longtime proponent of paying artists for public
performances on terrestrial radio—but that this doesn't
change the facts.
Miller believes that the radio industry is spending too much
time in denial and not enough time building for the future. "Radio
listening is in decline. Cumulative radio listening and time spent
listening is in decline. Radio audiences are aging, notwithstanding
what our friends at NAB and Nielsen and Cumulus and iHeart might
have to say about radio's future."
"I stand by my data and they stand by their data and they say
that listening among young people is rock-solid as ever, but my
question then is, where is all this listening coming from that is
driven by Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora and literally every other
digital audio delivery service on the planet?" asks Miller.
But despite all that, Miller doesn't think radio is dying. In
fact, he's rooting for it to thrive by investing in content built
for digital distribution channels rather than repurposing a morning
show as a podcast. "The future is in their own hands," he says.