One of the hot topics in radio for several years – but reaching a fascinating apex at this point in time – revolves around streaming and whether stations are getting proper credit and compensation for their audience usage numbers.
As pure-plays continue to grow their reach, as radio grapples with single-line reporting, as the automotive world moves even faster to a Wi-Fi environment, and as consumers become even more comfortable with accessing audio via streams, we are witnessing major shifts in how content is consumed even among radio’s biggest fans. Yes, FM tuners in smartphones will help broadcasters, especially as the concept expands to different carriers and handsets. But it won’t stop the speeding bullet train that is streaming – something that AM/FM radio stations need to embrace, manage, market, and ultimately monetize.
In this blog, we have urged radio to “eat its own dog food” – monitor your stream to experience it just like consumers do. But beyond the CX – or customer experience – the stream’s contribution to a radio brand’s reach and image position is a big issue.
I was reminded of this the other day while reading an article in the Wall Street Journal. Kevin Reilly, Fox TV’s head of entertainment, was speaking in front of a group of television critics, and noted that while conventional ratings are the key measure of winners and losers, this data is “becoming increasingly a sliver of the story.”
Reilly went on to note that TV is losing credit for viewership on DVRs, on-demand, and streaming video sites. Pointing to The Following, he noted that “the audiences are still enormous across multiple platforms.” But too many advertisers are just focused on traditional ratings.
Radio programmers and managers can relate, because in many cases, strong brands are attracting usage that goes well beyond listenership on traditional radios in cars, at work, at home, or at school. Of course, streaming is at the epicenter of additional listening. A recent eMarketer study reaffirms streaming growth, noting that by 2015, a majority of Americans will listen to Internet radio monthly.
And much of that consumption will take place on mobile devices – the other sea change facing radio brands. Over 70 million people stream audio on their smartphones in this country, a stat that should be very top-of-mind for broadcasters.
To get a better sense for how this impacts the radio business, we built a usage question into both Techsurvey9 and its companion study for public radio, PRTS5. The idea was to have respondents think back to the previous week and how they consumed content from the station that sent them the survey. We provided a list of sources and participants assigned a percentage – totaling up to 100%.
Below is the chart from Techsurvey9, and while this is recall from the past week, we’re looking at core radio listeners, most of whom are members of radio station databases. The fact that an estimated 14% of their consumption to their favorite stations’ content offerings are on the digital side of the street is telling. And of course, it varies greatly by format, running considerably higher among fans of Sports Radio and Christian music stations. So what are the implications here? First off, the toothpaste is out of the tube. Some of radio’s biggest fans are accessing station content from computers, smartphones, and tablets – a trend that will only grow over time.
Secondly, radio needs to fully embrace the streaming platform as digital competitors actively seek out touch points, outlets, and channels.
And finally, there’s this issue of the Three M’s – the need to more accurately measure AM/FM streaming, merge it with usage data from broadcast radio in a format that is acceptable to agencies and buyers, and then monetize these bigger numbers. That’s the Holy Grail of this rapidly integrating media world in which we live, where the need to bring ratings companies, streaming providers, agencies, and broadcasters together so that all can benefit from these changes is paramount.
Otherwise, guys like Reilly, Westin, Weatherly, and Farley are going to continue to whine about not getting proper credit for their grand brands.
And they’ll be right.