Digital Audio - The "Radio of the Future" is Now

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future-of-radio.jpgSince the advent of the radio in the 1930’s, millions of us have gathered around this social experience through our favorite music or spoken word content. The thrill of participating in a new music format launch, agreeing or not with your favorite talk show host or being glued to the end of that World Series game are all experiences which have stood the test of time. Radio has been with us through good times and bad, helped us with national & local emergencies and still plays a critical role in the lives of most Americans.

Similar to television, the broadcast radio model continues to serve a wonderful purpose of distributing content in cars, offices & homes across the country. Contrary to some reports, offline radio remains a healthy media channel with more than 230 million people/week listening to some form of audio content. However, like many other mediums with IP based delivery now, the definition of “radio” is quickly changing and providing audiences & advertisers with many unique benefits/options - broadcast station streams or customized channels, listening to your favorite radio station far outside your home market, listening to your favorite webcaster, interactivity within the experience to thumbs up or down a song and the list goes on. We are living in transformational times as technology & the web has driven a ton of innovation for audio centric audiences.

The ad supported online audio space has been a gradual build however we have witnessed a lot of activity over the last 6 months. To summarize a few: Pandora became a public company & redesigns its media player in HTML5 format, Slacker purchased AOL Music from CBS Radio, Spotify launched its service in the U.S., Clear Channel re-launched its IHeart Radio product with a 2-day event in Las Vegas, CBS Radio added rich content & personalization to its player, and even Facebook jumped into the game with its announcements on becoming a media hub. A lot of energy from the Publisher side to win audiences in the early stages of this channel and we will look back on 2011 as being a critical year of development for online audio. Much of these moves are being triggered by the explosion of mobile smartphone & tablet deployments in the hands of consumers. These devices have been a large platform for online audio publishers to build new “apps” and distribute their content in multiple ways. As the mobile space continues to grow, it will provide a platform for online audio growth as well.

Given the rapid growth trend of audio consumption online and on mobile platforms, the IAB established an Audio Committee in 2009 to help educate an inquisitive marketplace about industry standards and best practices for using digital audio as an effective ad platform. Just a few weeks back on a Monday afternoon, the IAB hosted “Streaming Audio for Agencies Day” for a standing-room-only collection of media executives, researchers and content publishers in New York. The centerpiece for the day was the release of the IAB’s “Digital Audio Advertising Overview” (click here to download your own copy), which served as a backdrop for several panel discussions, research presentations, case studies and Q&A sessions with leaders in the space. The afternoon was a fast-paced, no-holds-barred glimpse into an eager marketplace seeking the straight skinny about size, composition and engagement levels of this emerging audience, and how to most effectively target.

Tidbits that moved the Noisemeter:

  • 9 out of the top 10 Retailers in the U.S. are including digital audio ads today in their media mix

  • Most listeners to digital audio can be demo and geo targeted, even down to zip codes

  • Agency planners and buyers want to see radio and streaming audio listenership measured in a uniform way…with identical metrics

  • Streaming radio listenership is moving to mobile devices and in-car dashboards at a very rapid pace (Pandora > 60% of listenership on mobile devices)

  • According to Arbitron and Edison Research, approximately 57 Million people “listened to Online Radio in the past week” (January, 2011)

  • “Click-and-buy” on mobile devices is becoming a behavioral reality

Listen to audio highlights from “IAB Streaming Audio for Agencies Day” here:

It was apparent to most of us in the room that the power of the audio ad to move and activate listeners is as strong as ever…especially when a listener reaction can be measured with a tap or click on a simultaneously-served display ad. What we’re beginning to learn is that when that ad execution plays in a self-selected, personalized listening environment, brands AND listeners benefit. And now, the IAB Digital Audio Committee is asking you to join us. Whether you are on the brand side, the planning or creative side of an agency, traditional or digital, network or content creator - we need you to help us build this growing medium online. To find out more about the IAB and its critical industry-building Committees and Councils, ping Luke or Michael to find out more about membership opportunities.

Wishing you a fruitful Q4 and start to the Holiday season.

About the Authors

sp_benedik_brian.jpgBrian Benedik

Brian Benedik is President of Katz 360 and Co-Chair of the IAB Audio Committee.

sp_sterne_doug.jpgDoug Sterne

Doug Sterne is Vice President, Audio Sales for Pandora and Co-Chair of the IAB Audio Committee.