advertising revenues remained flat in the first quarter compared with the same period last year, at $3.8 billion, according to the latest figures from the Radio Advertising Bureau. However, the
top-line figure was the result of a dynamic marketplace shaped by trends both positive and negative.
On the positive side, total digital ad revenues increased 16% from $178 million in
the first quarter of 2013 to $207 million in the first quarter of 2014, while off-air revenues also grew 16% from $339 million to $393 million over the same period.
On the negative
side, spot revenues -- long the mainstay of the radio business -- slipped 2% from $3 billion to $2.95 billion, and network advertising fell 8% from $270 million to $248 million. That makes two
straight quarters of declines for spot revenues -- a troubling trend, considering they still make up over three-quarters of radio’s total business.
Conversely, digital -- while
growing rapidly -- still contributed just 5.5% of total revenues in the first quarter of the year.
The RAB pointed out that spot advertising was probably adversely affected by the
harsh weather conditions across many parts of the U.S. this winter, which deterred both consumers and local advertisers.
Spot advertising did see growth in certain categories,
including communications and cellular, up 33%; insurance, up 33%; health care, up 16%; home improvement, up 14%; professional services, up 7%; and concerts, theaters and movies, up 6%. The RAB noted
that the big gains in insurance and health care were due, in large part, to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
Turning to individual advertisers, the
list of top spenders was led by AT&T, followed by MetroPCS, Verizon Wireless, Comcast XFinity Cable Service, McDonald’s, T-Mobile, Geico, Toyota Dealer Association, Safeway and Fox TV