If the past can be helpful in predicting the future, then there’s one thing we can expect from radio: consistency.
Since the early days of crackling static and living room theaters, radio has heard audio challengers come and go. Yet throughout all of these technological advancements and innovations, radio remains one of the most powerful and yet intimate ways to reach mass audiences—a truly unique combination. And radio has proven time and again its resiliency and transformational power to deliver itself as a marketing solution that advertisers demand.
To ensure its continued vibrancy and significance, the future of broadcast radio will rely on growth in several areas.
In the sales arena, radio is already evaluating Shazam-like technology, which will greatly enhance radio’s accountability. This will allow radio to close the “performance” loop and enable advertisers to distribute additional “bonus” programming, coupons, video and other messaging to smartphones while providing key performance metrics. Radio is gearing up to compete in two new areas of revenue, mobile and display dollars, through its growing cache of registration data and larger streaming audiences. In addition, multi- and crossplatform campaigns will become the norm, drawing from radio’s 13 channel offerings to produce truly customized, comprehensive and cohesively integrated marketing solutions.
And to better quantify AM/FM’s impact, new technology is currently being developed by Arbitron that will allow Audio Beacons to be deployed throughout leading retail locations and automotive dealerships.
With these tools, radio will be able to empirically demonstrate its impact on increased foot traffic and sales to advertisers and agencies.
Looking ahead, radio will continue to focus on enhancing the one quality that truly sets it apart from all other audio options—live on-air talent. Radio personalities will play a larger and more important role at many stations as educators, entertainers and trusted guides in the daily lives of listeners. As we move into an increasingly digital world, the power of one-to-one personal connections will become even more valuable and important. In addition, it’s likely that Talk programming options will multiply in the coming years.
Finally, radio will expand its focus on leveraging its exclusive onsite, feet-on-street capabilities in every metropolitan area throughout the U.S. Radio stations possess the unique ability to offer advertisers the opportunity to have consumers directly touch, sample and interact with their products. And to a greater extent, broadcasters will work to enhance and bolster their event and promotional capabilities to execute complex, local, multi-market event, “experiential” and “sampling” efforts.
The AM/FM and audio landscape of tomorrow is not necessarily a linear extension of today. But as a medium, radio has weathered decades of competition and has evolved with the times to remain current and relevant for today’s advertisers and, more importantly, today’s consumers. It’s a safe bet that radio will continue to be the most important audio source, regardless of how its content is distributed, for most Americans for years to come.
Bob McCurdy is the president of Katz Marketing Solutions, the national marketing unit of the Katz Media Group, a division of Clear Channel Communications