iHeart earnings: iHeartRadio audience update, programmatic, and podcasts

iheartmedia corporate wheel 300wThis week’s earnings report from iHeartMedia encompassed financial results and strategic updates ranging across the many dimensions of a media conglomerate. Within that scope, Richard Bressler (President, COO, and CFO) landed on topics of particular pertinence to online audio.

A brief metrics update for iHeartRadio is included in the report slides which are publicly available (PDF here). The listening app has surpassed 63-million registered users. Total listening hours were up 17% in Q1 — 62% of which happened through mobile devices.

Bressler defined iHeartMedia’s overall strategy like this: “Our business model is simple: Create deep relationships with consumers, then rent the use of those relationships to advertisers.”

“We are focused on making our company as advertiser-friendly and data-driven as the major Internet-only players.” –Rich Bressler, President, iHeartMedia

Programmatic advertising, and the value of data to advertisers and the company strategy, took a large block of time at the opening of Richard Bressler’s remarks. iHeart’s recently announced programmatic effort is clearly top-of-mind in the company’s outlook, and Bressler made sure analysts heard about it up front:

“We are sitting on a significant amount of data, and need to make ad space on radio easy to buy, and the return easy to measure, as advertisers shift their focus to ROI. We recently announced a programmatic buying platform on iHeartMedia and iHeart Radio; the first of its kind in the industry. Programmatic is an important and expected method of ad-buying in the digital space. Our platform brings radio into that world at scale, and we believe no other audio provider can offer this. This programmatic solution will also allow us to apply our data and insights to the planning process to enable unique forms of target. These include music-based psychographic groups, weather and traffic patterns, purchase behavior, and other environmental, population, and consumer trends. Driving the best ROI for the advertiser is critical to our new programmatic platform. And, as we add pricing algorithms we will not focus on the cheapest price — instead, as Google pioneered, we will focus on delivering the best value.”

Bressler noted that iHeart’s programmatic venture would free sales people from “administrative tasks.”

“The advertising industry is moving toward data to evaluate what they buy and how it performs. We are excited to bring this to radio.”

Bressler mentioned podcasting obliquely, in a reference to iHeart’s SoundFront event, which announced and showcased new podcasts to advertisers. “Last week we got great response from the advertising industry on our first SoundFront. It showed our range of products in our equivalent of the upfront.”

Brad Hill