Renee Cassis: RAIN Summit Orlando emphasizes change and opportunity

Renée Cassis is an expert in marketing and communications. She is the founder and president of RC Communications Marketing.

Dramatic changes in how listeners consume audio are pushing radio to evolve beyond a pure broadcast business and deeper into the digital space. Radios have disappeared from homes and no longer are the sole option in a connected car dashboard. This seismic shift in the audio landscape is forcing everyone in the audio business – from content producers to sellers and advertisers – to re-evaluate their approach and explore new strategies for connecting with listeners.

At the RAIN Summit in Orlando yesterday, more than 200 broadcasters, pureplay webcasters, and technology companies heard industry leaders offer strategies that can propel growth across all audio platforms.

Value migration, according to RAIN founder and publisher Kurt Hanson, is a key ingredient for business survival when sweeping changes impact how customers access and use their products. Radio is clearly embracing the new digital future and finding new ways to reach and interact with listeners. Moreover, the granular data gleaned from digital platforms can supplement radio ratings to give advertisers more insights into who they can reach.  

Many radio groups and networks are jumping into the podcast arena and using the megaphone of their broadcast signal to promote the digital content. While there’s still a lot of experimentation, overall industry leaders who spoke at RAIN clearly perceive podcasting as a vital component for remaining relevant and in-tune with new listener-consumption patterns. While radio got into streaming years ago, many players remain clunky, which can be a turn-off to today’s impatient audiences. One of radio’s most attractive benefits has been its ease of use: turn it on and it’s there. That effortless experience needs to transfer online, as well.

A particularly insightful panel was comprised of Gen Z audio listeners. Few had tolerance for commercials – on any platform – although they conceded that entertaining or relevant ads held their interest enough not to change stations or digital channels. Surprisingly, none of these panel participants – all of whom were 22 or younger – listened to podcasts, and all corroborated that new music discovery came from friends, whether it was word-of-mouth or through social media.

Speakers across several panels agreed that advertisers and their agencies are re-thinking how they buy radio, which is becoming more and more an audio buy. This consensus ran throughout every aspect of audio advertising, including programmatic. While that term can often evoke negative knee-jerk reactions among broadcasters, it was pointed out that programmatic audio buying has changed over the last ten years. Broadcasters have control over whether to take the ad or not, and traditional safeguards, such as competitor separation, are available. Transparency in programmatic buying is more important than ever, as both publishers and advertisers want safety assurances.

Programmatic is only one relatively small component of audio advertising revenue. The bulk of radio advertising is still reliant on salespeople, which means compensation packages need to incentivize digital selling. Overall, the message that resonated throughout the day is that radio is prime for digital growth, but it needs to modernize its internal packages and how the medium and its digital extensions are presented to clients.

Renee Cassis

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