Media buyers’ picks: What’s hot (and not) in digital radio
What's hot: Streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify, for starters
February 21, 2017
Everyone can agree digital radio as a medium is hot.
But even within the digital radio category, there are areas that are super hot, and others that are, well, not.
Some new technology that was highly touted a few years ago has not had quite the upside as media people expected. Meanwhile, other new ideas have soared, sparking rising interest from advertisers.
Here’s a look at what’s hot and what’s not in digital radio right now, based on conversations with media buyers and a recent survey of Media Life readers asking them to weigh in on different media.
We’d love to hear your input, too, on what your clients are interested in or not so interested in. Leave a note in the comments section or tweet us @MediaLifeMag.
Buyers see streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music as the most promising form of digital radio, according to the Media Life survey.
They say listeners prefer to have control over their music listening experience. These services offer that control, and they’re also mobile, another big draw.
“Services like Apple Music allow consumers to have the world’s library of music at their fingertips for one fee. It is convenient, enabled in Apple devices, and is accurate,” one reader noted.
Local radio streaming
Respondents to Media Life’s survey rated local stations’ streaming of their feeds online as the second-most promising form of digital radio.
Buyers like the opportunity to target the local audience, of course, but they also think local stations have a lot of room for growth in this area and can help their clients more than less-personal formats such as Pandora and podcasting.
“Streaming of local stations means established brands and audiences,” one buyer said.
The company itself still faces a lot of challenges, such as lack of profitability. But buyers remain pleased with the internet radio company as an advertising vehicle, and they think there’s still room for growth, especially through a recently launched premium service that apes many features of Spotify, giving listeners control over their song feed.
“Pandora has critical mass and sales force. They are willing to provide information that planners need,” noted one reader.
Media buyers are both fascinated by and confused about podcasting. They believe it holds great promise, and a third say they’ve explored advertising options for clients.
The most popular podcasts right now include anything from NPR, while others say they prefer to go through podcast networks to place ads.
Still, many don’t really understand how it works or how to approach advertising.
“You need a very broad list of networks for reach, and overbuying one podcast will drive people crazy with too much repetition,” noted one buyer.
High-definition radio was, at one point, touted to be the next big thing in radio, offering users better sound quality when they use a special tuner.
Buyers agree this technology, available for more than a decade, just never got off the ground.
They say the radio industry did a poor job explaining and promoting HD. But they also say there was really no demand for the device to begin with.
“I see little indication anyone particularly cares that HD radio even exists,” says one.
Another: “Nobody cares about this technology because sound quality is dependent upon end user, and most can’t tell the difference.”
Sirius XM Radio has more than 31 million subscribers, or around as many as Showtime or HBO. Buyers say the medium has very solid numbers and appeals to a certain swath of people. Those people will continue to pay for features such as sports packages and Howard Stern.
But they don’t really see satellite as a growth area, which lands it in the “not” category.
“Almost no one signs up for more satellite service when their free period is up,” notes one reader, referring to the free packages that come with new cars to entice people to subscribe.
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