Smart speakers, podcasts and branded audio – radio predictions 2018

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 19 December 2017

The podcast craze engulfed the audio-sphere in 2017 with major networks Nova Entertainment, Australian Radio Network (ARN) and Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) marking their podcast territory with various deals.

As well as the podcast fanfare, radio talent shake-outs were rife. From SCA's Hit Network Sydney breakfast show swap out to ARN's drive time shuffle, particularly towards the end of 2017, the station shifts were tough to keep track of.

But what does 2018 have in store? From the top execs, as well as content leads, at some of Australia's leading networks, to media agencies and industry body Commercial Radio Australia, we asked some of the audio sector's top talent to share predictions for 2018.

SCA CEO Grant Blackey:
In Australia, I anticipate there will be a substantial increase in listening and the monetisation of podcasting. Australians have taken to video on demand and with the increasing quality of original content being created via podcasting they will jump on board with audio on demand.

Nunn Media Sydney managing director Chris Walton:
Similar to other media, radio has had a challenging 2017. In revenue terms it has performed better than most, but year-year-on-year growth is still below CPI. 2018 will be similarly ‘positive’. Of course radio needs to play to its well-known strengths of being a lower cost, call-to-action medium that listeners feel very close to. There is also the opportunity of aggregating scale across markets with more aggressive development and communication of syndicated content opportunities. For too long radio has been shy of talking absolute numbers of listeners reached, preferring to hide behind dubious share measures. If multi-market scale (and total numbers) were embraced more enthusiastically then the appeal of the channel would broaden further and revenue will follow.

Commercial Radio Australia CEO Joan Warner:
Next year is going to be an exciting year for radio.  As we reach peak screen use, brands are actively exploring other ways to reach consumers and audio is coming to the fore. Radio will be front and centre of that innovation because of our huge audience reach across a range of platforms and devices. In the year ahead we’ll be working with GfK to get the new Measurement Innovation Program underway, to explore how we can use electronic tools such as mobile apps, wearable meters and streaming data, to supplement the core audience surveys. We’ll also continue to build on the industry’s Radio Alive campaign to focus advertisers on the new opportunities to reach our highly-engaged listeners.

ARN CEO Rob Atkinson:
The proliferation and distribution of audio content will continue in demand from audiences, with radio and its multi-platform engagement continuing to be the audio channel of choice.
At ARN, our commitment to creating the future of audio entertainment will translate to investment in further building out the iHeartRadio ecosystem. This not only includes a focus on continuing to provide greater content to our audience through live radio and custom radio, but also significantly growing our podcast offering to build the largest library available to Australian audiences. This will be complemented by a focus on distribution with ongoing innovation in smart speakers and the voice tech space driving increased personalisation for listeners across all our brands and platforms.
The roll-out of AdsWizz across iHeartRadio and digital audio content will also begin to realise a return for the investment.”

Nova Entertainment group commercial officer Peter Charlton:
Audiences will remain strong in 2018 as the medium made for a ‘mobile’ society remains relevant and even more accessible. Listeners and advertisers will gravitate to established talent line ups as consumers want the familiar and brands want authenticity, genuine integration and engagement.
Podcast demand will result in increased free content, extended audio reach, addressable audiences and greater advertising cut through, all in a medium where the listener expects ad messages.
As advertisers demand ROI in 2018, radio advertising revenue will increase greater than most as a live medium, with huge social footprint, masses of unique untapped first party data and automated trading continues to deliver attributed results.

SCA chief creative officer Guy Dobson:
Branded audio will grow alongside the audio category with the proliferation of smart speakers in the home. The sun will come up in the morning.

Spotify ANZ head of programmatic and data Dan Robins:
In 2017 we saw music streaming in Australia continue to scale at astronomical rates and cement itself as a very real opportunity for advertisers to reach their audience in relevant, engaging ways. As we move into 2018 we foresee more advertisers having an "always-on" streaming presence to continuously reach users in the moments which matter most to them, in more personalised ways than ever. As the number of connected, "listenable" devices not only grows but diversifies, advertisers will have exciting new ways to reach people such as targeted in-car messaging, via in-home voice activated platforms or making use of dynamic ads to give greater relevance to their creative.

MediaCom chief investment officer Nicole Turley:
2018 will be another strong year for radio, with growth expected in the low single digits (3-4%). The significant investment made within content, data and technology will bring advertisers closer to listeners in a more targeted and personalised way, across multiple devices.
We are seeing an increased trend towards audio streaming and podcasts. This, combined with innovative activations, will see 2018 be a game changer for the medium.

Nova Entertainment group program operations director Brendan Taylor:
We predict another strong year for our industry in 2018. Innovation will again be at the forefront as we find new ways to reach and connect with our mobile audience. The more mobile our audience gets, the greater the opportunity there is. We’re looking beyond traditional broadcast to the impact that multi-platform will have on our audience and the delivery and consumption of our content. 
Stability and familiarity will become even more paramount as the new shows entering the scene will fight to break out and be heard amongst the already established pack of quality shows.
At Nova Entertainment we’re in the enviable position where our national line up is rock solid with no changes to any of our marque shows across the group. Relatable, engaging and compelling content will remain a core focus as we continue to hold and further build our audience in what will no doubt be a competitive landscape in 2018.

Want more on radio?

Check out all 2017 radio surveys here:

Survey One: First radio ratings of 2017

Survey Two: Who was top of the pops in radio ratings survey two?

Survey Three: Radio ratings: Em Rusciano show drops; Smooth wins Sydney

Survey Four: Radio ratings: Smooth wobbles; Rusciano gains - but enough?

Survey Five: Radio ratings: ARN's WSFM ups ante; knocks Nova's Smooth in Sydney

Survey Six: Radio ratings: Could Kyle and Jackie O show finally be knocked off breakfast?

Survey Seven: Radio ratings: Embattled SCA show hits new low; ARN dominates

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