Radio Alive 2018: Boosted Alexa skills, better measurement and industry unites for podcasting

By AdNews | 19 October 2018
Radio Alive 2018

Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) has launched a 'super pilot' for radio listening measurement, advancements in automation, a bolstered Alexa offering and is uniting with SBS and ABC to drive podcast investment.

The slew of announcements were unveiled at its annual Radio Alive conference today and are designed to boost radio as a  media channel, to help the industry understand Australian radio listeners better and further develop podcast audiences.

As part of its grand plan to automate the radio ad buying process, in 2016 CRA revealed AudioNet as the industry partner which will help the national industry body get the show on the road. The industry wide system has been live since October 2017 and has been paperless since July 2018.

Following the success of phase one, CRA CEO Joan Warner said it's now moving forward to phase two of its industry wide project to automate and simplify the buying of radio.

She confirmed phase one has resulted in the roll out of the AudioNet automated holding software RadioMatrix, which is used by 131 advertising agencies and 380 radio stations.

The software allows agencies to interact with a radio stations’ traffic management system electronically, without the burden of a previously “excessive paper trail”. The aim is to drive take up within the industry and to double confirmation security strategy, ensuring advertisers are correctly and securely linked to agencies.

“As an industry we are extremely pleased with progress to date and the on-time rollout of phase one,” CEO of Nova Entertainment and inaugural chair of the CRA Automation and Programmatic Committee, Cathy O’Connor, says.

The board of CRA has now approved extending the partnership with AudioNet to move forward with phase two of the project. By this time next year the industry will have three additional modules – Mini Holdings, Direct and Electronic Bookings.

Also, by this time next year it expects to be talking to agencies about programmatic trading trials to “collaboratively explore the most effective way of trading not only broadcast but digital and podcast inventory.”

'Super pilot' lifts off

In partnership with research firm GfK, CRA will utilise the 'super pilot' to test listening measurements using a combination of diary and electronic meters.

The initiative will act as an extension of GfK's radio surveys partnership established in 2014 and will involve participants in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

“The super pilot will allow us to investigate how data from different measurement techniques can be used together to develop a world first hybrid methodology for radio audience measurement,” Warner says.

“The current radio survey system is still the most accurate way to measure radio audiences, but if we can incorporate insights from electronic metering and streaming data to enhance this measurement, then we are keen to explore that.”

Participants will be required to record radio listening activity in a physical or online listening diary or with a wearable electronic meter in the form of a watch or smart phone app.

“Listening is evolving and Australians are consuming radio in many ways, in many locations, across many different devices. We want to make sure we use all the tools at our disposal to get a holistic picture of radio listening,” Warner says.

“The pilot will allow us to better understand and quantify the differences in listening recorded across the different measurement techniques, and across various factors such as age, gender and time of listening.”

New skills for Alexa 

Warner also revealed the launch of the RadioApp skill for Alexa, designed to make it simple and convenient for listeners to ask Alexa to play any of nearly 300 Australian AM, FM and DAB+ digital radio stations.

“Listening to radio is one of the most popular uses for smart speakers, so the Australian radio industry has created a voice experience that works easily and seamlessly across all Alexa-enabled devices,” Warner says.

The RadioApp skill is now available for listeners to access simply by asking Alexa to play their favourite radio station by name or frequency.

“Australians are known as rapid adopters of new technology, and they also spend a significant part of the day listening to radio, so we’re very excited to work with broadcasters to help listeners tune into their favorite stations using only their voice," country manager of Alexa Skills Australia and New Zealand, Kate Burleigh says.

“The RadioApp skill for Alexa is the latest example of how to bring the simplicity and convenience of voice-technology to listeners.”

The initiative makes it easier for consumers to find Australian stations from among tens of thousands of radio stations worldwide.

“Consumers have high expectations of technology, and more than ever, radio is working together as an industry to ensure our local Australian content is easily available on every platform and device,” Warner says.

Podcast power

CRA will also be investing in podcasting throughout 2019 in partnership with many major radio players as well as ABC and SBS.

The group will be chaired by Nova Entertainment CEO Cathy O’Connor.

“Radio broadcasters are key to driving the growth and development of podcasting in Australia because of our expertise in the audio sector and our existing content production and marketing infrastructure,” Warner says.

“The Podcast Working Group will provide leadership and a clear strategic direction to help podcasting to flourish, by recommending uniform standards, as well as guiding marketing, measurement and education initiatives that will benefit both audiences and advertisers.”

The Podcast Working Group will be charged with providing advice to the radio industry on consumer promotion, audience measurement and reporting, market research and education.

“As podcasting becomes increasingly more important in the radio and audio sector it is equally important that we have the means to accurately reflect its share and growing influence," ABC head of regional and local Michael Mason says.

"This working group is an important step in establishing an all-of-industry approach to what is still an emerging platform."

Edison Research's Infinite Dial Australia report found that 13% of Australians had listened to a podcast in the last week, while 88% had listened to Australian radio.

“Australia's multicultural communities continue to embrace SBS's language podcast services, delivering rapid growth in consumption,” head of SBS radio Mandi Wicks says.

“We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the broader radio industry to provide the best experience for audiences and clients.”

PwC recently reported the number of Australian monthly podcast listeners would grow to 8.9 million by 2022.

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