Radio's evolution - how the medium has matured in marketing

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 3 February 2016

Radio’s evolution from building “listener bases” to “fan bases” is why the medium is still experiencing strong growth in a fragmented media market, according to Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) CEO Joan Warner.

Commercial radio had a record-breaking year in 2015, with 10.3 million Australians tuning in each week to stations in metro cities, up from 10.1 million in 2014 and 9.7 million in 2013.

This is a boost in audience of 1.8% from last year and 6.2% over the past two. Warner says the growth – seen particularly in the breakfast and drive timeslots – is partly a result of radio making greater efficiencies of its most valuable assets: presenters.

She says most stations have large social media fan bases that broaden the time listeners can engage with their favourite radio presenters outside of a linear broadcast.

“These days you’re building fan bases not just listener bases, because some of the most valuable properties for radio are on-air personalities,” Warner says.

“There is a lot more use being made of those on-air personalities and their influence on the relationship with listeners.

“Radio is unique in that way, and radio – probably quicker than any other medium – has picked up on that and developed it to quite a sophisticated point. I think that’s why we’re seeing a lot of people get re-invigorated by radio.”

The figures also found that 30,000 more listeners in the 18-24 age bracket have started tuning in, with radio now reaching 78% of all of those in the age demographic.

Warner says the growth isn’t constrained to listeners either, with radio increasing its share of the ad spend pie by 4.62% to $390.821 million for the first half of the 2015/16 financial year, according to figures sourced by Deloitte for CRA.

She says that, similarly to the evolution in speaking to listeners, radio has evolved the way it markets to advertisers.

“Radio has matured in the last few years to being an industry that certainly competes fiercely with each other for the radio dollar, but where the real opposition is other media,” Warner reveals.

“We’ve got to be selling the strengths of the industry and then sell the offering of the station.”

The radio industry has worked together on a number of campaigns, including its recent DAB+ campaign starring Tom Thumb.

Warner says the other way radio has matured its marketing offering is by presenting itself as an amplifier for other media.

In June of last year, CRA released findings that showed radio boosted return on investment (ROI) by 23% when used with online and 21% when used with TV.

“We’re selling ourselves not only as a standalone offering but in a mature and innovative way as part of a package: either a package with our own social media assets and radio fan base or as part of a spend with other media,” Warner says.

“We’ve always had close and loyal relationships but now we’ve able to tap into those listeners; that’s what we’re able to focus on with advertisers.”

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