After years of predicting the imminent demise of radio, they are having to cope with a flood of new evidence that it is not only alive, but seems to be doing pretty well.
First there was the announcement that after a couple of rough years, local revenue increased in 2010. Going into 2010 the consensus view was that radio revenues would continue to decline.
As late as January 2010, Optimedia was still projecting a 2% decline. BIA/Kelsey thought that revenue might increase 1%.
As it turned out, spot radio was up over 7% and digital was up 28%. The consensus (including Optimedia) now sees revenue continuing to grow for the foreseeable future, at least through 2015.
Bob Pittman continued to press his upbeat message, most recently appearing at Ad Age’s Digital Conference talking about the future of radio. It wasn’t too long ago that digital people would have dismissed the notion of a future for radio as even possible.
Today a radio guy can mix it up with people from Twitter, Foursquare, and Razorfish like he belongs there.
As an aside, it was an Ad Age pundit who in 2009 dismissed radio declaring it hilariously obsolete in the digital world.
Pittman’s address to the conference comes on the heels of scoring interviews with Hollywood Reporter, Variety, New York Times, Ad Age, and Wall Street Journal among others.
There was a fair amount of carping at first about Pittman joining Clear Channel, but the Chairman of Media and Entertainment has generated more positive credible ink about radio in his first few months than all the group heads, trade organizations, and pundits have in years.
Bob Pittman has become radio’s Tim Westergren.
Then there was an upbeat assessment of radio from an unlikely source, BMI. Mike Steinberg, Senior VP seemed to capture the “radio as come-back kid” feeling in a blog post:
As recently as 2009, some industry observers felt that radio was in sorry shape....But despite the convenience and clarity afforded by satellite and web-based radio services such as Sirius XM and Pandora, broadcast radio, by all accounts, will not fade away anytime soon.
Part of the recent revival can be attributed to the surprising resilience of broadcast radio within regional markets. Despite allegations that industry consolidation would rob radio of its local flavor, the Arbitron study (RADAR) seems to suggest that radio has, in fact, become more diverse.
As if to reinforce the views of BMI’s Steinberg, TargetSpot released a white paper on digital audio that included the observation that Internet radio users continue to listen to broadcast radio.
Digital audio growth has little effect on current broadcast radio use. 66% of Internet radio listeners listen to the same or more broadcast radio as a result of their current digital audio use.
Then there’s the latest Infinite Dial report from Arbitron. We were highly critical of last year’s study noting that:
If you are a broadcaster anxious to learn about where radio is headed and the challenges radio will face, you will be deeply disappointed in Arbitron's Infinite Dial study.
We did not need another study to tell us the Internet and new-media are transforming broad swaths of media consumption. What radio needs to know is how best to adjust and adapt to this transformation.
This year’s report is once again full of nuggets of new-media fool’s gold, but the study is incrementally more useful.
Arbitron’s Bill Rose offered the best sound-bite: "This study provides further evidence of radio's continued resilience and relevance in today's digital landscape."
For a company that has seemed reluctant to come to the aid of its meal-ticket, the confirmation by Arbitron of what many others have been saying is quite a turn-around.
Arbitron needs to do a lot more to help its clients by better documenting radio’s continued resilience and relevance, but it’s a nice start. We’ll have more to say about this year’s study in coming posts.
In 2008 we wrote:
New-media people can't accept the possibility that radio can coexist with new media. They seem to need to believe that radio is dead. The fact that study after study proves that radio is alive and well is something they just can't accept.
It is nice to see that more people are finally figuring that out, and not falling for new-media’s self-serving distortions.
There’s no denying that radio has many tremendous challenges ahead. The good news is that radio remains resilient and relevant, and is up to the task of facing those challenges.