The audio future is now

Alistair Jamison, relatively newly appointed CEO of the Radio Broadcasters Association (RBA) discusses why he believes audio has a bright future.

In the mid nineties I spent a few years in London working as a relatively junior media planner/buyer. It was a very different media environment to the one I had left in New Zealand.

One of the things that struck me at the time was the proactivity with which each of the media channels marketed themselves. This was well before the days of Google and Meta securing massive, unhealthy shares of the advertising pie and triggering the creation of bodies like ThinkTV.  Yet still a range of industries could see the benefit in advocating and selling ‘their’ channel as a collective (their need was in part due to the strength of the BBC and the perception that all the audience sat on non-commercial channels).

One of the standout organisations at the time was the Radio Advertising Bureau who did an outstanding job of marketing radio. Much of how I think about radio as an advertising channel was formed by the RAB.

Coming full circle, I now find myself leading the RBA with a clear remit to advocate for radio and audio as a channel and help drive the commercial outcomes for the NZ Commercial audio industry as a whole. The success of audio in Aotearoa will be directly linked to advertisers and agencies understanding the audio landscape and the many strengths audio has to draw on.

Since I started in the role I have met with a wide range of people across the industry from both a content and commercial perspective. The one thing that is universal across all that kōrero is a passion for and belief in a bright future for the audio industry. 

There are also common themes in terms of why that belief exists and they (in short) are:

  1. There is a global renaissance for things audio

By a wide range of measures, audio land is in good health. Despite the continued rise of digital platforms, radio has shown remarkable resilience and has not suffered the same level of disruption as say TV has with Netflix. Core radio audience remains strong with NZ Commercial radio reaching 3.4* million Kiwi’s a week. For comparative purposes, TV reaches 3.0** million a week. Radio reach remains strong globally with P&G (still I think the world’s largest advertiser) recently announcing that it would move adspend from TV to radio in the US in an attempt to chase cost efficient reach that TV can no longer provide.

Layer in streaming, which continues to grow (with a whopping 8.5m^ hours a week spent listening to digital radio) and podcast growth and there are many reasons to be positive now and into the future.

  • There is increasing recognition that audio can meet a wide range of advertising need

Historically radio has been seen as a reach and frequency play. Over time that has changed and I believe the range of audio advertising strengths gives audio unparalleled options for advertisers. An example but not exhaustive list in support of that includes:

  • Audio is a reach channel, radio alone reaches 3.4 million Kiwis a week*
  • It delivers targeted reach. Youth are difficult to find in other broadcast formats but radio still reaches 66 percent* of people 10-24 each week. You name a target group or a region and radio is uniquely equipped to reach and discretely connect with that group
  • No channel can engage as deeply as audio. Radio was the original social influencer and there remains a level of trust between consumers, ‘their radio station’ and the show talent
  • Radio and especially radio talent, is deeply connected to communities up and down the motu. In the recent Hawke’s Bay floods, radio proved its connection with communities at a time of crucial need
  • By extension no channel can engage and connect advertisers with consumers on the ground, in their neighbourhoods, at their events, like radio can
  • Audio is multi-platform and multi-format. It offers enormous flexibility to any advertiser. As well as that flexibility it provides context and relevance in abundance
  • In terms of platforms, podcast listening is the definition of engaging and has the ability for brands to be in the ears of consumers. Multiple studies show the impact and recall that advertising and partnering with podcast content can achieve
  • The increasing range of digital based audio options offer all the strengths of digital from a data, targeting and performance perspective supercharged by the connection that consumers have with the content.

Most importantly, it works. When Mike Hosking reads an adlib about World Moving and Storage the phone rings and when The Breeze runs an ad for a Finance company they see an attributable lift in website traffic by over 20 percent**

Back to London, I will finish on a study conducted by Ebiquity UK (for the RadioCentre) first in 2018 and then again in late 2020. This ‘Re-Evaluating Media’ set out to understand the most important attributes (as defined by 100 or more advertisers/agencies) when building a brand and then scientifically assessed a range of media channels based on evidence. Ebiquity also analysed the perception that some advertisers had of media channels and their ability to deliver on said attributes. The results highlight a major discrepancy between perceptions of individual media and what the evidence says with advertisers undervaluing traditional media in favour of digital. This gap was especially evident with Radio.

I suspect the same is the case here in Aotearoa, but I believe with a strong and consistent audio industry narrative that this perception gap can be closed and the future for the commercial audio industry is very bright.

Source: * GFK NZ Total Survey 2022 Survey 4, All 10+/ **Think TV Nielsen Television Audience Measurement A 5+ Jan – Mar 2022/ *** Veritone/ ^ GFK NZ Total Survey 2022 Survey 4, All 10+ Listening on Mobile/Tablet/PC/TV or other

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