NAB2022: Don’t Blink

By Holland Cooke


LAS VEGAS — If you’re here this week, bear with me. I’m that guy in the row behind you, typing feverishly-enough to resemble the movie character racing the countdown readout to disarm a nuclear warhead about to detonate. If you’re not here, here’s why I am:

Megatrends in the U.S. Audio Listening Landscape

From Laura Ivey, Edison Research, with bullet points from the “Share of Ear” data her firm has been tracking since 2014:

  • “Radio’s share of all audio is decreasing; being replaced by other audio options.” 38% is AM/FM + station streams (down from 53% in 2014 when Share of Ear began); 62% are Other. In the same timeframe, YouTube use as an audio source has nearly tripled.
  • “Radio’s share increasingly comes from older people.” Almost half of all radio listening is 55+, which spends 58% of its audio time with radio.
  • “America’s listening is rapidly shifting to mobile phones.”
  • Internet-connected TV is becoming an audio appliance. 5% of listening is already happening there.
  • Listeners are paying for audio sources, “buying their way out of ads.” 51% among 18-34s.
  • Contemporary music genre listeners prefer listening to non-radio sources.
  • The majority of radio listening is over-the-air, 83% (vs. streaming).

Daunted? Exploit what Ivey called “Radio’s Story Today:”

  • It’s “a massive Reach medium,” including 13-34s. “Strong daily reach is not declining at a fast pace.”
  • Radio dominates ad-supported audio.
  • “Radio is the go-to for local content.”
  • In-car listening is dominated by AM/FM radio and linear audio.

As for that last point…

 “A GPS Session For Your Station’s Car Radio Strategy”

Fred Jacobs, Jacobs Media: “The dashboard is changing and so are driver preferences.”

  • More than 8-in-10 core radio listeners can connect a smartphone in-car.
  • Among new car buyers, Bluetooth has overtaken FM radio as Most Important Feature.
  • AM/FM radio listening in-car continues to erode.
  • 3-in-10 now own a car with an “infotainment” media system.
  • Among them: A majority of time spent with audio is digital or SiriusXM.
  • 3-in-4 own cars with dashboards that display artist and title information.
  • Emergency weather info and upcoming artist/song are most desirable dashboard display features.

We have issues

As his predecessors have year after year at this event, NAB president & CEO Curtis LeGeyt recited that “broadcasters’ demise has been predicted for decades,” and proclaimed that “there is no other medium that can connect and inform as we do.”

And to keep it that way, he ticked-off “four areas where policymakers must focus to ensure that broadcasters can continue to compete and thrive in today’s environment:”

  • Referencing 2021 findings that “local broadcasters lose an estimated $2 billion annually when our content is accessed through Google and Facebook,” he touted the pending Journalism Competition and Preservation Act “which would level the playing field for broadcasters.” And he quoted congressional testimony by WTOP, Washington GM Joel Oxley: “They simply take our coverage, profit from it, and virtually nothing comes back to us. If we don’t find a way to have true partnerships with the big platforms, we will not be around – and neither will our coverage.”
  • “Lawmakers and regulators must modernize media ownership laws to reflect the realities of the marketplace,” citing a report that “Google and Facebook control an estimated 77% of locally focused digital advertising. Yet broadcasters still operate under a set of rules that pretend they only compete with one another. Congress and the FCC must take a fresh look at whether these decades-old regulations are helping or impeding broadcast competition and media diversity.”
  • Going forward, LeGeyt urged the FCC to “consider whether each existing and new regulation will help or impede broadcasters’ ability to thrive in a media environment dominated by other services.”
  • And with music stations fearing for their business model: “We urge congressional support for the Local Radio Freedom Act, which opposes a new performance fee on local radio stations.”

 The boss is a fan

LeGeyt began his one-on-one interview with FCC chairwoman – and fellow Connecticut native – Jessica Rosenworcel by asking what she remembers of radio growing up there back then. Without hesitation, she smiled “WTIC-FM, because they had The Prize Patrol!” (although she admitted that she couldn’t talk her parents into putting a station bumper sticker on the family car). “And here I am years later overseeing the contest rules for radio.”

  • Asked about all the audio competitors in new-tech dashboards: “Figuring out how radio evolves along with the auto industry is really important.”
  • And because many new audio competitors are robotic (as is so much AM/FM content now): “There’s still something special about a voice in the air that’s local.” Seconding LeGeyt: “What makes you unique is that you’re local, and you’re trusted because of it. Double-down on it. It’s important for our democracy.” And as we crossfade from the pandemic to this new normal: “If you’ve ever needed to prove the value proposition of local broadcasting, the last two years have done it.”

Holland Cooke is author of the E-book “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available from Talkers books and “Spot-On: Commercial Copy Points That Earned The Benjamins,” a FREE download here. HC is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke