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In 2016, digital advertising revenue generated by the radio industry in the US increased by 14%, according to a report put out earlier this year by BIA/Kelsey.  This same report states that billing from radio stations’ websites, apps, and social platforms totaled around $811 million US in 2016 (roughly 6% of the total revenue garnered by the radio industry).  The outlook for 2017 predicts a similar trajectory, suggesting that this revenue figure will grow by 11% to $904 million US. 

 

So, are you doing all that you can to maximize your digital advertising revenue?  To help our readers answer this question, we are pleased to feature an interview with Jason Muth, who’s been instrumental in helping Beasley Media Group in Boston maximize its digital earnings potential.  As Interactive Sales + Strategy Director for the cluster, Jason oversees digital sales strategy for its portfolio of FMs: ALT 92.9 (Alternative Rock): www.alt929boston.com, HOT 96.9 (Rhythmic AC): www.hot969boston.com, Country 102.5 (Country): www.country1025.com, WROR (Classic Hits): www.wror.com, and MAGIC 106.7 (AC): www.magic1067.com

 

And, as an extra bonus, Jason is a seasoned expert in market research, having worked very closely with some of us here at Global Media Research and Consulting Partners during his time with Broadcast Architecture, formerly part of Clear Channel (now iHeartMedia).  He’s worked with some of iHM’s biggest stations, and even managed to squeeze in a few studies/projects overseas.  Jason has a wealth of information on our industry, and we are thrilled that he’s agreed to share some of these insights with us.

 

GM: Your title of “Interactive Sales + Strategy Director” at Beasley MediaGroup sounds fairly broad. Can you give us an idea of what “Interactive” means for radio in the digital age, and the scope of mediums it encompasses?

 

JM: Interactive involves every listener and advertiser touchpoint that includes a digital component – social, mobile, streaming, database, on-demand audio, video, our websites, RDS, any 3rd Party products, and any emerging products or opportunities that involve audience engagement beyond our traditional AM/FM audio signals.

 

GM: When the internet (and later social media) first rose to prominence, there was generally mass confusion from terrestrial radio stations regarding how to integrate these new mediums into their arsenal – and even more confusion about how to sell them. In the early days, a station website was treated almost like an online billboard to advertise the main FM signal, and lots of added-value banner ads cluttered the space. Has there been a change in how stations and advertisers value and utilize their digital properties (websites, apps, social media pages, podcasts, etc.)?

 

JM: From a product perspective, the station website used to be the digital center, but now much of our digital influence occurs on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter, through Email, or on a streaming platform.  Every way that our audience can interact with our brands is important to us.  So, we look at each of these carefully, and program to each unique platform.  Each of our Boston stations has a regular weekly digital product meeting to plan and analyze content.

 

GM: Can you tell us how a smart radio group like Beasley approaches using digital mediums to its advantage – especially when it comes to sales?

 

JM:  Whenever possible, we present integrated ideas that involve advertiser messaging across devices and channels.  So, rather than throw banner ads into a radio schedule, we know that the most effective campaigns reach our listeners however they choose to engage with our brands, meaning we might present a concept that has a foundation in radio commercials or endorsements, and extends into our email database, across our social channels, onto our websites, and within our mobile apps – a complete 360⁰ approach.

 

GM: What is a good example from the Boston market where one of the Beasley stations used the full range of digital options at its disposal to either raise awareness for the station or a promotion, or effectively partner with a client across several platforms?

 

JM:  I’ll use an example from the programming side – last fall, Green Day launched a club tour to support their current release before taking the show to sheds and arenas.  We had some tickets for their sold-out show at House of Blues in Boston, and decided to soft-launch a fun, interactive Green Day quiz on www.alt929boston.com.  No on-air promotion, just something to discover online, which is exactly what happened.  Once we messaged our email database, participation took off, so we posted it to social and boosted the posts, which caused well over 1,000 entries within a day, all driven by our audience in our digital space.

 

GM: Looking at the industry, are there any major mistakes you see radio groups making with regards to not optimizing their digital presence? Are there stations that still treat these platforms largely as added-value opportunities for clients who advertise on the air, or is that a thing of the past?

 

JM:  Our industry has a long history of valuing the terrestrial signals first, and viewing everything else as an add-on.  Having worked in radio from 1991-2006 and then leaving to work in the digital world for the next decade, our industry is now playing catch-up.  Digital media, as an industry, is an audience-based model, and its currency is impressions.  Buyers, however, are frequently set up in silos, with radio buyers and digital buyers having different objectives, KPIs, and, consequently, different approaches.  The ecosystem evolves slowly.

 

GM: What kinds of metrics do you look at to evaluate the success of your interactive strategies?

 

JM:  One metric that is way overvalued is the click, and that’s the fault of digital media.  Clicks are great, but quality impressions are more important presuming they are viewable and targeted.  Completion rates are important for pre/mid-roll or social video.  Engagements are important on social.  And when looking at our own properties and assets, we’re looking at streaming hours, % of traffic from mobile devices, pageviews, users, size of social audience, size of database, contest entries, game/quiz participants, and anything else that indicates how our audience is engaged.

 

GM: Radio’s OTA/over-the-air revenues are forecast to grow by around 1% in the next year… while revenues from their online assets are forecast to grow by around 11%. While the online revenues will still be a relatively small portion of overall radio revenues, what will be the key drivers of that growth? And how do you envision stations building on their digital presence most significantly over the next few years?

 

JM: Owned + Operated or Controlled assets should lead the charge – anything connected to station databases, websites, apps, or social – because these are our most loyal fans.  For the most part, these platforms are inventory that the content creators control.  Video crosses all of those, so it’s key to our growth strategy.  3rd Party Products are another key driver as long as they are implemented well, which means tons of oversight, training, and product knowledge.  As streaming sessions continue to grow, so will streaming revenue.  The key to all of this is valuing digital impressions – whether display, video, social, or audio – the same as on-air impressions. 

 

GM: Lastly, since we are a consultancy that specializes in providing and analyzing market research for our clients, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to chat with you a little about your time “in the trenches.”  When you reflect on your 9+ years of experience with this aspect of the radio business, with what client engagement do you feel most accomplished?  Was there one situation that stands out first and foremost where you feel that the research and insights you provided made a major impact on a station or cluster’s success?

 

JM:  Honestly, there are so many.  I can’t even count the amount of post-music test music sorts or strategic perceptual meetings that I had the honor of attending – 400?  500?  My role was always to shed light on the discoveries and help guide the programmers’ decisions.  It’s exciting to see so many of my past clients still thriving in this business a decade after my last focus group – Cadillac Jack, our Director of Programming at Beasley Media Boston being one of them!

 

Wow, I have to pick one?  OK – in retrospect, I have always thought that it was cool having Ryan Seacrest sitting in the client room behind the one-way mirror back in ‘03/’04 when we were conducting the early research for his morning show on KIIS-FM.  I would like to think that in the early years, I had a (very, very, very) small part in helping launch his empire.

 

GM: OK, one more…what do you miss most about being in the kind of radio research we conduct?  What do you miss the least?

 

JM: Every market is different, and no two projects were ever the same.  I miss finding the story in the data – that’s what you and many media researchers are so, so good at.  Taking a spreadsheet filled with data, and finding the story, uncovering the opportunity.  That was always very cool.

 

The travel became a double-edged sword.  I was fortunate to have seen so much of the U.S. and the world because of my time on the research side, but business travel is a grind.  I always found working in the markets where I lived (Boston, NJ, Providence) and grew up (NYC) to be a treat and an honor.