Looking for Digital Audio Content Strategies? Broadcast Radio Has a Key Lesson
By Mark Penn, Chairman and CEO, Stagwell
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Marketing Frontiers is a new series from Stagwell exploring the methods, mediums, and messes modern marketers will grapple with over the next decade as they chart transformation in the discipline. This March, Stagwell is exploring the future of digital audio.
“Trust is local and the future of communications is personal,” is the advice one of the agencies in our portfolio, Targeted Victory, has for today’s clients looking for an edge in the marketing communications. That shows out in the data we have; per a 2021 Harris Poll study, 65% of people tend to trust news and information from local sources more than national ones – with wide-ranging implications for news literacy, political campaigning, and regional brand strategy. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that one of the most effective media channels for mass communication remains broadcast audio. Our partners at iHeartRadio know this well; Gayle Troberman estimates radio reaches nine out of 10 Americans, spanning geographic, ideological, economic and interest divides. Why does it remain such an effective channel? Because radio is an authentic channel of communication ruled by strong personalities who’ve built credibility as local experts delivering news, information, analysis, and entertainment at the regional level. At the end of the day, with thousands of information touchpoints at the fingertips of today’s consumers, they still want to have a trusted voice be their guide into everything from the news to sports fandom. Because transformation is cyclical and the digital investments of today mirror analog patterns of consumer engagement, brands have an easy strategy to keep an edge in the brewing audio content wars: shore up local audio personalities, content and partnerships. As the gold rush ensues around digital audio, the most effective content beyond the AAA and celebrity-driven audio series like Smartless, the most effective content will be driven by personalities that 1) command an authentic connection to their bases 2) can breed long-term loyalty 3) are viewed as truth as trustworthy sources of information. Tactically, this means operating on two fronts: one, identifying and developing up-and-coming digital audio talent to steer the production of new podcasts, limited series, and other creative audio experiments; and two, finding existing broadcast radio hosts with compelling regional followings that can be scaled across national audiences. Where the digital acceleration of the past few years is promising is in its ability to take influence-drivers from niche audiences and cast their content to the masses. Brands – often predisposed to celebrity endorsement and partnerships — shouldn’t overlook the potential for effective content partnerships that rest on plugging into the most-listened afternoon radio personality in a key consumer region and integrating them into ongoing marketing efforts. This strategy has the most immediate applicability to the podcasting space, which is flush with investment now as brands like Spotify double down on their offering and others foray into the category. But don’t discount the concurrent rise of voice-enabled devices. These “bots with benefits” are moving beyond the home to places like the office (our own headquarters at Stagwell is outfitted head to toe with Amazon Alexa devices), to commutes, to retail experiences, and more. Partnerships between Teladoc and Amazon Echo underscore the grip voice will have on consumers in this next chapter of connected devices. Why should these bots be voiced over with androgynous, android-like audio? Celebrity partnerships have already suffused the space – brands should take the next step and pair voice devices with strong local personalities, giving consumers the chance to get their weather report from their local radio star; or navigate the virtual grocery aisle with their favorite influencer. The audio content wars will be a global race to drive awareness and commerce, but that doesn’t mean brands have to enter the fray as global players. Anchoring your experimentation with new digital audio marketing opportunities in a local approach is a surefire way to drive effective results.
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