In addition to Townsquare Media’s 317 radio stations, its Local Marketing Solutions segment includes a trio of digital product lines that contributed nearly $100 million in revenue to the company’s 2017 coffers. During its fourth-quarter 2017 earnings call Tuesday, the company offered stakeholders a play-by-play synopsis of just how integral these assets have become as a value-add to over-the-air.
In fact, Townsquare co-CEO Bill Wilson paused from the typical blow by blow earnings numbers during the telephone conference, saying, “We thought it would be informative to spend some time reviewing Townsquare’s digital products and solutions, which have grown significantly in recent years and generated strong profits and operating margins consistent with our overall Local Marketing Solutions segment.”
The three products—its local digital business, Townsquare Interactive and Townsquare Ignite—saw their genesis in 2010, when, Wilson said, “Nearly all of our revenue came from broadcast and we had virtually no digital presence nor digital products.”
Since, the company’s focus has included build-out of a digital engineering and content team to develop an in-house content management system, proprietary mobile app platform and individually branded station websites that are populated with proprietary locally produced content.
Today, “we produce an astonishing 30,000 pieces of original content each month for our own websites,” Wilson said, which brings over-the-air listeners to its digital platforms, “not as substitution, but as an addition to their consumption of broadcast—which we believe once again demonstrates the strength and relevancy of our brands, our on-air talent and our content.”
In 2017, Townsquare averaged 13 million unique visitors per month on its local websites, which he said is “a number that actually exceeds our radio cume.” The company has monetized the audience through “high-impact display, streaming, video and mobile advertising on our owned and operated local websites, generating significant revenue growth from these new platforms.” In addition, the company has added e-commerce, social media and video—including 391 YouTube channels with 188,000 videos and 1.3 billion video views.
The second piece of Townsquare’s Local Marketing Solutions’ digital portfolio is Townsquare Interactive, a digital agency which develops and hosts desktop and mobile websites and provides such services as search engine optimization, online directory optimization, online reputation management and social media management services. Small and midsize businesses pay an average monthly subscription of $300. The result in 2017: 12,400 clients and $40 million of net revenue in 2017.
“With Townsquare Interactive as part of our product mix, our sales force can now provide their advertisers with an impressive digital storefront as well as provide them with digital advertising that will help them to grow their business,” Wilson said. “We continue to update our Townsquare Interactive product offerings and over the years have added e-commerce functionality, member benefit programs and are now working on the addition of e-mail marketing, enhanced social services as well as appointment scheduling."
And the third piece of the company’s digital pie is Townsquare Ignite, a programmatic digital advertising platform. The product was launched in 2014, according to Wilson, “when we found that our customers wanted to advertise on our owned and operated local websites, and also wanted to locate and engage their target customers defined by strict demographic and psychographic attributes across multiple platforms,” including web, mobile, video and social.
He says that because of the company’s traction—“our strong relationships and proven track record of digital execution”—clients reached out to Townsquare to buy and manage digital programmatic advertising programs for them.
Townsquare Ignite’s platform includes both its own digital inventory on owned and operated websites alongside other advertising inventory on the internet, “which we access by our digital programmatic buying platform.” Wilson says, “We believe our competitive advantages in this space are many, including customer service, which differentiates us in a competitive environment where clients often lack transparency, adequate reporting and responsive customer support and our local advertising relationships that we have leveraged as a trusted partner to build a new advertising business from scratch.”
As of March 2018, the company has 1,600 Ignite campaigns running each month, up from 385 per month in 2016 and under 1,000 per month in 2017. “We believe there is significant runway available to further grow this product; we are investing to grow our planning, sales, buying, optimization and service teams in order to support this future growth.”
Summarizing the company’s digital product portfolio, Wilson said, “We are incredibly excited and expect continued growth in 2018 and beyond. This type of innovation has been a hallmark of Townsquare and we will continue to push forward.”