Kurt Hanson

Kurt Hanson opened RAIN Summit Dallas with a flashback to radio’s past: a newspaper ad for Radio Shack from the 1980s. As a lead-in to how much the industry has changed, he noted that most gadgets in the ad did things that can now be performed on a smartphone… or on a laptop, tablet, smart watch or a growing catalogue of new devices.

Hanson, who founded RAIN 20 years ago, focused his State of The Union address on four trends impacting the audio business in 2019. In sharp contrast to those devices in the black and white newsprint ad he flashed on the screen, new technology continues to rock the landscape with 84% of the population now owning a smartphone. Combined with cheap data plans, growth in wearable devices like Bluetooth headphones, a new generation of smart watches, the proliferation of voice-activated smart speakers and connected cars slowly pulling out of the driveway, broadcasters have the opportunity to engage with audiences in more places, and at more times of the day, than ever before. That’s triggered changing consumer trends, Hanson’s second over-arching trend, which is marked by a previously unimagined abundance of choice. “Variety is a huge driver of how consumers are behaving differently,” Hanson explained. The availability of infinite content has spawned consumer expectations for ubiquity or “everything, all the time,” to quote The Eagles. No longer restricted to that AM/FM receiver in the Radio Shack ad, consumers have 3-5 different devices at their disposal at any given point in their day from which they can access audio.

Lower spotloads on streaming music services – and some broadcast radio streams – are another way consumers are changing their behavior. “As people move to internet-delivered products, they’re not putting up with the advertising levels they were used to on legacy products,” Hanson contended. The ability to personalize content is another way media habits are changing.

To benefit from new technology and serve changing consumer tastes, new forms of media have sprouted up – trend No. 3 on Hanson’s radar. Online radio, subscription-based streaming music services and podcasts are prime examples.

These three trends are bringing benefits for advertisers, the fourth trend in Hanson’s industry overview. These include granular audience targeting, more precise measurement, attribution and the ability to command a higher share of voice. “All that means that when people are listening, whether on their desktop computer, or on their smartphone or on their watch, smart speaker or in their car, you have exciting new business opportunities to mine.”