Soaring podcast advertising revenue was one of the bright spots at Cumulus Media during the third quarter. The parent of the Westwood One Podcast Network said it set a new podcast advertising record which helped lift total digital revenue to $19.9 million, an increase of two percent compared to a year ago despite what CEO Mary Berner said has been some softer sales figures for other parts of their digital business.
“While streaming and local digital marketing service remain pressured in the difficult macro climate, podcasting more than offset those declines – up nearly 50% in the quarter,” said Berner. “Podcasting delivered record quarterly revenue, reflecting our particularly strong news-talk portfolio and our highest-ever download count.” During a conference call with analysts Thursday, she said Cumulus had more than 102 million podcast downloads during September, a 47% increase compared to a year ago.
The alliance announced during the summer between Westwood One and American Public Media’s Marketplace is one of the ways that Berner said the company is benefiting from podcasting. The deal has led to the creation of Marketplace Minute, a one-minute economic news report that is not only a podcast but a feature that Westwood One is syndicating to radio stations nationwide. It is the first time a public media entity has partnered with a commercial audio network to distribute a news product in these formats.
“It marks the first time a public broadcaster has partnered with a commercial radio company to extend its reach in the marketplace,” said Berner. “It also serves as a great example of our effective use of partnerships to create exciting new content for podcast audiences.”
Overall, Cumulus reported third quarter revenue was $196.4 million, a 30% decrease from a year ago. Berner said the advertising environment remains “uncertain” but that was a “significant improvement” from second quarter when revenue dropped 48%. She said there are good reasons to believe the company continues to recover from the hit it took from the pandemic earlier this year. “We grew revenue each month in the quarter, with September finishing 35% higher than June,” said Berner. She said revenue is pacing down about 15% in the current quarter, a reduction in part because of what is tracking to be another record-setter for political advertising revenue.
Cumulus cut $25 million in expenses during third quarter, and it plans to reduce its overall expenses by $85 million in 2020. Berner said that has come through consolidation of sales management functions and streamlining some of its business functions.