Turns out that an industry revenue report from the Radio Advertising Bureau last winter was the last that we will see from the organization.
RAB plans to discontinue reporting radio revenue data. It will not release a mid-year report, published in the past in August; nor does it plan full-year reports. Not long ago, the reports came quarterly; that changed last year.
Radio World and other trade publications have reported RAB estimates regularly over the years, as well as estimates from other sources; and financial observers frequently reference them to gauge industry performance.
The reports broke out revenue into on-air, off-air and digital sales figures (digital has been the big growth sector, by percentage, lately); and they highlighted spending in advertiser segments such as financial services, automotive and retail. The most recent RAB estimate put 2015 total year revenues at $17.4 billion; see chart.
The decision to stop follows the example of some other media. The Newspaper Association of America ceased releasing data several years ago. “RAB is following the trend set by other trade associations,” said President and CEO Erica Farber. “There are other companies whose business is to forecast and report revenue numbers.”
U.S. commercial radio revenue had ripped off positive growth numbers in the RAB estimates year over year throughout most of the 1980s and ‘90s, according to Radio World archives, which date to RAB data from 1981 and show the industry passing the estimated $10 billion revenue mark in 1994. Most recently the RAB results were based on information from accounting firm Miller Kaplan Arase LLP.
But in the past 15 years, flat to negative reports were far more common. The period 2008–2010 was bad for radio and the entire economy; but even in the past three years, RAB found itself reporting total-year performance numbers of flat to slight declines, even taking digital revenue growth into account.
In the past, such results have produced less-than-flattering portrayals of the industry’s health. Numbers from the RAB report of February 2009, for example, led AdWeek to surmise that radio had experienced its worst year in history with the headline “Radio Crippled in 2009.”
According to Farber, the RAB’s primary mission is to advocate on behalf of the broadcast radio industry. “RAB is strengthening its focus on its mission in order to elevate radio’s perception among marketers and their agency partners,” she said.
The last RAB report, released in March, touted an increase in digital ad revenue, and predicted that numbers would grow throughout 2016. It was headlined “Broadcast Radio - America’s #1 Reach Medium - Confirms Advertiser Appeal In 2015; Digital, Off-Air Platform Revenues Hit New Highs.”