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Lapham: Radio Must Find New Ways to Be Where Consumers Are

iHeartMedia exec shares industry insights ahead of the NAB show

Radio World is checking in with business and technology leaders about the state of the industry as radio prepares for the NAB Show this weekend.

Rhonda Lapham is market president of iHeartMedia Cape Cod and Providence. She will be among the speakers at the NAB Small and Medium Market Forum at the NAB Show.

Radio World: As we are heading into the NAB Show, what do you consider to be the most important business issue or challenge for radio broadcast owners and executives right now?

Rhonda Lapham: There are industry lobby groups who are focused on issues like taking free over-the-air broadcast radio out of cars. This would make it harder for us to serve our communities, which is our mission, as well as harder for FEMA to reach people with critical lifesaving information. Broadcast radio is the only medium licensed by the federal government to serve America communities — it’s our most important priority. Anything that would make that harder, or make it harder for our communities to easily access free, over-the-air broadcast radio, is a concern for me.

RW: What technologies or new media platforms are you watching closely, for their potential impact on how radio organizations do business?

Lapham: We are always looking for new technologies and media platforms that will enhance our listener’s experience. Our goal is to be everywhere our listeners are with the products and services they expect. For example, with the iHeartRadio app, listeners can stream live broadcast radio, podcasts, music playlists, custom Artist Radio stations and on demand music on more than 250 platforms and over 2,000 different connected devices — including smart speakers, digital auto dashes, tablets, wearables, smartphones, virtual assistants, televisions and gaming consoles.

Additionally, take a look at podcasting — 64% of the U.S. has listened to a podcast and monthly reach is 42% with weekly reach at 31%. In a matter of a few years, iHeart has become the largest publisher of podcasts with 206 million downloads, with over 100 of our podcasts seeing 1 million-plus monthly downloads.

Then there is iHeartland. Our iHeartland destinations in the metaverse lead the industry in terms of engagement with over 15 million visits. Among all the games in Roblox, iHeartland is among the top 1% based on daily active players and total daily playtime. iHeart continues to evolve so that it can offer products that are serving the community, when and how they want it. 

RW: Generative artificial intelligence was last year’s big buzz topic. Has it met expectations for its impact in radio?

Lapham: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an important new platform that has and will continue to add great value to our industry in many ways, both for our products and how we operate. This new technology will help us improve and streamline day-to-day activities, from prospecting for new clients to researching and preparing for pitches, scanning and summarizing documents. We’ll be rolling out our own iHeart-specific AI solutions to help our internal teams use AI effectively.  

RW: Over the next three years, what will be the most important change or evolution in how radio companies are run?

Lapham: I feel that radio will continue to evolve and discover new ways to be where consumers are. Delivering information and entertainment when and where consumers want it and how they want it. Not knowing what the future has in store in terms of technology, I do know that our industry can pivot and evolve right along with it — it always has. Look at the role digital has played for us. Digital has substantially added further radio listening, it’s additive listening for us. We are agnostic as to which device listeners want to receive our content on.

RW: What else will you be watching for at NAB, or what else should radio managers be thinking about?

Lapham: I always enjoy viewing new ways our talent can speak to the community and unique ways our sellers can identify and work with advertisers. As radio managers, we need to stay relevant to our listeners. We need to be up to date with the new trends and fads for our listeners. We need to meet the needs of our advertisers and agencies and deliver the most exciting media campaigns.

The opportunity to brainstorm with other radio managers on ways they are reaching their community and listeners is always so motivating. I like to “borrow” successful ideas and bring them back to my teams and execute them.

RW: In a sentence or two, what does your company do?

Lapham: iHeartMedia is the #1 media company in the U.S. with a reach of 276 million, reaching 90% of all U.S. adults each month. iHeart is the largest podcast publisher according to Podtrac, with more downloads than the next two podcast publishers combined and has the number one social footprint among audio players, with seven times more followers than the next audio media brand, and the only fully integrated audio ad tech solution across broadcast, streaming and podcasts. The company continues to leverage its strong audience connection and unparalleled consumer reach to build new platforms, products and services.

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