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“We’re Just Getting Started”: Industry Execs Weigh In on Future of Radio

Audacy, iHeartMedia chiefs weigh in on medium’s extended relevance

The radio industry continues to make space for itself — reimagining operations, highlighting its importance in times of crisis and grabbing new technology by the lapels.

At the NAB Show on Monday, Audacy President and CEO David Field and iHeartMedia Co-Founder and CEO Bob Pittman gathered for the keynote “Transforming Radio in the Audio Renaissance,” which broke down how the radio industry is pivoting away from old norms to new.

More than two years into the pandemic, industry leaders have had to embrace change, make their product malleable to multiple mediums and cater to changing audience needs to survive.

Pittman said the pandemic also provided greater opportunity for listening, especially with the rise of emerging technologies and audio platforms like smart speakers and podcasting.

“The sense I get is that we’re just getting started,” he said.

Pittman said the challenge for radio isn’t about remaining relevant. “I think the challenge for us will be just to monetize as best we can,” he said.

Echoing those sentiments, Field said it’s time for radio to get its “fair share” of advertising, something he said currently hinders the industry from reaching its full potential.

“We have not been able to crack that code,” Field said. “That’s what keeps me up at night — that historically we’ve been unable to do that as an industry.

“We question the efficacy of what we do,” he continued. “We’re our own worst enemy. But with the extraordinary products we offer our audiences, we are on the cusp of radio and audio surging forward.”

[For More News on the NAB Show See Our NAB Show News Page]

iHeartMedia Chairman & CEO Bob Pittman (left) and Audacy President & CEO David J. Field

Pittman and Field said the industry will need to make radio relevant for all clients and become “user friendly” for advertising.

While garnering its fair share of funding will take time, the presenters said that hasn’t diminished the quality and reach of radio content.

Recent studies show radio remains at the top of the pack in terms of trust and influence. Throughout the pandemic, Pittman said radio has created a deeper bond with audiences and in turn has increased its value.

Pittman said radio continues to provide a comforting presence in these uncertain times, “keeping people company,” when driving. Despite it being the oldest of all electronic media, AM/FM radio still holds the top position of in-car media according to Edison Research.

“We’re the ones riding in that empty seat next to them,” Pittman said.

Both Pittman and Field said radio’s strong personal relationships with consumers contribute to its higher levels of trust — invaluable both in everyday life and in times of crisis — and that is something neither CEO is willing to sacrifice.

“We play a really important role in this society,” Field said. “It is central that we keep the integrity of our broadcast stations.”

Moderating the session were NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt and April Carty-Sipp, the executive vice president of industry affairs at NAB.