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Mark Long on the Evolution of Radio Marketing

Posted by Kevin Taeyaerts on August 8, 2019

An average of 227 million adults tune to AM/FM radio each week, creating almost $20 billion in revenue for radio stations. The majority of that revenue comes from advertisements. Marketers have been using radio as a major channel since the first paid radio ad in 1922.

Although they are limited to only what the listener can hear, marketers use some of the same techniques for radio that they use for every type of marketing. In this episode of J&See: Views on Marketing, Meg Goodman sits down with Mark Long, the Production Director for Townsquare Media in Boise, Idaho. Mark breaks down the differences between radio and traditional marketing as well as the different types of radio. Mark also provides insight into the direction he sees radio heading and how marketers will need to respond. Read on for a few excerpts from his insightful interview. And of course, make sure to subscribe to J&See: Views on Marketing to hear a compelling conversation like this once a month.

Q: How does radio marketing differ from other forms of marketing?

A: With radio, you're only dealing with one sense ... sound. You have to market or create advertisements that work with just sound. With video you have the visuals provided for you. Even with direct mail you have some visuals provided for you. There is a visual aspect to the design and implementation of all those marketing messages but with radio, like I said, you only have audio, so you have to get creative.

Q: Talk about how [local radio ads] could be different than local TV. What are some of the benefits and the challenges?

A: The key to radio, any radio success, is being local, being plugged into your community. The bread and butter of a lot of our revenue comes from local direct business … So, as a production director, you get to interact with all different kinds of clients and some of them are very business savvy, some of them know exactly how they want to market themselves, some have just gotten into the business … and they don’t know anything about marketing. It’s our job to kind of educate them on how to do that, at least through the channel of radio. It’s a little bit different than TV because the cost of entry is significantly less — not to say that it’s less effective. I’d say that its more effective and you get more value out of it than you would TV, depending. Radio is a much more personal medium, too. You can almost build a relationship with your listeners and the demographic you’re trying to get to … It’s kind of a one-on-one medium.

Q: How has voice-assisted AI like Amazon Alexa and Google Home affected your market over radio?

A: I still think we’re seeing the effects of it. We’re not at the end of the tunnel on that yet … Radio adapts … We just train our listeners to enable our stations to play on their smart speakers. You’ll hear on air sometimes “Hey teach your Alexa or your Google [Home] to say 'play radio station X or play this radio station here.'” I think you’re going to see that into the connected car as well. Everybody has been talking about the connected car for a long time and obviously radio, as an industry, has kept its eye on cars because the lion's share of our listening is done in the car. If you maybe don’t have an AM or FM band or AM or FM radio in your car anymore, you have to figure out another way … for people to connect with you as a radio station. Whether that’s saying to your car “play station X” or at home saying, “play this station”. That’s why all of our radio stations now have apps as well.

Q: You’ve been doing this for 10 years. How has the industry changed during your involvement with radio?

A: It’s gotten a lot more digitally focused … everything from the copy we write to analytics. When I started … the big thing was to go on websites … Now, when you hear something on the radio ... what are you going to do? The first thing you’re going to do is pull out your phone and Google it. You’re not going to type in the website. Now I think what radio is becoming is more of a piece of marketing that fits into a greater marketing pie or a whole marketing plan. Because, if you tell somebody to check you out online … if they’re going to Google you and look you up later, your SEO (or search engine optimization) has to be on point so you show up first or second. Because then they might go to a competitor if your digital game is off.

Q: Where do you think radio is heading and what do you see as the future of your industry?

A: Radio is becoming more of a brand of itself and in my opinion as a successful radio station, a staple of the community. Spotify isn’t going to get you entertainment news or local events that are going on, local concerts or anything like that. Apple Music is not going to tell you if there’s a severe thunderstorm warning in your town … Being able to dive into local issues which really do affect your day-to-day, I think there’s still a place for that. The future of radio is beyond just a radio tower, it’s a brand. It’s online. It’s a little bit of journalism … Blogging is huge with our radio stations — talking about current events, opinion, connecting with our listeners on more than one channel. Social media, going out doing community events of all kinds — everything from the big 4th of July parade all the way out to a Friday night football game. That’s going to be the future of radio, being a local brand rather than just a music box.


Listen to the whole episode to hear Mark further explain how to make every second count when writing a radio ad. Download J&See: Views on Marketing on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Or you can listen to the episode on Google Podcasts and Simplecast. And make sure you subscribe to get a new episode every month.


Topics: Direct Marketing, Podcast, Radio Marketing

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