When Hurricane Ida smashed into the U.S. and started barreling toward the Eastern Seaboard, it soon became clear that Philadelphia, where I live, was in its path. We knew the city might get hit hard. Ida had already left more than a million people without power and was proving to be one of the most destructive storms in U.S. history. The day of impact, my daughter called me to pick her up from crew practice. But I was worried, as roads were already getting barricaded off in anticipation of flooding—a high likelihood around the river where she rows. I didn’t know which parts of our community would be the most dangerous as a result of heavy rains, flash floods, and offshoot tornados, as it truly was a neighborhood-by-neighborhood event. As I got into my car, I needed to know the safest route to get to my child. So, I turned to radio.
There used to be a time when radio was seen as a bit old-fashioned. But the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. A lot of very sophisticated hardware and software, for example, was required to update listeners about Philly’s unfolding disaster during Ida.
As Audacy’s first chief technology officer, it’s my job to leverage technology to serve our listeners, advertisers, and partners. We have a long heritage of innovation. In fact, Audacy is the tech company you never knew existed.
With the acquisitions we’re making, which are added to our legacy divisions and infrastructure, Audacy is weaving together a rich mosaic of ways technology can enable the consumer.
TRANSFORMING THE CONSUMER EXPERIENCE
Today’s audiences want control over the audio consumption experience. And we’re finding ways to give it to them—to capture the magic of audio for the digital age. Audacy recently invested in technology that’s providing the ability to deliver the features that listeners are demanding for live or on demand.
Digital native consumers assume that if your phone rings in the middle of a sports show on Philly’s SportsRadio 94WIP, you should be able to pause, take the call, and then pick up where the program left off. Listeners take it as a given that if you’re listening to Pineapple Street Studios’ The 11th podcast but need to walk into your job, you should be able to flip the conversation to a different device when you sit down at your desk.
But control isn’t just about providing the features people have come to expect because of connected televisions and streaming audio services. Listeners also want access to robust portfolios of content wherever and however they want it. Radio is still very much a service that everyone listens to—just in different formats. Why? Because it’s local. It’s about community. It’s talking about the place where I live, where I work, and where my daughter attends school.
Audacy focuses on news and sports because that’s where the community comes together. We’re the single largest local audio content creator nationwide, yet we’ve invested heavily in digital platforms and podcasting to marry local programming with more national digital content. Here’s an example: Even though I live in Philadelphia, I fell in love with baseball when I lived in Colorado. I want a local audio experience that combines my love for the Colorado Rockies with my need for the weather and traffic in Philly. That’s something we’re delivering: the thrill of radio plus the convenience, innovation, and control of digital. We’re pulling together content that’s almost like a Rubik’s Cube, so listeners can mix and match to deliver an interactive experience that blends national, premium, and local community programming.
INNOVATING THE ADVERTISING EXPERIENCE
We’re building connections between brands and consumers by delivering a premium consumer experience. Our goal is to serve relevant and timely advertisements.
Audacy has incredibly rich data insights about our audiences across over-the-air and digital. Put the two things together and you get a very holistic view of how the listener is consuming. For example, in the car, I listen to the radio. But at home or the office, I use an app or the web. I’m not the only one. We’re seeing a spike in consumption via connected TVs and smart speakers.
Using our first-party data, we can follow the listener. Various consumption habits allow us now to create a more robust marketing profile and therefore more meaningful and targeted ads. Which device is she listening to? When is she listening? If we know a listener always stops at the grocery store on the way home, then we can create a dynamic, addressable inserted ad for her from the local grocery store chain that’s the closest to where she’s physically located at that moment. We know that having the right advertising experience increases our overall satisfaction with listening; we all crave relevancy as much as control.
Yes, mobile geotargeting isn’t new. But Audacy is an audio content publisher, not a mobile company. And here’s the rub: find an audio content publisher that can do this with digital experiences over live radio that dynamically understands where the listener is—and can target the ad based on exactly that individual and the device. In essence, we’re leaning on data to marry our value proposition to listener demands.
USING TECH TO BECOME A DATA-ENABLED POWERHOUSE
During the COVID-19 lockdown, our tech infrastructure allowed employees to work at home. While Zoom and other videoconference platforms allowed many companies to do the same, Audacy’s need to conduct business as usual was complex. We were putting radio content on the air across 48 markets—every day. And developing podcasts. And coordinating news and production teams. Our on-air talent required the ability to broadcast live from home to continue creating content.
If we didn’t have a robust technology, infrastructure, and frankly, a way to safely and securely create content for ourselves and manage that efficiently, we would have gone off air. We wouldn’t have been able to develop the shows that everybody else who was locked in their home was listening to.
Plus, audio is both a passive and an active medium. We gather data from people calling in to win tickets or contribute during news and opinion shows. We have the single best identifier for a human being today: a mobile number. Folks change names, addresses, emails, and genders. But how long have you had your phone number? That active engagement and participation, married with Audacy’s first-party digital data and third-party data from other sources, gives Audacy more keen insights and different views of the consumer than television could hope for.
COMPARING TO OTHER MEDIA
Audio thinks about consumers in an agnostic distribution manner. It’s the ubiquitous, ultimate companion medium, available to consumers whenever and wherever they want. Smart speakers and other connected devices just enhance audio’s reach and provide an ever-evolving distribution effort. Audio needs no screen, unlike television.
Which is why during my stressful drive around Philly the day Ida hit, I turned to my trusted friend, radio, which used technology to update listeners like me on Ida’s erratic movements. Silver-voiced announcers explained which parts of town faced massive flooding, stalled cars, and potential tornados—and which parts were drier and drivable. This vital information helped me avoid problem areas. I was able to reach my daughter. Together, we got home safe and sound.