The broadcast radio industry has not changed much over the last 30 years or so: it is generally powered behind the scenes by humans who do lots of repetitive work to produce a continuous analog broadcast stations. This approach assumes everything that we broadcast today was predetermined yesterday (or maybe the day before that?) in a very linear fashion and without real-time influence from the environment or consideration of the uniqueness of each listener. Like any other industry where this is the case, we should expect this to change drastically over the next few years as the influences of social media, mobile, analytics and real-time cloud-based automation take hold. iHeartMedia is taking this opportunity for change head-on by rebuilding our core delivery platforms and revamping the processes they support.
What sets iHeart apart from many streaming audio providers is our rich base of talent, which is the best in the industry. Specifically: our listeners come to us for companionship, to discover new music, listen to expert opinions on a wide variety of topics and to be entertained by real humans who interact with each other and our listeners. This sets us apart and is the core of our product offering. “Being digital” for us then means protecting this differentiation while making our products available to our listener base on their terms. Notions like FM/AM vs. streaming, push vs. pull, podcast vs. broadcast then become last-mile concepts built around a common digital core.
“Being digital” also means moving towards a world where all of our listener products are mashed up from digital components. This is already mostly the case for songs and ads but generally not for voice tracks. Being able to treat all of our content as a mashup of digital components with appropriate metadata means we can reproduce any broadcast or podcast at any time and play over any available medium, to any device at any time.
For advertisers, “being digital” means self-service for things like buying, ad copy production and management, delivery and fulfillment tracking and ROI analytics. It also means access to audiences and impressions vs. spots and dots and also smarter and smarter ad placement options that take advantage of real-time events, social media trends and behaviors, characteristics and preferences of individual listeners.
What is most exciting for me is that this transformation is fueled in a big way by technology. The work that will be done by the iHeartMedia Tech team and our business partners over the next few years has the potential to transform not only iHeart but the entire broadcast industry. If we do it right, we will protect the uniqueness of the iHeart product and brand while making it increasingly easier for our listeners and advertisers to do interact with us on their terms. Exciting times!