Clear Channel Says Radio Hosts Are Still Relevant

Findings show they have more influence than social media ads

Radio isn’t dead. It just wasn’t advertised correctly, according to Clear Channel Communications CEO Bob Pittman.

“I think radio did a very poor job of marketing itself, and everybody started talking all about the shiny new things,” the MTV creator said. “Instead of radio saying, ‘Those are great, those are wonderful. Here’s how we are using them,’ you didn’t hear from them.”

Pittman spoke to Adweek at the Power of Personality event where Clear Channel Media and Entertainment released results from its latest study on the influence of radio personalities.

Findings from the radio conglomerate showed on-air personality endorsements were similar to a friend’s recommendation—and they trusted it more than a sponsored Facebook post, sponsored tweet or TV commercial. Six out of 10 listeners said that radio hosts were "like a friend" whose opinions they trusted. Forty percent argued that they felt radio personalities made the broadcast more personal, which turned listening to the radio into a more social event. 

Pittman said the study is an example of the current efforts radio companies are now undertaking to showcase the influence the medium still has. He added that 92 percent of people listened to the radio every week in the 1970s, and the figure remains the same today when counting digital and other modern ways to tune in.

“We do fantastic stuff, but we never told anyone about it—so sort of shame on us. We got what we deserved. But now, we are speaking up and we are explaining stuff, and we’re doing the research and doing the panels and getting the word out again,” he said.

Ryan Seacrest, who was also attending the event, told Adweek that radio hosts like himself are still relevant because people listen to them more than they even talk to their families. The medium, he said, could lend itself to special advertising opportunities because campaigns can be changed in real time and involve direct interaction with both the marketers and listeners.

“We have the ability at [Clear Channel] unlike any other company to really tailor a message and tailor a campaign and change it up to the second, up to the minute in a broadcast,” he said.

With its digital toolbox, Pittman believes radio is unstoppable. Radio ads can be better targeted and have companion sites, video, visuals and even coupons. 

“People are sort of waking up to this world of so many choices and so much information, and they are saying, 'I actually need someone to recommend stuff to me,'” Pittman said.

For example, Clear Channel partnered with Macy’s for the iHeartRadio Rising Star campaign. The contest involved unearthing under-the-radar talent, mentoring them with popular acts, and allowing the public to vote for the best musician. The winner was invited to perform at the iHeartRadio festival.

The campaign also married other social and retail aspects. IHeartRadio created a digital radio station featuring the acts just for Macy’s stores. Semifinalists performed at selected Macy’s locations. Fans voted and promoted their favorites online through social media and the official website.

“There’s nothing traditional radio about that,” Seacrest pointed out.