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International radio trends from the radio futurologist


iHeartRadio's radio advertising works; and Iain Lee

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The top three most-aired radio spots last week in the US were for podcasts. Ads for iHeartRadio’s The Ron Burgundy Podcast, Fake Doctors Real Friends and Missing in Alaska were all played over 64,000 times on US radio last week. For Podnews, I calculated that’s an average of almost two ads per hour (6am-midnight) on every iHeartRadio station.

Did it work? iHeartRadio’s campaign - I estimate it would cost $1.9m if they were buying it - did make a difference, it turns out. Who knew, radio advertising works?! As you can see above, all shows saw a significant increase in the Apple Podcasts chart during the week. The chart is worked-out using new subscriptions, rather than downloads, so is ideal to show the effect of radio. Most interesting: Ron Burgundy wasn’t even charting before the ad campaign (it’s in a production break).

MediaMonitors’ data also shows that the 5th most-heard ad was for “iHeartRadio”, the company’s own app, which got a further 56,000 plays. It would be fascinating to work out how much iHeartRadio have paid to promote their own app: and even more fascinating to learn why it appears to be doing virtually nothing in terms of podcast downloads. (But please listen to Podnews there anyway.)


As an aside: a broadcast, non-sponsored version of the Podnews podcast is aired every day on Podcast Radio, the UK radio station. At about 3 minutes, if you’d like this content on your station, we should chat.


An AM service was switched off in the UK on June 11 - Bauer’s Radio City Talk, on 1548kHz in Liverpool. I link to a video of the transmitter being turned off. Bauer also quietly closed 990 and 1017 kHz in Wolverhampton and Shropshire in early May.

For the UK, there’s little future for AM broadcasting as far as I can see; DAB and FM coverage in almost all of the country is just fine, and AM is expensive. There’s no appetite for DRM (for almost the entire population, DAB coverage is a good alternative), so I suspect we’ll see more AM closures in future.

We’re now at a time where AM is either dead or dying within Europe; yet the impression, at least, is that AM is in fine form in Australia, the US and Canada. There are good reasons for some of AM’s continuing relevance in these countries: but I’d not be investing in AM transmitter operators.


Late night presenter Iain Lee’s contract wasn’t renewed at talkRADIO, and he wasn’t given the opportunity to say goodbye. He was, as he said in a TV interview, really upset. Now he’s got his last pay-cheque, he’s been answering listener’s questions; and he’s been apparently snapped up by Twitch to present a five nights-a-week show.

Geoff Lloyd on Twitter: “It’s insane that Iain Lee’s not being inundated with job offers. He’s original, authentic, funny, innovative, provocative, a brilliant storyteller - all the things that broadcasters claim to value, whilst filling their airwaves with shows that might as well be hosted by Siri.”

I rather liked this comment from Paul Stainton: “So much radio is beige these days and he is a vibrant shade of people”.


Edison Research published some surprisingly low online consumption figures for broadcast radio: apparently during COVID-19 it increased to 10%.

It’s normally rather more than that in other countries (12.7% in Australia; 14% in the UK; both outside the pandemic). I was curious as to why the US is so behind here. Brian Gongol’s response on Twitter is good - including “too many rival apps, no clear leader” and “garbage preroll ads, awful filler, bad synchronisation”. The latter perplexes me: it really isn’t hard to get a different adfeed right.


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