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ARN’s Anthony Xydis: ‘Not keeping pace’ is the biggest risk to radio, not podcasts

Failing to keep pace with the changing audio landscape is the biggest risk to the radio sector, according to ARN’s chief marketing officer, Anthony Xydis.

Xydis, who sat on a panel at Mumbrella’s Entertainment Market Summit last week, disputed the notion radio was a “traditional” medium and that podcasting was a threat. Instead, he said podcasting was “complementary” to radio.

The panel (L-R): Nova’s Tony Thomas, CRA’s Joan Warner, Macquarie Media’s Adam Lang, ARN’s Anthony Xydis and SCA’s Nikki Clarkson

“We know that the podcasts that are engaging, are the podcasts driven by our talent, and if they’re not driven but our talent, they’re driven by investigative journalism, with things like Teacher’s Pet, for example,” Xydis said.

“I don’t think that is at all a threat to radio. It’s just a complementary piece and the fact we are investing as a network and networks, it just a reflection that the audio landscape is changing and changing fast and if we don’t keep pace, that’ll be the only way radio is at risk.”

Xydis’ business, ARN, runs streaming service iHeartRadio alongside FM radio assets Kiis FM and WSFM. iHeartRadio is a podcast platform, as well as a streaming service. But ARN isn’t the only radio broadcaster to invest in new audio mediums. Southern Cross Austereo runs PodcastOne and Nova Entertainment has a deal with Acast.

Outside of the radio networks, a number of publishers have also invested in podcast production, as a new means of communicating stories with audiences.

But Joan Warner, CEO of Commercial Radio Australia told the audience radio has invested in podcasting more so than any other sector.

“We are investing more in podcasting than any other sector. Radio around the world is investing a lot in podcasting and we are the ones that can amplify podcasting and lead the way with it,” Warner said.

“There is that perception that the music streaming services are taking listeners away from radio, when our last three share of audio studies, which are now doing every year, which are about the usages of different forms of audio, show that were Spotify or other music streaming services are taking people from is owned music, their owned music collections,” she added.

Tony Thomas, Nova’s marketing boss, admitted all broadcasters were concerned about audio streaming, but being prepared to adapt has helped radio thrive in a changing media landscape.

Tony Thomas said he focuses on marketing the parent brands: Nova FM and Smooth FM

“We take the approach that something is going to come out of nowhere and disrupt the hell out of us and we are going to lose our jobs and go bankrupt, and if we take that approach it keeps us on our toes,” Thomas said.

ARN’s Xydis added it was important to remember not all audiences were “tech-ed up” streaming individuals.

“They are incredibly aspirational audiences and there are incredibly tech savvy in many cases, but they have a hell of a lot on,” he said. “It’s incredibly hard to pick between Stan, Netflix, menu’s to try and figure about what your content scope is going to look like.”

Xydis, Thomas and Warner, who were joined by CEO of Macquarie Media, Adam Lang, SCA head of marketing and communication, Nikki Clarkson, and moderator, Amplifi’s chief investment officer, Ashley Earnshaw, all pointed to the importance of investment in talent and an understanding the audience, as a way to keep radio relevant in a changing landscape.

“In terms of marketing a radio station, it has the same principles as whether you are marketing a tub of butter or a car, and it’s about understanding the consumer and your audience and how they are consuming media channels, and making sure you are representing your brands. At the end of the day, it’s the great creative that will make your brand, your product, your show, stand out from the rest,” SCA’s Clarkson said.

But while talent is important, Nova’s Thomas said a focus on his “parent brands”, Nova FM and Smooth FM, have helped to establish identity, despite talent shifts.

“The challenge is that when you lump in all the shows around the country, and all the personalities, and all the talk breaks, and the days they have a good day and the days they have a bad day, you have to try and line them up underneath your parent brand and that’s really challenging,” Thomas said.

“The brand has to live and feel and act a certain way. If it sits on a shelf, it does that.

“Ours live and breathe and wander around and go out at night, and have a good day and a bad day, and we all know what that’s like when they have bad days. Lining them up underneath the brands so there’s consistency is a real, real challenge. What we’ve done is set the Nova and Smooth brands up so if we do lose talent, the house doesn’t fall down. We have rotated a lot of talent, we’ve actually managed to maintain our audiences quite well.

“Even though you lose that relationship, at least there’s a level of trust and a level of understanding of the parent brand that allows you to make mistakes but also move on.”

Macquarie Media’s Lang said it was about positioning his brands, which include 2GB, 3AW and Macquarie Sports Radio, as providing “great content” every day.

“We are a marketing channel, so our first position is to market ourselves through great content every day and we have great days, and we have less, great days.

“You really have to breathe through them and work through them. What can be minutes of airtime can destroy years of good work, now more easily than ever.”

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