Audio Industry Summit explores the changing future of radio

By Gabriella Rusk


October 27, 2014

The Newhouse School at Syracuse University hosted the Audio Industry Summit last Friday, addressing the industry’s changing market, how to build audience and the importance of social media. The first audio summit was held last year at Lubin House in New York City. The summit was moved to the SU campus this year to bring more Newhouse students into the conversation about the future of radio.

The summit’s first panel addressed terrestrial radio while the second focused on digital audio. Panelists from both agreed that the line between terrestrial radio and digital audio is blurred. Most experts say the industry is taking a turn toward online and the entire radio industry is exploring new ways to engage listeners in order to generate revenue.

“It’s all about on-demand, when you want,” says Hal Rood, managing partner of Strategic Radio Solutions. “Listeners love it, they can’t get enough of it. We need to deliver it to them so they can binge-listen.”

Radio stations have had success using podcasts and radio story playlists available on their websites. Both build brand and have the ability to reach a wider audience. Having content available online for listeners to find after the original airdate develops a greater chance for the listener to become a regular fan of a station.

For public radio, building loyalty and developing membership is key.

“Your product, if you have the loyalty, then that on-demand can be monetized,” says Chris Bolt, news director at WAER.

Roy Sampson (iBiquity); Dan Mason (CBS); Dave Gorab (Sirius); Sandy Smallens (Spotify); Nikki Jett El (Live Nation) ; Caitlyn Lytle (WERW)


The panel acknowledged that while brand recognition for the platform is important, the listener is most interested in content.

“Stories can be about all kinds of aspects of life, about friends, family, good things, bad things,” says Genevieve Sponsler, content coordinator at Public Radio Exchange, known as PRX. “A good story told well is the kind of content that a lot of people respond to.”

Mina Llona, talk show personality for WUSL-FM Power 99 in Philadelphia, says she believes good radio content should encompass thought-provoking conversation.

“I think content comes from great stories, great conversation, and just being a real honest person,” Llona says.

Great content remains the same, despite the ever-changing landscape of radio.

“Content is the currency,” says Dan Mason, president and CEO of CBS Radio. “No one will listen to bad content no matter how good the platform is.”

Social Media

Both panels emphasized the importance of social media for today’s audio industry. Panelists stressed the importance of finding ways to connect with people and engage the listener.

“It’s all about reaching people,” Mason says.

Radio’s use of social media and the Internet have created new jobs, panelists say.

“People say there aren’t any jobs in radio. There are jobs,” Llona says. “We have social media jobs, web designers, people that code and do graphics are all very much needed in radio.”

Dave Gorab, vice president and general manager of talk programming at SirusXM, believes social media will be a new way to recruit talent in radio.

“There are a lot of people who are using social media in a really, really compelling way where they are amassing followers because they are consistently interesting,” says Gorab. “That is no different than what you need to do when you turn a microphone on every day.”

“Using all platforms for your brand extension, whether it’s a station or yourself,” says Roy Sampson, iBiquity Digital Corporation manager. “It’s all about content and it’s all about branding.”

Social media gives radio stations and their disc jockeys branding opportunities that didn’t exist before.

“The great thing about social media is that you can actually formulate your own voice,” says Sandy Smallens, director of artist marketing and original content for Spotify.

Smallens says less is more in social media.

“One really intelligent, interesting tweet about a current event,” he says, “is worth 20 tweets about what you had for lunch.”

The terrestrial radio panel is featured in the top photo. From left to right are: Mina Llona (Power 99FM Philadelphia); Hal Rood (Strategic Radio Solutions); Mimi Griswold (Galaxy Communications); Shane Bogardus (Cumulus Media); Genevieve Sponsler (Public Radio Exchange); Seth Everett (Mets Radio Network); Chris Bolt (WAER News).  Newhouse professor Doug Quin is moderating at the podium.

Gabriella Rusk is a junior broadcast and digital journalism major at the Newhouse School. 

Photos by Aaron Nah and Lizzy Kahn, of the Newhouse School.