RADIOWhen listeners turn on the radio these days—terrestrial, digital, or satellite—they can tune in to precisely the content they want to hear: country music, sports talk, alt rock, or whatever their tastes call for. What if radio worked the same way for advertisers? That is, what if brands could serve their messages to precisely the audiences they wanted to reach? Punk rockers, workout warriors, or commuters with a taste for political talk. Through advances in technology and data collection, we’re starting to find out.

The nation’s biggest radio and streaming services have been busy building out technology that allows advertisers to target audiences based on their musical tastes. Few pieces of data give advertisers greater insight into a consumer than their music preferences, and today’s technology allows providers to identify those preferences—and other information about listener habits—with great specificity.

One radio giant leveraging that information aggressively is iHeartMedia, which has greater reach across television or radio than any U.S. media company. Through a partnership with Unified, the marketing technology company, iHeartMedia is using rich data generated from its more than 850 radio stations, 85 million registered users of iHeartRadio, and 85 million social media users across its network to help advertisers reach the audiences they want, and to measure their results.

How I See It

  • As iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman has said elsewhere, beginning decades ago, radio was the first type of media to segment through station formats that targeted specific audiences. The more precise targeting happening now, while new and exciting, is an evolution of a process that has been ongoing in the radio industry for years.
  • Players in digital radio have tremendous stores of data available to them. Their success with targeted advertising, as with so much else, will likely depend on their creativity and execution. Already, we are seeing innovations like sequential messaging, through which advertisers use information about which ads a consumer has already seen to build a story over time.

How the Industry Sees It



I sat down with Radha Subramanyan, who serves as President for Insights, Research, and Data Analytics at iHeartMedia, for more about this interesting new territory.

It has been almost a year since iHeartMedia formed its partnership with Unified to create new products and opportunities for advertisers. What have you learned in that time and has your mission changed at all?

It has been a very exciting time at iHeartMedia.  iHeartMedia and our data investments deliver the targeting of digital with the scale of radio. We deliver audience buying at scale and transparency in measurement. This is quite unprecedented in the media world and – coming from a company that delivers over a quarter billion consumers every month – you can imagine the impact. More recently, we have complemented our enhanced audiences with programmatic platforms and opportunities. So it all ladders up to a very unique value proposition for our advertising partners.

With iHeartMedia’s more than 850 radio stations and huge digital platform, it has its feet planted firmly in both traditional and new media. Is that a challenge or an opportunity?

It is certainly an opportunity. Audio is very unique. It is platform agnostic in a way video is not. The listener does not care if the “sound” emanates from a car radio, a shower radio or a smartphone radio – as long as they are listening to the brands, voices and music they love. Today, digital listening accounts for about 10 percent of all listening, the majority of listening is through AM/FM broadcast radio – but digital listening is additive to broadcast radio and with iHeartRadio, our digital service, we are able to extend our stations everywhere our listeners are and in places that were not accessible before. So we are in the unique space where we are seeing huge growth in both broadcast and digital platforms, as the two support and enhance each other.

What types of data about your listeners are advertisers most interested in?

Our advertisers are very sophisticated in knowing who their target consumers are. What they love hearing from us is what specific formats their prime prospects are listening to the most, as well as specific day-parts that synch up to buying patterns.

What’s your favorite type of music and what do you think that says about you?

I am all about pop music. We call it contemporary hit radio. I think it reveals that I am still a 13-year-old girl inside beneath all that data.

In addition to everything else, iHeartMedia also conducts thousands of live events every year. To what extent do you deliver targeted advertising or collect data at your live events?

Our events are actually very interesting learning spaces, as many of them ranging from the  iHeartCountry Festival to the iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina are already highly targeted. Additionally, we measure both the onsite and social media impact of these live events. We have been quite successful in demonstrating not just the value brands get from these sponsorships but the value attendees get from brand activations.  For example, this year the iHeartRadio Music Awards generated 115 billion social media impressions throughout the promotional period of the show, far surpassing the social engagement for both the Grammys and the MTV Video Music Awards.

What’s the most interesting object in your office?

Other than the obligatory awards and pictures with celebrities, I would say its books. I have books ranging from Jack Myers’ The Future of Men: Masculinity in the Twenty-First Century to Michael Lewis on high frequency trading.