RAB: A Double-Digit Digital Revenue Rise for Radio


With suspended or smaller quarterly dividends and double-digit ad revenue declines still being seen across the radio broadcasting industry’s big publicly traded players, one may mistakenly believe that all is not well with the oldest form of social media in the world.

The Radio Advertising Bureau has released new data that thwarts such chat.

“Years of refining digital strategies” paid off for the radio industry in 2020, it says.


According to RAB data compiled in association with Borrell Associates, digital ad revenue in 2020 hit $1.1 billion.

This accounts for greater than 14% of total ad sales.

Local radio stations saw digital sales increase nearly 12%, with growth forecast to accelerate 18% this year.

“The due diligence the radio industry has put into expanding its digital platforms and advertising offerings over the last few years contributed mightily to the 2020 bright spot of digital growth,” said RAB President/CEO Erica Farber.

And, says Gordon Borrell, “The pandemic actually delivered a gift to the radio industry last year. Stations saw very clearly how digital products can be a linchpin, especially when core-product sales are challenging. Digital kept the conversation going.”

The report also shined a light on how additive digital revenue can be for a radio station. The average station made $290,150 in digital revenue in 2020; the average market cluster made $1.3 million. The average revenue for the top five performers ranged from $2 million for top-performing clusters in the smallest of markets, to $17.8 million in the largest.

The findings are included in RAB and Borrell’s report, “Defying the Gravity of 2020, Radio’s Digital Sales Rise 11.8%.”

It is being released today to RAB members and analyzes online ad revenue from 3,621 radio stations, as well as survey responses from 944 local radio buyers and a survey of 238 radio managers.

Among the topline findings:

  • 80% of stations offer digital sales training at least once a month
  • 81% of stations are offering some form of digital services in addition to digital advertising
  • Nearly 2/3 of radio sellers try to include digital offerings in every sales pitch
  • More than half of stations flipped their sponsored events in 2020 to virtual events

The report and upcoming live-video presentation are both sponsored by Marketron.