James Kotecki (00:08): 

This is CES Tech Talk. I'm James Kotecki bringing you one of my favorite C Space Studio interviews from CES 2024. I had a lot of great conversations in Las Vegas, and I know you're going to like this one, so enjoy. 


Again, we are live, we are back, and it is time to get all on here at the C Space Studio. I am James Kotecki. We are at CES 2024. This year we're sponsored by Integral Ad Science, and I'm really excited to dive into conversations with media, marketing, branding, and advertising leaders. And I'm super excited about our very first guest, returning champion I would say, Gayle Troberman, CMO iHeartMedia. Welcome back. 

Gayle Troberman (00:49): 

Awesome. Great to be back. CES OGs. 

James Kotecki (00:52): 


Gayle Troberman (00:52): 


James Kotecki (00:53): 

Let's start once again by just kind of defining where iHeartMedia stands right now. How do you define your brand? How do you explain iHeartMedia to people who maybe have heard of it but don't exactly know the full scope? 

Gayle Troberman (01:05): 

Sure. So iHeartMedia, we like to think of ourselves not as a media company, but as an access company. And what that means is we give brands access to every audience in America because we reach nine out of 10 Americans across broadcast radio, the biggest podcasting network in the world, massive array of live events, a huge social and video footprint, and all the data that comes with having that mass-reach audience so we can find pretty much any audience and give a brand access to them across all our platforms. 

James Kotecki (01:42): 

And so is it fair to say there's a preponderance or kind of a leaning toward audio, but of course now every media company is doing kind of various media things. So you mentioned social, you mentioned video as big components as well. 

Gayle Troberman (01:52): 

Sure, sure. But at iHeart, everything starts with audio because we really do believe audio is on fire right now. Broadcast radio has maintained reach through the internet era and the digital age and the social age. Audio has continued to be a mass-reach medium. While we've seen things like print massively decline, TV, linear TV has seen massive declines, but audio has been holding reach and growing with podcasting. 

James Kotecki (02:18): 

Let's talk about broadcast radio for a second because I believe you mentioned this last time that we were chatting. 

Gayle Troberman (02:23): 

I'm sure I did. Yeah. 

James Kotecki (02:23): 

When you say broadcast radio is maintaining or growing, are you saying literally it's people tuning in on a dial, like in a car on an old-fashioned radio? Or are you saying it's that content, but it's spread over maybe more modern appliances? 

Gayle Troberman (02:37): 

Yeah, no, it's a great question. It's both. Broadcast radio signals out into the real world, people driving. Particularly usage in car is huge. But we're also seeing incredible gains in digital listening to broadcast radio stations. 

James Kotecki (02:52): 


Gayle Troberman (02:53): 

So you might get in your car and turn on Kiss FM when you're driving live off the broadcast signal. You might also ask Alexa to play Kiss FM because it's your favorite station. You might listen to it on your phone at the gym. And so we distribute all of our stations and our content pretty much anywhere you can access audio to make it as easy for listeners as possible. 

James Kotecki (03:13): 

And getting back to that word access. Let's talk more about how you're giving brands this kind of access. So what kind of advertising or kind of brand outreach trends or ideas are you excited about, are you seeing, are you implementing? 

Gayle Troberman (03:25): 

Well, obviously the biggest trend that's exciting for us is just the massive growth in podcasting over the last two years. I believe I saw some Nielsen predictions that podcasting is going to double again in 2024. So it is the next mass-reach medium. And not only just reach, but what's exciting about podcasting is it's got incredibly high engagement and attention. There's this whole theater of the mind idea that because you're not seeing all the imagery, you're filling in the pictures. So if I'm like, "Hey, what'd you have for breakfast this morning," I could show you a breakfast. 

James Kotecki (04:01): 


Gayle Troberman (04:01): 

It's probably wrong. 

James Kotecki (04:01): 

But I'm imagining it. 

Gayle Troberman (04:03): 

But if I ask you what you had for breakfast, was it horrible because you're here at a conference? Was it a bad buffet? Was it unhealthy? I can now take you on a journey anywhere I want to go and sell you a message. And your neurons are firing, your brain is filling in the imagery. So audio continues to be this incredibly high-attention, high-engagement medium when attention is at a real scarcity these days. 

James Kotecki (04:25): 

I'm going to have to start calling myself an actor in the theater of the mind as the host... 

Gayle Troberman (04:28): 

Oh, I like that. I like. Yeah. 

James Kotecki (04:28): 

... of the CES Tech Talk podcast I suppose. 

Gayle Troberman (04:30): 

There's a performance art piece in your future. 

James Kotecki (04:32): 

I appreciate that. Let's talk about how AI plays into this. So we're moving toward a world where... Now, I know... 

Gayle Troberman (04:38): 

Thought we could get through this without that word. 

James Kotecki (04:40): 


Gayle Troberman (04:40): 

But yeah. 

James Kotecki (04:41): 

I don't think you can get through two steps here at CES without seeing that word. 

Gayle Troberman (04:41): 

I know. I know. 

James Kotecki (04:45): 

So we're talking about a world where there's either more podcasts or more people listening to podcasts or more hours listening to podcasts or maybe all of the above, this very intimate setting where you can have this intimate relationship with the audience. And now we add in AI on various levels, on the analytics, but certainly now increasingly on the content side of things. Where do you see that playing? That's a very opening question I suppose, but we could dive into it. 

Gayle Troberman (05:06): 

Of course. So two thoughts there. One, obviously AI is going to be transformative for our business like most. The ability... Audio is already a 10th the cost, probably about the 10th the time in production of video. So AI only speeds that up and makes it even more efficient. So the beauty as a marketer of audio advertising is you can version infinitely. How do you sound when you're trying to sell to me in a country format, a hip hop format, a pop format, a K-pop format, and on and on. So the ability to version more and more efficiently and be relevant not just for where you're showing up, but that moment. Am I in a pop station at 10 a.m. or 10 p.m.? Is it a weekend or a weeknight? So how's the weather out? The ability to actually adapt messages dynamically and on the fly, increase the efficiency of production for brands, and then all of the innovation we can do on the targeting, insights, and programmatic side of the business with advances in AI, big areas of focus and investment for us. 

James Kotecki (06:10): 

And does that have a lot to do with ingesting the podcast content and kind of figuring out what that content is and where ads should even go in the first place? 

Gayle Troberman (06:18): 

Exactly. For example, we have one of the best brand safety tools available built on AI functionality with our partner Sounder. And we can get to the episode level. So instead of saying, "You know what? Here's a massive hit show, but occasionally they might go into a territory that you don't want to be associated with." Instead of ruling out a massive popular show with high engagement and huge audiences, we can now actually enable brand safety at the episode level so we can see what were they talking about? Was that a topic a brand wants to avoid? And now you might want to buy that show when they're talking about pop culture, but not when they're talking about politics, for example. 

James Kotecki (06:58): 

And is there an element to this where marketers need to fundamentally rethink anything as we head into 2024, maybe because of AI, maybe because of the scale? Is there a fundamental shift that you think needs to happen? 

Gayle Troberman (07:09): 

Well, yeah. I love that question because this is probably my topic for CES, and it's one we've been talking a lot with our clients about. We recently did a study with Malcolm Gladwell and the team at Pushkin on the new American consumer. And the premise was, or the hypothesis was we've never had more data in the history of marketing. We can justify anything now with data. And so I would argue, and Malcolm and I were talking about this and we landed on this research initiative, because we have so much data, we are now more biased than we have ever been in the history of marketing. 


And what I mean by that, and we see it a lot at iHeart, is iHeart is right now we are live on air on 860-plus radio stations in markets in America. And we are having a live human conversation, unscripted, real, messy, human. And yet marketers are here talking about AI and what's next and the future. And I think sometimes marketers, what we found was we did the exact same study of real American consumers and marketers to figure out what was different about our views, our habits, our behaviors, our beliefs, our values, and they are so different. For example, if we were here a year or so ago, I'm sure we talked about NFTs. 40% of Americans have still not heard of an NFT. 

James Kotecki (08:36): 

Okay. Let alone bought one [inaudible 00:08:38]. 

Gayle Troberman (08:38): 

Right, exactly. And so sometimes I think we're getting too far ahead of our consumers and we live in our marketer bubble. I think some interesting numbers, like half of Americans haven't heard of an Aperol spritz, but 0% of marketers are unaware of Aperol spritzes, right? Simple things. 

James Kotecki (08:55): 

Wow, these are some damning stats... 

Gayle Troberman (08:56): 

Right, exactly. 

James Kotecki (08:56): 

... here I think for the folks at C Space. 

Gayle Troberman (08:57): 

And I think it's just a good wake-up call, particularly in the beginning of the year, and particularly CES, which is don't miss the consumers in the real world and their habits and their behaviors. What are they doing and how are you going to reach them and be relevant to them? Because I think as marketers, sometimes we spend too much time marketing to us doing the things we think are cool and next and sexy. And that's great. There's room for innovation and experimentation. But if you're missing real America, you're not going to grow. And I think that's a huge message for us. 

James Kotecki (09:29): 

And such a challenge to figure out how to pop that bubble. As you said, there's data to justify anything... 

Gayle Troberman (09:34): 

Pretty much anything, right? 

James Kotecki (09:34): 

... that you maybe want to do. And if you want to justify your Aperol spritzes at 3:00 p.m., you can do that. 

Gayle Troberman (09:37): 


James Kotecki (09:38): 

So let's talk about the real world in terms of live events. In the closing moments of this conversation here, I'd love to just get a quick snapshot of where iHeartMedia is at with live events and maybe how technology might push that forward in the next coming years. 

Gayle Troberman (09:50): 

Sure. Live events is a phenomenal part of our business. It's where you really feel the access we give to consumers and the once-in-a-lifetime experiences we create. Just coming off the Jingle Ball tour, for example, 12 markets, just phenomenal shows and the amount of joy and energy in those rooms. 

James Kotecki (10:09): 


Gayle Troberman (10:10): 

AI is obviously making production advances for us there. But what we love about the live events is it's a chance to bring our brand to life and connect artists, brands, and fans in new ways. This year we had a big breakthrough at the iHeartRadio Music Festival where I think was probably one of the best examples of how the brands, the artists, and the fans can participate together. We created an entire house of music outside the T-Mobile Arena here. And artists had their own spaces that they curated and so did brands. And they were all interactive experiences connected on your phones. You accrued points and merch and you got to win as you went through the Kelly Clarkson experience and the Lenny Kravitz experience and the Fall Out Boy experience. And it was just a beautiful opportunity to see the creativity the artists could bring, not just on the stage performing, but before the show, after the show. I mean, people spent hours there and they got even closer to their favorite artists in new ways through these interactive experiences. 


So we do about 10,000 events a year, about 20 real big concerts, and they're just going to get better and better. 

James Kotecki (11:22): 

Well, thank you so much for interacting with us in real life once again and bringing us closer to the future. Gayle Troberman, iHeartMedia, thank you so much for joining us today. 

Gayle Troberman (11:30): 

Oh, thanks for having me. 

James Kotecki (11:31): 

Well, I hope you enjoyed that conversation from CES 2024. That's our show for now, but there's always more tech to talk about. Hit that YouTube subscribe button, leave a comment, follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, iHeartMedia, or wherever you're getting this show. And get more CES at ces.tech, that's ces.tech. I'm James Kotecki talking tech on CES Tech Talk.