“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” said the Radio Industry #NABradioshow


Several giants in the biz as well as a few of radio’s most successful consultants held a session to discuss what radio needs to get back on the right track.  Below are some quick notes from their discussion.

ED CHRISTIAN, CEO Saga Communication: Radio is in trouble because the businesses that support radio are in trouble.  We have to be more than radio.  On-air, online, on-site.  Create multi-platforms and package together.  Stop thinking in the old radio thinking.

MARK RAMSEY, Consultant:

  • Understand the competition – We’re not only competing with ourselves anymore, we’re competing with the iPod, Twitter, Facebook, and a ton of other digital media vying for the same eyes and ears that radio is.
    • Mark mentioned one client that ran radio, billboard and Twitter campaigns.  The client got 170 orders from the billboard, 200 orders from radio, and 1700 orders from Twitter!
  • It matters not how many we reach. It matters if they take action.
  • We’re not selling spots anymore.
    • Radio is the funnel, the top of the funnel. Everything is integrated.
  • Go to other non-radio events (SXSW) to get some perspective.
  • Drop Arbitron. No longer about reach.  It’s about engagement and getting listener to take action.
  • The Power of the Megaphone. The top of the funnel gives all the other channels a voice, meaning, radio can be the starting point for all other digital media tactics.

BILL FIGENSHU, President Peak Broadcasting: There are two opinions in the press. 1.) Radio is dead or Radio is fine or, conversely, 2.) it’s a perception problem.  NEITER ARE TRUE.

  • STOP expecting Radio to perform like its 1999.  Large spot loads, high margins are gone.  Advertisers are getting used to instant feedback.  Radio has to get better at metrics.  We have to raise the level of the quality of content. Spend the money!!  “Pumping the wattage into your cottage” IS DEAD.
  • START putting money into program creation.  Too many are playing to NOT LOSE instead of TO WIN.  Need more creative young people.  At least one person at each station that can connect to the listeners.  No more 1 PD for 6 stations.  No more “safe lists”.  Consumers don’t need us like they used to (iPod, Pandora).  KHJ is dead.

HEIDI RAPHAEL, VP Greater Media:  RETOOL our business.

  • Retool: need to be innovative.  JetBlue is good example.  Look to other industries that have faced similar challenges.
  • Resolve: We are an audio entertainment industry.  We need to reorganize how we do things.  Is the current sales structure working?  NO.  Match what people are good at with what they do for your company.
  • Share resources with other companies that aren’t traditional radio companies.  (e.g. AutoTrader.com and CBS
  • Reignite: Well done is better than well said.  Roll up your sleeves mentality from industry bosses and leaders.
  • Sew Some Seeds:  Bring new people into the business.  Reach out to high school / colleges to bring them in.  Some schools have jr radio programs.

Why is everyone stuck on the LOCALISM and DISASTER PREPAREDNESS.  I think if we are counting on these elements to “save” radio we’ll be waiting for a looooong time.  Nobody, especially young people, think of disaster preparedness.  Until you’re 30 aren’t you 10 feet tall and bulletproof?

Plus bad radio is bad radio, I don’t care if it’s local or not.

LARRY ROSIN, President Edison Media Research: Radio doesn’t have an HR strategy.  He focused on getting more, younger, better people into the biz.

JOHN DeBELLA, On-Air WMGK-FM/Philadelphia:  We have stopped investing in ourselves so how can we expect anyone else to do the same.

  • We have to advertise ourselves (more than just ‘most music in the morning’).
  • Let’s build a farm team!  Use your HD3 channels.  Apple just introduced an iPod with FM, next (prob) HD radio tuner.
  • Make radio about the listener
  • Make radio about the content

JOHN PARIKHAL, CEO Joint Communications:

  • Kill all czars.  Czars screw things up and starve the country.  They wrecked Russia.  Start asking questions.
  • Stop lying to yourself.  You can’t take true action until you stop lying to yourself
  • Focus on the change.  If you’re not proactive around change. To get what you want, start with what you have.
  • Create a mental outcome of what you want.  (I think my mom taught me this.)
  • Look 90-120 days out.  Inside of that you’re not being proactive.
  • Listenomics.  Listen to your clients. Gomediafix.com
    • Lego, Dell, P&G all have great stories about how listening to their consumers helped turn around their businesses.
    • Immediate is more important than Local.  Local is a subset to immediate.
    • Write a speech to sell a 20 year old to working in media.  Then give it to a 20 year old.  Will it make them WANT to work in radio?

Czars aren’t listening.  They are hallucinating.

FRED JACOBS, President Jacobs Media:

  • Stop looking back at the “Golden Years.”
    • Tom Daschel quote, “I below there’s a reason the windshield is bigger than the rear view mirror.”
  • Stop with slogans, develop solutions.  Who are we marketing to?  Ourselves? No!  The consumers.
    • Why are we using these instead of trying to solve the problem?
      • 70s: Radio is Red Hot
      • Less is More
      • Radio Heard Here
  • Need to do an Industry SWOT analysis
    • “Where else are they gonna go” – the 7 Dirty Words of Radio.  These are the words we’ve used for so long instead of trying fix our media.
    • Economies of Scale – 3 more.  While these are good (sometimes). They have ultimately hurt the quality of content on air.
  • Customer Service.  Radio hasn’t had any for a while.
  • Go outside the industry for a little help.  We’ve been inside too long.
  • No voicetracking.  People care about personalities.
  • Nurture and marketing what we have.
  • Re-think sales depts. and processes.

Lots of info here from some of the main players in the industry.  I hope it helps.  Post any questions below.

WHICH HALF OBSERVATIONS: I sure hope the industry can move as quickly as these guys and gal think.  However, these topline, “big picture” ideas usually get watered down in middle management as those in the middle try and keep others from bubbling up to the top.  Thus, continually keeping innovation out of the formula.


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