America’s Best & Worst Radio Groups

I am often asked which radio group would you work for if you wanted a career in radio.  That would be the one with the best management and best chance to succeed.

A lot has happened since I ranked the best and worst including bankruptcies, mergers, key station acquisitions, critical personnel changes and even luck.  For four years I’ve been getting hundreds of emails a week on the inner workings of radio’s major groups.

So here is my latest list of the best and worst radio groups.

In this article I’ll reveal …

•  What formerly worst group has finally made it to the best list and why they are no longer the worst.

•  The top 8 major radio groups -- what makes them strong and what their future looks like.

•  The three worst radio groups on the planet – at least in the U.S.  You may think you know which three I am talking about but you would be wrong.  I’ve got a big surprise for you and I’ll explain why.

•  The group I think has the inside track on being the number one best 12 months from now.

•  What toxic radio groups to avoid if you’re planning to stick around and have a career in radio.

I start counting down the best and worst radio groups in order – right here.

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Content Providers — Be Afraid of the AT&T/T-Mobile Merger

Tell me what about the merger of AT&T with T-Mobile is good for anything or anyone – other than AT&T.

Once the news came out this weekend and it sunk in, I said OMG -- Oh My God, this is big – for content providers like us, radio and traditional media businesses that want to take advantage of residing on all those cool Apple and Android devices that are flying out of retail stores.

If you read any of the news accounts of the just-announced AT&T purchase of T-Mobile, just about everything written is about how the deal will benefit AT&T and hurt competitors.

One of the few good things about radio and record industry people who have been screwed into mediocrity by consolidation is that we have the capability of knowing exactly what is going to happen when there are only three major cellular companies left – AT&T, Verizon and the much smaller Sprint.

This article reveals the growing threat to content providers by a handful of gatekeepers that get to charge a digital toll each month to your fans and customers.

1.  The odds that the AT&T merger is approved by regulators.  Remember this is like Clear Channel, Cumulus and Entercom owning everything in radio.

2.  The threat to you if you are a radio station or pure play operator streaming music for a living.

3.  The fail-safe plan for content providers who are increasingly using more video and audio as part of their content.

4.  The only thing that can stop AT&T, Verizon and Sprint if this merger gets approved and this will truly shock you.

5.  What happens to slam-dunk consumer cellular expenses like that $20 a month texting fee?  There is a change slowly happening regarding consumers and texting.  Do you know what it is?

6.  What is the best strategy for content providers to safeguard against some of the roadblocks that cellular consolidation will throw at you?   I’ll name three things you can be aware of starting today.

If you’ve been considering accessing Inside Music Media every day, today is a great day to start.

If you would like to read this story, have access to my entire archive (over 1,200 pieces) and get the next month of my writing included, click “read more” for your choices. 

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Radio’s Believe It Or Not

It is time once again for real stories from the radio and music business that I nominate for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.

More outrageous than a woman delivering a 19 pound baby.

More freakish than high heeled hooves made out of 5,000 hairs.

Or the Frozen Dead Guy Festival.

In radio, we have our own incredible happenings that – as always – to the best of my knowledge are true – a sampling …

1.  The “never-ending” rep contract -- you won’t believe how long this radio rep firm ties up its clients or what they have to do to break the long-term agreement.

2.  Free radio news for the price you’re paying for it.  Which radio trade publication got sexist about a little tiny bit of competition?  Guess.

3.  Confucius:  The Dickey Who Golfs Putz.  If you thought it takes a lot of hard work and long weekends to do a hostile takeover of a competitor like Citadel, wait until you see what Lew Dickey was doing right in the middle of negotiations.  Documented.

4.  Bonuses for failing.  In this age of cutbacks and “layoffs”, guess who turned out to be the greediest bastards of them all on the backs of their present and departed staffers.  We’ve got the eye-popping numbers for you.

5.  The pep talk before Cumulus took over Susquehanna a few years back gives the best insight as to how it will takeover Citadel in September.  An insider tells all.

If you would like to read this story, have access to my entire archive (over 1,200 pieces) and get the next month of my writing included, click “read more” for your choices. 

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The New Citadel Media

Cumulus Media is expected to close on its purchase of Citadel Media around September.

The day that deal is consummated, you can expect an earthquake stronger than the one in Japan to hit the radio industry.

While Cumulus CEO Lew Tricky Dickey is promising $50 million in immediate savings – you can bet that $50 million isn’t coming out of his fortune or that of his family. 

Dickey is saying all the right things – that Cumulus and Citadel are a team.  Sounds good – warm and fuzzy but …

Be afraid.

Be very afraid.

What Cumulus is going to do when it finally takes over Citadel will be uglier than anything that has happened during consolidation – and that includes a lot of ugliness.   

Worse than the arrogant days of Lowry Mays and Randy Michaels at Clear Channel when they terrorized competitors and fired thousands and thousands of outstanding and dedicated radio people.

The Cumulus takeover of Citadel will be more brutal.

This article reveals what you can expect:

1.  How many of Citadel’s 4,000 current employees must be fired for Dickey to deliver on his promise of $50 million in savings once the acquisition closes.

2.  How the Citadel sales platform will be integrated with the existing Cumulus system.

3.  What about commissions?  Farid Suleman already chopped the hell out of Citadel sales commissions.  Is there room left for more pay cuts?

4.  The one thing Lew Dickey can’t wait to do when he gets his hands on Citadel’s old ABC Radio Networks.  Paul Harvey is turning over in his grave.

5.  If ratings and billing are not so important to Lew Dickey, what is?  I’ll share the sweetest sound in any language to a Wall Street banker and no one is better than Dickey at saying it.

6.  The Cumulus answer to Groupon couponing that will hurt local ad sales – but be seated when you read it.

7.  Dickey says now that the two companies will be one large company he can take on Pandora – just like Clear Channel’s Bob Pittman.   I’ll tell you Dickey’s plan.

8.  Plus, the timetable for completing firings, cutbacks, reorganizing and redeploying Cumulus strategies to Citadel.  

If you would like to read this story, have access to my entire archive (over 1,200 pieces) and get the next month of my writing included, click “read more” for your choices. 

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The Coming Media Meltdown-customizable radio, coupons and music downloading

There are three major issues that are headed for a meltdown in radio, local advertising and slumping record sales.

This article reveals their melting points:

1.  There is no such thing as customizable radio.  Even Pandora is not really customizable radio.  With big consolidators moving terrestrial radio more toward Pandora, they are going to kill local radio once and for all.  I’ll explain.

2.  Couponing.  Groupon is getting bigger and more powerful.  But look at what some of the big radio groups are planning.  Warning:  you don’t want to do this.

3.  Free music downloads.  Everyone knows CD sales have been declining for nine of the last ten years, but now legal downloading is tapering off and even the interest in illegal downloading of music may decline.  Here’s why the music meltdown cannot be stopped.

If you would like to read this story, have access to my entire archive (over 1,200 pieces) and get the next month of my writing included, click “read more” for your choices. 

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Audience Time-Shifting

There are dramatic changes in how audiences consume content that have major repercussions for content providers in traditional and new media.

This new information confirms that among the other challenges content providers face – not the least of which is rapidly changing technology – more attention should be paid to how content is consumed.

In radio, 95% of the conversation is about Wall Street banks buying up stations like they are hotels on a Monopoly board with very little consideration given to actual content or for that matter local audiences.  Before consolidation, it was the polar opposite.  Mom and pop owners often lost money on radio, but their stations usually focused on serving needs in the local communities without regard to profits.

In the record business, 95% of the major labels’ efforts seem to be devoted to hanging on to traditional income streams – i.e., selling CDs, licensing music.  And new ideas such as 360 deals are laughable because labels do not possess the skills to manage acts and steer their careers in concert venues.

Like it or not, the audience is changing even if traditional media stands steadfast.

This article reveals new research that confirms the continued growth and evolution of audience time-shift plus 5 pieces of strategic advice for content providers in radio, television, print and new media including …

1.  The latest eye-opening consumer research by demographics that shows a runaway movement toward time-shifting.

2.  The one thing consumers are increasingly demanding from content producers – not just traditional media but new media as well.  If you don’t deliver this, you might as well shut down.

3.  The impact of time-sharing on 24/7 terrestrial radio and what can be done to cooperate with the inevitable.  Plus how to deliver new consumer needs that they previously didn’t even know they needed – such as coupons – in your content.

4.  Apple actually gave traditional media a great piece of strategic advice on presenting content for audiences that embrace time-shifting and it will cost you nothing – other than to read it here.

5.  The most creative new idea for offering content to time-shifting audiences that very few content providers even know about – but you will because I lay it all out here.

6.  The missing ingredient from efforts to pander to short attention span audiences.  Without this critical element, your efforts to win new audiences that like to consume content on their terms will come up short.  But make this one move and you can fix it. 

If you would like to read this story, have access to my entire archive (over 1,200 pieces) and get the next month of my writing included, click “read more” for your choices. 

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Who Will Lew Dickey Buy Next?

Lew Dickey, Jr. is now playing with other people’s money. 

That’s why he plunked more of it on the table to buy Citadel last week at $37 a share. 

The question is not whether Citadel is worth $37 a share in what some analysts call a “not fast growth business”.  

The real question is what will one of the biggest under achieving operators in radio buy next.

You’ll love this.

Dickey has a reputation on Wall Street for overpaying for stations.  Insiders say back in the days of the first round of consolidation with Richard Weening, “Lew would bid $40 a share and the joke among brokers was that Lew would pay Milwaukee prices for Oshkosh stations”.

As we witness The Second Coming of Investment Banks who will Lew Dickey prey upon to feed his ego?

This article reveals the potential victims that Lew Dickey may have his eyes on …

1.  Clear Channel.  Don’t laugh.  Of course, Dickey can’t buy all of Clear Channel but can he buy some of it?  Clear Channel has some new options developing as well to avoid having to sell hundreds of stations to pay debt.  I’ll reveal it here.

2.  CBS.  Les Moonves wanted to sell his smaller markets, but does he want to sell more – maybe to Super Lew?  You may be surprised.

3.  Emmis.  They’re in hot water.  They’ve got some major market stations and now that Tricky Dickey is breaking into big market radio is this deal doable?  I’ll explain.

4.  Saga.  Oh boy!  Another company with no debt.  Dickey likes those well-run companies to counteract his red ink.  Read on.

5.  Greater Media.  Nice size group that gets Dickey closer to being as large as Clear Channel, but there is a little catch and you’ll learn it here.

6.  Bonneville.  Makes sense.  They sold 17 stations to Hubbard.  Slam-dunk?

7.  Entercom.  Stop drooling, Lew.  Entercom bid against Cumulus for Citadel.  I’m not saying Lew is a vindictive guy or anything but wouldn’t this be a great headline in the trades? 

8.  Hubbard.  After all, they just bought 17 Bonneville stations.  I’m giving Bruce Reese and the managers that are moving over to Hubbard with him a heart attack right now because Cumulus fires competent managers.

9.  Cox.  Not possible, right?  After all they don’t like each other.  Right?  So that means Cox is safe, right?

10.  Radio One.  No.  Never!  Here is the one reason Dickey would buy all or part of Radio One.  Maybe?

11.  Regent.  Out of bankruptcy after screwing its original investors – now this is just the kind of scenario that made Lew Dickey go after Citadel.  Possible?  Probable?

If you would like to read this story, have access to my entire archive (over 1,200 pieces) and get the next month of my writing included, click “read more” for your choices. 

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