Say It Ain’t So, Hubbard Going Rogue!

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  • No more Mrs. Nice Gal for Ginny Hubbard Morris.
  • Shocking details on Ginny’s plans to turn what used to be a much-admired group into – well, a mean-spirited consolidator.
  • More bodies will fly – here’s a map of where.
  • Why is Hubbard committing radio’s version of assisted suicide?
  • How far is Ginny prepared to go.
  • She pulled the trigger on Chicago this week, who is next.

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2017 Radio Conference, Philadelphia – April 5.  

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Unexpected Consequences at Beasley

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  • Why Beasley is a bad bet going forward.
  • And why it’s a last ditch destination for people wanting to remain in radio.
  • Three things that will absolutely kill Beasley’s chance of going anywhere unless they are fixed – and so far, nothing going.
  • Princess Caroline’s game of hardball.
  • Rumors that she’s ready to buy more stations.
  • How far she will go to grow Beasley at the expense of sound management.

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2017 Radio Conference, Philadelphia – April 5.

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Breakthrough in Selling Local Radio Ad Revenue

There is one thing that advertisers and their agencies crave.

That they have to pay a premium for.

That’s right, pay more not less.

A major radio group is this close to signing on with an independent company and requiring all their stations to change the way they handle commercial advertising.

And it’s the opposite of programmatic buying.

What can we expect?

And how will this breakthrough in local ad revenue work?

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I want to thank the Philadelphia Broadcast Pioneers Board for the honor of inducting me into the Radio & Television Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Here is a short video of my acceptance speech about radio being the original social medium. Click here.

Fake News

They’re making a big thing about the fake news that has been trying to influence voters on Facebook.

That’s bad enough, but you don’t have to blame only Facebook.

CNN has fake news.

It’s a pee-r factory for Hillary Clinton and us Bernie supporters will never go with them to parts unknown with Anthony Bourdain.

MSNBC is so in the tank for the Democrats that they make Fox News look mainstream.

In fact, is it my imagination or is Fox News moving to the center?

The New York Times publisher all but apologized for their political coverage promising better but the next day it was the same slanted viewpoint in their news coverage.

The Washington Post under Jeff Bezos is great if you’re a 1999 liberal. They are working overtime to report the news from the left and it’s unreadable because you know they wouldn’t go this far to disparage Hillary Clinton had she won.

The Huffington Post is so embarrassing in their coverage of women’s issues and politics that you’d think they were waging gender warfare. And they hate Trump which is fine except don’t go there for real news.

And Drudge is still the aggregator-in-chief or should I say agitator-in-chief who can actually elect a president if he wants to – and he just did. Drudge mostly draws on articles from the right but artfully includes liberal biased newspapers like The New York Times and Washington Post in his mission to destroy the left.

All-news radio is non-existent unless you like garden reports and bullshit that can be wrapped around one of the many commercials they run which is why only real old people listen to all-news.

And the disgrace of all disgraces is the demise or self-immolation of talk radio which seems to have gotten the message from owners that it exists to fill up air time on AM stations only seniors listen to.  

Talk radio hasn’t changed a thing in decades – just like their audience. And you wonder why radio has managed to kill off one of its best formats.

There is only one thing that is real.

One thing that is authentic.

One thing remains untarnished by bias and biased reporting.

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The Market Senses Something Big at Cumulus

Since I reported that Cumulus and/or Lew Dickey could be involved in picking up some CBS Radio stations, their stock has increased by over 40% although it has given back some of the increases.

You’ve got to appreciate how piss poor Cumulus stock had been performing.

Over the last year it was worth a mere quarter and some change.

Then CEO Mary Berner executed (a bad word, sorry) a reverse stock split and the stock price was artificially increased to several dollars.

Until the bottom fell out.

And on November 10th Cumulus was worth a dollar again even after the one for eight reverse split.

Panic set in.

And now, the market – which never lies because greedy bastards are like the canary in the coalmine when it comes to protecting their financial investments --- is speaking to us.

It must be the prospect of buying some CBS stations or Lew Dickey riding to the rescue of the company he tanked.

But that’s not all.

When greedy bastards speak (with their money), Jerry listens.

Something big is up.

Something not already known that investors feel in their greedy little hands.

It could only be one thing.

No, two.

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The CBS Radio IPO

If you think that this is going to be a simple transfer of currently owned stations to an IPO that Les Moonves slapped $1.5 billion of debt on recently, that’s not what I’m hearing.

Mergers and acquisitions specialist Andre Fernandez wasn’t brought in to replace Dan Mason for nothing.

But the most significant thing about the CBS Radio IPO to be known as CBSR is being overlooked.

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How New Part-time Laws Will Affect iHeart, Cumulus

If there has been a boom in radio hiring, it has been by making formerly full-time employees part-time.

And hiring part-timers instead of full-timers after layoffs.

All employers will be subject to the new rules that may act as an incentive to either raise unlivable salaries or get someone else fired.

And all radio companies will be affected however iHeart and Cumulus being the largest employers will potentially be the most destabilizing because of the sheer numbers alone.

And all the other radio groups wind up doing what they do.

For example, the backbone of iHeart are employees making between $23,000 and $51,000 a year and most newsrooms and board ops work well over 40 hours a week.

Could radio employers be adding bodies?

Or find some way around it off the clock?

One of the unintended consequences of conducting so many layoffs was that hourly radio workers racked up too much overtime to pick up the workload.

What to do – fire them, pay a few and fire the others, cut benefits or worse? There are six major changes based on the new law.

The effective date of the part-time employee law is coming up quickly – December 1st.

That’s why it’s urgent to know what radio groups have to do to comply and what they are likely to do because it affects so many of their employees.

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Alpha Revolt

Larry Wilson used to be the bomb.

Bought up all those stations and put them into his Alpha-male company.

Went out of his way to remind us that they are all live and local with autonomy that could only be hoped for at other groups.

And then … well, the wheels came off.

Alpha is no longer the quintessential live and local radio outlet touted.

Suddenly, orders were coming down from on high at corporate.

No choice – just yes, sir!

The natives were getting restless.

All of this because Larry Wilson was hell bent on buying that crappy little radio company known as Digity with only one or two markets that could enhance the company.

But the debt made him act funny.

He dreamed of going public but that ship has sailed.

Now we learn that heavy-handed corporate decisions are being met with such resistance in places that it is tantamount to open revolt.

And then the unthinkable happened.

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The Cumulus/Dickey CBS Radio Merger May Be Back On

CBS Radio’s move to Nashville (home of “Nash”) is very suspicious.

Yesterday it was revealed that this anonymous company has negotiated a favorable new tax deal to move 200 employees to Nashville.

The Nashville Business Journal outed that company as none other than CBS Radio.


CBS – the Tiffany Network people are doing a deal to up and move out of the Big Town for the rolling hills of Tennessee.

Oh boy, would I love to drink that Kool-Aid.

But it all tastes like B.S. to me.

Blah, blah, blah – I know Nashville isn’t New York even if it is a great city.

But CBS Radio isn’t your father’s CBS radio anymore, either.

200 jobs.

An average salary of $48,000 per employee – at least that’s what this secret new entity told the state of Tennessee during tax abatement negotiations.

Who could be THAT cheap?

How about Lew Dickey?

And/or Cumulus.

Who is synonymous with Nashville, none other than the creator of “Nash” itself, Lewis Dickey, Jr and his brother Fredo.

You think I’m kidding?

CBS is ready to launch an IPO or so they want everyone to think.

But they blew their best opportunity to sell the entire group to the one company that needs and wants them – Cumulus (with or without Dickey).  Lew has lost a reported $200 million as his Cumulus shares have declined.

So either CBS has gone nuts or they are setting the table for a December surprise the likes of which will have their employees heading to CVS to buy Depends and shaking up an unstable radio industry.

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Cumulus — Time Running Out

Mary Berner is the best thing that ever happened to Cumulus Media.

Too bad it wasn’t five years ago when she took over from Lew Dickey.

Now, Cumulus is in a bad way – worse than they are letting on and worse than Wall Street cares to admit.

There is a reason why Cumulus is selling for $1.15 a share even after a recent reverse buyback. 

The future is catching up with the present and debt, poor revenue results and middling programming success does not leave the second largest radio group much room to avoid bankruptcy.

Earnings are disappointing with no fix in sight.

And its $2.4 billion debt (second to iHeart’s whopping $20.8 billion) is hardly manageable under current conditions.

Over 50% of their larger PPM markets deliver about 50% of their revenue.

Even an optimist recognizes that impairment charges taken by Cumulus last year that adversely affected their performance are good comps for this year.

Even with Berner firmly in charge after a year, there is one thing that could push the company into bankruptcy.

Only one way to avoid it.

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What the Morning Show of the Future Looks Like

  • A woman personality as the main entertainer and not the sidekick.
  • Less emphasis on outrageous and funny.  Humor will work with the emerging in-demo audience as long as it is not at the expense of another.
  • Commercials that are delivered in a more authentic way.  Not easy because it will require stations to win the confidence of local advertisers to allow their top personality to also show the blemishes on their products or services.  Sponsors may fight it but for the first adopters who trust you with this plan, their response rate to advertising will rise dramatically.
  • No traffic reports.  Research shows more than 50% of morning show audiences do not listen to radio for traffic choosing Waze, Google Traffic and emerging services like TrafficCarma instead.  We know why stations run traffic – compensation.  But audiences are turned off.  Do deals with Uber and Lyft.
  • A consumer feature that helps listeners deal with their problems.  A place for them to turn when they have been ripped off or misled.  This feature can build strong loyalty – a station that will fight for them.
  • A contest that is fun to play because it bridges some listeners with other listeners – dare I say, radio returns to being the original social media.  And we’ve been looking in the wrong place to Facebook all these years!
  • Weather like real people actually do it:  “cold outside”, “a blizzard is coming”.  Most people have weather apps on their phones and the importance of weather as a major ingredient in morning shows for in-demo audiences has moved down their list of priorities.  Change the way you do it.
  • Music, maybe.  Conversation, definitely.  In-demo audiences now want conversations.  They know where to get music (and often it’s not on the radio).  Howard Stern has had a million careers morphing into many different people – talking all the way without music.  But if music is included, wake up to discovery not repetition.

Let’s get into this and complete the list of what the morning show of the future looks like at my next executive briefing.

2017 Radio Solutions Conference

Misreading Millennial Audiences

It doesn’t seem like the media are learning its lessons from writing off Bernie Sanders and Trump for their favored candidate, Hillary Clinton.

New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. sent an apology letter to subscribers and vowed fairer reporting.

But go to the site and see if anything has changed.

Same with cable news.

This is a wake up call that the news media are not getting but I believe radio executives should get.

Radio needs to spend some time learning about an audience that has always made them uneasy – 86 million Millennials between 18-34.  

  • Is there any kind of radio that Millennials will listen to – and let’s be honest here?  I can name several things.
  • How to deal with their shorter attention spans while still appealing to older Gen X and possibility younger baby boomers.  Actually, there is a path that will not offend current listeners.
  • Music repetition is a problem and PPM is helping to blindside otherwise very smart radio people.  Here’s a workaround that deserves discussion:  Millennials love playlists – just not station playlists.  I can imagine a brilliant purveyor of music such as Michael Tearson, John Sebastian or young Dan Mason creating addictive, personal playlists.  After all, look at the inroads streaming music service Spotify has made in offering and helping subscribers create playlists.  Radio PDs don’t want to give up all that control, but I’ll bet you’d love some creative ideas in this area.
  • Millennials despise rules and what are radio station formats – a bunch of rules.  Without opting for total chaos or disorganization, an alternative throws out the rulebook and replaces it with the one thing 18-34 Millennials are addicted to.

More at my April radio executive briefing.

2017 Radio Conference

The CBS – Radiate Traffic Mess

The traffic business is becoming a joke.  It now exists for radio stations to gain compensation because listeners are turning elsewhere for traffic information in “yuge” numbers (I include startling research on that today).  Imagine a business where listeners want out, advertisers are more cautious and owners and traffic providers seemingly have their heads up their butts.  I wanted to know why.  Here’s what I found. -- Jerry

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The Demise of ESPN

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Expanding Radio Ownership Limits

  • With a President Trump, is it possible that ownership limits for radio groups will be expanded?
  • And what will that look like?
  • Will owning more stations help save the radio industry?
  • Are Entercom, Beasley, Hubbard and a handful of other groups that need to grow or go be in any position to take on more debt.
  • Is more consolidation the lifeline that the fledgling CBS Radio IPO needs?
  • The potential effect on employees.
  • The over/under on whether limits will be increased under Trump.

Read the full article now.

Deciphering Radio’s Audience

In the presidential election, everyone but USC/LA Times and Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) Poll got it wrong.

The media were wrong.

CNN, MSNBC – even Fox looked surprised as the night wore on.

The pundits were wrong.

The data itself was wrong.

Freakin’ Nate Silver was wrong (again) as was The New York Times Upshot among other polls.

Every single source pointed to Donald Trump as having an impossible path compared to Hillary Clinton to win the election.

All of which should concern the radio industry after yesterday’s admission by Nielsen that 8% of their PPM devices in 48 markets lost connectivity and were rendered inactive during one week of the monthly survey.

Never mind why (unless you are actually paying for this stuff), but it shows how perfectly good radio people seem to be making the same mistakes that caused the election to be called wrong.

This has riveted my attention to a big problem in radio which is that we no longer listen to our gut.

We are getting our audience all wrong.

Anyone with Millennial children knows that they don’t listen to radio, but Erica Farber says they do and so be it. Case closed.

Every good program director knows that if you don’t play the same hits over and over again then your ratings will go down (you know, the ones Nielsen calls estimates and says are not accurate).

Yet 86 million Millennials would beg to differ with the esteemed radio PDs by saying they want music discovery not the same old songs over and over.

Radio says, play the right song and they will listen.

But observe the audience and you’ll see that they don’t listen to many songs all the way through.

Radio says our data shows that if you squeeze commercials in one or two times an hour between x and y on the clock that it will be accretive to PPM ratings.

But true observers of audiences will note that no one stays around for commercials, the things that pay the bills.

Radio has formats with specific events and cues at certain times each hour because that’s how we’ve always done it, but in-demo audiences – the ones radio really needs – don’t like rules.

Our gut knows how to break the rules.

We are the best at adapting to the needs of audiences but not when we are relying on old wives tales of programmers, questionable data, research companies that are way past their prime and out of touch programmers and consultants.

So this is an invitation to you to find a way to be in Philadelphia April 5, 2017 to redefine the way we look at audiences.

That’s when we will learn to listen to our gut again.

And burn the rulebook!

The program and the lowest price that will ever be offered are here.

Turbulence Ahead For Hubbard

  • Lots of concerns that another outstanding radio group may be adopting the playbook of the Evil Empire.
  • The feared changes that could rock Hubbard.
  • A rising star who is rumored to be in waiting for more power.
  • One high profile exec who may be on the Hubbard hot seat.
  • 10 troubling things that sure paint a different picture of this downhome, great place to work radio group.

Read the full article now.

The Winners of the Media Election

  • As ugly as this election was for politics and the country, there is one clear winner in the media space.
  • You’ll NEVER guess. If you do I want you to let me know here.
  • Grading newspapers, cable news and social media.
  • The truth about talk radio in this election cycle.
  • The surprising consensus on Fox News.
  • Why the powerful east coast newspapers are beginning significant post election layoffs.

Read the full article now.

How Lew Dickey Blew The CBS Merger

  • Now it can be told and it is ugly.
  • Believe it or not, WW1 is involved.
  • The strategy Lew Dickey used after he got this close to buying CBS Radio that backfired on him.
  • The haircut Lew tried to give Les Moonves.
  • How this cost Lew his job and the company its future.
  • What’s the one thing no one does to Les Moonves – well, Dickey did it.
  • The biggest, baddest hair-brained idea that ever came from a Stanford grad.
  • How Cumulus tried to save the deal after Dickey was fired.

Read the full article now.


Invasion of the Radio Traffic Snatchers

  • Global Traffic Network (GTN) is buying Radiate and contracts to compete with iHeart’s Total Traffic – but is there more?
  • The three previously unexpected options that could upend the radio traffic reporting business as we know it.
  • Could Total Traffic be in play?
  • Why it’s going to take more than traffic for GTN to add the U.S. to their media dominance in Australia, Canada and Brazil.
  • A seismic redistribution of radio media assets could be brewing that changes everything.

Read the full article now.

What’s Really Wrong With Cumulus

  • If I told you that Cumulus is rolling in dough, would you accuse me of being a happy talk radio trade publication?  Wait until you hear this then go ask for a raise.
  • The two things that could bring the company down if not fixed now.
  • How Hubbard and Alpha are acting more like the old Cumulus – sorry to say.
  • The radio groups that have gone negative on their own radio industry.
  • How advertisers and agencies are now dictating the future of Cumulus (and iHeart and CBS).
  • Okay, let’s just put it out there. Does the massive Cumulus stock slide mean the market is anticipating something bad?

Read the full article now.

How Beasley Plans to Extract Cost Synergies

  • What’s really next after the gutting of Philly and Detroit.
  • The latest list of likely cutbacks – as you’ll see, the Beasley’s are thinking big here.
  • Too many Beasley’s?  Why there is increasing discomfort about another Dickey-like radio dynasty taking shape.
  • How new CEO Caroline Beasley is scaring the s@#t out of people in her first week on the job.
  • John Fullam and Steve Chessare – what really happened.

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iHeart’s Prepackaged Breakup

  • How far iHeart may be willing to go to raise money to pay down debt.
  • What bankers are reportedly talking about right now that would make iHeart selling stations be seen as a positive.
  • Junk or big billing stations?
  • Competitor’s salivating – but iHeart has a plan to keep them from hurting their remaining cluster.
  • How some last minute shock sales ahead of CBS Radio’s IPO actually helps iHeart’s plan.
  • The kind of person who could take the stations iHeart is willing to move and put them in a trust until buyers can be found. How about this guy?

Read the full article now.