The average radio station is poised to close out the year down 1-5% from 2015 unless they can hyper focus on three of four bright spots that have been recently identified and confirmed.
Millennials (18-34) are likely to continue to shun FM radio unless stations undergo a Millennial radio makeover, a total disruption of what their stations sound like.
The biggest audience threat in the year ahead is from user-generated content not a radio competitor.
The biggest threat to local sales revenue is large radio groups giving away free spots and dropping rates drastically in order to win the large part of the buy from competitors – but there are at least two solid ways to earn a premium for ads while competitors race to the bottom.
A recession is more likely by the end of the year or early 2017, which would accelerate the bankruptcy of iHeart and Cumulus that would upend the entire business – a contingency plan if you compete against these companies should be prepared.
Morning drive shows will have to be reinvented and surprisingly, some popular current features dropped if they are to account for 50-60% of a stations profit – which they should.
The off hours of 7pm-5am now take on new importance – a “mini” radio station is a pathway to turning dead time into needed sources of revenue.
So what’s hot? Gender neutrality among young audiences that will force the radio industry to change the way it looks, sounds and talks to audience. Short form video as a replacement for the digital projects (websites, audio, apps) that stations consider digital media. New forms of revenue generation, including subscription based products.
And what’s not hot? Podcasting. Podcasting is a popular replacement for politically based talk radio that appeals to older listeners but it is not monetizable and diverts listening from radio. But some of the appeal of non-broadcast podcasting can be captured for a new generation of talk radio stations.
The popularity of binge TV viewing (via Netflix, et al) is causing radio stations to consider adapting bingeing to broadcast radio. Long form, continuous, special programming. You can create binge content that is impossible to tune out and get a premium for ads in it.
Digital is taking on a new meaning for radio stations. The Townsquare model of using air personalities to also produce video, audio and text for sale with broadcast is fading. Digital, separate and apart from what stations are putting on the air, is a better path to additional cash flow.
18-34 year olds hate commercials, right? But there is new antidotal evidence that there is one kind of radio commercial so compelling that even short attention span Millennials cannot resist. No radio station is producing such a commercial, but this will change.
There are still 75 million baby boomers, but they are becoming less interested in radio listening because station owners have been happy to run the same types of formats without innovation in music, personalities or service. In other words, to keep the massive 50-70 year old market, it will require the same type of reinvention that stations must face to attract Millennials 18-34. Note that there are several new options under consideration.
If stations could do only one thing to bring quick revenue into their stations before the end of what will be a challenging year, it would be to master video. There is money in video right now without adding additional expense. Product placement is the secret.
You are invited to take advantage of a special reduced introductory offer to attend my annual New Radio Conference April 6th in Philadelphia where these issues and others will be explored.
Trustworthy advice to help radio stations survive the tough year ahead and thrive on new innovations, marketing opportunities and related businesses.
Sean Hannity, Richard Harker & former Cox and CBS programmer Dan Mason will help lead the discussion.
April 6, 2016, Philadelphia for the New Radio Conference in Philly.
Research nearby, value-priced hotels near the conference center here.