No Way Radio Has to Have a Zero Growth Year

That’s the prediction from researchers and financial experts who see yet another no growth year ahead for the radio industry.

What they’re saying is no matter what – even if you sell more spots or somehow find a way to monetize digital as a hedge – the outcome will be disappointing.

Among their reasons: digital competitors, radio groups desperate to sell ads that are willing to keep cutting rates and the perception among buyers (mostly young Millennial women who essentially have no relationship with a radio) that the industry is dead on arrival in a digital world.

The signs are not good.

Even groups that want to do good local radio are on a layoff spree and with the two major and largest radio groups teetering on bankruptcy, things look glum.

I don’t know about you, but this sticks in my craw.

Yes, the major consolidators are done, finished – headed for bankruptcy, but everyone else doesn’t have to sit there and share the same fate.

So if you’re like me – mad as hell and not going to take it any more – how DO you succeed in a zero growth business?

Let’s be specific.

I’ve isolated some strategies that can be implemented by any radio station, any format, any market and I’m going to get into this at my Philly conference April 6th.

  • Give your station a Millennial makeover. This isn’t window dressing, it’s a radical makeover, but you know what? Older audiences are going to love these changes, too, if you think you’ve got what it takes to do it. Former Cox and CBS programmer Dan Mason is going to help share the ways you can make 90 million Millennials at least tempted to re-discover radio. You know, they’re fickle and not real wild about current streaming music services. But if we don’t make our stations sound noticeably different, radio will continue not to be an option for this coveted market.
  • Focus on these 6 hours each day to return 50-60% of your profit. Easy to say but what would bring in enough listeners and create enough advertiser interest to get the job done. None of us have the resources these days to spend everywhere. This is where you want to double down for the best results.
  • What to do with 7pm-5am. I can hardly wait to share with you how to give birth to a radio station that could potentially be bigger than the station you’re now programming and do it on off-listening hours.
  • Avoid podcasting. It’s not your friend. Podcasting will not bring in the revenue to make it worthwhile. Even the latest Serial podcasts are laying an egg compared to the first one. Podcasting is for older listeners looking for an alternative to political talk radio. There’s no way to adequately monetize podcasting for radio owners. But there is one thing that podcasters – the good ones – do that can cross over to your station.
  • Digital + radio is not the answer, either. No matter how many times we say it, digital done by radio stations comes out sounding like, well – radio. With salaries being cut, jobs being shared, people being laid off and not enough potential upside to make digital worthwhile, don’t do it. However – this does not mean don’t get into the digital space in a different way. Let me propose a separate business – perfect for a radio station – that will bring you more success than trying to add on digital to radio.
  • Cut spots, raise prices and then re-invent the commercial. It’s easier to just take the stuff agencies give us or our cheapest air talent can produce but that’s not going to get you higher rates. And radio cannot survive as your low cost leader. That’s a loser’s game plan. I’ve done work with young people at the college level under contract with radio groups and it may surprise you to know that they hate commercials EXCEPT for the ones they like. And obviously we don’t do enough of the ones they like. I’ll share.

Sitting back is not the answer.

No business ever grew by getting smaller or ignoring change.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m done letting iHeart, Cumulus and the other consolidators drag down this perfectly good industry.

Let’s innovate with real ideas.

So what I am proposing is about funneling resources to the things that are guaranteed to at least bring in more revenue if not tap into a need that even Millennials have for something new and better.

As a professor at the University of Southern California (music industry) I discovered the secrets of generational media and why understanding a changing audience is everything these days.

We can do this. I promise.

Here are a few other critical issues that we will get to at our April 6th meeting:

  1. What to do with 75 million baby boomers 50-70. That generation is still almost as big as 83 million Millennials. Well, as you’ll see, maybe we don’t have to choose.
  2. Mastering digital as a revenue source not as part of your radio station. I’ll tell you flat out, it’s video, video and more video, but the rules have changed even in the past year.
  3. Gender neutrality. Young girls want to look like boys, dress like boys, wear boy’s clothes and assume “traditional” boy roles. And boys are comfortable reassessing their gender preferences. This is going to have a major impact on what we are and what we say to audiences.
  4. Radio’s most dangerous competitor is user-generated content.  What a concept. Your audience is your new PD. Most stations don’t really get this so they are assuming the traditional role of content creator assuming that audiences are content consumers. More than ever, this is just plain wrong.
  5. Dealing with shortened attention spans requires a major revamping of radio’s format clock, delivery and formatic elements.  This is an audience that doesn’t even listen to songs they like all the way through, how do you work with that. Well, roll up your sleeves.
  6. How radio can be like Netflix and create binge content – that’s right, programming to binge on – for audiences that demand it. This is worth a brainstorm and we’ll do it.  By the way, there are examples of bingeing in radio that date back 50 years ago. That’s right. Radio invented bingeing.
  7. New forms of revenue such as subscriptions and product placement (“mentions”). Yes, subscriptions. Audiences 45 and under gleefully buy apps like it is nothing and most don’t use 25% of them even when they pay. Don’t stick your nose up at the subscription model. It’s money being left on the table as an adjunct to free radio.
  8. Now, does THIS kind of radio sound like a dying business to you?
  9. This event will not be available by stream or video – only live and in person April 6th in Philadelphia.

Sean Hannity and researcher Richard Harker will be there live to discuss disturbing findings about how certain formats are losing the majority of their audience to PPM technology and ways to deal with this inequity. (Harker did a survey for Hannity’s show that will shock when you see how much audience was lost to PPM). And it’s not just talk stations taking a hit.

I can’t wait to share these positive, forward-thinking ideas with you face to face.

I know you’ll take it from there.

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