Succeeding in Radio in a Zero Growth Industry

Our old friend Tom Taylor did a piece yesterday in Now on “Hoping for ‘flat’ in 2016” adding to the credible sources that are coming around to believe that being good is not just going to be good enough.

Putting the consolidators who are staring down bankruptcy aside, there are a lot of good operators being forced to sell in markets where rates have been driven down by desperate stations.

And even the good radio companies are uncharacteristically laying off – Emmis, for example handed out 32 pink slips.

All of this begs the question, how DO you succeed in a zero growth business?

I’ve isolated some specific 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 is not difficult if you have an open mind but a warning – your radio station is going to sound real different. And that’s a good thing.
  • 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.
  • What to do with 7pm-5am. If I told you you could start a new radio station somewhere in that time period and nurture it until it is ready to fly on its own, would you believe me? How about if we talk about one station that actually did this and started a new franchise – in off-hours, yet?
  • Avoid podcasting. It’s not your friend. Will not make money to make it worthwhile. Even the latest Serial is 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.
  • Ditto with digital. No matter how many times we say it, digital by radio stations comes out sounding like, well – radio. With salaries being cut, jobs being shared, people be 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. We’ll talk more about this.
  • 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 and it may surprise you to know that they hate commercials – wait, wait – except the ones they like. And obviously we don’t do the things they like. So let’s learn.

Sitting back is not the answer.

No business ever grew by getting smaller.

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.

They’re already not satisfied with streaming music services but they don’t like the way we do music either. You know by now that as a professor at the University of Southern California (music industry) I discovered the secrets of generational media.

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, it has been done – 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.

Now, does THIS sound like a dying business to you?

This event will not be available by stream or video – only live and in person.

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.

And former Cox and CBS programmer Dan Mason will help with the Millennial Radio Makeover – useful ideas that can transform your station from the past to the future.

I can’t wait to continue the conversation with you face to face.

Reserve a Seat

Inquire about group rates

If you’d like to stay close to the Hub Conference Center, find nearby hotels here.