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Small Market GM Argues Peter Smyth is Wrong!

We received a lot of feedback after posting Greater Media CEO Peter Smyth's "corner office" memo Tuesday morning. There seems to be a consensus from smaller market operators and single operators that things aren't as bad as the big guys make it sound. In fact, some of the feedback accused us of giving the big guys too big a bullhorn to whine about life too much. Oberlin Ohio General Manager Doug Wilber had a lot to say.

Dear Ed:
 
I read your piece on Peter Smyth sounding cautiously optimistic and I wondered why is he only "cautiously optimistic"?  I'm wildly enthusiastic and optimistic about our future.  My wife and I own two radio stations, both AMs non-the-less.  Our studios are located in Oberlin Ohio, 25 miles west of Cleveland.  One station is 1000 Watts and highly directional, the other is 500 watts non-directional but with 57 watts night-time power.  We serve Lorain County, a market of about 300,000, many unemployed.  It would be hard to find a market in rougher shape than ours.  But I tell our staff all the time...We're in the Sweet Spot.
 
How can that be?  I'm 53 years old and this is the first time I actually see advertising and marketing budgets with money available for reallocation.  We have two daily newspapers in our community, three if you include the Cleveland paper which has good circulation in our market.  Many advertisers have drastically reduced their newspaper budgets because readership is a fraction of what it used to be.  Yellow Pages?  Ask a teenager (or anyone for that matter) when they last used one and the answer is likely, "I don't remember" or "never".  When was the last time you saw a new billboard going up?  Cable TV? Ask any group of people in a room who has cable and who has satellite and it's likely to be 50/50.  And you can't advertise on satellite.  Sure the Internet is taking some of those marketing dollars but radio works so well with the Internet it's almost like we invented it to advance our industry.  I can't tell you how many people I know who listen to the radio while they're working at their computer.  We make our advertiser's websites a fundamental part of every ad so if our listeners are interested they can visit the advertiser's website before the commercial is even over.  So for the first time in my career there are advertisers out there who realize they need us (radio) to reach their local markets and customers. But our success is more than that.
 
I have a staff of about 30, 13 full-timers and the rest part-time.  We do not air a syndicated program and we don't automate except late at night.  Otherwise, we're "local & live".  Most of my full-timers have been here more than 10 years and I've got six who have been with me almost 20 years.  It's a great staff.
 
We do local news with a news staff of three.  We do local sports and high school and college play-by-play.  We do remote broadcasts almost daily.  We do a lot (and I mean a lot) of community and public service.  In fact, just about one of every three ads is a PSA.  (Is that crazy or just good business?)
 
I've never had the luxury of selling with ratings, we've always had to prove our worth to our advertisers.  We have ad packages we call "Teach and Remind" schedules that are designed to be used for a minimum of six months.  For the most part they're sold that way.  We do sell smaller packages geared around contests and promotions and the holidays or special events to give retailers the opportunity to bump up their schedule and for some "in-store excitement" but they're not the bulk of our sales.  We work hard to write good copy and get our advertisers involved by having them voice their ads.  We have eight salespeople, some full-time, some part-time.  And right now, there's so much new business out there my main frustration is we can't get to it all.
 
One of our stations is coming up on its 40th anniversary (it's been Country the entire time) and the other its 10th anniversary (nine of those years as an Oldies format).  We're celebrating by running a contest to give away a restored 1966 Mustang.  People (and advertisers) are loving it.
 
So Ed, if we can do what we do with two small AMs in the middle of a congested and depressed market, I have to believe anyone can do it.  We need to stop complaining about everything that's bad and unfair and get back to taking care of the people we work with, our listeners, our advertisers and our community.  I've found it doesn't matter if we're AM or FM as long as we deliver a service people want that's different than what's available on the Internet or from satellite.  Ours is a fun business where we get to combine entertainment and community service so when we go home at the end of the day, chances are we've helped a few people and entertained many...How great is that!?
 
Doug Wilber
WOBL Radio, Inc.
WDLW Radio, Inc.
Oberlin, OH




(11/18/2013 10:58:14 PM)
vsye5J Great blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Fantastic.

- NY
(10/26/2013 4:03:45 AM)
iq2CLR Thanks so much for the blog. Great.

- NY
(9/13/2013 3:13:24 AM)
BeeRTy Major thankies for the blog article. Much obliged.

- NY
(9/6/2013 6:57:53 AM)
fORFRq Great, thanks for sharing this article. Much obliged.

- NY
(2/27/2011 3:53:36 AM)
Good Job Doug!!

- ann

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