By Radio Ink Publisher and Chairman Eric Rhoads
Years ago, watching protests in the streets, it became clear to me that immigration was going to become one of the biggest issues in America. It was clear that the demographics of America were changing, and that the Hispanic population in America was booming. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that this growth should bring good times for Hispanic-formatted radio stations. My assumption was that those who owned or operated Hispanic radio stations would have a huge boom and reap considerable revenues.
But the problems that plagued the Hispanic radio industry were deep. There was, in my opinion, an “every man for himself” mentality. But it was my belief that if we could get that part of the industry working together, we could move the needle for Hispanic radio.
At the very first Hispanic Radio Conference, we accomplished something that had never been accomplished in the history of broadcasting: We got all the Hispanic radio group heads together at the same table and got them to commit to working together to build the industry.
I believe that Hispanic radio, working in concert, could grow much like Country radio grew when that part of the industry started working together for a common purpose. That unity is why the Country format is so strong today.
Though we have accomplished many milestones, I cannot say that the dream has been realized. In spite of the growth of listenership, in spite of the massive demographic surge, there are still “no Hispanic” dictates at some major advertisers. There are still major advertisers who believe that the Hispanic population is made up of yard guys and cleaning ladies who are sending all their money back home. Even though the real demographics prove otherwise.
I’ve been criticized for putting this conference together by those who feel unity in Hispanic radio is not possible. Frankly, a conference like this needs to be a huge financial success in order to sustain it. That has not been the case, but we’ve continued it anyway, because we believe in its purpose. Radio companies are faced with hard times, and some fail to support us in spite of what we are trying to do for them. Clearly they don’t see that the problems are too big to fix on their own and that unity is necessary.
A lot can be accomplished with a unified message about U.S. Hispanic demographics. What if there were a presentation that all sellers could use when presenting this audience, one that tells a unified story? What if there were training for all sellers about how to present the audience so that all advertisers would get a consistent message? Though each company has to compete for its piece of the pie, if radio truly wants buyers to understand the power of Hispanic radio, they would support this conference, would send people, and would find ways to work together. We’re merely a conduit, and we know that without us, there is a strong chance this would not happen.
Though we are seeing unity beginning and we’re seeing support from many who want to grow the sector and educate their people for the best possible chance of success, there are those whose absence makes a very loud statement. This is alarming and, frankly, not encouraging for the future of the sector.
Country radio gets it. They got all the labels, the stations, the agents, the managers, and all the players together, they built a 20-year plan and executed it, and today they are reaping the benefits. They’ve overcome the perception that Country radio listeners were hillbillies with green teeth and no spending power. Hispanic radio has not fully overcome the misperceptions that advertisers are clinging to, and many within this industry continue to repeat the same approaches that haven’t worked in the past.
Hispanic radio will make better progress with full unity. Though many are benefiting, the reality is that the sector as a whole needs every player, big and small, to work together. Without that, the massive change and growth I believe are possible will not occur. Frankly, I would have hoped for more progress by now.