Ron Stone is the President and CEO of the Adams Radio Group. Adams now has 22 signals in four markets — Fort Wayne, Northwest Indiana, Salisbury/Ocean City, and Las Cruces, NM. The company started in 2013. Stone was CFO for the old Adams Radio Group, for Steve Adams, back in the 80s and 90s. Everybody went their separate ways after consolidation. One day in 2013, Ron picked up the phone, called Steve, and said, “The multiples look pretty attractive, why don’t we get back in?” They bought Las Cruces in 2013, and then Fort Wayne and Northern Indiana the following summer. Stone is part of the upcoming Independent Warrior Special Report in the May 23 issue of Radio Ink magazine. As part of that report, we asked every one of the independent operators we interviewed what they would like to see radio do better, to make it stronger. Here’s what Ron Stone had to say….
RI: What would you like to see radio do better as an industry?
Stone: One of the things that I’ve noticed the most, especially like at the NAB, in fact, I got really frustrated a couple of years ago at the NAB because it was almost like there was nothing being talked about, about radio. Everything was digital. Every single conversation was digital. I remember going to one of the bigger lunches and they had a panel up on the stage, and I went in there thinking, “Wow I’m going to hear some real insights from these industry leaders about where our industry is going.” And, after about 30 minutes of hearing non-stop digital conversation, I got up and walked out. I thought, you know what, this isn’t helping me. Even if I’m doing all the digital in the world, 90% of my business is still going to be traditional radio. Talk to me about that. Talk to me about how we can use our radio stations to better serve our communities, to better serve the charities in our communities. Because on the boards of those charities are business people that also spend money in advertising. When we help them, it comes back to us. Talk to me about that, how we can do that better. Talk to me about how I can use assets in Fort Wayne better and utilize those assets that maybe will help me in Las Cruces. Talk to me about how I can work within my own company structure to make radio better. I think that’s our biggest issue right now, is we are all too caught up — not that we should ignore it — but we are so caught up in the new shiny objects that I think we are forgetting, in a large way, what radio is about, has always been about, and will always be about.
I said this to somebody the other day. We were having a conversation and this was someone that was… I don’t know if they were just testing me or they really believed this, but they said, “Radio is pretty much a thing of the past. I don’t know how you guys are going to have a future.” I said, “Well, I will tell you the easiest way I could prove to you that you’re wrong. If a tornado or a hurricane came through your community and ripped it apart and all the cell towers were down, here’s what would happen first: even if the radio station somehow went off the air, they would get a generator in there, they would get back on the air. If their tower came down, they would find a tall building to put a temporary antenna on. Within 24-36 hours, your radio station would be operational again. And you would have a staff that would be committed to making sure that all the information that you need to be safe, you and your family, what you need to do to get fresh water, food, all of that information would be broadcast on your live radio stations. You wouldn’t be getting that information from the Internet. You wouldn’t be getting it from your desktop. You wouldn’t be getting it from your mobile device. You would be doing everything you could to find a transistor radio that you could turn on with a battery and be able to listen to what we’re telling you, because that’s what is going to keep you safe. And that’s not going to change no matter what comes out. That’s not going to change. Our ability to do that, our ability to move quickly and mobilize and make sure that a community is safe — nobody does it better. This person had zero comeback at that point. They had nothing to go on.