(By Barry Cohen) The laws of the universe are cyclical. Everything that goes around comes around. In January of 2000, when everyone was worried about the Y2K millennium bug, I wrote an unpublished article on the past, present, and future of radio. In 2005, as a panelist at the Mid-Year Radio Symposium, I reiterated my prediction publicly. It resulted in a flurry of investors cornering me in the hallway afterward, asking if they should pull out of radio. My answer was, “No, just invest in the smaller, nimbler groups.” So what was my prediction?
I said then — and I stand by it now — that the super groups would collapse under their own weight. Or rather, the weight of their own debt.
Here are my 10 predictions:
- Breakup and makeup. The largest broadcast group owners will sell off properties in an effort to meet their debt service. As a result, smaller groups will snap up properties. The impact on sales will mean less pressure to meet over-the-top debt service. Hence, a return to not only live and local programming, but live and local selling with realistic pricing for Main Street businesses.
- Relationship selling. Outside of the top 20 markets, local selling will also mean less reliance on transactional business. Sellers will rely on creativity and producing results — the keys to the kingdom with direct business.
- Rate cooling. In the top markets, pressure from competitive media will result in cooling off the rate spiraling that the super groups depended on to meet their debt service.
- Total integration. The savvy players in the industry will get that they are not in the radio business. They are in the business of providing unique, original, and compelling content across platforms, on demand. They will be selling access to their loyal communities — on-air, online, and on-site.
- Getting respect. As broadcast media companies adopt full integration, they will become perceived as viable players and will garner a larger share of the revenue pie (finally).
- Attracting talent. As broadcast media companies adopt full integration, they will also attract younger, bright sales talent who will embrace their mission.
- Socially acceptable. The new movement among broadcast media companies to fully integrate will also result in the audience sharing their content more fully — including their personal involvement with the personalities and the programs. More views and listens will generate better results and hence, more repeat advertisers.
- More revenue streams. While we are predicting lower rates, the broadcasters will offset this trend by multiplying their revenue streams.
- More empowerment. With the breakup of the super groups, sales managers will have more autonomy at the local level, enabling them to react more quickly and not miss opportunities.
- Leaner, not meaner. Sales staffs will become leaner as a result of their training as integrated sellers. This will result in friendlier work environments and happier people able to earn more money.
There you have it. Let’s bury this in a speaker cabinet and treat it like a time capsule. If I’m still alive in 25, we’ll open it and see whether I nailed it or not.
Barry Cohen is the managing member of AdLab Media Communications, LLC of Fairfield, NJ. He has been a suburban and major market radio salesperson, a station manager, a Mid-Year Radio Symposium panelist, and an RAB workshop and webinar presenter. Contact him at [email protected]