Can David Field Reverse This Trend?


It was perfect timing. On Monday, Entercom CEO David Field launched a pro-radio marketing campaign in several publications read by big advertisers, hoping to start the conversation that leads to more money flowing to radio. Today, BIA Kelsey released its local advertising projections for 2018 and, despite a whopping 5.2 percent increase in local advertising spend, from $140.9 billion in 2017 to $151.2 billion in 2018, they are predicting a decline for radio.

Will David Field be the lone wolf publicly pushing radio’s strengths to big advertisers? Or will others join him in the battle to take revenue back from fraud-filled digital and away from the cord-cutting TV market? Time will tell, and we now have a revenue marker in the sand if the BIA numbers are correct.

BIA/Kelsey is forecasting a total local advertising revenue pie of $151.2 billion in 2018. That’s up 5.2 percent from $140.9 billion this year. If that number holds up, it will be the largest annual increase in five years. The company says traditional media will get 64.7 percent of that total and digital will snatch up 35.3 percent.

Political will be a big reason the revenue jumps so much next year. BIA/Kelsey Chief Economist Mark Fratrik says, “The strong economy and the expectation of highly competitive statewide political races next year reinforce our outlook that local advertising revenue will show strong growth in 2018. Combine these factors with the continued strength of traditional and online media and the revenue landscape for next year looks robust.”

So who will get what? Here’s a look through the BIA/Kelsey crystal ball:

#1) Direct Mail preserves its lead position with a 25.4 percent ($38.5 billion) slice of the local advertising pie.
#2) Local Television will get the second-largest chunk at 13.8 percent ($20.8 billion). It will continue to be the largest player (more than 60 percent) in the local video-advertising market. Revenue growth within the total local video advertising segment will come from local mobile video (growing to more than $1 billion) and local online video (increasing to more than $2 billion).
#3) Mobile takes over third, representing 12.6 percent of local advertising spend in 2018 and BIA says that will grow to 19.2 percent by 2022. More specifically, the adoption of mobile local advertising tactics (geo-fencing, click-to-call, and click-to-map) continues to grow among national advertisers that tend to gravitate toward effective, increasingly available, and currently undervalued mobile local ad inventory. The forecast also projects significant ad spending in native social advertising next year due to its ability to target and reach local consumers. Social media ad revenues from mobile (not including tablets) now represent about 71 percent of total social ad spending and will grow to nearly 80 percent by 2022 as more of the user activity shifts away from desktops.
#4) Radio gets 10.4 percent of the total in 2018 or $15.7 billion — 9.4 percent will be over-the-air and 1 percent from online.
#5) Newspapers are a close fifth at 10.2 percent or $15.4b.

In 2017 BIA/Kelsey says radio will finish with $15.5 billion, $14.1 billion from over-the-air and $1.3 billion online.

And in 2022, BIA/Kelsey is projecting radio will increase to $16.7 billion, $14.6 over-the-air and $2.1 billion online. That will still be only 9.6 percent of the total local advertising pie in 2022, a smaller percentage than radio will finish with in 2017 and is projected to finish with in 2018.

Mark Fratrik says 2017 was a year of basically no growth in radio over-the-air advertising, with future years also only showing small increases of less than 1 percent annually. “Increased streaming audio competitors and increased competitors for advertisers has basically kept the over-the-air advertising stagnant, with online efforts by stations continuing to help support a slight overall revenue growth.

“Many radio groups are continuing their efforts in online activities which bolster the overall revenue of these stations, as station operators recognize that future revenue growth must come from these sources.”


  1. David Fields, and all industry colleagues, the answer is simple: give advertisers what they’ve told us they want for decades, and what most of the industry refuses to do (despite being proven to generate more dollars per hour of prospecting, preparing, presenting and closing): 52 weeks of documented sales results, every penny being directly attributable to their radio buy.

    How? Having walked the talk on this – in and out of radio sales and ownership – turning seven figure results a number of ways, proven time and again, I don’t give a rip. You don’t need me to do it for you, you can do it yourself. However, I’m happy to pay it forward and share how it’s done – in generating from $2MM from a small market of 7,500 to $114MM in advertiser sales results from a market of 200,000, the money’s there.

    There’s million dollar bills lying all over the streets of the USA and Canada – all that’s needed is someone to pick them up.

    • By the way, Radio Ink, what could be done to have an edit button and a notification that someone else has also replied to the same article? I added an “s” to David’s last name, and the edit feature would be most appreciated – so would my being responsible enough to proof-read a third time before posting! 🙂

  2. So, John Williams, why exactly are you here? Do you troll trade organization websites to make statements of doom as a hobby?

    Having worked in radio all of my adult life, and having the perspective of working in other tech industries in parallel, it is easy to see the gloomy aspects of our industry. Sadly, many are self inflicted and converging at the exact time we desperately need to be hitting all of the basics perfectly every day while actively investing and creating products for our future. The self inflicted harms include over borrowing to achieve unreasonable station counts, and reducing the product when the frightful post-1996 investment strategies cratered on schedule. We have been writing our own epitaph for 20 years, as you so aptly reference on the “demand” side. It’s time to erase that epitaph, dust ourselves off and get to work. We have plenty.

    Despite your dour predictions, the vast majority of the population consumes local radio every week. Yes, the station:ad dollar ratio is troublesome, however water finds its own level and well produced broadcast products tailored to their respective marketplaces tend to succeed despite the turmoil.

    We, as an industry, are running away from the opportunities this generational change presents for us. Radio is nothing more than a method of one-to-many delivery of an audio signal – a single “stream” per station. We have been upended by the democratization of audio delivery, but so has television with video. There is no reason radio cannot produce and deliver mobile video, and no reason whatsoever we cannot build platforms which reach into where real money is made: social interaction and search. Similarly, there is zero reason why radio cannot participate in comprehensive direct mail products. There is also no reason we cannot build these tools ourselves.

    Radio is most certainly not “a dying medium.” Broadcast ownership must integrate the radio product into a full circle multimedia effort in each market. Am I dreaming or intoxicated? No, I am rather reasonable and sober.

    This is the time for radio operators to take a strong look, again, at the two parties who pay our salaries: Listeners and advertisers.

    When is the last time we seriously studied our audience and spoke to them about our product? When is the last time we involved our target audiences with the creation of our product? When is the last time we worked to innovate new methods to connect our listeners with advertisers, or considered digital initiatives built from within rather than exporting the task to a third party vendor we cannot control?

    These are my frustrations as I watch this story play out.

    Somehow, radio stations have inoculated themselves against having to stoop to the same necessary tasks of product development, testing, research, review and innovation as is required of virtually every other industry. We see limited music testing and tired “Success since the 80’s” consultancies as the limits of our pre-game while we wait on the Nielsens and hope for the best.

    Radio is not dying. The method of station operation itself is deadly, and we cannot blame our medium while we feel excused from the R&D necessities of virtually every other business.

    I dream of cross-competitor roundtables where we Manhattan Project the future of our industry and set aside our differences for the good of our medium. Instead, we get the same trade shows with the same sponsors and the same few marquee personalities rattling off clever hipsterisms and rah rah platitudes – none of it moving the sales needles back home.

    As far as I’m concerned, the jukebox stations operated from 1000 miles away from Anytown can all walk the planks they are handcrafting.

    A successful local radio group must be the intersection of the marketplace, with its tentacles firmly around a catalog of in-house products which demand the attention of every local business. There is no reason why a local station group cannot bolster well produced on-air product with direct mail and video content, tying it together with easily accessible digital platforms that station owns or flat fee licenses.

    Activity breeds activity, so they say. As many in our industry remove the activity, local product and surface area which was the hallmark of local radio, we can predict the decline will continue.

    When local groups decide they want to operate broad media platforms which require risk, testing, some investment and actual audience/advertiser participation, success will be far more likely as wagons are properly circled rather than pushed into the river.

    And what sits at the center of a well oiled local media powerhouse, ready to serve businesses large and small with a strong platform of profitable products?

    The strong, locally driven station which invests in itself. Pick any format you like.

    The biggest lesson radio stations can learn is who the competitor actually is. We are so infused with the concept that (x)-owned stations are the enemy of (y)-owned stations, that we’ve never considered working together on projects which would raise the tide of all our boats. Every time I say that, people look at me as though I’d just taken a massive dose of narcotics. Yet, all radio stations are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – the very platforms which are direct competitors. So who is on drugs? Giving away content and empowering direct competition is how we desperately cling to relevancy?

    Don’t tell me radio “is dying”. Much like healthcare, we need a top-down reorganization of how we do business and how we craft our complete plans for connecting consumers and products. Radio is the key to that plan, however it is no longer sufficient to stand alone without supporting products we also control.

    Now I’m just a little guy in a medium market who loves this industry, and my job. This industry helped me raise four incredible kids, and somehow they all ate food and lived to adulthood. Yet, working in tech development and biotech alongside radio for the past decade – I see we need to adopt the very practices which are absolute requisites nearly everywhere else.

    Radio is alive, wanting and deserving to grow. We simply need to make it happen, and not by rearranging hot clocks or adding two minutes to each stopset.

    If you want to predict the death of radio, there’s a crowd of your peers ready to cry with you. That’s not an innovative stance and I’d rather hear your solutions.

  3. Who, I wonder, is trying to convince whom of what, specifically?
    As radio stations continue to squabble over the scraps that remain in advertising budgets, people working with other platforms are constantly taking advantage of market perceptions that are still not based on much reality.
    Even the advantage of its significant reach has not been enough to steer budgets back to the medium.
    “Telling that story”seems to have failed – fabulously.
    The prospects that radio refuses to address are: The need and responsibility to make radio more appealing to audiences and, as importantly, the requirement for for radio to make its advertising products more effective.
    Anything less is akin to barking at passing traffic – an extremely tiring and strenuous exercise that has been delivering miniscule results.
    This is an ape-snake crazy position to, not only hold, but to knowingly perpetuate – as if there were better results about to be provided.

  4. This guy is Delirious..Radio is a dying medium..Too many stations not enough $$$..and the total inability to drive people to Digital platforms for results…Simple Economic Lesson …Too much Supply and not enough Demand..and there will NEVER be enough demand with all the competition..Satellite/Streaming etc..


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here