It’s Time For Radio To Punch Above Its Weight


(By Wayne Ens) Wow! I was impressed on three fronts as I read the Radio Ink story about David Field “putting his money where his mouth is.” First, while other broadcasters are looking at ways to cut their way to success, Mr. Field has faith in radio, and is investing in its success not just to the benefit of his company, but for all of radio. Secondly, he believes in advertising. Imagine, buying advertising to build your brand!

And last but not least, Field recognised that many radio operators are “punching below their weight class.”

Allan Waters, the founder of what was once one of Canada’s most successful broadcast empires, said, “Our problem is not that we aim too high and miss our targets. Our problem is that we aim too low and hit our targets.”

With all the “bad news” facing broadcasters today, it’s easy to get sucked into a negative-thinking trap. We hear about the enormous debt burdens resulting from broadcast consolidation, and radio that once was branded as “live and local” is now often voice-tracked and has little local content to appeal to consumers.

Advertising’s share of marketing budgets continues to shrink, as does traditional media’s share of that shrinking share. Online shopping is hurting many of our traditional retail advertisers, and broadcast radio is no longer the only audio media choice our advertisers have. And misery appears to love company. When we see fellow broadcasters with flat or faltering sales, we tell ourselves it’s okay to aim low and hit our targets.

The list of problems we face goes on and on, but I’m still from the Allan Waters school of broadcasting: Our problem is we aim too low!

It’s pretty easy to fall into a “woe is me” way of thinking, but virtually every business and every medium is experiencing disruption, fragmentation, low-price competition, and various other problems that could be described as a crises.

I believe the Chinese understand how to manage and succeed during an alleged crises. They spell crises with these two symbols.

The symbol on the left stands for danger, and there is danger in every crises. But what makes the difference when they spell crises is the symbol on the right. It stands for opportunity.

You have probably heard the old cliché “Problems are merely opportunities in disguise.” As you plan for 2018, will your “tough times” target become a self-fulfilling prophecy, or will you break from the fray and capture the opportunities brought about by disruption and change?

Don’t let your stations make the same mistake as Luigi made in this tale of Luigi’s Hot Dog Stand…

Luigi worked hard at his roadside hot dog stand all his life so he could send his son to college. He used only the finest ingredients, stayed open long hours, advertised consistently, and sold the greatest hot dogs for miles around.

Business was booming. He had to buy a bigger oven, add to his parking lot, and increase his food orders to fill demand.       

His hard work and investments paid off, and his son came home from college with a business degree.        

“Father, haven’t you heard?” he said upon his return. “Times are getting tough. You are going to have to cut back on your expenses because there is a recession on the way. You’re going to have to buy cheaper ingredients, turn the power off on your sign earlier each evening, and cut your advertising to prepare for the weakening economy.”

Luigi thought, “Well, my son’s been to college. He ought to know. Maybe business is going to slow down.”

So, Luigi started buying the cheapest ingredients he could find, he cut the power to his signs, and cancelled all of his advertising. And alas, his son was right. Hot dog sales began to plummet almost overnight. “You were right son,” Luigi said to the boy. “We certainly are heading for a recession!”

You’ve heard the story about David and Goliath? Let’s start punching above our weight class as we plan for 2018.


  1. That hot dog story is as old as God.

    Good luck getting radio owners to stop cutting.

    (Most of them stopped believing in the medium when the internet came around. They’re just waiting for transmitters to die and eke out as much bottom line as possible.)


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