Readers React To Berner Comment


The comments started piling up immediately after Cumulus CEO Mary Berner said “Radio needs to grow a pair,” in her first ever radio industry conference appearance Tuesday at The Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. The reality of her comment is that other Radio CEO’s have been saying the same thing, perhaps using other words, for years. So why did Berner’s comments tick so many people off?

Entercom CEO David Field has said for years that radio is punching below its weight class. iHeartMedia CFO Richard Bressler has said for years that radio is the most undervalued media out there. Many other radio executives, at too many conferences to count, have stated that radio needs to tell a better story. Despite everyone seemingly in agreement about how powerful radio is, the revenue needle hardly moves, with radio making meager gains every year. This week Berner simply said he same thing everyone else was saying, that radio has the goods, the R.O.I., and the audience, but lacks the confidence to translate that into higher revenue.

Here are the specifics of what Berner said and the comments readers have made so far…

Berner was interviewed by Emmis New York Market Manager Charlie Morgan at the Country Radio Seminar and she was asked for her general thoughts on the radio industry and she told attendees radio needs to “grow a pair.” Berner comes from the magazine industry and she said that industry had enormous confidence, without the R.O.I. to back it up. “Radio does have the audience and tremendous R.O.I. but we don’t act like it. We act like the ugly stepchild. This industry has the goods.” Berner also said radio is in a race to the bottom when it comes to advertising rates.


  1. From here:
    A slight correction here to Bob Ray’s statement about the Cumulus share price – a slight typo, I suspect.
    Rather than 75 cents a share, Cumulus has been banished to the dank cellar of the OTC market – at 7.5 cents.
    The second largest radio corporation in the country isn’t valued at a gawdamn dime!
    Meanwhile, how many employees, I wonder, are being lined up and compelled to “take one (or two or three) for the team”?
    I am afraid the owners and management do not know what to do now, and, more significantly, they do not know what to do next
    This “sword of Damocles” and the thread that supports it, no doubt, has everybody involved freaking out – if they have any grasp of reality.
    That Mary has no idea of how radio works, and that no one else who might has had access to her is no more than a comment about driving by a massive wreck on the highway.
    Still, not a bad living.

    • Keep in mind she doesn’t have to know how radio works. She has employees who handle that part of it. She knows how bankruptcy works. That’s partly why she was hired. She’s guided several companies through it, so she knows what to do next.

  2. We outlined a plan that would have resulted in 20 to 40 million in revenue first year and expanding to greater numbers the 2nd and 3rd. I was asked to explain it by phone to a Cumulus market manager. I was told he just rolled his eyes. He didn’t understand. Or didn’t want to understand. Cumulus’ Mary Bern is isolated. She is not aware of this but should be. We have started the plan in a top 10 market and are now taking revenue away from Cumulus. They could still benefit but not listening. Gate keepers and Job protectors are preventing the company from digging out. Possibly the struggling investors need to know the details .

  3. “Grow a pair”? Really? Considering all the recent publicity for insensitivity by individuals I can’t believe she said that. This would be akin to a man saying “she’s on the rag”, both inappropriate and insensitive. To say this in what would be a much publicized interview was stupid! We will never move forward if we don’t ALL (male & female) get on board. Her radio message got lost in her stupid choice of words.

  4. There is more meat in that last sentence than many in the room here can handle. How can we say we’re -not- in a race to the bottom on rates when stations that used to lead their medium-size markets grossing upwards of $5 million a year, now lead their markets grossing half as much or less? If there isn’t demand, then CREATE DEMAND! You do that with testimonials and the courage to not drop your drawers on rates! (Oh, PARDON ME for using another sexual reference.)

    That means you might turn down some business. There is a well-known home improvement store which, when you hear their spots on the air, you know somebody isn’t getting their rate. They’re not on my stations.

    • Well-intentioned points on your part radiomike, albeit they demonstrate some naivete. You can thank directly people like Mel Karmazin, who in the 90’s when he had Hawrd Stern on his stations extended the breaks from 3 or 4 units to 15 or 20 commercials in a break, no joke. The advertiser demand was so great, this money -grab worked (greed) … and there were always more advertisers lined-up to offset the advertiser churn. But the die was cast. The day of super-long cluster breaks had arrived, and to this day there is a glut of ad inventory in many major and medium markets. Call it killing the golden goose, because now that demand has slowed down, rates have cratered. Sure, you can make new calls and create some new “demand”… but nowhere near enough to offset the inventory glut. That is the core problem. And yes, you can turn down business, but that business will just go to other stations or other mediums. Long time are the days when stations unilaterally abided by NAB codes about limiting the number of commercials, etc. So the free fall in rates is really an intractable industry problem now.

  5. Berner and other top radio station management continue to demonstrate their economic naivete when they complain that the radio advertising rates are too low. They obviously missed Economics 101 in college. Neither a buyer NOR a seller determines “the rates” or “the pricing” in ANY sales transaction. The MARKET PLACE…and market place DEMAND, or lack of demand, determines “the rates” and the pricing. If there are more potential advertisers lined up to buy your commercial time than there is available inventory, you can raise your rates. But if there is more commercial inventory available than there are potential advertisers, you have a problem. So people like Berner and radio “consultants” who suck up to owners by talking about getting higher rates, are irresponsibly blaming the salespeople and ignoring basic basic laws of supply and demand.

    • I’m sorry, Mr. Radio, but it’s not as simple as that. For one thing, just as more inventory was created when commercial breaks were lengthened, it can be diminished by taking some of that inventory away. IMO, though, it’s not one or the other; if there is demand enough to command higher rates, stations (or shows) can run longer breaks, and when there isn’t, run shorter ones.

      Secondly, by being afraid to leave money on the table, buyers have the upper hand, and are taking advantage of it. If managers said “no” to lower rates (including third-party resellers), buyers would come to realize that they have to pay rates based on real ROI rather than getting bargain-basement prices. And eventually, they WILL pay those rates in order to reach radio’s audience.

      Finally, managers had (past tense) bought into the false-narrative of the tech industry that radio was a dying industry. And they therefore sold scared. That has been changing, and both buyers and sellers are beginning to differentiate between stock prices (which are based on the perception of growth) and ROI, with the latter being the reason to buy radio. And since ROI is so good, and should continue to be (even when listeners are using digital devices to tune in rather than airwaves), things can, and should, turn around. Provided the industry starts acting like the heavyweight it really is rather than allowing others to punch them below their, um, belt.

  6. Mary didn’t say “a pair” of what, specifically. But, one can guess.
    The reference, meanwhile, pertains to courage – just not the kind where people rush headlong into danger with no consideration of the consequences.

    Rather than more courage (“a pair”}, radio needs more action from the cranial regions. This has been an undemonstrated potential and an unsatisfied need, however, for decades.

    • She didn’t lead the company into anything. She inherited a dumpster fire and frankly delayed the bankruptcy with her work. They are in a better place to compete now.

    • Cyrus, if she hadn’t taken control from the Dickey’s, the company would have gone belly up and hundreds would have been unemployed. And, by the way, the stock was in the toilet before she arrived. She earned the bonus for saving the company.

      • We are surely in agreement about the Dickeys. But “In the toilet before she arrived” is a translation of “stock price was higher before she arrived.” Though I love radio too and all the hot-shot Big-Time Radio Superstar Boss Jocks who still get irritated when they have to do a favor for the sales or production “department” (WLS-FM perhaps the hallmark of stations that smell of cart-carousels, old sheets and bong-water,) publicly traded companies have a responsibility to the STOCKHOLDERS. I’d say to Mary “getting a pair” means internalizing that concept. Her bonus was a (small but unnecessary) kick in the face to many investors, “radio people” and otherwise, and damaged the reputation of our whole industry. The (non talk) stations sound the same, there’s no great movement in programming, so look at the prices. In my view they tell a story of investors who are tired of a stale, back-slapping (what we used to call “Ronnie Radio”) all-promises, no change, lazy culture.

        • Dickeys threw the company out of a plane without a chute, and Berner was left to try to find a way to stop it from falling.

  7. How distastefully ironic that Cumulus’ CEO – head of a company drowning in red ink with a history of abject performance, lackluster programming and continuing disdain for on-the-air talent – suggests the radio industry “grow a pair.”

    Cumulus is clueless, confirmed by their actions and bloody balance sheet, $2.4 BILLION in debt.

    Cumulus stock is 75¢ a share – that’s seventy-five cents (!) a share – and she is giving advice to the industry?

    Is this a joke? Uh, ‘yes’ …

    • All of this happened before she took the reins. Since she took over, a sensible plan under Chapter 11 has been negotiated to deal with the debt. Programming has already been upgraded in certain markets and employees are a lot happier than they were before her arrival. The situation that you described was reached by the Dickey’s expanding far beyond their financial capabilities. And she’s right, radio companies have been in a race to the bottom regarding rates and have been selling from a position of weakness for years. Having managed several major market radio stations, I can tell you that when done correctly, advertisers get great results from radio. Radio salespeople ought to sell their product with confidence and ask to be paid accordingly.

      • Listening to Cumulus stations in San Francisco, they remain over-commercialized – long breaks of endless spots – and the talent that built these stations over the good years are being stripped away by not renewing their contracts and paying bottom-level salaries to new hires.

        Radio hasn’t come to the reality that the majority of listeners to Pandora, Apple and Amazon Music, were chased away from terrestrial radio by the tune-out factors we all know plus boring, unimaginative programming which Cumulus doesn’t have an exclusive on but is firmly in second-place.

        Revenue is slashed substantially because the product is abysmal and there are infinitely better options for advertisers. Period. The only people who don’t believe that’s true are those employed in the radio industry.

        When your stock price is 75¢ a share – iHeart is 50¢ a share – that’s your worth. You cannot save your way to a profit no matter how hard radio tries.

        The industry operates with a 1980’s mindset, refusing to do anything to make it more relevant to 2018. Until that issue is addressed, radio salespeople will be paid accordingly, exactly as you suggest …

        • Describe all the exciting, original, and imaginative programming on Pandora, Apple Music, and Amazon. Who are the popular personalities on those services?

  8. I’m sure she had the same “courage” when she and the board decided to default on there loan and not make payment!!!
    Grow a pair? Definitely need a pair to default on that payment.
    Someone in chapter 11 giving advice on how to have rate integrity.
    OMG your the biggest part of the problem.
    At least in my market.

  9. With all due respect to Mary, advice from Cumulus on what radio should do is like asking a politician for advice on ethics or the Captain of the Titanic for advice on navigation.

  10. How do you know that was the “Pair” she was talking about. Funny how you all assume she is referring to the male gender specific item. What she did say that I agree with, is happening in many places is the race to the bottom for rates. We need to believe in our product and stick to our value when it comes to rates. Thank you

  11. Poor use of gender based phrasing no doubt.

    The implication that a lack of courage is the cause of our industry problems may have some merit, but is diametrically opposed to our largely commission based system for compensating revenue generation.

  12. I heard a better line from Sandy Beach. Sandy had been PD at WKBW where he said radio was show business not a hardware store. He told his GM, I’ll take care of the show and you can take care of the box office.

  13. She is a great leader and is turning the company in the right direction. I realize you might not know that if you don’t work for Cumulus. This lady gets it.

    • You have a very loose use of the word “lady.” A “lady” who speaks for a huge publicly-traded company would never make such a crass vulgar comment. Again, if a male CEO made such a vulgar comment, many people would say he should resign.

      • Bob MacKay: Yeah, just like Trump should have resigned for using the word Sh*thole. Give me a break. Mary has learned a ton in her three years with Cumulus, and saved it from a fate worse than death under the Dickie Boys. Your comment has the distinction of missing her entire point.

        • If you knew Bob McKay, you would know that he’s negative about everything and wrong about most things. 20 years ago, he said that a sports station that I helped launch would never make it. It’s still on the air and thriving.

          • You got the wrong Bob MacKay. Check the last name spelling and check your facts, before you slander me like that.

      • I got fired from Cumeless for replaying to an email to a female PD instead of forwarding it to a coworker and I used the F word and was highly disgruntled by the lack of respect by certain mgmt toward me..I didn’t get fired for my job performance though the GM claimed that but my direct boss didn’t..yet Mary uses Fricken and similar slang..and she stays CEO…What BS!!

  14. Is this the extent of Berner’s suggested ideas to the industry?…To make a crude reference to growing a pair of male genitalia??? Really???? Ironic…if a male industry executive public said that, there would be a demand for his resignation. Does Berner actually have any specific advice… any specific ideas or specific strategies and solutions that stations can use? Where are they? Or is she just hurtling crude meaningless words like “grow a pair”? If that’s all she has to offer, maybe the Cumulus Board should look for a real actual leader.


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