Kentucky-based Forcht Broadcasting is seeing returns from developing its digital presence in the small markets it serves. CEO Mike Tartar is pleasantly surprised by the response from advertisers in the nine-market, 25-station group, broadcasting in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.
Radio Ink: How was Q4 for you? Were you up or down?
Tartar: We were up last year. Our October was about even with the year prior but November and December were up in all of our markets. In Kentucky we had a lot of local political races, we had a few small races going on in our other markets but nothing like here in Kentucky. We had a lot races going on here that created some opportunities for us.
Radio Ink: What are your top categories?
Tartar: I can easily say that automotive was good for us. It really depends on market to market. We had some restaurants that were good, we had telecom that was good with some of the local cellular service providers. We cover a lot of small towns; so collectively what we’re doing there may not be one huge leader. But in a nutshell, automotive is still a very good product line for us.
Radio Ink: Any big surprises for you last year?
Tartar: That was on the digital side. We devouted the vast majority of 2018 to building our digital platforms. We were able to roll those out with brand new websites, we were able to get our mobile apps going. The digital was a nice surprise for us and it’s carried over into January and February. Our folks getting engaged with that with our customers, even in the smallest of towns, is great. I think this year is going to be a breakout year for that.
Radio Ink: Do you believe that your digital component will work in those small towns? Is your salesforce willing to take it out of the bag and pitch it to them?
Tartar: Yes. That’s been the training and retraining, and then the reminding and re-reminding of our folks. We’ve gotten a buy in all of our markets and I think our folks realize that this is our business today. We are also seeing that Alexa has become the in-home radio. We have our Alexa Skills set up for all of our markets and stations. The buy-in has been really good and our folks have been real good to grab that and go.
Radio Ink: How is Q1 looking so far?
Tartar: We finished January four percent ahead of our previous January. Seven of the nine markets were all ahead of the previous January. We didn’t hit the big increase we had hoped for, but we did see those increases from the previous year. So far in February we are near 70 percent of our group number. A lot of opportunities have come our way — high school sports, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day-kind of promotions. A lot of little things are adding up so I like where we are.
Radio Ink: What are those Main Street advertisers saying about radio?
Tartar: Versus last year I think the mood is a whole lot better and that is proved by our numbers for January. The challenge we have in small markets is finding the local retailer. We have businesses opening up in a lot of our markets still, and that is good, but many of them are corporately owned, out-of-state owned by big conglomerates that maybe don’t buy radio or only buy national radio. So getting the folks that we can get to is more difficult and a challenge. The folks we talk to on a daily basis — Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, those types — seem to be in a better mood this year.
Radio Ink: What is you biggest challenge?
Tartar: Not to be repetitive, but again, the local retailer. In some of our smaller towns, in particular eastern Kentucky, the coal mining areas, its been really tough. The jobs are just not there and that has a ripple effect on local retailers and what they spend on radio.
Radio Ink: Are you facing much competition from Google and Facebook?
Tartar: Yes, in particular Facebook. Some of our smallest and biggest clients will still use Facebook because it’s free. They tell us about their posts and the likes and views. We tell them that’s all well and good but let us drive those Facebook friends of yours into your business. We ask them: “People said they saw your post and like you, but did you move any product off the shelf?”
Radio Ink: Is consolidation good or bad for business?
Tartar: I think some markets have benefitted from that happening, where there are not multiple formats and you are all fighting for the same audience. For us it hasn’t been a factor in our small towns. We have competition in every one of our communities.
Reach out to Mike Tartar by phone at 606.485.4444 or e-mail [email protected]