Radio Ink is talking with independent operators, getting an early take on radio’s revenue performance in the third quarter. Ron Stone is the President/CEO of Adams Radio Group, a medium-market media company based in Lakeville, MN. Focused on live and local, ARG owns and operates stations in Fort Wayne, Suburban Chicago, Las Cruces, Tallahassee and Salisbury-Ocean City.
Radio Ink: How did Q3 come in for your company?
Stone: Q3 was down for us. We saw a lot of customer spending being reduced in our markets.
Radio Ink: Were they just not spending at all — saving it up — or were they moving it to other platforms?
Stone: We have seen it all. Dollars moving to digital or postponing radio. A lot of last-minute decisions.
Radio Ink: What were the strongest/weakest categories?
Stone: Auto continues to be our strongest. Medical is our second strongest. Weakest for us was financial. We are seeing growth in local direct. Where we are losing ground is agencies, who continue to move radio dollars into their O&O digital agencies, providing them a much higher commission. Seems a bit of a conflict in interest, but that’s just my opinion.
Radio Ink: What are you hearing from your salespeople?
Stone: Clients are being cautious. The media is scaring them. Our people are working very hard to develop direct local accounts. It is the agencies that seem to be pulling back far more than local direct. That said, it takes many local directs to make up for a single agency decision to pull back.
Radio Ink: The “R” word seems is being blurted out, now and then, by the national media in recent months, almost as if they are hoping for a recession. How does that impact the mood of sellers and local advertisers?
Stone: It is having an impact. Clients are, we all are, being bombarded with “the recession is coming.” The fear being sold by the media is unlike anything I have witnessed.
Radio Ink: Looking at Q4 and beyond to 2020, what factors give you optimism that the New Year is going to be better?
Stone: Q4 is pacing stronger than Q3. Hopefully that continues — better to be optimistic, right? One factor is political; that will help. I think once the Democratic primaries are over, and we know who the candidate is, businesses will be more at ease. We are also pushing into 2020 with a “buy local” initiative that we believe will help us develop more local direct business. We are no longer accepting any business that is harmful to our local businesses. Our goal is to keep dollars in the local market.