The Roaring ‘20s: 21st-Century Style


(By Deborah Parenti) I remember late-night discussions almost 20 years ago as to what to call the decades of 2000 and 2010. Not sure that ever got resolved, but, given time, all things usually sort themselves out. So here comes a fresh, new decade with a natural and “easy to roll off the tongue” catchphrase, “the best (fill in the blank) of the ’20s.”

With the new year, we begin a fresh batch of 10 that is already seeing prospects and situations that weren’t on the table a decade ago.

In 2010, we were emerging from the worst recession since the Second World War. What a difference 10 years make.

Speaking of economics — and revenue — one of the biggest political advertising windfalls ever is on the way. While political coffers have continued to fatten with each succeeding election cycle, never have the dollars been bigger. And while the competition for those dollars has also increased, the sheer volume is such that oversaturation on other platforms could push additional cash radio’s way.

That happens to coincide nicely with another plus for radio: the attention audio is getting today as marketers increasingly find “sound” a hot commodity and are embracing its assets, thanks in part to smart speakers and podcasting.

Meanwhile, on the legal front, a looming battle between the FCC and the courts with lots of implications for the future of proposed further deregulation has developed.

Of course, hovering in the background of all this is what some believe to be the possibility of a recession, and, depending on your politics, your opinion may be influenced one way or the other. But let’s face it. At some point, there will be a dip. When, why, and how much only time will tell. One thing is sure. Nothing goes up forever.

That’s why it’s important to strike while the iron is hot.

Political advertising. Are you ready? Federal races aside, do your sales teams in all of your markets know where the money behind the local campaigns is coming from? While following the rules and keeping it legal are always a priority, are you also arming your sales team with marketing material that best positions your station for political advertisers? As in all things marketing, buyers tend to think first of those who were last top of mind. That includes candidates and their operatives.

Audio is enjoying a renaissance today — audio that connects with consumers on an emotional level. Brands are looking for messaging that taps into the human experience. Radio should do no less — mindful that each platform is unique. While “content is king,” content wears multiple crowns. What works on the broadcast morning show doesn’t necessarily work on a more time-shifted platform like podcasting. Crafting content
that works in the right environment is like dressing for the occasion; most people wouldn’t wear a business suit to the beach. It’s important to make sure the content fits the platform and adapts to how listeners use that platform.

That means the person in charge of the platform’s content, be it broadcast or podcast, for example, needs to be someone who understands that platform. A great program director may not be the right person to personally guide the podcast product — or the social media sites. These are distinct areas of expertise. They need the best possible direction. Think about it.

Deregulation – or not. While not a fan of more deregulation as proposed, I believe the court ruling remanding the 2017 FCC media ownership regulations showed some disconnect with the economic realities facing radio owners today. This could be an opportunity for the industry and the FCC to more aggressively push something related to ownership — namely, renewal of the Minority Tax Certificate. In addition to enhancing competition and diversity, especially in smaller markets, it might also temper some of the general criticism.

Whatever the outcomes, here come the ‘20s. Happy New Year!

Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink. She can be reached at [email protected].


  1. Deborah:

    Very thoughtful piece and most forward looking. One quibble:
    increasing minority ownership through skin color preferences does not automatically create more “diversity” of thought as you have used it here. It gives government breaks to persons only because of skin color. That makes no constitutional sense that all Americans are given equality of opportunity, not a guarantee of it. Diversity can be whatever one wishes. For example, what about giving government preferences to low income whites? Just as sound an approach as minority preferences, me thinks.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here