How Will Radio Survive This Crisis?


(By Ed Ryan) While it’s hard to tell how much the coronavirus crisis will impact your station today, as time goes on and everyone is asked by the government to continue to hunker down, it’s inevitable that advertising will take a hit. Townsquare CEO Bill Wilson signaled this week that the impact will be significant. So, what’s the plan?

The immediate impact, in addition to keeping employees safe, disinfecting studios, and asking listeners not to come to pick up their prizes, was trying to hold on to event and sporting revenue that was already sold. The day after the WHO identified this virus as a pandemic it was like dominoes falling. Every community event, concert and sporting event was postponed or canceled.

Programming also changed as stations altered formats to cover the constantly changing news, tighter restrictions, positive tests in their state and where listeners could find water and toilet paper or whether they could go to a restaurant without a six foot barrier.

NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton tells Radio Ink it’s clear broadcasters are on the front lines of an unprecedented crisis – both in terms of public health and economically – unlike anything since 9/11. “And in many ways, it’s more challenging than 9/11 given the uncertainty of how long this will last and the impact on the advertising economy in America.”

One operator told Radio Ink on Tuesday that advertisers reflect the general population, some are panicked, some are calm, and all are concerned. “Yes, we have had quite a few cancellations as part of an instant reaction. But, we have also had quite a few “saves” by altering the necessary ads or changing flight dates of schedules.”


Wharton acknowledged there is going to be a severe financial impact on local stations and virtually every sector of the economy.

President Trump has been saying nearly every day that he wants to pump money back to small businesses as quickly as possible to keep them alive. Wharton says the NAB will be working with policymakers to ensure that during this time of public health crisis, when America needs trusted and reliable information most, broadcasters are able to remain in operation and on the air with the necessary supplies and credentials to bring information to the public.

A well-known operator also told Radio Ink yesterday, we know this will turn around eventually, the challenge is, we just don’t know when. “Be of value to listeners and help advertisers as they definitively need us right now, whether they are spending or they can’t at the moment. This is a marathon.”

We have dedicated a large section of our April 13th issue to helping radio stations deal with this crisis. To subscribe to Radio Ink in time to receive this issue, go HERE.



  1. Jackie – Good question. Here’s what I suggest. Clients are people, too. Struggling with not only business but personal issues that are being impacted by this unprecedented crisis. And while we can’t physically go out and “hold hands,” we can do that virtually. We can communicate – today in more ways than ever before. Check in on them like you do family. Give them your ear. Let them talk. Ask them how you can help. Your tone of sincerity and listening to their concerns will speak volumes. And if/when they want to advertise, they will let you know that. You’ll get that “cue” and know how to address it then.

  2. As a sales person at an Olides station how do I reach out to clients who may need to advertise without sounding like an “ambulance chaser”?

    I am offering special rates but hesitate to seem too greedy.


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