After our interview with One Putt Broadcasting’s John Ostlund about what he’s learned from running only five minutes of ads per hour on his Fresno, CA stations, Radio Ink received an email from Bill Lynch, GM at Momentum Broadcasting in Visalia, CA. Bill’s been running short stopsets for a decade now, and says he’s reaped the sales benefits the whole time – including getting national to pay what local pays.
Radio Ink: I’ll open this the way I opened the conversation with John – radio people say want it, but so few actually make the move for shorter stopsets. Why did you do it? I know you’re also in Central California. Is it just something in the water there?
Bill Lynch: [Laughs] No, I don’t think so. I’ve been doing this since I came to Momentum Broadcasting almost ten years ago. To me, the most important thing that doesn’t get discussed a lot is units. When I started this business, everybody was units, right? That’s what you did. When people listen to commercial breaks, they don’t sit around with a stopwatch and count how many minutes you’re running. What they count is like, there’s a commercial, there’s a commercial, there’s a commercial. And after a while, they get pissed off and punch out. It used to be, they just go up or down the dial. And now, they may do something else, right?
I think the problem is that we are in a minute world when we should be in a unit world. Last week, I was listening to the low cost provider in our market. They ran 16 commercials in a row, 16 units, right? I don’t know how many minutes. It was all I could do to try and keep up with, like, now, is that 10 or is that 11? I’m trying to swim through all this and I can’t.
Radio Ink: So to you it doesn’t matter if it’s a :30 or a :60, it’s just the impression.
Bill Lynch: Right. We go back to what’s best for the client, not how we’re going to get the most money or how can we squeeze the most advertisers into the however-many-minute break that we’ve got. We’re just running whatever needs to run to communicate the best possible message. If that’s at :15, then that’s fine. If it’s at :60, that’s fine too.
Radio Ink: So when you took over and you made this change, was that an easy sell to your clients?
Bill Lynch: You know, it makes you actually have to talk with clients about what’s the benefit of running in a small, shorter stopset, and why that increases the likelihood their particular commercial is going to be heard. If you’re unit 12 in a 16 unit break, what do you think the chances are that somebody’s going to be there listening to your commercial? What are you paying for?
Radio Ink: Obviously you kind of have to change your strategy when you sell a short stopset. What did that take?
Bill Lynch: Totally, it’s a whole mind flip. For one thing, I don’t subscribe. All the ratings book is, is like, “we’re number one.” I worked in San Francisco for 20 years. I know the ratings book backwards and forwards, and that’s what people did. They’d go around and try to convince advertisers that their stations are number one, instead of learning about the client. What’s good for business is doing a thorough CNA, finding out about the client, building a client relationship, putting together something that works for the client, and putting it on the air.
I don’t really negotiate on rates. One of the things that John mentioned is he doesn’t negotiate rates. Bravo for him; that’s an excellent thing to do. If people are haggling you about price, then you haven’t done a good job communicating the value of your radio station. Price it for it to sell, and then stick to your guns. Have some integrity. I don’t give any bonus out, either. Never have, and I never will.
When I first came here, the radio stations basically had two different prices – what the local people paid and what national paid. The local rates were like, I don’t know, it was $40 or $42 or something like that for prime 6a – 7p Monday – Friday. National was $25.
The first time I took it over, I get a phone call from one of the national reps. They want $25. I say no. They say its always been $25. You’re gonna pay the same. I’m going to price the radio stations for what it’s worth. Here’s what it’s going to cost. So of course we get a call. We’re going to lose the business. Like, okay, that’s fine. Thanks for calling. Thanks for letting me know. And then we get the business.
The year we changed Prime to $45 for everyone, I lost one – one – piece of business. Then I wound up getting it back on one of the other stations in our cluster.
Radio Ink: And those numbers have stayed up?
Bill Lynch: I can’t control the spending of advertising agencies. My national this year is, like, 21% of last year’s. It’s atrocious. I can’t control that. But last year, we did 38% up from 2021 in local direct. The Q4 numbers came out for a lot of companies, and when you take out political, there really wasn’t much growth at all. Momentum finished 2022 up 21% over 2021, 19% excluding political.
Radio Ink: Okay, so local clients responded well. Did your listeners respond to the change?
Bill Lynch: I don’t recall anybody ever saying to me since, “You guys play too many commercials.” I’m trying to do a really good job of putting a product on the air that people enjoy and investing in that. We want to have a good product that people like, and we want to have advertisers that have good success talking to those people, and so are interested in continuing to do business with us.
Radio Ink: So let me ask this – I know retention is a huge issue with sales right now. How is yours? Does the stylistic difference in selling shorter stopsets help or does it stay the same?
Bill Lynch: You know, I’ve lost people. Salespeople moved during the pandemic. But if you make 20% more than you did the year before, are you going to be unhappy?
Radio Ink: How do you think radio as a whole can embrace the short stopset? Or do you even think that’s possible?
Bill Lynch: It has to be a George Patton thing, right? You lead by example, by knowing that fish rot from the head down. It works if every single little organization is like mine. If you own four radio stations, that doesn’t really make that much difference. The problem is the biggest radio companies have too much debt, and what they do impacts me, whether I like it or not.
Here’s the problem. It doesn’t matter if there’s one nice house in a run down neighborhood. If most of the neighborhood is run down, people don’t buy there.
How impressive, Bill Lynch! I’ve been working on air for Momentum for close to a year and continue to be pleasantly surprised by the effectiveness of the operation. After working in Bay Area radio for over 40 years, I can honestly say that the operation in Visalia outshines many others with its professionalism. It’s refreshing to agree with programming decisions that truly make sense. I’ve missed that with the heavy hand of big corporate tending to make unfortunate programming calls.
Was this interview actually conducted in 1970…..when we ran 10 minutes or 12 units per hour? Kudos to Bill Lynch! I’ll bet his advertisers get results and his stations sound great!
1970? My last company ran spot breaks that seemed endless…in 2022. 12 minutes twice an hour. Big corporate station and definitely a tune-out that listeners mentioned. So it’s totally refreshing to listen to Momentum’s stations!
I learned 3 things from this.
1) There’s a rating book for Visalia, CA. Who knew?
2) There’s actually national advertising dollars for Visalia, CA. OK
3) There’s a group not getting a premium for National.
4) Great Sellers can claim shorter but never quantify what that actually is.
There’s plenty of info available on markets and rankings. Your comment sounds just a tad snobby.
And let us not forget the production quality of the unit. So many smaller markets have embarassingly unprofessional sounding spot. Do we really need the car dealer’s dog in the spot with him or for that matter even him in the spot?
You DO Realize folks think Tom Bodette owns Motel 6, right?
He only controls the lights.
That happens in big markets too. The worst are the two-person horribly acted ads which are prevalent in big markets. Good programming is NOT on a scale of market size, I’ve found.