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Buzz Knight

(Expert in the Wings) Gerry Boehme

7-31-2013

I am extremely fortunate to have a great job in a terrific industry in which I encounter both great people and incredibly smart "thought leaders." When I stop and think of the quality and caliber of people it's staggering.

Gerry Boehme is one of those people and I'm thrilled to present him as our next "Expert in the Wings."

In fact, today's feature could be called "Wizard in the Wings" because Gerry really is a magical figure with absolutely legendary credentials. And he's an unbelievably awesome guy.

I first met Gerry as a result of my involvement with the Arbitron Advisory Council back in 2009, although I had long heard about the man and his knowledge.  From the first meeting we participated in it was evident that Gerry was one of those rare people that, when he speaks, EVERYBODY leans forward to listen.

After 30-plus years in various capacities in the national representative business, Gerry departed from Katz Media Group as part of a corporate restructuring in March 2012.  Other than a little free time to catch his breath (knowing Gerry, it was a short time!) since his departure from Katz he has been working as a consultant, using his extensive experience in executive leadership, technology development, strategic planning, and media research to help companies design and implement new business plans.

Gerry Boehme's specialties have always included anticipating and addressing future industry trends and aligning new technology with best practices to serve short- and long-term business needs.

I couldn't wait to get Gerry's view of today's radio industry. That was always a joy for me going to an Advisory Council meeting: cornering Gerry on that topic.

Gerry sees many positive signs in radio today. Here's what he had to say

While wed all like to see higher revenue, I think that radios actually done a great job maintaining spending levels in the face of a bad economy and significantly more media competition, especially digital. Other traditional media like newspapers have fared far worse.

"The industry is more united than it has been in the past. Were seeing a heightened industry effort to position radios advantages with some significant alliances across radio groups. I also sense more agreement that radio needs to be re-invented and re-positioned in some ways.

He adds: Its still clear that radio faces big, new challenges. I believe it is possible to protect current revenue and sell even more radio, but only if we take an honest look at where we stand today and what we might do differently in order to become even more compelling and attractive to advertisers.

"Here are some ideas. First, we can sell smarter. The day-to-day sales process can hurt radio as a whole. Much of the current industry focus is on pricing for share, not for higher budgets or higher spot costs. In order to control share we lower the package price, but controlling share does not increase industry revenue. Rather, it forces market prices lower and hurts everyone in the long run. The focus on share works directly against creating more radio revenue over time.

"Radio also offers the advertiser many different channels to purchase the same inventory. National reps, networks, syndicators, and local sellers all compete for the same accounts, allowing potential customers to negotiate for the same inventory with multiple sales channels and ultimately choose the lowest price.

"We also sometimes measure business development success on short-term results rather than building long-term relationships at the highest levels, even though we know that media budgets are actually created more than a year in advance on the national level."

Gerry knows the importance of agency relationships, technological systems integration, and maximizing digital ad sales, and he has valuable advice for us on the relationships we foster with agencies.

"Some people view agencies as the enemy rather than a potential partner. They write agencies off and believe their growth will come from local business or dealing directly with national clients. While some of these efforts make sense, they also may be missing a huge opportunity. First, an awful lot of local business is agency driven, especially in larger markets.

"Even more importantly, much of the spending growth in new media is agency-driven. And, many studies predict that agencies will play an even greater role in controlling advertiser expenditures, especially as they move towards digital solutions that are 'sexy' and also provide more measurable and timely ROI. By improving relationships with agencies and making radio easier to buy with new systems and sales approaches, radio can increase its share of big advertiser spending."

Accountability is a major priority.

"Customers require more information about how their campaigns are working. While other media continue to invest in systems and data to prove ROI, radio still lags in providing proof of performance metrics. We need serious industry discussion about being more accountable, from spot placement and audience delivery to commercial impact and ROI. Radio insists it 'drives results' but we need to do a better job or proving that on a regular basis, especially for specific advertisers and specific campaigns. The United Kingdom in particular has proven that regular effectiveness research leads to increased spending from advertisers, included in their program. In a world where new media can track exposure and results in real time, radio needs to step up and provide better evidence about how radio works."

Gerry has two other key priorities that can help the industry meet its challenges: improving technology and monetizing digital streams.

"More work is required to coordinate systems used by reps, networks, stations, and agencies. While weve improved our back-end functions, electronic order and invoice processes can still be expanded for national and local buys. We also can develop more advanced systems that better support multi-platform selling. That includes intelligently and appropriately using new electronic sales exchanges, which could help radio to better compete with other media (including digital) and free up resources to support longer-term business growth.

"Radio continues to have difficulty in monetizing streaming. Some believe that streaming needs to be sold separately, while others believe that streaming inventory should be sold along with broadcast. We can simultaneously support both 'add to broadcast' and 'sell digital separately' efforts. That would allow stations to maximize pricing and pursue a new model while selling current inventory in the best way possible."

I hope you enjoyed this edition of "Experts in the Wings" with Gerry Boehme as much as I did.

Gerry Boehme can be reached at gboehme11@gmail.com.

Buzz Knight is the Vice President of Program Development for Greater Media and he can be reached at bknight@greatermediaboston.com. Knight was named among Best Programmers by Radio Ink Magazine in 2007 and 2010. He has served on the programming subcommittee of the National Association of Broadcasters(NAB) and is currently a member of the Arbitron Radio Advisory Council and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) COLRAM Committee.

If you want to recommend an "Expert in the Wings" email Buzz at bknight@greatermediaboston.com



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