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Radio Ink Writers

Bracing For Disappointment


Political advertising was supposed to be a boon for radio in 2012. After all, prognosticators are predicting this will be a record year in political spending. And it wasn't too long ago political specialists were being hired all over radio to tell our story, to get in front of candidates and PAC's and make sure radio gets what it rightly deserves. It hasn't worked. The general consensus so far is that 2012 will be a disappointing year for radio when it comes to political spending and TV is where most of the money was spent. Here's what we've heard.

We spoke to about 20 General Managers and Sales Managers from New York to Los Angeles and asked them how political spending was adding up in their markets. Most of them said it wasn't, although they are expecting a bump as the campaign winds down. Emmis reported $1 million of political revenue in the quarter that ended August 31st. CEO Jeff Smulyan said, "Make no mistake about it this has been a disappointing political year for the radio industry. Television has seen the growth and radio lost some of the money to cable."

Part of the problem may be that candidates look upon certain states as already decided and spend more money on states considered in play. Pollsters and websites now create colored maps that claim they already know who will win that state so PAC's and candidates focus on toss-up states where they believe they can make a difference.

Managers we spoke to in "swing states" did say they were seeing decent buys. However, as an industry, it seems like radio has laid an egg this year. One major market GM told us yesterday, "This has been horrible. It's not anything close to what we expected. PAC money is being spent on Television." She said there could be a barrage of advertising as the election gets closer but it will never make up for what was expected.

Another manager told us he budgeted a modest amount just to play it safe and not a penny was spent with his cluster. And in one city, we were told, television stations are having to credit back money to candidates because they are unable to clear the commercials. The expectations were high for radio. What went wrong? The leaders in our industry should be asking themselves why this is happening and how they can prevent it from happening again in 2016.

(10/14/2012 11:52:24 AM)
Final point: This column starts out with "to make sure radio gets what it rightly deserves"...There's that sense of entitlement. ...That is a very pompous mindset that is both harmful and presumptuous to any selling strategy. Kind of like saying "we deserve high rates." Good luck with that, in this era of lackluster demand, and many more viable options for advertisers.

- Bob
(10/14/2012 11:46:19 AM)
A key problem: Many radio station groups and GM's are 40+, and perceive the radio industry as it was 10 years ago, and often with a sense of entitlement. ...They have cheapened the programming on many FM stations, with either voice tracking or low-paid announcers, and added commercial cluster breaks...10 or 12 commercials in a row, when most people tune out. Now bring in the Smartphone factor, and sadly, terrestrial radio is becoming irrelevent.

- Bob
(10/13/2012 10:02:30 AM)
If we want to look at "what went wrong" and why local cable is taking money from radio..well lets see..with cable if you want to target can be on channels that appeal to women..want older men..go to espn or nfl network or military channel, etc..we all get the idea. now lets look at radio...let see we have "premium choice" more music, national talk or national sports..we all sound the same..we cant blame the agencies..we need to blame ourselves! just my 2 cents worth

- brian
(10/12/2012 10:45:41 AM)
Michael Bustell- I'm not sure where you get your numbers from, maybe I didn't understand your post, because by every possible measure TV viewing is a multiple of radio listening at roughly 5 hours per day.

- TV Wins
(10/12/2012 8:13:38 AM)
Kind of poetic justice...I guess it wasn't "automatic billing" afterall.

You would think by now that the powers above would realize that NO billing is automatic but that would be putting a value on employees and we sure can't have that.

- toldyouso

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