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Garber to Radio's Rescue Once Again

Bob Lefsetz is one of the most creative, compelling writers you'll ever read. The man can hammer out interesting articles, on interesting topics, as if he's experienced life five or six times already. He writes mostly about the music business, sending his newsletter out free of charge (he used to charge $100 per year). Back in October of last year we interviewed Lefsetz after he took a swipe at Pandora. Now, in Variety, he's taken a vicious swipe at you.

In the Variety piece, Lefsetz pretty much comes to the conclusion radio is dying, he's just not sure of the date yet. Quickly defending radio once again was Mary Beth Garber who says there's no need to call the funeral director after all.
Here are some of Lefsetz' more wounding blows to radio:
-- "Terrestrial radio listenership is not close to what it once was. Radio used to dominate; its still the biggest player, but its market share has receded dramatically."
-- "Most people under age 20 have never experienced good radio."
-- "Insiders believe that theres no revolution in terrestrial radio because the owners know its headed into the dumper."
-- "Radio is dying and YouTube and other alternatives are growing."
And here is how Mary Beth Garber of Katz responded:
 "Your recent comments about radio have inspired me to follow your advice and offer a perspective different from yours regarding radio today.  You are certainly entitled to your opinion.  But even online there are real facts to take into consideration and they very much disprove your take on the subject. 

          'the Luddites in radio still believe the Internet didnt happen' makes me question whether or not youve paid attention to what radio stations are doing with streams, apps, websites, software programs that enable the listener to select music in real time, and interact with ads, buy music, and social media like Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts that enable listeners and personalities to communicate with one another. Radio personalities in just the top 25 markets have over 18 million Facebook fans and more than 27 million Twitter followers. Clear Channel created iHeartRadio. CBS and others are on TuneIn. Yeah, it occurred to them the Internet might be big and that it could really be a way for listeners to become even more involved with their favorite radio stations. Yes, there are some radio station owners who eschew the Internet. They represent a very small portion of radio listening.

         'Terrestrial radio listenership is not close to what it once was.' The percentage of every segment of the population that uses radio every week is 92 percent  which is pretty much what it was in the 70s.

         '[Radios] market share has receded dramatically.'  That is the prevailing perception, thanks largely to people like you with big Internet followings and a disregard for the facts. Several research sources will show you that, for example, 96 percent of monthly listeners to Pandora listened to AM/FM radio in the past week. Theyll show you that music player sites in 2012, including playlist creation services like iHeartRadio accounted for under 7 percent of all the time spent listening to any  radio platform. That is up from less than 3 percent in 2010, but 'dramatic'?  Especially when other research shows that the time spent with audio entertainment of any form has increased from seven hours in 2003 to over eight hours a day in 2013. There is more share there to share than ever before.

          'Most people under 20 have never experienced good radio.' In whose opinion? Tell that to the teens who make their moms turn on their favorite CHR on the way to school. To the millions of kids who come back to the same radio stations day after day, week after week. Who show up at station events. Who friend personalities and stations. For most of them, the only thing radio could do better is carry fewer commercials (the consensus since radio first began carrying ads), but then, these kids respond to those commercials because they're part of the radio experience.  And the 'under 20' audience levels through the breaks stay at about 90 percent of what they were before the break, so we know they hear them.  Even Pandora knows that advertising is critical. And has increased their load.

          If  'its the ads that will kill terrestrial radio,' then it follows that it is the ads that will kill every music conveyance site or platform and that's just not happening. In fact, several leading radio companies have invested heavily in developing creative teams to help advertisers improve their commercials. And KRG has done studies to help advertisers understand how listeners react to their commercials so they can revise strategy accordingly.

         About Sirius XM. Despite being in zillions of cars, only 10 percent of people use the service. And only their music channels are commercial free (but not promotion free). Sirius will never be able get the rest of the public to subscribe. Look at Spotify. Theres a reason it has four times more ad-supported listeners than paid subscribers. Anything that costs money has a built-in barrier to usage, which is something the music players will find out as the mobile phone companies limit data usage and increase data usage charges.

         'radio is headed into the dumper.' Yes, Im sure thats why most of the companies that own radio stations continue to pour time, money, and talent into making their stations better, more connected, more effective. Thats why people and companies are buying stations. Come on. I understand dramatic license, but really.

         Radio does look for great indies (were feeding a voracious beast here, one that wants new music and radio is the overwhelmingly primary source for new music and where the vast majority of listeners go to discover new music). One of our companies even has a 'Rising Stars' competition to find and showcase them.

        Then we get to the single point where we agree 'radio sells records and builds careers.' 
        And then back to disagreeing. 'radio is dying.' No, it's not. It's adapting. It's morphing. Evolving. If it didnt do that, there would be an argument to make about its dying. But from my perspective and from what the actual evidence shows radio is thriving.
Radio is not without challenges. Our own companies are, and have been, expanding beyond broadcast because they know that is a growing part of the future. We have to find more places to train more young people and let them unleash their ideas about what radio could be. We have to get a uniform measurement system for broadcast and digital platforms. So it's not a perfect world for radio (or for any other medium, if you think about it).
What we do not have to do is call the funeral director. Radio is always ripe for criticism and change. But it is very much alive and thriving.
Mary Beth Garber
EVP/Radio Analysis and Insights
Katz Radio Group
Twitter @MBGforRadio

(9/19/2014 5:00:27 AM)
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Radio Ink Magazine

(8/19/2013 1:47:57 PM)
Is this article a farce? Is she for real? What kid is asking his parents to "turn on his favorite CHR station on their way to school"? Look around you. Kids are on their SMARTPHONES. They want ON DEMAND. And kids are your future. Without them, there is no future for radio.

Radio is over. You can continue to bury your head in the sand or face the reality and find new creative ways to address it.

- Jeff Ryan

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