November 29, 2015

Publishers' Notes


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Fasten your seat belts! Mr. Radio is taking off on a wild ride. In the next 18 months, radio will embark on a roller coaster ride that will send us reeling. You’ll toss and turn like never before, change will come at a fast pace, unexpected twists and turns will whip you around, and when you emerge, Mr. Radio won’t look or act the same.

Never in my career can I remember a more interesting moment in time for radio. It’s like the perfect storm, when all things are aligned for massive change. The recent shift of political control in Congress could change ownership regulation. Many believe a Democratic-controlled Legislative branch will lead to break-ups of big groups, more focus on minority ownership, and less “big business” control. With the approaching presidential campaign, politicians could be seeking headline-generating changes, and both sides of the aisle have made noise about radio being too controlled by too few. Some also believe that this political change will result in changing FCC governance.

As part of this perfect storm, radio is witnessing the beginning of a privatization movement that was led by Jeff Smulyan's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to take Emmis private, and just last month successfully championed by Clear Channel. No doubt we will see more companies go private, and once radio is private again, we may see significant changes in operational and programming strategies, and a renewed (and much-missed) focus on product.

Radio is facing competitive changes in the digital media landscape, which — unlike past challenges — may involve some significant reinvention on radio’s part as we face competition from satcasters, podcasters, cellcasters, and streamcasters. Meanwhile, advertisers are making significant budget shifts toward online marketing, while traditional media dollars are drying up.

In the midst of all of these changes, we’re transitioning listeners to HD Radio technology, and learning how to utilize HD2 side channels to offer multiple choices of niche programming.

Of course, Arbitron's PPM is changing how radio will be promoted, programmed, and purchased, and new competitors like The Media Audit may further change the landscape.

If that is not enough, the changes to critical industry leadership positions at the RAB and NAB are bound to result in new initiatives, fresh ideas, new sales and marketing systems, and changes in how we package and present radio to advertisers and legislators.

Whew. Just writing about it makes for a wild ride. It’s all good news for radio, and the industry that emerges will be stronger and more innovative. I, for one, am looking forward to this wild ride. Change is very much needed.

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