December 2, 2015

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First Mediaworks

11/19/07 In Radio, Patience Really Is A Virtue
In 1987 I acquired a floundering radio publication called the Pulse of Broadcasting. In retrospect, Iím not exactly sure why I purchased it. I knew nothing about the publishing business, and my losses in the first few years proved it.

However, my goal was clear: to publish the magazine for radio. So, I began implementing changes to develop the industry magazine I wished for during my days as a station owner and manager.

During my first two years in publishing I worked unbelievably hard, yet I could barely get any advertiser or reader attention. In a move of desperation ó and to overcome some serious image issues created by the previous management team ó I changed the name of the magazine to Radio Ink.

We were in the black within two years.

The Japanese have a term that translates to patient capital. Sometimes start-ups catch on quickly, and sometimes they take time. Had my board of directors insisted on profitability within the first year or two, Radio Ink would not be the heritage brand it is today.

Heritage station KFOG is celebrating 20 years on the air in San Francisco, yet they too struggled at the beginning. The station barely survived its first two years due to weak audience numbers and lack of advertising support. Station personnel were recently heard on air discussing the reality that KFOG would not succeed as a start-up today. Fortunately, the original owners correctly believed time would work to their benefit.

Streamline Publishing, the company I own, launched the fine art magazine Fine Art Connoisseur about four years ago. Many companies would have killed it for non-performance in the first two years, but in that market advertisers and readers need time to develop trust. Time and consistency have been key factors, and we are now enjoying our highest-billing issues ever.

The lack of time allotted to develop listener and advertiser trust is a major detriment to the radio industry. Similarly, in a recent editorial I noted that some of the best radio salespeople Iíve known would never have made the 90-day cut if they were starting in radio today. The same holds true for managers and program directors as well. And few radio stations or formats that have enjoyed long-term success were built in a year. Yes, there are instant successes such as the Adult Hits (Jack, Bob, Ben) format, but its long-term viability remains to be seen.

Though I can appreciate the need for public companies to satisfy Wall Street, if the Street had been breathing down my neck during either Radio Ink or Fine Art Connoisseurís earliest days, I would not have been afforded the time to nurture an up-and-coming heritage brand.

I have turned down every offer to head a public company because I donít want to be punished after every quarter when I cannot answer the question ďWhat have you done for me lately?Ē to the satisfaction of the market.

Maybe radio isnít cut out to be public. The tide certainly seems to be shifting away from it. Regardless, radio simply must do a better job of communicating to its critics that some things done well take time. Patience and time are the best ways to build customer loyalty and trust; and once you have them, theyíre difficult to lose.

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