December 1, 2015

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First Mediaworks

07/07/08 Dear 40 Most Powerful People In Radio

We take great pride in the development of Radio Ink’s Top 40 list as an annual reflection of the state of the industry. We spend months in discussion, gathering research data, and determining the appropriate positions. We don’t take the weight of our decisions lightly, because we know they can impact business: One year, for example, a member of the 40 was downgraded on our list, and a Wall Street analyst consequently downgraded the company.

As a member of this list you have the entire future of the radio industry in your hands, and the decisions you make for your own company impact every employee in the industry. We know you, too, take the weight of your decisions seriously.

To ensure a vibrant future, we as an industry must take proactive steps. This involves investment in our product at a time when there is no money to invest. Yet putting off this investment may deepen our challenges and allow the golden ring to pass radio by.
So I’m issuing this public challenge to radio’s Top 40:

• Invest in young listeners: Engage youth with radio now in order to maintain that connection when they become “important” demographics to advertisers. Don’t allow erosion; reinvent and re-engage younger people so they’ll be addicted to radio.

• Invest in Internet culture: The powerful combination of radio + social networks + Internet + mobile will make radio untouchable. It’s not about cool radio websites; it’s about tapping the cultural revolution that is changing culture daily.

• Invest in employees: Though everyone talks about the importance of their people, few live up to it. I receive e-mails each day from unhappy, de-motivated employees who want out of radio because of heavier-than-ever pressures, corporate handcuffs, paperwork, and constricting systems. It’s not about money; it’s about being heard and being trusted.

• Invest in career salespeople: You’re competing with stronger companies that offer more attractive compensation packages. Advertiser confidence is hurt by radio’s “90 days to the door” policy. Our training system is old school — and it’s not working.

• Reinvent autonomy: The most effective managers are given a mission and allowed to use their experience and expertise to achieve it. Do not saddle your executives with micro-management, oppressive systems, and demands for constant reporting and re-forecasting. Give them time to spend with clients and employees. Are you hampering performance by over-burdening your star managers?

• Invest in hyper-localism: Stations that place high value on involvement in local communities are reaping the most rewards. These stations are on the streets, involved in everything local. With a changing music landscape, it will be hyper-localism and a personal connection with the audience that will overcome the iPod. People still want to feel connected; it’s radio’s job to connect them.

• Invest in local talent: Quality national talent often sounds more professional than local yocals who are less polished. But don’t discount the connection to people who have been in the market their entire life and reflect and relate to life in your town.

• Invest in visibility: Winning stations are practicing what they preach: They promote and advertise. Radio declines began when promotion stopped.

Cutting does not seem to be helping radio grow. Maybe investing will.

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