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July 28, 2014

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08/18/08 It's Not The Economy, Stupid


Bill Clinton was known for his successful 1992 campaign line, "Itís the Economy, Stupid.Ē But what if I told you itís not about the economy this time? Not when it comes to radio. Chances are you'd call me stupid.

No doubt the economy is horrific but there may be more to the story. Radio may be in the midst of a perfect storm: a faltering economy, the state of old media, radioís negative press, the Internet, and a change in generational control.

Five years ago, Radio Ink columnist and author Roy Williams told us we had better brace ourselves because a new generation was taking over that would change everything in business, including the way media is bought and sold. He said that media considered old and stodgy would suffer. It appears this prediction may have come true.

Radio's problems are not all a result of the economy. Radio is suffering a perception vs. reality problem. Young advertising decision-makers are in control, and their desire to be forward thinking has inherently placed old media at a disadvantage. Radio is being lumped with old media. And all old media are on the decline. Newspapers are experiencing the most severe spending reductions in history. Television and cable have also been on a downward trend. Radio has seen seven years of negative growth, not even reaping its usual benefit from advertisers abandoning television to reduce costs in a down economy. No matter how strong radio listenership remains, we are still considered old school by the new school.

Ad buyers and planners under age 35 are changing the direction of all advertising nationally (which trickles down locally), as theyíve watched the audiences of companies like MySpace and Facebook grow exponentially within months without a dime of advertising spent due to the power of interactive word of mouth. Major national and regional dollars are shifting away from traditional media to nontraditional interactive media, which is instantly accountable and trackable.

The perception of being old media has placed radio at a psychological disadvantage in the minds of the new guard. Young minds have always wanted to follow what's new. Radio must attack its perception problem. We still have great strength but unless advertisers believe it, we will continue to be lumped with old media.

Telling radio's story in a PR push might help a little but reinventing radio as a sexier new medium would be better. Saying it, however, isn't enough. Radio not only needs a fresh new story along with reinforcement of our strengths but also must show real change that will appeal to the new power structure. We must be fully integrated with the interactive and mobile world (not just have websites), and we must offer instant trackability and accountability like Google. If you're running a radio station the interactive department can no longer be an afterthought. It needs the importance and prominence of the programming and sales departments because it actually becomes both. This must be radio's big push. Because when the economy is again healthy and radio ad sales arenít, we will wish we had focused on the interactive agenda sooner.


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