The Radio Show session on “How to manage during the recovery” began with moderator Mickey Luckoff, President of KGO/KSFO San Francisco asking whether the panelists agree that there is a recovery underway.
“Our advertisers seem to feel a little better,” said John Beck, Market Manager for Emmis Communications in St. Louis. But he said broadcasters should act like there is no recovery and continue to manage expenses closely. “None of us know if this is going to hold out,” he noted.
According to Jay Meyers, President and CEO of Broadcast Management & Technology, December 2010 will be the first month for radio to have a real comparison since the downturn really took hold in December 2008. “If 2009 was a re-set, then we are in a recovery,” he said.
But whatever is going on economically, Meyers said you can’t let a recession destroy creativity and that radio needs to do a better job of emphasizing its positives, such as serving 93% of the US population every week. But it gets little credit for that as new competitors get lots of buzz. “Pandora is a friggin’ music service, it’s not a radio station,” he railed.
“Local is absolutely king,” said Lia Green, President/General Manager, new Rushmore Radio, who brought the small market perspective to the panel. “In Rapid City (SD), we didn’t really have the great times, but we didn’t get the lows either,” she said, so her staff is out selling advertising just as they have for years. She keeps a slim staff and hires carefully to reduce turnover, recession or no recession.
Meyers urged attendees to hire the very best person you can for every position. “Hiring a C person to save $5,000 is not using your money wisely.”
So, what advice did the panel have for where to resume spending once the recovery is a sure thing?
In PPM markets, said Beck, reduce inventory and restore research. And in all markets invest in digital. Green agreed that she was redirecting money into research and digital. Luckoff lamented that he’d had to cut out bonuses for salespeople during the recession – “that’s counterproductive,” he said, so that’s what he’d like to get the OK to resume.