On Wednesday, August 19, from 11:30am-12:30pm, RBR+TVBR will host the Black Media Symposium, presented by Triton Digital. The hour-long live event on Facebook Live and the RBR+TVBR YouTube channel is a free event that begins with a keynote conversation with highly respected award-winning journalists Ed Gordon and Roland Martin, ahead of a virtual roundtable discussion with a host of Black media leaders.
RBR+TVBR spoke with each of the roundtable panelists to offer a preview of what’s to come during the Symposium. Today, we chat with Chesley Maddox-Dorsey, CEO of American Urban Radio Networks (AURN) and Superadio Networks.
RBR+TVBR: What are some of the challenges of operating a national radio syndication company superserving Black audiences today — even with renewed interest in reaching Black consumers in the wake of the nation’s social injustice movement?
Chesley begins by referencing her former ownership of radio stations, through Access.1 Communications.
CHESLEY MADDOX-DORSEY: It’s a long path between Shreveport, La., [where Access.1 once owned stations] and AURN. But, there is a direct connection, as we had several stations there that were affiliates of ours.
The challenges of operating a network targeting African Americans is no different than in the past. More attention has been given to them and to Black media, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more dollars. We should get at least as good if not higher CPMs, and we don’t … and at AURN we never have.
The discount rate for the Black consumers is still, unfortunately, in existence. This means there is a fundamental imbalance and what I would like to see coming out of racial injustice movement is a level of parity that the radio industry just has yet to experience – and parity for the black consumer.
“We should get at least as good if not higher CPMs, and we don’t … and at AURN we never have.” — Chesley Maddox-Dorsey
RBR+TVBR: It is a most challenging time to be in the radio business, even with Black consumers overindexing on consumption. What are the positives in being focused on serving Black listeners with the programming AURN offers?
CHESLEY MADDOX-DORSEY: One of the issues is a measurement problem, and this is essentially a Nielsen challenge. On the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as a company we pledged to serve the needs of our target listeners regardless of how it was measured. Recognizing some of the needs of our listeners, we focused heavily in April and May on our inspirational programming, because we recognized that our listeners were often front-line workers and had to continue to leave their homes to do their jobs and needed inspiration to do that. We did it because we felt like there was a need, and we felt from station operators that it was really important. As it turned out, listenership for radio in April and May had a decided decrease.
But, we bonded more with our consumer, and the great thing about radio is that it has the ability to connect with people, and during a pandemic it is very easy to feel totally disconnected. In fact, if you don’t feel disconnected there is something wrong with you! Being able to talk and speak and listen has been really helpful, and we’ve heard from consumers and [Program Directors] in a way we didn’t expect. And, our talent and our employees felt really, really accomplished during this time.
RBR+TVBR: What’s perhaps the biggest thing the financial and regulatory leaders in the media industry should recognize about Black media, and radio, today?
CHESLEY MADDOX-DORSEY: The importance of radio – the impact of radio – to the African American consumer has been documented over and over again. Recognizing that as a mass media – and the greatest percentage of that media the Black subset – radio is really the way to reach African Americans. It is essential. The special bond they have to the on-air host alone is a reason why advertisers need to use Radio to reach this audience.
The “Black Media Symposium” will be presented on Facebook Live and via YouTube on Wednesday, August 19, from 11:30am-12:30pm Eastern.
You may view the Black Media Symposium on YouTube by clicking here.