Down 8%, but it could be worse


RAB’s report that May radio revenues were down 8% may be a downer for radio folks, but at least you’re not in the newspaper business. Gannett reports that May newspaper ad revenues fell 14.3%, Media General’s publishing division revenues dropped 14.6% and May ad revenues for the New York Times News Media Group fell 13.2%.

All predictions are for radio revenues to be down again this year after falling 2% in 2008. TV should be up, due to the election cycle. But newspapers are almost certain to make other “old media” look good by comparison. Not only are they being hit by soft advertising by businesses at both the local and national level, but their classified ad business is disintegrating at an incredible rate as people turn to the Internet to offer up a sofa or used car that they no longer want. Where will it end? Well, Tribune CEO Sam Zell recently noted that classified cannot fall below zero.

RBR/TVBR observation: Our advice remains the same. Put sales people on the street and train them properly. In fact, that was our advice back when radio was still enjoying predictable annual revenue gains. Invest in the product and invest in your people. Those are clichés, but they are also correct and more than one major radio group thought they knew shortcuts to success, only to find that they were wrong.

It’s not all doom and gloom out there, though. We got an email yesterday from a major group market manager in a depressed rust belt market who has been allowed to do his job correctly and sell his stations correctly. His cluster’s May revenues were more than double a year ago.