Oh where, oh where has our industry (Radio) gone?


From my viewpoint as someone who has worked all angles of radio over the past 20+ years, where reps use to get together and trade leads, where creative promotional campaigns were the norm, when reach and frequency mattered and no one cared about share because the cost of the spot was more important and after all if there was rate integrity, you didn’t have to worry about share. 

With all due respect to the mega-group leaders out there, no need to mention names, but the sad state of affairs that Radio is in today can be directly correlated to the effect of homogenized radio, all stations sound the same, and at the sales end, going after share…wasn’t that always TV terminology?   In the process, rate integrity was lost, this was even alluded to at one of the conferences during the Radio Show in Charlotte, with all the "Heads of State" sitting at one table, "we as an industry needed to get away from share," you are right about that!

At this point I know my boss is cringing, but in my humble opinion, here are the facts as I see and hear them on a daily basis.  I am in and out of agencies daily, radio budgets were not only drastically cut in 2007 but looking forward to 2008 I am hearing the same, I know we are all thankful for a political year!   When I hear from not one but several decision makers that there is no "urgency" in placing radio because they always know they can get on, that rates are easy to negotiate, :10s and :15s are cheaper than buying an effective schedule, that reps have become order-takers and most recently at a party I attended, there is no radio coming out of three major agencies with key accounts for 2008 not to mention radio advertisers we lost in 2007 and there were several, that scares the you know what out of me and I have budgets to meet.  I can’t even imagine what the reps for metros are reporting back!   Spot radio has fallen to the wayside to network radio, it’s cheap and hey they have it made, no accountability on the network’s  part to show whether spots ran within ordered dayparts or not and definitely no accountability for results.   

I have to agree with Mr. Bowles in his analysis of where radio has gone, as best that I can remember, during the days of Scarborough, Arbitron, Media Audit and Birch, Radio was quite prosperous, the ratings methodology is antiquated and quite frankly, the metros are lucky that new technology is being developed, non-metro markets still have to depend on year old data and diaries from just barely quantifiable samples, that’s not changing.   You could depend on core advertisers and project 5% increases annually, now we’re projecting negative numbers annually.  There were more than two rep firms because no one had consolidated and they certainly weren’t owned by an industry mega-group!  Reps had more time to focus on the stations they they were selling and actually sell Radio, now that’s a novel idea!    Cookie cutter Radio just isn’t making it anymore, to compete, we need to be out of the box, re-evaluate the value of Radio and how well it marries with the new technologies that are out there and just maybe, get back to the basics and sell Radio.  I am not sure how this looks since I am a lowly rep but there are leaders out there that can make a statement to advertisers and agencies about the value of Radio, the results it can achieve and get away from going in to sell share, that’s not selling Radio!

Radio has been very good to me, I love this industry,  and I am a believer in the results Radio has achieved for my many local and national clients over the years, it’s sad to see where we are today and quite frankly, very frustrating! 

Gail Lawing

Vice President/Regional Manager

Regional Reps Corp