“Seismic shift” for radio revenues in Q1


You knew Q1 was a horrible quarter for radio, since the public companies have already reported their dismal revenue numbers. Now the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) has issued the tally for the entire industry – a 24% drop in total radio revenues, with spot sales for stations down 26%. “Financial difficulties for many of the leading advertisers caused seismic shifts in spending, impacting both advertiser and category ratings,” RAB said in announcing the quarterly numbers.

“Radio’s digital platforms are experiencing the greatest growth and are reflective of the dollar shift from media to marketing by many of today’s advertisers,” stated Jeff Haley, RAB President and CEO. “As consumer and technological sophistication increases, advertisers will continue to support those platforms which appeal to their customers’ increased on-demand behaviors – and Radio is primed for it,” he insisted.

The severe financial troubles of the automobile industry were reflected in radio ad spending. Once the biggest ad category for radio, auto fell to #4 in Q1. Communications/Cellular/Public Utilities is now #1, followed by Restaurants and Television/Networks/Cable Providers – all now ahead of Auto Dealers/Dealer Groups/Manufacturers/Rentals.

RAB provided some interesting detail on which restaurant chains have been most aggressive in boosting their ad spending on radio. They tend to be eateries that aim to draw consumers in with a pitch of being an economical place to eat out in a time of tight budgets.

2009 vs. 2008 Local & National Growth Leaders

Advertiser                                          Q1 ’09 (in Millions)                               % Chng
White Castle                                               $ 4.9                                           310%
Panera Bread                                              $ 4.3                                           278%
Jack in the Box                                            $ 4.9                                             79%
Luby’s Cafeteria                                           $ 2.5                                             69%
Dunkin’ Donuts                                            $ 23.1                                            55%
Del Taco                                                      $ 4.9                                             49%
International House of Pancakes                    $ 3.9                                             48%
Papa John’s Pizza                                         $ 2.5                                             29%
Taco Bell                                                     $ 20.1                                            25%
Qdoba Mexican Grill                                      $ 2.4                                              23%
Carl’s Jr.                                                      $ 2.4                                               6%
Source: Miller, Kaplan, Arase & Co.,: X-Ray Markets

For more commentary by category, click here to read the RAB quarterly revenue release.

RBR/TVBR observation: Radio can’t really recover until the US economy recovers. Unemployment continues to increase, not decrease, and we’re all still waiting to see the final shakeout from Chrysler and GM. Some folks are expecting the second half of 2009 to be better than the first half, but we wouldn’t want to bet the farm on it.