The silver lining in bleak October


Radio revenues during the opening month of Q4 were pretty much in line with overall Q3 results – that makes them ugly. Overall Q3 was down -9%, and October was down -10% compared to similar portions of 2007. But there was what passes for good news on the national side of the ledger this time around. According to the Radio Advertising Bureau and Miller Kaplan Arase & Company, national was not the loss leader during the month – in fact, they were good enough to apply at least a bit of ointment on a -15% local month National was down a mere -1%, bringing total spot results to -11%.

The national number is significant; national was down -12% in Q3 and -11% YTD, so getting to nearly flat can be seen as a major achievement.

Off air revenue, on the other hand, continued to show signs leveling off. It was in the black, but the bottom line was only 2% better than it was during the previous October.

RBR/TVBR observation: National results are a definite positive, especially if they prove to be sustainable. Another plus (you won’t like it): Easy comps for 2009! But there are possibilities for a turnaround going ahead. We may see advertisers abandon more expensive media and take advantage of the radio’s affordability; others my be come disenchanted with the results they’re getting from internet experiments; and internet businesses themselves may start using radio as a means to drive traffic to their websites, becoming a major new category. An effective economic stimulus package from Washington may restore some consumer confidence to the benefit of the entire business community. At some point, this economic situation has to turn around. The key for operators is to make sure they remain competitive when conditions finally start to improve.