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Friday, April 23, 2010

The Clock is Ticking

First quarter revenues for the radio industry are UP. UP big time. Depending on whom you ask, advertising revenues are up close to 10% and the rest of the year is looking just as good!

Time to celebrate, right?

Not so fast.

Just think about this for a moment.

"Comps" or comparisons to last year's revenue are out of whack, i.e., 2009's growth percentages were in negative territory right out of the gate with double-digit numbers in negative territory. So comparing this year's revenue gains to last year's horror movie is deceptive, if anything.

Then there's the aura that was pervasive at this year's National Association of Broadcasters annual meeting in Las Vegas in April. The mood was light and there were smiles and optimism all around.

That's a good thing. Traditional radio took it on the chin mightily in 2009 and it wasn't that great for several years prior to that.

Yet, the good natured radio broadcasters were not only pleased with advertising 'traction' thus far this year, but the implication that a large political advertising revenue windfall was forthcoming for this fall's elections.

It may still happen. And should it be so, that is also a good thing.

But then what?

2011 is only a few months away and if 2010 ends up with double-digit revenue growth what will happen when the 2011 "comps" don't live up to 2010's growth?

Here's a straight-forward note to radio operators: THE CLOCK IS TICKING.

Your industry is still facing stiff competition for both audience and revenue. Digital appeal for both is accelerating while you read this.

A recent Bridge Ratings study called "Device Usage", shows traditional radio making some inroads into the digital landscape and capturing some lost AM/FM listening on their digital streams.

It isn't nearly enough.

The time is now for radio companies to significantly increase their investments into their digital businesses.

Time cannot be wasted. The year is already rapidly moving along.

Reinvest while Dr. Feelgood is dispensing his positive revenue growth.

Because it is likely to be short-lived and if it is, radio operators will not feel in the mood to invest next year or even the year after.

And if there is no significant investment this year, radio's ability to compete will be deflated and the industry will be sequestered to the fringes.
Left behind.

And in a world of rapidly expanding technology and digital capability where millions can create entertaining content in their bedrooms far cheaper than corporations can, if traditional radio loses one step more, it will be extremely difficult to keep up.


Save your industry now while you have the resources, the know-how and the audience.

Hire a vice president to oversee digital operations. Let them do their job. Give them time to make it work.

Times seem to be good right now. Terrestrial radio cannot afford to let this opportunity - perhaps its last - to slip away.