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Looking at Radio’s Business Future

What’s the role for the sales manager of the future? What about the ever-changing audience, and all those kids with their MySpace and their iPods?

A number of sessions Thursday and Friday will highlight the myriad uncertainties and changes ahead in the business of radio.

What’s the role for the sales manager of the future? What about the ever-changing audience, and all those kids with their MySpace and their iPods?

Selling enough ads to support a station nowadays is tough. Enter Jerry Del Core, KHHL/KXBT/KXXS/KFON-AM, who will moderate the session “Toughest Job in the Building — How to Recruit and Retain Sales Managers,” Thursday, 9 a.m.

“When business is down, all eyes turn to the sales manager, and the sales managers are the ones being tasked with putting together the solutions,” he said.

Joining Del Core on this panel will be Spencer Bynes, Clear Channel University; Cheryl Ervin, Cumulus Atlanta, Jim Hopes, The Center for Sales Strategy, and Bruce Walden, Emmis Austin.

The panel will discuss what skill sets have helped sales managers succeed in the past and what might succeed in the future. And those two things are not the same, it turns out, as radio stations look at a declining ad revenue pie and seek out nontraditional revenue streams.

But even forward-thinking staff can’t predict the future. And, as panelists will discuss in “Don’t Drive Blind into 2009: Your GPS for Forecasting,” Thursday, 2 p.m., knowing what’s ahead is becoming more and more important.

Back when station revenues grew at 5 or 8 percent annually, being off by 1 percent in a forecast didn’t disrupt things too badly, said panelist Mark Fratrik, BIA Financial Network. But the stakes are higher when stations are struggling to achieve just a couple of percentage points in growth.

“You have to have a new idea or something to talk about that would make you break out of the crowd,” Fratrik said. “With tighter budgets, without accurate forecasts, at midyear you might have to cut back on your marketing plan.”

Fratrik will join Sam Bush, Saga Communications, and moderator Larry Patrick, Patrick Communications.

In “The Millennials Are Coming,” Lindsay Shutte, Frank Magid Associates, will demystify the under-30 crowd and let managers know how to keep these employees and harness their cleverness and resources without letting them retreat into that aloof world they sometimes inhabit. The session is Friday, 9 a.m.

The generation gap will also be the focus of “Playing Atari in a Wii World: If You’re Just Keeping Up, You’re Falling Behind,” Friday, 10:30 a.m., moderated by Susan Larkin of WDBO(AM) and WWKA(FM). She’ll be joined by Peri Shamsai, Ernst and Young; and Gerry Tabio, Creative Resources.

Finally, the radio industry may need reminding of the pervasiveness of the medium. In “Repositioning Radio: Changing Misperceptions,” Thursday at 2 p.m., speakers will challenge the very notion that radio is in decline. After all, 235 million people listen to radio every week.

Kelly O’Keefe, O’Keefe Brands, will moderate the panel featuring Radio Advertising Bureau President and CEO Jeff Haley and David Rehr, president and CEO of NAB.