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New Association Tackles the Needs of Independent Radio Stations

Independent Broadcasters Association brings resources, revenue opportunities to independent broadcasters

Ron Stone, Independent Broadcasters Associations, IBA
Ron Stone

There’s a new organization focused on supporting the needs of independent radio broadcasters.

The concept of the new Independent Broadcasters Association (IBA) started as the brainchild of the radio operator Ron Stone, who felt that current associations like the NAB lack sufficient focus on the needs of companies that are not publicly held.

“When you go to those events, you want to improve your organization and sales. It just seemed like everything was focused on the larger companies,” said Stone, who is founder, president and executive director of IBA and also owner 24 stations in five markets as part of the Adams Radio Group. “I was disheartened. And from there, I thought about what an association can do if it is formed in the right way.”

Stone said the IBA has found support from 1,200 dues-paying radio members. The association’s goals, he said, are to provide independent operators with ways to drive revenue and achieve cost benefits that cannot be achieved alone. He also plans educational webinars, conferences, access to group health insurance and admittance to jobs board.

On the heels of this, the IBA plans to roll out a news service for independent broadcasters. “If you go back into the 1800s when [the Associated Press] started, it began as a co-op with other papers,” Stone said. “What we’re trying to do is to have all independents of the IBA contribute stories and images and [make that news accessible so that] any member can use it.”

Stone doesn’t see the effort as competing with other umbrella entities. “We’re trying to take away from anyone else’s organization,” he said. “And we’re not trying to displace anyone else. Ours is highly focused on operational cost and revenue.”

Other offerings include the ability for independent broadcasters to participate in a financial review of their organization. IBA recently announced an association with dk east associates, a media specialty accounting firm, which will conduct a financial analysis of independent broadcasters’ operations. Participation in the financial report is free but stations must be a member of the IBA.

“We see a lot of information about the industry, but typically it only speaks to larger public companies and it is difficult to use in a meaningful way for local operations,” Stone said when that announcement was made. “The IBA was formed to bring shared resources like this to independent broadcasters, along with revenue-generation and cost-saving opportunities.”

For example, the IBA-dk east associates report will allow members to compare and contrast their operations to others of similar size and provide quarterly data against 2019 to allow members to gauge their own performance against similar operations during the COVID-19 crisis.

Independent Broadcasters Association, IBA, Ron StoneWhy did Stone see the need for this type of organization now? “Bigger companies have taken control of what is going on in our industry,” he said. “They’ve had control since consolidation in the ’90s. And if you look at revenue, in 1996 we were something like a $15 billion industry. This year, we’re a $10 billion industry; compared to 1996 valuations, that’s more like $8 billion. So we’ve lost 50% of the revenue that we used to have. Half our revenue is gone.

“We can keep doing the same things and you can see what the next 10 years is going to look like,” he said. “Or we can make a decision to bind together and find a path together.”

The entire radio industry is facing big challenges, he said. If radio loses its position in the car, for example, it loses in a big way, he said. “Part of our plans is to create an app so that we, too, can go to the car manufacturers and argue ‘there’s a reason this app should be on your dashboard.’”

Stone said the organization is also in talks to create its own real-time, app-based ratings service.

A look at the IBA’s current board shows a mix of CEOs, GMs and independent owners with a mix of industry attorneys and digital companies serving as board advisors. The 501(c)(6) nonprofit company will require one third of the board to vacate their seats in December 2021 to keep ideas and mindsets fresh. Varied voices are important, Stone said. “We don’t want to see the same board members serving for 30 years,” he said.

There are several ways to join, one of which includes a way to make membership financially feasible to all stations. One option is a barter-based plan that includes a per-station $100 annual fee plus one 60-second daily barter advertising spot. If they choose the membership barter option, that inventory is sold to fund their membership, Stone said. A second option is $600 annually per station with no barter.

The more members we have, the more voice we have in the matter. There is every reason to have every [independent station] be part of us.

“I want to know that when our generation hands it over [to the next generation], it will be in good shape,” he said. “But it takes every independent to make that happen.”