Consultants Peer Into Crystal Balls

Predict more syndication, more podcasts, same commercials in 2019
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They visit dozens of radio stations each year, meeting with weekend DJs, CEOs and everyone in between. Consultants see what’s happening in the trenches of radio from coast-to-coast. Who better to predict the future of radio programming in 2019?

With another year coming to a close, I asked seven consultants to answer questions about some possible changes to radio that could lie ahead.

So that they could be candid, I agreed not to report their individual answers, although several of these highly quotable experts chose to comment also.

rwm-21st-century-table

They visit dozens of radio stations each year, meeting with weekend DJs, CEOs and everyone in between. Consultants see what’s happening in the trenches of radio from coast-to-coast. Who better to predict the future of radio programming in 2019?

With another year coming to a close, I asked seven consultants to answer questions about some possible changes to radio that could lie ahead.

Alan Burns

Alan Burns

So that they could be candid, I agreed not to report their individual answers, although several of these highly quotable experts chose to comment also.

WHERE THEY AGREE

As you can see from the chart, our esteemed panel agrees on a lot. For example…

Scott Huskey

Scott Huskey

There’s good news for radio talent — if they’re truly talented. Without exception, these consultants believe the importance of personalities to AM and FM brands will increase in 2019.

“The future of radio is talent,” says Randy Lane. “As music becomes even more ubiquitous, talent is the great distinguisher.”

One note of caution, though, from Alan Burns: “If we as an industry overreact to in-the-moment ratings… or if we choke down too much farther on opportunities for people to get into the business and on the air, we won’t have enough personalities to fill the pipeline.”

In that case, Scott Huskey says that network/syndicated programming “could be seen as a quick fix, while hopefully developing more local talent.”

In fact, all but one of our panelists agreed that that there would be more use of network programming in 2019.

Fred Jacobs

Fred Jacobs

Five even believe that centralization of operations will become more common, moving day-to-day operations of some stations outside of their home markets.

All of our experts expect that time spent listening to audio on mobile devices will continue to increase in 2019, representing both an opportunity and a challenge for radio.

Harry Lyles

Harry Lyles

Most of our panelists believe local podcasting by radio will grow in 2019, including Fred Jacobs. “The question,” he says, “is whether many of them will enjoy success.”

Harry Lyles is even more blunt: “Podcasting is a totally different business than radio,” he says. “Radio is radio. Podcasting is podcasting.”

WHERE THEY LACK CONSENSUS

Five of the consultants we asked predict that the growth of smart speakers will cause an increase in time spent listening to radio.

Alan Burns believes he’s already seeing this happen for one of his clients.

Randy Lane

Randy Lane

But, warns Jacobs, “Stations have to do a better job of marketing these devices to their audiences.”

Although most of our consultants expressed that a high spot load is — as Lyles puts it — “one of radio’s biggest problems,” only two believe it will be reduced in 2019.

Sam Milkman

Sam Milkman

If a few companies take the lead, Lane believes, “Others will be forced to decrease spot loads to stay competitive.”

Finally, I asked the consultants if the radio industry might start to see and refer to itself as “audio” instead. Most didn’t think so, at least not yet. “When we start seeing signs for ‘Audio Shack,’ we’ll know something is going on,” says Fred Jacobs.

David Gleason

David Gleason

No doubt about it, radio will face some challenges in the year ahead. Still, these predictions include reason for optimism, especially for those of us who create radio programming.

David Gleason summed it up thus: “Broadcasters who realize the future is in content, not towers, will be the survivors.”

Veteran radio programmer Dave Beasing predicted podcasting’s bright future, so he began a company called “Sound That Brands.” Among others, they co-produce “Inside Trader Joe’s,” the most successful podcast series of its kind.

Comment on this or any story. Email radioworld@futurenet.com with “Letter to the Editor” in the subject line.

Our Panel of Prognosticators

Alan Burns, president, Alan Burns & Associates
David Gleason, Hispanic market programming consultant
Scott Huskey, co-president, RWPC Inc.
Fred Jacobs, president, Jacobs Media Strategies
Randy Lane, president, The Randy Lane Company
Sam Milkman, EVP/senior consultant, Coleman Insights
Harry Lyles, president, Lyles Media Group

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