Sandi Bergman is president and CEO of MyMediaBroker.com. In this interview she discusses her experience with RadioTVDeals.com, which describes itself as the nation’s largest marketplace for radio and TV stations for sale or lease; annual unique visitors are about 50,000, with 2.1 million hits. She was interviewed by Suzanne Gougherty, director of MMTC Media and Telecom Brokers at the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council. MMTC commentaries appear regularly in Radio World, which welcomes other points of view on industry issues.
Suzanne Gougherty: What inspired you to start a multiple list website for the broadcast industry?
Sandi Bergman: After brokering for only a short while, I realized that broadcasters interested in expanding their portfolios had the distinct burden of locating/contacting multiple media brokers who may or may not have listings that meet their specific criteria. The need for a site like RadioTVDeals.com was a “given” to me. RadioTVDeals.com could serve as a “one-stop shop” and offer a great convenience to buyers and sellers/media brokers alike.
I launched the site in March of 2010 with participation from multiple media brokers and direct sellers who collectively listed more than 200 properties for sale. Since then, the site’s total listings vary from 300 to 500. More importantly, the most significant number to consider is buyer inquiries through the site. Since its inception, as of January 2019, there have been 22,370+ buyer inquiries made through the site.
When potential buyers identify a station listing of interest, they click to send an email. This takes them to an inquiry form, and when submitted it goes directly to the media broker or seller who posted the listing. It is the media broker or seller’s prerogative to respond to the buyer inquiry.
The big secret behind the success of RadioTVDeals.com is the weekly email newsletter, “DealMaker!”
Sent every Wednesday morning except for the Wednesday following Christmas, it features newly added stations to the site, and highlights various members’ listings each week. Emailed to approximately 10,000 broadcast station owners/operators, executives, and upper level managers in markets of all sizes, the newsletter has turned into a “must see” electronic rag. As a former radio group owner, I was always interested in knowing what media properties may be for sale. As a media broker, I realize that it is important for me to know all I can about available listings nationwide. Plus, I have used the site successfully for my media brokerage. Some of my biggest sales have come from leads generated on the site.
The email marketing service we use for DealMaker gives us scoring data based on each weekly email blast. Its mailings average eight out of 10 based on open and click rates and sending volume. They report that we score much better than the “community average” of comparable services nationwide.
Gougherty: MMTC President Emeritus David Honig and others tell me the story about how you approached them to support your idea of a broadcast multilist service at a brokerage meeting in Las Vegas.
Bergman: David has been an ardent supporter of RadioTVDeals.com from the start. I met David during a meeting of the National Association of Media Brokers during NAB in 2004, I believe. It was several years later that I proposed the idea to David and several more brokers following a subsequent NAMB meeting. I knew the idea would be a tough sell to most of the brokers. It took some effort to say the least. David was the exception, and I will always appreciate his strong support of the concept when others seemed to be cautious. And, I understand their point of view.
Most media brokers are hard-wired to be very protective of their listings/territories, a mindset that worked well in the years immediately following passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, when deals were abundant, and multiples were “through the roof.” Now that deals are fewer and farther between, media brokers need to be more creative in our marketing approach, another strong factor in support of the creation of RadioTVDeals.com.
Gougherty: How many national media brokers are members of the multilist, and what kind of feedback to you hear from the participating media brokers?
Bergman: As of January 2019, we have 30 participating media brokers on the site. We also have numerous direct seller members who post listings as well.
Media brokers have found the site to be highly effective. For the most part, brokers who have posted listings in the past have chosen to continue their memberships simply due to the good response they have received.
Also, we offer a few extras for media broker members, which include being highlighted in the RadioTVDeals’ Media Broker Spotlight and in the Media Broker Directory. As a side note, I also receive many calls where I direct the inquirers to an appropriate participating broker member, generally based on geography. I believe our participating brokers will tell you they receive “kid glove” treatment from yours truly.
Gougherty: What are the up-front benefits for a buyer and seller on the multilist service?
Bergman: I consider the cost/benefit ratio as the foremost benefit for participation. Direct seller members pay $49.99 per month and media brokers pay $39.99 monthly. Both memberships include unlimited listings, which is an incredible bargain. And, members can cancel at any time. The membership offers inexpensive marketing that places their station listing(s) directly in front of the decision makers in the business and/or those who are seeking to own their first broadcast station(s).
Using their PayPal account, users can sign up and pay online to become a member. Seller or broker members are in control of information related to the listings they post, and they can easily log in to add or to make edits. Plus, listings are added in real time as the member adds them to the site.
Participating seller/broker members value the addition of their listings when they are included in the weekly DealMaker newletter. When a user clicks on a listing featured there, the user is taken directly to the listing as it appears on the site. The biggest action inquiry-wise happens immediately after the newsletter is blasted.
Buyers love the site because it provides an easy way for them to assess the newest listings added and to search for listings that may be of interest to them. The one complaint I do receive from buyers is that members who post listings sometimes do not respond to their inquiries. This is when I ask the inquirer, “Did you include information regarding your current status such as: do you currently own stations and do you have financing secured?” These are critical points to include in any station inquiry to demonstrate that the inquirer is a serious potential buyer. That specific information will motivate the seller/media broker to respond. There are tips addressing this very issue on the right-hand side of the online station inquiry form page.
Gougherty: What is the most impressive success story you heard since the launch of RadioTVDeals?
Bergman: More than several members have reported to me that they were able to sell their station(s) to leads that were generated through the site within 2–3 months of posting the listings. In our business that is impressive. Through the years my brokerage business has had success with sales/closings as a result of leads generated through RadioTVDeals. It has served me well, and I think RadioTVDeals has served the entire industry very well.
Gougherty: Do you feel that RadioTVDeals has helped women and minorities to buy or sell stations?
Bergman: Absolutely. There are many young women/minority entrepreneurs looking for ownership opportunities in the business. When they go online and search for “radio or television stations for sale,” no matter what search engine they choose, RadioTVDeals will show up at the top. Many of the calls I receive are from Hispanics, Asian Americans and African Americans. I would say that one-third of those calls are from females.
Gougherty: Do you have plans to expand the multilist platform to other media outlets besides broadcasting?
Bergman: We have been working on a major upgrade for the past three-plus years. When released, the site will include opportunities for owners/operators/engineers to post new and used broadcast equipment for sale. There will be a platform for broadcast businesses to advertise. Also, we will have a section that features all types of on-air programming for television and radio. As soon as we get everything tested and finalized, we will begin work on an app for the site.
Gougherty: Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
Bergman: Always and without a doubt, I have longed to be my own boss. I came to love business working with business owners in my hometown when I was hired as executive director of the local chamber of commerce. I was 24 years old. Because there was controversy when I was hired (I assume it was due to my age, but hopefully not my gender), I had to prove myself in that position, so I made sure that our team — staff and board members — would be successful and our feats would go down in the history books. We sponsored monthly retail promotions and created community events, some of which are now annual events. My specialty was in marketing and promotions. During my two and half year tenure, we increased total memberships by 60 percent while increasing minimum membership dues by 40%. It was a fun ride.
After that, I was appointed to work as PR director for the Economic Development & Tourism Division by newly-elected New Mexico Governor Garrey Carruthers. I came to understand the true meaning of working in a bureaucracy. That lasted about one year.
Then, I worked in marketing for KENW(TV), licensed by my alma mater, Eastern New Mexico University. That’s where I had the utmost privilege and great opportunity to work with one of the visionaries in our business, KENW founder and station manager Duane Ryan. Mr. Ryan may be the only person on the face of the earth that I would ever choose to work for again. He has amazing character and great knowledge of the public broadcasting business — a great boss.
However, my employment at KENW came to a screeching halt when my husband and I were given a tip that our local radio stations were for sale. At that point, we chose to take a leap of faith and work out a deal to purchase KSEL AM and FM. Along the way we purchased a dark C-1 FM stick (utilizing an SBA loan), the former KZZX(FM). We changed the calls to KSMX FM (Mix 107.5) and the Clovis station eventually became our primary breadwinner. When the first Arbitron County by County was released following the debut of KSMX, the station soared to number one in Curry County while KSEL(FM) dominated Roosevelt County. That, my friends, was a thrilling achievement. The sales followed.
Finally, I was in control my own destiny. Since then, I have been the captain of my very own ship, and I haven’t looked back.