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‘Our Sales Story Is Changing Dramatically’

Farber is a visible radio proponent, a year after taking RAB’s top job

Erica Farber. ‘Our challenge as radio professionals is getting our arms around the measurability of all the listening going on across different devices.’ Radio sales professionals seem to have more opportunities than ever to serve a client’s advertising needs. From terrestrial signals and in-dash data displays to podcasts and online streams, numerous new revenue opportunities are making salespeople adapt.

Of course, that also means more monthly goals to hit.

Erica Farber, president and CEO of the Radio Advertising Bureau, sees this digital era as the start of a new cycle in radio sales. She’ll be a visible presence at the upcoming NAB Show and the neighboring RAIN Summit West, dedicated to the topic of Internet radio.

Farber’s professional career is stacked with radio experience in sales, management and publishing. She now has been at the helm of the RAB for approximately a year, and says her first 12 months have buoyed her enthusiasm for radio and how it can help advertisers.

“Advertisers and agencies still see radio as a very strong medium. From a listening standpoint we know that over 92 percent of all Americans are listening to radio during the week. Advertisers continue to use radio as a means to reach consumers,” she said.

Interestingly, with all of the choices available to advertisers, radio still receives about the same percentage of advertising budgets as it always has, Farber said.

“But now with radio available on so many multiple platforms, we provide an even better solution to advertisers to reach customers. Our challenge as radio professionals is getting our arms around the measurability of all the listening going on across different devices,” she said.

“At the same time, our sales story is changing dramatically. No longer do we go into clients to speak about individual radio stations, we now bring an integrated marketing approach to an advertiser.”


Broadcasters must still push forward to get their product on as many devices as possible, Farber said, then figure out how to monetize the variety of products.

“The strategies to do that seem to vary greatly from company to company. The focus for most is still on the broadcast signal revenue, and that is totally understandable. But at the same time we are seeing stations develop a strategy for social, online and develop strategies for in car.

“There are more and more apps available, from iHeartRadio to TuneIn.There isn’t one single strategy. It seems each company is looking at their audience and looking for ways to respond to fit that audience.”

Mobile marketing — advertising delivered to mobile devices held in the hand — is a fairly new platform that is available to broadcasters.

“We need to maximize that platform. The technology is allowing radio to do so much more with content. Whether it is contesting, video or couponing, it all helps radio get that much closer to its consumers.”

Despite the addition of multiple platforms, the frustration of most radio sellers remains the same: simply getting in the door.

“People are busy and people are time-starved, so getting that face to face time with the client is difficult sometimes, but it is critical of course to get that appointment. The other issue is coming up with actionable marketing plans and concepts that will help that advertiser move the needle,” she said.

“Understanding what it is the customer wants to do and then bringing them some specific ideas to help them is the challenge. Businesses are bombarded today with so many different media options. You have to be smart, efficient and timely.”


Farber reminds broadcasters that “radio is radio” and that they should be consistent when referring to their product.

“We should refer to the product how listeners refer to the product. We don’t need to deem it ‘terrestrial’ radio. In fact, it was the satellite radio creators that started calling us terrestrial, to pit them against us; and then some within broadcasting adopted that term.

“We should be proud to call ourselves local radio,” Farber said. “And we should be flattered that so many of our competitors are also calling themselves radio.”

RAB’s revenue forecast for 2013 is for overall growth in U.S. commercial radio revenue of just under 1 percent, Farber said. “I would like to see consistency develop. We are starting to see some digital growth. We’d like to see that needle move even higher.”

(Subsequent to this interview, RAB reported that in 2012, overall revenue grew 1 percent, including 8 percent growth in digital revenue from online, streaming and HD Radio. Radio’s fourth quarter saw a 4 percent uptick overall.)

Audience measurement of radio consumption, across all platforms, is going to be crucial to radio’s future growth, she said.

“We must be able to measure the consumption of our products on all levels in all situations, in order to truly present a solution to an advertiser.

Farber is a member of the board of directors at Arbitron. (She referred questions about the rating company’s pending sale to Nielsen to Arbitron officials.)

Farber’s focus in her first year at RAB has been on identifying the group’s “touch points” with its membership and invigorating the industry. She sends e-mail updates called RAB@work; and a re-launch of will coincide with NAB 2013, she said.

“We have a new communications plan. We are enhancing training products and services and increasing the number of touch points, including refocusing on the Radio Show this fall.” The sales organization, with approximately 7,000 members, will continue to offer a variety of radio sales workshops and webinars.

Farber believes radio selling remains a very strong career option for young professionals.

“This is the best time to get into radio selling. Radio still has a connection in the local market place. We need to make sure it remains a satisfying career, with stability being one of the keys. We can compete against technology companies and startups for good sales people, but we need to compensate young people coming in other fields,” Farber said.

“Radio needs to find people who are young, energized and understand technology.”