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Radio Must ‘Remap, Reform and Reinvent’

Redgrave came up through radio sales but professes an interest in all aspects of station operation, from programming to operations and engineering. This wide-ranging interest gives her a useful lens through which to assess the state of the industry.

Consolidation and decreasing budgets have taken their toll on convention attendance over the years; and some in the industry have questioned the need for a separate radio show.

Not Chris Redgrave. She’s general manager of Bonneville Broadcasting’s Salt Lake City cluster, which includes powerhouse KSL(AM), along with three FMs: KSL(FM), KSFI and KRSP. Redgrave thinks the fall show is more important than ever.

“Of course, the natural thing is to intuit that it is a bad time to attend. The economy is tough, budgets are down, so the simple call is not to go.”

(click thumbnail)Chris Redgrave
But that’s wrong, she says. “When your intuition says ‘Don’t go,’ that’s exactly the time to make the effort and spend the money to attend.” Redgrave is a member of the Management Subcommittee, charged with planning sessions and presentations.

The Millennials

Redgrave came up through radio sales but professes an interest in all aspects of station operation, from programming to operations and engineering.

This wide-ranging interest gives her a useful lens through which to assess the state of the industry.

Radio is “in flux,” she feels, and this state of affairs will be apparent at sessions in Austin.

“It’s all about the ‘Millennials,’ the under-30 audience. This is the group that radio has to attract in order to remain viable. They are used to instant, one-on-one access, so we are focusing on that at the show; we’re all over interactivity.”

To that end, she says, there will be sessions about the ongoing research into their entertainment habits. “It’s really about how to reinvent radio. How to thrive, not just survive.”

Redgrave says Bonneville relies heavily on the type of data that will be presented at the show.

“The research on this [demographic] group is excellent and we use that to specifically target them,” she said. As an example, she cited her decision to begin offering free, unlimited text messaging to Bonneville listeners in Salt Lake as a way to interact personally. To her, it’s just another way to touch her customers.

“Sales people of the future will understand the changes coming. We’ve got to go from selling cume and points to selling personal ways to touch listeners … the approach has to go all the way down to one-on-one marketing. Broadcasters have to look at these trends and have to remap, reform and reinvent to stay with these new listeners.”

Digital optimist

Redgrave is also bullish — her word — on the multicasting potential of HD Radio but wishes the FCC had followed the TV example.

“What I wish,” she says, “is that HD Radio would be a government mandate. Because [it is] going to be harder without a mandate. It is going to take more time.”

Still she says, she and her managers love the potential of the technology, for instance on KRSP.

“We’ve had a blast with it on ‘The Arrow.’ Running deeper tracks and new artists. It gives us the chance to develop new formats.”

But she still comes back to the “chicken and egg” problem. Since radio is driven by listening in cars, she says broadcasters need to push automobile manufacturers to make HD Radio available. As that happens, it becomes incumbent on radio managers to exploit that second stream effectively.

“We just have to manage that second stream. We’ve got to manage it just like the main signal.”

In the end, she says, stations must adapt to the environment that new technologies are creating. “We’re going to have the radio station (to program), and then a Webstream, and then second and even third channels, and then texting.”

It really doesn’t matter that each of those channels will attract smaller and smaller slivers of audience. To her mind, smaller can mean more dedicated, and her job is to create that dedication in the mind of what she calls the “Super P-1” listener.

People Meter

All of these new channels need new tracking methodology, and Redgrave says the Radio Show will feature sessions on Arbitron’s new PPM monitoring. “We’re looking forward to PPMs,” she says. “Arbitron is challenged right now, since they must stay focused on their future business model, PPM, while maintaining the diary system in place.”

Broadcasters have to stay proactive during the transition. “Diary markets are challenged. It’s tough to keep the old model going while developing the new model, but diaries have seen their time. I’m encouraged that Arbitron is trying to re-invent … and there are sessions at the show dealing with the issue.”

Redgrave also maintains that if you can serve the needs of your targeted listener, your station will be a success, no matter what the economic climate.

“Is this a great business? Absolutely. But it’s all about listener trust. The government is all about [stations] supporting communities; but even without that push, that’s a huge issue for Bonneville. We constantly ask ourselves, ‘What kind of impact can we have on the community?’ It’s what radio does best. Better than new media, better than television.”