“2007 has taught me to stop quoting the past,” says Peter Smyth of Greater Media.
Writing in his online column, the radio group executive says, “It used to be that we could count on modest growth in radio spot advertising, some flux in the ratings for our properties, and pretty much figure that next year would be like the year just past. No longer.”
“Today, we’re being challenged on many fronts. Distractions abound, and if you don’t have an accurate compass, you can easily get led off course by the hype on one hand, and the doomsayers on the other.”
At a time when radio is in Wall Street’s doghouse and Google stock is at $700, Smyth said, and with a housing and credit crunch as backdrops, U.S. commercial radio must stabilize and try to grow its advertiser base.
Smyth believes radio should avoid lowering rates, increasing inventory, “beating up salespeople for share at any price,” “continuing to call on the usual suspects in the media department and whining about being zipped on the buy” or talking about new initiatives “if we don’t have the courage of our convictions when it comes to budget times.”
Radio, Smyth said, needs to sell ideas and programs that will get results advertisers want, “not just what you have in a package. Stop selling spot schedules.”
He calls on sales people to find their way out of the media departments of buyers. “In most agencies, there are now people dedicated to online and interactive media. If you’re trying to sell these programs to a time buyer, odds are against you. They’ll just become value-added to the buy. You have to get to planners and account people in order to know what their client wants in the way of results.”
He said radio also needs to learn the language of the online world and not be a “deer in the headlines when someone asked how many page views your station’s Web site gets.”
Radio, he said, also must work more diligently on deepening and broadening relationships with audiences and invite advertisers into that, “not just to pitch, but to expand their relationship with our listeners.”
In the old radio culture, he says, “We work something out in a back room, put it on the air and expect everyone to be amused and amazed. This is a different dynamic in which the listeners and advertisers have to play a more integral and interactive part.”