HAILEY, IDAHO — Jeff Haley is president and chief executive officer of Marketron, the, Hailey, Idaho-headquartered company that is the media industry’s leading provider of business software solutions and services. Prior to joining Marketron almost a year ago, Haley served as the president and CEO of the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB). Prior to that he served as senior vice president for Time Warner Global Marketing where he was responsible for creating marketing programs for some of the largest advertisers in the U.S. Haley worked extensively in advertising sales and marketing at Time Inc. and Children’s Television Workshop (CTW). He is on the board of directors for the Ad Council and a member of the Arbitron Radio advisory council. He also serves as co-chair of the Radio Creative Fund (RCF), the governing body of the Radio-Mercury Awards. Haley holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of the Holy Cross and attended Boston University’s School of Management. The TALKERS interview with Jeff Haley was conducted by Michael Harrison.
TALKERS: What led you to leave the RAB and join Marketron? Erica Farber - then a recently signed-up VP of the RAB – has publically stated that she was surprised by your announcement to leave (which led to her ascending to your position). What happened to spark the decision?
JH: At the RAB, my goal was to reenergize the radio advertising business, taking advantage of all that radio does best. The time I spent there was the perfect preparation for this role – which focuses on providing stations the support they need to be as successful as possible in a new, much more competitive environment.
TALKERS: I would imagine guiding the RAB was quite challenging considering the times and all the many stations, companies and formats it touches… so, just how big is Marketron?
JH: At Marketron, we’re working with over 7,000 media organizations to help them streamline and grow – become more attractive to advertisers, and deliver great results. We’re the most widely-used media solution in the world, managing an estimated $15 billion dollars in annual advertising revenue.
TALKERS: You say you wanted to help “reenergize” the radio advertising business. Although you deal primarily from a technological perspective, what is going on in terms of the human element in radio sales that needs to be addressed?
JH: While technology like ours can enable radio stations to streamline their operations, when it comes to sales, it still needs a human touch to make the deal. With Marketron on board, a station’s sales reps are able to save time on data keeping and management, and pull together more sophisticated packages to suit each advertiser, leveraging all available platforms, and markets.
TALKERS: What were your goals for Marketron upon taking the position and now that you are approaching your first anniversary, are you pleased with the progress you’ve made in attaining them? What kind of changes are taking place at Marketron?
JH: I’m extremely happy with how 2012 went at Marketron. Acquiring Emmis Interactive – now Marketron Interactive – was a big move for us, and a great one. Among many renewals, we signed Univision, Buckley Radio and Cox Media Group. Our aggressive move toward cloud-based solutions is the future. And, as more and more stations sign on, we will be there to support them.
TALKERS: Let’s take a look ahead at this new year, 2013… What do you foresee regarding a) the economy in general, b) emerging areas of advertising for radio, c) FCC regulations, and d) AM/FM stations’ relationship with digital media distribution?
JH: With more than 240 million people in the United States listening to the radio each week, according to Arbitron, which is about 92 percent of the population, radio is still reaching into communities all across the country. Its power as a local activation engine is unmatched. Its connection to mobile is powerful. The growth prospects for radio are very solid. As the economy improves, we see advertising revenue increasing and more stations looking to new technologies both to streamline their own operations. Connected devices such as tablets and smartphones will lead to increased listening. There’s been an 87 percent year-over-year increase in tablet ownership and a 22 percent jump in ownership of smartphones among internet radio listeners. Digital audio listeners now spend more time listening on their tablets (48 percent), computers (44 percent) and mobile phones (38 percent) than before. As for the FCC, the media landscape has vastly changed since the last FCC ownership rules in 1996. Cross media ownership restrictions and station caps unfairly restrict broadcasters from competing in the new media world. I’m hoping the FCC begins to reassess ownership regulations moving forward.
TALKERS: Does the growth of all these mobile devices as new radio receivers threaten the intrinsic value of the stick and thus the financial viability of so many licensees – particularly the mega-companies – who are heavily indebted to the past? Is internet-only radio a threat to today’s FM/AM establishment?
JH: Internet radio is a new reality that the traditional radio establishment must accept – and embrace. It’s up to the traditional FM/AM establishment to find ways to leverage the internet to expand and extend its own advertising business through integrated cross –platform buys involving PC, mobile, tablet, etc.
TALKERS: Do you see stations becoming increasingly reliant on the cloud for backend services? Is this a good thing?
JH: More and more, stations are turning to the cloud for backend services. This is a major reason why I wanted to be at Marketron. I knew there was a better bottom line waiting for radio companies that leverage available technology to streamline their operations and increase revenue by offering cross channel services.
TALKERS: Does Marketron work directly in training radio personnel in dealing with these new systems? Is that a difficult and unwieldy process? Are radio stations having to look to new places and recruit a different type of individual for jobs in sales and marketing?
JH: Marketron works with stations for as long as it takes to upgrade their systems and train their personnel on how to best take advantage of its new capabilities. Learning a new system is a process, of course, but the payoff is huge for stations that save money and time by exercising capabilities that revolutionize the way work gets done. For example, Mediascape customers who take advantage of our Network Connect service routinely save between 2 and 8 hours of work time per station per week through the benefit of integrations with network providers such as Dial Global, Premiere, Cumulus and others which replace what was once a very labor intensive and manual process with an automated workflow. We can demonstrate the same efficiencies in a variety of areas of our customers’ operations such as digital sales, billing activities and reporting where once highly manual and complex processes are becoming automated and simplified, freeing time to focus on truly critical functions and unlocking tremendous value for our customers.
TALKERS: What are your views on the balance between local and national programming on the local station level?
JH: My view is that radio programming resonates most strongly when it includes local context. That is when the listener has a sense of place tied to the station and brand they are engaged with. I do not think it is as simple as saying programming is local or national. Many stations offer syndicated programming to their listeners, but retain a sense of place.
TALKERS: How is the relationship changing between the front office and the back office at the average radio station in this new economic and technological environment?
JH: I think the front and back ends are increasingly realizing that they need to be more closely aligned, for the benefit of the entire organization. The front end of the house realizes that back end efficiencies can drive the bottom line going forward in many radio stations.
TALKERS: Drawing upon your background and experience in the advertising arena, what advice do you have for political news/talk syndicators and networks wrestling with the current trend toward sponsors specifically avoiding “controversial” programming?
JH: Depends what you mean by controversy – and what your appetite is for it. Benign controversy can pull listeners in. That said, controversy that reflects poorly on the station can be a turn off and cause advertisers to abandon. Best to talk to your partners along the way, prepare them, and include them in your decision-making process.