By Jeff McKay
Special Features Correspondent
NASHVILLE — I’m taking in sessions and talking with people in halls here in Nashville to at the NAB/RAB Radio Show to hear what’s on their minds. Here are comments from some of the folks with whom I spoke on day one of the convention.
Christina Albee, chief marketing officer for Cumulus Media, says she was surprised to find so many young people — and especially young women — in the audience for her speed mentoring session. “The young people are our future. I met people in my session who were running their college radio stations and gaining hands-on experience. We were also not just talking about AM/FM radio with these young people. We talked content and they were really understanding the power of content, whether over the air or digitally or over a mobile device. In publishing there are a lot of women both in and out of management. However, in radio there are more men in leadership roles. Of course at Cumulus, our CEO (Mary Berner) and the Westwood One president (Suzanne Grimes) are women…and then to walk in to this room and see so many college-age women with their high interest level warms my heart, honestly, I’m empowered to want to be a part of the radio business. It bodes very well for the future of radio.”
Entercom Memphis general sales manager Rachel DeWitt says working for the local client is all about making sure they get the best campaign for their product. “Things haven’t changed as to how we approach a client. It’s about solutions-based selling and satisfying their needs. We have tools like digital that we’re including in every campaign now with radio, with radio at the top of the funnel and digital and other tools at the end of that funnel to give them what they need.”
DeWitt says the cluster’s new FM sports station is receiving very positive results. “The listeners are extremely engaged. They’re rabid about ‘92.9 ESPN’ and our local on-air staff and because of that our sales have been very strong.”
Community Broadcasting partner Bruce Mittman opens up about his philosophy in not only acquiring stations but operating them. “When we buy markets we buy a dominant position, owning five to six stations in a market, be the top competitor, grow revenue, and have programming that appeals locally – DJs on the air, local news for the community, and local sports that appeals to the community we serve. We invest in people. We hire – we don’t fire. By adding local presence it correlates into revenue and growth – growing on average six to eight percent each year.”
Community Broadcasting operates in eight markets in three states, including Upstate New York, South Carolina and Florida. Mittman says they are avoiding the issues that befell other companies in the 1990s. “You have to buy the cluster properly — not overpaying — which was a big problem for companies like iHeart and Cumulus that bought in the pre-crash days so they overpaid and now have a lot of debt. If you buy the cluster effectively and efficiently, it provides you enormous potential with cash flow.”
Bobby Baker is the head of the Political Programming Staff for the FCC. He says in this election year, there are some issues affecting operators that they should be aware of. “When it comes to ads from groups not affiliated with candidates, I know stations that charge up to 10 times what a commercial rate would be. There’s the incentive to sell, but they can’t sell to the extent that they won’t be able to sell time to candidates, and some issues advertisers will need to know that they may have to get bumped out to ensure a candidate has the opportunity to buy time.
“One thing we do see is a lot of stations deal with network situations, programmers who have the rights to statewide football and they advertise on radio, TV or cable, and are not notifying the stations that they sold time to candidates so the stations don’t know about it and soon other candidates show up demanding equal time. I just tell those stations to call me if you’re not aware of it,” says Baker. He can be reached at the FCC at (202) 418-1417.
Of course, no broadcasters convention would be complete without words of wisdom from the great talk host Jim Bohannon from Westwood One. Discussing the state of talk radio and what hosts need to remember on all levels, Bohannon says, “You have to be relevant and think outside the box. Don’t just go with ‘Consulting 101.’ You need to get in touch with your community – what is being talked about and what is being heard, whether it’s in the supermarket check-out line or at the Rotary Club. You have to find out on a local level what it is that nobody else does and plunge in with both feet.”
Of course, Bohannon reminds us, “The attendees keep getting younger and younger but I don’t. And to add a word of wisdom to cover flaws like this – if in doubt, thrash about!”
Jeff McKay, a veteran New York-based operations manager, newsman and traffic reporter, is a special features correspondent for TALKERS and RadioInfo. He can be emailed at McKayway@aol.com.