By Jeff McKay
Special Features Correspondent
ORLANDO — The NAB here in Orlando has begun with a focus in the seminar rooms on topics including the state of radio today, what the future brings, advertising, and a marketplace of companies highlighting the latest products and technology. However, in the halls of the Hilton — home to the show this year — a big topic is digital and how to properly market and capitalize on new technologies…and of course the news of the proposed SiriusXM–Pandora merger!
Gabe Hobbs, president of Gabe Hobbs Media, says the merger will be a positive for both Sirius and radio listeners.
“I agree with what Bob Pittman said earlier today; the more people who produce great audio the more freedom it is to our business and the more people will listen to radio. We’ve seen that over time when a new top-40 station comes into the market, the listeners to that format increase. A rising tide lifts all boats,” says Hobbs.
The digital discussions focus primarily on how to monetize it, but for Tom Griswold, one-half of the syndicated “Bob &Tom Show,” he tells TALKERS that for him it’s about the dialogue with the audience.
“Thirty years ago, you could answer the phone request line and that was a very limited slice of your audience who took the time and trouble to get through and call in. Then the fax machine gave listeners another way to get through to you, and then came email. Now with Twitter and everything else, people can access you immediately seconds after you speak on the air, so to me it’s creating a much stronger dialogue with our listeners.”
BTW, Griswold gives TALKERS an “exclusive,” saying that in just a few weeks they will have a new product launching.
He says, “We will be starting a new, original podcast. We already have a podcast now that repurposes existing parts of the show, but this will be different from our show, maybe 15-to-20 minutes, each episode. It won’t be cumbersome but will be a different pace and allows us to talk about a different topic that may not have been on the show and have some fun with it.” Griswold says the podcast is still developing and they don’t even have a title for it, yet!
The legendary talk host Jim Bohannon tells TALKERS that radio maybe is not using these new technologies as well as it should.
“I’m not sure it emphasizes it as well as it should and I’ll be the first to admit that some things I’m not sure that exactly how it should be monetized – how do you monetize a podcast in a small market – but I do know this, in one market I’m in you had one radio station and one newspaper that died, and the radio station took one star reporter from that newspaper and used him to create a web page and he has now become the news voice of that town. This may be hard for some companies to hear, but invest some money because you need to spend money to make money.”
During the “Broadcast Finance Sesssion,” the topic of the potential for deregulation came up and the participants from Beasley, Townsquare, and Hubbard all had different takes on how their companies would proceed into the deregulation waters.
“Deregulation will not attract capital – growth will attract capital,” said Dhruv Prasad, co-CEO of Townsquare Media.
“We are in great need of relief in the smaller markets but we are already better off in the top-50 markets if deregulation happens,” says Ginny Morris, Chair & CEO of Hubbard Radio. “If deregulation does happen, I believe you’ll see a lot of station swapping in smaller markets — maybe for about six months.”
“Because of DOJ constraints many markets are already consolidated, but the smaller markets will benefit from deregulation to help those companies… it’s about how you use your dollars; where you get the best return for shareholders,” says Beasley Media Group CEO Caroline Beasley.
After the session, Salem Radio Network SVP Phil Boyce told TALKERS that deregulation will not affect Salem.
“It affects those stations that are already at the market cap. It’s not us. We focus on three main formats — that’s news/talk, contemporary Christian, and Christian talk. We’re not at the market cap in any of these markets, but it doesn’t mean we wouldn’t look at opportunities. But I don’t think deregulation will help us.”
As a content provider, Danno Wolkoff, the president & CEO of Envision Networks says that no matter what the situation is regarding deregulation, radio in a year or two will become stronger, now with the two largest radio companies coming out of bankruptcy.
“It will be very strong. If you can get rid of some of that debt and you have a company like Cumulus that can show positive growth and possibly some stock growth; Entercom pacing the way in showing it can be a profitable business; at some point, yes there will have to be some type of consolidation but that can create more growth for some medium-sized companies, maybe Midwest, Saga, Beasley — companies like that would grow out their group of stations. But overall, the outlook for stations and content I believe will be strong and this would create more opportunity for a company like Envision. Our motto has always been, ‘find out what the stations want and give it to them.’”
The seminars of day two of the Radio Show will focus on topics including: the connected car, apps, and later that night, the Marconi Awards dinner…and. of course, more interesting comments in the halls of the Hilton!
TALKERS magazine special features correspondent Jeff McKay can be reached at :email@example.com.