We’re Following the Money, and More

November 15, 2011

There’s an old saying that dates back to the age of Watergate: “Follow the money.” That’s the memorable advice from Deep Throat to Woodward and Bernstein as they put their story together. Radio isn’t that different; we follow the dough, and the financial community follows us.

Next month, I am proud to be a co-chair of radio’s annual gathering to follow the money, “Forecast 2012″. But this year, there’s a different tone to our agenda. Rather than focusing narrowly on the valuations of radio real estate and the twelve month cash flow projections, we have agreed to take a broader look at the context in which our business is challenged to operate. If we are to forge a future for radio as a multidimensional local media company, then we need to examine our business position from a variety of perspectives.

I am thrilled that Marci Ryvicker, Director/Equity Research, Wells Fargo Securities, Mark Fratrik, VP, BIA/Kelsey Group, Mark Gray, President of Katz Radio Group and this year’s Forecast 2012 Co-Chair, Jack Myers, Media Economist, Myers Publishing and editor/ publisher of the Jack Myers Media Business Report, have all agreed to participate on a special panel I will be moderating, entitled “Economic Forecasting: Revenue Expectations for 2012.” I look forward to hearing their thoughts and insight on radio revenues, the impact of the 2012 elections, as well as where they believe revenues will likely emerge from and grow in the coming year.

Larry Kudlow of CNBC will brief us on the state of the economy and the interdependence of financial markets worldwide. I look forward to his insight; during these uncertain times we need a clearer understanding of the risks and opportunities ahead of us. And because the economic climate is so deeply intertwined with the political, investment and regulatory climate, Eliot Spitzer will lend his perspective and opinion on how government and finance need to work together to get the country and the economy back on a growth track.

Another new face at Forecast will be that of Shelly Palmer, whom I had the pleasure of seeing last year at the Borrell Local Media Conference. Shelly is a dynamo, and will speak to the intersection of the broadcast and digital worlds. Because of his broadcast background as well as his deep understanding of technology, he is uniquely qualified to address this pressing topic. I am hoping that Shelly will provide all of us, financial and management types alike, insight into the transformative power of digital and how best to integrate our traditional business with our multiplatform future.

The rapidly morphing digital world is so fraught with hyperbole and fad technologies, it is difficult at times to see the clear business case for the integrated local media company. We are living in a trial and error world where there is an abundance of great ideas and innovation, but at times there is a real lack of business discipline and marketing focus to these new inventions.

There will be no shortage of hard-nose financial and media analysis, as befits a gathering such as this. My co-chair, Jack Meyers, is one of the brightest and most proven financial forecasters for media. Investors, advertisers and broadcasters have all turned to Jack for years for advice on their media and marketing plans. Jack brings an experienced, realistic view to the table when discussing our collective businesses.

Along with Jack on the financial and investment side will be Drew Marcus, a familiar financial advisor to media, Blair Faulstich from Providence Equity Capital Markets, Jeffery Kilrea from CIT’s Corporate Finance Group and Anna Magliocco from Deutsche Bank.

With the insight and probing questions from such a diverse group of thought leaders, I look forward to a meaningful discussion not only about our financial prospects for the coming year, but also an in depth dialogue about where our business should point itself for the longer term. Questions about return on investment, adding to the value chain, and what aspects of new media are opportunities or distractions—all of these are significant questions for all of us who are responsible for and believers in radio’s bright but challenging future. I will report back to you on what we learn together that day.

A note of thanks to Eric Rhoads, Deborah Parenti and the entire Radio Ink staff for bringing this exciting collection of thinkers into the same room.