Another Year, Another Challenge

December 4, 2013

Peter SmythAs we turn the last page on the calendar, we are fast approaching the end of another challenging and unpredictable year.  Before you realize it, 2014 will be upon us with new issues to be resolved, obstacles to be overcome and rewards to be earned.

Year end is a natural time for some reflection and renewal of strategies, plans and promises, both business-related and personal.

2013 presented some unexpected developments for radio.  The market continued to be sluggish along with the entire economy, and made each of us dig just a bit deeper to achieve our revenue goals.  I am grateful to each of the good men and women of Greater Media who rose to this challenge and performed their job duties with determination and a sense of urgency.  Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for our representatives in Washington, D.C.  If they had dug deeper and focused on the overall good of our nation, there would not have been the unpleasant and destructive gridlock with no end in sight.   A healthy and growing economy is a prerequisite for a growing radio industry and for the entire business community.

2013 witnessed a surprising change to our business with the Nielsen acquisition of Arbitron.  While it is still the early days of this transition, the initial moves are welcomed by all broadcasters.  A more stable sample is absolutely necessary for increased faith in our industry on the part of advertisers, and the anticipated contextual research about how radio fits into overall media consumption will be groundbreaking for all of us.  Perhaps this is the first step to getting every broadcaster to first sell the effectiveness of the medium, rather than reduce proposals to rankers.  I think Nielsen is off to a promising beginning.

2013 brought new online competitors to the local marketplace as Pandora aggressively hired local sales staffs in a number of markets, seeking to tap into the radio market, and Apple launched iTunes Radio as part of the iOS7 update.  Both of these developments prove that local audio remains a powerful and effective tool.  Our sales staffs are transforming themselves into solution providers for local advertisers, offering complete programs that are custom tailored to advertisers’ challenges, not simply spot schedules.  This is a key effort to maintain and expand our relationship with our best advertisers and to welcome new advertisers to our stations.

2013 gave us our first extended conversations with the automotive technologists who are working on the connected car.  We learned how difficult their challenges are and how they are approaching those challenges.  We learned that a majority of automakers plan on a future with HD Radio in the dashboard, along with some type of in-car connectivity.  We were able to exchange views about the customer and what we know from our experience with in-car listening, and both sides assured one another that the future of the digital dashboard does prominently include local broadcast radio.  But we also learned that it is incumbent on broadcasters to provide more features than an online simulcast of our signal in order to earn a spot for our digital presence on the dashboard.

2013 has challenged us to up our game and be prepared to respond to unpredictable change.  It is more important than ever to be nimble in our execution and tactics.  Radio has many assets that those in the digital world envy, and we must be responsive to more than our broadcast competitors and utilize our entire spectrum of assets to create satisfying solutions.  If this past year has taught us anything, it is that the competitive landscape changes rapidly and without warning and will continue to do so.

While we respond to these new challenges, we need to be mindful of our special place in our local communities.  Radio has served our cities and towns well in the past and we have a unique relationship with our listeners.  We need to maintain and deepen our involvement with our locations and make it part of our business plan to give back for the greater good.  We know how and when our listeners need a hand or are willing to reach out to help others in our community.  As we approach the holiday season, we must be mindful that in this past year, our slow-growth economy has been challenging to many in our listening areas.  Lending our time and support to those in need is a great tradition for local broadcast radio and this year will continue and expand that tradition.

Regardless of the difficulties we face in our business and technology, these challenges pale in comparison to our duty to help those less fortunate.   That is a challenge we can each embrace.  And we do.