The most recent Forecast 2024, presented by Radio Ink and the Radio Television Business Report, was once again a well-attended learning conference filled with lots of “Takeaways” and information that can be beneficial to your business for now and in the future. This was one of those days when you sit down at 8:00am and suddenly it’s 5:30pm. The sessions are always that engaging. It’s a favorite of mine because of the access to the leaders of our industry.
The perspective of most of the speakers was generally positive for radio, although there was a strong emphasis on the need for our medium to evolve, be part of a multi-platform approach, evaluate and consider the success of the subscription model, improve the product, and focus greatly on Artificial Intelligence. Several speakers encouraged those in attendance to throw out thinking that’s yesterday and pay attention to trends. We cannot continue to operate as we have and expect to see a resurgence of audience and revenue. We have to stop thinking quarter-to-quarter and play the long game. Easy to say, but hard to do if you’re living with big debt and a timeline.
My memorable moments may not align with yours, but I looked at most things through the filter of “what does it mean for content creators, programming, and the economy that enables growth.” What I am sharing are those things that were in my opinion impactful. I also try to think back to previous Forecast’s. Last year the Metaverse was big. This year Artificial Intelligence, the subscription model versus over-the-air (OTA), and economic concerns were topics of conversation.
Economic Forecasting: Broadcast Revenue Trends and Expectations for 2024
Despite radios financial challenges, Steve Passwater, the President of Silver Oak Political offered that “The one category that continues to grow year after year is Political.” He added “The Democrats will have more money to spend.” He also suggested that broadcasters should not ignore their own backyard as there is money that will be spent locally. He advised that media should “get a catchers mitt to get your share of political.”
Jackie Brooks, CEO of ad agency Bottom Line Marketing, sent a clear message as to what she expects when she’s marketing for her clients. “Radio and TV cannot do it alone. Advertising needs a media mix.” “You need more than OTA or CTV.” That statement underscores the necessity of radio to be multiplatform.
“The economy is a concern but because of consumer confidence” said Vincent Letang, EVP/Managing Partner, Global Market Intelligence, Magna Global. Nicole Ovadia, VP/Forecasting & Analysis BIA Advisory Services added “Wall Street and the Economy don’t align. We aren’t in a recession, but a gallon of milk is $4.00.” Randy Michaels, Founder & CEO, Radioactive shared an analysis pointing out that in some cases “Revenue is dropping faster than a company.”
While some Talk Stations view the exit ramp as a money grab on the weekend by selling infomercials, Red Apple/WABC Radio owner John Catsimatidis provided an alternative view. “We had stupid shows on the weekend. We threw the crap off of the radio station and added great programming.”
Main Street Media; Where Local Broadcast Survives and Thrives
I was impressed with the recognition and an acknowledgment made by Melody Spann Cooper, Chairman, Midway Broadcasting Corporation. Her company owns WVON/Chicago. “Our expansion has proved out because of social situations. After George Floyd … the fast ‘No’ we used to hear (from advertisers) started changing to a slow ‘Yes’.” She continued that when it comes to radio “we fail to tell our stories. We do nothing to brag about our benefits. We should have our personalities involved in fireside chats with advertisers.”
THE NEWS IS THE NEWS
Well known strategist Lou Paskalis, who is the CEO and Founder of AJL Advisory + Chief Strategy Officer of Ad Fontes Media, made an impact on many in the room. Particularly among those whose business includes News and News/Talk programming. Paskalis opened with the statement that “The War on Truth is gnawing away on our society” and he pointed out that it was Kelly Ann Conway who created the term ‘Alternative Facts’. He pointed out that “we are living in a world where facts are fungible.”
Lou addressed the challenge when we’re faced with advertisers who avoid news and talk programming. “What we are experiencing today is client cowardice. Advertisers are getting swept up with the fear of culture wars. They don’t put news on their plans. They are like the movie war games … the best way to win is to not play the game.” He suggested that the way to entice potential advertisers is “don’t be afraid to bonus an advertiser into the news as a way to let them test the news as an advertising vehicle.”
When it comes to news, he pointed to the return of millennials to more traditional news sources, but they’re still getting it on their phones. They are looking beyond social media as they look for credible sources, but to expect them to search over-the-air for content is not realistic. That message means that your presence online, apps and smart speakers is critical. That goes beyond the spoken word formats.
Signals of Change:
“We are simply stewards of the airwaves.” Those words were spoken by Curtis Legeyt, President/CEO, National Association of Broadcasters. Legeyt also addressed the “AM for every vehicle” act, which is a bipartisan bill. He noted that “Radio is what stays on the air when there’s an emergency … and radio is there to help the recovery.” That’s a strong message, but one that we’re not selling through to the audience. Ask anyone under 40 and they believe that as long as their phone is on, they’ll get an alert. What they miss is that radio is where you find information when everything else is off. The NAB leader closed out with the recommendation that “every bit of your content has to be on multiple platforms, or you will lose audience.”
The Promise and Pitfalls of AI Technology in Broadcasting:
This session was one that many were in attendance for, and it was much talked about. Mainly because AI is at the front of every conversation regarding the future. Caroline Beasley, CEO, Beasley Media Group opened with an acknowledgment of her company’s push toward AI. “Beasley has a content team that writes articles and inserts video into those articles. They’re exploring using Futuri for an AI product provider along with what Benztown has created with Enco Systems to create and produce Commercials.”
Michael Newman, Director of Transformation, Graham Media Group shared that “Graham Media ties AI into researching background and for knowledge on stories.” While Copyright Attorney, working with Blank Rome/Philadelphia, David Perry provided a word of caution that “AI and voice cloning could create a copyright issue.”
The End of the World as we Know It:
Just as the sugar rush post lunch settled in, Jeff Charney, Founder & Chief Creative Officer, MKHSTRY came on stage to music by REM. The one appearance he’s made this year, the former CMO at both Aflac and most recently Progressive Insurance, had the audience on their feet singing, shouting out answers and ready to run a marathon.
“You’re not in the Radio or Broadcast business. You’re in the History business” he said. He encouraged the group to make history and “Be ready to catch the next wave.” He emphasized how AI will change everyone’s approach to media & marketing. Charney was brutally honest in his view of radio. Great distribution. Little that’s unique in the way of content. Too many ads.
Jeff also made it clear that he’s still a fan of radio, but we’re not evolving and not acknowledging the need for change. He challenged the group to eschew their old ways of thinking and embrace Artificial Intelligence as a way to catch the next wave.
7 Key Takeaways
Radio needs to be on multiple platforms. OTA, Online, Apps, Smart Speakers, On Demand and Podcasts. The return to radio, by millennials, is another reason to be on every audio device available. It’s where the audience is listening.
Political advertising will drive the media economy in 2024, but you have to go after it. It won’t find you. You have to find it.
Radio cannot do it alone. It needs to be a part of a media mix for successful advertising.
Social situations can generate financial growth for your business.
Radio is what stays on the air when there’s an emergency … and radio is there to help the recovery.
Artificial Intelligence is here. Learn it. Understand it. Take advantage of it. There are many advantages to harnessing its’ benefits. Which appear to be everchanging and growing.
We’re in the History business. Make history.