The panel was loaded with heavy hitters, and then there was me. RAB President Jeff Haley moderated, and in addition to me, the panelists were Emmis owner Jeff Smulyan, Clear Channel EVP/Distribution Development Jeff Littlejohn and Jacobs Media’s Fred Jacobs. With the immense respect I have for each of them, I was honored to be on the same dais with them.
We talked about the need for radio to go mobile. I pointed out that very soon more computing will be done on mobile devices than on computers. For younger generations, they’ve simply skipped right over the computer to their smart phone. I urged broadcasters to have a digital strategy to guide their actions because all platforms are not created equal. For example, radio stations need mobile websites, not just apps. A digital strategy will flesh out the best practices for each operation.
In-car presentation was discussed. Smulyan and Littlejohn say the car manufacturers want radio to have one visual graphic and data presentation in the dashboard, not a different treatment by each station. For example, when Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number” is played on radio, the photo and the graphics and the data about the song are all consistent for the consumer regardless of which station is playing the song.
I was really happy to shine a light on how Galaxy Communications in upstate New York is leading radio’s development of event revenue, which is a point I’ve championed for years through the New Radio Model. I recited the impressive stats provided to me by Galaxy owner Ed Levine:
- Event revenue will be 30% of Galaxy’s EBITDA in 2011.
- K-ROCK-ATHON, a large rock concert, did $340,000 of EBITDA in one day. That does not include the $300,000 directly tied to sponsorships and spot buys.
- Taste of Syracuse did $200,000 of EBITDA this year.
- Lights on the Lake, a holiday event, will contribute $200,000 of EBITDA this year to Galaxy.
- Wine and Chocolate events in Syracuse and Utica will contribute over $50,000 this year.
- Dysfunctional Family Barbeque, another alternative rock concert, did $55,000 of EBITDA in one afternoon.
In all of these cases, they did not have to worry about chasing a receivable. Galaxy’s radio stations are outperforming their markets by 7 points in total spot. But, Levine is smart enough to know that when the markets go negative (like this year), it’s almost impossible to achieve aggressive budgets with just one revenue stream.
As Ed said to me, “If digital contributed this type of percentage of a company’s growth, it would be a ‘stop the presses’ headline.”
RAB’s Haley applauded Levine’s business model and urged broadcasters to take notice. Or, as Jacobs added, “it’s time for radio to bake new pies.”