Open Letter to Radio: coronavirus edition

March 24, 2020

March 24, 2020

An Open Letter to Radio (coronavirus edition),

The coronavirus has already achieved what an invading army would never have dreamed possible – overrunning America and bringing our economy to its knees in a matter of days.

When it comes to AM/FM radio, the coronavirus is set to accomplish what satellite and streaming platforms have attempted, but failed to do for more than a decade – erode the ratings of music stations overnight.

After all, being the 800-pound gorilla of audio with the most profitable and resilient business model along with the largest total reach of any media platform, we have much to lose.

The situation is further compounded because unlike television, our heaviest users get up and go to work every day, which for the moment, is no longer happening.

Conventional wisdom also reminds us not much listening occurs at home on the couch.

Even with the growth of smart speakers and mobile apps, these devices won’t be able to offset the loss of overall listening. This is especially true during drive time as commutes switch from driving across town to walking down the hall.

What’s radio to do?

Let’s get out in front and lean into what’s going on.

Does anybody think less of the aviation industry or their favorite airline because commercial travel has come to a halt?

Even the most casual observer knows that when business travel dries up overnight, airlines are in for severe turbulence.

Like the airlines, it’s taking a global crisis on the scale of a modern world war to significantly impact radio listening.

Reason being: The backbone of radio listening and the backbone of our economy are one in the same – the American worker.

If there’s any doubt that our core audience is upwardly mobile with a paycheck that provides disposable income, this global disaster is going to prove it.

Radio must own our story with confidence and conviction.

National TV news airs every morning and evening. In this constantly changing environment, that’s not frequent enough.

Meanwhile, cable news is a never-ending stream of alerts and loud opinions that only the most avid news junky can consume.

Not to be outdone, social media updates your news feed by the second and is full of unverified information and conspiracy theories.

None of these scenarios serve “the public interest, convenience and necessity.”

Radio is trustworthy and local – two essential attributes in this public health crisis.

Our ability to provide reliable updates every quarter-hour is an essential part of our story.

Trusted voices on the radio – they are companions.

This is going to become even more important as people settle into a work from home routine. A video chat with your best friend at work is nice, but the companionship radio provides will be increasingly essential.

Speaking of video conferencing, despite many of these companies growing their stock price in the midst of a historic market downturn, the business model these platforms operate on is not well suited to make money during a temporary surge.

They have to scale up additional network resources and many of the new customers are not generating revenue due to the freemium model. As soon as bars and restaurants reopen, virtual happy hours will be kicked to the curb.

Further, many of their existing paying customers are encountering technical issues as a result of this surge in usage, which has sparked concerns about the long-term impact on their brand reputation.

For radio’s part, we can have the entire city tune in without any incremental increase in the cost of doing business.

News/Talk is predictably experiencing that surge right now.

We have an amazing over-the-air business model that we often take for granted in this digital age.

We’re able to serve our communities and each additional listener doesn’t increase our costs. It’s another angle of our amazing story as the internet pipes are set to burst.

Radio has always done some of its very best work when responding to a disaster and this coronavirus is no different.

As we navigate this global crisis, we’re going to generate even stronger insights into why our employed audience is so valuable.

Even before we roll up our sleeves and win listening back, radio will have an opportunity to make the case to both new and existing clients that on-air messaging must be an advertiser’s first dollar spent during the recovery; allowing them to reach the people with paychecks and money to spend, rather than the people still sitting on the couch.

Radio’s 100th anniversary will be unlike any other.

Together we will continue to drive radio forward.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Tony Bannon, Jen Clayborn, and everyone at DMR/Interactive, this is the latest installment of an annual Open Letter to Radio series that began in 2016.

It was initially written to coincide with Labor Day, radio’s unofficial holiday, a claim made possible by the dominant percentage of listening that’s delivered by employed persons across markets and formats.

Earlier editions of the letter are available here: 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.


Andrew Curran
President and COO

Open Letter to Radio: Focus on Your “Bread and Butter” and “Get Better”

August 29, 2019

Labor Day 2019

An Open Letter to Radio:

The last time the Radio Show came to Texas (Austin 2017), advertising giant P&G took the stage and encouraged radio to focus on your “bread and butter,” namely broadcast radio. “It’s a gimme. You’re selling water in the desert, you have what I want. How can you fail at selling me what I want?”

The reason this advice was necessary? John Fix from P&G recounted hour-long meetings with radio companies where for 50 minutes, “I will hear about everything you’ve never done but want to. I hear about podcasts you’ve never broadcast. I hear about targeting, and what I really want to talk about is how you can touch 93% of the United States.”

Radio is a daily companion for employed consumers, who advertisers need to reach. Meanwhile, people who are out of the workforce don’t listen to a lot of radio. They also don‘t have much disposable income to spend with advertisers.

As Procter & Gamble has ramped up its investment in radio, its stock price has followed suit and is trading at an all-time high. Not a bad testimonial for radio, especially for buyers and advertisers skeptical of radio’s enduring strength and dominance in a digital world.

As the saying goes, it’s harder to stay on top than it is to get there in the first place.

For radio to continue to grow and deliver strong ROI to advertisers, those of us working in the industry need to keep getting better.

In that regard, insights into athletic performance and what separates champions from the rest of the field are both interesting and informative.

Researchers have found that champions consistently have a unique reaction to challenges. They view obstacles in a positive light – as opportunities to grow – and overcome them thanks to a “never satisfied” attitude.

This runs in contrast to almost champions, who blame setbacks on external causes, become negative, and lose motivation.

Most notably, researchers have discovered that the best goal is also the simplest: Get better. 

Champions are driven from within. Their primary concern is self-improvement. They hold themselves to high standards, but judge themselves against prior versions of themselves, not against others.

Almost champions on the other hand, focus on external benchmarks, like national rankings or how they compare to rivals.

The research also found that champions seek empowering, lasting mentors. Coaches that empower their athletes and take a longer-term perspective. This differs from the experience of almost champions, who recall their coaches as being focused on immediate results, “often seeming to drive the bus more than the performer.” Not surprisingly, almost champions change coaches frequently whereas champions maintain long-term relationships.

These insights on what separates champions from others applies across radio: programming, sales, promotions, on-air, imaging, management, research, consultants, marketers, software providers, and on down the line.

Advertisers need people across radio to keep getting better and to continue delivering what they can’t get on any other platform – maximum reach to an employed audience with money to spend.

2019 has proven to be an important year for radio and 2020 should be a bumper crop that sets the tone for a new decade as we focus on growing industry revenue to $20 billion by 2022 (#20×22).

We are grateful to work with talented and dedicated professionals across markets and formats as we together enhance radio’s highly profitable business model and ensure an ongoing commitment to operating in the “public interest, convenience and necessity.”

This letter is the latest installment in an annual series that started in 2016, written to coincide with Labor Day, radio’s unofficial holiday, a claim made possible by the dominant percentage of listening that’s delivered by employed persons across markets and formats. Earlier editions of the letter are available here: 2016, 2017, 2018.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Jen Clayborn and everyone at DMR/Interactive, thank you for working to drive radio forward.

Happy Labor Day!

Andrew Curran
President and COO

Amazon Treasure Truck: Inspiring Radio to Raise the Bar

August 9, 2019

With 1 million subscribers across 25 markets, the Amazon Treasure Truck is once again expanding its footprint with an aim to “deliver even more delight.”

It’s a pop up carnival featuring curated daily deals designed to foster brand loyalty and create “new daily habits.”

It’s also an advertising vehicle (both literally and figuratively) as Amazon puts the advertiser and their featured deal of the day on full display.

Supplies are limited, prices are low and the trucks don’t stay in one location for long. According to a article in Vox, “people come out rain or shine for the Treasure Truck.”

Along with picking up your purchase, most stops include free samples, but this is not some discount dumping ground.

“Everything given out on the truck must have a rating of four stars or higher on Amazon’s website, and if the rating slips, the giveaway will be canceled, the goods returned to wherever they came from.

In contrast, most radio remotes have become a box to be checked, which can’t be over soon enough. In a similar way, the prize pickup experience at stations is also a non-event.

Amazon Offers a Roadmap

As the saying goes, “success leaves clues.” Your Super-Fans and Amplifiers have tremendous passion for your brand. Give them and your advertisers an event that demonstrates the true power of your station and leaves them wanting more.

In the article “5 things you should know about Treasure Truck,” Amazon offers the following advice:

1. You’ll always be greeted by smiling faces – meet the delight squad.

2. Treasure Truck runs on happiness.

3. Act fast to get the treasure before it’s gone.

4. We love dogs. And wearing costumes. And especially love dogs wearing costumes.

5. Most treasures come in nifty red bags. Because treasure chests are too heavy to carry home. And these are reusable.

Smiling faces, fostering happiness, demand that exceeds supply, encouraging people to express their personality, taking home a bag that shows you’re part of the tribe.

None of these are out of reach for radio remotes and prize pick ups.

If you’re looking to further elevate your promotional efforts and front desk experience, here are a few more of our suggestions.

Cross reference advertiser locations with your Hot ZIPs as you schedule remotes. Segment your text and email databases into four geographic quadrants, allowing you to push targeted and relevant messages.

When it comes to prize pickup, roll out the red carpet and treat everyone in your target demo like they are a Nielsen panelist or diary keeper.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Doug Smith, Jen Clayborn, and everyone at DMR/Interactive, thank you for reading and working to drive radio forward.

Andrew Curran, President and COO