The ultimate guide to sustaining radio in COVID-19

The Stan Katz and fraycollege Ultimate Radio Sales Course officially launched today at an opportune time when the media industry seeks to weather the COVID-19 storm.

fraycollege crafted the course for over a year with the expertise of radio guru Katz to meet the challenges radio stations may face in being profitable. The economic scourge of the new coronavirus pandemic on media businesses including that of radio highlights the need for the industry to find sustainable ways of surviving the pandemic.

“While we’re witnessing a Darwinian cull of organisations, not just media businesses, it’s clear now that they were in trouble long before COVID-19,” Katz said.

He was speaking at a fraycollege webinar held today where over 200 people signed up to attend. Katz shared how radio can and must adapt to the current crisis but also how to emerge stronger in a post-COVID-19 economy.

Radio sales veteran Stan Katz says radio stations can either adapt or die in the current COVID-19 crisis.

fraycollege is very pleased to partner with esteemed radio guru Stan Katz to bring you this webinar on doing radio sales in the time of COVID-19 when media businesses are under pressure with a shrinking global economy and a linked drop in ad spend,” said frayintermedia CEO Paula Fray.

Katz said Darwin’s theory of evolution leaned more on the survival of the most adaptable rather than the fittest.

“It’s no longer a case of the big eating the small. Nowadays, the fast eat the slow. There is a scientific name for an animal that can’t outrun its foe. It's called lunch,” Katz said.

The internet has changed the way consumers engage with the media. Katz highlighted the rise of digital music service Spotify which contends for radio’s audiences. He added that Spotify’s growth was partly a response to some of radio’s own goals, “such as limited playlists, irritating presenters and lengthy ad breaks”.

“All that being said, what Spotify can’t offer is companionship. Score one for radio. Imagine, if you will, a world without radio. It would be like losing a close friend,” he said.

A UNESCO article said community radio has significant power to reach people with little or no access to information. It added that it is an efficient tool to inform communities about critical issues on sustainable development and health.

“Globally, hunger for information about the virus has sent media consumption, including radio listenership, sky rocketing,” Katz said.

Despite the relevance of radio in the COVID-19 pandemic, Katz said it is important that radio retains the new listeners after the crisis. He added the only real competitive strategic advantage any organisation has is agility.

“Radio has survived through the ages, either by getting out of the way of more powerful competitors, like television or embracing new technology and new business models,” he said.

Katz’ radio business history spans decades and he has worked across the world helping radio stations realise their sustainability. One of his most notable career marks was at Radio 702.

“When I was first appointed Managing Director of 702 in the 80s, I went around and asked the staff what business they thought we were in. People often forget that commercial radio is first and foremost a business, just as show business is 90% business and 10% show.

“These are some of the answers I got. Some thought we were in the broadcasting business, some thought we were in the entertainment business, some thought we were in the news business, some even thought we were in the music business,” Katz said.

A radio station is in the business of delivering prospects to advertisers, because a radio station’s money comes from advertisers, Katz said.

Katz said the radio sales process doesn’t begin with programming.

“It’s not a case of let’s toss this on the pavement and see who picks it up,” he said.

He added that it begins with marketing and identifying prospects advertisers want to reach. Thereafter, a radio station needs to design programming that will attract advertisers and keep them.

“Ideally, your station wants to sell every spot, every day at the highest possible rate. Price, or in this case advertising rates, is a factor of demand and supply. A radio station is a fixed inventory organisation like airlines, car rental companies and hotels where demand varies from day to day, week to week and month to month.

“This is why I maintain that the sales manager’s most important function is inventory control. I deal with this at length in the course,” Katz said.

The Ultimate Radio Sales Course is a 10-module-long online course that will help commercial, public, and community radio stations improve the way in which they sell airtime. Sign up for it here.

“At fraycollege, we believe sustainable business models are critical to support press freedom. Today's webinar is the first in a series of free media management webinars where we hope to help media leaders across the continent fortify their businesses in this time of need,” Fray said.

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