2013: Thoughts on the Year Ahead

by David Field

Happy New Year!  I hope each of you had a wonderful holiday with your loved ones.  The start of the New Year is always an important time for each of us to take pause and reflect on the year behind us and set our goals for the year ahead. 

I am pleased to report that Entercom starts 2013 in a position of great strength as one of radio’s five largest companies with an outstanding lineup of 112 stations, including many of the country’s best and most popular brands, featuring outstanding content from many of the country’s leading personalities.  Roughly 30 million Americans tune in to our stations weekly and millions of them regularly engage with our brands and personalities via Facebook, Twitter, text, apps, email and other digital platforms.  Entercom has emerged as a leading provider of integrated multi-platform marketing solutions with unprecedented capabilities to harness our brands, personalities, digital assets and promotional events to deliver outstanding results for our customers.  In sum, our brands, content and marketing assets have never been stronger.

In 2012, we made significant investments in a number of areas to enhance our capabilities and bolster our opportunities for the future.  We acquired KBLX-FM in San Francisco, adding this legendary brand to reach our five FM capacity in the market.  We established a new partnership with Tune-In Radio to distribute our stations over their market-leading platform.  We announced game-changing music licensing deals with Big Machine and Glassnote Records to establish a new, collaborative business model between radio, artists and labels that enhances our collective futures.  We expanded and deepened our partnership with ESPN, launching a new ESPN station in Boston and adding San Francisco as an affiliate.  We launched our new Entercom.com website with a focus on dynamic social media content with automatic feeds from many of our brands’ Facebook and Twitter pages, plus successful case studies of successful client campaigns.  And perhaps most significantly, we were fortunate to add many talented new members to the Entercom team to bolster our capabilities in programming, sales, digital, and other key areas.

We also completed our company-wide conversion to the Wide Orbit sales management and traffic system, establishing CRM capabilities and a common enterprise platform for all of our markets.  Our new systems will provide us with better and timelier information on our customers, sales activities and operations.  In today’s data-driven, analytical world, these tools are no longer an option; they are essential. 

Our investments are paying off in a number of ways, including generating enormous growth in listener engagement across our digital platforms.  In 2012, over eight million unique visitors tuned in to listen to our stations on mobile devices.  86 million text messages were sent between our brands and our fans, and our social platforms reached over 27 million people each week.  In addition, we now have over 500,000 unique buyers who have purchased Perks deals through our stations and close to three million unique individuals who have opted in to our email and text databases.  It is no wonder that we were named one of the country’s Top 500 Technology Innovators by Information Week magazine. 

Meanwhile, radio usage continues to thrive.  One of only three truly national reach media, radio reaches over 241 million listeners 12+ each week.  It is interesting to note that far more people listen to the radio on a typical day than use Facebook, Google or YouTube. In fact, even 18-34 year olds spend more time each day with radio than with the internet. And most impressively, in the face of new competition from satellite and internet radio, local stations have still managed to increase their listenership and maintain over 90% of all radio listening.  That compares to television which has lost over half of its audience to internet, cable and satellite video. 

But perhaps the best evidence that radio usage remains robust and its future is bright came with the recent announcement that Nielsen is making a huge bet on radio by acquiring Arbitron for $1.26 billion.  The latest issue of Radio Ink states that “the deal is an unqualified endorsement of the growth prospects for radio.”

As we enter 2013, the world around us continues to evolve at a blistering pace.   In virtually all industries, business models are being rapidly reinvented.  The expectations and available choices of our listeners and customers continue to change.  It is incumbent on us to keep pace with the world around us and take the bold, forward-thinking actions to ensure that Entercom remains a thriving, leading media company that does an excellent job of serving its listeners and customers. 

We must continue to build on our strengths, investing in our outstanding brands, compelling content, new technology, and great, talented people.  And at the same time as we are adding people and increasing our investments in certain areas to enhance our growth, we must also continue to get smarter about how we operate in areas that are less productive.  Sometimes those decisions can be difficult, but they are essential to ensuring that we remain a fully competitive organization with a bright and vibrant future.  We can’t stop the world from changing around us.  Clinging to the past is simply not an option. 

In addition to building on our recent innovation, you should expect us to focus on a few additional areas in 2013.  We will begin to implement album art and other artist experience capabilities to enhance our listeners’ experience in consuming our brands on digital receivers.  We will add a team of pricing and inventory experts and enhance our use of data and analytic tools to ensure that we are maximizing revenues from our finite commercial inventory.  And we also will invest in industry-wide efforts to enable FM chips in smartphones, an effort which I believe will be successful in the year ahead.  These are just a few of the areas in which we will make meaningful strides forward in 2013.

Now it is game time.  The stage is set for a terrific 2013, but nobody is going to hand us anything.  We live in a highly competitive world and just like virtually any other business, success will require us to be at our very best.  Our listeners and customers have nearly limitless choices.  So if our content (on-air or digital), service and execution are anything less than excellent, we will lose them.  At the same time, the opportunity to gain new customers from other media is greater than ever before.  We are a superior choice for any customer looking for enormous reach, local activation, and strong engagement at an attractive price.  No other medium can match us across these criteria.

With the start of a new year, each of us is awarded a fresh start.  A chance to raise our games, build on our strengths, and recommit ourselves to achieving our full potential.  Let’s steel ourselves with the determination to overcome our challenges and make the necessary changes to set a new standard of excellence in our work.  Let’s make 2013 a year of great accomplishment and pride.  

In closing, I want to thank each of you for all you do to make Entercom a special company.  I wish you and your families a year of great health, happiness, achievement and fulfillment.    

All best wishes for great success in the year ahead.