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Tuesday, 5 April 2011, Advertising revenues, the primary funding for many commercial radio stations, have been hit during the current recession and the subject was given serious discussion at the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland Annual Conference today.
Addressing the conference, Mr. Peter McPartlin, strategy director of Carat Ireland and Aegis Media, gave his perspective on why he feels radio commercial sales are at a crossroads.
He said that more advertisers are beginning to embrace the ‘Bought – Owned – Earned’ model of media.  “What we are seeing is a new model which meshes together media, like Radio, that the advertiser pays for to gain exposure, the media that they own themselves like websites, sponsored events or even their retail outlets, and the media that their customers own, where they hope to encourage word of mouth”, he said.
He outlined a 5 point plan to reinvent radio sales:
• Start to measure and value the listener relationships. McPartlin said that as well as talking about and charging for the numbers stations reached they need to start measuring and valuing the listener relationships that each of their brands have. Stations need to demonstrate that their radio brands do engage ‘hearts and minds’ and influence the whole range of new behaviours that today’s consumers are involved in (whether that’s clicking, responding, participating, advocating or sharing with others.)
• Relook at the JNLR. It is still needed to measure and provide the currency for daily trading but he questioned whether there was a need to publish it 4 times a year, especially at the level of detail that it does.
He posited whether some of this money could be saved and reinvested in research on the qualitative value of audiences to individual stations.
• Review airtime packaging He suggested to start to looking at the way in which airtime is packaged. Packages in multiples of 7 are not the only way to sell. Peak versus off-peak may be completely erroneous for youth stations where the highest listening is often done after 7pm. Consider total brand solutions which involve spots, sponsorship, promotions, ads on station websites and Facebook pages too.
• Award innovative commercial uses of radio He suggested creating an award for innovative commercial uses of the medium as advertising is only one of the ways in which brands can now engage with radio audiences.
• Embrace Digital Finally, he asked station owners to embrace digital. That doesn’t mean sign up for DAB. It means looking at the value that integrated use of new platforms like station websites, online players, podcasts, facebook pages and twitter feeds, can play in building station audiences , helping station marketing and increasing their value to advertisers.
Scott Williams, Chairman of the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland said; “Radio is the one medium where there is immediate and direct interaction between the medium and the public.  Our research published today shows that connection.  6 in every 10 people will be prompted to look something up on the internet by hearing the topic being discussed on radio. 43% have visited a radio station website to learn about or enter a competition for example.  That level of response is invaluable to advertisers. The complementary nature of radio and the internet will drive advertising on our medium in the future”.
The IBI Annual Conference was sponsored by the Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) and was attended by 100 independent radio broadcasters, managers and station owners.   Speakers at today’s event included; Peter McPartlin from Carat Ireland Duncan McKie – President, Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings (FACTOR), Shain Shapiro – UK and Europe, Canadian Independent Music Association Peter Stone, Riviera Media Group, and Sean Gallagher, Speaker and Dragon’s Den panelist.