Seeking to help small, independent radio stations maintain revenue during the pandemic and beyond, the Independent Broadcasters Association launched this summer. IBA’s goal is to help stations drive revenue by leveraging the power of association.
While the pandemic has brought economic uncertainty, it has also seen people come together.
It was the latter that solidified the notion of Independent Broadcasters Association in the minds of its organizers. After seeing radio broadcasters raise funds for pandemic relief, Ron Stone, founder, president, and executive director of IBA, was motivated to act on an idea he’d been harboring since late 2018.
“It was obvious that these independent operators were willing to come together for their community,” Stone said. “I thought, maybe they’ll come together to put something together for themselves.”
Stone said he surveyed radio stations to gauge interest, and with more than 2,700 saying “they would come if we built it,” IBA was born. The group wants to help independent broadcasters boost their revenue—much of which comes from local businesses deeply affected by the pandemic.
“Radio, in general, is sold on a local basis,” Stone said. “That’s where 85 to 90 percent of their business is going to come. When you are looking to find ways to grow that, you have to look on a national scale.”
Stone said that’s where IBA comes in: It wants to help broadcasters join forces and reap the benefits that come from a large network. For example, national advertisers who want to air ads locally typically use a network geared toward larger stations to do this. However, that pays independent stations small sums. IBA is creating its own networks so members can see better rates from national ads.
“We now have representation, can get a seat at the table, and can garner some of that revenue,” Stone said. “Every dollar matters.”
So far, about 1,300 stations have joined IBA, and Stone hopes to have 3,000 members by the end of the year. “We are working hard to do our best to help these independent broadcasters get through this year, with COVID, but also into the future,” he said.
Currently, IBA is working on several initiatives, including a healthcare plan to be available in 2022, partnerships with vendors that provide discounts to members, and a network to sell digital advertising.
“In 2018, billions were spent on digital advertising—the bulk going to Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Amazon,” Stone said. “If radio is going to compete with digital, we have to be able to make it as simple as they do when it comes to the decision to buy.”
Stone said IBA is in this for the long haul and wants to see growth for both members and the industry. “For the last 25 years, our industry has continued to shrink,” Stone said. “The result has been an industry in 1996 that was a $16 billion industry, and this year, we’ll be lucky to see us at $10 billion. That’s a lot of revenue to disappear. Radio just turned 100 years old. We want to see it last for another 100 years.”