It couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of assholes*. Clear Channel, the radio monster, is looking to sell itself to go private, according to the Times. Why? Because the radio business sucks.
This is why I have not feared media consolidation. Clear Channel, the poster child for evil media conglomerates, bought up stations and sucked cash out of them but now there’s not much left to suck. Consolidation is the act of a dying industry. Well, broadcast won’t die. But it sure as hell won’t grow.
At an NAB/RTNDA panel yesterday in front of mainly local TV news execs, I said their salvation will be in being very local and in using the asset of broadcast, while it is still an asset, to drive people to new and local services online that take advantage of the disarray in the newspaper industry to lurch ahead of them in citizen collaboration for hyperlocal news and in hyperlocal and directory advertising to support it.
I think the same may be true of radio, which is ironic, being that Clear Channel, et al, leached the local out of the medium. As the value of broadcast licenses falls, I’ll bet we’ll start seeing the deconsolidation of some of these companies as radio and TV stations, like newspapers, are sold off one-by-one (see the post directly below). If the FCC had lifted crossownership restrictions, as Michael Powell tried to do a few years ago, those stations would have been bought up by newspapers, or vice versa. But now, with the value of both in free fall (see that post below), I’m not sure that local consolidation will pay anymore (see also the disintegrating Tribune Company, which did benefit from crossownership… until now).
So, to bring the parlor game to the radio business now, what would I do with Clear Channel? I’d plan on an imminent future when people will get their programming delivered to them by the internet and mobile and satellite and I’d use local promotional power to drive the business there. As I said above, I’d make some set of the stations very local and I’d use that to drive local businesses that grab marketshare of news, audience, and local advertising from panicked newspapers. Or I’d just sell to the next idiot.
* The real reason I’m happy to see the owners of Clear Channel retreat is because they fired Howard Stern and did not stand up for free speech and the First Amendment against the FCC and a tiny band of reputedly religious nuts.