Small Market Gold Mines

I just recently discovered there are services that exist to help smaller, non-metro markets and stations attract buys from national agencies and clients. I have been on the programming side of radio for the majority of my career, but even in major markets, I know it’s a crapshoot when agencies are looking for the lowest rates with the biggest bang for the buck among all the companies in town.

I discovered these services when I interviewed Devon Shuman, SVP/Director of non-metro audio sales for Gen Media Partners, for Radio Ink’s “Women to Watch.” She leads a team responsible for driving national spot revenue for small-market broadcasters in trading areas outside of Nielsen’s 248 rated metros, partnering with 70% of the stations in the small market/ non-metro space and showing brands and agencies where they may be missing coverage by buying only measured markets. She calls on agencies and helps them understand the value of small and non-metro market radio advertising, and assists with the process of buying.

Large public media companies may have properties in small markets, but that doesn’t make them local broadcasters — they are just broadcasting in local markets. The local broadcasters Gen Media Partners works with are entrenched in and dedicated to the communities they serve. Listeners feel like they have a real relationship and an emotional bond with the local radio brands and personalities, because they do. Listeners can run into the morning show host at the grocery store. The local station sponsors their son’s baseball team. The station owner can also be the morning show host, run the board in the afternoon, and/or be the town’s mayor. I’ll use markets like Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and Houma, Louisiana, as specific examples. Non-metro means there is no Nielsen standard book or currency there. This can deter agencies because they have less to consider and evaluate. These non-metro counties and communities are literally grayed out on Nielsen’s map.

Gen Media Partners gives them color again by showing value in these markets with in-depth research and statistics that can make them as competitive as the Houston market, just a few more miles down Interstate 10. These are stations that must invest in the local cultures and major events like Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, crawfish season, and more. Plenty of opportunity for revenue.

Marketing funds more naturally flow to areas with a Nielsen number in front of them, but 20% of the U.S. population lives in non-metro markets outside of Nielsen-defined metro areas. Even if an advertiser buys every single one of Nielsen’s 248 rated MSAs, they are still missing a fifth of the population. Highlighting the value of these geographies, in combination with scale, research, and ease of purchase, clears the roadblocks and makes it simple for marketers to include non-metro audio in their plans.

“Radio is central to people’s lives, and even more so in small markets where there is a relatively lower number of stations and media outlets. This affects a brand’s ‘share of influence,'” says Shuman. “There may be thousands of marketing options in a major metropolitan area but only a handful in a small market, so it is much easier to cut through the clutter. National brands can truly own a message and the media that delivers it using small market radio.

“Additionally, small market radio listeners are fiercely loyal and will support goods and services that support their favorite station. National brands will always benefit from small market radio association,” 

Shuman adds, “We always say, ‘the smaller the market, the more important the local broadcaster.’ Our radio groups are the voice of their local communities where there may not be local TV or newspaper. While there may be numerous options for national information, people still want to know what is going on in their local community regarding events, officials, schools, emergency information, weather, and more. This is the small market secret sauce! Radio is a trusted local source that connects with their community like no other media can, and we very proudly and very loudly tell this story whenever we can.”