Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Radio: The Peter Principle

Peter Smyth, it’s true that people are worried about the future of radio - or at least those of us who work for radio are.

I read your latest From the Corner Office last week and have to respond.

Peter, I’m not going to counter-point the half-truths and untruths in your latest letter.

Just a few points, please.

You say the Great Recession is over? Really.

How might I ask did you reach that conclusion? Unemployment continues to rise. Foreclosures are on the increase.

They’re related, you know.

If you don’t have a job, you can’t afford to pay the mortgage - and you lose the house.

And Peter, what does one do when they're foreclosed-upon. For one, they're less likely to spend whatever money they have left.

Our industry is based on consumer advertising. If they’re not buying, clients stop advertising. Some go out of business.

Here are all the stats you need.

The real world isn’t like radio, Peter. When Lew Dickey or Farid Suleman misses a payment, they have floatible options. They can give up more equity or try and pawn off debt.

Happy days are here again because the Dow cracked 10,000? Two words: Sucker’s rally.

Peter, you need to get out more. There’s little reality between Wall Street and Main Street. Or Dorchester Street.

I can even show you a few empty storefronts Newbury Street? How about Copley Place? It has a few shaky tenants.

Remember that 10,000 hallmark was hit a decade ago - March 30, 1999 to be exact. So even by Wall Street terms, our economy is, at best, torpid.

Are we really better off today than we were a year ago? Yes and no. The stimulus programs - tax credits and “Cash for Clunkers” brought consumers out of hiding - but all of that money’s been absorbed.

How many publicly traded radio groups are about to go belly-up?

How about the radio industry? Are we better off today, post-pillage deregulation?

I’d prefer your optimism to remain cautious, Peter.

We now know that the country was thisclose to plummeting into another Great Depression. We also know that we’re not even close to lifting ourselves out of this current Great Recession.

Truth be told, Peter. We’ve managed some temporary form of stabilization in a still depressed market.

Did you read Northeastern University economic prof Alan Clayton-Matthews' take on the economy in yesterday's Boston Globe? "I had seemed we hit the bottom this summer, but I'm not so sure anymore."

Yes, I believe we will have a turnaround - but it will be slow and imbalanced. Not everyone will get out of here alive.

Could we agree that the Internet is to radio what the horse was to the car?

The first cars were manufactured in retooled horse carriage factories.

The engine replaced the part where the horse used to be.

The only surviving radio stations will be those with creative content and retooled and grafted to on line and mobile.

See, we don’t need more radio stations. We already have too many. We do need live and localized radio stations providing what our potential audience wants.

And I don’t care what your consultants say. Slapping one of your radio station apps on a smart phone isn’t social networking.

There’s only one alternative. It’s the obit you don’t want to read, Peter: After several attempts to shock the radio industry back to life with gimmicks like HD Radio failed, it was pronounced obsolete on - fill in the date.

Since deregulation, radio’s been in denial.

Don’t blame the casino for losing your money. Look in the mirror.

Don’t blame the audience for your loss of time spent listening. Just listen to your product.

Don’t say it can’t happen here. It already has.

Radio lives in an alternate reality where fish sing, birds swim, and humans get in the way of voice tracking and syndication.

There will be more rounds of economic disasters from time to time. It’s inevitable. But you are in control of your own destiny. The disasters will be measured by how much or how little you prepared for them.

Here are three more words: Commercial real estate. We haven’t felt the aftershocks - because the quake hasn’t happened yet. But it will. Those commercial deals were bundled up and sold along side the equally toxic subprime residential mortgages.

Remember the tech boom at the end of the last decade when VC’s were running out of ink signing off on anything that had the word Internet embodied in the first sentence of a business plan?

Remember it was assumed that housing prices would continue to rise forever, which led to banks giving away mortgages to anyone whether they wanted them or not? Supply and demand? Come on.

Normally, I try to let sleeping dogs lie. But this is one hound that keeps barking and won't shut up.

I’m talking about your bud Lew Dickey. He’s now whining to Inside Radio that he gave away the store just to fill inventory. He forgot to add that he and others kept adding more inventory, too, in an attempt to meet budget. Supply and demand? Come on.

How can you have demand when you have an endless supply?

I don't know how everyone missed this one. A couple of weeks back a Seattle paper got radio broker Gary Stevens on the phone to discuss classical music formatted KING-FM's financial problems.

You're familiar with classical music, Peter. You dumped the format in two markets, Detroit and Philadelphia. Too bad the formats you replaced them with stiffed, too.

Here's what Gary said about the radio market to Seattle Crosscut: "Two years ago, a Seattle FM would have been worth $50-70 million, even if it wasn't profitable. In the current meltdown, so few radio stations have been traded, there aren't comparable sales numbers, but if I had to guess, KING-FM might bring in $15-25 million, in today's market, assuming a buyer could find financing."

Times are tough when even a seasoned radio broker like Stevens is quoting rates out of Filene's Basement's automatic markdown - before the markdown.

Shall we join reality, already in progress, Peter?

Let’s start with this report from Veronis Suhler Stevenson (VSS).

Their 23rd annual U.S. Communications Industry Forecast report that the largest declines in 2009 ad revenues will be newspapers (-18.7 percent/$35.5 billion); consumer magazines (-14.8 /$11 billion); radio (-11.7 percent/$15.8 billion), and broadcast television (-10.1 percent/$43.0 billion).

Growth will come from digital media. VSS forecasts increases in mobile (+18.1 percent/$1.3 billion) and Internet (+9.2/$23.8 billion).

VSS also predicts 2010 will be the year marketers will move advanced and sophisticated social media into its mainstream - effecting nearly all marketing initiatives.

Sounds like radio has some work to do. Up for it?

Finally, Peter, are you aware of the TV sitcom Gary Unmarried. In a recent episode the lead character, played by Jay Mohr, is trying to land a gig as a L.A. radio sports talk show host. He sends the station a demo and….well, click here and hear it yourself.



The song remains the same


Anonymous said...

Jeezooi Wow!!!!!! I went to the Smythe site & read the whole thing. Where does this man live? Does he have his own limo driver? Does he have his own food taster? Does he cut coupons? Talk about someone out of touch w/reality to the point where he actually writes junk like this? Radio is dead if he is the kind of person running the business today.

Anonymous said...

Peter Smyth is exactly the person you would expect him to be. If he had to work for a living he might be dangerous. He, Bordes and the bunch do live in an alternate reality. It is a shame really because Greater Media is not a bad company to work for but it is so shallow if you catch my drift. When are real broadcasters going to get back into the game.

Anonymous said...

He had no problem kicking Arthur Penhallow to the street.

Anonymous said...

He hired famed Howard Stern wirecutter ringleader Heidi Klossterman aka Heidi Kramer aka Heidi Rafeael.

Anonymous said...

Radio has enough cheerleaders. What we are short on are leaders. Smyth's "corner office" rant proves that. Does he even listen to his own radio stations besides Jay Severin's show?

Anonymous said...

This man is the CEO of a radio chain? Greater Media. I always had a bit of respect for them because of WRIF, which I listened to when I lived in Ann Arbor. This Peter Smyth does not "get it". His cliche ridden corner office blog offers no solutions. He is another build it and they will come type. I thought that kind of "leader" was extinct by now.

Anonymous said...

Has this man ever visited the radio stations he runs? I would almost bet he has not.

Anonymous said...

Smythe is a cheerleader who offers nothing but stale ideas and endless dated business cliches. What he does not offer are his plans and proposals for future. How is he going to make his product competitive? How is he going to use social networking? What does he expect a promising listener to hear from one of his phone apps? All he did was recite lines from motivational posters while offering no vision for the future. This is clearly a radio chain headed for disaster.

Anonymous said...

If I hear one more overblown motivative speaker want-to-be talk about weathering the storm or hanging tough I will begin taking prisoners.

Peter Smyth offers nothing in the way of optimism as far as I am concerned. He prattles on about how we have learned to do business in tough times yada, yada, yada.

What are your plans for the future, Peter? That is what I want to know. How do you plan to sell against mobile and internet? How do you plan to find fresh talent? Are you researching new formats? What is your on line presence?

Peter, you live in a bubble.

Anonymous said...

Things have to be pretty bad when Gary Stevens is talking prices slashed since he makes his living (or used to) by commissions from those radio sales. Gary's prices for Seattle are still high even for class C KING-FM. My guess is that you could walk with KING for $3.5-4 m @this stage. Just who outside of Larry has that kind of pocket change? I hope Greater Media isnt in the market for it. Seattle still deserves a decent classical music station. Greater Media is known for killing them.

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with you, John. But I can also tell you if an exec at my company publicly sang the blues the way you do, I'd torch his office. Nobody buys ad time if they think their customers are all broke anyway. Optimism is essential. With many if not most big retailers already planning on a rotten Christmas, inventories will be down and advertising will be reduced commensurate with the expectations. Anything that further exacerbates that thinking is only going to make it tougher to sell. The sell now is to the littler guys who can still shift gears to get them to place a bet on a strong season. It's the only shot on the board.

Again, I don’t' disagree with your assessment of things. Peter is probably looking too much at the positives and not enough at the negatives. And I certainly think radio has big problems. But no business exec who makes his living off advertising should be publicly saying anything other than what Peter has said at this point.

Anonymous said...

Peter, A dose of reality would be appreciated. Pie in the sky is not going to get us back on track. I like what Gorman said about supply and demand. How in the world did any radio manager believe that adding more spots would NOT cheapen the product. If you can always get an ad on and easily negotiate down a price what are you truly worth to that client in the long run. Radio should have stayed firm with supply and demand. The fact that it did not is why inventory is selling for a fraction of what it should. Radio cheapened its own product. I would have liked to see Peter issue a challenge to radio to raise rates, improve the product and get active politically before the performance tax becomes law. Waiting for the NAB to do something about is futile. Peter Smyth sits in his office insulated from the real world which is changing and altering rapidly.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 10:09 AM - I agree with you and John. I feel the real issues have to be addressed, honestly and factually to our sales and programming staffs and to our clients. The message here is being honest, finding solutions to the problems and finding the ways and means of making money again. When I hear anyone say the worst is over my reply is "for whom?" Until consumers are back on their feet and economy begins to really turn without stimuli and artificial boosts we are best to lay the cards on the table, be honest among ourselves and with our clients and find solutions. Bankruptcies and foreclosures? Get your sales department to legal firms that handle these matters. I think both of you are right. Let's be positive but let's also be honest. It will pay off when recovery occurs. Your clients will remember who the real concerned stations were versus the carney types. Peter Smyth is not a motivator. He is an enabler.

Anonymous said...

beside not visiting his own radio stations i bet smyth never drove up dorchester street. the real world is so foul. he would never make it past broadway. life looks so much better when looking out over the blue hills reservation doesn't it peter? no projects to look at. no foreclosed homes. no repossessed cars. no unemployment lines. feelin groovy.

Anonymous said...

Obviously what John Gorman has written here would not be something we would send to our clients. He makes some strong points as do most of those commenting here.

Peter Smythe's pep talk is all well and good. But he is speaking to us, radio people. We know the problems are a lot deeper. Smythe is willing to settle for believing it will get better and it will while Gorman stressed being prepared. Of the two I go with the latter.

Forget the reasons why radio got into the mess it is in. Instead concentrate on how to get out of it. One way is through new media from measurable audience streaming audio to selling your station on line and on mobile. That is, selling your station to your listeners. Your clients will notice. Radio stations do not know how to interface with new media. Lifting You Tube comic relief is not the answer. Everything a station does on line or on mobile should be selling the product and encouraging time spent listening. When clients hear radio doing that they will be more apt to listen to the rest of your pitch.

Every jock should have a facebook page - as should your station itself. They should all be interconnected. Social networking is vital and to win listeners you have to allow them to participate.

Peter Smythe falls short when it comes to new media as most his age do.

Anonymous said...


The photo says it all. When Bush did his theatrical fly in and address on that aircraft carrier that the Iraq was had been won and it was "mission accomplished" we knew it was only the beginning of what would be a long, bogged down war.

I felt the same way when I read Peter Smyth's "corner office" a few days back. Denial and avoidance is not the way to solve radio's ills.

We have to address our problems, openly and honestly. Individuals have limits as to controlling their destiny. We rely that our employers are going to be procactive and competitive and help guide us in the right direction.

I don't work for Greater Media. I have sold against them and have been fortunate enough to beat them on most buys. I would like to take credit for being a better sales person. Truth be told, I was able to negotiate a better deal - better not cheaper - and had a wiggle room to improvise where as the Greater Media ae had to stick to the script.

Our radio stations seem to work the same way. I have great respect for Greater Media but I believe the company I work for has an edge because they still throw words around like 'let's try it' and 'creativity'. I know we are in the minority in that line on management thinking today. We are part of a chain which has its share of problems. The difference is I am confident in the company I work for. Everything is on the table. We have no closed door meetings which I hear are commonplace at Greater Media.

Peter Smyth by sidestepping important issues and pretending we are on the road to financial recovery is nothing more than a high school cheerleader trying to get attention.

Anonymous said...

I am all for "blue sky" but I do want a reality check too.

Smyth is all "blue sky". I am originally from Boston where Greater Media is headquartered. Smyth should know better. My family tells me about increased taxes, major layoffs and hundreds of foreclosures occuring all over Massachusetts.

They know of people who no longer go to the North Shore because of the $7 tolls on the Tobin Bridge and the Ted Tunnel.

Smyth has to be reading the papers and watching the newscasts. It is not the "blue sky" you portray and I agree with that NU prof. None of us know where we stand right now financially.

We want to be at our best and positive when meeting with clients but we still have to know the facts. We cannot make up stories or promise what we cannot deliver.

A little honesty from the front office would go a long way.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever think that some of radio's ills have nothing to do with being old media? I can remember it like yesterday. When Clear Channel, CBS, Salem and Radio One "owned" the market I had to deal with some of the most brazen, brash, egotistical sales people. They made it clear that I couldn't buy around them. That their audience was captive in cars and the workplace. They did not want to negotiate. They played hard ball. I believe there was some unofficial collusion going on because everyone told the same story and carried the same rates. Spot breaks became as large as the music and talk breaks. I timed one CBS station's spot breaks. 27 minutes in PM drive. That was topped by Clear Channel in PM drive at 31 minutes. Then a few years later the internet starting coming into its own. TV started dropping rate. There was a six month period I could get a better rate on a couple of TV stations than I could from Clear Channel or CBS. Then we started hearing about problems at radio. They were losing audience, there were financial issues and they started cutting rate on one another. You know where Im going with this. I stopped advertising on radio and there was no change in business. I realized I was throwing away money by being the 10th commercial in a spot set. I never went back to radio. Sure my business is tough right now. Bur I am getting more bang for my buck by buying around radio. Recently one of my TV reps came in with an Arbitron radio ratings book. She wanted to show me why I should not reconsider radio even though I can buy spots for a cheap as ten bucks and not a lot of giveaway. There were no winners or losers among the top ten stations. All were a tenth of a point from one another and demographically no one owned anything. I don't know who Peter Smyth is until I read his piece from your link. Believe me, as someone who has been advertising for close to 30 years many of them on radio, you have your work cut out for you. If you think an improved economy is going to bring back business to radio you better think again. You screwed over your clients for years. You can't un-screw those memories.

Anonymous said...

WTFH does Gorman have against Greater Media? They are not half as bad as any of the "C" companies. Why pick on them? They are a privately owned company and can do what they want. Sure, Smyth is a WASPy Casper Milk Toastbut so what. Stick to the real criminals, Gorman. Please! Smyth is harmless compared to Dickey, Mason, Suleman and those other criminal minds.

Anonymous said...

That Gary Unmarried line hits home.

Anonymous said...

Peter. Please. No more "From the Corner Office". Did I say please?
Thank you.

MediaTrust said...

John Gorman and "anonymous" comment's you should be ashamed of yourselves.

I have never seen such a negative group of people who appear to be thrilled to bash a company and leader who has done a tremendous amount of good for the industry and the communities it serves.

None of you have the right or knowledge to be taking any such position, because you appear to be a community of negative driven naysayers who prefer to feed the demise of anyone trying to help better the world.

Greater Media ( which my father founded ) has a history from day one of working to better the industry, communities it serves and the lives of the employees who are the heart and soul of the company.

Peter Smyth is a proven industry acknowledged leader who has given a tremendous amount of energy and devotion to championing the growth and evolution of broadcasting ( something you John G of all people should be supporting not tearing down). Greater Media has had the lowest employee turn over of any company in the industry because of the leadership, family culture, ethics and integrity that have been part the Greater Media DNA since day one.

The company Peter Smyth leads and its Greater Media family members work tirelessly to better every aspect of the company, industry and communities it touches. With leadership come the responsibility of motivation thru positive energy.Having the strength to run into a fire to help people and fight the fire rather than running from it with everyone else (here in this blog).

Radio is here to stay and its evolving to being a content provider to the digital age.I have not seen any data to prove otherwise. Peter speaks about social and digital as another channel for content distribution as digital content can now travel out thru many new mechanisms ( as well as radio) creating many new means to empower the consumer to interact with content. So Bravo to Peter for recognizing this and opening the Greater Media content to a wider audience GLOBALLY.

John regarding your "the great recession is over comment" i am not sure you read the same quote or not but it says "Great Recession has most probably ended , at least in technical terms, and we have survived." which implies that we are at the base of this economic cycle and will begin to see improvement and far less blood shed caused by other industries greed and poor Gov regulation( not broadcasting. which has only tried to help communities).

"anonymous" commenter ... YOU my friend are so far from the truth and dont know your _ _ _ from your elbow ( please excuse my french but i have no tolerance for ignorance). we have to many cheer leaders ( negative ones like everyone here ) and not enough leaders like Peter Smyth who care and touch many peoples lives within Greater Media and the communities it serves... AND by the way he knows every single person and spends time in every single station giving everyone one on one time.

Negativity breeds negativity my friends . such as the negativity from Mr Gorman and lot here in this shameful post and comments. you should be supporting leaders and those who work on your behalf with a positive mental attitude.... that is what is at the core of every great leader. Especially in these difficult times when we need to be working together to but the fire out.


Peter Bordes Jr

Anonymous said...

Many years back I asked John Gorman who his favorite radio groups were if there was any he wanted to work with. He had his original consultancy at the time and was also overseeing programming with either Legacy Broadcasting or OmniAmerica. I forgot which. He brought up Greater Media - I distinctly remember that - because he felt they were radio people. He knew some people that worked for the company. I am not sure he pitched them. That could also be where Gorman ran into a blockcade with Fred Jacobs. I am a little hazy on the dates and years. I know Fred did not like Gorman because he made a comment Fred didn't like about classic rock in R&R. I know he was up against Greater Media in Detroit for a minute in the mid 90s. All I know about that story from Millen, Gonzo and others who were there. Somehow even though he was consulting WRIF and WCSX Jacobsput doubt in CBS radio's mind about the musical direction Gorman was taking a station there. It later turned out that Jacobs wanted to put his Edge format on WQRS, the classical station and Gorman's format almost killed that. Somehow, he got CBS to back off from alternative. Someone should ask Gorman. There is a good story there somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Wow - two great postings from the Advertising Agent and from Peter Bordes...both with great thoughts on what is going on, and the main reason I read this blog for such input.

I could go on and on about how you might be shortchanging your client by not using some of radios strengths (remotes, endorsements, demo targeting...) but the fact remains that if you choose one medium and "own it" you really don't need many more. But to GROW your business you eventually have to branch out to reach others. It is much more than anecdotal the people who brag about not watching any TV anymore...your client WANTS those people as customers.

And to Peter, your Dad has passion which is sorely lacking in this industry, and we need more like him. We also do NOT need anymore Emperors who think they are wearing a nice suit of clothes, passion or no passion. So strike a balance, and get him to visit the back part of the sales offices and keep an open mind if and when they tell him the recession is definitely NOT over as far as thet are concerned. But to keep up the attitude and spread it around because this thing WILL eventually go away. And our hope is that more "radio people" will get back into the fray.

And thanks John G for conducting this eye opening forum. Sometimes you gotta stir up the pot to get responses like the ones on this page today.

Anonymous said...

"you should be supporting leaders and those who work on your behalf with a positive mental attitude...."

Let us all pray!!! (or is is "prey!)

Anonymous said...

Peter Jr., I am glad to see you are among the few in radio to show some emotion. That is the point Gorman has been stressing. The lack of emotion, creativity and taking chances in radio today, which effectively killed it. To claim that radio is here to stay is very naive of you. Anything, anyone at any time can be replaced. I have met Gorman. He has a genuine love and passion for radio. He believes radio and reading are what will continue to spark our imagination and passion. Radio, my friend is nearly dead. Young people don't listen and no one listens as long or as much to it as they once did. I understand your need to defend Peter Smyth but he offers up nothing but stale cliches in his 'corner office" reports. Please understand these negative comments do not come from negative people. They believe in the product and if you read and reread what they have to say, their comments are very positive and enlightening. take heed, my friend.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading this blog for years, and almost always I fully agree, but Peter Smythe? By nearly every account he seems to be one of the good guys in the business. Maybe he's devoid of new ideas to take the industry to a new level, but he does have the optimism to help motivate people that might. I really don't get it. Peter Smythe?

Anonymous said...


You have to be a young guy. Maybe too young to remember when we had great radio and it was highly competitive. Programming radio was like a chess game. You had 2 of every major format competiting. Some stations played the most cars & cash game while others won by being innovative.

That is not radio today. It is not evident on your stations or most others. The best radio today comes from the few independent community oriented stations that still know how to do creative programming and how to sell it.

Peter, no one is being negative here. Perhaps you don't like Gorman's satirical style of writing. How about getting past that and read what he is really saying here.

If radio doesn't get back to being what it once was to its listeners and at the same time catches up to new technology and embraces rather than shuns it those stations your father built will be worth half of what they are today and those are already worth half of what they were worth five years ago. Catch the drift?

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Peter, Jr.

Why should Gorman or anyone who posts here other than you be “ashamed” of stating personal feelings or facts?

What gives you the “right” and “knowledge” over anyone else who posted here?

Your naivite floors me. For someone who grew up in the business you if anyone should no better than to make a claim that radio is invulnerable. Are you saying radio can’t fail because it just can’t? We have had a decade of diminishing TSL.

You mention Greater Media having the lowest turnover? It depends on your criteria for making this statement. In markets where you have changed formats, often more than once per station, you have had major personnel changes.

Arthur Penhallow joined WRIF in 1970 when it was owned by ABC. Greater Media let him go one year shy of his 40th anniversary.

There are stations and chains that have had lower turnover - and I’m not counting voluntary retirement.

I remember that Greater Media was in the minority and against deregulation. Yet, when it happened you were the first company to cut classical music formats from two of your largest markets post-deregulation. It wasn’t ethics and integrity that made you change formats.

You didn’t “run into the fire” when listeners in those markets complained about losing their classical station, you ran from the complaints and told the press it was a strictly a business decision.

The company your father founded and was still active in at that time killed classical following a claim made by Greater Media in 1996 that the company would use deregulation to create new, interesting formats, which it could now do because of decreased competition. Tell me how “The Edge” and AC are “interesting formats?”

You can make all the claims you want about Greater Media and Peter Smyth but facts are facts.

You are the one who should be ashamed for being so transparent for all the wrong reasons.

Anonymous said...

I don't always agree with John Gorman here but that letter from Peter Bordes Jr. sure changed my mind. Anyone disagreeing with him should be ashamed of themselves?

Gorman has never gone so far over the top as you have. Sometimes he gets a little too satirical for my tastes. At least I know he cares and he has a successful history in radio.

With exception to being a member of the lucky sperm club what Peter Bordes, Jr's criteria for judging the radio industry or how his father's company is run? He is not even in the same business?

So this is a forum where we are not supposed to disagree and if we do we are to be branded negative? Come on, Junior.

I find just the opposite. The people that contribute to this format really care about radio and are upset with what happened to it over the past decade.

If we didnt care about it we would not be commenting on it.

Maybe Peter Smyth is your godfather or a good family friend. He certainly is not a leader with post after post of his filled with dated cliches and claims.

Why didn't you go into the family business? There must be good reason for that, too. Like maybe you don't believe in it either.

Peter, this is an open forum. Keep an open mind.

Anonymous said...

To Peter Smyth and Peter Bordes Jr.

Could we be HONEST here?

Latest Jobless Figures Indicate No Bottom.

Thu Oct 22, 2009 at 09:22:03 AM PDT

You'd have to be a brave soul to bet your mortgage or rent payment on a firm prediction of which month we'll see net growth in employment. But while today's Labor Department report on unemployment compensation claims shows a continuing downward trend that began last spring, it is increasingly likely the first month of job growth will not take place until 2010. And the report provides more evidence that we face the possibility of what is described by that insulting term invented in 1992, a "jobless recovery."

Employment, always a "lagging indicator" of economic health, seems on a path toward reinforcing the trend of the past two recessions, lagging quite a bit more than historically was the case in post-World War II recessions before 1990-91. In other words, it could be a very long time before the U.S. economy sees as many people employed as had jobs in December 2007, when the Great Recession officially began. Since then, based on adjustments by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 8 million jobs have been lost.

Today's weekly DoL report showed 531,000 people made initial claims for unemployment benefits in the week ending October 17, a rise of 11,000 over the previous week. The four-week running average, which smooths out the volatility of the weekly numbers, dropped slightly from 533,000 to 532,250. Continuing claims fell nearly 100,000, with the four-week running average of continuing claims still hovering around the 6 million mark. The positive nature of that latest continuing claims number may well be distorted by the fact some Americans have exhausted their benefits and therefore don't show up in the statistics. About 40% of American workers are covered by unemployment insurance.

The drop in unemployment claims previously this month indicates that the number of layoffs in October - which we will find out about on November 6 - will be less than September's unexpected surge. But there is a good chance layoffs will still be above 200,000 for the month and official unemployment will hit 10% or more. The official rate of unemployment and underemployment is now 17% - 26.6 million Americans - although some critics say even that high figure understates the problem.

Timothy Aeppel and Conor Dougherty at The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday:

Companies across the economy are holding off on hiring even as the profit outlook improves, amid economic uncertainty and their own success at raising productivity in rough waters.

Hiring always lags behind in economic recoveries, but the outlook this time is worse, many economists say. Most forecasters now expect a prolonged period of high unemployment, even though the government is expected to report next week that the economy grew in the third quarter, after four quarters of contraction. That is sure to frustrate the jobless and could be a problem for the Obama administration.

There are several major factors behind the trend, which is coming on top of sharper-than-expected job cuts in the recession. Many businesses have nagging doubts about the durability of the upturn, attributing much of the recent growth in orders to a move by their customers to rebuild inventories and to government stimulus spending, rather than underlying strength in their markets.

Equally worrisome in the unemployment statistics, according to David Altig, senior vice president and research director at the Atlanta Fed: small businesses which usually account for a third of net employment gains now account for 45% of layoffs; the percentage of workers forced to cut back to part-time is at a record high; and the percentage of permanent employee layoffs is at a record high.


Anonymous said...


Many observers - experts and amateurs - believe that additional stimulus, whether as part of energy legislation or something else, is required to get jobless Americans back to work more quickly than the statistics seem to indicate will otherwise be the case. More than a few have suggested a modern version of the Civilian Conservation Corps. or the Works Progress Administration, two New Deal programs that provided millions of jobs during the Great Depression. At the same time, however, deficit hawks and right-wingers claiming that FDR's action delayed recovery in the 1930s, have argued that expanding government spending for such a purpose would have damaging long-term economic consequences. None of them, I suspect, is among the record numbers of Americans queuing up for Food Stamps.

Anonymous said...

"None of them, I suspect, is among the record numbers of Americans queuing up for Food Stamps."

Well put! It's like the old song (trite but true) "Walk A Mile In My Shoes!" It's real easy to be satisfied with your health insurance when you've got it - try being unemployed, in between Medicaid & Medicare & not able to even consider buying Cobra coverage (and the current 65% reduced rate doesn't help - would you rather eat or pay Cigna?)... I'm currently in my tenth month of unemployment - I never even IMAGINED this would happen to me! And at the age of 61 there's just tons of opportunities! Big thanks go out to the U.S. Senate - they've been haggling over nonsense garbage added to the proposed unemployment extension that passed the House a month ago! Is this a great country or what?

Anonymous said...

I am now convinced the radio business is populated with hypocrites and liars. Take Jim Kerr of Triton Media. A few weeks ago he replied to something you wrote about Triton in your blog claiming that his company was not and would not be in the content business. So what do you call Triton buying Jelli? Are they not a content provider? Wonder what Mr. Kerr has to say about this?

The same goes for young Peter Bordes Jr., except he is not so young. He is in his forties. Maybe he doesn’t remember radio’s golden age personally but it certainly provided him a nice comfortable upbringing.

For him to slam and try to shame you and others for commenting about Greater Media CEO Peter Smyth’s inane comments about the economy and radio is absolutely ridiculous. He is another hypocrite and liar. As another poster pointed out Greater Media has fired entire station staffs for foolhardy format flips that failed. When they fail, they fire people again and try another format.

It is also true that Greater Media fired Arthur Penhallow before his 40th anniversary as part of their downsizing of staffat WRIF and WCSX in Detroit.

Maybe Jim Kerr and Peter Bordes Jr. ought to combine forces and work on projects together. They could become the Lowry Mays and Red McCombs of their generation.

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Peter Bordes Sr. founded Greater Media. Peter Smyth floundering it. I am all for positive reinforcement. Nothing wrong with that. I am all for pride in product. Nothing wrong with that. I am all for quality control. Nothing wrong with that. What I am not for is this blind eye Peter Smyth has to radio's serious, serious problems. It is losing audience. The audience it has is listening less. Worst of all, it is not attracting a younger audience. Peter Smyth, is that what you call your "new normal?"

Anonymous said...

The "new normal" is apparently whatever works for Peter Smyth.

Anonymous said...

In response to Peter Bordes:

You know, I'm getting a little tired of hearing that I'm just "negative" (or lumped in to this group) because I think what has happened to an industry I love by people who do not love it blows.

Greater Media may be "family", "caring", or whatever (I have never worked for you guys so I don't know firsthand), but let me tell you why the passionate people who read and post on this blog feel the way they do. We've reached our upper limit as to the amount of executive happy talk crap we can take.

There are a hell of a lot of us who have been blown out of the industry because of the incredible short-sightedness and amazing ability of "happy talk" to investors by executives like Peter Smythe. They tell the board/investors/Wall Street whatever sounds great and on the other side of the wall, they are eliminating/consolidating positions that will never come back-removing resources from the company and sources of income from people who believed they were part of the "Family". A "family" does not divorce you (in mass numbers) because times are tight...so blow that phrase right out your a$$.

What's left is an industry that is a shadow of the creative, dynamic, in touch industry that I was a part of for half my life (so far). My last gig I was PD of 2 stations, on air at 2, and when I was "terminated", I was replaced by a flunkie further up the system who apparently could program my stations and several others in our chain by remote control from his laptop. I'm sure my salary was useful in repaying the skyhigh debt the flunkies further up the food chain ran up in good times. Oh, but don't worry--I'm sure those stations will sound just as local, "in touch", and relevant being programmed out of market.

We used to laugh at crap like this...now it's the norm. Unbelieveable. And Jr., your guy Peter Smythe is one of the culprits as much as anybody at CC, Cumulus, and the other dimwits leading the industry.

I don't pine for the old times. I don't want to smoke weed under the transmitter while spinning the latest tune from Pat Benetar. Times change. But to ask me to be blindly "positive" instead of "negative"--or even cautious--on the course this industry continues is the type of BS that I swore off after my last gig in radio.

Anonymous said...

Peter, JR....

You have to realize that most of the radio message boards are filled with "wannabe's" and "has been's".

They are resentful when anyone has done well or has accomplished something.

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