How safe is your sales job in radio?

Peter Saxon asks SCA Sales Chief Brian Gallagher.

Just over a year ago we published an article titled: 4 out of 5 jobs most likely to be lost to robots, are in radio.

Our article linked to American technology writer, Shelley Palmer, who identified the top five job categories in the general marketplace that he believes will be the first to go based on an Oxford University study.

Four of the five categories the study identified, exist in radio. Of the five, only Doctors are not generally found on the staff list at a radio station. The others, Middle Management; Commodity Salespeople (Ad Sales, Supplies, etc.); Report Writers, Journalists, Authors & Announcers; Accountants & Bookkeepers, all inhabit the corridors and studios of broadcasters.

Should you be worried if you’re in Radio Sales?

There’s no need to do that barista course just yet.

According to SCA’s Chief Sales Officer, Brian Gallagher, “At some point down the track, is it possible that we get to a position where we can do more with less people? Probably, but it’s not in the two or three year horizon that I can see.”

All up SCA employs some 700 sales people nationally, split roughly 50/50 between metro and regional markets. Of the 350 in the five main capitals 250 sell radio and 100 sell television.

The most obvious disrupter to the way advertising is sold is programatic technology which allows advertisers to buy media schedules online in the way we can buy airline tickets without involving a travel agent.

Although programatic has been deployed, mainly through online news outlets with some success – but not without some serious issues – Mr Gallagher believes it is still three years or so away before it is a viable platform for radio. Even then, the proportion of SCA’s radio inventory available for sale to programatic advertisers will be limited to around 5 per cent. That’s because it will only be applied to those audiences who listen online and through apps.

“Keep in mind we’re talking about two different things,” says Mr Gallagher. “There’s Broadcasting and programatic. Programatic relates to the inventory that’s being delivered over IT. The Broadcasting is different, that’s why you won’t see a massive diminishing of the sales team in the short term. They’ll still be selling that broadcast advertising.”

At this stage, while Broadcast provides huge audiences only IT delivered content is conducive to the main benefits of programatic which is the ability to serve up ads that match the interests of individual listeners.

“In three years time, even if we’re very successful on programatic, 95 per cent of our revenue is going to be coming through Broadcast. So it’s going to be very difficult to get away with less (sales people),” says Mr Gallagher.

Nonetheless we live in an age of disruption in which few jobs, if any, can be classed as secure. It is impossible to confidently predict what the future will bring in the mid to long term.

Mr Gallagher observes, “Five years from now or 10 years from now, we might have less sales people on the ground. (The questions we have to ask ourselves are), what is the product by the time we get to that point? How is it sold and what is the process of selling it and what’s really of value to the advertiser and how is it traded compared to how it’s traded now?”

Watch Out! Automation is Coming

Apart from programatic, there’s another technology under development that will also have a significant impact on radio sales departments.

“Automation is coming into play over the next couple of years and we’re working very closely with Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) and the industry as a group, to streamline the billing processes between the sellers and the agency buyers right down to the lower tier agencies. To put in place systems that allow us to automatically move proposal requests out to the media for the media to be able to deliver proposals back electronically very quickly for the agencies to be able to determine the efficacy of those buys by combining all of the proposals into one tool that tells them how the R&Fs (reach & frequencies) are going to look and then they can go back and automatically book those proposals.”

“What that basically means is that instead of having a coordinator sitting out on the floor processing stacks of stuff, that coordinator can be redeployed to be more proactive about how we move spots around, how we maximise our inventory.

“Automation will allow us to streamline our salesforce to get more people outward bound selling and maximising our inventory.” 

While technology, one day, may allow for automatic, programatic placement on Broadcast radio, “It still has to be negotiated,” says Mr Gallagher, “And that takes people.”

Peter Saxon






How to get a job in radio – our tips:

  1. Work out what you want to do – announcing, audio mixing, news, sales, something else? Don’t just think that the only jobs are announcing jobs.
  2. Visit some radio stations and take a look. Talk to radio people, read radio publications like
  3. Get involved as a volunteer at a community or campus radio station. Australian list of stations here, US Campus stations here.
  4. At this stage think about formal training. Are you a high school graduate – if so maybe do a uni communications or media degree with a strong practical radio component in it. Check out the lecturers – are they people who have really worked in radio or did they just learn it academically?
  5. Of go to one of the specialist radio training institutes such as AFTRS or TAFE in Australia. USA Radio courses. In the UK there are many universities wth radio courses and the BBC also has a training academy.
  6. Whatever courses you do, keep doing your volunteer radio show on community/campus radio and get enough good breaks to make a demo tape (yes, we know it’s no longer on tape, but that is still what radio people call it).
  7. What’s in a demo? No more than 5 minutes. Your best break first (give the employer a reason to listen longer). Showcase various things you can do, don’t just put in the same type of content. If applying for other specialist roles such as news or copywriting, include separate segments with news reads and attach advert or news scripts. Label your files with your name in the file name
  8. If you want a job in a capital city remember you will be competing with the best in the business who all want to work in a major market. You may need to start at the bottom if you want to work in a big station… or
  9. Take the leap and go to a small town to get your start. You will be a ‘big fish in a small pond,’ whcih will teach you a lot fast. You will also get to experience many job roles.
  10. As you progress, take control of your career, look for opportunities, say ‘yes’ to challenges, and move around to progress.
  11. Read Making Radio.
  12. Good luck!

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