The show might go on


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Last month I wrote about the role that traditional broadcasting played in relaying information when many newer technologies could not keep up with the events of September 11. Just days before that event, I was putting some thoughts together about another event that took place earlier that same month: the NAB Radio Show.

Conventions and conferences are a vital part of any industry. They provide an opportunity for the various sectors of that industry to gather and exchange ideas in both directions. Manufacturers and service providers learn the needs and desires of their customers, and the purchasers can comparison shop and learn about emerging technologies. A successful convention requires the presence of both parties combined with the services of the host. In the case of the NAB Radio Show, problems are on the rise.

Like blaming the host for a bad party, it's easy to blame the NAB for the poor showing. The costs to exhibit continue to rise. The show attendance continues to drop. (The NAB needs to begin counting true attendance at the conventions and not just report the registered attendance. The real attendees are the tire-kicking public attending the sessions and planning equipment and service purchase decisions on the show floor, not the exhibitors, exhibitors' guests, show-floor visitors, working media and trade press, and more. At any given NAB convention over the past four years, I have held from three to as many as seven registrations because of my various affiliations. I should count only as one at the most.) The argument that a show attracts quality attendees and not just quantity only goes so far. At the rate things are going, the quantity of quality is dropping as well.

The NAB Radio Show has felt pressure since it returned after the demise of the World Media Expo. Smaller, regional shows are gaining in popularity and quality. Justifying a trip half a continent away is difficult when quality exhibits and sessions are being presented a few miles down the road. The cost to attend a regional show, both in travel and registration, is typically much lower if not free. Regional SBE conventions and state broadcast association conferences have grown, and ARMA has already held four conventions. Unfortunately, the ARMA convention scheduled for this month had to be canceled — which I attribute to the change in attitude towards flying, the state of the economy and the timing being so close to AES and several SBE regional conventions.

So what will save the NAB Radio show? I have heard some people speculate that the NAB wants to end the Radio Show completely. While it is not the profit center that the Spring convention is, it provides a value and service to the radio station members and radio equipment manufacturers and service providers.

All three sides need to rethink their portion of the Radio Show puzzle. Timing the event away from a federal holiday and controlling the costs to the exhibitors and attendees is a good start. Another step would be for stations and corporate owners to allow their employees to interact with others in their industry to learn and exchange ideas that will help the bottom line.


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