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Sound of Silence For Radio in April

Radio's rough patch continues, but some relief may arrive by June. Bear Stearns estimates that radio ad sales were down 3% last month vs. April 2002, and the firm projects that May will be down about the same amount. But look for resurgence in June, when sales could post a 3% increase.

That won't be enough to save the second quarter from a decline from the same period a year ago. Bear Stearns' revised second-quarter radio sales projection calls for a 1% drop. Earlier, the firm had predicted a 5% gain.

"March was flat to up a few points, but April looks flat and down a few points," says Marc Guild, president, Interep. Retail, "our top category," he says, remains flat, although domestic auto and telecom are pacing up.

"It's very easy to get into last-minute radio buys," says Kaylan Asher, president of Dallas-based Asher Media, "and at very easy CPMs."

LCI VP, radio, Maureen Whyte notes, "Speaking with people in the New York radio market, it seems many stations did not make budget in April."

Dennis McGuire, VP/regional broadcast director, Carat, concurs but adds, "With the bulk of the Iraq invasion over, I think clients are going to be more secure. Vendors are saying May is getting very active."

Katz Media Group CEO Stu Olds sees "a return to more normalized patterns for the remainder of second quarter."

Whyte still questions the market's return. "I'm working on buys for late May/June," she said, "and rates go back down after Memorial Day. Memorial Day week is getting ugly."