Radio sees dialed-down revenue

On-air revenue falls 7% in first quarter

The radio business just can't seem to catch a break.

On-air revenue for the first quarter fell 7% to $3.8 billion. Even factoring in network radio revenue, which grew 7% to $274 million, and off-air revenue (which includes online), up 15% to $388 million, revenue was down 5% to a little less than $4.5 billion.

Local spot, radio's bread and butter, slid 6% to $3.1 billion. In contrast to network radio -- which is gaining favor among advertisers for its ability to split copy down to the station level -- national spot is hurting, down 11% to $649 million. Network radio benefited from a 157% increase in spending by Wal-Mart.

The Radio Advertising Bureau, which released the estimates Thursday, did point to the number of new and returning advertisers that increased budgets in the quarter, including insurance companies (24%), specialty retail (20%), professional services (20%) and beverages (12%). But whether those categories can offset decreases in automotive and communications remains to be seen.

The RAB's figures are based on a pool of more than 100 markets as reported by accounting firm Miller, Kaplan, Arase & Co.