Hope For Cumulus

And that’s great news!


If you don’t already subscribe to Radio Ink, you should.

Yesterday, they published several comments made by Cumulus CEO, Mary Berner, during an interview at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville.

And based on what she said, I feel more hopeful for my friends who work for Cumulus than I have in years.

And what’s good for Cumulus is also good for all of broadcast Radio. The healthier Radio’s largest companies are, the healthier Radio is as an industry.

Look, unless you’re a bondholder, the Cumulus bankruptcy had to make you more hopeful, just as the impending bankruptcy filing by iHeartMedia is hopeful.

Both companies took on an unsustainable level of debt that has forced them to run their stations in the worst way for the long term health of their individual stations.


In her first ever radio industry conference appearance, Cumulus CEO Mary Berner was interviewed by Emmis New York Market Manager Charlie Morgan at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville.”

“Berner was asked for her general thoughts on the radio industry and she told attendees radio needs to ‘grow a pair.'”

“Berner comes from the magazine industry and she said that industry had enormous confidence, without the R.O.I. to back it up. ‘Radio does have the audience and tremendous R.O.I. but we don’t act like it. We act like the ugly stepchild. This industry has the goods.’ “

Berner also said radio is in a race to the bottom when it comes to advertising rates.”

She said the decision to file for bankruptcy was purely a business transaction and on the operational side it’s business as usual. Since taking over the company, more than two years ago, Berner has been very up-front about the need to not only turn the company around, but fix the balance sheet.”

Berner told CRS attendees that when she took over the company she knew she needed to accomplish two things: fix the operational stability and fix the debt from the Citadel transaction. ‘We fixed the foundation but the mortgage was too high. We have plenty of cash. It’s business as usual for us.’ “

Cumulus CEO Mary Berner has never shied away from criticizing the previous leadership at Cumulus. Berner says when she first took over, she asked a corporate assistant to help her get a company-wide survey out to employees and was met with dead silence. ‘We don’t have a way to communicate with employees,’ Berner said she was told. Berner says when the survey finally went out, half the company (Cumulus has about 6,000 employees) responded within 24 hours.”

One of the themes from the first survey was toxic culture, which, Berner says, came up over and over again. She says her executive team met for three straight days to figure out a new culture. ‘What we needed to be was everything we weren’t.‘ “

Berner also says a big part of the company turnaround was allowing the programmers to do their job. An office of programming was set up to provide resources, insight, data, tracking, and format expertise. She says when you let the content creators do their thing, good people will excel.”

“ ‘If you’re good at what you do you don’t want people telling you what to do every day.’ That was another complaint about the previous leadership, that everything was managed from the top down, with very few decisions being made on the local level, and many times the local programmers never hearing back from corporate when they made requests.”


I’ve never met her, and I know words need to be backed up by actual deeds, but based on her responses in these Radio Ink stories, I’m now rooting for her success.

Radio needs every success story we can produce.