How to Buy Air Time on Radio


Radio advertising is a traditional advertising medium that can help advertisers reach certain demographics based on the type of station they're on. Radio advertising prime time occurs during rush hour when most people are in their cars commuting to and from work. Cost of advertising depends primarily on three factors, time when ads will be played, length of ad and number of listeners or station strength. The more popular radio stations will have higher rates.

  • Research radio stations. Selecting the right station is important. Advertising a retirement home on a youth-oriented urban radio station would be a big mistake. Select a popular station that should appeal to the target market of your product/business. The target market are likely consumers of the product. All radio stations will have demographic information available to prospective ad buyers. Feel free to ask prospective stations about their listener demographics.

  • Contact radio stations. Visiting a radio station's website will help the advertiser locate information. Ask for a "Media Kit," or sales information from the sales manager at the station. Most radio stations will have media kits available that detail demographics, reach (number of listeners) and cost information.

  • Decide on a length. The length of the spot (commercial) is important and price will depend on length. If the product is easy to explain it likely does not need a longer commercial. For example, an upcoming concert will likely not need a long spot, some clips of the band, and the event and ticket info and the commercial is done. As opposed to a new information technology product that may require explaining and background knowledge to understand.

  • Compare the media kits for various stations. The radio station needs advertising revenue to survive and advertisers have a wide variety of alternative media available to them. This means that stations may be willing to cut a better deal for advertisers depending on what services they seek. For example, a station may give a discount for future advertising, or lower the cost if a larger amount of air time is purchased in advanced. Ask questions and determine which station(s) is/are the best to advertise with. For example, ask what kinds of results other brands have had advertising with the station. Are these results verifiable? Does the radio station advertise competing companies?

  • Define payment terms. Sign a sales agreement that outlines the obligations of the station. Most stations will have a standard sales contract. Monitor the progress of the radio advertising campaign. Terms of the payment may be up for negotiation. For example, the advertiser may be able to request that payment be made after the commercial plays or up to a certain point. Alternatively, the radio station may accept a structured payment plan. If a small business can not pay for all the advertising up front this may be a viable alternative.

  • Track the results of the campaign. After the first commercials air, record the increase of inquires and sales the business has. This will help the business evaluate the effectiveness of the radio campaign.

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  • Photo Credit radio image by Claudio Calcagno from
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