Two September trade shows—the National Association of Broadcasters' Radio Show in New Orleans this week and the Radio-Television News Directors Association's annual convention in Nashville, Tenn., the week after—will show not only the state of the art of their respective industries but also the effects of the economic downturn.
NAB expects a drop-off of about 2,000 attendees from last year's record 7,600, and the 20% drop expected by RTNDA from its typical 4,000 or so attendance would put it in the low-3,000 range. Several broadcast groups have told BROADCASTING & CABLE it's difficult to justify trade-show travel expenses in a year when budgets have been slashed and, in some cases, employees laid off.
In addition to the overall economy, the radio show apparently is suffering from a less-then-optimal show time: right after Labor Day. This year's lower attendance will likely match its 1999 figures, which were in the mid-5,000 range, NAB said.
President Barbara Cochran said RTNDA, which has already offered some deep discounts to promote advance registration—with some success—is now offering a two-for-one day pass. Both the lower attendance and discounts will hurt the organization's budget, Cochran conceded, and in particular its Freedom of Information activities.