Radio’s Serenity Prayer

Serenity Stained Glass Window


In everyone’s life, there are trials and tribulations.

During a particularly trying moment in my life, I found comfort in Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer.


Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things, I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

The prayer is actually made of three parts: 1) accepting things that can’t be changed, 2) courage to change the things that can be changed, and 3) wisdom to know the difference.

So how does that apply to those of us in radio broadcasting?

Somethings Never Change

I’m sure, like me, you’ve been reading a lot about the future of radio and all the changes it faces on the horizon of 2018 and beyond.

It can be overwhelming.

But I fear that too many in radio are too focused on changing the things that are beyond our control or are working hard to change the things we believe we can change, and are missing the bigger opportunity, the things that won’t change.

In my long radio career, I’ve seen the consistency of radio’s power to make a difference in a community.

I’ve also seen the number of radio stations on-the-air multiply like bunnies, and the number of radio pre-sets on a car radio expand to 30, but the number of favorite radio stations a person has remains at about three. And one of those three favorite radio stations will dominate with over 80% of the time spent listening to radio.

Nielsen confirms this is still the case.

“I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.”

– Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO

Radio’s Constants

Great radio will always be about the listener.

Great radio personalities will be great entertainers and a friend to the listener.

Great radio will not only serve listener needs but also their wants and desires.

Great radio will be dependable, in good times and bad.

Great radio will always be about community and companionship.

Great radio will always be surprising and unpredictable.

Great radio will attract listeners who don’t want to miss out.

Great radio adds value to everyone it comes in contact with.

Invest in the Future

Jeff Bezos is a very rich man.

Jeff began Amazon in his garage in Seattle twenty years ago.

Jeff bought the Washington Post with his pocket change and infused it with a new spirit by focusing on a newspapers’ constants.

Bezos says the way to invest in the future, is to identify the constants of people who use your product or service and build on them with relentless focus.

For Amazon it’s lower prices, and speedier delivery for example. Do you see either of those going in the opposite direction, with respect to consumer expectations, in the years ahead?

And so, it is with radio.

The very constants that made radio great for nearly one hundred years will continue into the next century. The secret is not to take your eye off the ball.

“When you have something that you know is true,

even over the long term,

you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”

-Jeff Bezos

Radio needs to live one day at a time, enjoying the special place it holds in people’s lives.

Radio needs to accept the hardships, knowing they will lead to a better place.

Trust that if you focus on the radio constants, the future will be alright.

Or as Bezos put it in Forbes, “Successful businesses are those that continue to find ways to best fulfill core needs. Does our business fulfill one or more core human needs? Are we meeting that need in the most effective and efficient way possible given the changes in technology and people’s expectations?”

(Hat Tip to John Frost’s Frost Advisory #390 for the inspiration)





Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

12 responses to “Radio’s Serenity Prayer

  1. Todd Hallidy

    Great observations. I’m tired of hearing how radio is doomed. The demand for great audio entertainment and information is still soaring. The transmitters may go away, but people will still want stimulating audio content and want it delivered by interesting and talented people. That’s one the things that isn’t changing any time soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your’s are wonderful words to those who love radio, Dick. All true. But the following, spoken in 2003, still sets the approach when speaking of creativity and dollars spent on content.

    “If anyone said we were in the radio business, it wouldn’t be someone from our company. We’re not in the business of providing news and information. We’re not in the business of providing well-researched music. We’re simply in the business of selling our customers’ products.” – Clear Channel CEO, Lowry Mays


  3. Radio content is part of life’s fabric as long as people have ears. Here’s to The New Year. May all boats rise. Especially those with off shore transmitters, personality and local, local, local.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for the column and a reminder that the grass is not always greener as people step over on-air dollars chasing after digital dimes. Another constant for radio, advertisers need to reach people with money to spend. 85% of radio’s listening is done by employed persons. Great radio is consumed by people earning a paycheck.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Michael Neff

    EXCELLENT (as always), Dick!
    One tangent, however.
    Radio as we KNOW it … is not necessarily how we GROW it.
    Lessons learned from the past present us with an interesting challenge.
    Our FUTURE has to be tailored to a NEW audience that does not know us all that well. We have to be less of an OPTION for them and more of a NECESSITY. As we once were.
    Yes. It can be done. Probably, however, in not all the ways we DID it.
    Let’s respect the basics, certainly. But be OPEN to new, appropriate RADIO paths.
    Michael Neff

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ron Roy

    Good article Dick, I would add one thing: radio has abandoned the very thing it preaches…..we need to “fight” for ears, we need to ADVERTISE! In years gone by we ran billboards, TV and mail campaigns . We did appearances where people would gather to impact and ADVERTISE our stations. We don’t “ask” for the order anymore. We expect people to find us. We used to market the station to garner new listeners from other radio stations. Now we have significantly more competition yet we do far less than we should all in the name of saving money. Yes, we still have 92% of listenership of available audience, however, TSL IS waning. If we promoted the features, content and importance can we hold TSL and grow our audience against the digital world? What we do know is if we make non promoting the constant we shouldn’t expect to win! Our only advantage is price and locallity….until someone figures out how to best us.


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