Why why whyIt’s not unusual for little boys and girls to ask the question “Why?” They ask it a lot.

Why? Because they want to learn, to know why things have to be that way.

But what happens to the person who is asked the why question?

They are forced to think about it, sometimes even reassess the answer they knew and wonder if it was really the right answer or merely a convention. In other words, is the reason simply because, it’s the way something has always been done?

It causes one to consider that maybe things didn’t really need to be done that way, and could be done differently.

What If?

While why questions open our minds to new thoughts and opportunities, “what if” questions are like a fork in the road. They can take us in new directions.

For example, “What if radio stations only aired a single commercial in a break?” Or, “What if all radio commercials were delivered live by the radio personality?”

Edison Research revealed at this year’s Radio Show, that people would change radio stations or stop listening all together due to basically one of three reasons: 1) forced change, 2) engagement and 3) commercials.

Forced change was defined by a loss of signal or a bad signal. Engagement was described as boredom, didn’t like the song, the personality or subject matter. And I think everyone understands the tune-out factor of commercials to radio listeners.


Why do commercials have to be a listener tune out? What if commercials caused radio listeners to lean into their speakers and pay close attention?

My first personal experience with doing just that was when I listened to Paul Harvey News & Comment and he said, “Page Two.”

Paul Harvey did his sponsor’s commercials live. He did them with passion and enthusiasm. The result was people listened, and even more importantly, they bought the products and services he told them about.


I’ve noticed that podcasters usually have a single commercial in their program and is usually delivered by the host of the podcast. What if that’s the reason podcast commercials deliver such powerful results and more advertisers are considering using podcasts as part of their advertising program.

Same, but Different

In my radio management career, I had the opportunity to live and work in different parts of the country with some fabulous radio professionals. The radio business is an identical business everywhere in America, but back in the days before consolidation and the concept of “Best Practices,” radio people tended to innovate the creative process in completely different ways. It’s one of the reasons many, my age, loved to DX AM radio signals after sunset.

The Innovators

I believe some of the best innovators for setting the course for radio in 2020 are working for you right at this very moment. They aren’t necessarily the “A players” or even the most focused ones, but they are the ones that are asking “Why & What If” and are continually looking for new problems to solve.

If you create a culture within your radio station that encourages that kind of inquiry, a culture that continually asks “why” do we always do things this way and “what if” we did things differently, radio for the 21st Century will begin to be born.

If you don’t, your business is ripe for disruption by another media innovator.


Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

8 responses to “Why?

  1. Gregg Cassidy

    In today’s radio environment “decisions and directions” are dictated from a corporate level. This makes it hard to get changes done from a local level. Plus, on the local level the employee is working so hard that there isn’t much time to ask a why question or even think of a why question. I’m not being negative, I’m just stating the facts. So. Regarding the Edison research project. Many station are doing live reads, on the show’s with personalities. Because of today’s advertising environment, radio can’t play one or two commercials at a time. Edison Research did reveal the consumers issues with radio, but it didn’t reveal the core issue to solve the “why “question. I finally figured it out after 10 years of asking the “why”question. Sorry, I can’t reveal that answer. Someone needs to pay me for that one. Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dave Mason

    Nice post, Dick. . raising a lot of questions and taking one’s mind into many different directions. We could ask “Why does AM radio sound so crappy?” We could ask “why so many commercials about things I don’t care about?”. We could ask “why are so many commercials so boring?” We could ask “why is a generic voice telling me how great my station is when the ‘personality’ could probably do a better job?”:.We could ask “why is there only one (insert formaname) station around here?” Many things have been tried, including Scott Shannon’s “Pirate Radio” which was built on playing one commercial an hour and having the advertiser pay a fortune to do that. Didn’t work because the other stations would undercut that rate. Radio is like any other entertainment medium. It needs to have a flow, a purpose not stop ‘n start. In most cases we telegraph that we’ve just played a bunch of songs and now we’ll play commercials for the next 7 minutes. Then we start up again -but wait until the next commercial break to to offer up anything that might be of interest to the listener…then 7 more minutes of commercials. There are a lot of things radio is doing that we know is wrong. Gregg put it up front when he went through the list of reasons why we do what we do in radio. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out how to fix it. You just need to figure out how to get the help of a wealthy visionary to just fix it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Sadly, we know what would instantly improve things in the short-term. The long-term need more thinking.

      I think Pirate Radio went to the extreme with the one break per hour experiment. Extremes are usually never good.


      • Dave Mason

        Yeah, Pirate Radio was an extreme, but as we’ve found out in the last 3 years – the best way to get noticed in a crowded room is to make a bold statement. They could have tried to make a little more with creative product placement and slowly incorporating more commercials that could have continued the attitude of “Pirate Radio” . . but I’m sure that-in true radio style – they didn’t think this one out long term. Can you imagine trying to train radio account execs in selling “product placement” mentions? Creative song intro spots? Broadcast is still hung up on :60, :30, :10 seconds with no regard to environment. The screaming car dealer spots still exist on AC “mood setting” stations. A wealthy visionary with a new approach is needed..and we probably won’t see that in our lifetime. I’m glad you brought up the topic, though. My first-born helped us name our boat “Howcome”? with his incessant questions. . . he always made us think. Please keep us on our toes, Dick.


  3. Radio commercials used to be fun! There was Burt and Harry Piels, catchy jingles (like McDonalds and Pepsi) and let’s not forget the wonderful reel of commercials Coke sent out yearly, featuring top groups from every format and the DJs that were a part of that format. And then there were live reads…if you’ve ever heard a “must listen” to live read, it was one done by Dan Ingram. Dan once told me, “make fun of the commercial, the sponsor, but never the product”. I think he knew where of he spoke. There are some good ones today (like Geico), but then there are ones you love to hate (like Cars for Kids). Listen to an average stop set, and you will hear PI crap with the number or web address repeated over and over, dull and boring financials, and local spots written and performed by the owner (thanks Frank Perdue for leaving that legacy!). Radio stations used to employ copywriters, now salesmen or a secretary write the copy. I come to 2 conclusions…either nobody cares or nobody notices. Sad but a real reason all the other audio sources are eating radio’s lunch!


    Liked by 1 person

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