2020 – The Last Year of the Decade

New Decade Begins 2020 or 2021A lot of people think that a new decade began in 2020, but the reality is, it’s the last year of the current decade. 2021 begins the next decade.

The 21st Century didn’t begin in 2000, but on January 1, 2001. The new millennium also began in 2001.

I think what may have confused everyone is the angst so many of us felt when the calendar turned from 1999 to 2000. I remember that New Year’s Eve so vividly because I spent it at my cluster of radio stations in Waterloo, Iowa. Why? Because virtually the entire world was anxious that their computer systems might crash at midnight.

Y2K

Did you forget about the Y2K Bug?

Y2K, short-hand for year two thousand, was a computer flaw — or bug — that was predicted to cause great problems with dates beyond December 31, 1999.

Every company worked feverishly putting in patches that were supposed to fix this problem, but no one really knew for sure if they would.

The fear was that all of our computer systems at the radio stations might not interpret the “00” as 2000 but as 1900.

New Year’s Eve 1999

The CEO of my company’s radio stations commanded that all general managers, operations managers, programmers and engineers be on duty on New Year’s Eve 1999 and be prepared to take the operation LIVE if our computers failed.

I told the staff of my four radio stations what the company plan was, and my director of sales said at that employee meeting, “If you’re going to be here on New Year’s Eve, so are we.” Shelly Routt, then began planning one of the best New Year’s Eve parties I’ve ever enjoyed at our cluster’s headquarters in downtown Waterloo.

Friday Night

December 31, 1999 was a Friday night.

What made this computer bug issue so critical at my radio cluster was, we operated all four radio stations every weekend without a single person on duty. We were fully computer automated.

On a typical Friday afternoon, when the week ended at 5pm, we locked the doors not to return until Monday morning. Think about that, we were running full automation over twenty years ago.

All those jobs that gave new radio people their start in the business, weekends and overnights, were gone.

The talent farm team system was decimated.

25 Dying Professions You Should Avoid

I guess that’s why I wasn’t surprised when a reader of this blog sent me an article from Work+ Money 

about 25 professions that were going away, that BROADCASTERS was fifth from the top.

2020 Vision

The primary reason cited was that more and more listeners prefer streaming over their local, drive-time disc jockey.

Work+Money wrote:

“One in 10 of the nation’s 33,202 radio and television announcers are expected to see their jobs disappear by 2026. Consolidation in the industry, as well as increased use of syndicated content, is fueling the decline. There’s also the explosion of streaming music services.”

Automation

As I went through the list of professions in danger, a singular reason reared its ugly head, automation. Robots, artificial intelligence – both newer forms of automation – were replacing many white collar as well as low skill jobs in the workforce.

robot djIf your job can be replaced by a mathematical equation, a logarithm if you will, consider your future employment to be at risk.

To be perfectly clear, all broadcasters won’t be disappearing, but the profession of broadcaster will be in a state of decline.

College Degree & Broadcasting

The cost of higher education continues to soar, but the payback of a college degree hasn’t kept pace. While the price of consumer goods has increased by a factor of 4 since the late 1970s, getting a college diploma has increased by a factor of 14, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Sadly, not all degrees offer the same ROI (Return On Investment), but ironically they’re all pretty much priced the same at any college. According to PayScale a college degree in dentistry sees a dental graduate’s median entry-level salary of $118,800 versus a degree in broadcasting where a starting disc jockey or newsperson can expect an entry-level salary of $40,000.

I never went to college to be a broadcaster. Broadcasting, which I started professionally while a freshman in high school, paid for my college education; both undergraduate and graduate degrees.

What did I go to college to learn? To be a teacher.

It wasn’t until I retired from over four decades as a broadcaster that I would begin my career in education as a broadcast professor at a university.

During that time, I would witness extensive broadcast industry deregulation and consolidation and that led us to the state that broadcasting is in today.

Apprentice Programs

The radio industry needs to grow new talent. It’s time for broadcasters to have an apprentice program in place that allows youth to learn and grow as responsible community broadcasters without requiring a college degree at the outset.

Over time, the broadcast industry can provide “just-in-time-learning” programs that will allow these new broadcasters to grow and expand their skills to take on more and more responsibilities leading to senior management and ownership of radio properties.

The new decade begins in less than a year.

15 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

15 responses to “2020 – The Last Year of the Decade

  1. Dick Taylor, your stories and insights are spot-on as usual, and particularly resonate with me as a high school aged broadcaster at the end of The Golden Age (1962). By 1970 I’d left radio to become a documentary filmmaker, where over the years opportunities have dwindled from crews of four and a vanload of gear to a “crew” of one with a smart phone. We can say we did it when it was hard to do, but also when personality mattered. I too ended up teaching filmmaking, when colleges capitalized on the allure, and churned out many who only joined the unemployed looking for another career. For me it’s back to my engineering degree – another victim in the broadcast world, as the equipment has stabilized and the FCC transformed from a technically-driven body to lawyers and bureaucrats pandering to lobbyists, not acting “in the public interest, convenience, and necessity.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Dick;

    It’s 2020. In 1955 as a 7-year old, my dad took me bowling for the first time. It was at a 16 lane establishment that also hired teen-agers to set pins. Fast forward 3 years as this kid moved to the suburbs, within a rock’s throw of a newer, more modern establishment with 32 lanes and – automatic pin setters. It was my first introduction to automation. We also lived within 2 miles of 4 radio stations. I had the good fortune of working for 3 of them in my career. None of them had a thing to do with automation. In 1981 I worked for a station that had a system to sequence our cart machines and turntables. We could walk away from the studio for 7-8 minutes at a time. Now in 2020 we can leave the station for a night, weekend, week or more thanks to -automation. These tools are important to any industry. When used right they help professionals do their job more efficiently. Radio at one time had 3-4 people to do the job that one person can do in 2020. The transmitter engineer, the “turntable operator”, the board operator, the producer (who would set up the next hour’s commercials and music) are all history now. All of that can be done by the “on air” personality. But at what cost? The pin boys could badger the bowler to perform better. The group of people who used to be involved in producing and operating a radio program could form a coalition of creativity that propelled people like Wolfman Jack, Cousin Brucie and Larry Lujack into the personalities they became. That’s going by the wayside, replaced by one person who sits alone with no reaction from coworkers to set the tone. It’s a shame. Broadcasting was built on a concept of “one” to “many”. One can argue that listeners are happy to stream from Spotify or Pandora, but I maintain that the proper curation will win every day. Just like the disc jockey performs better with a “crew”, a listener can enjoy the end result more than a robotic playlist. Does Howard exist on his own? Automation should be used as a tool, not a replacement for real, honest human nature. I rest my case your honor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When OTA broadcasting transforms itself into a second-class Pandora or Spotify or Amazon Music, the pure plays will always win the day.

      OTA broadcasting will only win when it offers the listener something they can’t get someplace else, done better.

      Thanks Dave for sharing your story. It brought back some memories (pin setters) I hadn’t thought of in years.
      -DT

      Like

  3. Gregg

    The path you are traveling is very interesting. At the turn of the century you were working at a cluster of stations that were predicting the future of radio. You didn’t get your radio education from college, but today you are teaching radio at a college. There are some things that can be taught, but I believe what is missing from radio can’t be taught in college. Only working around real personalities can teach a person how to develop their personality. Problem: Personalities are not in demand. Now I’m very serious about my next comment, teach students how to program A.I into the computer; Alexa and Google have already started down this futuristic path.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Gregg, I retired from the university in 2017, after seven years as part of the broadcast faculty at The School of Broadcasting and Journalism at WKU.

      Last year, the Board of Regents changed the name from that to “School of Media.”

      I quite agree with you that the way to learn broadcasting is much like any performance art, you learn by doing. It’s why I’m a big advocate of the radio industry instituting an apprentice program in place of thinking a college degree is all that matters.

      Thanks for adding to the discussion.
      -DT

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dick: As you know I am fortunate to work for a company that still employs some live DJ’s and a live news staff. And here, we encourage and demand personalities on a radio station (the liner cards were thrown out in 2009). What, to me is happening right now, is that companies like iHeart with their recent “dislocations”, Cumulus, Entercom and others are giving the business a bad name. Here, we employ a lot of graduates from a local broadcasting college because the students coming out of the local state university are clueless (they have a radio station, but the inmates run the asylum playing music off their phones and are taught nothing about “formats” or “programming”). And now, the top university in town (the one with the 7th ranked basketball team in the nation) no longer offers a formal broadcasting program because it apparently, “no longer believes in the viability of the business”. This is what the big, overdrawn, debt laden companies have done to us. I think what we may, in fact, be seeing is the beginning of the end of iHeart. They have 8 stations here, only 2 have any staff at all. And it pains me to say that one of their stations which I worked for in the 1970’s operates today without a Program Director! Their other stations, under this bold new regime (sarcasm alert!) sound like crap. No call letters, no code calls, no mention of station or town at all…just 2 faceless voices talking about format, not station. And that ain’t LOCAL radio. I think they’re handing their audience over to us. The other company in town is just as bad, claiming to be “live and local”, but only have a few people on staff…cripes they have a 50,000 watt FM station that is frequently beaten by our out of town flanker and translator! If this isn’t a situation from which we can benefit, I have never seen one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin, that’s the same direction my old teaching university is moving in. They dropped both the professions of “broadcasting” and “journalism” from the school’s name in favor of “the Media School.”

      Unfortunately, the big box broadcasters often own the best signals in a market and so they set the standard for broadcasting.

      I once ran an excellent radio station but whose signal was so impaired that the common comment was, I love your radio station, I wish I could get it inside my business or home. I can only hear you when I’m in my car and even then I experience drop out and static.

      What happens in a case like this, people seek out what they like on a platform they can receive.

      Thanks for adding your perspective to this subject Kevin.
      -DT

      Like

  5. Gregg Cassidy

    A lot of changes in radio since 2000. The biggest change is the fun we all had in the halls.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Most people I know in radio today are under a lot of stress and don’t appear to be having much fun anymore. And that’s sad.

      It’s always been my operating belief that the attitude of your people inside the radio station, comes out over the air.

      Happy, enthusiastic radio people equals happy listeners and advertisers. The positive attitude feeds on itself in all areas of your operation.
      -DT

      Like

  6. Dick, when I heard the news of Rush Limbaugh yesterday, I was reminded of your blog. The association was that Rush is an iconic figure who at one time was at the top of the broadcasters’ food chain with a commanding rating of 22 million ditto heads. I stopped following your blog years ago when I concluded it was too slanted in favor of a radio renaissance. I did get that you were a broadcasting professor so of course you needed to be a voice of reason and optimism for the industry.

    As I said previously in one of my comments, “radio will continue to exist in some form or fashion (I still listen to NPR) but it is now what newspapers used to be”, a dwarf of giant reach.

    I see that you are now retired as an educator, so I’m curious to hear what your prediction of radio will be in another decade?

    Like

    • Hi Victor, welcome back to the blog.

      Since the earliest days of this blog, I’ve tried to write what I saw as the truth. My research in Kentucky about what radio would look like in 2020, pretty much hit the target with respect to the industry’s consolidation and adoption of technology, along with the need for less people.

      What I didn’t see happening, until recently, is the impact of ON DEMAND content. Linear delivered content will continue to struggle as we finish the final year of the first decade of the 21st Century. We already are seeing the trends in TV and they are occurring faster than anyone had predicted.

      Radio, as we knew it, appears to be bifurcating into podcasts and streaming music. Both available ON DEMAND.

      Where will things be in 10-years? Haven’t a clue. The speed with which technology is developing, I’m not sure anyone can predict where radio will be in the next year or two.

      The trends appear to be headed in the direction of more AI and less people, with ON DEMAND continuing to eat linear delivered content due to YouTube and smart speakers.

      What are your thoughts?
      -DT

      Like

      • I never doubted your honest writing. Having spent your entire life in radio will create an investment in your perception. I also commented previously, that live radio cannot compete with on demand content is better than what you get in radio. I follow closely news podcasts and subscribe to Apple music.
        Dollar for dollar the reach of radio is still part of my media buy and I’m now creating a radio talk show that I can disseminate snippets in social media for a larger footprint.
        I think the existing trends will continue with reach shrinking as there is not a next generation of millennial or Gen Z listeners. On the economic side, I don’t see Wall Street hungry to finance long term investment to do all the things you have outlined for years.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Walter Luffman

    This year doesn’t begin the actual third decade of the 21st century, but it does begin the arbitrary decade know as “the 2020s”. It’s a matter of branding, one that society has used out of convenience for a lot longer than any of us have been alive; referring to “the ’20s” is short and descriptive of the years we mean. As a brand, it’s useful.

    But referring to broadcast and journalism as “the media”, while perhaps technically correct, is doing a disservice (through branding-for-convenience) to those two professions because of everything else that gets lumped under the brand “media”. Podcasting isn’t radio, any more than a YouTube video is television; but both of these new media can be valuable, professionally-done extensions to the elder media … or they can be junky, amateurish and amusing only to the people who produce them.,

    Society has devalued broadcasting and journalism, and the result is that society is allowing these professions to slump toward non-existence. The worst part is, most members of society will never realize what they’ve lost; instead, just as we have “fake news”, we now have “fake radio”.

    Like

    • Thanks for contributing to this subject Walter.

      Decade is a term that can refer to any 10-year period, as Scott Fybush pointed out to me, and he’s right about that. But for the purposes of marking events in history, we standardize around a new decade beginning in a year ending in a 1 and ending in a year with a zero. So, 2020 marks the final year of the first decade of the 21st Century.

      As far as radio goes, it was not considered part of the 4th Estate (journalism) by print journalists when introduced back in the 1920s.

      I saw the same thing happen with cable television not being accepted by broadcast television and satellite radio not being accepted by broadcast radio. It seems short-sighted.

      My FCC Third Class License said it was a Radio Telephone License with broadcast endorsement. Why was that? Because no one really knew what this thing called broadcast radio was going to turn into.

      Today, in our smartphone wireless world, everything that comes into our smartphones is through the air and can be could be coming off the same tower as a radio or TV station. It’s a propagated wave, just like a radio or TV signal.

      What I found when teaching was that my students don’t discriminate by how something gets to them, it’s all radio, TV or print when consumed on their smartphone, tablet or computer.

      I am troubled by the denigration of journalism and our law enforcement agencies like the FBI. We are traveling down a slippery slope when we promote a view that says we can’t trust our journalists or law enforcement or other agencies that were establish to inform us and protect us. Such a path leads to total anarchy.

      Let’s hope we pull out of this death spiral for the good of America.
      -DT

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s