When change doesn’t happen – or happen fast enough, we get agitated. However, when change finally comes, we often aren’t happy with the changes it brings.
One of the hardest aspects about change is that no matter how passionate we are about it, we need to accept that others will not embrace it. Not every change is for everyone, some people will embrace it, some people will tolerate it, some people will rebel against it and some people will leave to pursue a different journey.
Radio & Change
I’ve been writing this weekly blog for eight years and my readers often fall into two camps: those that agree with what I write and those who disagree. Often those who disagree with the changes that are happening to the radio industry, label me as “Chicken Little,” the character in the John Greene Chandler children’s short story written in 1840, who proclaimed the sky was falling.
To be a Chicken Little, however, you must warn of a calamity without justification. Clearly, the data presented by multiple researchers of media tell us the warnings are indeed justified.
The moral of the Chicken Little story is to have courage, and keep your eyes open even when it feels like the sky is falling.
Convincing the Unconvinced
It’s human nature to try to convince those who disagree with us, to our way of thinking. Sadly, trying to do that is almost always a mistake. What you will succeed in doing is often offending their dignity.
I don’t mind people who disagree with me. It lets me know that I’m not just “preaching to the choir,” but that I am also mixing it up with the “heathens.” It’s those people who challenge what I write that make me think harder, do more research and more fully develop my thoughts. To those people, I owe a debt of gratitude.
Instead of Arguing Against an Idea, Argue For It
In 1896, the Supreme Court codified the doctrine of separate but equal into constitutional law. It meant that individual states could decide if they wanted to discriminate against black Americans.
As you might imagine, people were up in arms over this SCOTUS decision, calling it fundamentally unjust. The Plessy v. Ferguson decision cemented racial segregation in America for another fifty years.
But a lawyer named Charles Hamilton Houston saw it differently. Houston set out to use his opponent’s evil idea for good.
Houston didn’t argue against “separate but equal,” but for it.
He used it to argue that when the University of Missouri law school refused admission to a black student that under the “separate but equal” doctrine, Missouri must establish another law school for black students. Something that would be unaffordably expensive.
A law that was designed to prevent black Americans from common resources, like drinking fountains, elementary schools and restrooms, now when applied to a rare resource like a graduate law school, was the beginning of the unraveling of the “separate but equal” doctrine.
In 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously overruled “separate but equal” with their Brown v. the Board of Education decision.
Applying This Concept to Radio
We need to listen to the people who no longer love radio, and not argue with them about why they should be listening.
If we listen to them, really listen to them, they will show us how to win them back. Charles Hamilton Houston didn’t argue with the “separate but equal” doctrine, he leveraged it to not only end that doctrine but also to take down America’s Jim Crow laws right along with it.
The radio industry needs to stop arguing with people and research data that it doesn’t like, but rather start using that information to build the foundation for action that delivers the very things radio needs to do to win its audiences and advertisers back.
We change the world by learning to see it differently.
My weekly blogs aren’t written to make a point, but to make a difference.
Believe that you can and you’re halfway there.
12 responses to “Why Are We So Fickle About Change?”
Dick, put me in the “agree” column-mostly. I guess the analogy we’re dealing with here is the internal combustion engine vs. the horse.People aren’t going to revert to the horse (and buggy) for transportation in the 21st Century because we’re comfortable in the motorized vehicle. Electric vs. ICE is another topic. Radio vs. digital (online, Spotify, etc.) isn’t much different. If people get their “fix” from the streaming services, there’s no way to get them back to radio. Remember when FM shares started destroying those of the ol’ AM stations? Digital just might take over FM before long and then those tall towers and powerful transmitters (and flea-powered translators) will be left in the dust. I’ve been part of broadcast radio since I first set foot in a 1kw AM station in 1960. It took 5 minutes to hear AM type programming on FM in 1965 to know that FM would be the main medium for music and entertainment before long. In 2022 the sense I get from streamers vs. FM (or AM for that matter) is the new medium isn’t quite ready to take the crown. If it becomes easier to operate and receive (and less expensive), then what we know as “radio” today just might disappear. It’s a change-and I’m not happy with what broadcasters are becoming, but it’s getting tougher and tougher to ignore the leaky boat. Let’s keep fighting the fight-and see if we can’t shore it up.
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Thank You Dave. I believe we’re thinking along the same lines with respect to where things are headed.
Your poignant missive today reminds me of the Academy Award Winning Director who in accepting his Oscar wanted to thank his enemies saying essentially “Proving you wrong made my work better, seriously without your critiques I wouldnt be up here. Seriously thank you to all of my enemies.”
So how do we embrace the opposition and attack ourselves? Insist NAB Pilot and NRSC spend the research dollars needed for seamless handoff with Artist and Title metadata, including album art. Research how local news can be a key diffentiator and models for doing so inexpensively with struggling local newspapers and community journalists.
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Thank You Mike for adding to this discussion. I think you’ve cited some necessary first steps.
I, of course still believe that it is not too late to rescue radio. My biggest beef with it are the companies who are trying to return us to “national platform” status. IMHO, we lost that ability when television came along and local DJ’s came on the air spinning music. Yes, disc jockeys were radio’s first “cost cutting” move. But, it worked. Today, among the big companies (and I can’t name names), we are “told” they do music and audience research. The “truth” is – that’s either a big lie, or they’re not doing enough of it. (We see this because we still DO research and our results nationwide show some BIG differences region to region. I truly believe the answer is to return to local personalities (mostly). And they must be coached, but also allowed to BE personalities, which means they must be allowed to make a mistake here and there. “Perfect” and “predictable” does not always equal “good”. If you use some out of market talent, they MUST be trained about the area AND brought to town for major events. Local news on news-talk stations simply works. And though we don’t staff around the clock, we’re deploying staff to be able to do it when necessary. I am even tracking a Classic Country show on an internet broadcaster in Maryland one afternoon a week and getting a little cash for it. Yes, we MUST return to local radio.
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Kevin, you’re obviously up there with the smarter people . I’m reminded of the upcoming webinar about “Now Radio” the “new” format that’s apparently doing well in Canada. Strangely as it’s being called “the new personality radio”, it’s also what successful stations have done forever. Live, local, interactive. Talk, music, a mix of…Oh, that the stations in each market could actually be competitive again, the biggest winners would be the advertisers and the listener.
I’ve followed your podcast since you started. In that time, your commentary has swung from optimism to realism and at times negativism. While there are some stations that are still hanging on, there is no strategy for retaining the next generation and attrition to streaming services will shrink their market share. My prediction has been that terrestrial radio will exist in some form, the glory days are gone and they are never coming back. We are witnessing one other baby boomer industry declining into irrelevance.
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Victor, when I started writing this blog over eight years ago, I was optimistic that radio broadcasters would do the things necessary to stay relevant.
Unfortunately, each turn of the calendar page saw nothing happening. Many radio companies actually dropped the name “radio” from their name.
I would agree with you that OTA radio will exist for some years to come, produced by broadcasters who understand what their target audience wants/needs and gives it to them.
It’s like pinball machines. Twelve years ago I read that there was only one remaining pinball machine company left.
Or buggy whips. In 2018, it was reported there was only one of those manufacturers left in North America.
Radio, like pinball machines and buggy whips, had its place in the history of the world. Nothing lasts forever, including this blog that I write.
Enjoy it while you can.
I do enjoy it that is why I’ve followed you for so long. I even freaked out when you stopped posting because you were on vacation.
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Well Victor, we are planning our Summer Road Trip for 2022 and we will be gone for about five weeks. During that time we’re away, I am planning on re-posting the #1 blogs from each of the last five years.
Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.
Thank You for being such a loyal reader of this blog. It is very much appreciated.
I meant blog 🙂