Are You Counting What Counts?

I believe it was Albert Einstein that said “Not everything that can be counted, counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” One of the things that distressed me during the period of radio’s great consolidation, and even recently, is the elimination of radio talent.

Jim Zippo

On August 19, 2022, Jim Zippo wrote on his Facebook page:

“Well, it’s been a week and it’s finally sinking in…

I’m no longer on the air for 98.7 KLUV (Audacy) here in Dallas after 15+ years of great  times and really fun radio. Also gone: Jeff Miles and Rebekah Black of “Miles in the Morning” – corporate streamlining in tough financial times. I was reassured my performance has been outstanding, and this is just a $ issue happening at stations nationwide. Similar stories are out there.

Jim Zippo

It’s been a great opportunity to continue my on-air career, now in its 47th year. I feel certain I will “see ya on the radio” again, soon, hopefully! JZ”

Friday morning, going into the Labor Day Holiday Weekend, Jim Zippo posted his latest DEMO on Facebook as he searches for his next radio gig. You can hear that here: https://www.facebook.com/thezipdude/videos/594790472346561

CKOA-FM

Last week I wrote about a radio station that Sue & I enjoyed listening to while we drove The Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. It was LIVE and very LOCAL.

This week Bill MacNeil, CKOA-FM’s General Manager reached out to me about my article saying that a radio colleague shared it with him and his team.

Bill wrote:

“We like to think of ourselves as the little station that could. We always put our listeners first and are proud to provide the most live and local programming in the market.”

I wrote back to Bill and said:

“Bill, you and your team have every reason to be proud of the radio service you provide. CKOA-FM provides both community and companionship. AND you don’t have to be a local to enjoy the programming that you provide.”

CKOA-FM even provides tourist information about the area on the radio station’s website: https://coastalradio.ca/tourist-information/

Radio is Show Business

When radio was taken over by Wall Street, it became numbers obsessed. It basically increased profits through firing people, never realizing radio’s attraction was the very people who sat in the air chairs of their stations. They were the “show” in the radio business.

And when there was no more talent to RIF (Reduction In Force), they began trimming the people in other areas of the radio station, like sales and promotions.

The results of all these staff reductions has produced a radio industry that is less competitive to other forms of entertainment and less dynamic.

Passionate Leaders

When we look at other industries and great leaders we find they were passionate about the mission of their company. Henry Ford was passionate about the power of transportation. Sam Walton was passionate about super-serving the customer. And Steve Jobs was passionate about making insanely great products. It was this passion for, and being lazar focused on the mission, that brought about their company’s economic success.

I was attracted to the radio industry as a boy by people who were passionate about making great radio and everywhere I turned my radio dial I heard talented people on-the-air.

Most radio people my age rarely listened to the records playing, we were the ones who switched stations when the music started to hear another radio personality, on a different radio station, work their magic.

Today’s radio industry is counting the wrong things.

The success of radio depends on the well-being of those who are passionate about it and live it.

18 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

18 responses to “Are You Counting What Counts?

  1. Well said, Dick. It is difficult to measure (non-statistically) the value employees have to the enterprise. Does the salesperson bring more to the station than the midday host or the traffic director? But that’s what good managers are paid to do. Every time an audience-facing person is shown the door, it tells the audience our talent is not important – and by extension, neither are they.

    I’ll be presenting our survey of talent this Thursday. And it makes a powerful case that radio’s management is out of sync with its talent.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Frederick Vobbe wrote this comment on Facebook:

    Dick Taylor said, “I was attracted to the radio industry as a boy by people who were passionate about making great radio and everywhere I turned my radio dial I heard talented people on-the-air.”

    Let’s contrast that to today, where decisions of on-air product are often dictated by finance people in an office thousands of miles away, rather than programming and people in the community. And the content which is aired is more like a tasteless filling, rather than a delicious éclair. I was lured to radio for the same reason, Dick.

    Today I listen to hardly any radio. While I can deal with poor execution, (spots playing over each other, dated content, and the 2-minute strings of ‘iHeart Radio’ jingles, or whatever they are), the biggest problem is they give nothing to me which I need. News is poached from other stations, TV, or newspaper which I’ve already read. Weather is outdated or not even the right day or time. Not even a time check or artist mention, unless its because the artist is part of their entertainment arm. To be blunt, “Hit Parade” by Drake Chenault was more live and local.

    Ah… but there are those bastions of quality like CKOA. I found them in Upper Michigan, the farmlands of Illinois and North Dakota. There, they speak of their community, have local and timely news, and the music is a reflection of the communities’ tastes. And dare I say they mention the time, school menus, even a mention that a family lost their home in a fire and the station was coordinating collections of kid’s clothes and kitchen items.

    Could radio ever return as a useful media in a community? It can. As Bill Lamb, who wrote “Money Follows Excellence” wrote, (paraphrasing), once you find what people need and give it to them, and do it in a way which they appreciate, the money will be there in the end. But until radio companies stop shelving live and local for the 1/10th of a cent, radio will be a voice in a forest which nobody hears.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. An adage I learned long ago: Sales is the only department that brings in revenue. Every other department is an expense; though some are an investment where money may be made or lost.

    With your line “One of the things that distressed me during the period of radio’s great consolidation…” my first thought was how, preceding that, thousands of dedicated radio pros built an industry the public became dependent on for entertainment and daily info-needs. The foundation for this was small markets where many of us honed skills before being let into major markets.

    Today, talent with tenure are becoming more rare daily. Major markets, if they have anyone on air at all, have people who are still making neophyte broadcast mistakes. Meanwhile, online, Audience Created Content is becoming equal in quality to what broadcast serves.

    Add to this that there isn’t anything a radio station can serve that can’t be found online in seconds, on demand.

    Consolidation may have started the downward trend but Lowry Mays sealed radio’s demise in 2003 with his infamous: “We’re not in the business of providing well-researched music. We’re simply in the business of selling our customers products.” When Broadcasters Foundation of America Introduced the Lowry Mays Excellence in Broadcasting Award in 2010 it showed there was no turning back.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Walter Luffman

    Dick, you hit the nail squarely on the head: radio is show business, and corporate bean-counters don’t understand showbiz.

    With a few exceptions (classical and beautiful-music formats come to mind), even music radio isn’t just about the music; it’s about the overall presentation. The same is true in non-music formats. In cities where there are multiple all-news or talk stations where the content is often essentially the same, it’s the presentation (and the personalities/views of the presenters) that make one station or show more popular than another.

    Showbiz drives sales, which makes commercial radio viable. The better the show, the more people want to tune in. The more people tune in, the more money the sales department can bring in — which means management can afford better on-air presentation, with the goal of attracting even more listeners who stay tuned in longer and let the sales staff bring in still more revenue, in an ideally-endless cycle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Walter, we had personalities on my beautiful music station in Atlantic City that had large followings.

      And I love Nicole Lacroix afternoons on classical WETA-FM out of Washington, DC. For me, she makes listening to classical music extra special.

      ALL formats are personality driven IMHO.
      -DT

      Like

  5. At KLQP-FM in Madison, Minnesota (pop. 1,500) we are
    counting the right things. That’s why our mom-and-pop
    stand-alone 25KW FM will be celebrating 40 years of broadcasting
    come January 2023. To tell you the truth, we’re still doing
    radio pretty much the same way we did when we started because
    real public serviced worked then and it works now! There
    are still lost dogs to be found and obituaries to read!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ken Dardis

    Maynard, you have always been at the top of radio’s game. You are unique, and not afraid of “new.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Joe Jindra

    One of the “bigger than life moments” of my radio career was having Zippo-in-the-Morning make a live appearance in Concordia, Kansas, while he was doing mornings on the syndicated Pure Gold satellite format. I can’t remember if it was still the Satellite Music Network or if was after ABC bought the networks. We called it “Saturday in the Park” and it included a “beach party” at our town’s swimming pool, attracting an estimated 2000 people. People wanted to see the personality they heard on the radio in person. In subsequent years we brought Jay Fox to town and after flipping the station to Hot AC, had multiple appearances by Jonathan and Mary. Each “personality appearance” resulted in both short-term and long-term sales success.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Well spoken Mr. Taylor. I met Jim Zippo when he was in Vegas and brought a tractor trailer full of water to San Diego following our devastating 2003 wild fires. Yes, a personality who actually understands the value of busting -ass and doing things that get noticed. I’m sure Jim will do it at his next gig as well. Radio IS show business and could use multi million dollar investments in the product like the major movie studios do. Dick there are thousands still passionate who have seen the mistakes that broadcasters made back then, and still do. Many of us would be happy to ride the bus (again) to ratings dominance but the drivers are blinded to the passengers, and the air’s being let out of our tires (by competing audio) daily. Good luck in the job search, Jim. I’d happily consider some that you’ll reject. My demo’s at http://www.narrationnow.com

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Joe Jindra, I would like to speak from the other side of your support. When you brought air talent into the market, It was always an emotional “lift” in our own support for the market and your radio station. You helped your on-air talent get to know the radio station’s listeners & supporters. After reaching 50 years in Broadcasting, I miss it horribly. Radio was the ONLY thing I wanted to do when I was growing up, listening to WLS’s
    John Records Landecker, and cutting my teeth on his every word. To me, Radio isn’t something you can learn in a classroom….It’s like trying to learn to swim in a classroom, You HAVE TO JUMP IN THE POOL!

    Liked by 1 person

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