Category Archives: Radio

What Makes Your Radio Station Unique?

In teaching broadcast sales at the university, one of the things I taught my students was to help their advertising clients to identify their unique selling position in the marketplace. In other words, what was the one thing that made them different than everyone else in their specialty.

Something For Everyone

The answer you most often hear when you ask an advertiser what makes them unique is, “well, we have something for everyone.”

Something for everyone is nothing special for any one. To the radio listener, it’s like blah, blah, blah. It’s meaningless. Why? Because every other advertiser selling everything from soup to nuts says the same thing and the listener has become trained to tune out these advertising clichés.

Plumbers

Plumbers are probably not something you ever give much thought about, UNTIL you need one. That’s true for lots of repair services when you think about it.

What’s the one thing you hate about calling a home repair company? Knowing that you will be kept waiting and waiting and waiting for their arrival at the time when they said they would.

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it.”

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing could have said a lot of things about the services they provide, but instead they decided what would make them unique in the ears of future customers would be being punctual.

Benjamin Franklin

The Punctual Plumber

They built their whole franchise around the realization that people hate to be kept waiting. In fact, they promise when you don’t have time to wait around, you can count on them to be punctual plumbing professionals, but if they are ever late, they will pay YOU for every minute they’ve made you wait. Doesn’t that resonate with you? It does for me.

Give Your Radio Station a Diagnostic

When is the last time you pulled out the Advertiser Diagnostic sheet and used it on your own radio station(s)?

What makes your station unique? Not the music, that’s for sure. The songs you play were carefully crafted by composers, producers and talented artists, who have record labels that have worked relentlessly to get those songs played on as many radio stations, pure play streamers, movies, TV shows and any other place that uses music to entertain people.

Is your brand name unique? Well, if you branded your radio station KISS you are one of 78 radio stations in America that call themselves that, along with radio stations in Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Iceland, Greece, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Brazil, Canada and Australia. It’s no different than calling your radio station HOT, Jack, Bob, Alice or some other cute name that dozens upon dozens of other radio stations are doing, especially in a world where voice commands increasingly are the way people are accessing audio on their smart devices.

But if your brand is 650AM -WSM, you are the only one in the world that has that brand. You have set yourself apart from the estimated 44,000 radio stations currently on-the-air in the world. WSM is the Home of the Grand Ole Opry. I don’t expect this historic radio station to ever call itself by any other name, but by the one it owns exclusively: WSM.

Streaming Radio

In a world where you can receive virtually any radio station on an App like TuneIn, being unique and one-of-a-kind has never been more important.

If a person tries asking Alexa, Siri or Google to play the KISS radio station, I have no idea which one she will play. However, I don’t have to wonder for a second, if I ask my smart speaker to play WSM, I will hear any other radio station, but the one from Music City USA, in Nashville, Tennessee.

What Makes Your Radio Station Unique?

If you stake your radio station’s future on things created by others, like music, talk shows, network news, syndicated programs, jingles – things every other radio station in America has access to – then your radio station is NOT unique.

When other providers are able give your listeners more of what they want while eliminating the things they dislike, your days as a broadcaster are numbered.

Another way to think about this is, if you were to eliminate all of your commercials – the thing radio listeners say they object to most – would you be able to sustain your radio station by listener support, like public radio and Christian radio does? Or the way that Netflix or SiriusXM does?

If a listener hasn’t heard of your radio station,

wouldn’t choose your station or recommend it,

your brand is dead.

<Picture: The Fuse Vert is a premium vertical vinyl audio system which can also play FM radio>

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The Car Radio is 100

Commercial radio was born in November of 1920. The first OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) car radio came along in 1922 designed by the Chevrolet Motor Company and manufactured by Westinghouse. This first car radio was heavy, cumbersome and expensive; costing $200. In today’s dollars this would be the equivalent of $3,347.00. A 1922 Chevrolet, Superior 5-Touring automobile was priced at only $860, so you can see how expensive it was to buy one with a radio installed.

The good news is the radio worked and would then birth 100-years of innovation in the automobile dashboard.

The 1920s Car Radio Sales Pitch

With a radio in your car, your family could drive anywhere within a hundred miles of a radio station while being entertained, informed and educated.

It’s hard for any Baby Boomer to imagine not having audio entertainment as standard equipment in their dashboard.

1930s

It was radio engineer Paul Galvin that would pioneer more affordable car radios which he manufactured and sold through his new company, called Motorola.

1940s

Midway through the 40s, it is estimated that nine million cars now had radios in their dashboard and people were becoming concerned that they were leading to distracted driving thereby causing more auto accidents. Both broadcasters and radio manufacturers made the case for how having a car radio was useful in emergencies and alerted drivers to bad weather conditions.

Today when the topic of distracted driving comes up, it’s usually about handheld cellphones being used by drivers. But back then, Radio-Craft Magazine told of the battle being waged between state legislatures and radio manufacturers: “Ever since auto-radio installations became popular, a controversy has been going on…as to whether auto radio presented an accident hazard or not.”

The president of the Radio Manufacturers Association made the case that car radios were safe saying:

“Radio is not distracting because it demands no attention from the driver and requires no answer, as does conversation between the driver and passengers. Motor car radio is tuned by ear without the driver taking his eyes off the road. It is less disconcerting than the rear view mirror.”

Several states proposed steep fines for drivers, while others considered making installing a car radio a crime.

The Princeton Radio Research Project was created to study the effects car radios were having on automobile safety. In a paper published by Edward A. Suchman for that project, he reported that his small study found no link between car radios and traffic accidents.

1960s

In 1963, Frequency Modulation (FM) radios were introduced into the automobile for the first time. Radio penetration in cars had now reached 60%.

Along with FM radios, the 60s also gave birth to both eight-track tapes and car stereos, primarily due to the use of transistors, instead of vacuum tubes. Solid state transistors were smaller, drew less power and emitted very little heat.

1970s

If the 60s belonged to the 8-track tape player, the 70s would belong to the stereo cassette tape player. Recording tape manufacturer Maxell promoted these cassettes as nearly indestructible.

1980s

While the Compact Disc (CD) would be introduced in the 80s, it didn’t really become ubiquitous until the late 90s, coexisting with compact cassette players in automobile dashboards for two more decades.

21st Century

Probably the biggest disruption to the automobile dashboard came with the advent of Bluetooth allowing smartphones to interface with a vehicle’s entertainment system.

In 2011, automobile manufacturers stopped offering cassette tape players in their new cars, soon followed by the elimination of CD players/changers.

Today’s new cars come equipped with access to Satellite Radio, and an automatic interface with your smartphone allowing you the ability to stream anything you want to hear into your car’s entertainment system.

In fact, my first article for this blog in 2022 was “Why I Stream ALL My Radio Listening,” which diagrammed how my car radio audio systems are now programmed by my iPhone.

“Radio is not going to be Numero Uno in the dash any longer.”

-Fred Jacobs

AM/FM radio will most likely coexist with other forms of audio access for a period of time, but the writing is on the wall.

The definitive answer to how long over-the-air radio will continue to be used in the automobile really depends on broadcasters and whether or not they offer compelling and attention-getting content that audio consumers demand to hear.

AutoStage

Xperi’s newest in-dash experience is AutoStage. It was demonstrated at CES2022 and it should be noted that this system comes with the following pre-sets: SiriusXM, FM, AM and TuneIn Radio.

I use the TuneIn Radio App for most of my radio listening, but why was it chosen by Mercedes Benz? Turns out the answer is, “TuneIn’s radio stations can be accessed worldwide in 197 countries on more than 200 different platforms and devices.” TuneIn says it “provides the displaced radio listener a connection to home with local, national, and international stations anywhere they go and on any device.”

In other words, why would any audio consumer need DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting), DAB+, Digital Radio Mondiale, HD Radio, AM or FM when they can receive any radio station in crystal clear audio via streaming?

With the exception of the proprietary content offered by SiriusXM, everything else is available via streaming at no charge.

Waxing Nostalgic

Car radio has come a long way from the day William Lear and Elmer Wavering drove their girlfriends to lookout point high above the Mississippi River town of Quincy, Illinois to watch the sunset and their dates told them how much better this romantic evening would have been had they been able to listen to music in the car.

Lear and Wavering shared their girlfriends’ comments with Paul Galvin who would go on to make Motorola car transistor radios, and then AM/FM radio would dominate the dashboard for the rest of the 20th Century.

So, now moving further into the 21st Century, radio broadcasters really need to follow the advice of Steve Jobs in order to survive and thrive, and that is to:

Think Different

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College Radio Stands With Ukraine

After two years of dealing with a novel coronavirus and just when we thought life was returning to a different form of normal, Russia invaded the Ukraine.

This war has sent over a million people fleeing their homeland or picking up arms to defend themselves against Russian aggression.

For college students in the Ukraine, their classes have been suspended as the dormitories are under attack by rockets, forcing them into bomb shelters – or fleeing the country – or taking up arms.

What’s happening in the Ukraine, is impacting college students around the world.

College Radio Foundation

The College Radio Foundation (CRF) was founded in 2014. Its mission is to promote and support college radio. CRF works to raise the profile of college radio and “accelerate the professional development of gifted student broadcasters, inspiring them to reach their exceptional potentials.”

It all began in 2011 by Dr. Rob Quicke with the idea to bring college radio stations together and celebrate college radio as an important training ground for all sorts of careers, creating an event called College Radio Day. Presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden have officially proclaimed and recognized the importance of this annual event, which in its first three years quickly grew to over 700 participating college radio stations in 43 countries.

In 2021, CRF held its 11th annual College Radio Day and announced that October 1, 2021 would be the inaugural World College Radio Day open for all college and university radio stations around the world.

February 24, 2022

On the 24th of February, Russia launched a military invasion of Ukraine, the largest such conventional military attack in Europe since World War II.

On that same day, Dr. Rob Quicke sent out an email to all the college radio stations in the CRF database.

Dear friends,

We are emailing you to please ask for your support and solidarity for the people of Ukraine during this time, and especially the students in the country. We need your urgent participation!

The College Radio Foundation has reached out to college radio in Ukraine, and we made contact with OstRadio at National University Ostroh Academy, Ostroh, Ukraine. They are located to the west of the capital city Kyiv. We are sharing their message:

“I would like to start this letter with the words “Good afternoon”, but I cannot say that this day is good for Ukraine. Thank you for your support and wishes, it is very valuable for us. Our university teaches online. Teachers and the administration keep in touch with students, advising read only official sources.
The only thing left for us is to remain calm and not to panic, to pray to God, to believe in the army that protects us, to protect our health and life. Ukraine wants a peaceful sky over its head!”

We only have a limited window of time to show our support, so that is why we are asking all student radio stations around the world to record a quick message of support and solidarity for the students at OstRadio as well as the entire Ukraine. You can record in your native language. They also said this:

“We will be happy to share your voice message with words of support… Students of our university will be able to hear it there. In this difficult time, we really need to know that we are not alone and we have support. We hope that your words will calm people’s hearts.”

Please send an attached mp3 to rob@collegeradioday.com 

We only have 24 hours to do this. We do not know how long the students will have access to social media and/or tools to communicate with us.

Stand with Ukraine, tell them that you are thinking of them and supporting them. Send us your message asap. We will then compile and send as one audio piece tomorrow.

Many thanks,

Dr. Rob Quicke
Founder, College Radio Day
The College Radio Foundation

Two days later, over 50 college radio stations had responded from around the world, producing audio content and letting their fellow college students and the people of Ukraine know that they stood with them.

You can hear their voices, their emotion and see a full list of participating college radio stations by clicking on this link: https://soundcloud.com/collegeradioday/college-radio-stands-with-ukraine-full-version?utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing

“Thank you on behalf of all Ukrainian students.

We have already posted this link.

We want all our students to hear it.

We would like to play this audio on our radio.

We send the audio to all UA universities.”

-Roman Zajac, Head of STUD Radio, Ukraine

March 2, 2022

Roman Zajac said that students were unable to enter their radio station and had been using their cell phones to communicate with each other and the outside world, however as the Russian army continued their invasion, the students have dispersed and he no longer is in contact with them. Some of them are rooted in the city, some of them have left the country and are all uncontactable. Zajac says he simply no longer knows where any of his students are.

Dr. Quicke told me he knew they had a very short window to get Ukrainian students recorded and let the world hear these voices. One of the college students from the Ukraine that can be heard in the audio presentation is only 17 years old.

While you may not know or understand some of the languages heard on the audio presentation, you can’t help but be moved by their bravery and their emotion in listening to them. Dr. Quicke said he’s learned through World College Radio Day that there are times when he cannot understand the language but it’s almost not a requirement to comprehend what is being communicated, the emotion comes through very, very clearly. “I am very moved by the bravery of the students in the Ukraine to keep going and to make the effort to send a message to the world in such difficult circumstances,” said Dr. Quicke. “College radio stands with Ukraine and we must not forget them.”

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,

people will forget what you did,

but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

-Maya Angelou

“It was a small thing that we did,” said Dr. Quicke, “but what we’ve heard back from the students (in the Ukraine), from hearing all the different voices of college students from all over the world was that it had an especially powerful impact in this moment…war is there now…and it redefines their reality in a very shocking way, when they see and hear bombs falling, people dying…any gesture can become crucially important for maintaining spirit and morale…letting them know, ‘we hear you, we support you.’”

One of the last messages Rob said he received from the Roman Zajac at STUD college radio in the Ukraine was, “when the war was over, maybe we can record together.”

“All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.”
― John Steinbeck

UPDATE 3/4/2022

College Radio Update from Ukraine. March 4, 2022(multilingual).

“We ask international community for help because we are fighting not only for our freedom, but also we are fighting for Europe, and we are fighting for the whole democratic world.” -Roman Zajac

Dr. Quicke added: In extremely challenging circumstances, the students in Ukraine have put together an audio update for us. This time it’s in multiple languages for the world to hear. We were told that would probably not hear from the students again, as the situation in Ukraine is dire, so we are grateful to hear from them again.

Have a listen, it’s just under 2 minutes:

https://soundcloud.com/collegeradioday/college-radio-update-from-ukraine?utm_source=www.collegeradio.org&utm_campaign=wtshare&utm_medium=widget&utm_content=https%253A%252F%252Fsoundcloud.com%252Fcollegeradioday%252Fcollege-radio-update-from-ukraine

We are also planning a day/time when we can play the content together as a community at the same time. We are planning for Thursday, March 10 at 10 am ET / 4 pm CET. More info coming on Monday.

To stay update to date, be sure to check back with the CRF website often.

Produced by Roman Zajac at STUD Radio (Lviv, Ukraine) and Rob Quicke, the College Radio Foundation. (c) 2022.

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The Waiting for Godot Fallacy

I know many people who come to this blog and post comments about the articles I write pine for radio to return to the way it was twenty years ago. They’re hoping that one day the big consolidators will move on to new business ventures and will sell their radio stations back to radio people who will run those stations correctly. Sadly, wishing for that to happen is like Waiting for Godot .

But that doesn’t mean there’s not a future for radio. One of my readers, a multi-decade broadcast manager, engineer and consultant wrote the perfect prescription for making radio healthy again. Today, I would like to share with your those thoughts.

It’s Not About Being Local

“Local” being the savior of radio is a canard and always has been. The beauty of social media is that it is a rich media experience that is personalized expressly for one person: you. Radio cannot hope to be so “local” that it can beat that.

Serve Your Tribe

The secret to radio’s survival is not localism but “tribalism.” Providing not just a service but an experience. An experience that joins numerous people together, regardless of geography. Hence the success of right-wing talk radio, the success of NPR (which is rarely less than 21 or 22 hours of national progamming out of every day on virtually every “member station”) and most informatively, the success of K-Love, which has near zero local content at all yet has grown a huge and profitable audience.

These outlets’ content has precious little to do with the local community, but they all share a powerful defining aspect: listeners self-identify as being proud to listen (and prouder to donate to) the outlet in question.

Commercial Radio’s Tribal Leadership Vacuum

Most commercial radio outlets have achieved this tribalism on the backs of longevity of a given host: KISS 108 has been top-rated in Boston for decades because that audience has tuned in to hear Matty Siegel every morning for over forty years. Rush Limbaugh had his legions of Ditto Heads for nearly as long.

And therein lies the rub. Most of those hosts are in their 70s or older…or dead…and the pipeline to replace them has been sealed off thanks to post-1996 consolidation. Non-commercial radio operators, like K-Love and NPR, have succeeded in finding a content/style niche but there’s only room for so many of those.

It All Comes Down to Your Talent — Growing & Retaining It

So, to put it another way: it’s not localism that’ll save radio; it’s talent. And radio has worked very hard to drive good talent out of the business.

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit.

Genius hits a target no one else can see.”

-Arthur Schopenhauer

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3 Ways to Inspire & Connect

In today’s news environment, you probably have become adept at having your brain tune bad things out. Unfortunately, when you try to tune out information that upsets you, you may also be tuning out things that might be beneficial as well, like good advice.

We Are Emotional Beings

If you want to connect with another human being, you need to touch them emotionally. My mentor Roy H. Williams aka The Wizard of Ads taught me that you must first touch a person’s heart before you will win their mind.

Eye Contact

Did you ever realize that the human eye is unique? We are the only living creatures that have white in our eyes. The design of the human eye enables us to know where another person is looking (or not looking). Through our eye contact, we are better able to connect with another human being.

Our eyes also reveal whether or not we are being authentic when dealing with others.

Try Everything

The other evening, while my wife Sue was exercising on our treadmill in the basement, she had a song blasting out of the sound system that was so infectious, I had to go into the cellar to find out what it was.

When I asked Sue about the name of the song, she said “I don’t know, I just asked Alexa to play Disney songs.”

Turns out the song was by Shakira, from the Disney movie Zootopia, called “Try Everything.”

That song was immediately purchased and downloaded to my iTunes library. I find it inspirational. Here are the lyrics:

            I messed up tonight

            I lost another fight

            Lost to myself, but I’ll just start again

            I keep falling down

            I keep on hitting the ground

            But I always get up now to see what’s next

            Birds don’t just fly

            They fall down and get up

            Nobody learns without getting it wrong

            Look how far you’ve come

            You filled your heart with love

            Baby, you’ve done enough

            Take a deep breath

            Don’t beat yourself up

            No need to run so fast

            Sometimes we come last, but we did our best

            I’ll keep on making those new mistakes

            I’ll keep on making them every day

            Those new mistakes

            I won’t give up

            No, I won’t give in till I reach the end

            And then I’ll start again

            No, I won’t leave

            I want to try everything

            I want to try even though I could fail

I love this song because no matter what the endeavor, no one does it perfectly out-of-the-box. We screw things up royally. It’s the human condition. But by practice and self-improvement we can master anything we put our mind to.

However, we often don’t see behind the curtain of people we admire, about their long, mistake-filled process, that led to the person we now know. We often think they were just born gifted. No one is.

People don’t connect with your successes;

they connect with your messes.”

-Les Brown

My Messes

Over my career in both broadcasting and college teaching, I’ve learned that success taught me very little, but when I messed up, I learned a lot.

When things are going great, the natural impulse is not to do anything to upset the apple cart.

Likewise, when teaching another person, only sharing your successes imparts very little knowledge about the process that led you to achieve those successes.

However, when you share the things that went wrong, and how you learned from these little disasters, and how you changed course to not have something like that happen again, real knowledge is shared. It inspires others.

Nobody Learns Without Getting It Wrong

My students told me how impactful my sales lectures were when they contained stories about the things I did wrong, learned and grew from, by messing everything up.

“WOW,” they would say, “here’s a teacher that doesn’t know it all, that makes mistakes” and, in the process, became a better person. It let them know that failure isn’t fatal and can provide some benefits.

Success is not final;

Failure is not fatal:

It is the courage to continue that counts.

-Winston Churchill

Pull Back Your Curtain

Don’t be afraid to share yourself with others. Let them in and show them you’re human.

My sales mantra when calling on a new business was always to Make A Friend on my first visit. People buy from people they know and like. They buy from their friends.

Re-Capping the 3 Ways to Inspire & Connect

  1. Touch people emotionally
  2. Make eye contact
  3. Allow people to connect with you, by sharing your messes

People don’t care how much you know,

until they know how much you care.

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Best Suggestions for Radio’s Purpose in 2022 & Beyond

This week, I will review the best suggestions sent in by readers of this blog about what Over-The-Air (OTA) radio needs to do in order to survive and thrive in a 21st Century world.

But first, let’s set the stage for these ideas with something Dale Parsons wrote in the comments on my blog site:

“Every time someone asks what radio needs to do to become relevant again, I hear the old chestnut, ‘be live and local.’ Everything you listed Dick, is a live and local function that is now being done better by another platform. Just being live and local isn’t going to make it. We need to discover the compelling reason for people to use their radio. In the 1950s, when the electronic eye of TV put the whammy on radio, that compelling reason became music and news. Now the online platforms can do that better and faster.

Here’s the scary part concerning radio’s future. You and I have been in the business for about the same number of years. I realized yesterday that we have only one working radio in our house. It’s a palm sized Sony and the battery is dead. Where I live there is little radio coverage, however, when I visit town on the other side of the island on which we live, I find that I tune in streaming choices, rather than radio stations. I find no compelling reason to listen to the radio.

We have always considered radio to be a useful household appliance, much like a toaster. My compelling reason to pull out the toaster is because I need toast. My compelling reason for pulling out my radio was to be entertained and informed.

There’s nothing on the horizon that will be replacing my need for toast, but if a better way of delivering that toast comes along, I’ll probably switch to the new appliance.

People have a compelling need for entertainment and information. In the future, those needs might just be satisfied by a new appliance.

Hopefully, radio won’t be discarded like my toaster will be.

Ramblings from out here in Hana Maui jungle.”

[Dale Parsons was the program director that would transition WNBC-660AM in New York City from a music-intensive to a full service radio station when he took over in 1984. WNBC featured Imus in the Morning, Soupy Sales in middays and Howard Stern in afternoon drive. There was no other radio station, on AM or FM radio, that sounded anything like it. It was one-of-a-kind.]

Curtis LeGeyt, President & CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB)

The new leader of the NAB Curtis LeGeyt, appearing before a recent Congressional hearing, was asked to explain the viability of radio in today’s multi-media world. Here’s what he said:

I think where radio can stand out and where it will remain very, very viable in today’s media landscape is with a hyper-focus on local and a service to a demographic that simply can’t afford those subscription fees through other services. I believe there’s a really unique value and niche that we fill that none of our other competitors are hitting.

Hyper-Local Maynard Meyer

Maynard Meyer, or “Mr. Radio” as he is known to his listeners in Madison, Minnesota started in radio the same year I did, 1967. In 1983, he and his long-time friend, Terry Overlander, put KLQP-FM on the air.

Maynard is a member of the local Chamber of Commerce, the Kiwanis Club, a member of the city council, as well as serving on numerous boards and participating in several community activities. His dedication to radio and serving the community are credited with shaping the city of Madison, as well as much of western Minnesota, into what it is today. Maynard was inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2011.

Responding to my question of “What is Radio’s Purpose in 2022,” Maynard wrote:

In rural America we are doing radio pretty much the same as we did when I started 50 years ago (as far as content goes), and the formula still works. Perhaps it would still work in larger markets, but, unfortunately, a couple of generations of programmers have led people to believe that radio is a music medium…there are a lot better ways to get music and people have found them.

The physical involvement of you and your staff in your community is as important, or possibly more important, than the content of your broadcasts. Everyone needs to know who you are and you need to become an indispensable part of the fabric of your community. You can’t just sound ‘local” you have to BE local. That formula continues to work for us in small town America where radio is often alive and well.”

Maynard Meyer certainly sounds like the type of broadcaster Curtis LeGeyt is referring to.

Randy Black, Radio Host

Another blog reader put it this way:

“You are going to have to personalize it for it to work. Included listeners. Cater to them. Put them on the air. Involve them. I am talking music stations here. Be informative. Be fun. Involve. Make it as 4d as possible.”

Steve Rixx, The Wake Up Morning Show on KSAM

“Radio in 2022 still serves its purpose by serving its local communities…IF it’s done correctly. My stations lean into the local, and are deeply involved with our people. Our listeners LISTEN because we are the source for everything happening in our area, and we support our youth and charitable organizations…and we just happen to play great music. BE the change you want. STOP complaining that ‘it’s not like it used to be.’ Most things aren’t. You can stay on the sidelines or get your hands dirty…you choose which.”

Darryl Parks on WLW’s Jim Scott

Can radio do this in a major market like Cincinnati? Yes, as Darryl Parks told us on his blog about the impact that Jim Scott made on the listener loyalty to The Big One – 700AM – WLW.

Darry wrote:

“Cities like Cincinnati are extremely provincial. Neighborhoods are strong. Some say our communities are closed to outsiders. Some of that maybe true. But, if you stick it out, once you belong, you will find the closest of friendships. Our little area of the Midwest is a very special place.

Now imagine that close friendship with over 2 million people. That’s how many people Jim Scott considers his friends – the entire market. I’m guessing that’s how many people might consider Jim a friend too.

As the radio story goes, when Jim first arrived in Cincinnati from WKBW in Buffalo, he made it a point to introduce himself to everyone.  And I mean everyone.  He’d finish his morning show on WSAI and then head to Cincinnati’s Fountain Square where he’d hand flowers to women and ask them to listen to him.  Other days, Jim would literally knock on doors, going house to house, neighborhood to neighborhood, introducing himself and asking those that answered if they would listen.  That was decades ago and he never stopped.

Years ago, at a wedding reception at Cincinnati’s beautiful art deco Union Terminal, I was standing with a small group of people, including Rich Walburg, my programming partner in crime at 700WLW. Another in the group noticed Jim going table to table introducing himself.  The fellow said, “Is that Jim Scott?  I want to meet him.”  Rich in his driest delivery replied, “Stay here.  He’ll make his way over.”  He eventually did and Jim introduced himself.

Jim has a way to make everyone feel special and he really is interested in how you’re doing.  He has a deep compassion for people.

He’s a radio personality who understands his on-air role, the importance of being an active member of the community and the value of his personal brand in the market.  He treasures his relationship with listeners and advertisers.  He knows ratings must come with revenue.

Jim is actively involved with many of our community’s service organizations and charities, because he knows how important it is to give back. Being involved in community service is normally the job of a radio station’s Market Manager.  That wasn’t the case at 700WLW.  I joked over the years, we had no idea what he did.  We just knew at night he was representing the station at a fundraiser and the next morning he was on the air at 5am.

Year after year, decade after decade, Jim gave himself to his radio audience, everyone of them considered dear friends. He was there during good times and bad. Sunny skies or snow. Jim Scott is a radio personality to study from. There will never be another like him.”

[Jim Scott retired from radio in 2015 after more than 50 years in broadcasting.]

It was 18 Years Ago…

So, nothing about what radio needs to do in a 21st Century world is all that different from the way it all began. Oh sure, the technology has changed dramatically, the ways of sending our content out to our listeners has multiplied and also made it possible for anyone with a computer and an internet connection to become a entertainment/information provider.

It was at a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hearing 18 years ago, that Maynard Meyer sounded the warning about radio’s future.

On May 24, 2004, the FCC held a “Broadcast Localism Hearing” in Rapid City, South Dakota.  The president, general manager and co-owner of KLQP-FM licensed to Madison, Minnesota (population 1,767) addressed the commission.  (I’ve edited his comments. The full text can be found here.)

“Localism in radio is not dead, but it is in dire need of resuscitation in many areas.  I have been involved in the radio business in announcing, sales, engineering and management for about 36 years, all of my experience is in communities of 5,000 people or less.  We personally live in the communities we serve so we know the ‘issues,’ we work to address them in our programming and have been doing so for the past 21 years.

A few years ago, many stations operated this way, but much of that has changed for a variety of reasons.  I think the beginning of the end of local broadcast service started in the 1980s when the Federal Communications Commission approved Docket 80-90.”

Mr. Meyer went on to explain to the FCC how many communities which “on paper” had a local radio station, but actually had a transmitter that was being fed from another location tens of miles away.  Mr. Meyer went on to say:

“I don’t think this is the best way to promote local radio service.  From what I have seen through my personal experience, as soon as a hometown studio is closed and relocated, the local service is relocated as well.”

“Wednesday Was Not A Great Day for Radio”

That was the headline Radio Ink ran with its article recapping the previous day’s Congressional hearing on Respecting Artists with the American Music Fairness Act. What made it a bad day for the radio industry? Maybe because all of those things that were presented as reasons radio needed to be protected from the recording industry, are things that only a handful of radio broadcasters actually still do.

Gloria Estefan speaking on behalf of recording artists explained that music has value and the very people who create those popular songs – artists, singers and studio musicians – see no compensation for their efforts that are fueling a billion dollar radio business. Their songs are being used without their permission or compensation.

Estefan did credit her career’s success to radio, but also went on to point out how much the business model had changed since she had a hit record with her Miami Sound Machine song Conga (1985).

The Advertising Pie

Before the COVID19 pandemic gripped our world, Gordon Borrell hosted a webinar in early 2019 and told of how the media pie is today sliced too thin.

To put things in perspective, Gordon shared how an over-populated media landscape is impacting local advertisers.

  • 1,300 daily newspapers, 6,500 weeklies
  • 4,700 printed directory books
  • 4,665 AM radio stations, 6,757 commercial FM radio stations
  • 1,760 Class A TV stations
  • More than 1,000 cable systems with local sales staffs
  • 660,000 podcasts were actively produced in 2018
  • 495 NEW TV shows were introduced last year in addition to what’s already on
  • PLUS, local ad sales are taking place on Facebook, Google and Amazon

For radio broadcasters, Gordon Borrell said the solution to the future of media expenditures would be a process of “thinning the herd.”

Borrell said, the way advertising buyers are responding to a world of media abundance is by:

  • Decreasing the number of companies from which they buy advertising from 5 to 3.5, and
  • 90% of their media buys are being made with companies who can bundle traditional and digital advertising.

Quality Over Quantity

I believe that we’ve reached a point where quality will beat quantity. Whether we’re talking about Netflix vs. Disney+ vs. Apple+ etc. or ABC vs. NBC vs. CBS etc. or magazines, newspapers, TV stations or radio stations. The day of reckoning is arriving and only the best will survive.

For radio stations that have always operated like Maynard Meyer’s, there’s no reason to fear the future. Stations that aren’t just saying they’re local, but proving it every day by their total involvement in their communities. Great radio means being dedicated and invested in operating in the public interest and fulfilling, as Dale Parsons said, “a (listener’s) compelling need for entertainment and information.”

 “In the struggle for survival,

the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals

because they succeed in adapting themselves to their environment.”

-author unknown (often attributed to Charles Darwin) updated 2/13/2022 thanks to Tom Asacker

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Readers Respond to “What Purpose Does Radio Serve in 2022?”

The response to last week’s blog “What Purpose Does Radio Serve in 2022” was formidable. The question struck a nerve with radio people, and lots of you were quick to share your feelings.

Then Fred Jacobs blogged about the passing of Howard Hessman, famously known as Dr. Johnny Fever, morning DJ on the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, in an article titled

When Radio Was Cool.” Fred included a link to my blog article which brought in even more comments.

Here’s just some of the comments from readers I received (some edited for length or content):

Mike Starling

Dick, I think the why at least for noncommercial stations is curiosity. Folks open to new ideas, to learning from expert presenters about musical geniuses, who truly appreciate the beauty of thoughtful curation will continue to discover and support those stations. It’s still your lean back companion, succinctly providing local weather and news updates. And lubricating commerce with brief sponsor reminders. Keep it about passion and joy and respect for the audience. It won’t matter whether folks get us via the smartphone or the new smart-tooth implant, they will still seek and support radio. Be there for them, the opinion makers in our communities and they will be there for us.

Frank D’Elia

Very good question, but not an easy one to answer. Back when we were radio kids, the answer was different for different folks. For some radio was a friend, for others a jukebox, and for still others, a link to their world. Seemed like in the 70s when I started radio was the only answer to a lot of questions. Today, not so much. Finding the answer to your question will be the key to having a successful radio station in today’s very crowded media environment!

Victor Escalante

Radio has become the “me too” of all media. Which is the same path newsprint has gone. The web democratized all the monopolies.

George Johns

If it wasn’t free, Dick, who would listen?

Bob Harlan

First of all, we need to determine what people want from traditional radio. Especially people under 55! No one has truly done research that I have seen, that gives a strong direction. Let’s find out what people really want!

Gregg Cassidy

Human companion, when not voice tracked.

Walter Luffman

Dick, I think it’s sadly obvious that for most commercial broadcasters today the “why” is “to make money”; any other reason for operation is an unimportant (to owners) byproduct . or just an excuse for holding a license.

These days, far too many stations — especially those owned by conglomerates — really contribute less of importance to their communities than the average convenience store. And in some cases, they employ even fewer people than a 24-hour convenience store.

Amanda Sapp

I really appreciate this blog. I personally have asked the “what listeners want”, and it has in turn helped shape the way we do radio. I certainly plan to dig a little deeper since you pose the question.

Thanks for asking.

Nicholas Kalorgris

Great points Dick! Commercial Broadcasters have to rediscover their WHY. I also agree with Mike Starling’s points of what makes local radio great. There are better jukeboxes out there just like in the 1950’s when television came on the scene. Commercial Radio has to go back to being “The Original Social Medium” in order to stay relevant. It can’t be a jukebox with all the technical drawbacks of terrestrial radio. You can’t be a jukebox with static, fade, power and signal direction changes etc. Live and local with relatable personalities will bring audiences back. Again, terrestrial commercial broadcasters have to find their WHY!

Howard Reynolds

It has no real purpose or relevance any longer. Commercial delivery system and ATM for corporations. It no longer serves listeners or the public

Interesting read, but sadly something I loved so much and enjoyed working in is lost to the almighty dollar and greed without any insight as to what is going on, and no road back.

Jim Beasley

I started as a DJ in 1956.

For decades I had “the dream” so often reported online by former or current DJ’s where you are behind a console and everything is going wrong. Even after I was in management and 40 years after my last shift. The past 5 years I no longer have that dream. My recurring night sweat is being in a station with an office and being ignored by everyone as I desperately try to find a format or solution or any little thing I can do to be relevant. It’s the obsolete nightmare and it’s worse than “the dream” ever was.

Jeff Berlin

Radio used to have a monopoly on music discovery and breaking news, but it’s still a viable medium: it still frees up eyeballs for other tasks like driving. I still prefer to listen to NPR than any podcast. Newsradio for up to date information. Am also addicted to the many college radio stations where I live, introducing me to mindblowingly excellent music that I’d never find on streaming services or anywhere else. In homes with smartspeakers, it’s a lot easier to tell Alexa to play a radio station with music you like than it is to get Alexa to do a playlist from a streaming service.

Charles Greer

I remember listening to something called “Hometown News” on KBOA in Kennett, Missouri when I visited my grandmother in the 1950s and 1960s. You NEVER, EVER disturbed her when “Hometown News” was on because it gave the obituary listings, farm prices, and police reports from the region. Local service at its finest. When I began working at WGNU in 1974, I called the local funeral homes for the obituary listings, as well as the local hospital for the birth announcements…and trooped to the local police departments to gather news to rewrite for our broadcasts, I felt like I’d come full circle from KBOA. Today, I know of only one radio station that does anything like that today…in the nearby town of Alton, Illinois…WBGZ AM-FM. Today most radio is little more than per-inquiry broadcasts for retirement programs, health nostrums and whatever the national (read multi-station owner’s) representative thinks will sell…pardon my rant, but radio DOES NOT serve the same purpose it did in 1968!

Miles Mead

When hands and eyes are busy at other things, radio still pleases.

Peter Swanson

I do listen to all-news and especially NPR in the car – On Cape Cod we still have a cluster that shares news between a couple of their outlets, and they are worth listening to, but radio bean counters and “consultants” along with canned satellite streams are drowning the baby. Baby is blue and turning purple. I remember when we offered a valuable service to listeners. WHDH-AM, WBZ-AM in Boston, WQRC-FM on the Cape. I feel like Willy Loman, now…

Deregulation has greatly hastened the demise of our service.

Service is the key word. HDH and BZ sounded like a service first and a business 2nd when I was young. Deregulation swapped those priorities around.

Allen Kaufhold

I have always wondered what we will do if something unthinkable were to happen and there are very few battery or generator powered radios available. Internet down, No TV. Nothing.

Albert J. McGilvray

I live in a town with seven radio stations. Not one has a newscast.

Brian Burgess

I like the Lewis Carroll quote. I believe ex-Beatle George Harrison updated it with his belief, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

I agree with some of the commentators that people want encapsulated news, not sit through school board meetings, but radio can only do that if it is truly local. Our local station went belly up and merged with another local station so now when it is not airing syndicated content it is a regional station at best, which underserves both of the markets each individual station handled before.

For a station to determine its own “why” would require a complete revamping of FCC regulations regarding ownership and licensing. Stations used to be required to serve “the public good” in order to hold a license, and I admit I don’t know if that language is still in the regs, but it should be. Frankly I highly doubt the government would be able to get the corporate media to give up the power they’ve amassed. Too many legislators are bought by corporate interests.

There may be localities that are still served well by their local media outlets, but they are slowly being absorbed the closer they are to major metropolitan areas. Just like big box stores are doing to retail, the mom & pop radio stations are finding it harder to survive in a shrinking market. The public needs to understand this does not bode well for their ability to be informed and make better choices for their daily lives, but who out there will sound the clarion call?

Charlie Roberts

“. . . in the public interest . . . “

Beau Phillips

No, radio’s purpose was squandered

Babernethy Brad

It’s a very strange business now. Almost nothing is local…It’s all about feeds from the main office. People mean nothing.

Jeff Hunt

Contrary to Sinek’s quote, I contend that the WHY for most group owners is, indeed, money or profit. These and similar groups wasted no time in closing studios/offices and firing staff as soon as regulations said they no longer had to maintain a presence in their community of license. How does that serve the public interest?

Steve West

Radio gave up when Wall Street invaded. The operators took the money and told listeners to buzz off

Carl Dombek

That is indeed unfortunate, but listeners are and have always been the product, not the customer. As you know, it’s the advertisers who pay the bills. However, if stations had no audience, they would have no advertisers. And maybe that’s the ultimate solution: the audience will have to completely defect to non-radio sources for its news and entertainment before radio operators sit up and take notice

John Thacker

The FCC unleveled the playing field by allowing Mega station owners in the same market and the stations stopped serving the Interest of local listeners.

Geary Morrill

I get the distinct impression many here are wanting to view the world thru a 60s 70s 80s lens.

Bulletin: The entire world has changed.

(And to be fair, a large cohort clearly didn’t read anything past the headline. I know there weren’t pictures, but reading is FUNdamental … unless you just want to be the old man yelling at a cloud …)

Dennis Kinkaid

WHY didn’t he provide an answer?

David Goddard

Purpose? Radio has major problems, brought on by itself and the change in ways listeners can now receive news and or entertainment. More and more hardly ever, if ever listen to radio. That number grows. Radio is in competition with all platforms of music and news, yet it still acts like it’s the only entity out there for that.

Jason Kaul

I’ll be honest… The only times I listen to terrestrial radio are when I’m on the air and when I’m in my wife’s car. Other than that, it’s streaming in the house and SXM in the car.

David Forster

It still wakes me up in the morning and entertains/informs as I prepare for the day in the bathroom. Satellite in the car & on the computer,

Doug Herendeen

Interesting we’re told we need more local content. Oh, but don’t give the scores of last night’s local game; they can get that on their phones. Oh, don’t do school closings on-air, that’s what your website is for. Don’t mention the school board meetings, no one cares. Don’t make the tamest joke about the Mayor; corporate doesn’t want to defend your butt. If you’re simply going to give everything away to the Internet or what’s left of newspapers, maybe quit whining? Yeah, I may play 2 4 minute clusters an hour, but I’ll talk about the local food bank and church free soup Saturday, too. Or, should I just tell people it’s on our website. And, yes, we still carry local games. And make $$ on them, despite several companies trying to push local radio out. When I was a newbie, I told a guy in Radio longer than I was I wanted our station to sound “slick.” He said you can be so slick you can skip right off. What I should have said was “professional.” While doing good content.

Dan Shire

Thanks for posting this thoughtful article, Dick.

The radio station I volunteered with in the 1970s when I was in university (Queen’s University Radio in Kingston ON CFRC AM and FM) will be 100 years old this October. I’m involved in the committee to celebrate the centennial, and the relevance of this station in particular in today’s world is something I’ve thought about a lot recently.

I still listen to my local hometown station in the Toronto area (suburban neighbor of Toronto, 100K population) – local news, driving/traffic conditions, community events, music from the 1960s-1990s, local personalities (I rent a vacation cottage from the morning host once a year). I think local ‘small town/city’ radio still has a place.

Timothy Stockman

(Dan Shire) It’s questionable whether the radio station I worked for (WBAA) will celebrate their 100th anniversary on April 4 2022.

John M Stephens

There are two issues here. If you are listening to radio via their WEB stream or via their over-the-air signal, you will hear their commercials. 4+ minutes of commercials is not a long break by today’s standards. Many music stations run over 10-minute breaks (20, :30 spots) and to me that is unlistenable. And frankly, that is what drove me to XM and now independent Internet radio. Now cell phone carriers are inserting spots at the beginning of a connection. But these are very short.

Matt Gholston

Having worked in radio for 23 years 7 min is the absolute longest break I have ever seen run on any station I worked on. I am sure folks run longer ones but it’s not good radio.

I would love to hear you write a positive article someday rather than article after article that sounds like you have such a sour tone toward the industry that gave you a long career.

Edwin Brand

I agree. Lotta bitchin’ from old Dick Taylor. Sad what people become.

Negativity sells and you’re in it for the clicks. Which is fine. But at least be honest about it. The sky isn’t falling.

Dan Shire

I listen to CKDO, Oshawa. Good local newscasts, community coverage, music I enjoy.

Mark Carbonaro

Dick Taylor – all you mention is true. All the things radio did in 1968 are now done by a multitude of websites. But most sites are singular in their mission – radio was the generalist that gave you everything in one place. It was your one-stop for everything you needed entertainment and information wise. But when radio tries to imitate someone’s iPod or Spotify etc., it becomes superfluous and irrelevant

Patrick Dwyer

I think it can still serve its traditional function in small towns. But it takes a dynamic owner and staff integrated into the community in every facet.

I spent a while working at KWRE in Warrenton, Missouri. At the time (1991), they even sold high school graduation congrats announcements. Small town is where it’s at!

Dave Stewart

Indeed, radio’s original purpose has been appropriated by new tech, but radio still does one thing better: It can reach an entire service area during a widescale power outage.

How many mobile network towers would need a generator to continue operating? Phones themselves might only have enough juice for a day or two. A radio station can continue to serve the public with one generator at the transmitter. Portable radios can operate for months on one set of batteries. Until new tech appropriates that, radio is still essential.

David Kaye

In the quake of 1989 here in the Bay Area, KGO was useless because two of their towers were knocked down. KCBS was on the air but what information could they relay? They were able to get some reports in due to two-way radio and some cell service. But what can you really do in a disaster anyway?

I’m older than dirt itself but I listen online all the time. The only time I use the radio is when I’m in my car. That isn’t often.

Chris Andrews

I live in hurricane country. Hurricane Ida wiped out AT&T service in most of Louisiana. ZERO information available. No streaming anything. Meanwhile. we were up and running on generator power (for 11 days at one site!) giving out information on where to find food. Where to find shelter, fuel, potable water, etc. People were sitting in their cars to charge their phones, enjoy some A/C (August in Louisiana is miserable with no A/C)….and they were all listening to their radio.

Peter Baines

It’s over if you have internet

Grover Westover

I liked it when you could count on hearing news headlines and a weather forecast every hour. I liked it when the announcer would introduce the record he/she was getting ready to play. I’m so frustrated with much of radio today that I listen to CDs , Pandora or Yes, SPOTIFY.

Jim Turner

Many disagree with me because they think radio as we KNEW it is magically going to come back. Guess what…it isn’t! Changing the technical mode of how the carrier is modulated, analog vs. digital isn’t going to be its magical savior either. That was approved and how many stations has it improved??? As I have said over and over, STUPID owners and STUPID management have thumbed their nose at the LOCAL market. They have abandoned their purpose and so the LOCAL market has abandoned them! In their ever present STUPID “do it on the cheap” mentality they have raised the middle finger to those who were their bread and butter. Their answer these days is to blame talent, the internet and demographics. Of course, there are exceptions and maybe a few stations which are still doing a fantastic job in their local markets.

D Peter Maus

Radio’s purpose hasn’t changed. Radio has simply abandoned its purpose. Because it’s too much work.

Jack Diamond

Dick, again, a truly well written and researched post. I agree with your sentiment and a lot of what you had to say. I also agree with most who posted a comment. I still believe in the grass roots needs and benefits we fulfill on behalf of a listener, but as with anything, we have to evolved, and must continue to. The point is to serve the audience. It’s still the reason licenses are held, in the public interest. So much more to say, but I will go on the air tomorrow and continue to try to meet my listeners needs. Thank you so much!

Joe Klein

IMHO, in today’s world, SIRIUS/XM is the thing! For me, at least, the ULTIMATE radio tuner. Nothing will bring back the great glory days of top-forty radio, but the satellite service is the best that it gets in this day and age. SO much to choose from, for every age, gender, ethnicity and taste!

Richard Kaufman

Radio in 2022 serves zero purpose for me and Sirius/XM serves no purpose for me either. Here are the reasons. 1-Any song that I would want to hear, I already have in my computer. 2-I would respond positively to DJs who have quick minds who could do adlib humor. Those DJs are extinct. They were even extinct during the heyday of oldies radio in the 80s and 90s. I will use New York City radio as an example. There was a huge difference between what WABC, WMCA, WINS and WMGM were doing in the 60s to what WCBS-FM was doing in the 90s. Dan Ingram is a good example. He sounded at his best on WABC in the 60s and didn’t sound the same on WCBS-FM in the 90s because their format was too constricted for what he did best. Even in the 90s, WCBS-FM spent very little for jingles where WABC spent $45000.00 per year for jingles every year from 1962-1973. I always found that any program director of an oldies station who said we want to sound like a current radio station who happens to play oldies is just an idiot. Today, in 2022, with music that I think is the worst it’s ever been and three generations of DJs who have no idea how to be entertaining, there’s no reason for me to ever listen to the radio. Now let’s talk about Sirius/XM. 1-They use minimal bandwidth for their music channels and their audio is lousy. 2-I already own the songs that I would want to hear and voice tracking does nothing for me. 3-I have no interest in any kind of talk radio. 4-I have no interest in radio sports play by play because I can see it all on tv or a computer.

Michael Angelo Pileggi

During times of war, radio comes in handy

Brian Beddow

In all of history, has there ever been an industry that required constant validation as much as radio?

Frederick Vobbe

Your article speaks to the problem I face daily when driving. It reminds me of Bruce Springsteen’s hit, “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)”.

I don’t live in a small town, it’s around 250,000 people with 2 AM and 7 FM stations. There are plenty of large towns around me, but there is nothing on. And when there is something on, such as a weather report, it’s often the wrong day or in some situations a generic place filler.

Radio has lost its soul, but I don’t know how you get it back. It’s like a forest burning down, and the only option is to plant new trees. First task is to find those willing to plant trees, then you have to wait until they grow.

Those of us who commented and pleaded with the NAB and FCC hit the nail on the head. Consolidation will stifle competition, which in turn will take radio to the lowest level, or make it moot.

Tim Davisson

The web offers everything most radio stations have had for over 100 years, and millions of variations on those

choices. But, IMHO: most importantly, and something radio & TV can do zero ever to counter act: the internet is ON DEMAND, 24/7/365, worldwide. To have any chance at financial survival, radio stations need to create not just “compelling content”, but UNIQUE compelling content that can’t be found elsewhere. And, that takes $$$$$ to pay talented people to create. Automating a version of the same old, same old is just an attempt to hang on as long as possible. But, we all know what path that will take: eventual extinction. Just being real.

Brian Pierce Cozadd

I read your “why” essay, as well as a similar “why” post last September. I’m as frustrated coming up with radios “why” now – as I was in September.

My wife & I both had long, nearly 50 year radio careers and after long discussion she says the “why” is local sports. I don’t have a “why” yet. I can out-cume any smaller market station with my phone. When everyone is media – nothing is special. No one loves radio more than me. But, the business model is toast. I’m just glad I’m not an owner. I had significant company stock but sold it all in 2007.

Randy Berner

I still enjoy the randomness of selection on what passes for radio today. Even Sirius…I love The Beatles but sometimes I have to go away from The Beatles Channel and get something else. Same for channels like 60s on 6 and 70s on 7…which they’ve moved…too much sameness. I find myself gravitating to Pandora more.

And if you made it this far, just one more well thought-out comment from

Jack Shell

This social media nonsense that the big companies have insisted on their talent’s participation has only made things worse. Radio talents are required to be UP UP UP on social media and over the top online to get people’s attention when it seldom if ever translates to ratings. If the talent is annoying on social media, nobody in the world will want to listen to them on the radio, especially when they only talk three to four times an hour, to begin with, in this PPM world. Also, the managers who insist on all of this social media marketing of their brands don’t take into consideration of the mental health toll it can take on the talent who are already struggling for relevance in the media, rating shares, and now the pressure of having to get enough views on TikTok and Instagram. That’s just one more metric in which jocks are measured now. Stations have decided to hire social media experts as air talent, which doesn’t translate to the overall success of the brand when young people don’t listen to the radio, to begin with, and the remaining older listeners find TikTok jocks to be off-putting. When you start to dissect all the wrong turns radio has made over the last twenty years, it starts to make your head spin. Bottom line, you don’t need deejays to tell you the names of songs anymore. You don’t need deejays to tell you the latest celebrity gossip. You don’t need any air talent that provides little to no entertainment value outside of social media. News and traffic information? No need. You can get music, content, information, and entertainment on your smartphone in your connected car on demand and when you want it now, without twenty commercials an hour and inane endorsements from no-name radio jocks. Radio better start figuring out their WHY, and FAST. The hourglass is running out of sand as their audience ages. I am a Gen-Xer, who was a successful air talent, and I LOVED radio. I treasured the very medium, its history, and everything about it. But in the last several years, the undisputed truths about technology replacing radio have become very clarifying as I’ve been away from the industry and began to rely more on podcasts and streaming, myself. The things that made radio great are no longer draws when there is no personal connection and fifteen minutes of commercials an hour. My friends, who are now grandparents, have told me stories about riding around with their grandchildren in the car, and their grandchildren have literally asked why they can’t skip past a song when they are listening to a local station. That generation will never embrace traditional terrestrial radio. Ever. I spoke at a school about four years ago for a very awkward career day. This classroom of fifth-graders could not have been more disinterested in me, what I did, or why I would even do what I did for a living. The one question that came up regularly was, “Don’t you get lonely in there?” I had to think about it, and compare it to the days when I’d walk into a radio studio and the request lines used to ring off the hook, and listeners would call and participate in my program. When I realized that reciprocity had ceased to exist at that, my final radio station (in a large market), I had to reply, “Yes. I do get lonely in there.”

Coming Next Week

First, my gratitude to so many of you who took the time to write really detailed comments. I really appreciate hearing from you and yes, I read them all.

Next week I will share some thoughts about what radio needs to do in order to be relevant in people’s lives in 2022 and beyond.

Stay Tuned.

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Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

What Purpose Does Radio Serve in 2022?

I often think about how much radio has changed since I began my career as a professional broadcaster in February 1968, 54 years ago. Local radio at that time told us who was born, who died, whether school was open or closed, what happened at the city council or school board meetings, what was going on in the world, our nation and our community. We depended on our hometown radio station for weather, sports and entertainment.

In 1968 local radio was the way we often learned about events first; it was “magical.”

Radio’s Prime Purpose

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia 6th ed. in 2012 defined radio’s purpose this way:

The prime purpose of radio is to convey information

from one place to another through the intervening media

(i.e., air, space, nonconducting materials)

without wires.

Isn’t that the same thing my iPhone does? It conveys information to me through the same intervening media without wires.

In fact, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued my broadcast license back in ’68, it was called it a “Radio Telephone Third Class Operator Permit (Restricted Radiotelephone Certificate).” This always made me wonder why it was called that, as I studied to earn this permit for the sole purpose of being able to operate a broadcast radio station, not work for a telephone company.

Radiotelephone

A radiotelephone, it turns out, is a phone that uses radio transmission. Wikipedia defines it this way:

A radiotelephone (or radiophone), abbreviated RT,[1] is a radio communication system for transmission of speech over radio. Radiotelephony means transmission of sound (audio) by radio, in contrast to radiotelegraphy, which is transmission of telegraph signals, or television, transmission of moving pictures and sound. The term may include radio broadcasting systems, which transmit audio one way to listeners, but usually refers to two-way radio systems for bidirectional person-to-person voice communication between separated users, such as CB radio or marine radio. In spite of the name, radiotelephony systems are not necessarily connected to or have anything to do with the telephone network, and in some radio services, including GMRS,[2] interconnection is prohibited.

Today’s smartphones are both radios and televisions – and a whole lot more.

First Source for Breaking News

In 2011, a rare earthquake shook our nation’s capital and then Hurricane Irene added to the area’s misery as she swept up the coast causing fatalities and billions of dollars of destruction. Both of these events disrupted lines of communication for millions of residents in the Washington, DC area.

Larry Thomas, a former Shift Commander for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services who lives in Annapolis, wrote in the Association of Public-Safety Communications newsletter, about the important role radio played in both of these natural disasters. Thomas wrote:

“Public safety authorities know that radio is the single most reliable outlet for information, which is why a battery-operated radio is so important and always part of any preparedness kit recommended by every organization from local agencies to FEMA and the Red Cross.”

Yet, stranded motorists on I-95 during a recent winter storm found their car radios providing none of the needed information they sought.

Those within range of a news station like WTOP, were kept informed, but sadly, those types of radio stations prove to be the exception rather than the rule.

Has Radio’s Purpose Been Appropriated?

When I think of all the things that made radio important in people’s lives, I can’t help but notice that these very attributes are now fulfilled by other sources, and often done better than broadcast radio. Here’s a partial list of what I’m talking about:

  • Weather: The Weather Channel, Accuweather etc.
  • News: NY Times, Washington Post, TV News Apps, other News Apps etc.
  • School Closings: Schools notify students, faculty & staff via text messages, websites etc.
  • Births/Deaths: social media etc.
  • City Council/School Board meetings: watch them online live
  • Road closures or other important information: text messages, websites, emails
  • Sports: the schools broadcast games online
  • Or to put it more simply, everything radio was famous for, today is easily accessible via the internet on a smartphone

I’m not saying these things to be hurtful to the radio industry, but to ask the fundamental question about its future.

What is Radio’s WHY?

Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why” is a deep dive into why “some people and organizations are more innovative, more influential and more profitable than others.”

Sinek says what all the successful individuals and companies have in common is their starting point. They first clearly must define their WHY.

What I’m not reading in any of the radio trades, in any of the materials from the Radio Advertising Bureau or the National Association of Broadcasters is what is radio’s WHY in the 21st Century. Instead I’m reading about how radio is developing podcasts, streaming, centralizing their news operations around regional hubs, consolidating their radio dayparts around national hosts…and on…and on…and on.

As Sinek says:

“Any organization can explain what it does; some can explain how they do it; but very few can clearly articulate why. WHY is not money or profit – those are always results. WHY does your organization exist? WHY does it do the things it does? “

What does your radio station do, that provides your advertisers and listeners, with a unique experience that has them coming back day after day?

“How do you get there if you don’t know where you are going?”

-Lewis Carroll

The WHY for commercial radio to survive and thrive in a 21st Century world is not the same as when it was born over a hundred years ago, because both radio and the world were different then.

Without a clearly defined and articulated WHY, I fear that radio will continue to be tossed like a rowboat in the stormy sea of mediated communications.

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What Do Seniors Want?

Seniors born in the 1950s and 1960s, known as “Baby Boomers,” created a tsunami of change in the world of marketing and communications. Now, the generation that coined the phrase “Don’t trust anyone over 30” is turning 70.

50th High School Reunion Re-imagined

In fact, my 50th high school reunion was to have been held in 2020, but due to COVID19 this was rescheduled to October 2022. The committee organizing this event decided to re-imagine our Golden Reunion Celebration and are now calling it “The Class of 1970 Turns 70.”

Boomers actually began crossing the 70 year old threshold in 2016 and will be growing the 70+ demographic population until the year 2034. Over the next ten years, our numbers will eclipse 55 million with a growth rate twice that of people aged 18-49.

Boomers Are Spenders

Currently the 70+ Boomers contribute $1.1 trillion in annual spending on consumer goods and services. According to AARP, we spend on pharmaceuticals, health insurance, medical supplies, AV equipment, food at home, personal care products, apparel, entertainment, household furnishings, and travel.

Since I retired in 2017, my wife Sue and I immediately set out to see more of this world. We took a Caribbean Cruise, three cross-county road trips driving over 25,000 miles and were planning to travel abroad until the advent of COVID19 brought things to a screeching halt.

Boomers grew up in the postwar era with a sense of promise and possibility. We believed if we could dream it, we could do it.

The Senior Mindset

When I was in my early years of radio sales, I sold advertising to a contemporary of mine that was working in his family’s pharmacy. His primary focus was on developing new revenue streams for growing the business.

He was the first person I ever knew that went to Las Vegas every January to the Consumer Electronics Show; now known simply as CES. Each year he would bring new and innovative electronic products into the store.

But that’s not the point of the story.

In my 20s, when I saw these new devices – often with some pretty hefty price tags attached to them – I would say, that’s pretty amazing, but I’ve read that next year the new model will be even better.

My friend would reply, “That’s the way we think, but people who are much older than us don’t see things that way.” He explained that their view of life was, if they wanted it, they bought it now. And if something better came along, they would make another purchase. They didn’t have time to wait around for the next big thing to come along.

Retirement is a Transition from Saver to Spender

Now that I’ve become one of those people who are “much older,” I understand that perspective. Baby Boomers are now at that point in their lives where they see more of their lives in the rearview mirror than out the front windshield.

People who are 70+ are free to pursue their passions and set new life goals for this next chapter of their lives. Products and services that compliment these things will be the ones who benefit from our spending.

I’m no longer thinking of how much I need to save in my IRA or contribute to my annuities, I’m now at that point in life where it’s time to begin withdrawing from the retirement assets I’ve accrued over my working life.

Are your products or services seeing me, hearing me, understanding my wants/needs/desires?

Time Spent With Ad-Supported Media Falls

The FCC reported at the start of this new year, the number of commercial FMs, AMs, and even LPFMs all decreased in 2021. While it came as no surprise to see the number of AM radio stations sign-off, the decrease in the number of commercial FMs should have been a real wake-up call for the radio industry.

Interestingly, non-commercial FM radio stations increased in number in 2021. Could it be they are serving up content that people want to hear?

53.4% of people’s time spent with media in the United States is with consumer-funded media, according PQ Media.

I started off this year of blogging with “Why I Stream ALL of My Radio Listening,” and in reviewing the latest data I find that our household is riding the wave of consumer-funded media for both television viewing and radio listening.

Media Post says

“While total consumer time spent with media is projected to continue to expand in both the United States and worldwide through 2025, ad-supported media’s share will continue to erode due to secular, not cyclical shifts in consumer usage of media – something other analysts and economists have been pointing out.”

You Can Save Time or You Can Save Money, BUT You Can’t Save Both Simultaneously

There’s an inverse relationship between time and money; you can spend one to save the other. In our youth, we feel like we have all the time in the world and so we focus on ways to save money. Later in life, we see how precious our time has become and so we will spend money to save time.

Long commercial breaks about things of little interest to us waste our time, so it should come as no surprise that seniors are willing to pay money to eliminate them.

People will give you their time when you offer them entertainment. People will give you their money when you offer them hope.

– Roy HWilliams

Consumer-funded media does just that. It gives us the wheat and eliminates the chaff.

The average person in America today is expected to live to almost 79 years old, that’s 28,835 days. When you turn 70, that means you see the future as 3,285 days left.

What do you think means more to a senior, another dollar in the bank or more efficient use of their time?

When people are asked on their deathbed what they wished they had more of, no one says “more money.”

Willie Sutton said he robbed banks because that’s where the money was. Today, media money is in the hands of the Baby Boomers, aka seniors.

How are you serving them with your media property?

Updated 1/23/2022: An earlier version incorrectly said “Willie Horton,” not “Willie Sutton.”

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What Great Radio & a Great College Experience Have in Common

For over four decades, I was a professional radio broadcaster, before beginning a second career as a college professor. Both of these professions hold a special place in my heart.

The “R” Word

The one student element that is critical for an impactful higher education experience is building relationships. Unfortunately, this global pandemic has disrupted both radio and higher education; in a similar way.

Think back on your own education, what do you remember most about Intro English or Chemistry 101? If you’re like me, not a darn thing. But what you probably do remember are those professors, classmates, or advisors that made a real impression on your life and the decisions you made during your years at college.

“Personal relationships are really fundamental to college success, “ says Dan Chambliss, co-author of “How College Works.” “It’s the people, not the programs, that make the difference.”

It’s those relationships which engage the student that are so critical for colleges trying to attract and retain students.

Radio Personalities

In the radio business, it’s the radio personality who builds a relationship for the station with the listener.

“Not everything that can be counted counts,

and not everything that counts can be counted.”

-William Bruce Cameron

 Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking

Mike McVay recently wrote this about the importance of the radio personality:

“Every radio station needs a Star. Who is that one personality that your audience will think of when they hear your station’s name? You can’t win without a radio star. Smart companies know this and they invest in personalities.

Developing an emotional connection between your on-air personalities and listeners is an effective way of ingraining the station’s brand into the listener’s memory.”

What Mike is saying is how important building relationships between the radio listener and the radio station is to a station’s success; and how it’s accomplished through the radio personality.

Business 101

Whether you’re running a college or a radio station, one thing is true for both businesses, it’s easier – and less costly – to retain an existing student or listener than it is to acquire a new one. People in sales and advertising have long known this maxim when it comes to building a client base.

In a college, it’s the faculty that are critical to establishing strong relationships with the students; and in the radio business, it’s the radio personality that is critical to establishing a large and loyal listening audience for the radio station.

Radio & Emergencies

When the first winter storm of the 2022 season struck the Washington, DC area, traffic came to a standstill on all the major highways and byways along the Mid-Atlantic coast. One person who found themselves stranded on I-95 for over 20 hours shared their thoughts and observations about the emergency situation on Facebook. Let me share with you the part that caught my attention:

“Local radio is actually corporate radio, and except for the repeated promos (“you’re listening to the rock of Fredericksburg” type BS) so there was no news or information on the radio.”

Radio broadcasters are usually quick to point out that in times when cell service goes down, that they are the citizen’s only link with the critical information they need.

Well, guess what, this person also wrote:

“I had no (cellphone) signal, GPS stopped working and I couldn’t contact anyone or look up what was going on, I imagine this was because too many phones were pinging off of too few towers in the affected areas.”

What could have been a moment of radio magic, turned into a moment of listener misery.

The Customer Experience

I used the wisdom of Shep Hyken in my university broadcast sales training classes. Hyken is a customer service expert. He writes:

The one statistic that matters most is if the customer(listener) comes back. You see, customer(listener) loyalty is not about a lifetime. It’s about the next time… Every time! So, what are you doing, at every point of interaction you have with your customers(listeners), to ensure that they come back the next time they need what you do or sell?

How do you think all those stranded motorists felt about their relationship with radio if all they could find up and down their car’s radio dial was automated music and syndicated talk programming?

There’s no doubt in my mind that those motorists who could receive WTOP’s radio signal were kept informed about their situation, but I still remember the words of a local AAMCO Transmission shop owner, who was one of my first radio advertising clients, that said to me how concerned he was to ensure that every local transmission repair owner treated his customers right. He said that all it took was one miscreant to have the consumer label all transmission repair places as “crooks.”

With the plethora of radio signals crowding today’s airwaves, the chances for a bad listener experience has never been greater.

And that should be an industrywide concern.

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