Category Archives: Sales

Great Radio Starts in the Station’s Hallways

Once upon a time, a radio station had a team of people fully focused and dedicated to a single radio signal. Think of the incredible radio stations you listened to in your youth: WABC, WKBW, WRKO, WLS, WPRO, WDRC, KHJ, KFRC, CKLW, etc. These were standalone radio stations with dedicated staffs that numbered ten or more times larger than today’s radio clusters, which are made up of 4 or more stations.

WBEC

When I was on-the-air and in programming/operations for AM1420-WBEC, it was the only radio station I was concerned about. When the owner added an FM signal to our operation, he hired a dedicated air staff and programmer to oversee this new signal.

In my car, in my home, in my office, you could here WBEC playing. I remember the programmer of our new FM station grousing that his station was not being heard anywhere in the building but his own radio studio.

WUPE/WUHN

When I moved into sales at Whoopee Radio, our programming was simulcast on both our AM and FM signals. When ownership decided to split the AM and FM into separate formats, I was promoted to general manager of the AM station and went about hiring air personalities and a sales staff for our new Radio One – WUHN. Only our broadcast engineer and office staff would be shared by both operations.

On my side of the building all you heard playing was WUHN and on the other side it was WUPE.

KOEL AM/FM, KCRR & KKCV

When I got to Iowa as Market Manager of a four station cluster, the sound of any one of the radio stations playing was hit and miss in the common areas, but each station had its own dedicated staff, completely focused on their operation. Again, only office and engineering staff were shared.

Radio Clusters in 2022

People wonder why Christian Radio and Public Radio stations are often the most successful radio operations in markets across America. I don’t wonder. What I see are radio operations that hearken back to the way I started in radio, an entire staff, 100% focused on a single radio station.

In these radio stations, the programming can be heard in the hallways, bathrooms and coming out of every office.

In my Capstone Class at the university, I would take my students to see how different radio and TV stations operated in the area. The differences in equipment, staffing, and facilities were always enlightening. Everyone in these stations could be seen jumping from one station to another, many had programs they hosted on more than one signal.

What never ceased to amaze me however, was when you went into our local public radio station or our local Christian radio station, the energy was palpable. Everyone in these radio stations were dedicated to the mission of the station. They didn’t just broadcast their formats, they lived and breathed them.

Culture always changes in the hallways,

before it changes out the speakers.

-John Frost

When John Frost asked in his weekly blog, “if your radio station went off the air, would anyone care,” it got me to thinking about what makes for a successful operation. Be it a business, sports team, or even a radio station, if you don’t have that spirit of a shared mission with a defined goal that everyone’s working towards, you won’t ever be a success.

Radio broadcasting is an emotional art form. If you don’t feel that emotion in the hallways of your operation, you’ve entered a radio station that is dying.

Radio is not dead, but many radio stations are on life support.

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Radio’s Leaking Listeners

The results of Techsurvey 2022* was presented in a webinar this week and two things about the latest data and the trend lines of the last five years struck me.

“We have met the enemy and it is us.”

-Pogo

Walt Kelly coined that phrase in a poster he made for an anti-pollution poster for the first Earth Day in 1970. He would later repeat it in a comic strip he created for the second Earth Day in 1971.

Sadly, the similarities between what needs to be done to preserve our planet and the radio industry are striking. We all know what the answer is, but aren’t applying the solution.

Personalities

Jacobs pointed out that “over the past four surveys, broadcast radio personalities have stayed ahead of the music as a key attribute of the medium.”

Yet, the big radio owners have done more to eliminate the very advantage broadcast radio has over its many audio competitors. Worse, our industry has no plan to create a farm team of new broadcasters that will replace personalities that are retiring or have retired.

Instead radio has tried to compete in areas where, at best, it’s a distant second; like music discovery.

Besides Personalities Radio’s Positives are Under Attack

Radio, we are told is easiest to listen to in the car. Unfortunately, when a person buys a new car, they learn SiriusXM is just as easy to access. Plus now everything on their smartphone easily connects to their dashboard. In fact, Fred Jacobs points out that in Techsurvey 2022 the feature most wanted in a new car is Bluetooth (76%) followed by an FM radio (70%) and having a smartphone connector or auxiliary input (57%).

My first blog article of 2022 told how even with older cars, like our 2009 Honda and 2006 Subaru how easy it was to make them connected cars. You can read that article here. https://dicktaylorblog.com/2022/01/09/why-i-stream-all-my-radio-listening/

It doesn’t take a Mensa to realize that this is another hole in the radio listening bucket.

Radio is “free,” with the tradeoff being forced to listened to very long commercial breaks, which radio listeners say is the thing they most dislike about listening to broadcast radio.

Radio’s covenant with its listeners was, you give us your attention to our advertisers, and we will entertain and inform you. Sadly, radio owners kept adding more commercials to each hour while eliminating the very programming elements that attracted listeners.

There’s nothing wrong with advertising, that is when it is in balance with programming content sought by the user. Podcasts understand this and enjoy increasing listening with advertisers seeing a positive benefit from sponsoring them.

Trends

No one called Paul Revere’s warning that the British were coming as being negative, and neither should anyone who cares about the radio broadcasting industry call those who are trying to promote positive change, “negative.”

Techsurvey 2022 should be a wake-up call to radio people with trends that show eight in ten people that can now connect a smartphone in their cars. Those who own a car with a “connected system” now spend the majority of the in-car time with digital audio or SiriusXM.

The car is the last beachhead that broadcast radio has left, and it is under Sirius attack.

SiriusXM

Techsurvey 2022, like all the surveys that have been done before, use as their database, fans of radio broadcasting. They are the core of our industry and so when we see these folks leaving us for other forms of media, it’s like seeing the canary in the coal mine lying on the floor of its cage.

One of the reasons given by people who still listen to broadcast radio, as to why they continue to listen is, it’s become a habit. When a person buys a new connected car and gets SiriusXM to listen to for free, what is happening is that a new habit is being formed. Not only do they now have access to a myriad of content options, but often their favorite radio personality might be rediscovered hosting one of the music channels.

During the pandemic, SiriusXM removed the paywall for their App as well as listening on a smart speaker, both of which had been available for an extra charge. What Fred Jacobs showed on his webinar was how this positively impacted listening at home, at work and other places for the satellite provider. The habit of listening to SiriusXM was now something that could be done everywhere, and that should keep any radio broadcaster awake at night.

The tipping point is that magic moment

when an idea, trend, or social behavior

crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.

-Malcolm Gladwell

I fear we are at the tipping point.

*Watch the full presentation of Fred Jacobs webinar on Techsurvey 2022 here: https://jacobsmedia.com/techsurvey-2022-results/  

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What Business is RADIO In?

This question was last asked at the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Show in 2019, before a two year shutdown of the world due to a global pandemic. I don’t remember what answer they came up with back then, but no one foresaw the changes that COVID-19 would bring into our lives.

The question was visited again in one of the opening sessions at this year’s NAB Show in Las Vegas and the answer can be boiled down to two words, “very different.”

New Media Behaviors

COVID changed the nature of how people do their jobs, and this got me thinking how my own life changed with my retirement.

From my high school days in the 60s until 2010, I worked six to seven days a week in the radio industry. If I wasn’t listening to my own radio stations, I was listening to the competition.

In 2010, I transitioned into my second career as a college broadcast professor, teaching the process and effects of mediated communications, the history of broadcasting, broadcast sales, on-air radio production and the program’s Capstone management course.

My radio listening was mainly in my car, as my college building wasn’t conducive to receiving over-the-air radio signals, so when I was working in my office I streamed smooth jazz from my iPad to the aux input on my radio.

When I retired from my second career, got married and moved to Virginia, my radio habits would change again, as well as my television habits. Now all of my media would be accessed via streaming on the internet.

The Future of Work Impacts the Future of Radio

Without evening thinking about it, as the nature of my work changed, my media habits were greatly impacted by those changes.

Looking at the future of radio, new studies done by CivicScience really opened my eyes. Their studies have found that 44% of people who listen to radio have changed their habits over the past 12 months.

People are now listening to more audio content via internet streaming, they’re listening at different times of the day, their consumption of podcasts have increased, and while 20% say they are listening more often, a whopping 34% say they are listening less often.

Listening More or Listening Less

When CivicScience looked deeper into the reason people are listening less to radio, they found that the location of where people worked played a big role. Of the 51% that said they listened to radio less, they also were part of the group that was working remotely (i.e. from home) or were unemployed.

Since so much of today’s radio consumption occurs in the vehicle, people who work from home are spending less time in their cars and therefore less time listening to radio.

Post-Pandemic Work Choices

When CivicScience asked people what their future work preferences were after COVID, only 24% said they wanted to return to their office full-time. 37% wanted to work from home full-time and 40% said a mix of in office and at home would be their preference going forward.

These findings present radio operators with a real dilemma. The radio industry depends on a working age population all moving to and from work at the same time, hence the reason that both morning and after drive radio time sales have always commanded more dollars than middays, nights, overnights and weekends.

Moreover, people who stream their audio content are the people who prefer to either work entirely from home or have some kind of hybrid office/work-from-home situation. They represent 75% of the workforce in this study.

Global Supply Chain Disruptions

The global pandemic and the war in Ukraine have caused major disruptions to the global supply chain. For example, GM announced they would be having a two week shutdown at its plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana (it produces the popular Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks) due to a shortage of computer chips. While Russia and Ukraine don’t produce any of the computer chips that are in such short supply, Ukraine is the world’s leading supplier of neon, a gas used in the production of computer chips.

Company business models work on the premise that resources of materials and goods move freely across geography. Both COVID and a war have totally disrupted the way the world was operating. Long term, we will adapt, but the immediate future won’t be pretty.

Now, take this one example and apply it to virtually every area of our lives and you can see how complex things have become.

An Ecosystem-Driven World

Radio used to be such an easy business, just beat the other radio station in town and steal as many advertising dollars from the local newspaper as possible.

Every radio station was like its own little fiefdom, but now in 2022 every radio station is part of a very large media ecosystem and the competitive advantage is no longer how efficient you can run your operation but how connected you are to your listeners on all devices and via all platforms; connections that go far beyond your FCC license to operate an AM or FM radio service to your local community.

For me, Apple is not my iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, Mac or Apple TV, it’s the ecosystem that all of my devices operate on. For me, that’s what is most important.

What makes our ecosystem-drive world so hard to navigate is that everything is in a continuous state of flux. This makes our deciding what we should pursue unclear, and whether other media properties are opponents or an ally.

“Competitive Advantage” is no longer the sum of all efficiencies, but the sum of all connections.

  Strategy, therefore, must be focused on deepening and widening

networks of information, talent, partners and consumers.

-Greg Satell

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Subscription Media

The inspiration for this week’s article came from a blog written by Fred Jacobs titled “When will ‘Netflixification’ Come To Radio?” Fred’s article revolved around Netflix’s innovation of a subscription model for its entertainment offerings, which got me to thinking about when the subscription business model for media began.

The Subscription Model

We would have to journey back to the 17th century to find the earliest records of book and periodical publishers pioneering a subscription business model for print media.

The subscription business model is one where the customer

pays a recurring price

at regular intervals to access a product of service.

Most recently, Apple is said to be working on a subscription model for its hardware; iPhones, iPads, computers etc. Why? Well customers are good, but it turns out that subscribers are even better. Emarsys’s Chris Gooderidge writes that over the last nine years, “the subscription economy has grown nearly 6x (more than 435%),” with subscription businesses growing five to eight times faster than those with a traditional business model. The two years the world closed down due to COVID only served to accelerate companies’ and consumers’ digital transformation.

On Demand & Subscriptions

What most of us want, as consumers, is convenience. We want what we want, when we want it. The subscription business model fulfills this desire. It enables us to listen to music or play games, as well as watch TV shows and movies.  

The more customers gain a taste

of truly personalized repeat services,

tailored specifically to them…

they won’t want to go back to what they had before.

-Chris Gooderidge

Subscription Radio

In 1923, in Dundee, Michigan, an early radio entrepreneur offered subscribers a wired radio system, that would provide radio programs from several radio stations for $1.50 a month; which would be $24.75/month in 2022. While it didn’t succeed, it was the precursor to what later would become the cable television industry.

Subscription Television (STV)

Back in the 60s, over-the-air television experimented with a subscription model. Companies in Connecticut and California each found themselves in court with theater owners when they developed a subscription business model that offered recent movies to be viewed in the home. The battle in Hartford, Connecticut made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

In the end, the pay television model was taken over by cable television, which learned in addition to providing a community antenna to receive distant broadcast television signals, could also create original programming. These new program channels could be offered on a subscription basis, like CNN, ESPN, The Weather Channel etc.

Is a Subscription-Based Business Model Right for You?

Like most questions along these lines, the answer is: it depends.

The subscription model is dependent on products and services that have a high perceived value to the consumer. (Note: things offered for “FREE” often don’t have a high perceived value)

On the blog, Billing Platform, they list four common successful subscription based business models:

  1. Consumables and Retail Models in Subscription Billing: companies like Dollar Shave Club and Blue Apron
  2. As-a-Service Subscription Billing Models: companies like Microsoft with their Office 365 and Dropbox
  3. Digital Entertainment Subscription Billing Models: companies like Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Peacock etc for video and Spotify, Pandora, Radio Tunes etc for audio
  4.  Maintenance and Repair Subscription Billing Models: companies like landscaping, pest control, heating & cooling, as well as other common maintenance needs

Peak Subscription

Which brings us to the million dollar question, when do we max out on all of these monthly/annual subscriptions? When do we reach, “peak subscription;” that light-bulb moment when we realize we need to start eliminating some of these expenses.

It was that very question that finally got me to sit down and review our monthly household subscriptions and total things up. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do anyway, but Fred’s blog was the spark that put me in action.

Here’s our entertainment subscription list:

  • Amazon Prime
  • Frndly TV
  • Netflix
  • Disney+
  • Apple TV+
  • Washington Post
  • Time Magazine
  • The Atlantic
  • Consumer Reports
  • Radio Tunes
  • Pandora Premium
  • Sling TV

Now, to make most of these digital entertainment subscriptions work, we need to subscribe to an internet service and since we use many of these services on our iPhones, we also need to add in our monthly call/text/data plan too.

Our monthly cost is $228 or $2,736 annually.

Fred reveals that in the upcoming Techsurvey 2022, two-thirds of the people in his survey now agree with the statement, “I am concerned about the growing number of subscription fees I’m paying for media content.”

I urge you to sit down with your bills and do an audit of your household’s entertainments subscription expenses. If you are like us, you didn’t subscribe to all of them at the same time, but added them one-by-one over a period of years.

Sophie’s Choice

The problem for all of us, comes to making a “Sophie’s Choice” of our media subscriptions. We love them all and trying to decide which ones to eliminate is NOT an easy decision.

What one learns when they are faced with this decision is that we are “happily hooked” on all of them.

Commercial radio and TV operators also need to realize as the subscription economy for entertainment continues to grow, the number of hours in a person’s day is finite, and our time with subscription media means little is left over for OTA radio/TV.

People will spend their time, on those media services

they spend their money with.

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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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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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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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