Whatever happened to…

Red Sox CapThe other day, we took two of our grandchildren to a wildlife safari park here in Virginia. It was a simply magical day. But that’s not the part of the story I want to share. It is that both kids were wearing their Boston Red Sox baseball caps.

As we were getting ready to leave we met one of the animal caretakers who screamed “YES!” Then a second later, she exclaimed, “They’re both Red Sox Fans!” Instantly, there was a bond between complete strangers.

Purple People

Minnesota Vikings Mower

I’m convinced that Minnesota Vikings fans bleed purple. I know one whose whole wardrobe is virtually branded with Vikings colors and logos; even his lawn mower.

Sports franchises truly understand the power of their brand and building their fan base.

So, whatever happened to this sort of thing with radio stations?

Eazy 101

Eazy 101 receiverJerry Lee recently sold his only radio station, WBEB in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was 55-years ago this past May that Jerry and his partner David Kurtz put the station on the air. It signed on as WDVR. In the 1980s the call letters were changed to WEAZ and the station was branded as “EZ 101.” The station brand was not only well known, but fixed tuned FM radios were given out by the radio station to area businesses to play the station in their stores and offices.

B101 Bee

When the station updated its format, and changed its call letters again, this time to WBEB and branded itself as “B101.1,” giant bees appeared at events all over the “City of Brotherly Love.”

The End of an Era

Marlin Taylor (no relation) was there from the beginning and recently blogged about the station’s sale to Entercom. His article was titled “End of an Era.” You can read it HERE 

Marlin wrote:

“While I pretty much grew up with a ‘Can Do’ attitude…seeing Jerry in action confirmed that staying pro-active and constantly on the offensive were keys to a meaningful and effective life! If you need proof, just take a look at the 55-year track record of the station at 101.1 on the FM dial in Philadelphia.

There’s no question that Jerry was and is a promoter, pure and simple! And, yes, he’s a Futurist…a person who studies the future and makes predictions about it based on current trends and conditions. I would also add…always looking down the road to see what challenges and opportunities lay ahead, then utilizing (his) assets to most effectively counter-act or benefit from them.”

Familiarity

As Jerry changed his brand over the years to keep his station’s programming and image in vogue with the times and his target listeners, he understood the power of familiarity in attracting and keeping a radio audience tuned to his radio station. Mark Ramsey suggests that “familiarity IS preference.”

morefm rebrandingMost recently, Jerry rebranded his station as “101.1 MoreFM.” This change, like all the others, was promoted in every imaginable way and became familiar to listeners virtually overnight.

wobm bumper sticker

Bumper Stickers

Once upon a time, you couldn’t drive in New Jersey without seeing a WOBM-FM bumper sticker on the car driving in front of you. They were everywhere. They made this station VERY familiar and Paul Most, a former GM of WOBM-FM, always used to say “When you can’t be heard, you’ve got to be seen.”

Arbitron Diary

arbitron diaryOnce upon a time, all radio listening was recorded using a diary, kept by a listener for seven days. Years of diary reviews at the Arbitron headquarters in Maryland proved to me that the radio stations most familiar to their listeners got the most “votes” from their fans.

When PPM measurements were introduced, the importance of unaided recall seemed to take a back seat with radio operators. Best Practices in large radio companies replaced the old tried and true ways of doing things. Radio promotion, except for over a station’s own airwaves, was cut from station budgets.

New Media Platforms

The shiniest new media platform on the block is the smart speaker. A recent research study, “The Smart Audio Report” from NPR and Edison Research, showed that traditional OTA radio was seeing the time people spent with radio, being the most disrupted. smartaudio-chartPeople in the survey said traditional AM/FM radio was the thing most replaced by audio listening via their smart speaker.echo

Having now owned three Amazon Echo smart speakers for six months, I can tell you Alexa is very addictive. But she’s also very precise. To have her serve up what you want to hear, you need to say it correctly, in the exact way she is programmed to understand, or else she will serve up some really bizarre things.

My household pretty much matches the research on why audio consumers love their smart speakers: 1) it’s fast, 2) it’s convenient and 3) it provides great choice.

Brand Promotion

In an interactive voice world, if people are familiar with your brand, they will ask for it by name. If not, the digital assistant will make that choice for you. That will make branding more critical than ever.

This means that the way radio promoted itself to its listeners back before PPM – the unaided diary days – will be the way it will need to promote itself in a world of voice control devices.

“Brands are a risk of being marginalized in a voice driven world, so brand marketing may matter even more.” -Bryan Moffett, COO, National Public Media

branding“Brands now have a chance to behave like human beings, talking, understanding, guiding, empathizing…voice is the single biggest vector of emotion, emotion is the biggest driver of preference. This is a true 1:1 marketing opportunity and a chance to build relationships like never before.” -Mark Paul Taylor, Chief Experience Officer, Global DCX Practice, Capgemini

Jerry Lee never deviated from his proven path of spending on promotion and delivering a quality product.

Everything old is new again, when it comes to branding a winning radio operation.

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AM/FM or just FM?

HD FM Radio ReceiverThere’s something that’s been troubling me for some time. It’s the radio industry’s habit of reporting radio listening results by calling it “AM/FM” versus what it really is, virtually all FM radio listening.

Nieman Lab

Who could not be buoyed by this headline from Nieman Lab: “AM/FM radio holds strong for American listeners.”

But is it true?

When I read the ratings reports from both PPM and diary markets, I see an FM world.

Don’t get me wrong, I grew up on AM radio and recognize that almost every market has a heritage AM radio station that still garners a big audience. I’m not blind to the wonderful ratings of 1010 WINS in New York City for example.

But there are only 26 all-news terrestrial radio stations left in America according to Nieman. This popular format is missing from the majority of America’s radio markets.

WTOP

WTOP logoWTOP was built on AM radio. It moved its entire operation over to the FM band and grew its audience, revenues and lowered its listener demographic. People who never heard this radio station on its AM dial position were suddenly newly minted fans of their all news format.

The FCC Saves AM Radio

The FCC’s mission to save AM radio is to give these radio stations an FM dial position using a translator. What are we really saving? The AM band or a particular format that a radio operator created on the AM band and now, to survive, needs to move it, like WTOP, to the FM side of the dial.

WIP

WIP logoFrom my blogging, I get lots of feedback about a variety of things concerning broadcasting. One reader wrote to me about his father, a sports fan, who turned on WIP-FM to hear the latest chatter. WIP-FM was broadcasting a game of no interest to his father, so his son said to him, why don’t you turn on WIP AM610. Sadly, this person wrote the audio was unlistenable. He wrote: “You’d think the FCC would mandate that AM have standards for audio quality in receivers.”

WSM

WSM logoWhen I was living in Bowling Green, Kentucky, I couldn’t receive 650AM WSM in my office, even though my office looked south and my antenna was able to enjoy a full wall of windows. The noise floor both inside my university office as well as around town while driving in my car made the station unlistenable. WSM was once listened to all the way to Louisville in northern Kentucky. Instead, I downloaded WSM’s app and could enjoy the radio station in crystal clear stereo. (I see WSM has stopped subscribing to Nashville Nielsen Audio ratings.)

BBC

BBC logoThe British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) did a review of the range of services it offered on the AM band (called medium wave across the pond) and it included a financial review of all its services too. They concluded the ROI (return on investment) in AM was not there and announced they would be turning off some 13-AM radio stations in January 2018 according to Radio Business Reports.

WHVO

WHVO logoThere’s a great radio operator in Cadiz, Kentucky by the name of Beth Mann. WHVO is her AM radio station at 1480, but if you go on her website, you won’t find any mention of this station being on the AM radio dial. It’s promoted as WHVO 96.5 & 100.9 FM.

Bottom Line

It’s time to face the fact that AM radio needs to be re-deployed for a new service. Current radio station owners should be given a viable FM dial position that replaces their AM service area, and doesn’t require multiple translators to attempt to accomplish this task. (Note: WHVO needs two translators to deliver the signal of its AM 1480.)

It’s time to allow those same dedicated radio broadcasters to sell off their expensive AM tower sites and turn off their AM stations that consume electrical power with no real ROI.

Ecclesiastes 3

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven…”

AM radio’s time has come and gone as the mass communication delivery system it was from the 1920s to the 1970s, much as radio replaced vaudeville.

To put things in perspective, at a time in America’s radio history when the number of FM signals equaled the number of AM signals on the air, 75% of all radio listening was to FM. So, you can only imagine what it’s like today for AM radio listening when FM signals outnumber AM signals by four and a half times in the USA. (FCC BROADCAST STATION TOTALS AS OF JUNE 30, 2018:  4,633 AM signals / 20,758 FM signals)

That’s why I believe we do no service in promoting radio as “AM/FM” and not being honest about where virtually all of the radio listening is really taking place.

Sadly, AM radio is to broadcasting as coal is to power generation. It was the perfect solution in its day.

 

 

 

 

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Why Do People Love Radio?

We-Love-RadioI read a recent article in Bloomberg about how in an age of cord cutting, where millions of Americans are leaving the cable bundles and abandoning traditional TV, others are staying put.

Why?

The big reason should scare anyone working in ad supported media: “Our customers don’t want to cut the cord because they’d have to give up critical features like the ability to skip commercials…” said Jay Roth, chief marketing officer at Dish Network Corp.

Commercials = Clutter

A former colleague of mine at the university wrote to me the other day about the changes going on in higher education and the field of radio broadcasting. He wrote:

“I’ve also had it with local radio and TV, too. Too many commercials back to back to back – it’s like classified ads. Who remembers the 5th ad in a spot set, even if it is well written? (most are not). Thank goodness for SiriusXM. That’s where I am, unfortunately.”

Here’s the concerning point of sharing my colleague’s comment, this person grew up, worked in and taught AM/FM radio, and is of the age group that should still be “in love” with the business.No Ads

We have plenty of data showing how the younger age groups don’t even own a radio, instead listening to audio content via their smartphone or some other connected device.

So, what makes radio listeners stay?

The Radio Habit

A 2017 Jacobs Media survey found that AM/FM listening is pure habit. 91% of survey respondents said they listened to radio for an hour or more per day, but TV/video and the smartphone usage came in at 87%.AM FM Radio

Digging a little deeper, respondents cited hearing their favorite music and a connection to their favorite air personalities as reasons they listen to AM/FM radio.

Radio’s Free

The 2018 Infinite Dial  study from Edison Research and Triton Digital reported that 82% of respondents who have ridden or driven in a car in the past month listened to traditional car radio.

Pandora For Brands authored a “State of AM/FM Radio: What Advertisers Need to Know” piece that said:

“True, America’s oldest electronic mass medium – AM/FM radio – is still alive, kicking and serving throngs of listeners every day, but it’s also being disrupted by today’s growing digital media landscape. Radio has prospered for so many decades because it’s free, easy-to-use and there are tons of them around. In fact, it used to be the only way to enjoy music without having to invest in a record collection or to hear news, sports and traffic information on-the-go.”

But the real shocker was this data point:

“Currently, people between the ages of 50-60 years old who have mobile devices are spending more time with mobile apps than they are listening to AM/FM radio.”

-Nielsen Total Audience Report, Q1 2017

This age group was raised on AM/FM radio!

New Habits

I bring this all up because we are seeing new habits being formed with the new disruptive media technologies.

It’s like the old saying “Once they’ve seen New York, how are you going to keep them down on the farm?”

Once you experience Netflix or Amazon Prime, it’s hard to return to ad supported TV. And those folks who still buy the cable bundle, do so in part to have a way to eliminate the commercial clutter and to produce a more Netflix type of viewing experience.

Once you listen to your music on Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music or access your music via a smart speaker, you will be hard pressed to go back to a cluttered listening environment.

But the biggest new habit in our short-attention-span world is On Demand.

Whether we are talking about TV or audio, we are now a culture of wanting things when we want them, not when they are served up, and that’s the juggernaut all traditional media are faced with.

Newspapers, television and yes, radio, serve what they want you to have.

Today’s media consumer knows they have choices and they don’t have the time or patience for the way it used to be.

The Future is…

In 1967, the movie “The Graduate” had a scene where the Dustin Hoffman character was taken aside by a family friend who advised him about where the future was for a person his age. The answer was one word: “Plastics. There’s a great future in plastics.”

What might a friend advise a young person today to focus on? Podcasts?

Focus on the Things That Don’t Change

BezosJeff Bezos’ secret sauce has been to focus his efforts on things that would not change.

He said the question that he’s always asked is “What’s going to change in the next 10-years,” but the question that’s rarely asked is “What’s not going to change in the next 10-years?”

It’s that second question he feels is most important.

Bezos doesn’t concern himself with what will change, but on what won’t change. Then working to make those things better and better and better.

With this strategy, Bezos has become the richest man in the world.

This is what the radio industry should be doing.

 

 

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Disruption is Everywhere

disruption aheadI’ve been reading the trades, trying to grasp what is happening, and it is all so very confusing. Have you felt that way too? That’s what a period of disruption looks like. Black is white. Up is down. It’s enough to give you an Excedrin headache.

SiriusXM

Jim Meyer, the CEO of America’s only satellite service reported strong growth in Q2. On his conference call he’s reported as saying that despite the surge in technology over the past ten years, AM/FM radio still attracts a big number of listeners. However, he also feels that the radio industry has a problem and it’s their product. He warns that if AM/FM radio doesn’t vastly improve their product, it will be to their own peril.

The feedback I received from my recent article “Radio & Traveling – Then & Now” that I wrote about in “From the DTB Mailbag…” seems to indicate that Mr. Meyer is not alone in that sentiment.

Streaming

Then I read how just halfway through 2018, streaming is growing at a rate that defies mathematical trends. By that, the writer meant when it comes to percentages, they are usually big when the numbers are small but become smaller as the numbers of people engaged increases.

With this area of streaming, we are seeing BOTH the numbers of people who stream growing with the percentage of people who are now streaming.

That’s a trend worthy of keeping you up at night.

Adoption Curve for Smart Speakers

In my university “Process & Effects of Media Classes” I introduced my students to the work of Everett Rogers and his Diffusion of Innovation Curve. Adoption Curve - Everett Rogers

Rogers studied how innovations with farmers in his native Iowa were adopted. He very soon realized that what he was witnessing occurred in all areas when a new innovation was introduced.

The latest research report from NPR/Edison, “The Smart Audio Report” showed we are into the Early Majority part of the curve with the smart speaker innovation.

Good News, Bad News

The smart speaker innovation has the ability to bring radio listening back into the homeEcho at a time when AM/FM radio is no longer the entertainment focus of the vehicle dashboard, replaced by the entertainment center that resembles the touch screen on your smartphone.

Unfortunately, the smart speaker also delivers an infinite world of audio choices and it is not a given that radio will be the benefactor.

Fred Jacobs basically lays out the fact that radio’s established brands such as a Z100 or a WTOP will find their engagement traversing from over-the-air to over-the-stream and onto smart speakers. I know that in my own case I can receive WTOP over-the-air, but atmospherics can play havoc with the signal at times. Not so with listening to WTOP via Alexa.

The best radio brands with strong listener engagement will grow.

Cord Cutting

The latest numbers indicate that cord cutting (eliminating the cable TV bundle) is growing faster than expected. The latest study from eMarketer  says that we can expect people cutting the cord to grow to 33 million Americans in 2018.

Netflix is now more popular than cable TV.

Jim GaffiganThe other night I watched Jim Gaffigan’s 5th Netflix special called “CINCO.” In his standup comedy routine, he hit the nail on the head about why Netflix is more popular than cable TV. Here’s what Jim said:

“Netflix has definitely made watching television with commercials kind of painful. Takes forever. You’re like, “What am I, growing my own food here? All right, Geico, we get it!” And it’s not just the length or the number of the commercials, it’s what the commercials say about the typical viewer of the show you’re watching. “Catheter? Why would–? Reverse mortgage? Back pain? I do have back pain. You know me so well, television show.”

Changing Habits

What we are witnessing in the current period of media disruption is the changing habits of the audience. They now have choices. Lots & lots & lots of choices.

Baseball, still radio’s #1 sport is seeing the decay of its audience to a myriad of choices to watch or listen to the same game. It’s no longer the monopoly it used to be.

But worse, once you’ve developed the Netflix or Alexa habit, going back to any delivery system that delivers lots of interruptions is, as Jim Gaffigan says, “painful.”

Ad Supported Media’s Future

I believe that there’s a future of ad supported media, but it can’t be done the way it’s currently being done. Podcasts understand this better than broadcast.

Amazon Prime is good at airing program promotions before the movie starts, in much the same way that my local movie theaters do.

And who didn’t enjoy hearing Paul Harvey say “page two?” It would be the first commercial break in his news and commentary but we listened. Because Paul was as engaging with his sponsor’s material as he was with the rest of his broadcast.

And thank you Mr. Harvey for making me want to own a BOSE Wave Radio. I now have two of them. However, I now play my Alexa Dots through them.

Life’s Only Constant

My old boss used to always say, nothing stays the same. You are either getting better or getting worse.

And he was right.

Life’s only constant is change.

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The Radio Talent Institutes 2018

IMG_4130This past week, the KBA WKU Radio Talent Institute began its 10-day run on the campus of Western Kentucky University. It brought back so many wonderful memories of the four years that I was the on-site director for that first expansion of Dan Vallie’s vision for these radio training institutes to take hold all across America.

One-of-a-Kind

The RTI’s are the only program of their kind in the world.

While many in the radio industry talked of doing such a program, the idea never made it past the talking stage until Dan Vallie took the ball and ran with it. I wrote about the birth of the first institute on the campus of Appalachian State University in Radio World and you can read that article by clicking HERE.

And then there were eight…

Dan Vallie makes running these radio talent institutes look easy. They’re not.Dan Vallie

Dan is blessed with a loving wife, Lavonne, who takes care of everything on the home front while Dan’s traveling the country creating new RTIs or preparing the industry professionals to teach for the eight RTIs that currently exist.

Dan and Lavonne make quite a team – in marriage and in the operation of the institutes.

Screening

Every student that completes an application to attend an institute is personally reviewed by Dan. This results in an RTI class made up of each university’s best future broadcasters.

When a broadcaster goes to the National Radio Talent System website looking for talent, the graduates of the RTI program are the cream of the crop.

Students Meet the Pros

The real genius of Dan’s institutes is what takes place outside of the classroom. Every evening, students get together with that day’s industry pros and everyone lets their hair down and talks about radio, goals and life during the nightly social hour.

And there’s no one better to talk with than Dan Vallie himself. He “adopts” each student as one of his own kids, and mentors them tirelessly.

Making Connections

Bud WaltersTo get ahead in any occupation, it’s about who you know as much as what you know. Students in these RTIs come away with the email addresses, direct phone numbers and an open door with dozens of industry movers and shakers who can launch their broadcast career.

Plus, these students become part of a database that allows industry leaders that have participated in the institutes to tap into.

SALES

The radio industry needs people trained in the area of sales, and the institutes spend half of their time focused on this critical industry need. Each student in the program earns their Radio Advertising Bureau Radio Marketing Professional certification.

Whether or not a student’s area of interest is sales or on-air, the understanding of the business nature of radio insures they will be a productive member of any radio organization in all ways.

Teaching the Teacher

I know my students greatly benefitted from the time they invested in going through the four KBA WKU Radio Talent Institutes that I helped launch while I was a broadcast professor at Western Kentucky University. Many of them have gone on to successful broadcast careers.

But I also learned so much from the industry pros that so willingly volunteered their time and talents to come to Kentucky and be a part of that institute.

The learning I came away with made me more equipped to share today’s radio with my students in the classroom during the academic year and at the Broadcast Educational Association meetings.

The hardest job I ever had at the university was the one I loved and remember the most; directing the KBA WKU Radio Talent Institutes.IMG_8485

Sitting next to Dan Vallie was an invaluable learning experience all by itself and radio is so fortunate to have a man of his energy and vision making such a positive impact on the next generation of broadcasters.

Thank You Dan Vallie.

Now it’s time for you and Lavonne to begin working on the 2019 Radio Talent Institutes.

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We’ve All Got Problems

troublesOne of the things you and I have in common, I’m sure, are that we have problems.

The interesting thing about problems is, the problem isn’t the problem.

How we handle the problem, is the problem.

You Have a Choice

How we handle our problems is a choice. Consider these choices from below.

(Note: the column on the left will makes things worse. The column on the right will make things work.)

When confronted with a problem, you can either:

Worse                                                             Work

Be frustrated                                                   Be fascinated

Be disinterested                                              Be Interested

Be anxious                                                       Be excited

Be psyched out                                               Be psyched up

Be afraid                                                         Be brave

Be fidgety                                                        Be focused

Be beaten up                                                   Be up beat

Be unsure                                                        Be secure

Be lazy                                                             Be lively

Attitude

Charles Swindoll said this about attitude:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.

Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.

It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say or do.

It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.

It will make or break a company, a church, a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.

We cannot change the inevitable.

The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.

I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

Sales Success

Surveys of the world’s most successful salespeople, across all companies, confirms that ATTITUDE is the foundation for sales success. Then comes skills and knowledge.

How’s your ‘tude, dude?

Is it time to give yourself a checkup from the neck up?

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From the DTB Mailbag about “Radio & Traveling”

mailbagMy blog article, “Radio & Traveling – Then & Now,” about driving through 23-states over 8-weeks, and what we saw and heard, has generated a lot of reader comments.

The discussion really boils down to two things that are on a lot of people’s minds – content & signal power – I thought you might find it useful to hear what several of those people said. Some comments have been edited for length or language.

Drew Durigan

Drew wrote about his disdain for the same syndicated programs airing on so many signals and “how the proliferation of ‘translators’ has destroyed the FM band.”

Tim Davisson

“When radio stations started streaming, I thought: ‘great! I can hear cool radio from all over the world…’ Then, I clearly remembered how blah & boring and non-companion & non-community local radio had become. And it all seemed to start in 1996…passage of the TelCom bill.”

Jon Levin

“Radio has lost its soul. With the onslaught of audio technologies, sadly it will never get its public interest, convenience and necessity thing back.” (Editor’s note: the concept of operating in the “public interest, convenience and necessity,” for the radio industry cameFRC.png into existence with the creation of the Federal Radio Commission (FRC) in 1929. For a more detailed look into all of this, read “The ‘Public Interest’ Standard: The Search for the Holy Grail.” Click HERE for a link to that document.)

Don Blesse

“I had my own ‘ultimate radio trip’ 49-years ago, and when the interstate highway system was largely incomplete. In subsequent years I’d always take a tape recorder with me and bring back airchecks. Today though I’m pretty much stuck with SXM for long trips. I still love WKXW (NJ 101.5) … hyper-local and still has that ‘show-biz’ feel.”

Tom Ogburn

“I’ve had similar experiences on trips, where we drove long distances, never heard actual call letters mentioned, no local weather or events, or anything else to give a clue as to what station it was, or where it was located.”

Rich O’Reilly

“The bad news is that most local stations are a disaster. The good news is with blue tooth/cellphone technology, I can pipe in most of my favorite local stations (NYC) wherever I am. Being a news buff, I can listen to a WTOP or a KNX where I am too. PS: Agreed on Pat St. John on Sirius.”

Pat St. JohnPat St John

“Well I am so complimented by your kind words Dick. Really spoke to what I try to do.”

(Editor’s note: We took advantage of the SiriusXM two-month free trial for our 8-week America road trip. In our hometown, we drive very little and when we do, we listen to local radio. Alexa has also invaded our home since Christmas 2017. We’re up to three Echoes now.)

Scott Carson

“I can tell which stations are locally owned, and which ones are owned by the big consolidators by scanning the dial before they ever utter a word. The consolidators process their signal to within an inch of their lives. And I can rarely listen longer than a couple of songs before turning it off. They don’t have any local news…or national news for that matter…because consultants tell them not to, even if we are now a society starved for information. Look at how attached people are to their smart phones. There are some great local stations out there still, but sadly, they are few and far between.”

(Editor’s note: I called on an AAMCO transmission shop owner who told me that what he feared most was ANY transmission repair shop doing wrong by the customer. All they remember is transmission shops are crooked forgetting the name of the shop that did them wrong. I believe that same problem exists for radio operators. If, like what Scott wrote, many radio stations are poorly run, the few good ones will be missed as people characterize all radio as being poorly run.)

Rick M Singel

“Dick, one of your best columns ever. Really hit home. Thanks for these perfect insights. Since you mentioned WLW in Cincinnati, have a funny story. Now, EVERY newscast is preceded by “Breaking News” or “Breaking Now.” EVERY single newscast, even if the news is already 2-days old.”Breaking News

(Editor’s note: I complete agree with you. Fox News Channel was the first one I noticed that consistently labeled every story as “Breaking News” and diluted this alert to be meaningless.  When I was growing up, when a TV or radio station said “Breaking News” it was something that made your heart skip-a-beat and it was something that was really important. Not anymore.)

Mike Buxser

“And now the NAB is advocating upping or totally doing away with ownership limits, meaning more vanilla, corporate radio that will take away even more local stations to be replaced by, in a box (radio) with no local content. Radio works when the station personalities connect with the listeners. That connection has always been what made radio special. Unfortunately, that connection is being destroyed.”

Walter Luffman

“Local radio isn’t just for the people who live there. As your Maine example pointed out, a local station has a local sound that reflects the community it serves. Travelers usually want/need to get an idea of the places they visit before they get out of the car. I used to love listening to local stations as I drove through the U.S.; now, like you, I listen to Pat St. John and other SiriusXM personalities who provide that sense of community, even if the ‘community’ is nationwide.”

Michael (last name not given)

LPFM“Great article. “virtually unlistenable.” That’s exactly how to put it. In fact, I’ve commented a few times in the recent past with the same argument. I do lots of traveling between work and family. In addition, my wife and I take short road trips. We have encountered the same thing. I remember way back when, before LPFM and the abundance of translators, I could pick up stations outside the predicted coverage area. Now forget it. If you’re on the fringe or in many cases not; it’s all static (with) two station overlapping. My thought is that this increase in interference will ultimately force people to other means of listening to music – whether SiriusXM or streaming.”

Bob Nestor

“Keep preaching to the mynah birds, Dick. The ‘formerly-in-radio creatures luv ya.”

Jon Holiday

“Here in Denver the FM band was already overcrowded. Now, translators have filled it up even more. I’ve listened to iHeart (CHR) 96.1 KISS-FM (KSME in Ft Collins) for years. Now, due to an FM translator on 96.1 FM licensed to Englewood, CO (a Denver suburb); I now hear KSME and Spanish News KNRV-AM’s FM translator fight for the 96.1 FM frequency. This is ridiculous! How does this even happen?”

John (last name not given)

“1. How it used to be in radio, is like reading about WWII to me, boring and too far gone. 2. I agree that local wins, the LPFMs have filled that hole. 3. You road trip must have been awesome, I want.”

Daniel Tremblay

“Thanks for the article! I miss that too, here in Canada near the border, we used to listen to WABC, WKBW Buffalo, WPTR Albany among others, when on vacation in Maine or New Jersey. There was great local radio too. Next time on vacation I will probably have to support the idea to subscribe to SiriusXM Radio. My daughter has Sirius in her car and Pat St. John is fantastic! Real air personality, real people, real radio!”

John Shomby

“Being one who grew up listening to some great radio in my hometown of Philadelphia and having the great opportunity to do lots of local radio over the years and now being a part of one of those ‘conglomerates,” I definitely have seen and heard how we’ve ‘homogenized’ ourselves over the past two decades, it’s big business now…it wasn’t then. Technology changes almost by the minute now…it didn’t then. Companionship now is defined by ‘likes’ and ‘followers.’ Radio has always been a key fabric of our society – then and… unfortunately, now. It’s those who can create the PERSONAL connection with that one individual who will continue to succeed…no matter what the playlist looks like. That’s where we are hurting ourselves. Radio Talent InstituteThank God for Dan Vallie and the Radio Talent Institute. The closest thing to developing new radio stars that we have. You experienced that personally, Dick. (Editor’s note: I was the founding director of the KBA/WKU Radio Talent Institute in Kentucky.) Let’s take a page out of the Major League Baseball team handbook and create a farm system where we can develop that raw talent who can take it from here. That’s our future.”

Dick Taylor

I chose John Shomby’s comments to end this tip toe through the mail bag article. Here’s how I responded to what John wrote: “Yes, Dan Vallie’s Radio Talent Institute is wonderful. I believe we need to start cultivating the talent farm system when students are in junior high/high school and have a way of allowing them to enter the industry without having a college degree. Most of our great radio talents, sales people and managers did not possess a college degree.

So many told me they would love to follow in my footsteps by teaching at a college or university. Both my undergraduate and graduate degrees are in education. When I started teaching at Western Kentucky University, a master’s degree was considered a terminal degree for the School of Journalism and Broadcasting.

Today, colleges want PhD’s, so they are making it even worse for new talent to be mentored by industry pros. (You don’t need a PhD to do great radio.)

This needs to change for the health of the radio industry and quickly.”

In Conclusion

Two things are key to radio’s future: 1) Like what happened to the AM radio band in terms of rising noise floor and signal interference, is now plaguing the FM band. For the health of the radio industry this needs to be addressed now. 2) People love listening to, and are loyal to, radio that provides them with community and companionship. That’sdan-ingram why when Dan Ingram passed away on June 24th, for many, the radio world stopped turning. (He signed off Music Radio 77 WABC in May of 1982 and later did weekends for another 12-years on WCBS-FM ending in June 2003.)

People love TV shows not television stations.

People love radio stations BECAUSE of the connection radio personalities form between the radio listener and the radio station.

 

 

 

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