Tag Archives: Fred Jacobs

What Comes First? Radio Job or College Degree?

The reason I write my blog is to stimulate discussion about what radio needs to be doing to not just survive, but thrive in the 21st Century. If things weren’t hot enough after I published last week’s blog article, “No College Degree Required,” they got even hotter after Fred Jacobs expanded on my thoughts in his Monday blog article titled: “Want To Succeed In Radio? Get That Degree.” Let’s hope all the discussion that occurred on both of our blogs and on social media leads our industry’s leaders to make some meaningful changes.

How I Got Into Professional Radio

Just about everyone my age (69) who got into the radio business, did so while still in high school. For me, the entrance door was via Junior Achievement. JA was just beginning to experiment with the idea of having service companies. The Junior Achievement program was created to help high school students understand the principles of running a business by selling stock ($1), forming a company, deciding on what product to make, making that product, selling that product and then liquidating the company and returning (hopefully) a monetary value greater than the $1 invested by the stockholders; all during a single school year.

One of the local radio stations in my town, came to my 10th grade high school assembly and made a presentation about forming a JA Radio Company. I set my sights on being in it, and made the cut. One of my best friends also made the cut and has retired from a very successful radio and voice-over career of 50 years.

My College Years

I was the GM of my college’s carrier current AM radio station and worked to secure an educational FM license before graduating. WJJW remains on the air to this day at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

I was a commuter student with no student loans, but back in 1970, such a thing was more the norm than the exception. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 1970-71 academic year, the average in-state tuition and fees for one year at a public non-profit university was $394. By the 2020-21 academic year, that amount jumped to $10,560, an increase of 2,580%.

How Other Industries Treat College & Their Best Employees

In other industries, it’s not uncommon for companies to actually pay for their best employees to earn their college degrees in order to further their advancement. I know a person that learned his computer skills in the military and works for a military contractor in DC. He’s been working with the highest level of military leaders at the Pentagon as well as with members of Congress. After 17 years of constant achievement, his company is paying for him to complete his college degree. He currently maintains a 4.0 GPA.

His degree, ironically, won’t even be in the area that he works in, but in an area that gives him passion outside of his job.

Just-In-Time-Learning

The point of my article wasn’t to dis getting a college education, but for our radio industry to begin recruitment and training at the high school level. Radio needs to be a way for talented individuals to be exposed to what a wonderful business radio is, and have a way to enter without being screened out by a computer algorithm looking for a college degree. (You can’t see talent on a spreadsheet.)

Clear Channel used to run a wonderful training program called Clear Channel University. It succumbed to one of the many rounds of budget cuts.

The RAB’s Radio Talent Institute is an excellent program and my point was it should be run in the high schools across America.

Companies interested in retaining and growing their best employees should be making higher education opportunities a company benefit, what I like to call “just-in-time-learning.”

When the NAB offered a Sales Management Program through the Wharton School, I paid my own way and went. I already had an undergraduate degree from a four year college and a master’s degree from a university, but I never had the specific training that this program offered for the job I had been promoted into.

The owner of the radio stations I worked for at the time, provided a lot of training for its people. We attended the annual Managing Sales Conference hosted by the RAB. I earned my CRMC, Diamond CRMC and CDMC from the Radio Advertising Bureau.

I always told my college students that their degree wasn’t the end of their learning, but the launchpad to a life of learning. Every year of your life, learn something new, experience something new, grow your knowledge in life.

Think about what you can add to your resume that will make you a more valuable person to your company, your family and yourself.

Not Every Job Is For Every Person, Regardless of Their College Degrees

A comment made by Tom Langmyer said it best; that at the core, it all comes down to the person. Having a PhD doesn’t equal a great air personality or salesperson.

The hardest part is expecting the same result when sending 10 people to university for Broadcasting/Media. So much is about the person.

Success on the content and sales side relies so much more upon the candidate’s personality, makeup, drive, ambition, chemistry, life experiences, ability to engage and activate people, etc.

Those are attributes which additional education can enhance, but if one does’t have those natural abilities, anything including a PhD in broadcast media, is worthless.

-Tom Langmyer

My success as a GM in hiring was to first hire for attitude and then train the person for the job that needs to be done.

When the raw talent at affordable prices is sitting in high school classrooms today, why is the radio industry waiting till college to begin recruiting?

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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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P E R S O N A L I T Y

In 1959*, Lloyd Price released the song “Personality.”

It was about a girl and what made her special.

Here’s a sample:

            ‘Cause you got personality

            Walk, with personality

            Talk, with personality

            Smile, with personality

            Charm, with personality

            Love, with personality

With the exception of a daypart or two, it’s what most radio lacks today – PERSONALITY.

Rewound Radio

Every Saturday, Rewound Radio, a streaming-only radio station features its “DJ Hall of Fame.” They are air checks of some of America’s best radio personalities, like Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy, Robert W. Morgan, Charlie Tuna, The Real Don Steele and so many more. While everyone of the personalities I just mentioned are now in radio heaven, their recorded radio shows sound as vibrant and exciting as ever. That’s why people from all over the globe dial in to hear them, and not just radio people, radio listeners who grew up with them.

People like me.

Techsurvey 2022

So, it wasn’t really a surprise when Fred Jacobs gave us a sneak preview of his latest research on why people listen to over-the-air (OTA) radio.

People today listen to OTA radio for the very same reason that they always have, to hear their favorite radio personality. The unfortunate thing is, the radio industry talks the talk, but doesn’t really walk the talk.

Radio’s ultimate strength as a medium is dependent

on the power and popularity of its personalities.

-Fred Jacobs

Club DJs

When I walk the boardwalks in New Jersey, Delaware or Maryland in the summertime, you can’t help but be very aware of how important it is for each club to have a popular DJ. Club DJs get people dancing, having fun and spending their money in that particular club for hours.

The longer club patrons stay, the more money club owners make.

The reality is the role of a Club DJ could be easily automated and the music would be non-stop, but it is the special magic a live personality delivers that makes all the difference. Great performers make people feel things. They deliver an emotional experience that can’t be duplicated by automation.

“People are always neglecting something they can do

in trying to do something they can’t do.”

-Edgar Watson Howe

Living in a VUCA World

The world today is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous; it’s a VUCA existence. Many businesses are told they must innovate or die.

In radio’s race to stay relevant, it tries to compete with streaming audio services, where at best it can only be second best when it plays on their terms. What OTA radio should be heavily investing in is the development and promotion of outstanding, compelling, relatable radio talent.

“Treat talent with respect.

They are the reason radio remains so important.”

-Lori Lewis

Family Feud

Sue & I love watching Family Feud with Steve Harvey. This TV game show debuted on ABC on July 12, 1976 with host Richard Dawson. It would be broadcast for nine years before the network pulled the plug,  but would continue to air periodically over the following decades. The show has had six hosts, but only its original host and the current host have seen the show be an audience hit.

In fact, it was when Steve Harvey took over as host in 2010, that Family Feud was finally resuscitated. His hosting abilities with his stand-up comedy and radio background has the audience always wondering what he will say next and almost always producing laugh-out-loud moments on the game show. It also doesn’t hurt that Steve Harvey is as nice as he seems. Being genuine is always an asset in the media world.

I said there were six hosts of this show over the years, Richard Dawson was the first and Steve Harvey is the current host, but you probably can’t name the other four without looking it up on Google. And that’s my point.

Personalities are the difference maker.

Radio leaders talk a good game when it comes to telling us how important local talent is to the power of great radio, but it’s time they put their investment monies where their mouths are, by hiring and training the next generation of radio performers.

It’s time for the radio industry to focus on a change that matters.

Family Feud Hosts: Richard Dawson, Ray Combs, Louie Anderson, Richard Karn, John O’Hurley and Steve Harvey.
*Note: an earlier version of this post stated the date of Lloyd Price’s hit record “Personality” as 1957. It was updated to 1959 after a reader pointed out this error.

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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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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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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 is The Future of Radio?

Ten years ago, I was in Las Vegas presenting at the Broadcast Education Association’s annual international conference. My presentation was called “This Changes Everything.” It outlined things that would be changing in our world in the decade to come.

“Prediction is difficult…especially about the future.”

-Yogi Berra

Remembering 2011

2011 was the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, and already we were witnessing a world where mediated communication was social, global, ubiquitous and cheap. It was the beginning of the social media revolution.

Groupon, which came into existence only a couple of years earlier, grew its revenue to over $1.6 billion in 2011. And yet, the doomsayers were already forecasting its demise. As this chart shows, revenues for Groupon did drop below 2011, but not until 2020.

A contributing factor to this downward revenue trend for Groupon might be that it’s estimated that only about 1% of Groupon users ever became regular customers of the businesses whose coupons they used.

TWITTER

A decade ago, Twitter was the most popular social media platform with more Fortune 100 companies using Twitter than any other social media platform.

As we begin the third decade of the 21st century, we know that the previous decade will now be known most for the impact of Facebook, not Twitter, when it comes to social media dominance.

Media Adoption Rates

In 1920, the adoption rate for commercial AM radio was incredibly fast, only to be eclipsed by the introduction of TV. However, both of these two forms of communication would be dwarfed by the adoption rates of the internet followed by the use of mobile internet made possible by the smartphone.

These last two brought about revolutionary changes in how we communicate.

In fact, the famous Maslow “Hierarchy of Needs” pyramid, might be updated to look like this:

How the World is Connected to the Internet

At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, 85% of the world’s population connected to the internet via wireless mobile devices.

To put that into perspective, only 80% of the world was connected to an electrical grid in 2011.

Today, 92.6% or 4.32 billion people connect to the internet wirelessly.

Top Three Gadgets of All Time

A decade ago, The History Channel came out with a list of the “Top Gadgets of All Time” and they were:

  1. Smartphone
  2. Radio
  3. Television

Hat Tip to Mary Meeker

None of these things were a secret, but it was Mary Meeker that tied all of these changes together in her presentation “Internet Trends 2011.” Her presentations are worth your time to view. The most recent one being 2019, before COVID19 disrupted everything. You can view that presentation HERE

What we do know is COVID19 took all of the changes that were slowly taking place and accelerated them dramatically. Think “warp speed.”

The big three takeaways from 2011 were:

  1. Every media consumer is now a media producer
  2. Smartphones are changing the world of mediated communications
  3. Media is now social, global, ubiquitous and cheap

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

-General Eric Shinseki, retired Chief of Staff, U.S. Army

What Technology Might a Baby Born Today, Never Use?

Let me throw out some thought starters for you to consider. Please feel free to add to this list.

  • Wired home internet
  • Dedicated cameras
  • Landline telephones
  • Slow-booting computers
  • Dialup Internet
  • Hard Drives
  • Electric typewriters
  • Movie Theaters
  • Computer Mouse
  • Remote Controls
  • Desktop computers
  • Phone numbers
  • Prime Time TV
  • Fax machines
  • Optical disks
  • Record player
  • Cassette player
  • CD Player
  • VCR or DVR
  • Radio
  • ?????

“My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary. Sure, it was great to make a profit, because that – was what allowed you to make great products – but the products, NOT THE PROFITS, were the motivation.”

-Steve Jobs

So, What’s the Future of Radio?

In 2011, one hundred college students were surveyed about what they believed the future of radio was, here were their top three positive comments and their top three negative comments:

POSITIVE COMMENTS

  1. Radio will re-invent itself. It is always evolving.
  2. Radio has a bright future as long as there are cars. It’s the first choice for drivers.
  3. Satellite Radio will expand as subscriptions become cheaper.

NEGATIVE COMMENTS

  1. Devices are coming out that will allow iPods and MP3 players to be played in cars.
  2. Smartphones will gradually take over radio entertainment.
  3. The only time people listen to radio is in their cars. Even then, they have CDs & MP3s.

Radio’s Car Radio Paranoia

Then Fred Jacobs came out with a blog this week about the seemingly bleak future for AM/FM radio in cars. You can read that HERE

At the annual CES (Consumer Electronic Show) Fred’s been asking about the future of car radio every year, and noticed that more recently auto manufacturers are reluctant to give a direct answer if there might come a day when AM/FM car radios won’t be standard equipment.

For Elon Musk and Tesla, that day is already here.

How to Build Brands

Ernest Dichter is known as the father of motivational research. Over 50 years ago he did a large study on word-of-mouth persuasion that revealed the secrets of how to build brands. Dichter said there are four motivations for a person to communicate about a brand:

  1. Product-Involvement: the experience had to be so novel and pleasurable that it must be shared with others.
  2. Self-Involvement: people want to share the knowledge or opinions, as a way to gain attention, have inside information, or assert superiority.
  3. Other-Involvement: a person wants to reach out and help to express neighborliness, caring or friendship. They are often thought of a “brand evangelists.”
  4. Message-Involvement: the message is so humorous or informative that it deserves sharing.

“Win the hearts of the people, their minds will follow.”

-Roy H. Williams

So, if you are in the radio business, OR are a radio listener, the question you need to honestly ask yourself is:

How does your brand measure up?

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2021 – Year of The Great Reassessment

When the novel coronavirus turned our world upside down, life as we had known it was dramatically changed. About the closest thing I can compare it to was when I made the decision to retire, move from Kentucky to Virginia and get married; again.

Time to Retire

All my life I had witnessed stories in movies and on TV about people retiring. I remember my own dad being forced to retire at the age of 65, because back in the 70s General Electric Company had a mandatory retirement policy. It seemed like something people planned and looked forward to, and now, after a decades long career in broadcasting and then as a professor at a university, I had arrived. My wife and I planned out two years’ worth of road trips to see America from the ground. As a flight attendant for Delta, she had flown over most of the United States, but like me, longed to see it up close and personal; as can only be done from driving the highways and byways of this great land.

Life in Retirement

I will admit that retirement brings with it, major lifestyle changes, and I truly have learned to enjoy all of it. As an example, in the summer, pool aerobics takes place in an outdoor pool bathed in the warmth of the morning sun. What’s not to like about that?

COVID-19

You might think that a retired person’s life couldn’t have changed much when COVID-19 appeared, and the world closed down. Wrong! Those pool exercise programs were terminated, our planned cruise to Alaska via Canada was cancelled as the border between our countries closed, trips to visit our children and grand children were transformed into ZOOM visits and like everyone else we wore masks, used lots of hand sanitizer and took advantage of senior shopping hours (usually from 6-7am) which meant having to get up with an alarm clock once again.

Lifestyle Changes

The global pandemic brought lifestyle changes to the world that were as dramatic as retirement. It’s why after sitting in on the latest Fred Jacobs webinar, TechSurvey 2021, it was this single slide that made the most impact on me.

When radio station listeners were asked why they spent less time listening to radio, the number one and two responses were basically the same: Lifestyle Change.

People were spending less time in their cars as many were now working from home, going to school from their bedroom and meals were now being prepared in the house kitchens versus dining out.

Most people listened to traditional radio in their automobile, because it may be the only radio they own and when “Work From Home” (WFH) became the norm, car usage plummeted.

So, what did we do at home while we were sequestered? We streamed everything: movies, TV shows, music, newspapers, magazines, and visiting friends and relatives, were all made possible via internet.

The last time the world saw so many important structural changes as we’re experiencing today, was in the 1920s; a time when commercial radio was born, and a time when people were yearning for change after experiencing a two year global pandemic from the “Spanish Flu.”

Reassessing the Meaning of Life

The disruption brought with COVID-19 has caused many people to really think about what’s important in their life. This great reassessment is going on at all levels of the American economy causing many people to decide if they want to do something different with their lives. People have realigned their priorities when it comes to what’s important to them, and what makes for a happy, fulfilling life.

Sixty-six percent of unemployed people in a recent Pew Survey said they had “seriously considered” changing their field of work, which might help to explain why certain businesses are having a hard time re-hiring workers as COVID vaccinations are re-opening our economy.

Reassessing Media Usage

The sequestering at home saw, according to TechSurvey 2021, that streaming video services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ saw a 35% increase in use, followed by a 15% increase in usage of streaming music services like Spotify and Pandora, as well as spending time on social media. Video gaming was up 13% and the radio station that sent these radio listeners this year’s TechSurvey showed a 10% increase.

It’s important to note that the people who love listening to radio, put listening to their favorite radio personality ahead of hearing their favorite music as the reason they listen.

 The Lego Lesson

Now you might be thinking that as a radio owner/manager “I need to be doing more.” That seems to be human nature when anyone is contemplating how to beat their previous performance; whether that means increasing audience ratings or bottom line revenues.

Let me tell you about a study where participants were asked to modify a structure built with Legos. Most participants added more bricks – our gut instinct that to do better, it will take more of something – but the better strategy it turns out was to remove a few Lego bricks from the structure.

When it comes to improving your radio operation, might you find a better result by subtracting rather than adding? When you keep things simple focusing on those things that made you successful, magic happens.

It was true when radio was born, and it’s even more important today, but don’t take my word for it, listen to what radio listeners say is the main reason they’re still listening in the latest TechSurvey.

Radio’s most important assets are its air personalities.

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You Can’t Make an Elephant into a Giraffe

Let’s face it, somethings in life are what they are. Giraffe’s have long necks and elephants have big ears, big feet and trunks. Just as pickup trucks were designed for a different purpose than speed boats. So, why do we think that radio can somehow defy the natural order and become something that it was never designed to be?

Work on Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses

One of the lessons I learned in classes at Clear Channel University* was how people often focus on their weaknesses and try to improve them. However, studies have shown that when we focus on our strengths, we grow faster than when we try to improve our weaknesses. Added benefits to focusing on our strengths are that we become happier, less stressed and more confident.

The cure for constantly falling short of your goals is to work on improving where you’re already strong, rather than on areas where you are weak.

Why Doesn’t Radio Focus on Its Strengths?

Entercom changed its name to Audacy, saying:

“We have transformed into a fundamentally different and dramatically enhanced organization and so it is time to embrace a new name and brand identity which better reflects who we have become and our vision for the future. Audacy captures our dynamic creativity, outstanding content and innovative spirit as we aspire to build the country’s best audio content and entertainment platform.”

-David Field, CEO

Audacy is the fourth largest radio company in America (based on the number of radio stations owned) and just like the top three radio operators ahead of them, none use the word “radio” in their name.

It was in 2010, that National Public Radio announced that it would be using “NPR” as its brand name, even though its legal name remains the same. NPR celebrated its 50th birthday in 2020, the same year that American commercial radio turned 100.

What is it about the name “radio” that has radio station owners and operators distancing themselves from this word?

Finding Your Strengths

If you want to grow your strengths, first you need to identify them. This week, Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer at Cumulus Media/Westwood One, did a pretty good job of that in his blog. While Pierre was trying to correct some misperceptions about broadcast radio, he also gave us a good place to start with identifying some of its strengths. Here are five Pierre cites:

  1. Radio reaches 88% of persons 18 years of age and older each week in America.
  2. Radio reaches the 60% of Americans who are back in their cars commuting to work every day. (The Radio Advertising Bureau says radio’s reach in the car is 83% in 2021, making it the dominate form of media on-the-road.)
  3. Radio’s audience shares are twenty-one times larger than ad-supported Pandora and ten times that of ad-supported Spotify, according to Edison Research.
  4. Radio delivers an impressive Return On Investment (ROI). Pierre says “for example, for every $1 invested in an auto aftermarket AM/FM radio campaign, there is a $21 sales return.”
5. Radio delivers listeners at all hours of the day, seven days a week.

Radio’s Analog Audience

Lee Abrams posted a short YouTube video back in August 2020 that you might have missed explaining his “PSYCHOGRAPHIC CHART.” If you’re in radio, you should watch it now.   

View the full twelve-minute presentation HERE What I’d like to focus on is the two quadrants that Lee has labeled as “Analog Generation/Culturally Sophisticated & Culturally Unsophisticated.” These people are radio listeners. They were born with and are comfortable with analog media.

Lee makes clear that you can’t satisfy more than one quadrant. Pick one and super serve those people to the point of making what you do appalling to people in the other three quadrants.

The bottom line is that you can’t be all things to all people, but you can be everything to some people. This is really Marketing 101.

But the Future is Digital

Yes, the future of media is digital and it can’t be ignored. But you can’t make radio into something it’s not and never will be. It’s a powerful one-to-many media entity; leverage that.

The Australian Radio Network’s Neuro Lab is doing some interesting research into how a listener’s brain responds to audio, whether it’s coming from the radio, a podcast or streamed.

What should make all radio owner/operators sit-up and take notice is the fact that “radio showed the strongest ability to engage listeners and for extended periods of time, racking up 60% more neural engagement than any other audio format.” Podcasts showed higher levels of memory encoding and streaming was noted for promoting positive attitudes towards brands. You can read the full report HERE

All Audio is Not Created Equal (in the Brain)

Dr. Shannon Bosshard, the neuroscience specialist who conducted this groundbreaking research said, “This is the first time that anyone has demonstrated, from the perspective of the brain, that radio, podcasting and music streaming are processed differently and should be treated differently, in the same manner that audio and audio-visual mediums have been.”

Radio Financed TV

It was the incredible revenue streams produced by broadcast radio that were used to build out the medium of commercial television. TV also stole radio’s stars and programs, leaving the radio industry to reinvent itself and compete with television for advertising.

Today, radio is once again finding itself the “money mule” charged with funding the buildout of digital initiatives, having to sacrifice the very thing that makes radio unique in the process; its personalities. And then, just like with TV, radio has to compete with digital for advertising.

Fred Jacobs in his TechSurvey 2021 revealed how important the Radio Personality is to today’s radio listener.

But this shouldn’t come as a surprise. For generations, the radio personality has been the primary attraction drawing audiences to one radio station over another. At his peak, Dan Ingram on WABC in New York was said to be more popular to the station’s listeners than The Beatles.

Great Radio

In the end, great radio isn’t any one element, it’s all of them – personalities, jingles, promotions, station imaging, community involvement and companionship – that makes a radio station part of a listener’s family. People have favorite movies, but not a favorite movie theater; they have favorite television programs, but not a favorite television station; however, people DO HAVE favorite radio stations.

Remember that. Leverage that. Make money knowing that.

*Clear Channel University was closed in 2009

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The Voice Interface

Siri Voice InterfaceThis week I sat in on the Fred Jacobs webinar “Mobile Strategy for Radio: What we learned from Techsurvey 2019” and the #1 take away was “voice (not just smart speakers) is the next important user interface at home and in the car.”

I wasn’t surprised.

The Lowest Common Denominator

Here’s where we can expect technology to be headed to accommodate the next billion users that will be joining the digital media party. The next internet addicted people are those living in the developing world, the ones that will be shaping the internet over the next five years or less. They will be impacting ALL internet and mobile users.

What are the characteristics of these folks?

  • Literacy: lower levels of literacy will require different interfaces.
  • Language: a greater variety of language needs will inspire new content formats.
  • Technology: varying devices & connections will impact content format.
  • Motivations: new wants, needs, and desires will inspire new products & services.

Most of today’s internet is text based, but as populations of lower literacy levels sign-on, that will change this. Voice commands, image search and video content will become more dominant in the near future.

Economies of Scale

Technology companies are already working to have all devices and interfaces operate the same way on a global basis. Everything will be designed to cater to the lowest common denominator because it makes fiscal sense. It’s already happening on Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.

Why Apple won’t ever put FM receivers into their iPhones.

FM, HD Radio, DAB and DAB+ are all different standards for broadcasting OTA radio signals and do not meet the test of a global standard.

The Next Internet Revolution is Coming

Look for the next billion to drive the next internet revolution in the areas of:

  • Search: SEO will look very different for voice-centric search.
  • Social: People’s social media interactions will be more video than text.
  • Shopping: E-commerce orders will depend on spoken word.
  • Addressing: URLs & Hyperlinks will move from text to image.

Convergence

Something I researched back when I was an undergrad, convergence, is coming to fruition in my lifetime. Every form of media will be delivered over the same pathway and received on the same type of device plus it will be on-demand and on our schedule, not the creator’s schedule.

Fred’s latest webinar shows that were deep into this transition.

If you’d like to take a Deep Dive into this subject, watch this Hootsuite webinar from 2018 HERE

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