Tag Archives: Kentucky

Coal Ain’t Coming Back & Neither is AM Radio

114I lived in Kentucky for 7-years.

Kentucky actually issues black license plates that say “Coal Keeps the Lights On.”

And yes, a lot of our electricity is generated from coal fired generating stations. But our dependency on coal has been in decline for years, today only about 30% of our electricity is generated from the burning of coal. 15% is generated from renewal energy sources.

But when it comes to jobs, solar & wind-energy jobs are growing 12 times as fast as the US economy. This has all been happening over the last 10-years or so. Renewable-energy jobs grew at the rate of 6% while fossil-fuel jobs declined at 4.5% from 2012 to 2015 according to Business Insider who also notes that the average number of employees at US coal mines dropped by 12% in 2015.

The solar industry now employs more people than coal, oil and gas combined.

The most recent statistics (2014) for the coal industry say 76,572 people are employed mining coal. That includes miners, office workers, sales people and others who work at coal-mining companies. In 1980, the industry employed about 242,000 people.

But to put the coal industry employment in perspective, there are more people employed in education in Kentucky than in coal. And the Washington Post compared the number of people employed in coal to other industries and reports: “Although 76,000 might seem like a large number, consider that similar numbers of people are employed by, say, the bowling (69,088) and skiing (75,036) industries. Other dwindling industries, such as travel agencies (99,888 people), employ considerably more. Used-car dealerships provide 138,000 jobs. Theme parks provide nearly 144,000. Carwash employment tops 150,000.”

In fact, more people are employed in RADIO (94,584 people) than in the mining of coal.

Coal jobs ain’t coming back.

AM RADIO

When I hear people in coal country cheering about coal jobs coming back under a new presidential administration, I look to my own industry; radio. AM radio is like the coal industry.

America, to a large extent, was built on coal due to the industrial revolution. All of our great factories depended on coal to power their machines. Coal was plentiful and we had lots of it. It was coal’s time.

In the 1920s, AM radio was born. Nothing like it had ever existed in the world. While the telephone brought people together, one person to another person, radio would bring the masses together. Inc.put together a list of “The 25 Greatest Inventions of All Time” and radio was #2 following the wired telephone. The History Channel compiled its own list and it put the smartphone in the first position followed by radio.

The “Golden Age of Radio” is the period from the 1920s to the 1940s when AM radio was the main source of entertainment in American homes. It would be replaced by television in the 1950s.

The transistor and car radio would pump new energy into the radio industry to a young generation in the 1960s and AM radio would be “born again.”

FM RADIO

The latest FCC (Federal Communications Commission) report as of the end of December 2016 shows that there were 4,669 AM radio stations on the air in America. Over on the FM dial, 16,783 signals now beat the airwaves (FM, FM educational, translators and low power FM).

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.

JOBS & ROBOTS

In coal mining, the need for coal miners goes down every year. Today, mining for coal no longer means muscle hardy men in maze-like tunnels wielding picks and shovels. The coal industry has steadily been replacing those jobs with robotic machines that require far fewer miners but more computer engineers and coders.

The radio industry employs its own cadre of computer engineers and coders that allows for fewer folks to appear on more radio stations through automation and voice-tracking. Is what’s happening in radio broadcasting any different than what’s happening in coal; or any other industry today?

I grew up on AM radio.

AM radio was my world and the people who made the magic caused this boy to make radio a career.

But AM radio and those jobs are not coming back any more than coal miner jobs.

93% of Americans 12-years of age or older listen to radio every week.

What percentage of those are listening to AM?

As AM radio stations add FM translators, do you think that number will grow again?

Sadly, AM radio is to broadcasting as coal is to power generation.

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Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

It’s Not for You

What’s not for you? Maybe this blog for one. I’m not writing this blog for everyone. I’m writing for people passionate about radio and education.

From years of being on the street selling radio advertising, nothing would frustrate me more than a business owner that said his business offered “something for everyone.” Even Walmart doesn’t make that claim and they come pretty darn close to being able to deliver on that positioning statement.

Today there are more radio stations on-the-air in America than at any time in broadcast history. Tragically, most commercial radio stations are trying to offer “something for everyone.” It’s been proven that when you try to please everyone, you will end up pleasing no one.

I work at a big university. Yeah, we offer “something for everyone.” All universities do. However, in the state of Kentucky, the legislature said that some schools needed to be recognized at being best in some area and those schools would see those programs named a “Program of Distinction.” At Western Kentucky University the School of Journalism and Broadcasting is just such a Kentucky Program of Distinction. WKU is the only college or university in Kentucky so designated in the area of journalism and broadcasting. It also earns additional funding from the legislature.

College Magazine named WKU’s School of Journalism and Broadcasting #4 in America.

I think in time, institutions of higher education will eliminate those things it does, but isn’t the best at. The days of everyone offering “something for everyone” are over; if they ever really existed.

Radio also needs to re-think its role in today’s Internet connected world.

Radio was at its best when it was serving the public interest, convenience and necessity. Radio was at its best when it was LIVE and LOCAL twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Radio offered something that everyone needs; companionship. Ironically, in a world where every radio station can have its broadcast studio up on a LIVE webcam where listeners can watch the air personalities, most studios are unoccupied. Radio today is show business without the show.

Looking at this another way, Comedy Central to me was a one hour network. Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Report were the only two programs I’ve ever watched on the channel. Watched religiously. Did I care if they were in HD? Did I care if they were in color or black & white? Did I care if the picture was a little snowy? Not really. It was all about the content. Content, that was not for everyone.

FOX News Channel and MSNBC understand this very well. (However, does anyone really watch “Lock Down”?)

Radio and higher education are both facing similar battles and they are both still operating in the “something for everyone” mode.

If you were to ask most people what they thought of radio, they’d probably tell you “it’s OK.” And therein lies the problem. No one is passionately pro or con. But they sure were in the days of Howard Stern or Howard Cosell.

Remember this dialog from Howard Stern’s movie Private Parts?

Researcher: The average radio listener listens for eighteen minutes. The average Howard Stern fan listens for – are you ready for this? – an hour and twenty minutes.

Pig Vomit: How can that be?

Researcher: Answer most commonly given? “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

Pig Vomit: Okay, fine. But what about the people who hate Stern?

Researcher: Good point. The average Stern hater listens for two and a half hours a day.

Pig Vomit: But… if they hate him, why do they listen?

Researcher: Most common answer? “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

Love Howard or hate Howard, he made people passionate about radio.

As Seth Godin puts it: “You won’t be doing great work until you can say to people ‘It’s not for you.’ “

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Filed under Education, Radio