Tag Archives: Live & Local

Dislocation is the New RIF

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_641For many of you, this past week has been a very stressful one. The world’s largest radio owner/operator, iHeartMedia, announced a countrywide Reduction In Force or RIFs. However, reading an internal memo obtained by All Access, I see that the new term for this is “employee dislocation.”

No matter how your phrase it, a lot of good radio people lost their job this week.

Is Your Iceberg Melting?

Let’s face it, the radio industry so many of us fell in love with, is melting away.

Back in 2009, the book everyone was reading was by Ken Blanchard called “Who Moved My Cheese?” Ken actually published this little 95-page book back in 1999 and it’s still an extremely great read.

But today, maybe the book everyone in broadcasting ought to be reading is “Our Iceberg is Melting and Succeeding Under Any Circumstances by John Kotter, who is an award winning author from the Harvard Business School.

In Melting, Kotter writes a simply fable about doing well in an ever-changing world.

The fable is about penguins in Antarctica that discover a potentially devastating problem to their home – an iceberg – it’s melting away.

It’s a story that will resonate with anyone in broadcasting, as a new round of “employee dislocations” occur and there are fewer radio stations to relocate to, as this is the same thing that is happening by the other big box broadcasters nationwide.

Kotter’s book walks you through the eight steps that produce positive change with any group. You will not only enjoy the read, but will be guided with valuable insights to deal with our 21st Century world that is moving faster and faster every day.

The Big Take Away

Regarding change, when all employees, corporate and middle management are on the same page, it is amazing what can happen. What I’m hearing from the broadcasters I know, both those that have been RIF’d and those who have not, it is a feeling that there’s a lack of honesty in communication from the top through the entire organization.

“Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

Fool me three times, shame on both of us.”

-Stephen King

The problem for the leaders of the broadcasting industry is that radio people have been fooled too many times and the level of trust is at an all time low. Daryl Ledyard, who was “dislocated” from a position he’s held at WBBS in Syracuse for over ten years told Rolling Stone “[iHeartMedia is] very much convinced that the local aspect of radio is no longer important.” However, iHeartMedia says in their statement “we will continue to serve every local community in which we operate just as we always have.”

It begs the question of how that will be possible when the number of on-air people have been reduced to one or two or none.

Live & Local?

Over the years, at every radio meeting I attended, the one refrain heard over and over and over was that “the power of radio is live & local.”

In October 2017, the FCC voted along party lines 3 to 2 to eliminate the Main Studio Rule.

When the FCC voted to end that provision in America’s broadcast law, what did that mean to regulations that have been in place since 1934? FCC attorney Gregg Skall explained it this way in his 1991 “Main Studio Rule and Staffing” memo:

The main studio rule as clarified in 1988 requires a station to maintain a main studio within its principal community contour “which has the capability adequately to meet its function…of serving the needs and interests of the residents of the station’s community of license.” That rule has now been further revised to allow a main studio to be located either within 25 miles from its community of license reference coordinates, or within the principal community contours of any station, of any service, licensed to its community of license. (See memo, Revised Main Studio and Public File Rules). Jones Eastern requires the station to maintain a “meaningful management and staff presence” at the main studio on a full-time basis during regular business hours.

You can read the full memo HERE 

Since the introduction of automation systems, syndication, satellite delivery and computer voice tracking, the LIVE aspect of radio has been on the wane. Even in the #1 radio market in America, New York City, stations may or may not have a live operator behind the microphone when you’re tuned in.

In 1967, when I was starting out in radio, we used to have to announce whether a program was live or pre-recorded so the listeners wouldn’t be deceived about the broadcast. In the early days of radio, virtually all radio was live, it was the exception for something to have been recorded.

Today, what you are listening to is more than likely not live but syndicated, voice-tracked or pre-recorded.

With the Main Studio Rule, the goal was, that there would be a live person at the station and the studio would be in the community the licensee was licensed to serve.

Lance Venta writing on RadioInsight on October 24, 2017 wrote “But what will it (elimination of the Main Studio Rule) mean in the short term? Probably not a lot. In the long term, be prepared for a much leaner broadcast facility.” You can read Lance’s entire article “The Radio Station of the Future…Today!” HERE

The National Association of Broadcasters lobbied for the elimination of the Main Studio Rule, and its then executive VP of communications Dennis Wharton said “We’re confident that cost savings realized from ending the main studio rule will be reinvested by broadcasters in better programming and modernized equipment to better serve our local communities.”

Public Safety

When a broadcaster doesn’t have a studio in the local community it serves, it delivers its programming through the internet, satellites, microwaves or wired lines. Broadcasters have been quick to point out how these forms of communication are first to go down in natural disasters.

What seems to be missing in this conversation, is what happens when a local community is hit with a Black Swan Event. I wrote a whole blog article about how such an event could impact communities FCC licensed radio stations are empowered to serve. You can read that article HERE

Those who believe in the unconditional benefits of past experience should consider this pearl of wisdom allegedly voiced by a famous ship’s captain:

‘But in all my experience, I have never been in any accident… of any sort worth speaking about. I have seen but one vessel in distress in all my years at sea. I never saw a wreck and never have been wrecked nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort.’

-E. J. Smith, 1907, Captain, RMS Titanic

[Captain Smith’s ship sank in 1912 and became the most talked-about shipwreck in history.]

The Future Predicted in 2004

On May 24, 2004, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held a “Broadcast Localism Hearing” in Rapid City, South Dakota.  The president, general manager and co-owner of KLQP-FM licensed to Madison, Minnesota (population 1,767) Maynard Meyer addressed the commission.  Telling them:

“I have been involved in the radio business in announcing, sales, engineering and management for about 36 years, all of my experience is in communities of 5,000 people or less.  We personally live in the communities we serve so we know the ‘issues,’ we work to address them in our programming and have been doing so for the past 21 years.“

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

Mr. Meyer went on to explain to the FCC, how that many communities “on paper” had a local radio station that actually was nothing more than a transmitter being fed from another location tens of miles away.  Mr. Meyer went on to say:

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

(I’ve edited his comments. The full text can be found HERE)

What do you think?

 

 

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The End of Retail Business

Going Out of BusinessIs the retail industry dying?

Stores that I grew up with, like Toys R Us, Sears, K-Mart, and Radio Shack are either in bankruptcy or out-of-business. Other retailers are reducing the number of locations to become more profitable to their investors.

The local retailer finds themselves even more challenged to deal with the likes of Walmart and Amazon.

Radio Lives on Local

The prescription for the radio business is to focus their programming on their local community of license. In other words, be VERY local in everything they do.

If the radio station you listen to could be transplanted into another city without changing a single thing about their programming, other than their weather forecasts and traffic reports, then that radio station isn’t really local.

If, on the other hand, you drive into a community and you have no idea what the people on the air are talking about or who the people they’re talking about are, then you have come upon a LOCAL radio station that is serving the people of their listening area.

Local Retailers

In the smaller markets I’ve managed radio stations in, we didn’t really do much business with those big box retailers. Sadly, in most cases, after the grand opening schedule and remote broadcast, they pretty much stayed away from local radio.

The local businesses that lined the main street, or were located in a strip mall or populated the surrounding small towns, were the life-blood of a local radio station.

As Walmart and Amazon strip away the ability for these small merchants to make a living, radio’s business base is likewise being decimated.

21st Century Retailing

Retailing is being disrupted. While some retailers are closing, we also see companies like Apple, Amazon and even Coca Cola investing in building new brick and mortar locations.

The change that’s occurring according to Greg Satell is that “the primary function of a physical store is not to drive transactions, but to service and support customers.”

In other words, retailing is being reimagined.

Radio Reimagined

Radio is giving up its major strength by not having live, local personalities on the air 24/7. Successful small retailers are winning because they engaged in their community and are part of the community’s fabric. They are owned and staffed by dedicated people who believe in super-serving their customer base.

We are living in a time of too much automation and algorithms.

The moves being made by the Apples, Amazons and Cokes to get closer to their customer base by having local people serve their local community is an indication that the pendulum is starting to swing in the opposite direction.

Radio cannot ignore this change in the wind.

Radio needs to unlock the enormous potential of people serving people.

Radio’s Why

A couple of weeks ago, I got a lot of people talking when I asked “What’s Radio’s Why?” What it can’t be any longer is, “we’re #1” or “we have the most listeners.” Nobody cares.

There are more radio stations on-the-air in America, than at any time in the history of radio. Ironically, there’s less choice of formats to listen to and there are less people working per station today as well.

It’s time for radio stations to define an audience for each station and then super-serve that audience. The radio stations who’s audiences are the most dedicated and passionate will be the winners, not the ones with possibly a larger, but passive audience.

Just as each station’s audience is clearly defined and targeted, businesses that are seeking those same people will become just as defined, and a win-win business relationship can be built and sustained.

As I lived through the consolidation of radio and the automation of tasks, I felt that the radio industry applied technology to many of the wrong areas of the business. The air staffs were the first folks to be eliminated in favor of voice-tracking and automation. The main radio station phone line, the listener’s first point of contact, was automated instead of having a live person to greet the caller.

The radio industry eliminated, through technology, the very points where the “rubber meets the road.” The people serving people point.

The Human Connection

I own a lot of Apple gear. I didn’t buy any of it at an Apple store. I bought it online. My iPhones from Verizon. My other gear online from Apple.

What the Apple stores mean to me is a chance to go in and play with the equipment, to ask questions and, like when my MacBook Air crashed, to have a place I can go and have it repaired, almost overnight.

The Apple stores are my human connection to Apple.

The radio industry was built on the human connection. Radio’s air personalities were constantly promoted, in print, on billboard, on television and they were always out and about in the community being highly visible. During consolidation, radio lost its way due to non-radio investors who only saw the money-making benefits of cutting costs to widen margins. Once this “Best Practice” type of thinking wormed its way through the whole broadcast industry, those benefits were quickly marginalized.

Values Shift, Not Disappear

“The businesses that thrive over the long-term,

not only see where value is shifting from

but where value is shifting to and race to get there.”

-Greg Satell

This is radio’s wake-up call.

Is anybody listening?

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Best of the Blog 2017

73On this last Sunday of 2017, it’s a good time to look back at the year just past and share with you The Top 5 Most Read and shared blog articles from 2017. Maybe you missed them or perhaps you’d like to read them again.

To date I’ve published 180 articles that have been viewed around the world over 115,800 times.

My Most Read Article in 2017

My most read/shared article of this past year was “Coal Ain’t Coming Back & Neither is AM Radio”. It was published on August 20, 2017. It told the story of how the fate of the coal industry in America was akin to that of AM radio stations. America’s broadcast industry was built on AM radio beginning with the first commercial radio license issued in 1920. This article received the most comments of any I published this year and was widely shared.

Second Most Read Article of 2017

In April, I wrote an article based on a blog reader question titled “The Question Radio Itself Has Yet to Answer.” That big question was, “what can radio do that other media can’t.” I opened the issue to readers to share with me their thoughts before sharing mine. It stimulated lots of emails, sharing and discussion.

Third Most Read Article of 2017

My third most read article would be the follow-up article to the one above, “What Can Radio Do That Other Media Can’t.” It was in this article I shared some of the over fifteen pages of reader comments, as well as my own thoughts. In my summary, I boiled it down to 5 key things: Live, Local, Community, Companionship and Relevant.

Fourth Most Read Article of 2017

In October, after the FCC voted 3 to 2 to eliminate the Main Studio Rule, I wrote “Live & Local?” It posed the question about maintaining the first of the five key things radio can do that other media can’t I wrote about back in April.

In this article, I shared the observations of Maynard Meyer, a local radio manager and owner from Madison, Minnesota who concluded in his statement to the FCC in 2004, “From what I’ve seen through my personal experience, as soon as a hometown studio is closed and relocated, the local service is relocated as well.”

After the article published, Mr. Meyer emailed me and said he still felt the same in 2017 as he did back when he testified before the Federal Communications Commission 13-years earlier.

Fifth Most Read Article of 2017

And finally, the fifth most read blog article I wrote and saw lots of people sharing, was “Radio’s Best Feature.” In it, I wrote about the speed of change in our world today and how to expect it to keep accelerating going forward.

Radio needs to understand its role in humankind. Technology doesn’t transform our human nature.

Our need for love, touch, companionship and community will always be a part of our humanity no matter what technology brings.

Most Read Articles, Period

Two articles I’ve written continue to see lots of traffic and continue to be far and away the two most read on my blog.

They are “SiriusXM Radio is Now FREE” and “The Day the “Dumbest Idea” Invaded the Radio Industry.” Both articles have now been read over 7,000 times.

The first article I wrote for my blog was “Clear Channel Media & Entertainment becomes iHeartMedia” and it was read a total of five times.

Why I Blog

I blog for broadcasters, educators and students.

I blog to provide media mentorship and to pay-it-forward to the broadcasting industry that I have been a part of for 50-years.

I’m grateful for the more than 88,000 people from all over the world who have visited to read an article that caught their interest.

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Next week I will begin my fourth year of blogging with all new articles.

Thank You for reading.

Feel free to contribute your thoughts to the discussion in the comments. Together we can all learn by sharing our experiences, knowledge and wisdom.

Happy New Year!

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