Tag Archives: WPLJ

Are We the Solution or the Problem?

albert-einsteinAlbert Einstein said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

I have noticed that when I publish a new article about radio, people seem to fall into a couple of different camps. There are those who say radio’s days are numbered, or over. There are those who think going back to the way it was will solve everything. And there are those who believe “radio” is a concept and not a specific transmission platform, such as the AM or FM bands.

WABC Becomes Talk Radio

In May of 1982 Music Radio 77 – WABC in New York City became a talk radio station. Music sounded better on FM and in stereo than on static filled, mono AM radio. This happened 37-years ago and yet many of us tune in to Rewound Radio every Memorial Day Weekend to listen to WABC, the way it was when we were growing up in the 60s & 70s.

WPLJ is Sold

WABC-FM became WPLJ on February 14, 1971 and by September of that same year it would become one of America’s first AOR (Album Oriented Rock) radio stations.

“Watching All the President’s Men on TCM…thought it might be timely. Loved the reference when Bernstein asked Woodward “if you’re listening to the radio and you don’t hear any commercials for 10 minutes, is it AM or FM?” Kinda sums up the demise of music radio on AM back in the 70s and strongly underlines what’s happening to FM now compared to satellite radio, Pandora, Spotify, etc.” 
–John Sebastian

Now WPLJ has been sold and like a divorce, WABC and WPLJ will no longer be together. Frank D’Elia writes a wonderful personal history of WPLJ on his blog which you can read HERE.

Sadly, he ends his blog article with the following: “I loved the radio business, and it was my home for over 44 years, but today, radio sucks!”

The World Wide Web Turned 30 This Past Week

While it was 37 years ago that the music died on WABC, it was 30 years ago this past Wednesday, that Sir Tim Berners-Lee proposed a global linked information management system that included hypertext. Even more interesting is the fact that Sir Berners-Lee feels a little bit like Frank D’Elia and the current state of his creation. In an article published on the World Economic Forum website titled “The web is 30 years old. What better time to fight for its future?” Sir Tim shares his frustrations and recommendations for fixing things. He writes: “To tackle any problem, we must clearly outline and understand it. I broadly see three sources of dysfunction affecting today’s web:

  1. Deliberate, malicious intent, such as state-sponsored hacking and attacks, criminal behaviour, and online harassment.

  2. System design that creates perverse incentives where user value is sacrificed, such as ad-based revenue models that commercially reward clickbait and the viral spread of misinformation.

  3. Unintended negative consequences of benevolent design, such as the outraged and polarised tone and quality of online discourse.”

Lots of Change

When I think back to those days when AM radio rocked my world, to today where Alexa serves up whatever my mood desires, things have changed a lot.

Berners-Lee also notes how much the web has changed in the past 30 years and that it would be “defeatist and unimaginative to assume that the web, as we know it, can’t be changed for the better in the next 30.”

Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, wrote recently that “The key to failure is to hang on to the belief that things have to be ‘the way they ought to be.’ The key to success is to be able to deal with things as they really are.”

Which brings me back to the title of this week’s blog article, are we the solution or the problem when it comes to the future of radio?

What are Radio’s Big 3 Areas of Dysfunction?

I’m sure you have your own thoughts on this, but the sense I have from reading articles about today’s radio industry from all over the world, along with reader comments, are that these three things are very important to the future of radio:

  1. Commercials. Radio’s commercial spot loads are too big. The 60 and 30-second ad lengths are over. Radio needs to re-think the way it monetizes itself OTA (over the air) and the creation of radio ads needs to be a specialty in every radio station. Jerry Lee understands this better than anyone in our industry.

  2. Companionship. Alexa is convenient and we even chat with one another, but I don’t consider “her” a companion. Radio needs to fulfill that social need for the listener. I believe NPR has done a spectacular job of fulfilling this companionship role through its variety of informational programs. Companionship is built by live personalities that broadcast from the area being served or focused on like-interests of the target audience.

  3. Quality vs. Quantity. The radio industry is focused on putting more signals on the air, and controlling more existing radio signals by fewer entities, than it is on the content that should be sent over those signals. The original benchmarks or staples of radio are often much more efficiently handled by other platforms. Radio needs to re-think what it can do that others can’t, and then do it. Radio needs to compliment today’s other communications media, as it no longer is the sole source of information for things like weather, traffic, school closings etc.

I would love to hear your thoughts, but even more important, I would love to hear the thoughts of people who don’t listen to radio and what would entice them to return.

The future of radio will be based on attracting the next generations.

We won’t know what they want if we don’t ask them.

“Companies must do more to ensure their pursuit of short-term profit

is not at the expense of human rights, democracy, scientific fact or public safety.”

-Tim Berners-Lee

 

 

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A War on Talent

When iHeartMedia wooed away Kurt Alexander aka “Big Boy” from Emmis’ Power106 to their Real92.3 it was a big deal in more ways than one.

The top performing radio station for Emmis was their one station in Los Angeles, KPWR. That is until Alexander departed for KRRL-FM across the street. His leaving impacts both ratings and revenue.

It reminds me of the walking across the street of Scott Shannon in New York City. Shannon left WPLJ where he had been a morning fixture at the station for 23 years to take over mornings at WCBS-FM. Unlike Alexander in LA, Shannon didn’t go head-to-head with his former radio station but to a different format than the one he had just left. However his impact on both stations is much the same. WPLJ went down and WCBS-FM captured the #1 position beating WLTW for the first time.

At a time when the major radio companies are saying things like “flat is the new up” the only way for a company to grow its revenues when the revenue pie isn’t growing is to re-divide how the existing pie is being cut up. To do that means to raid another company’s talent in an effort to increase their ratings while decreasing market competition.

If we look at how talent gets created we find it’s not a quick process. In the case of Alexander, Emmis spent 20 years and millions of dollars turning him into a morning radio star. Shannon has been at the radio game since his army days, tenaciously practicing his craft to become the hall of fame legend he is today.

Radio is not about transmitters, buildings, music etc. it’s about people. People make the radio business fun; personalities behind the microphone and personalities on the street selling the ads. Strong personalities on both sides of the mic are what make for a winning radio station. Neither can be taken for granted.

Emmis didn’t think they were taking Alexander for granted. Heck they were paying this former body guard $1.45 million along with some sweeteners, but iHeartMedia was willing to up the ante to $3.5 million (which Emmis reportedly was willing to match). But what evidently Emmis couldn’t match were the other perks that a company the size of iHeartMedia could create that a company the size of Emmis could not.

The BBC has also been subjected to a talent raid. Apple enticed presenter Zane Lowe to join their iTunes Radio division which led to several more following Lowe to the Cupertino based company. The BBC has a worldwide reputation for great programming, programming talent and the discovery of new music.

The audio entertainment world is like the animal kingdom where the small animals get eaten by the bigger animals in the food chain of life.

Competition for talent that has proven it draws a big audience, not just on-the-air but also online and through social media has never been more sought after. Competition for talent that can package, present and close advertising sales also has never been in more demand.

It’s a war on talent. Good for talent, but an Excedrin headache for small operators battling the big boys; made all the more difficult in a lackluster advertising environment for many radio operators and an ever increasing amount of radio signals vying for that shrinking advertising pie.

The radio dial – including online streamers – may have become infinite, but the revenues that support it have not.

Radio Darwinism has escalated to the global village.

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