Radio is experiencing serious trauma and needs a complete transfusion if it is survive in the new world. We are suffering declining audiences brought on by the influx of new technology, changing lifestyles and boredom. Those in charge of the medium are responding with kneejerk reactions designed to keep losses (both in audience and dollars) to a minimum. Forget gains…it’s all about losing less than predicted. In today’s landscape, that’s a win.
It wasn’t so long ago that owning radio stations was considered one of the most profitable investments around. I invested in three properties in the 90s and my return was four times the original. Today the larger companies are trying to “get small” and Wall Street doesn’t consider purchasing radio stations as a wise investment.
What to do?
I’m not sure the problem can be fixed. I’m not sure that radio as we know it is a thing of the distant past. The voice of doom? Hardly. More like the voice of reality. I’m not an old guy, yet I grew up in a time when AM radio dominated. FM wasn’t a factor. Music was the mantra and you heard it from your hometown AM station or from distant signals far away. When is the last time you listened to music on AM?
Is FM destined for the same fate?
Those special people who could save the world aren’t being called upon to do so. Large companies are being run by sales people. It never worked in the past and it isn’t working in the future. Sales people kill programming. It’s not intentional, it’s their nature. For the most part, they aren’t talented in anything except sales. The more they can sell, the bigger their paycheck. How can they make it bigger? Sell more spots. Kill off programming.
If you clutter up your station, the audience leaves and you have nothing to sell. In the past, when your audience left, they went to another station…or stations. To regain the loss, a smart programmer was hired, commercials were decreased, marketing and promotions were increased and the audience returned. Now, the audience has gone elsewhere…and they won’t return.
Is Jack Radio the programming solution to this problem.
Far from it.
The smart programmers, the ones who got into radio because of the excitement that surrounded it, were never excited. Those people are working for Microsoft. Or Apple. Or a thousand other computer companies that have developed a new generation of delivering music to the masses.
Most radio stations succeeded by delivering music to the consumer. That was the primary function…at least to the audience. More music, the best music, new music, old music…it was the music that mattered.
Music still matters to the audience, but the delivery system has a problem.
Figuring it out will take sharp programming minds. Look around. You can’t find them. The few that remain in radio are hamstrung by outdated parameters designed by sales oriented CEOs.
It’s a reality.
The only hope is that when the bigger companies sell off their stations, they will be purchased by radio people…those who want their radio station to succeed because it’s their livelihood, not because it’s a good investment. The future of radio could lie in mom and pop operators…not the other way around. Maybe the savior of radio is to return to the days when everything mattered…not just the bottom line in the next quarter. Maybe the future of radio lies less with what Wall Street thinks and more with what the audience believes.
Maybe the secret is to go back…to the future.