At least once or twice a week, I read in RBR about the declining radio revenues. I’d say, the red ink pain is self-inflicted.
It’s been six years since I left full-time radio behind. I had been on-air, a PD, an OM and Regional Manager. Every day since I left full-time radio behind, I count my blessings and I pat myself on the back for possessing the foresight, energy and imagination and guts to do something different. Oh, I still deal with radio and radio people but from arms-length. Maybe I should use rubber gloves. There is a disease pervasive in the broadcasting business. It’s symtoms are evident in a sweaty gut-wrenching fear coupled with a self-induced hallucination that results in ever-eroding revenues.
I am not writing this to promote my business but to make my point. I need to explain that we create syndicated programming targeted at two divergent audiences from whom radio has earned barely a penny. One of of those industries is the largest retail business on earth. However, from the "Programming 101" PDs we get the standard, "it doesn’t fit" answer. Having been a PD in major and small markets, I’m ready and armed for that response. The response is usually followed by "take me off your mailing list." We get a similar response when we connect with the individuals who are responsibe for bringing in the ever-shrinking revenue. You see, we aren’t a car dealeship or a mattress and furniture store or agency delivering an easy order. In spite of turning thier nose up at new business, I keep reading about bad times in the radio biz.
Wait a minute! Why do I also keep hearing about NTR? It appears from where I stand that the radio industry does talk about Non Traditional Revenue but does little to get it. The problem is that traditional is what radio is all about. Non-Traditional goes against radio’s very nature. Nowhere is this more evident than in programming.
In short, radio has lost it’s guts and imagination. Fear rules and the rules are: Play it safe. Don’t play anything unfamiliar, don’t forget the call letters, never admit an error or weakness, hammer home the same tired positioning statements but most of all, be numbingly consistent. Fear drives everything. The most fearful radio-ostrich sticks his head in the sand and says, "there is no internet, there is no i-POD, there is no XM and Sirius…they’ll go away." Not this time.
Just before writing this I was listening an oh-so-typical AC station regurgitating the same liners we inflicted upon our listeners a decade ago such as, "coming up, another 10 song set" and "your at-work station" and before that it was a country station with the tired "today’s best country." Do PDs and Consultants seriously believe that these hackneyed phrase impact listening? Like hundreds of thousands of music fans, I have switched to new favorite where I get to choose. The future is here and its about our choices, not a Program Director, Corporate PD or Consultant.
Oh, something that the internet has helped us discover…there is a lot of great music out there. Radio has allowed us to hear only a small sample. Now with services such as i-Tunes, Yahoo Music and Rhapsody and others, we are to sample millions of songs and hundreds of thousands of artists and hundred of genres. We are no longer limited by "only the hits" and "best country" and "coming up, another ten-in-a-row." Sorry, it doesn’t wash anymore.
Coming up, "10,000 in a row." All my choices. I can take it anywhere. Beat that, radio!
Stan Campbell, President
Alexis Broadcasting Company