Listeners weren't the only ones left in the lurch when WCBS-FM New York suddenly switched to "Jack"
(6/6/05 RBR #110
Anyone who has ever been through a midnight format switch knows only too well what a nightmare those first few days are, especially for the sales department. In my 30+ years in radio I have had to listen to angry listeners yell and sometimes cry because "we killed their friend." The sales department had to deal with enraged clients who yesterday were sold a station that was the perfect choice but today it's an entirely different station. We clearly lied! Let me count the ways that radio has been losing and continues to lose credibility...and revenue. Thumbing their noses at millions of listeners and clients with in-your-face format switches, trading talent for shock, killing community involvement and relatables and indiscriminate public firing of well-known respected personalities among others. Did some mention passion?
This time, I am one of those clients caught in the switch. I recently bought a schedule on WCBS-FM, among other stations in the east for one of my tourism clients. We had just completed a contest phase on WCBS-FM where we gave away a VIP Vacation to Canada's Bay of Fundy. The spot schedule was set to run the week of June 20th. WCBS-FM, and all Oldies stations, have an almost-ideal travel profile. We had already paid upfront for the schedule. Now, it's a different station and not one that I would have chosen for my tourism clients.
Recently, in respect to network TV programming someone mentioned the lack of passion. Hey, it applies to radio as well. Is there anyone left in the business, at the top, for whom radio is a calling, that they burn to create great radio? It seems not. WCBS-FM had respectable numbers and in a city where warmth is hard to find, WCBS-FM was like a friend to many with old friends, like a great uncle that had been there for decades. It wasn't just about the music, it was about the people. THIS is what sets radio apart from the iPod. This is one unique element no other audio media can duplicate.
As more Oldies stations go away, I am left with fewer radio choices. I am selling tourism on RADIO! Hello?...is anyone listening? The NUMBER ONE retail industry on earth and radio ignores it. Why? Because it's hard. The Oldies format was a perfect fit. I have been selling radio to tourism for 10 years. I'm over it. Maybe it is too hard. After all what other industry completely throws out all its entire product line. Can you imagine Dell deciding to stop making computers today and tomorrow they manufacture toasters...or AFLAC kills the duck and gets an Armadillo and starts selling chili? More and more each day I am forced to move to television. At least I expect them to change, every day. What is ironic is that TV is where I was trying to pull tourism AWAY from.
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