Life in the slow lane


Generally speaking I tend to get myself in trouble whenever I assert my opinion that radio runs a pretty slow lap these days. In an ever-emerging media world that resembles a full-stride sprint by Usain Bolt – radio seems to be standing at the start line shrugging their shoulders while munching on a donut and looking for their shoes.  I know… I know… that’s kind of a harsh description; but you tell me whether or not the following represents a dash to perfection – or comfy-couch of complacency.

So, I’m listening to 610 WTVN-AM Columbus, Ohio over the weekend – a perennial ratings powerhouse and one to the Clear Channel crown-jewels of the market.  I hear a commercial (which I’ve heard several times over the past couple of weeks) that is targeted directly at small business owners in Columbus – a good buy for an advertiser looking to reach such a demographic.  The sponsor is Google – they’re coming to town to host a two-day event to help small businesses get online – and I can attend for free!

If I am a small business owner that doesn’t have a web site, here is all that I can expect from the event according to the spot:

• A free coaching session from one of the world’s richest, most successful web companies.  
• A free, easy-to-build, professional website from Intuit
• A free customized domain name and hosting for one year
• A free local business listing on Google Places
• Free tools, resources, and local events (do you suppose those would be Google products?)

Sounds pretty good!

Hell, even if I’m a small business that already has a web site I might attend. I’m sure I can learn a few things from Google. All I have to do is register at (That’s right – for every GM/GSM who has whined to us by saying: “We already have a web site, why would we want to send our listeners to a Micro Site?” – This is Google – using a micro site. Why wouldn’t they just send them to Do you suppose Google might be using a micro site to make it more convenient and targeted to the consumer they’re hoping to attract? I wonder…)

Here begins the slow lap.

The ad tells me that I can attend the event for free by registering online, and showing up at the Columbus Convention Center on September 27th or 28th. This would be totally awesome – if I weren’t hearing the spot on October 1st! Yeah, not a typo – the spot was airing two full days after the last date of the event. I guess this is what happens when America’s largest radio company pumps up its bottom line by cutting salary from such meaningless positions as continuity – or asks one traffic director to handle traffic for 7 stations or more. Completely understandable; and doesn’t present any problems or embarrassing situations what-so-ever – after all, less is more!

Then there is the whole idea of promoting an event hosted by a giant web company that is very publicly looking to take as much money out of local markets as possible – by siphoning ad dollars away from traditional media, like radio. Hope the buy was a good one!  Does this now mean we’ve now arrived at a place and time where if I sign-on a competing News/Talk radio format in Columbus, I can buy ads on WTVN to invite people to listen? Too obvious, I’m sure. Maybe I could just promote a new “ihurtradio” app? 

For those that might misinterpret the point of this article as yet another “Clear Channel is a big, bad, bully” rant – sorry to disappoint. I love WTVN, and listen to it quite frequently – and 99% of the time they’re quite good at what they do. In this instance, however, they just happen to be a shining example of what has become epidemic within the industry: intense concentration on the bottom-line while competitors around us are challenging themselves to reach for the stars.

Cutting is not growing. Waiting is not changing. Hoping is not strategy. Excuses are good only for those that make them. If this is the best radio has to offer – I’m afraid the best of times are solidly behind us.

–Chuck Francis, VP New Media Strategies – Remerge Media
Remerge Media is a multi-media consulting firm, specializing in new media integration and simultaneous media solutions. Remerge works with radio (as well as other legacy media) clients to help them understand, integrate and generate revenue from new media through custom sales solutions, and providing traditional media sales personnel with highly specialized training. The company is based in Columbus, Ohio. More information about Remerge can be found online at