A reader who wishes to remain anonymous agreed with our take on not taking WNEW’s return far enough into the Indie zone (4/15/08 RBR #74):
So WNEW is back, and no surprise, the music is the same old, same old, over-tested, over-played, "safe Adult Rock" we’ve been hearing for years, peppered with twenty and thirty-year old (albeit still interesting) archival interviews.
Yes, Norm Winer is without question a very bright man and an amazing survivor in an industry that has driven 99% of its most creative and effective programmers out of the business by replacing the "art" of programming with some very dubious "science," but clearly even Norm has to work "inside the box" in today’s Radio environment. The current owners of Radio can not understand anything they can’t research, measure, quantify, put into a simple formula, and print out on a spread sheet, and that is why truly creative programming has become a thing of the past.
In his book The Wizard of Ads Roy Williams unknowingly addressed the root cause of what’s gone wrong with radio programming since the onset of ownership consolidation in a chapter called "Thinking with Your Heart." Says Roy, "…intuition is nonlinear, putting all the facts in a big bowl, then stirring them together like soup, watching them to see what might ‘connect.’ The intuitive person can rarely convince the intellectual of anything, because intuition seldom comes with proof….Great leaders have intuition. Explorers have intuition. Inventors have intuition. It is intuition that tells them how to go where none has ever been."
Unfortunately, it is intuition that ownership will never trust, but it was intuition that originally built unique, compelling radio stations like the old WNEW and many others that ultimately drove away their audience with formulaic, predictable, boring programming that offered no real incentive for listener loyalty.
Sales trainers talk about helping our advertisers find their "Unique Selling Position." What is it about their business that sets them apart from their competitors who offer virtually identical products and services? Why would a consumer want to do business with them versus the ten others offering the same thing? Yet in Programming, we continually strive for a sameness and blandness that gives our consumer, the listener, no way to differentiate a station from the rest of its neighbors on the dial.
The whole approach to programming has become so ass-backwards. We need to get the true "Radio Artists" back into the fold, put the research and the formulas on the back burner, and bring back the "Field of Dreams" school of Radio Programming: "Build a Great Radio Station and the Listeners Will Come."
As Williams put it, "I’m merely urging you to give intuition the credit it deserves. I hope to encourage you to follow your heart. Sometimes the thing that makes the least sense is exactly the right thing to do."
NOTE: This is another rant from that 30 years+ programming and sales veteran who is currently employed by The Evil Empire and therefore can’t use his name. I got booted out of programming back in the 90’s because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and have only recently re-found my voice. I hope you don’t mind my contributing anonymously….