Longtime Boston-based radio programming consultant Clark Smidt highly enjoyed the 2019 Radio Show, recently held in Dallas. Why? What led him to rave about the event?
“It was not a waste of time,” he says, in contrast to some who shared with RBR+TVBR that the event offers no new ideas or business growth opportunities compared to other conferences across the calendar year. “Good talk, and good presentations.”
Here are his thoughts, along with some photos highlighting his love of the event.
By Clark Smidt
What did the 2019 Radio Show, presented by the NAB and RAB, mean to you?
Was it the same old talk, or was there something new amid the chatter?
From my perspective, there were two key takeways from the event that could fall under the following subjects:
STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
IS THE REFRESH AND RADIO RENAISSANCE REAL?
Once again, news of Radio’s demise is premature. Reaching 93% of all adults weekly in the presence of all those new, shiny audio distribution objects is pretty darn good.
Much of the talk centered on this theme permeated the Radio Show: Radio is undervalued. We must tell a better story. Content is king. Long spot breaks are harmful. Debt is out of control.
With that said, the presentations at this convention were excellent. The overall buzz was positive. But, the proof will be from who does more than talk the talk.
Broadcaster concerns include cost-cutting and jumping on the wrong bandwagon. Then, there’s the shift in use of the word “Radio,” and “radio delivery,” to what’s now being called “audio delivery.” That’s fine — if the audio delivered passes the engineering, audience, service and advertising smell test.
What’s needed? Well, that is simple: Well-run stations!
AMs and FMs that are well positioned can become solid venues through excellent positioning, strong branding and an exceptional culture.
The key is positioning. This could lead some to think very hard about the fundamentals behind what makes a radio station profitable … such as what today’s real money demos are? Is radio a 25-49-year old advertiser lure? Or, is radio the perfect place to target the 50-74-year old?
Content is also core to radio’s future, and with all of the available content out there, the industry must prevent the “all show and no go” epidemic plaguing the 50,000-watt station that fails to attract more than a 2.0 share. The day of big signals, cheap price and small ratings begs one question to programmers, sales executives and those in the C-Suite: Where’s the beef?
CONTENT IS KING. RADIO IS AUDIO’S CONTENT KINGDOM
The outstanding role of digital audio solutions is delivery. The broadcast mission is presentation, along with service and keeping the lights on for you.
What’s the solution? No “garbage formats,” less duplication, and putting a stop to getting the good getting squeezed by cheap crap.
We still play games, like “Let’s Outfox the Ratings.”
If it works for the audience, the ratings record it. We see that with news, sports, weather, and Christmas formats every holiday season with an average song age of 57 years old!
Or, we can cater to inexperienced agency buyers, the Under 30s who simply don’t have the radio connection and love possessed by the Over 50s. Radio is local. The audience and sponsors are their customers; not the agencies.
Paul Harvey presented great sponsored radio podcasts, if you will. Today, there are now some 750,000 podcasts of differing lengths, frequencies, sources, topics of appeal and levels of professionalism. At the Radio Show, podcasts appeared to be getting more attention than the 15,500 licensed radio stations put on the dial for 24/7 service and licensed by the Federal Communications Commission in the public interest, convenience and necessity.
Do major radio operators really believe that a homemade podcast is more essential than a licensed radio station?
Do major radio operators really believe that a homemade podcast is more essential than a licensed radio station? Granted, podcasts are an interesting, new element. But, they are not the magic bullet, or the money-making, radio rescuing priority.
One hundred years ago, AM radio was born to deliver news, information, entertainment and music. Fifty years ago, FM exploded with new formats and excellent fidelity. FM stations were built on college campuses and major markets without spending much money. There were live all-night disc jockeys. There was Creative Communication and Feeling. There was Compelling Companionship. Now, FM quality attracts news, talk and sports but few innovative or full-service music formats.
It’s doubtful radio’s reach, cume and average quarter hour audience is being eclipsed by podcasts. Podcasts work for eclectic variety, free-speech and narrowcasting. But, these recorded audio selfies aren’t serving the listening audience in times of emergency nor in terms of profitable mass appeal. Podcasts should be a part of radio. Live, local radio health and development is more essential than podcasts.
LIVE IS LIFE. RADIO STILL DOESN’T GET IT
The Radio Show was great to experience, listen, hear, meet and greet. But, will campaign promises be delivered?
Talk is cheap. Talent is disappearing. In Minot, N.D., a radio station group’s operation after 6pm still exists with a spectacular studio ghost town. This is also infecting major markets. Live radio, whazzzat?
Millenials and Gen Zs grew up without finding radio to be essential. They also don’t command the spendable dollars Boomers do.
This should lead radio’s leaders to consider these basic tenets to success:
- Embrace customer needs & service.
- Strive for continual improvement.
- Evolution is constant.
- Protect our time.
- Innovate with the soundtrack of our lives.
- Radio makes the important difference, damn it.
Oh, and an Elton John track is not an oldie.
Here are some other things to consider:
Audience before sales. Audience is local. Often, ad agencies are not. What makes people listen? Algorithms or broadcasters as full-service connectors. Agencies will follow the leaders because the commissions, events and customer services make radio flourish. What will really popularize HD? Pictures on the screen or unique, appealing content?
Engage. Radio is a compilation of unique one-on-one relationships. Celebrate digital delivery, and that fact that radio feeds digital. Don’t think digital runs itself and simply connects because it’s there. Podcast will be enhanced by radio, not the other way around.
Redefine Broadcast Radio. Radio connects all platforms: News, talk, information, weather, sports, music, entertainment, personality, companionship, all instantly available on receivers everywhere. The Broadcast is The Brand.
Podcast will be enhanced by radio, not the other way around.
Radio is now more than we’ve ever imagined. Talking, doing, seeing, connecting. The time spent in Dallas was inspirational, with information, data and access to leaders for an elevator pitch, quick comment or question.
Who will fix the industry’s ills? The Boomers will fix it. In doing so, they will fill the need for mass appeal diversification.
Broadcast Advisor Clark Smidt began radio and TV work in Connecticut in the 1960s and gained fame as a Boston radio programming consultant in the 1970s. He’s been an owner/operator, content & business developer, and continues to work from Andover, Mass.