?Recycling old ideas that don?t work might be an indication there are no new ideas.? While that doesn?t seem like an original quote, the point still holds up when radio?s punditry class are challenged to respond to the implications. That the consultants and other heavies have failed utterly in taking radio out of its five-percent-of-available-revenues doldrums is more than obvious. It speaks volumes. Yet, this grave situation gets a free pass.
The irritations coming from these sources have been blasted out for so long that all the old-school VUs within earshot have been permanently pinned. Intended listeners ? broadcasters ? have tuned out. Credentials are being questioned and credibility has been stretched to extremes. In some cases, both have already snapped like the rotted-out elastic bands holding the ol? Seinheiser-421 to the mic stand.
The number of ?emergency, stand-by, apply-in-case-of-rotten-ratings-and-revenues? platitudes that are regularly being issued by the Dover-pros would fill more space than this piece allows, but I will go through a few that fire off my own ?bulls***-o-meter." All of them, by the way, involve and include edicts to ?accomplish more, work harder, and put in more hours." They never add, ??for the same or less dough.?
I have been caught gazing skyward when I have heard this one. It is the one that triggers in me the same reaction as do fingernails scratched over a chalkboard or some poor sap of an announcer growling, ?Don?t miss it!?
?Become the ?Morning Mayor?!? they intone ? and with completely straight faces. There is the assumption here that presenting to service clubs, schools, churches, and bingo halls (not peeler bars) will ingratiate the station?s personality into a community and will result in creating new, obedient, and dedicated listeners to the show. There seems to be the presumption that the show is listenable in the first place. Also assumed is that the talent has no personal life, requires little sleep and is not already dependent on prescription or other medications. I also point out the unfounded presupposition that anybody who is working a radio show is also a refined, public personality ? one who is comfortable and functional in front of a ?live? audience.
It only takes a few seconds for a pundit to say, ?Be the ?morning mayor?.? It takes another 20-30 hours a week for a personality to even attempt to execute the order. Meanwhile, and since radio managers love to talk about ROI, this one?s a beauty that is incredibly inefficient, time-consuming, and assures relatively minimal returns. Plus, how many ?morning mayors? are glad-handing their way around their markets?
My premise: ?If it ain?t already coming out of the box, there?s no point in taking it to the street.? I can say that with some assurance as there are few who are going to argue that ?the show? is as good as it might be or needs to be. As that is more the actual scenario, it is the personality who needs the massive expert attention, training, and support ? not a few of what might be members of a potential audience. In other words: No value in prodding a (possible, maybe) audience with a rusty pitchfork if the on-air hand can?t expertly stack bales back at the barn. Plus, and this is critical: Astute managers are painfully aware their stations? shows are weak. Their hope, then, is that these obligatory, extra-curricular activities will take the place of, or mitigate, shoddy programming. (It ain?t happenin?.)
Next comes that stodgy old standard, the ?Generate more listeners? attention by creating something new and unique?-dodge. My cynical son?s retort to that kind of guff is, ?Yathink!?? However, I am completely satisfied this one gets way too much attention. More often, it only results in some spectacularly anemic and goofy concepts hitting the air ? the ones where the listeners just gaze skyward. But, they can get away with it without reprimand. Listeners can be forgiven for wondering, ?Just who do these people think they are dealing with??
Radio does not need to produce one more, original content idea. What radio needs to learn is how to deliver what they already have with more clarity, more appeal, and more influence. This includes on-air presentations, commercials, and promos. At this stage of the game, Process is more important than Content.
Indeed, underlying all of this is the toxic tradition of radio folks presuming their audiences are actually credulous, inept slugs with little capacity for critical thinking or the ability to recognize when they are being patronized. Presuming the exact opposite is equally dangerous. But, I do maintain audiences are not as cretinous a group as we treat them.
Now for the latest ? having to do with the resources that will be (allegedly) saving our sorry butts: online and social media. I?m willing to grant that a jock?s real-time access to social media and online resources is a tremendous boon to avoiding show-prep or some self-directed, creative thinking. Even so, radio stations? online experiences come with new and massive responsibilities. Keeping up the blogs, editing out or attempting to ignore the flaming and/or incriminating tweets, emails and Facebook, drive-by assaults that require just a tad more time and effort are all relatively new responsibilities. All of this online effort, however, comes at the expense of the quality of the on-air experience. Plus, the taking of listener comments way too seriously generates an enormous amount of paranoia at the stations. As a source of legitimate or worthwhile ?research," online input is? uhhh? crude and iffy.
Now, I am told that, apparently, many on-air folks have much more time on their hands because of massive music sweeps and interminably long, commercial, chicken dropping fusterclucks. Working the online portions at least allows for duties in which the talent can be engaged that don?t include trashcans and cleaning supplies.
Further, there is still that other segment of the industry ? those who insist on only accentuating the positives and disregarding the negatives. They are, I suggest, engaging in a strategy for avoiding development and for ensuring ongoing disasters. They claim that all concerned would be better served by concentrating on success stories ? those situations where radio has proven to be a worthwhile investment for this or that advertiser. I get that. I mean, we still do manage to scrounge up that big ol? five percent of revenues for ourselves. Yet, the refusal to consider criticisms and the offerings of alternatives has been the bane of this industry.
Having the cheerleaders shaking those pom-poms might be a welcome divergence and a small entertainment. However, our team is still getting hammered. Ours is an ?O-fer-forever? squad. Other media appreciate our mailing in the two points.
The re-cycling of old material has failed. It?s got to be back-to-basics for us. For there to be a benefit, however, those basics had better be new, and they had better be stronger! And, I might add, they had better lead to a far more efficient and appealing form of radio.
Typically, it?s ?the other guy? who has been drinking the Kool Aid. I submit the old, tired clich?s being offered by programmers, consultants, and pundits are making for a unique beverage ? a Kool Aid whipped up exclusively for radio. And how we do keep chuggin? it back.
Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian Radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach and has trained and certified as a personal counsellor. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to Talent and Creative, have yet to be addressed. Check out his website www.voicetalentguy.com
Add a Comment Send This Story To A Friend