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Monday, January 26, 2015

(TALENT) Radio's Blind Spot


I have always been impressed that humans and other mammals have some of the least efficient eyes of all the animals. Our visual acuity is such that we miss a ton of information that is actually available in the environment. We even have blind spots. We also have blind spots in our neurology, psychologies, and cultures. So it is with radio.

In my last blog, I revisited the proposition that radio is nowhere close to being a one-to-one medium. I provide a number of distinctions and demonstrations of how the concept is not only inaccurate, but that implementing the premise is a disastrous practice ? and one with no upside whatsoever.

The one-to-one approach or, as some would reference it, the application of "The Personal Listener" concept, is the primary, foundational concept of radio that has been in play for generations. The toxic irony is that this element is the exact one that has been crippling radio for just as long. It cannot be implemented with the expectation of simultaneously contacting or influencing an audience of many.

This is the first of radio's blind spots.

Of all the times I have reintroduced this broadcasting fallacy ? here and in other media ? I have yet to receive one cogent argument or example that demonstrates the status quo is viable or useful. Not one.

There are thousands of sincere radio people who read these pieces ? many who are smart, witty, clever, and thoroughly engaged broadcasters. Yet this, shall I say, "communicative blind spot" continues to be on full display; is always in play at every English-language radio station everywhere, and operates as a terribly destructive element.

It won?t be coming from me, but some learned shrinks might consider the positions and behaviors of the thousands of radio broadcasters who insist on maintaining destructive and corrosive on-air strategies as being those of a whole class of ?self saboteurs.?

There is no way of putting this kindly. Any industry's leadership that refuses to consider viable alternatives that would generate massive improvements in the business as being worthy of consideration ? never mind implementation ? have lost their marbles. They are running on habits, traditions, and dogma. They have, after years of finding out what hasn't been working, been compelled to do the same things over and over ? only harder.

I am willing to cut these people some slack, if only because they do not yet know the currently applied and ancient strategies are not working?at all. Since, however, the information has been around for decades, I am unwilling to provide any free passes.

Dropping the second person ("you") into any broadcast communication is a smarmy, but still unsuccessful, strategy to gain some kind of nebulous connection to a particular listener ? even as nobody can identify said listener. This is not an analogue context where all listeners are contacted as individuals. That's a description of a digital context. Either one listener ? to the exclusion of all others ? has been reached, or, the listener has not been hooked up. Piling on a bunch of "you" references only confirms for individual listeners that the fuller communication, within which the "you" reference has been placed, is not valid for them personally.

This really is a ridiculous, destructive practice, as it starts a vortex of unjustifiable, undemonstrated assumptions about the reality of broadcast communications and a listener's acceptance. The argument goes 'round and 'round until somebody barfs and everybody has to stay off the ride until it gets hosed down.

Nobody has been able to justify the use of second person as a viable or useful radio broadcasting approach. Nobody ? ever! Granted, there are other realities of life that people have taken on as absolute truths ? even though there is no body of evidence to support the beliefs. But, this environment is no place to have that discussion. Suffice it to say, we are dealing here with no more than wild, but sincere assertions.

Further, until this provided revelation has been tested to be useful, it is unlikely that large, medium, or small radio organizations will be stepping up to even experiment with this (and other) supporting approaches.

I am willing to spend a day or two with a group of high-echelon managers in a radio organization. This would be so long as those managers had the authority to authorize and begin implementing a new set of communicative strategies that have already been shown to improve ratings, improve the influence of better-designed creative, and improve the credibility and listenable qualities of on-air performers.

Tests could be conducted, by the way, in a single cluster, as the material can be applied in any format. I will expect to be cross-examined on any aspect of on-air communications. Whether there was value in investing in my fees will be determined at another time. But, considering the amount that is provided for R&D for radio, there might be some discomfort.

At some point, a decision can be made about implementing a larger-scale, hands-on, eyeball-to-eyeball training schedule. As this is the first of radio's blind spots, I figure only a few will recognize how very important these propositions are to the future of this medium.

Here, nevertheless, is how the radio "blind spot" kicks in. Most managers will be completely confident when, after reading these last two pieces, they likely conclude: "We're good. There is nothing here for us." And, that is an unfortunate, uneducated decision.

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