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Thursday, May 14, 2015

(TALENT) Business In A Bubble


As more local advertisers shred their budgets by making major shifts to "digital," radio finds itself with mealy mouthed, milquetoast justifications/excuses for those advertisers to stay with their stations. Fortunately for radio, these advertisers are messaging their digital spaces with what? Print ads! Meanwhile, radio ? ever-ready to exploit an opportunity ? insists on continuing to fill its audio spaces with what? Print ads!

When given the opportunity to learn the distinctions involved in presenting in different media, I would have thought radio operators would have, by now, jumped at the chance to adjust their on-air and commercial presentations with those distinctions in mind. I would have been mistaken. No. I am mistaken.

Digital "analytics," practically, are only the dimes being thrown around like they were manhole covers. The numbers provided are no more than a report on how many people may or may not be ignoring the ads. Radio, then, still has a window to, first, perform, and secondly, to use the traffic and sales results generated for the advertiser.

I suspect that, some day, advertisers, particularly local retailers, are going to realize that spending on digital is like owning a fairly large boat ? a hole in the water into which large dollars are thrown. This is unlikely to happen in a time frame that radio will exploit. That is, unless radio comes to the same realization about its own presentations.

Radio-folks ? with ownership, management and programmers included ? have taken their own medium totally for granted, and for as long as there has been commercial radio. It is no secret within the business that nothing about programming or commercial production has been improved-on or revitalized in any significant ways. To the contrary, radio has suppressed the on-air components over the years and, likewise, strangled the creative departments into producing the most base, banal, and crude elements of communication. And they still make claims that this flotsam is "advertising." Nobody would dare to attempt to mount a cogent defense on this issue.

Radio insiders ? mostly the staffs ? have always accused their organizations of running spots as if radio was no more than the "newspaper-of-the-air." That was true decades ago and it is the same today. I would be reluctant to share that piece of information with anyone in a different field, never mind audience members or advertisers. The embarrassment might be crippling. Plus, announcers are still dropping amphetamines in order to cram one more piece of information into a :30. That is, if the engineer can't do a time compression on the spot that doesn't make the presenters sound like rutting lemmings. This is madness-in-action, by the way.

Since most of commercial radio today is corporately structured, we now are overwhelmed by what comes out the south end of a northbound cow. The corporate biggies, after all, are not cowboys. They are bi'ness men doin' bi'ness. However, recently, bi?ness has not been so good. Sales are still everything and the quality of what is being provided to audiences and advertisers is hardly worth a sniff around the back rooms.

Since most of the ownership and senior management of contemporary radio have no idea what it takes to be superior broadcast communicators, and since that topic has nothing to do with direct, immediate sales, it is unlikely these matters will ever be addressed.

Perhaps, when a panicked "Hail Mary" is necessary, a few individuals might snort around for some desperately needed options and solutions. Solicitations to the cosmos, however, might be arriving too late or be utterly ineffective to be of any value, anyway. (The cosmos is funny that way.)

The claim that radio is going to have make a number of significant changes if it is to re-claim any former glory or take itself to new, extraordinary successes goes unchallenged. Yet, the task remains. Those who have access to golden parachutes are unlikely motivated to get involved in such a process. Those who don?t will only get to enjoy the view on the way down ? momentarily. This is not to suggest that terra-radio is doomed. But, I do suspect there is going to be a lot more carnage in the interim.

I had a short, brusque exchange a week ago with an anonymous (alleged) cluster-owner who had arrived at a position known as "premature closure." This state is usually accompanied by a sincere, but annoying and arrogant certainty. When I am wearing my H/R hat, I can deal with such a situation, but only on a one-to-one, face-to-face basis. The guy left the impression that everything was fine and that he could handle anything that came up. (I asked him for the address of his cluster so that I could send sympathy cards to his staff. None was forthcoming.)

Radio has developed its own form of schema ? a subjectively applied model of the world that organizes categories of information. In a way, radio has its own unique and shared reality. This model does not include the necessity for the improvement of programming or commercial production. Another way to describe this (possibly unique-to-radio) phenomenon would be by comparing it to a sealed bubble ? unaffected by any outside elements or influences.

Even as senior radio management scrambles to drive business with better closing techniques, re-branding when the brand doesn't exist, throwing out wild claims of 14 and 20 percent ROI factors, trashing other media, and cutting back on its own performers, the evidence is clear and unequivocal: Radio is a business in a bubble. Change is not inevitable, but it is required. Effective solutions are available ? outside of the bubble. But the bubble has to be eliminated, first. While semi-safe and semi-comfortable, the "bubble" is still an extremely toxic and debilitating environment.

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

(5/12/2015 4:06:22 PM)
Charming.Is he in radio management, too?
(5/12/2015 3:52:48 PM)
My brother says he's going to deck you and saute your balls.
(5/11/2015 9:55:09 PM)
Thank you for that lettered and completely irrelevant post, Marie. It's important to know a hallway monitor is on the job.
Indeed, I retain the right to be terse, forthright, candid, caustic, satirical, direct, and downright rude & nasty. Perhaps you might refer any other gems to the chaplain.
(5/11/2015 5:39:30 PM)
I can't imagine anyone acting like you do, Ronald. People have a right to their opinion. You strike me as just rude.
(5/11/2015 12:48:56 PM)
More mind-reading, Miles. It's not productive - or healthy. Still, you can still be my poster-boy for "premature closure".

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