RADIO, THEN AND NOW
- Radio people, talking about sincerity.
What a concept.
My friend Jaye Albright, one of the leading country radio consultants, asks in her blog today, could there be a trend afoot, away from sarcasm, toward sincerity? Ever the radio implementer, Jaye asks, in a Facebook post, “Does uplifting material create more buzz than sarcasm?” You can read her post here. I was moved to comment in Facebook: I said: “As long as radio people assume human on-air behavior, like music, is just another ratings-meter button, and format it, snark will rule those stations that seek the 18-34 male rock-n-roll demo, along with their warped and narrow view of what all younger people are like. Life is different. Moods, sarcastic and sincere, are all out there, mostly in balance. People who are only one thing — whether exuding syrupy optimism or seething with cynicism — don’t make authentic friends. Imagine a radio station with real people, as opposed to hyperthyroid, stand-up-comic, buzz-inducing readers. That would be something. Gee. I sound snarky. Don’t worry, it’s just a passing mood.”
- Pandora.com — the new music radio.
Sorry about that fan-boy futurist headline. Radio people have had enough of such obituarial provocations, I’m sure. But…if you’re part of radio’s research-ratings-driven music complex, just read this New York Times report on Pandora, which started out, not as an advertising play, but a music-discovery machine. Not so suddenly, Pandora has become a $50 million-a-year success. The Web empowers the user — they call them users, not “listeners.” See if you don’t feel the hot breath of change on the back of your neck. [LINK]
- I’m back again.
I just got mad all over again about what’s happened to radio. So I’m gonna post again here, occasionally. American commercial broadcast radio is still producing cash flow, while it struggles to refinance its ridiculously bankrupt, failed stock-play business model. Meanwhile its still-profitable-but-hopelessly irrelevant operating model loses skin cells by the trillions every broadcast minute. There’s even talk in the government of repossessing TV channels to convert all that outdated and inefficient use of bandwidth to digital broadband service — can all those fat radio licenses be far behind? In Canada, radio licensees are actually turning in their AM licenses to the government and shutting down the stations that they’ve operated for nearly a century. It’s way too late for radio people to wake up and start distributing some kind of audio programming to the Web, which is currently the only conceivable way to get into all cellphones or other digital devices. But…even though it’s late, there’s still time. Will radio people survive the digital tsunami? Stay tuned. Or not.
- Bankruptcy. Why not?
President Obama has announced a save-Chrysler plan that includes a bankruptcy filing. Gasp. But wait. This bankruptcy is part of a plan in which virtually all of Chrysler’s stakeholders (love that word), the people, banks, and organizations who have a stake in the survival and success of Chrysler, are volunteering to take a huge hit, making huge sacrifices, to allow the company to survive. How about bankruptcy as the solution to the radio industry mess? Radio is a healthy, viable, operating business. It hasn’t been destroyed yet by the Internet and the IPod. It’s the debt-burden imposed by ten years of speculative trafficking in stations that’s done it in. Radio needs a massive swamp-draining. Like the equity speculators who’re going to take a bath in the Chrysler bankruptcy, the overinflated gamblers who have lived high on their fees and commissions while creating a frail, unmanageable financial balloon for American radio, should be forced to make their contribution to its revival. Bankruptcy is the answer. Let’s follow the Chrysler model, and surgically remove the speculators. We need to find a whole new generation of local businesspeople to take on their town’s radio stations. But, I assure you, the price will be right.
- Another purge day for radio, and a touch of hope.
Clear Channel Radio, the General Motors of the radio station business, axed more employees today. As Jerry Del Colliano, the Jeremiah of radio, pointed out this week, CC is beating the drum for what they say is their “local” campaign, while chopping local station staffs and increasing the delivery of networked radio shows from out of town. Radio was constructed to be a hometown electronic medium. Radio station people have been running as hard as they can from that model for decades — it isn’t all the fault of CC and the other consolidators — standardizing programming through imitation. Radio people love to talk about being local, but they really always preferred to simplify the lives of their sales departments. Ratings technology required standardization. One piece of news caught my eye today — the CEO of a medium-sized station owner, New Northwest Broadcasters, announced he was leaving his job today, taking the company’s Billings, Montana, stations with him. This could be a signal that the company has a plan to sell off all their stations. They named their CFO — that’s the company numbers freak — to lead the company. You don’t put the head accountant in charge if you’re planning to run your stations creatively. I take this as a hopeful sign, that the radio speculators are getting ready to cut their losses and liquidate. Can’t happen fast enough for me. Maybe there’s a new generation of people who actually love radio who’ll see the opportunity and step up. There’s time to do it; listeners still love and listen to radio, even though the corporate stockbrokers have debased and demoralized the business by treating it like a burger chain rather than a powerful local medium. But now I’m just ranting. Later.
- Preston Trombley. Best Classical Host
I haven’t heard them all, but for me, Preston Trombley is the gold standard of classical radio hosts. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, he’s only heard on SiriusXM satellite radio, on the “Symphony Hall” channel. He’s a composer himself, and he speaks with the voice of a deep familiar. Not only of music, but as a familiar friend to the listener. You don’t have to sound haughty to be taken seriously on classical radio. SiriusXM has a couple of voices who do. Preston is casual, friendly, witty, fun to be around. He makes me glad to be paying to hear him.
- On the Road with SiriusXM, and Fear
Only a few years ago, the radio business quaked in fear of satellite radio. It wasn’t quaking, exactly, about Internet radio. It was too busy shivering in the IPod cold. Of course, American radio had already frozen out the (new) music business, hurting itself much more than the ‘Pod ever could, but that’s another story. Radio should have seen that satellite was going to be a no-commercials version of its own flawed self, and would have its own problems getting even hardcore (Stern) radio fans to pay for the same-old. Now that accelerated Armageddon has arrived, Sirius-plus-XM has bigger problems than the two of them alone had, which was not the way the merger was supposed to work, and the media-blackbirds are starting to circle the satellite, which is a good trick. Read what Business Week says, here.