Monday, September 17, 2018

It's Over...

I spent almost 49 years in radio and most of the time I loved it, I loved the business, the people and I loved our listeners.

I've listened to the radio business slide into mediocrity, sure it still has listeners, plenty of them. There are fewer every year and the entry level listener, the kids, the teens aren't listening anymore, at all. Why should they, there is nothing there for them.

I read the broadcast media, blogs. What I read is excuses, people looking for "one neat trick" or an "amazing hack" to turn things around. What I read most often is from people in a defensive posture, muttering "but, but, but..."

I spent (wasted) a couple of hours last week listening to WLTW in New York, it's the number one rated station, it was terrible. The guy on the air is required to open the mic about 4 times an hour and he couldn't even sound like he was interested. It was hotter than the hubs of hell in New York last week and he never mentioned it. The only New York thing he talked about was a swarm of bees around a hot dog cart...he read it off the internet. I know he did, I checked. I could go on, but I won't.

Not only is afternoon drive terrible, the entire station is, I listened around the other dayparts the next day. WLTW is being threatened by classic hits WCBS FM, I noticed WLTW is now playing one LOUD song an hour, think that'll work on an AC? Maybe that's the "one neat trick"? Now the defense of WLTW by radio guys, "gee that's not fair, you only listened for a couple of hours." You know what? That's all you get, if somebody tunes you in for the first time and the station sounds bad like WLTW, That's the only chance you get with them, no excuses.

When I was a young Program Director in a Top Ten Market, I'd drive to the airport and pick up the Executive VP of the company, He'd get in my car and turn on the station, if the first break he heard was bad, I knew I'd be getting my ass handed to me for the next few days, morning, noon and night. Was he fair? Yes. He made me a better PD, a lot better. Our National PD, a close friend of mine, rode to work with the guy every day in the company's home market, He hated the ride,, they'd listen to a break on the AM and then the FM, then discuss, 5 days a week. Did it make him a better group PD, sure did.

Our station was new, an FM, a CHR FM. We built it backwards. We hired the best talent for 6-10pm and 10 to 2AM. Why? We were going for teens in the beginning and that's when they were available, thousands of them. The first goal was to beat our competitor in teens, strip them away and knock their numbers down. When that happened we added better talent to the rest of the day, PMD, then Midday and finally mornings. Our demos expanded, we won 18-34 and got into 3rd place 25-54. In 6 books we won in a very tough marketplace I doubled my income through rating bonuses. One of my jocks did some research a few years ago and discovered we were the 6th biggest FM in the US at the time and the only one not in the top 3 markets

I bought my first house during this time period. I'd bought a new house, I saved money by painting it and putting the yard myself. I decided to paint the house during my vacation. I listened to the station all day, everyday from dawn to dark. I listened standing on the painting scaffold, while mixing paint and I listened while having a cold beer on my deck. Know what I found out? I found out there were a lot of things I could do to make the station better, to make it grow. When I went back to work I started to fix things. I started to sit down with the airstaff after their shifts daily. I'd even come in at night to talk to them. I never saw my wife and kids for months. The station got better because the talent got better by working hard and getting individual attention. I couldn't always keep them, but I had a pipeline of contacts and could always replace them with someone as good, better or somebody with great potential. I lost a guy to LA, found another great one in San Diego. Lost another to Philly and replaced him with a great jock from Miami and so on.

So is it fair to judge a station by listening to one break or for "only a few hours", hell yes it is. The audience will give you one shot, you better be ready and make it count.

Thanks for listening and now get back in your defensive crouch and keep looking for that "one neat trick".

BTW, take a look at your websites, they suck.




8 comments:

  1. Sounds like you're not ready to give it up, Bob.

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    1. I already have, I listened to the station in NYC for a friend who is the NSM of WLTW's competition. I was stunned by how bad it was. I there are some bad stations in LA, but nothing as bad as WLTW.

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  2. Interesting in how different paths/professions change, and either die off or have a rocket on their tail. I don't know about the change in radio; the only radio I listen is to whatever NPR or overseas BBC station is handy. In medicine, the depth of knowledge has expanded beyond my ability to keep up. Back when I was a lowly resident one thought one had learned all there was to know. Now (and then, really) we know that's inaccurate. The good sub-specialists (Cardio, Pulmonary, Endocrine, etc) all spend 20 hours a week, outside of clinical time, keeping up with the latest studies and research. If a doctor from the 30's/40's were brought to the present, they'd be pressed to get a job as a Medical Assistant, the one that checks you into your appointment.

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    1. My sister's husband died of cancer in the early 80's, it took 8 months from start to his finish. The last few months at the Mayo Clinic he was in that zone were he was either unconscious or in agony. The chief resident gave him a solution, marijuana. We'd roll him down to the veranda, light him a joint and he could actually have a conversation, smell the fresh Minnesota air and for a few moments anyway, feel like a human again. I was there the day before he died. He smoked a joint and we went back to his room. The TV was running promos for football. He looked at me and said, "You know what is really the shits, I won't see any of those games." The chief resident really put his ass on the line for my brother in law and our family will always be grateful to him. He was a great doctor, I'm sure he still is and I'll bet he keeps up.

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  3. Great Blog Bobby. Yes, WLTW is one of those stations that falls into the "just good enough" category. A few stations have tried to take them on in the past but they tried to use the the "one neat trick" approach. You know, a better mix or fresher music, unfortunately, WLTW listeners aren't looking for that because WLTW's music is just good enough. However, everything else ain't!
    You're right Bobby, those rides to and from work were pure hell. :-)

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  4. Bob, you need to be listening to Super Radio, download the free app we are doing Radio the way it used to be done!!!
    Jerry Robert Mason, Program/Brand Manager at Love Songs USA one of 6 music channels and Euro Jazz plus to be added soon!

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  5. Brilliantly written. Never givw up!!!

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