Who’s Driving This Bus?

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(By Eric Rhoads) Since we started Radio Ink 25 years ago, our focus has been, as all of you know, on management and marketing, on the managers and sales pros who keep the industry moving and the revenue flowing at the station and group levels, all the way up to the executives who lead the radio business.

But that’s never meant we don’t recognize and value the talented people on the air — and of course the programmers who teach, guide, encourage, protect, and (sometimes) correct them.

We’re always happy to talk with air talents and programmers and share the insights they have to offer, but a couple of times a year, with our Country PDs list and this Best PDs in Radio issue, we go more in-depth on what’s going out over the air. We want to recognize these pros and hear and, of course, share what they have to say. And these lists are also a reminder that to nearly all listeners (and even to some advertisers), programming is radio. If a listener is aware of even one job title in radio that isn’t “disc jockey,” it’s most likely “program director.”

In fact, there used to be some people who thought sales and programming weren’t even really on the same team, that the listeners’ needs were different from, and maybe even opposed to, the station’s need to keep the revenue flowing. Once in a while, it even came to serious arguments: “Who’s driving this bus?”

But those days are over — for good. Every programmer who hopes to succeed today understands that sales and programming have to be real, full partners in creating a product that will make the listeners happy, serve the community, and provide the best possible return on investment for the advertisers. (No pressure.)

So how does a programmer today accomplish all that? Sure, new technology and digital resources have a big part to play, but that means PDs have to be educated about all of it, and able and willing to help guide talent to get the most out of the new options, all the while also being aware of the dangers that come with constant, instant connections between the station and its fans.

And clients need to be educated, too; they may be digitally savvy as far as their own businesses, but programmers now have to be ready to partner with sales to explain how to make social and other digital options work together with the station’s resources to make certain everyone is getting what they need.

And of course today’s PDs have every aspect of a station’s brand to manage — over the air, online, on social media, at events, and everywhere else radio needs to be to stay top-of-mind in a hugely competitive media landscape. And most also work to mentor aspiring programmers in their turn — to connect with the eager young people who look at the demands of the job and think, “I want to do that.

I can do that.” It’s crucial that these young people be encouraged and guided if radio hopes to stay fresh and relevant in the future. So the answer to that question in the headline? Everybody in radio, working together, is driving this bus. And if that bus stays on course, radio’s greatest days can still be ahead.

Eric Rhoads is Chairman of Radio Ink magazine and can be reached at [email protected]

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Eric Rhoads
Eric Rhoads is Chairman of Radio Ink magazine and can be reached at [email protected]

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