I think most radio people would agree: We seldom, if ever, have the conversation about the innate power of radio and how it unquestionably impacts the minds and emotions of listeners. That radio, in spite of its worst efforts, still maintains a mid-90s-percent penetration speaks directly to this innate power of the medium.
We don’t have the conversation because most people in radio would hear the comment and say, “Huh? What innate power!?” Radio cannot make any claims to generating these high penetration numbers because of anything the industry has done of its own volition and with purpose. To the contrary, radio has been consistently sabotaging itself – draining the blood and cutting away at the marrow and bone that support the broadcasting body. Plus, it seems to me, they do all this hacking and bashing with absolutely no consideration of any consequences.
The industry management and the line staff, to my knowledge, have never made “radio’s innate power” a topic of serious discussion, never mind research and development. One result of that is the ongoing presumption by programmers that radio presentations, particularly commercials, as they are produced today, are acceptable products that are arrived at by generating copy that is consistent with the “newspaper of the air” variety. By that, I mean those spots that are all content, loaded with information, demands for behaviors, and drastically failed attempts at connecting with audiences on a one-to-one basis.
I agree there is no argument that these newspapers of the air, or, more commonly referenced as “direct response” ads, do function to a somewhat satisfactory degree. Did they not, we wouldn’t have an industry about which I could bitch and complain. Nevertheless, we can all be accused of taking the medium for granted. The further debasing of radio, over time, to a cheapest, lowest common denominator of broadcasting has not received anywhere near the challenges and criticisms ownership and leadership have coming.
It’s not as if, over the decades, we have not had every opportunity to study, learn, and exploit any newly discovered or (sometimes) past, effective approaches that will enhance audience participation and advertiser results. Nor has any other broadcaster of my acquaintance ever made or accepted the most basic of distinctions that come from an audience member accessing the medium. That distinction: Radio has a greater impact as an emotional medium than it does as a content medium. In terms of delivering radio, this is not an either/or circumstance. It is about the priority of employing the most powerful of approaches while maintaining only the necessary content.
When I say “emotion,” I mean a great deal more than a giggle – perhaps some pathos, or an irritated snort. I am referring to all those elements of communicating which engage and enhance the participation of audience members and the generation of feelings, of so many kinds. Only one example is the use of “sensory-based” language patterns. Radio’s presenters (on-air and ad production) are in the practice of applying only the most base of communications – failing (almost) pervasively to apply the sensory predicates of taste, touch, sight, hearing, and olfactory elements that every member of the audience can experience.
Providing just sensory descriptives alone fires off all kinds of neural-synaptic processes in an audience member. Great stuff. “Majic.” Radio, however, survives on “hard, basic content” – delivered poorly. And that’s not near enough to move a station or an advertiser toward more prosperity. I am afraid that any “aha” moments that might have gone on in the minds of ownership and leadership along the way have been either ignored or repressed into the basements of unconsciousness.
I might hope that broadcasters will consider these aspects of electronic (not print) communications – even at an intuitive level – as concepts worthy of immediate consideration and, possibly, application. My position is one on which the industry requires that these materials be implemented immediately. The evidence that supports these premises I have been presenting is already available. Some of the material is neurologically based. Some of it has roots in psychology. All of it has been tested, and all of it can be demonstrated. Perhaps most importantly, all of it can be learned and replicated by local. Line staffs.
Instead, and over decades, we got caught up in depending on the tunes while debilitating the talkers and the writers, never realizing the extraordinary results that are possible by accessing the mammoth communications and influence tools to which we all have had access.
I was monitoring Saga’s new, so-called “radio” format called “The Outlaw.” This one is of the Classic Country variety. One of the splitters provided the following: “…and with no DJs to get in the way.” Yes, really! I insist that some factions of the business have completely lost their direction – that is, if they ever had one. This droning and toxic example of a real radio station is an embarrassment. It’s not radio. It’s Muzak. (I confess, the voice talent doing the promos and splitters had a nifty drawl, a fine attitude, and an overall terrific delivery.)
Meanwhile and after all these articles have been presented, the need for radio to address its own models of communication has yet to be addressed. Put in a more ironic fashion: Radio is a communications industry that refuses to readdress its methods of communication. Shown this scenario, I expect leadership from other industries would be frozen in their tracks – aghast, stymied, and stupefied at the lack of attention paid to the most important element of the radio world.
Still, radio’s innate power remains unexploited because ownership and management have no idea of its existence, never mind how to take advantage of it. So powerful is this innate property, it could be likened to “The Merlin In The Mix.”