Recently, I read a snide contribution from a radio manager who was determined to school me on the way things really are. His contention was that on-air presentations and the writing and production of spots was a small part of the business – “a very, very small part of the business.”
That’s when I had a moment of pure clarity: My caustic colleague was sincere – and he was correct! His was an accurate representation of his personal radio reality. On-air presentations and the writing and production of ads were, for him (and too many others), “a very, very small part of the business”!
“Holy crapoly,” I muttered to myself. “Radio is and has been stagnant for the last 20 years because those exact elements have been suppressed and/or tossed aside. Yet, they are the only elements that can establish commercial radio as an even more dynamic medium! But none of that is deemed to be important!”
“Sales” constitutes the first, and sometimes the only, priority. Based on the overwhelming evidence of what radio has been producing in the areas of on-air presentations and commercial content, I am satisfied most radio-folk have little perspective on these extraordinary matters of consequence. “More sales” is the salvation. End of chat.
I repeat: It would be easy enough to presume I am urging a trip on a “wayback machine” and encouraging radio to start hiring a rabbit warren of “live & local” presenters, and more folks for the creative departments. I have never suggested that was an immediate option – not nearly as quickly or as easily as a number of concerned radio-people are suggesting that such is necessary.
I have plowed through crates of Tostitos, cranking out articles that suggest nothing of the sort. I agree that, ultimately, the hiring of more talent is part of the solution. But not until the existing staff have been trained and become competent in a completely new and fundamentally different approach to broadcast communications – a great deal of which I have provided in previous articles.
Meanwhile, nobody has ever been able to successfully challenge the following propositions with anything more than bleating and defensive criticisms:
– On-air talent has been so suppressed and, often, eliminated, to the degree that renders them little more than hard-wire programmed; toy dolls of the kind that come with a pull-string and a ring that gets yanked out. This results in continuous, squawking – irrelevant noise belched out in almost every station in every market around the country.
– Creative has been stuffed into a bottom drawer and ignored – the results of which include spots that are banal, annoying, unappealing, insulting, and not nearly as effective as advertisers, particularly the locals, deserve.
Complete solutions – tried, tested and found-to-be-extraordinarily effective – are actually available. But how many astute readers are even willing to consider any of them? None so far! The evidence, or rather the lack of it, suggests any communicative issues were put to bed decades ago. These elements of the radio model, however, are not sleeping. They were enthusiastically smothered with a pillow.
I have been continuously asserting that radio is being squelched by dogma, traditions, and assumptions of its own making. This dogma is being followed, religiously, by stand-alone operators and the largest of the consolidating corporations. It can be argued that, when it comes to the communicative elements of radio, they don’t know that they don’t know while they claim to know. The following quote might shed some light: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain.
I have claimed before that radio, because of its electronic delivery, enjoys an “innate power” that is unique and consistent only with other electronic media. Without it and based on the cheap and shoddy advertising and programming content we (generally) provide, we wouldn’t be discussing the current, menial prosperity of much of the business. Rather than floundering around, a radio organization could still be a “category killer” and rise to the top of desirable and, most importantly, effective media.
My own expectations of personally impacting on radio-in-general are nil. Radio is likely to remain mired in a swamp of stagnation. After decades of discovering, collating, and testing, I am also unwilling to reveal the details of my model because some unknown individuals make discourteous demands. I may, one day, be introduced to a leader who is cautiously interested or inquisitive. With that unique individual, I would have a meaningful and useful conversation – while introducing a new revelation.