Radio’s Missing Links


(By Ronald Robinson) Commercial music radio — ownership, management, and programming — continues, unknowingly I expect, sabotaging the efficacy of this medium. Fortunately, radio does have one major dynamic going for it — otherwise we wouldn’t have an industry.

Radio, because it is an electronic medium, automatically bypasses the critical thinking elements and potentials of our audiences. Instead, radio immediately drills directly into the emotional (and usually unconscious) aspects of our mental capacities. Hardly anyone in the audience, for example, is experiencing the music we play at a conscious, rational level. The tunes are experienced emotionally.

Yet, what does radio do when it comes to on-air deliveries and commercial writing? We present those elements of our broadcasts as if we were speaking to a single individual who is accessing the medium rationally and with retention. We assume this person is processing and retaining what is mostly pure informational content! By presuming so, we kick ourselves in the butt and in the head.

Management is unable to demonstrate how their traditional approaches produce quantifiable results – beyond that which has been the status quo for decades.

News Alert: Earth No Longer Flat. Updated Information Needed.

While radio struggles, although with some small degree of success, to demonstrate the efficacy of the medium – just the way it did, and does, operate – the necessity to close the remaining link is still necessary for radio to generate a more powerful future.

Ownership and management of radio have absolutely no vested interest in getting up on their haunches and bawling, “The status quo is/is not the way to go!” But, owners and managers are humans, too. Their first natural responses to many challenges are: Stop thinking, and instead — react! “Thinking” is only an option — a possibility.

To be fair, it’s not that owners and managers are not thinking. They are. However, management’s “thinking” is restricted to, mainly, one area of radio.

The long-term behaviors of the management corps demonstrate the only priority is their singular desire to increase what is being called, “The telling of the story.” It’s a good one, too. It is the tale of how radio really is a misunderstood (by advertisers) medium with respect to its reach and, more importantly, to its influence. Radio can be a very influential medium – even though its services still remain, generally, extraordinarily shoddy, sloppy, superficial and, to a frustratingly large degree, inconsequential.

Because of this decision to concentrate only on “telling the story,” the most important and effectual element remains: The necessity for radio to make massive improvements to its services – on-air and commercial production.

“Telling the story” is a responsibility, primarily, of the sales departments. It is up to those members of the staff to explain, demonstrate, or educate local advertisers and, if they can take the abuse, the advertising agencies – those outfits whose main purpose is to torture and exploit local stations.

It is still an unfortunate, but unaccepted, ignored, and/or disregarded fact of radio sales that until the local stations can produce and deliver more effective and exceptional services, local advertisers and agencies will take sinister joy in toying with those stations, taking their candy, eating their cheese, and crushing their spirits.

The information being supplied by a number of credible sources, illuminating radio’s potential for more sales, is important and well received — again by sales departments. The programming departments, those who have the most need for improved services, are left kicking dust outside the area where the sales staff – the “cool kids” — are getting all of the attention.

None of this should be surprising, as the programming departments have for a long time been unable to supply the necessary strategies and methodologies required before they (the programmers) can step up and functionally contribute with confidence.

It is programming – on-air and creative — I am sorry to report, that makes up the weakest, sometimes broken, and, too often, missing links.

Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian radio since the ’60s as a performer, writer and coach, and has trained and certified as a personal counselor. E-mail him at [email protected]


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