(By Ronald Robinson) “Perception,” it has often been extolled, “is reality.” While that can be argued as a truism, it is still a subjective position for some individuals, and only for some of the time. As often as not, the position comes off as one that has limited utility and renders wholly unsatisfactory consequences. However, the radio industry’s shared perception of itself suffers from just such a perception and just such a reality.
Further, radio does not only accept the perceptions that have been held by its owners, leadership, and much of the employee base, it has refused to challenge itself on the very edicts (I say, “dogma”) that have been perpetrated and perpetuated within the industry for decades. Consolidation, I suggest, has only made the rejection of responsibilities to improve the industry much easier and certainly more justifiable than if a more competitive environment might have generated.
Radio continues to reject any considerations, never mind the available applications of maneuvers that would upset the status quo — one that has been accepted for the better part of 30 years. The irony lies in that there are very few apologists and supporters of the industry — the way it is — who can provide thoughtful or reasonable justifications for maintaining the status quo.
To be sure, radio’s ownership and leadership can trot out a litany of complaints against a number of outside and inside influences, including government regulations, other media that enjoy “unfair” advantages, “unreasonable” demands from advertisers and agencies, and the machinations of unscrupulous competitors.
While many of the complaints do, indeed, have some merit, they will not stand as rational excuses to disregard every opportunity for radio to save its own bacon. Given the general state of radio, these irrational justifications to avoid implementing any worthwhile changes still have enormous traction.
Meanwhile, radio has, from time-to-time and still can deliver a marvelous ROI for advertisers — so long as two other aspects of mounting a radio campaign are considered, those being: the time buy and the effectiveness of the messaging. Without those two elements being factored in, there is the high likelihood of, once again, hearing that old chestnut, “I tried radio and it didn’t work!” So, were we expecting something else?
Without immediately launching into the almost universal, shoddy performances of the largest majority of those pretenders masquerading as “on air talent”, the effectiveness of locally produced commercial messaging would be laughable, if it wasn’t so sad, pathetic and amateurish. Granted, many readers would be getting their backs up at such comments, but this would be a knee-jerk reaction. There really are no useful or valid contradictory arguments that can disable the contention. Our spots, to apply the vernacular, verily do sucketh large. We ought to count ourselves as extremely lucky that radio audiences are more likely to tolerate the messaging — more so than they do when presented with ads on other platforms. I repeat: Lucky. Not smart. (There is an explanation for that phenomenon that is unique to radio, but I still expect an inordinate indifference.)
It is extremely difficult to explain a concept or a strategy when most of the crowd is raining down boos, hisses and catcalls. I am relieved the hurling of rotting vegetables has gone out of vogue. Still, I do keep an eye peeled. Given the state to which much of radio culture seems to be devolving, anything is possible.
Even as radio has decided that it is the sales process that will bail the business out of the hoosegow, other observers are well aware the other two factors — the time buy and, most importantly, the crafting of the messaging are the missing but required elements. Better closing ratios, while worthwhile in the shorter term, still won’t get radio back on any super-duper, media highway.
For more years than I care to count, I have taken all my education and experience in radio, and have been promoting the contention that radio has continuously been missing opportunities to be more appealing and more effective. By refusing to address the superior methodologies of presenting the spoken word in a far more influential manner, radio remains locked into communicative strategies that are not only less appealing, they are practically, counter productive.