(By Jonathan Green) I was made for a career in radio. It just clicked for me. I followed my heart to pursue it, a tough stand for me. But it was the right thing to do. If you care, I have posted my job history at the end of this.
I am now 74.5 and comfortably retired and finally in a warm climate. I don’t listen to radio anymore. I look back at the industry’s transitions over 40 years and lament its path.
- From 1969 into the later 70s, we played the best radio we knew how to for our audience. Twice per year we focused some programming on the two four-week ARB rating periods.
- Late 70s (I think) Arbitron, using its ridiculously flawed “diary” system of audience quantification, extended its sampling period to 48/52 weeks per year. I think the intension was to get a more accurate quantification of listenership.
- Measured market radio stations felt the need to address this. What happened when they sought to do so was an increased period of flawed sampling, flawed the product.
- “Program Directors,” often people whose in-studio capabilities had peaked causing them to enlist into management, increasingly adopted strategies to manipulate those few diary keepers out there. Inane and ubiquitous contests, incessantly annoying and redundant station ID phrasing, the famed “rubber clock,” stop-sets, etc., all became the demands of the PD. Anonymous diary keepers became the target audience. Program directing became ratings manipulating. Now a PD, in name only, is really a Ratings Manipulator.
- The concept of playing to the audience increasingly became ratings manipulation…manipulation by empowered failed-in-studio managers. Talented on-air people were forced to play to a VERY flawed sampling system.
- When PPM was introduced, I hoped it would bring back radio aimed at audiences. It did not. “Program Directors” are now established Rating Manipulators. That’s what they understand. It’s the new norm. Great radio, as I learned and practiced it as best as I knew how, is beyond their comprehension.
- SUMMARY: If all your station has to say is something relating to a contest (“listen tomorrow morning for…”); a catchphrase designed to make me remember your otherwise unremarkable station (“your listen-while-you-work station”); a promo, especially (this is a manipulator favorite) “appointment listening” (“ tune in at 5:27 for”… another boring interview”); or any of many bullshit manipulation-generated statements, your station is unlistenable to me.
Programming and Sales contradict one another
Here’s proof: A glaring flaw, the “stop-set” is an admission by “program directors” of their belief that people will tune out commercials. Jamming them together will cause extended listenership resulting in longer TSL and ¼-hour numbers. In turn, these ratings are given to sales reps to convince clients that listeners will hear their commercials. That is a contradiction.
If you must surrender 25% of your programming time to commercials, why not make them part of the show? If you are reading this and don’t, won’t, or can’t get that concept, I submit that you are further proof of my contentions.
I realize that many will dismiss this as the rantings of an over-the-hill geezer. That is not inaccurate. But to many, I hope there is a lesson to be learned from someone who cares and has loved the biz, but whom the industry has failed to keep aligned. By the way, I don’t Sirius/XM either. Spotify plays MY playlists to ME, and reading also allows me to choose what my brain digests. I may even read your opinion…or not. Same as you.
My Radio History
1962: I was in Ivy League Engineering at Cornell, when the radio bug bit at extra-curricular WVBR. I dropped out, worked briefly at little 250w day-timer WGLD in Chardon, OH. It went dark. Then weekends at WERE Cleveland. Full-time at its sister WLEC Sandusky, OH, and on to part-time at WTVN Columbus, OH, while at Ohio State trying to avoid being drafted. Failing that, I eventually landed the morning show at the American Forces Network, Europe (AFN-E) HQ in Frankfurt, West Germany. Discharged in 1969, I landed a gig at WTMJ Milwaukee where — except for a two-year dream-chase to a warm climate turning into a nightmare — I did PM Drive through 2010, retiring at age 66.5. I still love WTMJ Radio. Most of what I said here does not refer to WTMJ. And, to be fair, not all Program Directors are Ratings Manipulators. Interestingly, in my opinion, small-market unrated radio stations can be much more interesting and serve their audiences better, unless of course they’ve become the property of out-of-town controlling conglomerates.
P.S. I “Invented” the PPM!
For what it’s worth, I was so disgusted with the Arbitron diary system in the 90s, that I “invented” — at least in concept — what has become the PPM. And I can prove it. Before I had a computer, I wrote it down, copied it, and sent the original to myself in registered mail. It is still sealed. I called the ID process an “audio barcode.”