What Other Media Find Unacceptable Is “Normal” For Radio


(By Ronald Robinson) My continuous wail that commercial music-radio doth, truly, sucketh large is likely as welcome as a recurring toothache. I accept that many readers would aggressively disagree with the premise. Thing is, though, I have yet to find anyone in ownership or management who is willing or able to articulate a cogent, contradictory argument.

For consideration: When a couple of the bankrupted biggies demonstrate some success at gaming the system, other, even astute observers are relieved, and are dancing their version of The Yippee-Yahoo Boogie.

“Dodging a bullet is cause for celebration, certainly, but the hoopla of the party tends to take the considerations of what comes next right off the agenda. Radio, I suspect, is still more concerned (understandably) with its own survival and the continuation of executive compensation.

“At no time, has anybody with authority and credibility been able to articulate how radio’s basic services will be improved – certainly not to the degree where it can crawl out of the basement position it currently holds because of the ongoing deliverance of shoddy on-air and local, creative services. Radio’s ownership groups can be castigated for also having positions of Let ’em eat cake.’”

To the contrary, a number of commentators with credibility are digging in and insisting, essentially, that the way it was is the way it is because that’s how it needs to be. The sincerity of such assertions is staggering. Even some cults are a bit less strenuous.

In a world where fewer and fewer held-positions on so many assorted matters make less sense at all to us regular folks, radio has been able to stay as it has been, sticking itself with programming and spot-making strategies that have been demonstrated to be significantly less than effective. That’s an oldie – hardly a goodie.

Further, those of us involved in radio are surrounded by multiple other media and platforms. Since their inception, most have been continuously making improvements in their products and services. Some, gawd forbid, are even applying the “E” word. That’s right, experimentation! And who saw that one coming?

Radio, however, is like a duck sitting on a mud mound, guarding whatever turf it can still maintain while pecking away at whatever grains get blown through within the proximity of its bill. Radio’s apologists, meanwhile, continue to incessantly quack out all the attributes of its super-duper medium – of which, by the way, there aren’t that many. Those there are, might include a still semi-decent reach and an occasionally satisfying ROI for some advertiser or other.

What with the bones of cruelly dispatched copywriters lying bleached out in the desert, having been picked clean by carrion crows eons ago, larger chain owners continue to ruthlessly decimate whatever of the “live” presenters are still cowering in the hallways.

The writing for radio has been on the wall for an extremely prolonged period. Unfortunately, it seems to be written in Swahili, ‘cause, as the Bard of Stratford once proclaimed, “Forsooth! Ain’t nobody gettin’ the message.”

It could be argued that getting radio’s leadership to begin acquiring the pertinent knowledge and to start applying the information to the improvement of radio’s products and services would be more difficult than getting “Mitch” to bring a reasonable bill to the Senate floor. There might be some equivalencies, anyway.

Meanwhile, as podcasts are becoming more popular for certain segments of the audience, I wonder if radio’s leadership has realized that their audience is much more inclined to a more casual listening experience – one that doesn’t require full, dedicated attention over longer periods. Radio, at one time, always flourished best when it was fluctuating from just above or just below the conscious awareness of any given listener.

Radio has been the only medium where people can be doing other things while they were enjoying the broadcasts. Try that with any other medium and accidents and charges are likely to ensue. Still, the premise that whatever radio finds to be “normal” is utterly rejected by the management of all other media, stands. Indeed, Baba Ron has spoken.

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. Contact Ron at [email protected]


  1. I get the very strong impression that “Will B.” has not been reading my blogs very carefully. Or, if he has, he has been having difficulty in appreciating the distinctions.
    But, I have to appreciate: That’s a typical response of apologists who are willing to die on a hill that cannot be defended for too much longer.
    So, by all means and, probably, at all costs, Will – do martyr-up.
    And, after the noise subsides, what improvements would have been made?

  2. Will B. seems to blowing out his already-existing beliefs about radio, and they are weak and come nowhere near what radio’s potential is.
    I have NEVER insisted that all spots be “creative” as that’s not only a mug’s premise, but a highly unlikely happenstance. I got that many moons ago.
    Sure, “creative” is nice when it is appropriate and available, but my premise and ideology on this matter is more about more effective spot constructs.
    The ol’ “Oh yeah? Well what about this or that client? They use local and they do okay!” is not even the beginning of an argument. It’s a cheap justification and an embarrassing whine. Plus, it’s a guarantee of stagnancy.
    UNDERUTILIZED is radio’s shame.
    UTILIZATION is radio’s new game – for those who are willing to play.

    • Mr. Robinson-

      I thought only politicians were prone forgetting their own BS, but I guess graying old DJs who fancy themselves as advertising experts also have convenient black-outs.
      All you ever harp on is “creativity”.
      There’s always a place for a new twist on how a client can be portrayed, and ad copy that reflects strong points of advertisers is welcomed with open arms, but day-in, day-out asks for business is what gets ROI for customers. And that’s what they spend most of their money on.
      Now and then they get drunk and buy a Super Bowl ad, but the hangover is painful

  3. I wonder if “Will B.” appreciates his own irony.
    All of the advertisers he lists (above) are made up of businesses who know radio better than the operators themselves.
    Every one of them supplies their own production.
    One of my premises has always been that radio is a severely UNDERUTILIZED medium.
    I present the lack of quality of local spot production – that hasn’t been addressed for decades – as all the evidence anyone making the case would ever need.
    As to being the first to die: Is that a simple fact or is it just a silly and superficial attempt at some kind of gravitas?
    I have no choice but to accept the former.

    • Mr. Robinson,

      The examples I cited are advertisers who continue to use radio-the medium you detest not just for it’s local commercial work, but for it’s programming at a local level.
      There are countless local advertisers in all markets who employ their local stations to write and produce their local ads and have for decades. The ads may not win any creative contests in which you were a judge, but they work and the company paying the bill likes them.
      You continually insist that radio ads need to be “creative” (there’s a subjective term if I ever heard one). Many TV TV Super Bowl ads won rave reviews on their creativity-they were funny, entertaining and ground-breaking….and never seen again.
      Ads are not intended to “fit” a format. They are purchased for an ROI. Whether they meet the approval of Ronald Robinson is irrelevant.

  4. Mr. Robinson-
    You state that radio continues “programming and spot-making strategies that have been less than effective.”

    Is there an advertising example that you can cite? I can think of dozens of Super Bowl TV advertisers from years past who did not renew. Must have been “less than effective.”

    Conversely, the roster of radio’s national advertisers who vie for the weekly top spot in spending continues to impress: Geico, Walgreen’s, Home Depot, ATT, and many more They certainly think radio “is effective.”
    Your regular tirades against the radio business could draw some attention if you ever had some real evidence, but you never do. You really should stop listening, you’ll die happier. You’re getting old and the business is going to outlive you.


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