Warren Buffet Teaches Radio Programming


(By Jeff McHugh) What if broadcasters treated programming like an investment instead of an expense? Billionaire and financial guru Warren Buffett would say that an investment is money spent to make money and that an expense is money lost. Some investment firms involved with radio today seem confused about that difference.

I discovered some Warren Buffett wisdom on the blog of Chris Hladczuk of Goldman Sachs, who was so interested in Buffett that he read 50 years of Berkshire Hathaway investor letters and pulled a list of memorable quotes.

Let’s try reading a few Buffett quotes as programming philosophy and consider what would happen if we acted on it as content investment advice.

“If we did more business operating, less would be accomplished. Instead, get out of the way.” Hire only the best superstars and eliminate top-down managers who are more interested in commanding than collaborating.

“Good jockeys will do well on good horses, but not on broken-down nags.” A bad strategy cannot be saved by great talent or excellent programmers. Do market research, plan your station with precision, and execute with passion.

“It has struck me that all men’s misfortunes spring from the single cause that they are unable to stay quietly in one room.” Sometimes leaving things alone is better than making knee-jerk format flips or staff changes made for change’s sake.

“A horse that can count to ten is a remarkable horse – not a remarkable mathematician.” There are atrocious broadcasters that seem remarkable compared to other bad AM/FM players nearby. To be certain of where you really stand, compare your content today against remarkable modern-day competitors like Spotify, Sirius XM, and podcasts.

“If you sit down with an orangutan and carefully explain to it one of your cherished ideas, you may leave behind a puzzled primate, but will exit thinking more clearly yourself.” Teaching cutting-edge proven strategies to your team helps you learn them yourself. Talent development keeps both coaches and players current and sharp.

Jeff McHugh is known for developing remarkable talent for both morning and afternoon drive. He brings an uncommon mix of positivity, creativity, and strategy to the shows that he coaches. He is a member of the team at the Randy Lane Company. Reach Jeff at [email protected] and read his Radio Ink archives here.


  1. Radio has become Dollar General is many places. There’s 6 of them in a 25 mile radius and they all look the same, sell the same products and have 2 or 3 people working inside. You may stop at 1 of the 6, but you could care less about the other 5. Every time I drive by a Dollar General in my area, and there are plenty of them, I think of what has happened to radio since I started 46 years ago.

  2. You cannot compare the FM music product to Spotify, Sirius, or other streaming options. They are not radio’s competition, and that is like comparing apples to oranges.
    Radio’s biggest competition is itself. Voice tracking is the anithesis of local programming, and local programming/content was one of the huge advantages that radio had over streaming.
    And you cannot run insufferably long commercial cluster breaks …10, 12, or more commercials in a row…without driving away listeners and shafting the advertisers buried in the middle.
    But the likes of iHeart and Audacy and the other big radio corporations don’t care. Their agenda is debt servicing– so the more commercials, the better — and their agenda is executive compensation– so the less that is paid out to local talent, the more money for executive compensation. And corporate looks at promotions also as an expense, not as an investment in the station.
    Strong compelling locally-driven content is not even on their radio. In fact, the opposite is.


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