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Thread: Radio Is Dead? Really? What are we really saying?

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Avid Listener View Post
    I totally and absolutely believe that. I believe that radio station operators are, for the most part, only concerned with profits and quality is only important if it is can be exploited as a gimmick to boost profits. Otherwise, radio station owners want to reach the maximum number of people possible by appealing to the lowest common denominator.
    I have never heard "lowest common denominator" mentioned in any in-house discussion. In fact, it never comes from industry professionals at seminars and conferences. That term comes from the "Newton Minnow School" (pun intended) of detractors who have, coincidentally, never worked in radio.

    Stations program for a mass audience that advertisers want to reach. Whether it is getting the cash register to ring in local direct selling or getting "must buy" numbers for ratings based transactional business, it is how radio has always worked.

    Unlike jewelry and high-end motor cars, there is really no "luxury market" for radio. And other small niche markets are only profitable if there are both listeners and advertisers in sufficient quantity.

    [/QUOTE] I also believe that what Trout and Ries wrote in their book "Marketing Warfare" is correct. You do not succeed in business by striving to be good, you only have to be better than your competitors. It's a classic example of the adage, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king". [/QUOTE]

    Similarly, I have never seen "lets not give it our best" or its equivalent said ever. We know that our competitors are working hard to take our audience and our advertisers, so we have to be on top of every little change in the market and seize every opportunity to excel. The only limitation is the station and the market's ability to pay for everything we'd like to do.

    Since most radio stations basically suck in terms of the product the put out over the air, all a station has to do in order to succeed is to suck a little bit less than the competition.
    That's opinion. I'm proud of the stations I work with and the ones I have worked with. At every opportunity, the teams I've been part of have tried to improve bit by bit, day by day. And I don't think any of the stations "suck" (although when I listen to tapes of my earliest programming, that does "suck" by today's standards but it was definitely quite good at the time).

    Eventually, in the fullness of time, the competitive technologies that offer an alternative to terrestrial broadcast radio will turn OTA radio into an historical memory, like analog broadcast TV or telegrams.
    We all know that the platform is changing and AM and FM will decrease in their importance as a distribution channel. That does not mean that today's radio operators won't be able to transition to new platforms and eventually shut the transmitters off.

    There are some who'll attempt to justify an optimistic vision of radio's future by co-opting the new technologies and declaring that they, too, are "radio". That's always a good trick to make it look like something isn't being replaced. Just pretend that the replacement is simply a continuation.
    Radio is not "pretending" here. Listeners simply have decided that real-time audio without pictures no matter what the source is "radio". That means satellite, streams, AM, FM are all "radio" to the listener. Since they tell us that in any kind of research, it is incumbent upon us to

    Another factor is that new technologies take time to catch on. The next time anyone is driving around on the public streets, take note of how many cars on the road are ten years old or older. Maybe new cars have new satellite receivers and other technologies in the dash, but most cars are still equipped with just an AM/FM radio, and the AM button is never used.
    Wrong on so many levels. First, 2/3 of radio listening is not done in the car, and listeners at home and at work have lots of choices in the way of content sources.

    And cars can be "made" to stream with the addition of a simple bluetooth device that takes your smartphone's output and puts it on a vacant FM frequency.

    Oh, and satellite began to appear in cars in the early 2000's, and by ten years ago was widely available.

    Second "Oh" comment: AM radio gets 40% of its listening in cars, so there definitely are lots of folks selecting the AM band... like 100 million of them overall.

    But most important is that broadcasters are more concerned with no offending anyone than with pleasing anyone.
    When you have a one-for-many push model, you have to please broad groups of people. What you may find as bland or unpleasing is actually exactly the "no extra work" model of broadcast radio that many listeners like.

    There's a reason why vanilla is the best selling flavor of ice cream. It's almost no one's favorite, but no one objects to it.
    When you go to a 31-flavor store or a supermarket, you will find that people with choices still buy vanilla more often than any other flavor. That's because they like it and because it is best suited for putting on top of a piece of pie or covering with some kind of fruits or sauce. It's #1 by choice, whether you find it bland or not.

    There is an excellent example of making the comparison to bland, boring vanilla seem like a great thing.
    What is bland to you is not bland to many, many other people. You are in a minority and radio is not in the business of catering to ultra-niche taste groups.

    Very few people like the Camry (I say that as the owner of another ultra-vanilla car, a Corolla).
    I know a number of Camry owners. They all love them because they are a perfect combination of reliability, cost, features and drivability. Sure, some people would rather have a Lexus or a BMW, but they find that the cost-benefits don't work for them so they don't buy one.

    But neither does anyone dislike the Camry. It's dull, bland and boring. It'll do until something better comes along. That's radio today, dull, bland and boring, but it'll do until something better comes along.
    Comparing cars, which are bought with price being a major consideration, with radio, which is free, is disingenuous to about the tenth power.
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  2. #12

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    I will admit to Avid Listener that I have been told the following:

    Never do everything you can do because in good times or bad, you must demonstrate success by taking small steps of expanding or bettering your product. Taking a step back or making a budget cut is failure.

    I was taught in small market radio that you want to be the favorite of only a few but the best option on the dial for the vast majority of listeners.

    Both of these comments would apply to any business. My Dad, in his 80s, still makes an incredible spaghetti sauce I've consumed all my life. Only one person has ever rivaled my Dad's recipe. When dining out I find a good spaghetti sauce in a restaurant might be a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. If it tasted like my Dad's I suspect many people might not like it as well as the "5" the restaurant offers. The "5" means everyone will like the sauce, even me. If dining there, as a consumer, I'd noticed if something changed. If it wasn't an improvement I'd think they might not be doing as well as they had in the past. Since radio is like a restaurant that needs the masses to dine there to be successful, you have to craft something that reaches as many people as possible.

    So, in that respect, I feel radio professionals do the best they can in creating the perfect station for as many as they can attract in their target audience. I say this because every radio person has a job because of their abilities and talents. When only your past performance is the deciding factor in getting a job, the thought of doing less than your best never is considered. Sure, as a jock you might have to be less than you can be but even in those cases you find a way to shine without getting out of that box your PD put you in. And I think it is pretty common, no matter how good the program director is, that you, as the jock can do a better job programming the station.

  3. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by b-turner View Post
    And I think it is pretty common, no matter how good the program director is, that you, as the jock can do a better job programming the station.
    Do you hang out with Scooter?

  4. #14
    The people saying radio is "dead" are either out of work, bitter jocks or trying to get you to listen to a podcast. Or both.

  5. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Ravens View Post
    The people saying radio is "dead" are either out of work, bitter jocks or trying to get you to listen to a podcast. Or both.
    Or none of the above, but thanks for playing; we have some lovely parting gifts for you.

  6. #16

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    JeffM - not sure how Scooter contributes to the discussion. Please explain.

    The only Scooter I knew was a dog with that nickname that had a nasty habit that made him a permanent outside dog, if you get my drift.

    Ravens, you might be more on target with your comments. There is no denying time spent listening and the total reach has fallen with the advent of other options but I sure cannot say radio is anywhere near dead. I admit radio needs to reinvent itself and I maintain a watch for thinking that is outside the box. It is pretty certain the first attempts will not be successful but watched, honed and improved. I'm not talking music formats here but thinking that is outside the box. For example, when Ted Turner launched CNN early in the cable TV days, the industry balked saying it would never work. History would say differently. CNN was thinking outside the box in my mind...at least it was then.

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBigA View Post
    Once again, it's still the top selling car in the country. That says a lot about the decisions people make.

    "Something better" will probably be more expensive. Most people aren't interested in that trade-off. If people want "something better" for radio, they can pay for Sirius. Some do. But most don't.
    You miss the point of your own metaphor. The plain, vanilla, boring car is the best selling when compared to every other kind of car one-on-one. But the real comparison is the plain, boring, vanilla car on the one hand, and all the exciting, interesting cars combined on the other. While no one single member of the category of exciting, interesting cars will ever outsell the plain, boring, vanilla car, eventually all of the exciting, interesting cars combined will sell so well as a group that the plain, boring, vanilla car will either change itself into something exciting and interesting, or it will go the way of the Model T. And as long as the same people who have turned radio into plain, boring, vanilla entertainment remain in charge, then radio will remain plain, boring and vanilla.

    You use Sirius as an example, but that's missing the point. It will be the combined impact of all satellite formats, plus the effects of streaming internet-to-go, plus the effects of easier to use personal music library play-back systems, plus whatever additional new technologies that come along that will collectively, as a group, gang up on and beat terrestrial radio into a feeble, bloody pulp. It won't be dead, but it will be a feeble shadow of its former self.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ravens View Post
    The people saying radio is "dead" are either out of work, bitter jocks or trying to get you to listen to a podcast. Or both.
    Or, they are like me, who used to look forward to listening to the radio and who now regrets the loss of one of his favorite entertainment media because it has turned from something "lively" into something that's more like a wax replica of something alive. Calling radio "dead" is usually hyperbole. The more apt comparison is comparing a bowl of real fruit or flowers into a bowl of plastic replicas of fruit or flowers. Radio used to be "live", now it's "fake".
    Last edited by Avid Listener; 01-05-2015 at 02:49 PM.

  8. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Avid Listener View Post

    It will be the combined impact of all satellite formats, plus the effects of streaming internet-to-go, plus the effects of easier to use personal music library play-back systems, plus whatever additional new technologies that come along that will collectively, as a group, gang up on and beat terrestrial radio into a feeble, bloody pulp. It won't be dead, but it will be a feeble shadow of its former self.
    And yet with all of those other choices, you still seem to spend most of your time listening to plain vanilla.

    The fact is that people don't listen to technology. They listen to content. And all of the new technology choices you listed all offer plain vanilla.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBigA View Post
    And yet with all of those other choices, you still seem to spend most of your time listening to plain vanilla.

    The fact is that people don't listen to technology. They listen to content. And all of the new technology choices you listed all offer plain vanilla.
    I do not listen to plain vanilla. I either listen to specific programs on the radio, such as Prairie Home Companion or Fresh Aire, or I listen to my own collection of music using a converter that plays my own collection of MP3s over a blank spot on my FM radio. When I'm traveling in some areas, there is a college station that transmits over the same frequency and interferes with my gadget, so I'll listen to a different station, usually on the low end of the FM dial where I can hear BBC World Service, classical music, or talk and interview shows. I never choose to listen to vanilla, except when I'm in my wife's car and she wants to listen to a boring station, and I placate her by going along. After all, Happy Wife = Happy Life.

    As for content, those choices I mention include both plain vanilla and butterscotch ripple and butter pecan and chocolate fudge and many other flavors. My personal library playback device only has "vanilla" in the sense that there are a few high-end French Vanilla with vanilla bean bits songs scattered amongst the other good stuff.

    And it though it should go without saying, when talking to you it does need to be said, metaphors only hold up to a point. I'm not suggesting that every single song played on tight-playlist radio is a dull, boring song. It's the mind-numbing repetition of the same few good songs that leads to boredom. On those rare occasions when my wife insists on putting on "The River", I'll often hear a song that I haven't heard in a while, which will prompt me to add all the songs from the album that one song came from onto my PM3 player, and I'll enjoy that entire album for a day or two, then I'll move on.

    A great example was hearing "Piano Man" for the 47,000th time. I had forgotten how good that album was. "Travelin' Prayer", "Ain't No Crime", "You're My Home", "The Ballad of Billy the Kid", "Worse Comes to Worst", "Stop in Nevada", "If I Only Had the Words (To Tell You)", "Somewhere Along the Line", and "Captain Jack" were all really great songs. Some were better than others, but collectively that was a great album.

    You're right about people not listening to technology, except as a means to an end. If I can hear really great songs that I really like and/or not be interrupted by inane jingles and DJ chatter, not to mention badly made commercials, than whatever technology is the means to that end, that's the technology I'm using.

  10. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Avid Listener View Post

    You're right about people not listening to technology, except as a means to an end. If I can hear really great songs that I really like and/or not be interrupted by inane jingles and DJ chatter, not to mention badly made commercials, than whatever technology is the means to that end, that's the technology I'm using.
    For most people, based on the research I see and do myself, they can hear what they like on the plain boring vanilla radio. It may be boring to you, but it's what they seem to like. And far be it from me to criticize them. If they want butterscotch ripple, we also have that in stock, and it costs us the exact same money to do that. But it doesn't seem to have the same effect as plain old vanilla.

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