The Future Of Radio?
Not a Clue.
It would be very easy to sit back and snipe at the latest radio disasters and play the ‘back in my day’ card. Well, it’s not 1977 - so what the heck are media people going to do, to stem the flow of red ink, that is undermining newspapers, radio, TV and magazines, in just about equal measure?
It turns out that we have learned same painful truths about the consumer’s desire for content. First - paywalls at Newspapers have been, for the most part, a bust.
They tried one at the Vancouver Province and they gave up. All the paper wanted was 99 cents and people wouldn’t pay it!
Turns out, studies show that people merely scan newspapers, and ignore the ads, unless a specific sale or bargain is highlighted.
A lot of the rules that we thought applied, don’t anymore.
When you have the publisher of the Vancouver Sun and Province asking everyone on staff to take a buyout - and so many did, that the newspapers big draws took the money and are gone. Now we have former interns and part timers having to try and lure a dying market. The essence of showbiz? Timing. This was NOT a great time to take a flier, and they crashed.
CORUS, a National Broadcast powerhouse, had to cut 2% of its staff to make the numbers last quarter. How long can you continue to do that?
People are being fired because they are well paid and the cuts are in every department. The remaining staff are fried already. You cannot have one “Brand Manager” responsible for 5 or 6 radio stations and expect anything other than bland anarchy.
The rule changes allowing one company to own many radio outlets has been a mess from day one. NOW, in Canada - 6, count ‘em - 6 - Companies own all he media.
The Politicians love it! The newsrooms are gutted so no one is asking any questions!
The media as we knew it = died when the Internet took over the world. 40% of the Population of the United States, check in with Facebook everyday. Can Radio make the same boast?
People are struggling, so they are not spending. That means advertising is tight. Stations are cutting each others throats to get ROS spots on....anything, to keep the lights on.
Meanwhile, all the talent that could make this soup palatable, have been canned. You have rookies making fools of themselves in major markets and it’s not their fault. It actually takes TIME to learn how to be a “personality”, or at least sound like a human being on the air. BUT - this new model gives these folks little development time and so we have an inferior product that the sales people can’t sell, end result: the audience walks away from you and they are not coming back.
Twenty years ago we didn’t have Satellite Radio, and now Pandora (*Internet enabled car) Networks.....fighting for your attention.
It’s going to be a dog fight, and you better bring a .50 calibre.
The news that FM chips are being installed in smartphones - will allow people to tune in and not use any bandwidth. The data cost savings alone, will make this a big deal - so - maybe there is some life in the old Radio, yet.
The one thing that I need to impress upon you, is that Radio is a people business. You are a servant to the listener. You HELP them and become like a surrogate friend. Sit in a lineup at a Bridge and hopefully the voice on the radio (*if there even is a voice on your station), will keep the audience calm, amused, and LISTENING. Not an easy trick.
The other side of the coin is the people INSIDE the station, and the sales and marketing team, that bring home the cheese every month.
If you don’t have a leader that instills a quiet confidence in your team, you are done before you throw on the mike. You HAVE to believe in what you are doing, and you have to trust the process. Not easy. Radio attracts a lot of real ‘characters’ and so it must be like herding cats.
If you are lucky, you will wind up on a station with great wingers.
The numbers are a lot smaller than they were, when I was in the biz, but it is very important to have GREAT people, or you are dead.
Allow me to tell you about just ONE great person I worked with and why I never forgot his professionalism, kindness, talent and generosity.
His name was Marc Webber - but he called himself Marc Chambers.
We worked together at CFUN and when I was back at CJCH in Halifax, Marc saw his dream come true and got to work at 1050 CHUM. Blessed with a wonderful voice, Marc also was a football freak. He was the Stadium voice for the BC Lions, before he passed, tragically, way too young.
The reason I bring up this fine man here is simple.
This is the kind of talent our business needs. Marc could read spots, do a great shift - do news, if you asked him to - plus was great in public and made friends for CHUM and CFUN wherever he went.
He also saved me.
I was fired, er, ‘downsized’ by Rogers, at the turn of the Century. I was shocked and humiliated. I had worked by can off, and provided KISS-FM with solid ratings and I backed up Fred Latremouille, for 5 years. The Station threw me to the curb.
After a short nightmarish year, my severance was gone. In desperation I took a job at JR FM, and eventually, 600am, doing mornings.
It didn’t last. Long story short, I was in trouble. 51. I had a Mortgage, a wife that didn’t work and two hungry cats.
At this time Marc was trying to get a streaming media service going called, I believe, Air America.
He had been at it awhile, and we got in touch and he was his usual supportive self.
A few days after I reconnected with Marc, the lease on my Honda ran out. To buy it, was around $7,000 - it may as well have been a million.
No Car? I was beside myself. I had about a grand and my RRSPS. Trouble. I mentioned it to Marc in an e-mail. In less than 24 hours he wrote a letter on Air America letterhead saying that I was to be working with this Company - starting salary of six figures etc.
Yes, I was planning to work for the Company, but wow!
I got the loan, after the loans officer called Marc to check. How is that for helpful? He knew I was in trouble. He could have ignored me.
The Company never did make it - but Marc was there for an old friend - to lend a hand, when no one else stepped up. He saved me, and asked for nothing in return.
That is called a gentleman and a friend.
That is the kind of people I want at my Radio Station - how about you?