What's It Going To Take...?

General Radio News and Comments, Satellite & Internet Radio and LPFM

Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Tue May 01, 2018 9:17 pm

Radio Supporting Print?
In my previous piece, I dealt with the generally unknown or, in some cases, disregarded factors that constitute the significant differences between the print medium and all other electronic media. Please appreciate that “print” includes newspapers, billboards, bus boards, brochures, pamphlets and inane, but entertaining bumper stickers. Electronic media includes, radio, TV, digital devices, computer screens and telephones. I’m not sure about Dixie cups and stretched, waxed string.

A brief, generalized review: Our brains/minds are more efficient at processing(understanding) information and content when accessed through a print medium. Retention (memory) of the material is also enhanced with hard copy.

Electronic media, however, have a direct line to those aspects of our selves that process and respond to material, primarily at emotional levels. Should the presented material also contain emotional elements, all the better, especially for radio.

Further, and this is critical: Not only does the print medium access our capacities for critical thinking, electronic media bypasses that – leaving us more credulous and more gullible - more open to being influenced! We are more apt to believe the material that gets injected into us electronically.

Over the years, my main premises have been about how radio has been presented to audiences by way of on-air talent, and in the writing of commercial copy. To be more effective, a different and unique set of linguistic approaches and methodologies is required. More emotional/creative elements would be a bonus benefit. But the priority is about the more effective language patterns that are not being applied on the radio.

Meanwhile, I am going to suggest there are as important and yes, even sinister factors in play. A demonstration of that would be the last American presidential election. For the greatest majority of the electorate, the influential materials, both electronic campaign advertising and electronic media coverage were the elements to which most citizens were exposed. Emotionalism reigned supreme.

I mean: Would anybody with their critical thinking faculties engaged accept the garbage that was foisted off by the candidates? What they got was a bombastic, bellicose, baffled bully whose main attribute was the ability to deliver bulls*** by the truckload. That was what was accepted from a perceived and preferred alternative candidate.

A wall paid for by Mexico. Believable? Tax cuts exclusively for the wealthiest promoted as a tax cut for everybody. Reasonable? Equitable gun laws. Rational? Functional health care programs. Desirable? Not to those members of the population who were being indoctrinated almost exclusively by electronic media. Many who were enraged either recoiled or bailed out. The rest got sucked in by electronically delivered, mind numbing, but very stimulating nonsense.

Given the amount of time we spend ogling or listening to electronic media, we could be accused of voluntarily giving up our capacities to consider material and have some organized and critical thoughts about that to which we are being constantly exposed. The neurology of our brains leaves us wide open to manipulation.

Encouraging people to read more papers and books would, I believe, be of significant benefit to our societies. With that in mind, I include a radio script that could be provided as a PSA – at no charge to the management.

"Here at Poodle 96.9, we appreciate the loyalty of our listeners. Plus, people enjoy hearing us while engaging in other activities like – surgery! Tuning in, particularly while driving, is entertaining, informative and, it is safe. We say, “Whoopy!” We also understand that listeners can be even better informed when they also get their information from the print medium. So, we are urging Poodle 96.9, listeners to do a very smart thing: Get the paper and - read the paper."

Without providing an explanation of the neurological distinctions, any station that runs such a promo is still doing their listeners and their station a significant service. The exercise will gain more credibility for the station - a very nice bonus.

It is, certainly, too late to expect anything resembling a full recovery from the overwhelming intrusion of electronic media, but yet, this may be an important effort. The trend towards any further obliteration of the print media carries with it extremely severe consequences to any democracy. It may be that serious.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Thu May 17, 2018 3:52 am

Whatever Doesn’t Work…

Radio is not particularly unique in some of its approaches to, in our case, audiences and advertisers. When I was being trained to do behavioural counselling, one of the presuppositions that was presented is the following: “People, and the organizations they develop, tend to: Find out what doesn’t work – and then, do it harder!” A simple example of that would be the PD or manager who speaks to a staff member. When the response is unacceptable, they yell. When that doesn’t work, they yell louder.

While that is a standard-issue, psychological truism as it applies to peoples’ behaviours, radio has been living out the concept in other ways. Even as significantly pertinent information has been distributed throughout the industry, radio has been digging in its heels by either failing to apply the new developments or by making all efforts to disregard it. This avoidance strategy hasn’t been working, so radio does what it does best, it avoids it all the harder.

I believe I will get no reasoned or articulate arguments for the following: Twenty-five years ago, radio was producing better on-air presentations from “live” personalities and better, more interesting copy, especially for local advertisers. What radio has been doing harder, with admirable persistence, is crippling both of those components of the radio broadcast model. What is still left standing is: Sales. That is what gets the attention, and it is Sales that is supported, but only in some cases, some of the time.

I am also of the opinion that commercial radio is the least exploited medium in our culture. But then, that would be the case anyway, given how radio continues to, with intention, mangle the communicative aspects of the business by slashing budgets for talent and commercial production.

So long has this been the M.O. of commercial radio, it would be feasible to suggest that radio management no longer has any convenient access to Talent – mostly because the majority of skilled people have been drummed or starved out of the business. Of greater import, radio is no longer in a position to identify Talent, if and when it was available. So pervasive is this situation that I speculate radio’s management groups have been getting together only to find they really don’t have much else to talk about other than how to generate greater sales – without incurring more expense.

The disgust with this situation has become palpable within the industry. Commentators are registering their disdain more often and with more vitriol expressed at ownership and management than at any other time in our history. Those who make the attempt to defend the business and its sordid attempts to quell the folks who are registering bitter complaints can only provide maudlin and pathetic justifications for the status quo. It’s really quite pathetic when they scramble for examples of where everything is just rosy.

Radio is in a position, right now, where it is sliding into a miasma of indifference – demonstrated by the lack of enthusiasm from listeners and from advertisers. Radio has, for the most part, stopped providing the products and services that would begin to have an impact on such a shoddy circumstance.

Even as the strategies and methodologies are available that would quickly fire up a significant radio turnaround, owners and managers are having no truck with any of it. Too many have already thrown out their boilers or sold them for scrap. Too bad, as that is where the coal gets shovelled.

Governments, meanwhile, are going about the business of abdicating their responsibilities to the public and, instead, are futzing around with the regulations that will make for greater radio property acquisitions. This would have the effect of allowing broadcast corporations to do more of what they are doing, that isn’t working – and to do it harder!

So, where then, might there be opportunities? It would take an extremely forward-thinking organization to: 1. Realize they are playing a game where they will be the ultimate losers. 2. Search for and identify the strategies that will get, at least their own outfit, out of the glue. And, 3. Determine to execute those strategies. Otherwise, much of radio will continue to be the architects of its own, eventual demise.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Tue May 29, 2018 7:57 am

Required: Crash Courses

Seems like a significant portion of radio operators are well aware of how their stations are failing at, and utterly anemic in, serving their local markets. Because of the tragic deregulation of ownership that took place a couple of decades ago, a model of forced incompetence has been staked out, and is now being vigorously defended.

It should be pointed out that most station owners began disregarding their local responsibilities and opportunities by cutting talent and services many years before deregulation made it surprisingly necessary. Meanwhile, there is no defence of the status quo that has been put forward – not by anyone who wants to avoid losing credibility and any more personal integrity. Of course, those at the pointy end of a corporate agenda are summarily excused from being expected to sport much in the cloak of such integrity or, for that matter, group solidarity. Their rarefied air, after all, is piped in.

The realization of the need for operators to make a significant shift by providing many more superior services – at the local level – are, I suspect, also leaping into their awareness. As such, they are running up against some formidable challenges.

From time to time, there are admissions that “live & local” is the most effective strategy to undertake – beginning today. Yes, today would have been prudent. But that, I suggest, is no more than an opening consideration. Such an admission and even a sincere determination to execute the ideal is no more than an acceptance of a completely undefined concept – a premise with no meat on its bones, and no structure.

There was a time when those of us who longed to be “on the radio” were having that experience because we wanted to be “performers”. Our imaginations were engaged by the potential of gaining the learned skills and the improvisational capacities of “stand-up” comics - only in the “sit-down” positions. Our audiences were purely mental fabrications, as we worked alone in the dark.

Even when management treated us like mushrooms, eventually canning us, we maintained our drive to persevere and “make it”. I have difficulty in aptly describing the thrills of working in Major markets and, eventually, dominating in the process. The money got to be real good, too, by golly. The respect of my peers was the most satisfying.

Further, I maintain I had acquired some significant skills in the years prior to my being introduced to, and was applying, the linguistic patterns and strategies I was taught and implemented in due course. It was those methodologies that really launched my success. A couple mentors intervened along the way, and I am grateful. And thus endeth an arbitrary and embellished trudge out on the exit ramp of clouded, super-jock memories.

Meanwhile, what about the realities for radio – right now? The challenges are staggering. They may be overwhelming. Just paying a flippant lip service to the premise of “live & local” – the absolutely, correct strategy - will only frustrate the participants, sincerity notwithstanding.

There are two glaring but still ignored elements to this challenge. 1. The immediate training or re-training of the multiples of required on-air hires and, 2. Educating the additional copywriters that must be brought on. This, however, could be a simultaneous process because the training of every one of the on-air folks to perform copywriting duties, as well, would be quite satisfactory and much more efficient.

Recruiting talent, as many operators have openly confessed, is a mug’s game. Those that are on the search are terrified of the outside personalities who may be demonstrating any actual, (alleged) “creative” talent. What they still really want from on-air presenters is compliance! (“Read the liners. Shut up.”) Still, undisciplined, uninformed and unreasonable presenters that would wreck studio environments and audiences are, very much, a valid concern.

Indeed, crash courses in effective radio communications are required, especially for those outfits that have accepted “live & local” as the only way to take their stations forward. Since it is extremely unlikely that but a very few organizations will even be making any inquiries on the matter, the rest of the industry is destined (doomed?) to bog down or be lurching about, what with all the added expenses and hassles of bringing in untrained, uneducated and unruly pretenders.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby Just sayin' » Tue May 29, 2018 11:55 am

Have to agree live and local is the way to go, but didn't Roundhouse Radio try to uber-serve the local Vancouver market, and it just didn't work. May I suggest better hosts, content, execution.
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Tue May 29, 2018 1:14 pm

Let me suggest the following:
Roundhouse Radio and any other outfit that decides to subscribe to "live & local" is only establishing a useful premise. It's not a matter of sweeping up a bunch of re-treads or barflies and throwing them on the air to make local references. That is no more than an invitation for another catastrophe.

Roundhouse was doomed before they even began - good intentions notwithstanding. It's a lot more difficult than it has ever been to bamboozle any audience with shoddy content and shoddy performances.

What is required is a complete overhaul of the training of both new and veteran hires - a total re-education - in modern communicative techniques. Radio has dug itself so deeply into the mire that anything else would only generate abject - and quite expensive - disasters.

The bar has been so low for so long that most operators are totally unaware of what it's really going to take to hold and influence any audience.

The prospects, by the way, are dire and grim.
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Thu Jun 07, 2018 5:14 pm

More Than Possible: Necessary

Seems like radio continues to operate under a severely limiting set of circumstances. That these circumstances have all been self-generated, self-imposed and are also self-perpetuated is, apparently, lost on the participants. Further, much of radio continues whining and mewling about its’ not receiving a “fair share” of advertising revenue. This comes off as a superficial, juvenile lament – unworthy of serious, thoughtful players.

For decades, radio has encapsulated itself in a sensory deprivation hood – an experience where the act of breathing is the only benefit. Hence, an industry gasping its way through a contemporary epoch of limited success. Anybody that has lost access to their sensory experiences like seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting is destined to be banging into walls, falling over the furniture and wandering off into traffic.

Further, the industry refuses to accept that it is, indeed, rattling around in the dark because of its wearing of the hood. “What hood?” they exclaim. Radio has been doing whatever it can to up the game of their sales departments – and rightfully so. Yet, even as improvements in the sales departments are being attempted, there are, to my knowledge, no concerted efforts in the programming and creative departments to enhance what are radio’s only local products – the on-air communications from the talent-base and the generation of more effective and tolerable-to-the-listeners advertising.

The necessary knowledge and experience required for the production of more effective “live” radio and the production of superior, local advertising cannot and will not be addressed – not by anybody sporting The Hood. Again, the “What hood?” response comes up too often. In other words: These issues are not being taken up because there is likely no perceived awareness of the circumstance – as debilitating as it is - and so, there are no needs for them to be addressed. (Working in the dark will do that.)

Because my daddy didn’t toss me off the turnip truck in front of my local radio station when I was 15, I have had time enough to experience old-school, full-service radio and to figure out that owners and managers of the last 30 years have abdicated their responsibilities and ignored their opportunities to, if not keep, begin making the necessary and fundamental changes to the communicative processes that are dangerously required for radio to have much hope for the future.

Radio has taken the technologies that have become available over the last decades and plugged them in. Applying the new gizmos were not exercises in enhancing their services, but rather were used as cost-cutting devices. The strategy worked. Radio has cut costs to the point where local sticks are now rendered as almost irrelevant.

Meanwhile, there has been some recent hoopla about the opening of The Inaugural Beasley Radio Talent Institute, in Boston. The course is offered as a 10-day seminar that covers uhhh, ummm everything about radio! “Well, gosh.” I thought to myself. “How easy does it get?” When the leadership of radio considers a couple weeks at Radio Skool to be a sufficient and efficient enterprise, they are demonstrating an extreme lack of appreciation for what it’s really going to take to drag this business, at least into the ‘90’s.

Here is what it is going to take to move even smaller portions of the industry to where it can compete with other media: Training in modern, communications methodologies for on-air talent and the copywriters are not only possible, they are necessary for those who expect to enjoy prosperous futures. The process requires explanations, understanding, practice, repetition and ongoing supervision. Participation will have to be a condition of employment. Radio is now at the point where the strongest of measures will be required – if there are to be any expectations of spectacular results. (See dealer for details. Accept no substitutes.)

Those that make the strategic maneuvers will also be able to drive their own radio competition into the sea. Nasty business, to be sure, but given the plethora of signals all over the map, a culling may be just the ticket. Those outfits that stay stagnant can look only to their own eventual demise. The state of so much of radio is no longer up for discussion. The time for decision-making is at hand.


Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Fri Jun 22, 2018 7:07 am

Radio Accepts No Advice

“Perception”, it has often been extolled, “is reality.” While that can be argued as a truism, it is still a subjective position for some individuals, and only for some of the time. As often as not, the position comes off as one that has limited utility and renders wholly unsatisfactory consequences. However, the radio industry’s shared perception of itself suffers from just such a perception and just such a reality.

Further, radio does not only accept the perceptions that have been held by its owners, leadership and much of the employee base, it has refused to challenge itself on the very edicts (I say, “dogma”) that have been perpetrated and perpetuated within the industry for decades. Consolidation, I suggest, has only made the rejection of responsibilities to improve the industry much easier and certainly more justifiable than if a more competitive environment might have generated.

Radio continues to reject any considerations, never mind the available applications that would upset the status quo - one that has been accepted for the better part of thirty years. The irony lies in that there are very few apologists and supporters of the industry – the way it is – who can provide thoughtful or reasonable justifications for maintaining the status quo.

To be sure, radio’s ownership and leadership can trot out a litany of complaints against a number of outside and inside influences, including government regulations, other media that enjoy “unfair” advantages, “unreasonable” demands from advertisers and agencies and the machinations of unscrupulous competitors.

While many of the complaints do, indeed, have some merit, they will not stand as rational excuses to disregard every opportunity for radio to save its own bacon. Given the general state of radio, these irrational justifications to avoid implementing any worthwhile changes still have enormous traction.

Meanwhile, radio has, from time-to-time and still can deliver a marvelous ROI for advertisers – so long as two other aspects of mounting a radio campaign are considered, those being: the time buy and the effectiveness of the messaging. Without those two elements being factored in, there is the high likelihood of, once again, hearing that old chestnut, “I tried radio and it didn’t work!” So, were we expecting something else?

Without immediately launching into the almost universal, shoddy performances of the largest majority of those pretenders masquerading as “on air talent”, the effectiveness of locally produced commercial messaging would be laughable, if it wasn’t so sad, pathetic and amateurish. Granted, many readers would be getting their backs up at such comments, but this would be a knee-jerk reaction. There really are no useful or valid contradictory arguments that can disable the contention. Our spots, to apply the vernacular, verily do sucketh large. We ought to count ourselves as extremely lucky that radio audiences are more likely to tolerate the messaging – more so than they do when presented with ads on other platforms. I repeat: Lucky. Not smart. (There is an explanation for that phenomenon that is unique to radio, but I still expect an inordinate indifference.)

It is extremely difficult to explain a concept or a strategy when most of the crowd is raining down boos, hisses and catcalls. I am relieved the hurling of rotting vegetables has gone out of vogue. Still, I do keep an eye peeled. Given the state to which much of radio culture seems to be devolving, anything is possible.

Even as radio has decided that it is the sales process that will bail the business out of the hoosegow, other observers are well aware the other two factors – the time buy and, most importantly, the crafting of the messaging are the missing but required elements. Better closing ratios, while worthwhile in the shorter term, still won’t get radio back on any super-duper, media highway.

For more years than I care to count, I have taken all my education and experience in radio, and have been promoting the contention that radio has continuously been missing opportunities to be more appealing and more effective. By refusing to address the superior methodologies of presenting the spoken word in a far more influential manner, radio remains locked into communicative strategies that are not only less appealing, they are practically, counter productive.
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Sat Jul 07, 2018 4:57 am

The Radio Menu: Canned Spam

One of my favourite restaurant-built sandwiches is the wonderful and venerable BLT – toasted, certainly. Mayo or Miracle Whip, I don’t care. I defer to my friend, Copy Master Mike, who describes scarfing down or politely enjoying a finely tuned bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich as one that is “oozing with goodness in each delicious, mouthwatering rich and creamy mouthful.” Of course, that claim would never make it past our feared, local, Radio Commercial Food Narcs. They have real powers, and they tend to arrive at their offices in extremely ill humour.

Otherwise, local radio stations perceive no need to publish or offer any menu of spots of any kind to their advertisers. This is mostly because they can’t. The commercial preparation kitchens have been shut down for years – decades, actually. The most a local advertiser can hope for are weenies made from meat-ish by-products cobbled together from chicken lips and lemming hooves. The gladly provided alternative is canned Spam. Many stations might have a two-burner Coleman camp stove stuffed in a closet somewhere – just in case some snotty advertiser insists on having their Spam boiled - never fried. I mean, seriously? C'mon!

I have heard it argued that the staggering dearth of effective, never mind interesting or, gawd forbid, creative advertising being continuously foisted on advertisers and audiences might be cause for some kind of class-action suit. This is unlikely as guess who has the most expensive lawyers and the deepest war chests for just such a possibility? (I confess that was an interesting 10-second fantasy. I’m recovering quite nicely.)

Meanwhile, I, and other astute bloggers and commentators have gone to great pains to demonstrate the neurological aspects that impact on the minds of radio listeners. These elements are many. They come with important distinctions, and they are profound! An appreciation of these factors would be enough to bring the status quo and standard, accepted and traditional standards of presenting on-air deliveries and the designing of commercials to a grinding, screeching halt. Fires could be ignited. And nobody has the insurance policies that would cover such an eventuality.

None of the fears and resentments of those who can provide more effective strategies that are desperately needed - and absolutely necessary - for radio to make any forward movement in content delivery are of any use at all. But, we all know those bile-producing emotions and raggedy positions are also real enough. It doesn’t take any more than a weak justification, a mild denial or a clutched and accepted delusion to bring the whole idea crashing in and swept away, while resolutions are made to never ever address the issue never ever again.

Some of the distinctions to which I referred (above) are extraordinarily simple to understand and even easier for a typer-of-the-hype to apply. They come under the heading of: Absolute Quantifiers. Copywriters and on-air presenters have been using these crutches for so long and have become so used to and crippled by them that it never occurs to the wordies why they can’t catch up to a bus, parked and waiting at the stop.

A few examples of absolute quantifiers include: best, all, greatest, lowest, highest, only, every, never, and always. There are others, but the gist is demonstrated. Those who are impervious to pain are invited to fill their boots and, by all means, do a search of “Absolute Quantifiers”. A fair warning is appropriate and a fair warning has been given.

Constant use of absolute qualifiers has been a part of radio’s DNA for generations. Producing 3-headed, pancake batter-brained offspring that can’t walk, talk or blow their own noses unless in a linear progression has been the result. And yet, given the lack of self-awareness on the part of the participants, nobody is embarrassed, either.

As contemporary American culture has been demonstrating, just about anything can become accepted as “normal”. So it is with the use of absolute quantifiers used in radio deliveries. As a neurological experience, listeners unconsciously reject the wild assertions that make up these quantifiers. Consciously, listeners are, usually, completely unaware of any impact the words are having. But again, unconsciously, they ain’t happy – or convinced. The exit ramps off this radio merry-go-round are well marked and are conveniently located - for those who are watching out. Restrooms, tuck shops and lots o’ free parking are available on arrival.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Jul 16, 2018 3:01 am

Excellence Need Not Apply
Sometimes, especially when the whining from radio’s ownership and management cranks up by another 10 dB while taking on the tonality of a horse dentist’s drill, radio’s workforce gets ever more agitated and twitchy. Some are slipping fast, going berserk on occasion - without notice.

To wit: How can ownership and management expect to attract exceptional sales performers by supplying Kibbles & Bits as remuneration? Further, how can radio attract potentially fabulous performers and commercial writers when it is well known part of radio’s modus operandi to keep these individuals manacled in soundproof cells where nobody else can hear their proffered ideas? Their frustrated pleas for help are of no consequence, as they rake their tin cups across the bars.

Management does, however, take great pains to be certain that, before these performers are thrown into the clink, their spirits and their creative potentials have been permanently crippled. As with the individuals being tricked into the sales side, one can also wonder who is going to be training them.

It’s not as if a successful communications model has been designed and applied for the last decades. To my knowledge, even professional coaches and consultants have not been addressing the issue. In this area, radio’s larder is empty – the cupboard can only support a few ants that are dining on some left over coffee supplies. There are also rumors about them chewing through ancient copies of “The Electric Weenie”.

The very last thing radio ownership feels compelled to do is to put some money on the table. No scratch for sales. No dough for talent. No bucks for creative. No cash for engineering, either. If this were the case for any other enterprise, how much of an argument would there be for the likelihood of the successful continuation of such a business? I mean, who would make book on any portion of such a travesty?

Meanwhile, like so many other aspects of the culture, some delusions do enjoy an upper hand in these considerations. Part of the delusion might be that the Radio Gods will be sweeping in to set things straight, but only at the last possible moment – so long as it happens right quickly. Since radio is not taking much, if any, responsibility for its own dire straights, the question could be asked, “Why would the gods even care?” There is little chance of that as all the evidence suggests the media gods have already picked digital.

Now, I have been hanging out in these hallways long enough to appreciate I am unlikely to generate much in the way of admissions, and I certainly won’t be getting back an “Amen”, either. Not from this crowd. They have too much invested in dogma, and are in no position to lose much more credibility – as if that was a consequence that could be avoided.

Given all the laments coming from radio – about poor sales, shallow perceptions from advertisers, unfair practices by other radio companies and the dastardly, criminal influx of other electronic platforms, a single truism about radio is constantly being denied or ignored – from within. That truism: Radio has become a third-rate medium!

Denials of this fall on indifferent ears. Evidence has already been considered. The jury came in a long time ago with a unanimous “guilty” verdict. Appeals are running out. Hard time is inevitable. Buzzards are circling, patiently waiting for the corpses to start piling up. Easy pickin’s are assured.

Yet, much of radio continues to pretend it is an actual, vibrant and viable medium. Given all the third-rate on-air performances, third-rate, locally produced, commercial content and third-rate ad campaigns foisted onto jaded and cynical advertisers, the surprise should be that anybody in the industry keeps bleating about “the story”.

Practically, radio no longer has a compelling “story”. It is what we tell each other. The ROI portion, while still valid, and sometimes impressive, is lost in the din. What radio still does have, however, is lots of potential!

Until radio is able to address its third-rate status and the realities of its third-rate performances, any alleged potential will only serve as content of a forlorn saga about possibilities that were overlooked when action was what was required.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Jul 23, 2018 5:01 am

My Biggest Radio Mistake
Over the years, my friends and radio colleagues were generous in their praise of my skills as an on-air performer and a writer. I was never openly accused of any form of arrogance or hubris, although I did, from time to time, play a jerk on the radio – with some distinction.

None of that means I didn’t hold myself in the highest esteem as the results I was able to generate were being demonstrated on a consistent and long-term basis. To be sure, this was me diggin’ me. Meanwhile, although it did take awhile, about 15 years into my on-air career, I did come to the conclusion that I had learned more about the communications aspects of broadcast than almost all of the managers for whom I was slaving over a hot microphone. Please appreciate: I don’t say “smarter”. I do, however, insist I was well educated, better informed and severely practiced.

Unlike the majority of current on-air presenters who get about 3-5 minutes of highly structured airtime in an hour, we were “live” somewhere between 12 and 16 minutes per hour. That was about those of us who were also working as single performers. Other than the morning shows, there were no crews, no teams, no zoos and no happy gangs. We were dangling out there to otherwise spin, pump oil or hang ourselves. The group, certainly, did take some casualties. The requirements were high enough to guarantee substantial talent turnovers.

Casual historians of radio might be interested to know that the culling of personalities began in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s – well before the Consolidation Pandemic completely wiped out the talent-corps. Owners came to the conclusion that “more rock – less jocks” (also occasionally referred to as: “more tunes – fewer jaloons”) was the route to even greater prosperity. Although a few of us were able to hang on during these times, the memos were on the bulletin boards in the jock lounges: “Abandon all hope. Avoid arranging for any mortgages”.

It was during this period that I was making my second biggest mistake. I assumed that, because I was exceptionally skilled and enormously effective – boxcar numbers - I would be immune to the toxic trends that were oozing into the radio culture. I was eventually proven wrong, even as I had outlasted most of my peers.

I had not fully appreciated owners coming to the irreversible conclusion that audiences and advertisers would not notice the slashing of both strong personalities on the air and skilled writers in the creative departments. Besides, ownership could easily support their decisions by pointing to the research that seemed to reinforce the notion that “more music – less talk” was an appropriate and functional strategy. The cost cutting aspect would have been enough. The “research” was a magnificent justification bonus – a radio gods’ freebie.

That the research methodologies were tragically flawed was not revealed until many years later. By then, it was too late to change course. Further, there are still many principals in radio who still operate as if the research is still accurate and valid. I mean, there’s nothing like a hard and heavy dose of dogma to keep the gullible in line – including the leadership.

This, then, leads me to my biggest mistake:

Thousands of diverse industries and enterprises go out of their way to tout the need for continuous innovation. They do so because innovation is not only good for business – it is absolutely necessary. Failure to do so, they understand completely, almost guarantees their ultimate demise.

Radio has taken no such decision. An expectation and assumption that it would take on massive programs of innovation has been my biggest mistake. Radio has worked against and rejected innumerable opportunities to improve with a “polarity response”. It has done the exact opposite of what is required to fulfill its potential.

The manners in which radio communicates to its audiences has been beaten down and crippled to the extent that most of radio’s offerings have become annoying and ineffectual gibberish. That is most obvious in the flotsam masquerading as commercial content. Indeed, ownership demonstrates no interest in the matter. That is their folly - their biggest mistake.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby tuned » Mon Jul 23, 2018 9:29 am

Radio has always been the ugly stepchild of media. Innovation is not in their vocabulary and things were only going to get worse under consolidation. The reality is that the big guys that control the medium are making loads of dough so pontificating about the "old days" is really a waste of time. It's mostly geezers that are listening these days and they don't want to hear the inane banter that seemed much more compelling when they were younger. Do you know anyone under the age of thirty that listens to the radio? It's Spotify or Apple Music these days for the most part.
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Jul 23, 2018 9:37 am

Other than the greater utilisation of on-air personalities and the acquisition of more, superior writers, it is not the "old days" for which I pine.
Rather, I have an an understanding that none of this is likely to be all that more effective without a thorough re-training of the Talent.
And, seriously, what are the chances of that?
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Wed Aug 01, 2018 9:30 am

Another Outmoded Radio Cliché

“Be yourself!” say the pundits, programmers and associates. This has always been fundamental advice, delivered with more than sincerity, but with the strongest of unquestionable certainty. That this is a strategy that confuses the newer on-air personalities is never discussed. Practically, it goes a long way towards stacking severe limitations on the talent and effectively cripples them.

“Be yourself.” while dripping with congenial, good intentions, is a nebulous characterization of another completely vacuous concept that assumes certain psychological conclusions have already been established. Those include: An individual on-air presenter has an innate or conscious model of “who they really are”. It also assumes the individual can articulate these positions with some confidence, and that these positions are appropriate and useful to someone who is heading for the control room.

There is little chance that a performer will be arriving behind the microphone as a fully fledged and glowing, as Abraham Maslow has put it: “actualized individual”, sporting all 12 of the attributes such a person would demonstrate. The psychological community is fairly comfortable with the idea that only about two percent of the population will ever attain such spectacular heights. I can’t disguise my own personal disappointment with another unrealized fantasy.

While a program of self-actualization can be exciting, it is not insisted on by radio as a necessary prerequisite for doing any on-air jabbering. Managers count themselves as lucky, and are quite content to be hiring talent that enjoys the advantages of having no substance addictions, outstanding warrants or disturbing psychological quirks – assuming they can be identified.

“Be yourself” is, at best, an extremely fuzzy concept. At its worst, it is just sludge. Does that mean the talent should be who they really are – as opposed to, who, somebody else? I read recently that talent should think of themselves as “actors – who are playing themselves!” That, I am sorry to report, is advice emanating from someone who is using pancake batter as the raw material for an attempted clarity-of-thinking behaviour.

That any of this would come up in a conversation about modern radio is a little disconcerting, especially given the reality that most presenters have little or no opportunity to express either a real or imagined personality. They are, for the most part, no more than trained chimps on roller skates.

Working as a single performer on the radio has nothing to do with interacting with other people in say, a social setting – a setting that requires much more than a stilted, pre-rehearsed approach to communications. People who are pulling shifts on the air are far more limited in their capacities to behave as flexible, adaptive, creative, improvisational or otherwise interesting individuals. The structures of most formats don’t allow for such possibilities.

The exception to these dynamics would be in the group-grope morning shows where the personalities are bouncing off and responding to others on the program. Indeed, it is the single performers who are left tipping precariously off the window ledge, desperately clinging to their earphone cables.

Even the superior talents who populate a few high-end morning shows aren’t being themselves. They are, instead, performing as the characters they have developed over time. Were they to continue acting out their “characters” when they were off the air, they would become supremely innocuous and annoying almost immediately. We have all worked with just such twisted individuals.

Having said all that, I am still jumping the gun on what the priorities need to be to generate effective communicators for on-air work. Of course, people are encouraged to examine their psyches in efforts to develop their personalities – so long as it’s not on the station’s dime – not that there was ever any chance of that.

Radio, the people who are working the airwaves, and the writers of commercial copy, whether acknowledged or not, have a desperate need to become educated in the strategies and methodologies of communicating to an unseen and unknown radio audience. That rotting “one-to-one” chestnut has no traction or use in reality. To the contrary, the application of the principle is limiting to the communicator and damaging to the audience.

Further, the “one-to-one” concept is an utterly unattainable and foolish premise, as is the equally foolish recommendation to “Be yourself”.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Tue Aug 07, 2018 6:29 pm

‘Be Yourself’ – Further Debunking

As mentioned recently, “Be yourself!” has been one of the primary, radio inoculations with which new people going on the air are injected. I am reminded of being herded to our grade school kitchen, like sheep to the slaughter, and being forced to watch so many of our classmates quiver, cry and, in some instances, pass out completely while getting their needles. When we heard the call for the janitor with his pail of sawdust, we knew one of our classmates had just provided a severe upchucking. Another clue was the floating, noxious aroma.

Tragically, the “be yourself” admonition ties in quite nicely with that other piece of toxic, radio dogma, namely the tired ol’ one-to-one edict. The combination of these two massively distorted, but accepted radio lies are introduced as: “When on the air, represent yourself as who you really are and address the audience as a single personal listener.” Senior broadcasters still promote these two inanities. Others allege that a combination of readily available staff credulity and gullibility, and the application of fear-based indoctrination techniques, is also what generate stultified, lurching voters. (See dealer for further details.)

Indeed, part of radio’s dogma has included the sage and unchallenged requirement for on-air folk to be “personal” – the companion to the one-to-one myth. “Personal”, I submit, has nothing to do with anything. More than that, it is a task that can never be accomplished, and is, in practice, an extremely destructive approach. Any person in the audience, meanwhile, who actually believes a speaker on the radio is communicating exclusively to them, is, indeed, suffering from a radio supported, but still self-induced delusion. A few could be bordering on ape-snake nuts. Therapies are available from caring professionals.

Now, before it’s too late, is an ideal time to establish serious and useful distinctions. To be a successful on-air communicator, talent is better served by concentrating on the following, only one of which is particularly philosophical in nature.

1. Instead of making the annoying-to-the-audience and fruitless attempt at being personal, a communicator needs to endeavour to be personable – an appealing individual – a broadcaster an audience member can accept as someone worthy of continued listening. Attempting to connect personally – fails.

2. Current and future presenters, to be successful and more influential, will be required to become proficient in the many aspects of becoming superior communicators. This is more than learning how to, like, talk good English. It is about using the language more powerfully, and more effectively.

Neither of those two elements are being incorporated into either the informal or, when rarely available, the formal training of on-air people or copywriters. They are being totally disregarded and/or rejected by ownership and management – in all markets. These are, practically, non-existent concepts in radio – but still worthy of fear and derision. The evidence of that is available all over the dial wherever commercial radio is practiced.

While I am obliged to recognize how popular and successful, past and current on-air personalities were and are able to have significant impacts on their audiences, it is still important to note the rarity of such strong individuals. A combination of innate potentials and acquired skills were and are enough for these unique stars to carve out a significant niche for themselves in the available audience.

The rest of us are going to have to learn how, specifically, to get similar results and, perish the thought, create whole segments of new audience. The components are many, varied and will take meaningful efforts to learn and apply.

“Be yourself” is not one of those components. Delivering some kind of nebulous, unidentified “authenticity” from the performer carries no assurances that any given portion of an audience will find such authenticity to be of any particular interest, or would it be necessarily compelling in other ways. Even sincerity, when coupled with a buck, ninety-five, will only provide a medium cup of coffee.

The great radio talents have been those who can, on a whim, deliver single or multiple, well developed characters or characterizations to an audience. Discerning which of those is real or authentic would be a mug’s game. Everybody else on the air, and writing copy, will have to learn how, specifically. Quickly.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Aug 13, 2018 3:48 am

To My Unmet American, Radio Friends

Our two countries are intrinsically linked because of a combination of geography, a shared primary language, a similarity in many of our basic beliefs and values, and the ease of crossing each other’s borders, most of us Canadians have relatives and friends who are also rightfully proud Americans.

So, it should come as no surprise to thoughtful readers that many of us from The Great White North are shocked and disappointed at the depth to which our friends are allowing the degradation of those (mostly) shared beliefs and values and the speed at which this disassembly process is occurring.

This is particularly perplexing for me because, so far as my broadcast and counselling careers are concerned, my most influential teachers, role models and mentors were all Americans! At the time, this was an insignificant consideration as practically, the border was no more than a drawn line in the dirt or the middle part of a lake or river. Crossing over was such an easy process.

For about a year, I was pulling PM Drive at an Ontario radio station and working nights, playing drums in my band at a Michigan bar across the ditch. Crossing the border back and forth six nights a week consisted of a slow-down and a wave. (I was too ascairt to run grass across the international bridge. Other friends, not so much.)

And then, there is the situation in which American radio finds itself – off kilter and lurching from one crisis to another – unable to counteract the forces that are (mostly) self induced and, sometimes, provided by outside sources, including arbitrarily debilitating, government decisions. That many of these decisions are supported by vested interests with an entirely self-serving agenda that has no inclusions for the betterment of the quality of products and services rendered by commercial radio is no longer an argument. That is, not an argument that can be won by anyone without access and influence.

Canadian radio is, essentially, run using the same model as American radio. We stole everything decades ago – including all the weird and dumb stuff like crippling the talent-base, tossing the writers out on their ears and the phusterclucking of the spot load. There is, however, one significant difference: By comparison, American markets are glutted with signals, to the point where the whole dial is stuffed. An example would be in Calgary, a market of 1.5 million and 16 radio stations. The GTA (Greater Toronto Area) with its over 7 million inhabitants has less than 50 English language stations, many of which have only local community coverage.

Still, the complaints from within the business are similar. With rare exceptions, made up mostly of smaller operators in small and medium markets, the bitterness and cynicisms are rampant, appalling and are, even so, disregarded or being punished by those with the abject power and the crass willingness to do so.

Meanwhile, the larger ownership groups are licking their chops and drooling over the prospect of acquiring even more stations per market. This strikes me as beyond ludicrous, particularly since all they have demonstrated so far is an uncanny capacity to wreck their own industry. But, we shouldn’t expect those factors will be getting in the way of the greed and avarice that compels these outfits to want more and more.

Is it too much of a stretch to speculate the coming of a grand culling of stations or that a major adjustment is lurking just over the horizon? Whatever happens, the first ones to suffer will be the staffs that will be forced to the sidewalk, sporting pleading sandwich boards and selling pencils from a cup.

And so, to my many unmet friends and colleagues toiling at the radio game, I can only offer a couple of thoughts: It is incumbent on everyone in the group to take on a new responsibility, that being: the undertaking of acquiring the information and then, the skills of becoming professional communicators. Mailing in or voice-tracking the shift, never mind the show, has been an unsatisfactory and ineffective practice for decades.

Any performer or writer who is waiting for management to supply such an education is only hastening their departure. Consider this a friendly “heads up”.

Ronald T. Robinson
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