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AG News: Thursday - 4/16/2009

Radio Industry, Quit Talking About the Future

All together now: Radio has a problem! It's a two-fold problem created by multiple radio industry leaders suffering from either "Hereswhatimgonnado" or "Howdoigetouttathisnow" maladies.

On one side we have CEOs who sit and follow. They are fearful that any move made won't be good enough because they don't understand how the world has changed. We never hear about leaders in this group. The HDIGets are pretty glazed over by the beating they are taking. Inaction is far tougher than it seems.

On the other side sit those radio industry CEOs who think they know what they are doing, believe in their vision, and waste everyone's time talking about what they are going to do to change the situation. Let's call this group the "HWIGonnas." They send out press releases, write letters from corner offices, and announce the coming of programs and high-tech that soon disappear into the background from lackluster design and performance.

HWIGonnas see themselves as moving the radio industry forward. But most industry watchers view them as a cheap comedy act. It doesn't matter what these guys say - they are all guys - you know their Armani Suits get soiled when looking at radio's 2008 revenues.

If you wonder why the radio industry has a problem, don't look at the economy. That's just a case of bad timing for radio execs. If you really want to know why the radio industry has a problem zero in on the all-talk-no-action of HWIGonnas, and how HDIGets are satisfied with mediocrity.

How's that saying go about stupidity? "Better to keep your mouth shut than to open it and remove all doubt." Radio industry executives have a way of forgetting this message.

Our latest take-charge example of an opening mouth is Clear Channel's John Hogan. John Gorman has a string of spot-on comments about the latest Clear Channel press release. So, I'll not waste your time here with how much this latest diatribe about "improving" Clear Channel is pure John Hogan hypocrisy. Let it be known that I sat across a small table from this man a few years ago and told him that Clear Channel needed to - in Cleveland - become the point of positive messaging for this dying community. I suggested to him then that this was something CC needed to do in all its depressed markets. His reply (in front of John Gorman and Liza Dollinger, who were also in the room) was: "The people don't give a damn!" My reply was, "You have the power to make them give a damn!"

It's my opinion that John Hogan has no desire to reach out to any community, except if it is a result of him covering his inept management. That's why you're seeing another Clear Channel initiative-to-nothing now.

The radio industry's problem is its leaders are so busy talking about what they are going to do that they don't get around to doing it. Create new programming, step out on the ledge of commercial creativity, or rock the boat of business by restructuring a rate card. Do anything besides tell me what you are going to do.

I have no problem listening to someone speak of what they have achieved and the means used to get there. Lessons are learned with your mouth shut while listening to facts. My problem with the radio industry lies in that it constantly boasts about all it has in front of it, yet never produces evidence that any past actions delivered results.

Let's take Clear Channel's Format Lab, Creative Services Group, and "Less is More" as examples. One was supposed to offer diverse programming and ended up being a joke of songs strung together by inane vocal-drops. The next was an "initiative" to improve commercial content. You heard a spot-break lately? Enough said. "Less is More" needs no comment.

Each of the above was highly touted prior to release, then not spoken of much when it earned failure status. Clear Channel's not alone here either. We've seen the radio industry do a follow-the-leader in web site design and create some very difficult-to-view online content, with equally difficult-to-use navigation logic. In short, radio web sites suck because everything is done on the cheap and management doesn't understand the opportunities being offered by the internet.

For radio's "Howdoigetouttathisnow" leaders, there's not much that can be done. Sit tight. Soon you'll join the newspaper folks at the bar to lament yesterday.

The radio industry leaders who are "Hereswhatimgonnado" type-A personalities will continue to tell us of grandiose plans to "improve" radio for communities and audience. Only, this is like copping a "mea culpa" plea that you let everything deteriorate to levels we should not be at. Had you been doing your job, you could - instead - be speaking of all you've accomplished.

What you are going to do is of no interest to radio industry watchers, or the public. Show what you've done and you'll gain a following. You'll solve the problem.

Radio industry leaders should learn how to boast only after the fact.

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President, Audio Graphics
Ken Dardis
Online Since January 1997

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