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Tuesday, May 7, 2013
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New Radio Shows a No Show

It happens a couple times a week. Someone with big ambitions for creating the next generation of radio industry programing contacts me with a story going something like this: "I can't tell you too much, but what I have in mind is going to be really huge! Would you like to get involved?"

This came in just yesterday: "Our potential audience covers all the US, and even extends to ****** living in their home country." The pitch continues, "We'd like to run our talk shows and informative segments during rush hours, i.e. 5-9 AM and 4-8 PM." Finally, this is the best part: "I will really appreciate your advice and recommendation on how to start up an online Radio including studio costs, equipment...."

My answer, in short: No thanks.
"To give an example of how low the bar is set in broadcast radio for #3 read this, which comes from Clear Channel-owned Inside Radio about a male New York City personality who was just charged with soliciting a male prostitute. Mindful that this person only does a one-hour show each week, he was brought in to the morning show to 'tell his side of a widely-reported news story.'"

Giving a little length to "why" I avoid requests like this, hear me out on what is not going to work when trying to make a fortune in online radio. There are three problems to solve. One is relative to this person's pursuit (above). The others are for everyone.

1) There is no such thing as a "rush hour" for internet radio. Over a dozen years of looking at analytics has me convinced such a small portion of your audience will come from the same time zone that trying to program a "morning" or "afternoon" program won't work.

Also, please stop with basing program lengths on what terrestrial radio stations do; i.e., 4-6 hour programs. Online content needs to be only as long as is required to complete the concept. Then, move on to the next element.

The biggest fallacy still alive is that radio stations today produce a "show" or "program." Either one has a beginning, middle and end. The vast majority of radio programs consist of playing a certain type of music for a specific length of time. In the talk environment we might have a discussion on - say - 2nd amendment rights, but it's hardly ever brought to a conclusion.

Radio personalities - online and off - are more than ever into opening the mike and reading what the liner card says, or opening the mike and rambling with incessant laughter (because the host thinks the topic is funny). It's usually not.

2) Selling advertising isn't a revenue model. It used to be, when the radio industry consisted of 22 stations in a specific geographic area. Local ad sales at one time made up over 70% of a station's revenue. Today, "local" is less than 30% of most stations' revenues, with national or spot buys providing the rest.

If you have an online station, and you plan to make money from selling advertising, the first item on your "do sheet" is going to be producing a standardized answer for each "request for proposal" (should any come in). Agencies don't want to learn your system; they want you to use the RFP, invoicing, and affidavit of performance methods that are familiar to them.

And, please, don't insult a media buyer with a high margin CPM rate. Any MB with internet exposure knows this basic concept: online audio ads are going for $2-$5 CPM, banner ads are at a low $1.25 CPM or less. In most instances, the latter also demands an accountability spreadsheet showing impression and response rates.

3) If a reason why your station is special included "playing the best music," "playing the best mix of music," "live disc jockeys," "interviews with artists," "chat rooms," or "heavy interaction with social media," you're an amateur wanting to play in the big leagues.

The saving grace for someone operating an online radio station with these positioning statements is that the bulk of the terrestrial radio industry is saying the same.

To give an example of how low the bar is set in broadcast radio for #3 read this, which comes from Clear Channel-owned Inside Radio about a male New York City personality who was just charged with soliciting a male prostitute. Mindful that this person only does a one-hour show each week, he was brought in to the morning show to "tell his side of a widely-reported news story." Outside of radio trades, I can't report seeing this widely reported anywhere else. But, I digress.

I consider "Inside Radio" the Pravda news of the radio industry trade publications, with the people who produce it showing little knowledge of what is required to create radio programming. That caused no surprise when these words about the above appeared in an IR article: "In addition to making for riveting radio, the segment showed a station that doesn’t shirk from controversy...." That this is the station which came up with the Tsunami Song - one of the lowest-of-the-low points in radio history - leaves that last phrase an understatement.

The radio industry (internet and broadcast) has become a place where music is played ad nauseum, where talk hosts like Rush Limbaugh attack anything that resembles a threat to their ideologically warped minds, and a place where the best interests of audience and advertisers take a back seat to how cheaply and easily airtime can be filled.

With few exceptions, radio "shows" do not exist. Instead, radio shows how redundancy and bravado appease those on the inside, which appears to me as the approach "Inside Radio" constantly applauds.

If you're trying to build an online radio station, quit trying to equate what you do with what is done elsewhere. Create a new style where you have no trouble calling it a "program."

Make it short. Make it interesting. Make it the kind of audio that people want to tell their friends about. Let go of the hyperbole that inflates what you do to something it is not.

You don't create "the best music mix." Your audience tells others that you have the best mix of music. And you can bet you'll seldom, if ever, hear what you do being called "original programming." Especially when it's the same thing thousands of your competitors are doing.

Radio is changed. So should its vernacular.

While the broadcast side of radio has a near lockout on indie artists, introducing music is open wide to internet stations.
Here's a Blues artist to consider:
The Rusty T Band

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The Rusty T Band

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We listen for songs that evoke emotion; fast, slow, female, male, group, it doesn't matter. When an artist has the power to please, they should be given a chance to be heard.

Give The Rusty T Band - "Tic Toc" a listen.

Add it to your playlist, free! Such is the new world of music distribution.

The radio industry had its shot. It's time internet radio programmers take a chance and reach into a huge pile of talent. It is there that new hit songs will increasingly be found.

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