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AG News: Thursday - 6/4/2009

Radio & Records Demise Emphasizes Radio Industry Dilemma

I'm sure not many people can claim to have expected the announced closure of Radio & Records yesterday. In retrospect, though, the newspaper industry has been having extremely difficult times, so you might say it's no surprise. A newspaper reporting on the radio industry, which is having similar financial woes, could be considered on a short-list of businesses expected to fold. Hindsight is wonderful for predicting yesterday.

Though, long ago, it was THE radio industry publication, readers of Audio Graphics know I simultaneously lost respect for R&R and radio industry CEOs. From my perch it - like they - turned into continually cheerleading radio when all should have been leading (pushing?) the industry into a new era. What helped bring this radio mainstay down was it stopped doing the journalistic work required of "reporting," and it began repeatedly printing near-verbatim press releases. It suffered from "less is more." In its final decade, Radio & Records conducted radio industry seminars that excluded anyone with new-tech knowledge. I wrote about that often, while mentioning how it trumpeted a worn-out agenda of panels led by consultants and insiders who, like R&R, didn't want to rock radio's boat. By the end there wasn't much to read in Radio & Records. You didn't learn after looking at its articles, because they seemed to lead to a conclusion that radio was doing better than reality showed.

Forty people will be without jobs come this Friday. Bummer. I know the feeling, having been blown out in the first wave of consolidation over ten years ago. It's not that these people were bad or unprofessional. It's just that they failed in delivering the news for whatever reason; the parent company didn't provide financial support, the editors thought it best not to anger radio industry CEOs with contentious issues, individuals didn't want to chance losing their jobs by standing up to management to say "radio needs to change and we do too."

Change is a magic word. It's the only way any company is going to stay afloat. What was done isn't good enough now. What needs to be done isn't understood yet, and there's a learning curve which means this process of change needed to start at least five years ago if you wanted to be up-to-speed on where media is today.

Radio & Records was content at producing status quo. Sad to say, that's why the doors were shuttered.

It was suggested to me that I take a look at back issues of Radio & Records to see the column inches of ads run over a course of time. I'm not that print-oriented. So, rather than count column inches I looked at the number of ads in issues from 1996, 2005, and 2008. After that year, like many people, I got all R&R content online. But here's what I found relative to record industry ads being run in this industry publication: In the 1996 issue, there were 28 ads promoting record releases, many full-page; in 2005, there were 5 record ads; in 2008, there was 1.

Could Radio & Records have survived? It's anybody's guess. I'd say if it had made a move to be a journalistically sound publication that reported both sides of an issue, and had published articles leading the radio industry into tomorrow, the answer would most probably be yes. Online. However, R&R ended up being a promoter of radio industry initiatives (like HD Radio) and backers of radio (like suddenly tech-knowledgeable consultants) with no regard for the many people who continually pointed to the oncoming cliff.

Hear this message clear, please. The radio industry cannot continue to deliver low-quality programming and commercials that anyone who's sat in a programming chair can easily label as such. If it does, radio will end up in the same position as Radio & Records. The radio industry can no longer afford to ignore the knowledge needed to move into a digital future while continuing to point to HD Radio as its digital answer, like Radio & Records did.

The radio industry is at a very important crossroads where its only salvation is to make major adjustments - meaning to walk away from what was, and begin learning what is and will be.

To continue ignoring the signs which have been pointed to for over a decade by those of us called "naysayers" will most definitely lead to the shuttering of dozens-upon-dozens of radio station doors - just like we're seeing Radio & Records close its doors.

This is no longer a warning. It is a promise. And this is not hindsight speaking, it's the call of the future for change.

From: Maynard Meyer
Lac qui Parle Broadcasting Co., Inc.

Yes, there is a serious programming problem in radio.

The problem is programmers who believe that radio is a music medium. We now have two or three generations of program directors who believe 'music good'...'commercials and talk bad'. Those programmers have trained listeners to believe they should shun the very things we need to survive. Say what you will about 'localism'..but that's the key to our survival. We put KLQP-FM in Madison, Minnesota (pop 1,700...county population 8,000) on the air 26 years ago and we're still making money by giving people what they want, local information and features they can't get from satellite or their ipods. Sure we play a lot of music, but only because we need filler when we have nothing important to say. It's time to stop competing with the use of music, we can do better than that.

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Ken Dardis
Online Since January 1997

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