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Monday, June 25, 2012
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Radio Industry Deja Vu

There are two items to discuss today. The first being quick, and dare I say sad. Radio Ink reports that Buzz Knight, VP of Program Development for Greater Media, has interviewed marketing leader Al Ries - who declared that radio plays too many commercials. This has been said for over a decade, by many people, and obviously it has been falling on deaf ears in radio industry executive suites.

That this observation makes its way to headline status is why I think it carries a degree of sadness. Is this something that needs to be discussed, again? At what point will action be taken to alleviate what everyone has known since the turn of the century?

"With so much announced, how can it be possible to have so little accomplished in the radio industry?" Point 2 deals with "action." That is, how once again we have the radio industry announcing formation of a committee. This one is "to promote effective, reliable reporting and stewardship of network radio audio commercials and programming." I know this because every radio trade magazine ran the same words from the same press release, with little more information than to say "The Network Radio Compliance Councilís mission is to establish best practices, providing advertisers, agencies and radio stations with better tools for the placement and reporting of commercial audio." Most trades then ran the names of individuals at the helm of this new initiative, with the obligatory statements from persons in lead slots.

Now, I should have no reason to believe that the "Network Radio Compliance Council" has anything other than positioning the radio industry in a more positive light as its goal. Unfortunately I have major reasons to cast doubt on one more announcement by radio that it's out to improve, because we've all been down this road too many times before.

Radio is great at announcing what it intends to do. The carry-through is where there have been problems. Is anyone willing to revisit LMiV? How about the "Radio Communicators Group," launched in 2008 to promote radio? We can also throw out "Radio 2020," "Radio Heard Here," "The HD Radio Alliance," "Radio. You Hear It Here First," and the radio industry's attempt at tagging for iTunes.

Couple the above with Clear Channel's many, many announcements to drive this "announce without action" claim home: "Less is More," the "Radio Creative Resource Group," and its "Format Lab" are a few.

Going back to 2004, you can still see the headlines at Clear Channel's Press Release page:
Clear Channel Radio Moves to Improve Value of Radio Sales Metrics
Clear Channel Radio Launches Advanced Technology Initiative,
Accelerates Rollout of Digital Radio
Clear Channel Radio Launches to Link Advertisers
with Multi-Platform Marketing Opportunities

...and I could go on, but you get the point. As a side note, look for another radio group's initiatives and you'll come up with sparse (to no) results - which brings us to the essence of these words: With so much announced, how can it be possible to have so little accomplished in the radio industry?

Al Ries is an internationally renowned marketing expert. But did we really need to have him be the one to raise eyebrows by stating radio plays too many commercials? Wouldn't 21 minutes of each programming hour being devoted to ads be a signal for someone within the industry? Shouldn't it have been recognized in 2002, when each commercial cluster was averaging 8-12 spots?

As for the new "Network Radio Compliance Council" and its goals and mission, we should start a betting pool for when this group will disappear behind the "next great radio industry idea." I'll bet six months, tops, if we look at radio's track record.

Pandora didn't become a feared competitor to radio by announcing the formation of committees. It did so by taking carefully thought-out action and silently sticking with a plan. Today it is still building its local sales teams, with little fanfare. Look at other successful new media; all have followed in a similar "keep quiet until we have something to show" approach.

Telling people that you are going to do something is different than doing it. Frankly, we've heard about so many "new" initiatives in radio that it's difficult to take anything announced seriously.

It would be nice if, for once, the radio industry would get whatever new idea it has up and running - score a few successes with it - and then announce its existence. At least we wouldn't end up with another HD Radio University, or the most newly minted "WhyRadio?"

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