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AG News: 8/16/2006

R&R Convention Agenda Shows Radio Industry Priorities

For people who are interested in the radio industry there are only a few avenues of news; Radio & Records, Friday Morning Quarterback, Inside Radio, Radio Business Report, and Radio Ink top the list of publications, with Joel Denver's AllAccess Music Group's online publication also earning a mention. Beyond these, and a handful of blogs, I'm hard pressed to point to another place where news about the radio industry is a central focus. (Humility keeps off this list, although, online, you'll not find any of the above listing higher on search engines or with news aggregators.)

You can tell where the radio industry is headed by reading each of the above, daily. Their usual stories are on management changes, format flips, HD Radio, and ratings which they mix with articles about satellite radio, record industry moves, regulation (FCC), and personality profiles. Overall this sounds like in-depth coverage, enough to keep industry titans and peons abreast of what makes radio tick.

But there's another indicator of radio's health, something that shows what's important and (by lack of exposure) what's not; the upcoming R&R Convention 06" in Dallas which is set for September 20-22. Its agenda shows what is ahead - attendees are (supposedly) there to find out what's new.

Take a look at what everyone will be learning, and note what they won't be hearing, as this speaks volumes about the true priorities in radio.

According to R&R's convention agenda there are five sessions on Smooth Jazz, three on Latin formats, two each for CHR/Pop, Rythmic, Urban, AC, Country, and Rock. News/Talk and Gospel each have one session scheduled, as do "Talent," technology, and "Mix."

As mentioned, what's not on this formal agenda for "R&R Convention 06" is what spells out where radio is today and, sad to say, these avoided topics are where radio needs to be. Missing are the words HD Radio, online commercial trafficking software, electronic invoicing, web sites, Wi-Fi, cell phone music, and online advertising auctions. Other important, but non-existing topics relate to anything resembling the words "localized programming" or "local search - new competition." (Note: "Internet radio" does get a slot in a Smooth Jazz session.)

Here is the lineup for "R&R Convention 06," listed by session topic not chronologically. (On average, a "session" lasts 90 minutes.):

SMOOTH JAZZ - Internet Radio, Coming Soon to Your Car
SMOOTH JAZZ - Label Confidential
SMOOTH JAZZ - The World's Mightiest Marketing Medium
SMOOTH JAZZ - 1946-1964 - Not Just Numbers, Big Boomer Bucks
SMOOTH JAZZ - Win-Win or Get Out of the Way!
LATIN - A New Marriage Or Headed For Divorce?
LATIN - The Reality of Programming
LATIN/RHYTHMIC -Bridging The Gap
CHR/POP - The Ten Year Pop Cycle Returns
RHYTHMIC - It's The Music, Stupid!
RHYTHMIC - How To De-Jockify Radio Personalities
URBAN/URBAN AC - Urban Honors
URBAN/URBAN AC - Urban Trendsetters: For Leaders, Not Followers
AC - Inside The Radio Studio With Whoopi Goldberg, Interview by Jim Ryan
COUNTRY - Texas Muisc: Boon or Bane?
COUNTRY - Talking Hats of Programming
ROCK FORMATS - The $#@% Indecency & Payola Game Show
ROCK FORMATS - Wake Up! Your Listeners Are Smarter Than You!
MIX SHOW - Do Mix Show Matter?
GOSPEL - Economics of Gospel
NEWS/TALK - Stop Singing, Start Talking
TECHNOLOGY - Technology For Adults Only
Keynote Address by Freakonomics authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

So here are questions you might throw out to your peers, if you're planning to attend:
"Why is it that this gathering of radio industry employees is not being
treated to formal talks on the latest online trends, digital communications
in sales, or the changing competitive landscape?"

How come nothing is scheduled that addresses digital media (outside
of a ninety minute talk titled "TECHNOLOGY - Technology For
Adults Only" (The label alone points to where this session is headed.),
and the previously mentioned "Smooth Jazz/internet radio session?

Where are the points that will help creators of new formats for
HD Radio? If SO MANY stations will be producing SO MANY
new formats, you'd think a little guidance would be appreciated.

Are programmers doing local programming so well today that they
don't need tips on improving it on a limited budget?

And, one that I'd like someone to answer for me is
"What's with the concentration on Smooth Jazz?"

If the organizers of this convention think that offering sessions on ten formats is enough, out of over forty that have been boasted about in the past (Inside Radio has 34 formats on its "Format Category" list), what does this say about radio's view of its audience on the other stations?

Reading industry trades today there's a picture being painted that says radio is bouncing back, countering its lost momentum with promises of "new," "bold," and "local." Though, seldom are concrete examples given that define what each of these adjectives represent.

Now you can take that observation one step farther; there's not much evidence to support radio's move into today if you use "R&R Convention 06" as a measuring stick.

Priorities haven't changed enough to matter.

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President, Audio Graphics
Ken Dardis
Online Since January 1997

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