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AG News: 9/5/2008

Radio Leaders Should Know When to Quit Talking

Ever wonder why the radio industry is not too much further ahead than it was five (or ten) years ago? Its leaders have continued to hype the troops, with no pause that's long enough to digest anything useful from outside sources. They've pursued all the wrong answers without turning to anyone in the know to find out the real questions. Its consultants have consulted their way through misstep after misstep, just to hold onto their gig; tell the client what they want to hear. To be bold is to be gone.

Shut up and listen! Sounds as crude as it is, doesn't it? The essence is that you can't learn if you won't digest knowledge, and you won't digest knowledge if you are the one doing the talking.

Consultant Bob Harper got my attention this morning with an article over at Radio Business Report. I'll rephrase that, got my attention with copying an idea from someone else to create an article at Radio Business Report. Even in defending the industry, Mr. Harper is without fresh ideas.

There are only a couple of publications that tell it like it is, that are not afraid of upsetting industry leaders by reporting the true state of radio. I call the people who run these publications friends of the industry. RBR Publisher Jim Carnegie is one of radio's truest friends. I like to consider him one of mine as well because we share a commitment to disperse the truth.

By publishing what is termed a "Roger Ebertís letter to Radio Ö sort of" from famed (in his own mind) radio consultant Bob Harper, Jim Carnegie has done a service to radio of the highest proportions. By allowing this person, who consulted radio out of relativity, to post a nearly five-hundred word essay, Radio Business Report demonstrates the gravity of the problem the radio industry faces today.

Please, do two things. Read the aticle and then come back here. I want to present my own discourse to Bob Harper with evidence that his words represent exactly WHY radio is falling off the vine. Go on, read his words. I'll wait.


OK. Ready. Does somebody want to tap Mr. Harper on the shoulder and get his attention? I'm sure a man of his intelligence would gladly like to know when he is wrong. It's the purpose of what follows.

We'll start with the most important item, which is demonstrating that radio lost its creativity long ago by using the words flowing from Bob Harper's keyboard. "I borrowed Rogerís sentiments on newspapers and substituted the word, Radio." If you have something to say, please say it. But don't come running with words of wisdom that have their genesis from someone else while pretending you are defending the radio industry. Having to "borrow" words is what's at the heart of radio going downhill, it's lost the ability to be creative.

"Times are hard in the Radio business, and for the economy as a whole." Please! Times are not hard in the software technology fields, or in online video, audio, or keyword ad buying. Have you checked local online advertising revenues lately? Competitive, yes. Hard, no.

I'm amazed at how consultants of Bob Harper's ilk downplayed the importance of tying into the online world from 1998 through 2004, and then suddenly became wizards at how to best implement today's new media technology into what's become a lifeless radio industry. Let's quote Bob again: "Radio is not dead because there are still listeners who want more than pre-packaged slop and pay-per-yawn programming." Bob, I'm open. Please show me where this "more than" exists on the radio dial in 2008.

"The rest of us are still at work, still putting out the best Radio we can." What you are producing, Mr. Harper, isn't good enough! You've lost the youth, are losing the 25-44, and are not capable of understanding why, as is evident with this next quote: "I don't have any complaints about our Web site." That's because you don't have the knowledge to know what to complain about. Neither do most of your consultant cohorts. (I will give a nod to Jim Taszarek, Holland Cooke, and Daniel Anstandig at McVay Media. These are the folks you should be turning to for new media ideas.)

Mr. Harper, it's time that you and your fraternity of consultants, who got radio into this mess, pack your bags and board the next train out, along with all the clueless CEOs and CFOs who have brought a once great industry to its knees.

I have been around this business for as long as you have and much longer than many of those fake leaders mentioned in the previous sentence. So, don't go using the same ploy whipped up by the Republicans when anyone challenges their ability to lead. I love the radio industry as much as you. I put as much sweat into it as you have. It was MY industry, as much as it was MY family, until it was taken away by consolidators and people with a nose color that never changed from brown.

Am I bitter? You bet. What made me that way was seeing tens of thousands of good people displaced, a radio industry ruined, and a public left without a local radio community because people like you wanted to line their pockets instead of doing what's right.

But I'm not angry. I don't wish for the door to "bang you in the ass" as you leave.

I just wish that you would leave.

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Ken Dardis
Online Since January 1997

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