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Thursday, November 27, 2007
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The New Year Requires New Thinking

Sad to say, there was not much improvement within the radio industry in 2007 (though there has been an incredibe amount of discussion about improving). The reason for low levels of movement towards improvement is that the discussions have remained just that, and have not progressed to a change in priorities for radio.

Programmers are still being saddled with multiple stations to run. Only a decade ago, when each station had its own programmer, that was considered too much work for one person to handle. This "give more responsibility" mindset is still with us, and we constantly read about persons "awarded" promotions to oversee additional stations.

Radio Sales hasn't really progressed past discussion about PPM. OK, PPM is operational; but it's controversial as well, and the fighting is being done in public. Nothing could be worse than expecting advertisers to invest in an industry in turmoil, i.e., internet radio.

"...consider that to improve itself, the radio industry must DO SOMETHING." I've noticed no uptick in the use of email for contacting clients on a regular basis from radio industry sales departments. There's not much being added to radio station web sites to guide potential clients on how to use radio efficiently. And (the breach I consider most offensive), there's still nothing being done to reestablish a connection between the radio industry and Generation Y. There's talk, but little action.

Jerry Del Colliano has posted an excellent article, on what is being missed in the pursuit of youth, at his blog "Inside Media Music." It is a must-read for radio executives, and a "must-follow" if the radio industry has hopes of slowing its declining revenue and audience.

But before you believe that all the answers are there, here are a few other items to consider.

The concept of radio reaching millions was, until the internet, only duplicated by a few other media. With the internet, reaching people isn't the goal anymore. Impressions can be purchased for pennies on the thousands. Proving you reached the people is what's important to media buyers today.

Audiences have lost faith in traditional media playing it straight with them. They can only be told they hear more music, get fewer commercials and play what we want so many times before an audience's sense of being served is overrun by a sense of being used.

HD Radio has done much to discredit radio already. Stations between the stations! Trust me. They are worth your spending a couple hundred (even a hundred) dollars to hear what? Better programming has to come from the current radio industry before an audience will believe it can be found on the other side of the HD Rainbow. Radio & Records ran a straightforward article - online - early yesterday. It had some truth to the negatives about HD Radio, but it also carried a quote from HD Alliance President Peter Ferrara. Paraphrased, "As for naysayers of HD - I don't pay any attention to them." Which is probably a big reason why HD Radio is finding itself in such a hole today. Like other radio execs, if Mr. Ferrara doesn't like what's being said, he simply tunes out the opposing view. Sounds like the current political administration, which is sinking, too. (Curiously, the article only appeared for a short time online. It's not to be found on the Radio & Records web site today.)

Youth need to be brought into the executive suites at radio stations again, and listened to for guidance. God knows, the way the old farts have been doing things isn't working. Give the younger set a chance to connect with their peers.

If you're going to get a consultant, get one with a track record in new media. The station manager who depends on a radio consultant that caught the internet bug within the past five years is only playing into their hands. These consultants are still learning. You want someone who understands the internet. Try either Jim Taszarek or Holland Cooke. They have been studying the internet since the late 1990s. Everyone else fell in after they ignored the Net for too many years; now, they're all playing catch up.

Finally, consider that to improve itself, the radio industry must DO SOMETHING. Talk has proved nothing more than a diversion from solving the real problems of creating better, more relevant programming and improving how it's used the internet. (The exception: Greater Media. Its promotion of Tom Bender to Senior VP/GM of Greater Media Interactive is a huge step. Tom is one of the few radio insiders who's capable of changing his ways to reflect current trends. But the rest of the industry - including Clear Channel Interactive - is avoiding movement into the future through innovation.)

2008 has got to see a change in radio execs' mindsets. If they continue in the same way as last year, you won't need to look too far into the future to see declines of the past repeated.

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