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Friday, December 20, 2013
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Waving My Wand Over the Radio Industry

I've just taken a giant leap without moving from my chair.

Since January 1997, I've been writing these articles in an attempt, at first, to show how the internet affects the broadcast radio industry; within a few years my focus included the online radio industry. It was plain that persons creating online stations were doing a haphazard job of creating a revenue-generating model.
"For the investment bankers on Audio Graphics' mailing list, I'll wave a wand for you too. Find advertising investments that feature accountability."

2014 is ahead. That puts me in the 17th year of watching: 1) consolidation destroy that part of the radio industry with antennas, and 2) anarchy becoming so prolific in online radio that no organization can organize it.

Mentally, my time is up.

I told our son to get out when anything he does stops being fun. Watching a radio industry that tens of thousands of people built into a respectable business be destroyed by a handful of persons is no fun. "Good radio" cannot be produced as a commodity. Most painfull is hearing a repeated defense that advertisers don't understand broadcast radio, and success hinged on "telling our story better." Nearing 100 years, if the story hasn't sunk in yet, then this media is on the way out.

Do you remember how around the first week in November Larry Rosin, President of Edison Research, was quoted as saying: "I think the denial period is rapidly coming to an end. Itís not that long ago, when there was a Code of Omerta in the radio industry, where if you point out a problem, you are the problem." By his definition, having been a problem for nearly two decades, I was not surprised at how few radio trades reported Mr. Rosin's statement. Personally, I don't believe this "denial period" is close to coming to an end.

For internet radio stations, few operators approach it professionally while millions of listeners bounce around looking for their audio pot of gold. It's tiring to hear about Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, and Slacker at the expense of everyone else, but it is warranted. Everyone else is doing little to talk about.

If I could wave my wand...

1) I'd zip the mouth of everyone in the broadcast industry who says "local content is the key" or "radio reaches 93% of Americans each week." Neither statement matters because advertisers are asking for proof that spending dollars with radio is effective. Today, analytics and metrics are mandates.

Also, for radio, I'd demand - that's DEMAND - an answer to this simple question: "Over the past 15 years, what have you heard at a radio conference that was implemented when you got back to the station?" Large group radio execs talk, and talk, and talk, and talk. Then they go about firing the people who can make quality happen - in the name of synergy. Small-medium markets are fine, until the receiver disappears from the dashboard by 2020.

The powers of radio rest in the hands of a few individuals who have no incentive to change. They are making money because the herd is following them down the path of poor quality programming. (Ask yourself why you would spend time reporting school closings when, in this day, nearly every student and parent receives a text message and email announcing their school is shut down in bad weather.)

2) The online radio industry is deep in confusion. In attempts to undo the commercial-heavy programming of its broadcast cousins, internet radio has created a monster of playlists. Personally connecting with listeners is impossible under these conditions.

The long tail stopped wagging. An educated guess that includes pureplay operators and broadcasters' streams would place an average number of concurrent listeners at well below 100 for the average online station.

Most damaging for internet radio, there's no central voice. The Three Musketeers' cry of "One for all" is muted by The Three Stooges' "Every Man for Himself" (gender specificity used only for grammar). For the enthusiastic amateur, it's a wonderful hobby. As a business, internet radio is toast.

So here's my only prediction for how things will soon shake out:

Trade magazines and consultants that make their money off conferences will continue to talk "local," "digital," and "new frontier," without explaining how difficult it is to conquer any of these. (Readers of Clear Channel-owned "Inside Radio" - in my opinion - are unbelievably naive if they think it carries unbiased reporting.)

2014 is going to be when the vehicle center-stack infotainment system is first considered mainstream. Radio industry people who have offered nothing but excuses will begin to see how ability to reach audience has changed. Fear will reach new highs.

2014 will be when it's obvious only the largest internet radio companies will benefit, and how the small station owner stands no chance of pulling in audience or advertisers.

And, in 2014 I'm going to unwind. After 44 years writing software code, 27 years in radio, and 17 years reporting here, I'll now focus on helping indie artists until I retire. The latter, for me, is still fun. (If internet or broadcast radio wants to become involved they are welcome. I will reach out on behalf of independent artists, but no longer worry about response.)

Let's discuss ideas along the lines of new programming concepts. In an industry that's still asking for "Polaroids," speaking about "Blasts from the Past," and featuring how another "great radio leader has died," I beg that radio trades, as a course of regular reporting, try counting "new" programming concepts.

For the investment bankers on Audio Graphics' mailing list, I'll wave a wand for you too. Find advertising investments that feature accountability. All the radio industry gives are excuses and chants about how its local content will win the day - without mention there's much more local content online than any single station has produced in the past few decades.

Now I'll wave my wand one more time for you to enjoy the holidays. I'm back in some form on Monday, January 6, 2014. Until then, be safe.

Today's indie introduction is to...
Rap artist "BrothersP"
sample song
Where Are the Kings

Download Song


We listen for songs that evoke emotion; fast, slow, female, male, group, it doesn't matter. When an artist has the power to please, they should be given a chance to be heard.

Give BrothersP's "Where Are the Kings" a listen.

Add it to your playlist, free! Such is the new world of music distribution.

It's time internet radio programmers reach into a huge pile of untapped talent.
It is here where new hit songs will increasingly be found.

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