Bob&Geo Write The Wrongs About Radio. 9/21/18

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George, as you well know, I’ve spent almost 49 years in radio and most of the time I loved it, I loved the business, the people and I loved our listeners.

Me too Bob but unfortunately we were having so much fun that the years went by too quickly for my liking.
I’ve listened to the radio business slide into mediocrity, sure it still has listeners, plenty of them. There are fewer every year and the entry level listener, the kids, the teens aren’t listening anymore, at all. Why should they, there is nothing there for them.

Hell Bob, my daughter Cami is 22 and when she’s back home from college she seldom puts the radio on. My grandson Nathaniel in LA is 13 and unless his Mom has it on in the car, he never listens.
I read the broadcast media, blogs. What I read is excuses, people looking for “one neat trick” or an “amazing hack” to turn things around. What I read most often is from people in a defensive posture, muttering “but, but, but…”

I hear you, it’s all about saving money now like that’s some kind of a righteous cause. As you have said many times, radio is going to die if it doesn’t get some new cume and that new cume can only come from teens. However, radio is so busy saving money it is doing nothing to attract teens so they’re not listening. Nielson even tried their best to help out by adding 6+ to the figures hoping to keep the diminishing cume shored up. Bob, if teens aren’t listening, what do you suppose the odds are that some six-year-old kid is?
I spent (wasted) a couple of hours last week listening to WLTW in New York, it’s the number one rated station, it was terrible. The guy on the air is required to open the mic about 4 times an hour and he couldn’t even sound like he was interested. It was hotter than the hubs of hell in New York last week and he never mentioned it. The only New York thing he talked about was a swarm of bees around a hot dog cart…he read it off the internet. I know he did, I checked. I could go on, but I won’t.

You would think there would be a ton of things to talk about in New York, if not there, where?
Geo, not only is afternoon drive terrible, the entire station is, I listened around the other dayparts the next day. WLTW is being threatened by classic hits WCBS FM, and their reaction to them is to play one LOUD song an hour, think that’ll work on an AC? Maybe that’s their “one neat trick”? Now the defense of WLTW by radio guys is going to be, “gee that’s not fair, you only listened for a couple of hours.” You know what? That’s all you get. If somebody tunes you in for the first time and the station sounds bad like WLTW, That’s your only chance that you get with them, no excuses.

Exactly Bobby. I remember once visiting our old friends the Duffy Twins on Florida’s west coast for the weekend. When Linda picked me up at the airport, she excitedly said, “Hey they have been running some commercials on TV about a new radio station in town, let’s check it out.” It turned out to be an oldies station which she loved until we turned a corner and a little static showed up for a second or two. She immediately turned the radio off saying, “Oh they must be from out of town.”
I remember when we were working together and I was programming our station in Boston and whenever the big guy flew in I had to pick him up. As soon as he got into the car, he’d immediately turn on the radio and if the first break was bad, I knew I’d be getting my ass handed to me. Was he fair? Yes, and it made me a better PD, a lot better. However had my station sounded as light as LITE-FM, he probably would have dumped me in the harbor or wherever Whitey Bolder dumped his bodies? Hey Geo, how about your fun rides with him to work and home every day?

I hated those rides! Every morning he’d pick me up at 8 and we would listen to the AM going in and the FM coming home. The following day we did the reverse and what are the odds do you suppose that anything could go wrong during those fun rides? Did it make me a better programmer? Absolutely.
So is it fair to judge a station by listening to one break or for “only a few hours”, hell yes it is. The audience will give you one shot, you better be ready and make it count. Thanks for the read, now get back into your defensive crouch and keep on searching for that “one neat trick”.

Hey Bob, let’s do a bunch more of this, there’s gotta be a decent station out there somewhere? Let’s also check their websites, I bet they suck too.

21 thoughts on “Bob&Geo Write The Wrongs About Radio. 9/21/18

  1. Radio is dead. I think you boys missed the story. It was a few years ago and it received little notice. Few cared and more laughed at its demise. It had become such an awful entertainment venue, more of a dead skunk in the middle of the road, a putrid roadkill carcass. Deregulation was listed as the cause of death, with boring musical formats and even more boring personalities listed as contributing factors. The fact of its timely demise is hardly worth writing about and yet here we are, commiserating over the beating yet another dead horse. It was ruled a suicide.

    • We’re looking for the folks that killed it Moto and I don’t think that it was just ownership that did it. I’ve heard some pretty lame breaks on the radio lately that had nothing to do with their bosses. The jock was just lame and way overpaid.

  2. George & Bob,
    Youse guys are smart…..but history makes for dull reading if not livened up. In Houston, my home again now, traffic is a nightmare. Mel Karmazin and I once had a fun conversation about how much we both loved traffic jams….that is still true today for radio’s savvy programmers in most medium to large markets. Small market operators we know have it figgered out for their cities and towns. Perhaps seek out those folks who ARE doing good radio…there is still $$$ to be made…somebody, somewhere is doing a great job serving their community, entertaining and informing. Radio is still an adventure, as is life…..not too negative boys…that’s my take on it.

    • Well see Tom I’m just a dumb programming guy who along with a bunch of other dumb guys created a station in Dallas that we purchased for a million eight. Our plan is to expose an even dumber Mel Karmazin who paid 85 million for it and his ilk. As you say though who cares about yesterday other than the new owners who are trying to service the debt because yesterday they overpaid. Bob and I are going to focus on whether a station is 1. Professional 2. Interesting 3 Entertaining which has nothing to do with history.

    • Nope, we won’t be writing about history Tom but we may use an incident or two from the past to explain a specific situation. Each station will get an hour to shine and then we’ll talk about what we found. We may even get people such as yourself to choose a station and then participate with us as we break them down.

  3. Tom is right guys. The difference is today’s ownership profile is a jagged EKG. As long as there’s a Cox, Hubbard and in secondary markets Mid-West Family (or Duke Wright’s Midwest) a Delmarva and more, some are still doing it right. Not Fairbanks or Susquehanna mind you but in scale, very good.

    • Tim, hopefully, we’ll get to the good ones, but unfortunately, there are a bunch of bad ones in the way so we’re calling them out one by one. I’ve always believed that radio had three steps to success and they had to be done in this order. 1. Be Professional 2. Be Interesting 3. Be Entertaining. You only need the first two to get ratings, you only need # 3 if you want to syndicate. Geo

      • Also Tim we won’t be comparing any of them to the great stations. Those stations had 3 types of people at them, The Dreamer, The Businessman and the Son of a bitch. The Son of a bitch may be the only one still standing today.

  4. Since you brought it up, I did find a station I thought worth listening to in Islamorada FL of all places. I’m seldom up early enough to catch the morning show down here, but I thought their “Hobie in the Afternoon Experiment” on Sun 103.1 in Islamorada and the Whale in Key West is a pretty decent morning- style afternoon show on both stations. Even more shocking, they played music and featured a local news minute too! Almost like real radio and in a small market like the Keys.

  5. As George knows, I ‘sing the praises’ of WMOM in Ludington Michigan. Small Town Radio, intensely Local, owned by a guy who has among The Best Ears for Music of any I know and a Passion which inspires The Kids he has working for him. They’re not ‘Slick’ and often sound ‘Hokey’ but there’s a real Charm to the station. They ‘cleaned up’ at the recent Michigan Broadcaster’s Convention yet there are 9 people working there.

    Yesterday Elizabeth and I spent the evening with Colin Kennedy, once an Op at The Big 8 CKLW when Paul Drew was PD. Colin claims to have invented The Layover. All I know for sure is…..the first time I heard one was when I arrived in Toronto from Winnipeg to work at CHUM and saw Colin working with Big Tom Rivers. From a Production standpoint, it was like nothing I had ever heard. The two of them were creating Radio to an Extreme. Was that Radio as An Art Form? Could anyone in Today’s Radio do that today? Would anyone listen?

    On the Other Side of that was Progressive Radio. My Fav was WLIR New York. As with Pat Martin, PD Denis McNamara had ‘Great Ears’ for Music and inspired a Creative Quirkiness between the Records. Showtime just aired a Documentary about them.

    But really….perhaps it was the role that Music played in Pop Culture at the time. It seems that Music simply isn’t as important in the lives of My Kids as it was to me…..and now that they’re Adults, the only Radio they listen to is in The Car and it’s mostly News/Talk. Music they get on The Web where The Playlist is a couple of thousand.

    • Thanks for the comments Warren. I believe it’s Fred Jacobs who recently did a research project with the air talent across America and discovered that most of them are never critiqued nor are there any jock meetings. How can that be? Radio is fighting for its life and leaving the air talent to fend for itself ain’t gonna work. Bob and I are going to start critiquing air talent and radio stations and we’re going to do it based on today, not yesterday. Hey, you can’t blame it all ownership. Every time an air talent turns on the mic, they have to be Professional and Interesting and if they can throw a little Entertainment our way too, we’ll syndicate them.

      • Hockey is still hockey, you have to put the puck in the net to score. The game has evolved, the game is better, it’s faster and nobody is smoking in the locker room. Radio is still smoking in the locker room. It has to evolve to be relevant in today’s world. Bobby Orr could still play today, but how many of his teammates could? The difference between today’s hockey and radio is there has been almost no evolution in radio. What George and I want to do is to challenge radio to evolve and become relevant again.

  6. George and Bob, I think both would have an interesting read, but the only people whom will study and embrace what you observe are those in your choir anyway. I ran into an ex-WIBC-AM sales savage back from the Blair Broadcasting days, who left screaming in 1992 when Sconnix and Roy Cooper parted ways. John worked for TV stations, Crain Communications, Terry Lingner Productions, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Lamar (the folks that purchased Naegle). John thinks and agrees, independently, with Moto (Cris): Electronic media, especially radio, at least in most major markets, has died by suicide. Those who buy advertising thinks that most radio and TV advertising does not work, so they don’t see the value that makes decent broadcast advertising rates worth the effort. Without the Jim Hilliards, Dick Yanceys, and Jerry Bobos to lead the way (and the George and Bob P.D.’s to provide the products and ratings), most radio station managers do not have the intestinal fortitude to build up their rates and instead spend time and effort on cutting costs.
    According to the legend of Jim Hilliard, Jim came back to Indianapolis from Philadelphia in 1968 with a plan to a rebuild a radio station back up (WIBC) to dominance and protect it for the future by launching a companion FM (WNAP) with modest investment, but out-thinking and out-flanking the competition, ratings book by ratings book. Very few people think that way, but you and Bob understand in a way most broadcasters, in my experience, dismissed then, and still do now.

    • What is strange to me Jed is that well over 90% of the population listen to radio but everybody is claiming it’s dead. I agree it’s dying, but it still has enough cume to become much bigger by getting the folks to listen longer and more often. The real problem is attracting the younger side which is going to take putting some new product on the radio just for them and I don’t think anybody is in the radio lab working on it.

  7. We need to make radio more of a social media form of entertainment.
    If some genius could create a radio version or Facebook with music, you would be on to something big.

  8. On December 30th, 1994 I was driving to a meeting with our station’s attorneys in Wellesley, MA. I was on the Mass Pike and had dialed around the radio checking things out, KISS, EEI, WBZ regular programming on the air. I turned on WBUR, Boston University’s NPR station and they are doing wall to wall coverage of a shooting at an abortion clinic in Brookline. I listened for a few minutes and turned back to WBZ, nothing. I called Len Malo at our station and told him what was going on, he checked it out and broke in on the air with a bulletin. I went back to WBZ, still nothing…I knew at that moment the clock was ticking on the number one radio news outlet in Boston. It took WBZ a half hour to catch up. The funny thing or maybe not so funny, is at the time WBZ was in the same building as WBZ TV who was all over the story. WBUR is the top radio news station in Boston today. They are on top of breaking news and do brilliant deep-dive coverage of stories as well. The long form stories they did on the Whitey Bulger trial were brilliant Today in LA If KPCC in Pasadena had a better signal they’d be on top on radio news in LA in short order. The thing that all these NPR news operations have in common is total commitment to news and they get great demographics by doing it. Fred Heckman once told me, “if there is a column of smoke in the sky and you can’t tell them why it’s there, you’re finished.” it’s still true today and always will be.

  9. I appreciate your concerns, but I’m wondering how many people would listen to a radio station that focused on the negative all the time. Then again, I just sold the stuff you put on the air, so what do I know? It all worked out ok.

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