Change Is Good, But...
July 2, 2013
I think the U.S. should put a two-year hold on any consolidation until the existing companies learn to cooperate and communicate within. These conglomerates don't seem to understand how their lack of cohesiveness affects consumers. Successful sports organizations make sure everyone on the company depth chart is made aware of the goals, objectives, the plan for execution, and the role everyone has to play; the right hand has to know what the left is doing. A good example of team play are the series of "Ocean" movies based on the original with Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack; the success of these heists were based on coordinated effort among many. On the other hand, this season of TV's "Mad Men" is an example of what not to do when companies consolidate; a lack of information sharing, individual grandstanding, distrust, creative confusion, client mishandling, and a braintrust clash of reading the ever-changing society. Gee, "Mad Men" sounds like radio consolidation, doesn't it?
I have a music radio client who needed info on a couple of markets he was hoping to prospect for a job. To save him some time, I checked the stations in those markets for their e-mail addresses so he could send his demo and resume; what I found out was very upsetting. It is safe to say that over 50% of the radio sites 'Contact Us' don't list The PD, OM, or MD; not even a general e-mail address to those departments. However in the majority of cases, the community relations, sales and a few other departments are usually listed.
And there it is -- no accountability by the departments directly affecting why a listener listens to a station; music and programming content. It is no wonder some of the programming resulting from consolidation does not seem to communicate to average listener needs. It is important to understand how society relates to radio as a whole. If broadcast companies do not align with the thoughts of the commoners, jocks are fighting an uphill creative battle that cannot be won.
In order to fix the problem, it is important to understand the birth generations:
Silent Generation, born between 1925-1942, ages 71-88
Baby Boomer, born 1943-1960, ages 48-65
Generation X, born 1961-1981, ages 27-47
Generation Y, born 1982-2001, ages 7-26
Generation Z, born 2002-2021, age 6-
It is important to understand the generations and how new technology has changed traditional radio. The two personal computer gurus responsible for revolutionizing communications, Microsoft's Bill Gates and Apple's Steve Jobs, are baby boomers, both born in 1955. New media usage can be tracked though the generations.
A portion of the "Silent" group utilizes e-mail and not much more.
The younger "Boomers" are valiantly learning to stay relevant and represent the upper portion of the 25-54 demographic. Radio is still the first choice, but new media has intrigued this group and become part of their world. In the '90s, they contributed heavily to the tech stock boom.
"X" has some boomer factor and the older portion shared in the tech revolution; radio is still a choice. Current formats appealing to this generation will have to maintain an audience by reflecting actual lifestyle and musical tastes. President-elect Obama is not the only "X" that has Hip-hop, Rock and AC in his iPod. No stations currently address this musical issue.
"Y" has grown up with computers, blogs, podcasts, MySpace, Blackberrys, Twitter, Macs, chat rooms, P2Ps, You Tube, iPhones, LinkedIn, iPods and Facebook; radio is used as a last resort. Instead of a new music fad, the Y generation received new audio and communication delivery systems. This group has to be convinced to sample the product. An old and new media link would go a long way in appealing to this generation. Ys represent radio's version of "Custer's Last Stand" ... and will be the determining factor for the fate and future of the industry.
"Z" will probably use traditional radio as a paperweight and only listen if the X and Y parents expose them to it.
Boomers and older Xs are currently in charge of most workplace listening; malls, super-retail outlets, and services providing music to businesses. With some adjustments, traditional radio can hold on to the aforementioned generations. However, in order for industry growth with younger Xs and all of the Y generation, there is a need for creative, technological and social application restructuring.
Road to Recovery: The Stimulus
The place to begin is with the sound of the stations. Currently there are three approaches: local air talent, national syndication and voicetracking within or from outside the markets. Solutions for improving the quality of entertainment at music stations include increasing the number of syndicated shows for formats, rehiring qualified programmers to train and work with talent, balance the needs of the sales and program departments, reinstate the creative production director position, refocus on the importance of music, restructure station clusters for individual station thought (competition breeds creativity), and discontinue the practice of one person programming multiple formats.
Programmers are churning out the daily business of radio with very little energy left for futuristic broadcast endeavors. Programming was once about original thinking, personality and fun ... not slogans substituting for substance. It is nearly impossible to create under florescent lighting in meeting rooms at 8 in the morning. By streamlining air staffs and eliminating the "difficult but creative" types, the product has suffered. In order to transform the existing programming pabulum from complacency to entertainment, reintroducing parts of the original creative process would go a long way towards revitalization. The past is the present and future.