About This Year....
December 2, 2011
Last year at this time, I wrote a "last column of the year" piece in which I voiced what I hoped we'd see in 2011. How'd we do? Let's check:
Back then, I said, "I think we'll see more podcasts start to generate revenue." That's happened -- I'm hearing a few more major advertisers along with the direct response ads -- but the model still works best to promote other things. You can sell a lot of live show tickets and merchandise that way. So we'll call that a win.
I predicted that "we'll see more AM talkers move to FM and more FM talkers starting from scratch" and "I'm hopeful for more sports on FM." That happened. It was a good year for spoken word formats to move to FM, whether Talk, News, or Sports. And the success of many of them will surely lead to more.
A year ago, I hoped we'd see stations move more towards the idea of being content creators agnostic as to platform, multimedia content generators. Okay, not so much. For every WTOP or WEEI, there are hundreds of news, talk, and sports radio station websites or apps that, let's face it, suck. Most talk station websites are still glorified media kits, or worse. I'm not sure that'll ever change, either.
"Maybe we'll see a resurgance of non-political talk," I suggested. Nah, not yet. I think that's inevitable, though 2012 will be another election year and political talk will continue to dominate. But there's such a market for entertaining conversation that isn't about politics that I can't imagine someone won't try it.
I wondered if people in the commercial radio industry would stop ignoring the success of public radio spoken word programming, and I'm not sure if there's a formal answer for that, but when you see a major market's 6+ PPM ratings topped by a noncommercial News-Talk station -- San Francisco, KQED -- it really doesn't matter what anyone thinks, because that's success by any measure.
Now we've made it to the end of another year, and, looking back, I missed one pretty big thing that we've been dealing with for several years and which seemed to accelerate in the last year: job losses. In last year's column, I closed saying that "I'd like to think... that there'll be more opportunity for talented people to make a living doing what they do best." I was engaging in a little positive thinking. Surely, the addition of some new stations, including the Merlin all-News stations and the new CBS News outlet in Washington, are offering slots that weren't around at this time last year, but those were more than offset by the bloodbaths at stations across the country. Whether it was the mass firing at many Clear Channel stations or the Cumulus layoff tour of America or random changes at other stations, this wasn't a good year for talk radio employment.
And that's a theme I think will continue into 2012. There will be more firings, and more people looking for work. I'm hopeful -- I'm always holding out hope -- that we'll see an increase in news jobs as some more all-News stations come online, but we're not looking at enough jobs for everyone who's looking. So that's not good. Yet there will be opportunities, perhaps not in traditional ways. More people will be able to use alternate methods of reaching an audience -- streaming, podcasts, apps, video -- to build a business. Even in a continuing weak economy, even if the major employers are cutting rather than hiring, there will be opportunities for the motivated and talented. It'll just require some entrepreneurial skills. If you don't have them, hook up with someone who does.
Other than that, I expect more spoken word formats on FM. I expect more companies and programmers to realize that just plopping an AM talk format on FM isn't enough for the long term, that retooling the presentation and topics and talent to appeal to the younger audience available on FM will be better in the long run. I think you'll see more Internet streams pop up with stronger ratings in the PPMs, whether they're rebroadcasting a traditional station or dedicated streams. I'm betting that the growth of Sports radio on FM will continue. And I hope we'll all be here a year from now, surviving and prospering. As I've said many times before, someone's gotta do well; it might as well be us.
Let's take a second to go over the schedule for All Access for the rest of the year. I'll be maintaining Talk Topics, the show prep column at All Access News-Talk-Sports, into next week at full strength, and then I'll go into slow mode for the last few weeks of the year, but I will still likely be posting items for your talking pleasure there. As always, you'll find it here, and on Twitter at @talktopics. We have "10 Questions With..." KORO-A (710 ESPN)/Seattle PD Brian Long this week, and we'll have a new one next week with syndicated financial talker Charles Payne. And throughout the month of December, while the music format stuff goes on hiatus, you'll still find the best radio and music industry coverage at Net News, with the top stories tweeted at @allaccess. We'll be working throughout to have the radio and music industry news first, fastest, and best, as always.
My other stuff will continue in normal fashion, too, including my Twitter stuff at @pmsimon, and the pop culture fun at Nerdist.com, and I'll throw in a plug for the next Nerdist television special, to air Christmas Eve at 9p ET on BBC America, on which you won't see me but you will see Chris Hardwick hosting an entertaining rundown of the year in Nerd Culture. And when time permits, I'll be back to adding stuff at my personal website, pmsimon.com.
Aaaaaaand... we're done. In lieu of sending everyone a card (and, really, is anyone doing that anymore? I mean, besides my insurance agents and law firms?), allow me to wish you a wonderful holiday season. We'll reconvene in January, when I'll be back to my usual curmudgeonly self and we'll be looking forward to the gadget extravaganza called CES. See you then.