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Friday, April 26, 2019

Things change. You know that.

Radio hasn't changed. You know that, too.

That's, um, not a good combination. You know that.

One of the things that kept coming up at the recent NAB show is the industry taking another crack at redefining the competitive market for radio, pushing to include all media, including internet streaming, TV, a guy standing on the sidewalk with a cardboard megaphone, people muttering in their sleep, and any and all other distractions. That's true in the sense that everything competes for everyone's attention, but the industry, and some of the FCC commissioners, take that to mean ownership caps on broadcast licenses should be eliminated. Hey, the thought goes, if we're competing with people who are unlimited in the number of streams or podcasts or other stuff they can publish, we should be able to consolidate even further to compete.

That's the wrong way to think about the future. That's the way you think if your perspective is to preserve what you paid for. That's bailing companies out for misguided investments. It's true that internet competition isn't limited, but please point me to the law that says broadcast license holders can't create unlimited content to stream or distribute on the internet as well.

You can't. The thing the broadcasters looking for more consolidation don't address is that there's nothing preventing them from competing on the exact same terms as new media, because they, too, can be in that business. In fact, just owning licenses for broadcast stations is already an advantage: They're able to use a viable distribution method to which the internet folks don't have access unless they buy in and follow the same rules.

They all know that. Radio companies have been trying to get a foothold in streaming and podcasts, with varying success. If it hasn't generated enough revenue yet, that's not going to be solved with greater consolidation. It's going to be solved by changing the product to reflect changing times, changing tastes, changing demographics. If people are telling you they don't want to sit through long blocks of commercials, you need to change and find another way to incorporate advertising in your product (or emphasize the kind you already do that works, and by that I mean effective, personality-heavy live reads). If they're telling you they want local news, stop eliminating local news. If they're telling you that the thing they value most from broadcast radio is personality, emphasize that and aggressively look for more and better talent.

And if what you're doing isn't working -- if, despite the vaunted 91% or 92% or 93% reach you tout, advertisers aren't biting because time spent listening is slipping and you're not providing the demographic profile they want or the attribution they demand or the results they're paying for -- you need to change what you're doing. I know, it's a radical idea.

There is value in consistency, but an industry resistant to innovation will ultimately wither away. Auto makers are going electric and autonomous. TV's gone streaming and on-demand. For heaven's sake, Kit Kats are rolling out a mint flavor. Kit Kats are innovating. An industry that isn't as innovative as a candy bar needs fresh thinking and new leadership, people willing to roll the dice on things that haven't been done to death and new talent that doesn't sound the same as hosts did 30 years ago and talk about things other than that geared towards the tastes of 70 year old guys and creating better content specifically for the new media to which the audience is slowly gravitating.

Or stick with the tried-and-decreasingly-true and complain to the FCC about the relevant market and how you need to be able to buy all the licenses. That's one way to try and prop up the value of the vehicle you bought when times were better, but it's not the way to develop a successful long-term industry. The latter involves innovation, creativity, and the embrace of change, not just by one company but industry-wide. It's time. It's been time for years and years. Let's see what you got.


Talk and music hosts can change the kind of stuff they talk about with the plethora of material at Talk Topics, the show prep column at All Access News-Talk-Sports, and I know that's a tortured segue but at least it's a segue. And all that stuff free; find it by clicking here and/or by following the Talk Topics Twitter feed at @talktopics with every story individually linked to the appropriate item.

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My podcast is "The Evening Bulletin with Perry Michael Simon," a quick (two minutes or less) daily thing, and you can get it at Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Google Play Music, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Stitcher, and RadioPublic. Spotify, too. Google Podcasts? Click here. You can also use the RSS feed and the website where you can listen in your browser, or my own website where they're all embedded, too. And if you have an Amazon Alexa-enabled device, just say "Alexa, play the Evening Bulletin podcast."

You can follow my personal Twitter account at @pmsimon, and my Instagram account (same handle, @pmsimon) as well. And you can find me on Facebook at, and at


I'm just pleased to have managed to write a column that references Kit Kats in context, so I'm gonna take the W and head on out for the weekend. See you next week.

Perry Michael Simon
Vice President/Editor, News-Talk-Sports and Podcast
Twitter @pmsimon
Instagram @pmsimon

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