Thursday, October 27, 2011


Applying the term "reductions in force" to the firing of people and reordering of financial priorities from content creation, street presence, local middle management and customer/listener service to debt reduction can be a misnomer, sending the wrong message to anyone hoping to gain market share as companies like Clear Channel and Cumulus decide what to keep and what to discard.

Asian martial arts proves that it's quite possible to quickly prevail against a stronger, bigger adversary if you understand what true force is and how to leverage it.

My first lesson in this fact came in the late 1970's when I left local radio in San Jose to join consultant-syndication company Drake-Chenault.

One of my first client station visits was to North Carolina Summit Broadcasting General Manager Roger Stockton, who I was trying to convince that his radio station should move from one of our 24/7 syndicated formats, "Great American Country" which was voiced by the legendary Bob Kingsley to adding a live morning show and other "live and local" dayparts.

"Don't people wonder if Bob ever sleeps?" I queried Stockton.

He replied, "they don't seem to, since we have an 18 share in those time periods."

Consistent music rotations, a familiar voice front and also back announcing all of the current music and tight formatics compared to what other choices Triad country listeners had was sufficient force to win big at the time.

That station was WTQR and fortunately Stockton and his company had the foresight to add budget for some great personalities over the next few years, thus maintaining a ratings juggernaut that has endured for decades.

Now, of course, it's a Clear Channel station and is both in the crosshairs of its present ownership's "RIF" and its Entercom direct country competition which is working to make it an "RIP" instead.

Jay Meyers, CEO of Adelante Media Group and a former Clear Channel executive told Inside Radio yesterday that where a personality is located doesn’t matter.

Local and relevant are important but live and location are not,” he says.What matters is whether the content keeps the listener in touch with their community and gives them the same bond they used to get when there were jocks around the clock.

Meyers is talking about a force that matters most right now if you're across the street as Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman shakes things up in the programming ranks at radio’s largest company, relevance.

IR also quoted Pittman from Facebook’s f8 Developer Conference in San Francisco last month: “Weve got to get our program directors to rethink. Weve got creative talent and great programmers but we have to figure out a way to unleash them so ideas come flooding in.

Automating radio's programming is nothing new and neither is this tested and proven theorem:
  • Great beats local.
  • Great local beats unengaged execution, no matter where it comes from or how famous the voice.
  • Fun, originality, creativity, passion, interactivity, proper targeting, position, excellent formatics dominate as long as it makes the listener feel something more than anything else on the radio right now.
May THAT force be with you, radio people, as you navigate your career in these turbulent times for us all.


Randy Scott said...

“Local and relevant are important but live and location are not.”

I can't tell you how this made my blood boil. Find me one voice tracked jock who is 500 miles away who will live for a week in a rescue mission in a local community to bring awareness to the plight of the local homeless. Find me one voice tracked jock who is willing to visit a 5th grade classroom to congratulate them for raising canned food for people in a local community in need. Find me one voice tracked jock who is willing to stay awake for 24 hours a day on the air to bring awareness to child abuse in a community with the highest cases of it anywhere in the nation.

What Clear Channel is doing is exactly what is wrong with America right now. Do people really want to hear Ryan Seacrest talk about the Kardashians AGAIN rather than hear a local person use their platform and power to enact real change and create local good in their local community? If that is the case I'm very very said for this nation.

Okay. Deep breath. I'll calm down down. After all, I have to go. I have to vote for that Kardashian boy who is on Dancing with the Stars.

Jack Kratoville said...

I’ve been in radio for 30+ years, the past 15 as weekend and primary fill for WLTW New York (Lite-FM). I also run my own web-design/marketing company. Mostly, however, I’m a huge fan of radio programming history having spent the first 15 of my career as a PD.

I’ve always been fascinated with various automated formats and how they shaped FM radio back in the seventies. (Bonneville, Schulke, TM and Drake/Chenault were huge syndicators whose impact were only matched by the brevity of their rule.) I know a few collectors and have just recently come upon the Drake presentations for their syndicated formats, Hit Parade, Solid Gold and Great American Country. For the past two days I’ve been listening to the demos of Great American Country in my car, amazed at how well Bob Kingsley could read simply song titles and artists and give it some modicum of personality. Having always been in the AC format, my goal has continuously been to say more with less. Then – yesterday morning, I’m reading Radio Ink and there’s your story regarding local versus automation – specifically Bob and Great American Country!. Fell out of my chair!

I’ll leave you with my first recollection of Drake’s automation, prior to my entry into the business – on an AM station (WNHC) out of New Haven. Yes, I did wonder why the guy’s shift was so long!! (He’s not giving his name, I reasoned, because he doesn’t want listeners to know he’s the only DJ left!)