Radio’s Problem Is Radio People

First, read this whine from a local Baltimore radio general manager.

From: Radio may survive this, too —

"Because of satellite radio, more affluent people are going to use that service, so we have a smaller piece of the pie to slice up with the people remaining, who are not so affluent," said Bob Pettit, general manager of WCBM, the Baltimore talk-radio station at 680 AM. "The younger people are going to the new technologies. Radio used to be a very effective way to reach people aged 18 to 34. Now, not so much."

As a result, Pettit said, national advertisers are not turning to the old medium the way they once did, leaving the field to cheaper, and often local, ad buyers. In turn, the stations are obliged to charge less money because their demographic is poorer, he said, leaving the stations with less revenue.

In a word, bullshit. I can’t tell you in how many ways this is wrong.


First off, everyone has a radio — everyone.  Even people who hate technology have at least a little "transistor" radio they use to listen to ballgames. Most people will NOT opt for a satellite radio. broadcast radio could be extremely healthy, if the people programming it weren’t so profoundly stupid, and programming the most boring radio in history.

Seriously, folks, this is the problem with American business; they hire all sorts of consultants, and buy all sorts of surveys, and come up with every excuse in the book, but what it really comes down to is, people don’t tune in because radio has become incredibly boring and pointless.

If "affluent" people are buying satellite radio, there are two reasons. If you travel a lot in your car, satellite radio makes sense, because stations don’t drift in and out all of the time. The other reason is because there is nothing to listen to on terrestrial radio.

The station this idiot runs, WCBM, is a great example of what I mean by stupid. He operates in a city where the population is so overwhelmingly Democratic that when the Democratic primary happens for mayor next month, the winner will be the next mayor, and in a state that has been overwhelmingly Democratic for generations, yet his lineup features all wingnuts, all the time. And he imagines that his audience is "affluent"? I think perhaps he meant his programming was effluent. This guy thought he scored a coup when the other station in town, WBAL, dropped Limbaugh, and he picked him up. Funny, but with Limbaugh, and Hannity, and Dr. Laura and the Savage Weiner, his ratings are still well below WBAL, which went to all-local, and significantly less offensive conservative talk. In a market that has probably the most liberal demographic in the country? How can that be?

And how about the little slap at the "not affluent." And you wonder why this guy isn’t selling advertising? I hate to break it to him, but other stations in the market are making plenty of money , while FOCUSING on the "not affluent" demographic. And which "national advertisers" is he talking about when he says they don’t want to advertise, except to an "affluent" audience? Coke? Pepsi? McDonalds? Burger King? Best Buy? Wal-Mart? Target? Hyundai?  Yeah, it really hard to see any of their ads, except on CNBC, huh? 
Only the rich drink Budweiser, folks, and only the rich use FedEx.

This is actually indicative of the attitude that has overtaken most of American business; the people who run things want to be able to sit on their asses and let the money flow in, and when that doesn’t happen, they look for someone to blame. Radio these days largely sucks. I did a short stint on a station about 10 years ago; it was the first time I had been on the radio in almost 20 years, and I was shocked then, by how horrible it was. I walked into the studio, and immediately started choosing the music I wanted to play, only to be short-circuited by the PD of the station, who handed me a list of the songs I was to play and when, and even a summary of the banter I would provide between certain songs. It was awful, and I have no doubt it’s become worse in the last ten years. And if I’m sitting behind the microphone, bored out of my skull, I can only imagine what the listener is thinking.

The problem with terrestrial radio isn’t satellite radio; it’s a lack of reason to not buy a satellite radio. If radio people want to fix the problem, they should start with three basic rules, taught to me by one of the great disk jockeys of all time;

Good radio is mostly local;
Good radio is mostly spontaneous; and
Good radio is interactive.

Give radio back to the people, and the radio people will find themselves awash in more money than they can imagine. if they have any imagination, that is…

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