Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pride in Product?

Clear Channel and pride in product in the same sentence? Not a chance.

In the interest of truth and accuracy, I must inform you of Clear Channel’s latest downsizing decree. A few weeks back the Cleveland cluster slashed its board operators. Yes, board ops.

You could see this broom job coming. Last year, the state of Ohio voted for an increase in the state’s minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $6.85. That additional buck-seventy per hour was just too weighty for the frail Clear Channel budgets to bear.

The budget slash calls for one board op to cover all six Cleveland market stations. Since most stations are in syndication or voice-tracking on Clear Channel stations in this market during “at work listening” middays, mistakes and bloopers have become acceptable standard operating procedure.

It’s worse on Saturday and Sundays when you won’t find a living soul on the premises during most hours. Take last weekend when we were hit with a freak major lake effect storm that dumped far more snow in the region than any forecast predicted. You didn’t hear a single weather update on any Clear Channel station. Easter weekend travelers had to seek out other media to get weather and traffic updates.

I’m not sure what value the local Clear Channel decision makers put on contests and giveaways, a weekend staple for most of the CC stations here. The giveaways are prerecorded but – often - there’s no one to take the calls. Try it yourself. I’m not sure what they do with all those unanswered giveaway items – but if I were a client, I’d be concerned. Apparently, it’s not an issue that listeners calling to win will likely hear the ringing of an unanswered phone. In the old days, we’d call that listener deception.

My favorite example of Clear Channel quality control is when their spots go out of whack. You’ll hear music or promos running over spots. I’d consider it a bonus blooper to hear an out-of-date spot, except that it happens all the time – even during hours when the stink of human flesh is wafting in a studio. To paraphrase an old saying: If something goes wrong with a spot and no one hears it did it really get discrep’ed?

Maybe the media mastodons at Clear Channel’s figured out that music radio has become a collection of formats for those who don’t like music. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for those notorious glitches where you’ll hear Sugarland on the country station followed by Korn. Makes me wonder if the rock station is playing Tim McGraw at the same time. Maybe they consider it cross-promotion?

What makes me doubt that these incessant bloopers are unique to their Cleveland cluster?

I’m convinced that if Clear Channel could figure out how to import their entire airstaff via phone lines from Bangalore they would. I just hope I didn’t give them any ideas.


John said...

Perhaps the lack of board ops explains the audio on WMJI Monday morning around 7am when a steady, fast cutting in and out made it impossible to understand anything being said. Finally, someone in the studios told them of the problem. I'm not sure how long it went on for because I turned it off.
Imagining the voice of Apu from the Simpsons doing voice tracking on WMMS. Funny.

Dano said...

Good stuff on the blog. Here’s my Top Ten List of reasons that radio consolidation didn’t work:

10. Competition is good. Monopolies are bad.

9. If you run a business like billboards where the content is advertising, radio content ain’t important.

8. The “synergies” were a lie.

7. Localness is one of the great strengths of radio. Voice tracking and syndication are suicidal for the medium.

6. Where are the farm teams? By taking away opportunities for young people to break into the business in small markets, the industry ate its young. The result: Howard Stern goes to satellite and there is no one in the on deck circle. Unless you consider David Lee Roth and Adam Carolla as brilliant air talent.

5. HD radio. A complete sham. A marketing disaster. Just plain stupid.

4. No understanding of new technology. Broadcasters put up lousy websites because good ones cost money. Advertisers wanted traffic before they’d pay for advertising on the sites. Anyone see the circular logic at work here?

3. Greed is not a substitute for creativity.

2. Adding enormous amounts of debt service to profitable stations does not create value.

1. What’s the last good thing to come out of Texas? ZZ Top.

joel said...

Funny thing John,

I pretty much echoed the exact sentiments and outcomes in an email to an unnamed radio friend in Pittsburgh this morning-you know who I am talking about.

Bottom line is that there are a couple of things that will precipitate the shedding of stations by these conglomerates

1. Falloff of audience that does not return

2. Public outcry-although it may be too late even if the FCC decides more regulation might be a good idea

3. A single owner station that is so good it strips audience off multiple stations in a market-the bullet through the beehive concept.

I believe that is coming to a market near you or me soon-that could reinvigorate terrestrial radio and get people back. Otherwise it's time to move forward to new mediums-and I'm not talking about AM or FM digital or not-it will be too late.

Dad said...

Here in Baltimore the legendary call letters WHFS are now assigned to 105.7FM, one of the CBS Free-FM stations that has struggled to figure out what to do post Howard Stern. After doing a hybrid Talk/Modern Rock for a while they have now canned the Rock programming altogether - moving it over to HFS-2 via HD radio for all 14 people who have those receivers...

But I digress. This is a comment about board ops and greed and BAD programming. Yesterday afternoon I was listening to Don and Mike - syndicated from nearby DC - almost local - and they are actually having a decent series of conversations with listeners about Imus and the racial and free speech issues when - in MID SENTENCE - an Orioles baseball promo starts running (Did I mention tha WHFS is now the home of Orioles Baseball? A whole 'nother thing...) Anyway, I thought at first that it is an error and in a few seconds it will end and we will be back to D&M. Wrong. The promo plays all the way thru informing us that the pre game show starts aty 6:30. I check the clock it is 6:13. The commercials start running. I call the studio line and the board op answers - I ask so are you now running 17 minutes of commercials untikl baseball starts "Pretyty Much yeah" - Well, Smooth transition "We do what we can" I haung up

We do what we can.

Such Pride! Such emphasis on quiality! I want to advertise here and be one of OVER 20 spots in a row!

30's 60's and even 10's 17 minutes straight until 6:30...

Then the pre game show starts - list of six sponsors. at 6:35 - commercial break - 3 spots - at 6:40 (I kid you not!) Commerical break - 3 spots...

Clear Channel has no monopoly on stupidity or greed.