Monday, May 19, 2008

Radio: Are you a Celtic or a Cav?



I don’t do sports and leave that to those who know how to cover it best.

But I did get caught up in the frenzy of the Boston Celtics-Cleveland Cavaliers playoff series. How could one not? And as a citizen of both cities, it was my civic duty.

Of course, with my warped mind, it wasn’t long before I came up with a radio analogy.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are like a radio station with the best morning drive personality – and nothing for the rest of the day. Think of the slogans that have dominated radio for years. Let me offer a blast from the past: “Howard Stern all morning, the best rock all day.”

Isn’t that an alternative to “....mediocrity the rest of the day?”

LeBron couldn’t do it alone. By surrounding him with mediocre players – they were fated to run out of steam and let him down. And they did.

Stations may get anywhere from 35 to well over 50 percent of its total revenue from morning drive – and it is the must-own daypart.

Here’s the problem. “Own mornings, own the day” was, is, and will always be falsehood. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re living in a 24/7 world. And you wonder why kids aren’t listening to the radio? You’ve already answered the question.

The Boston Celtics have the three-headed beast: Allen, Garnett, and Pierce. True, LeBron is in a class by himself - but he can’t carry the Cavs by himself.

Seven games – and right up to the last minutes it could’ve gone either way. The Celtics are a team. The Cavs had a superstar lead surrounded by mediocrity and for that reason they won’t be on the hardwood until the ’08-’09 season.

How many games did the Cavs win this year without LeBron?

Remember what happened to CBS stations like WBCN, WYSP, and others when Howard Stern vacated terrestrial for satellite. Even to this day - WBCN has the Patriots, for Chrissakes, as well as Opie & Anthony, who have Boston roots – and they still can’t convert those numbers to other dayparts.

How many stations have morning shows followed by generic voice-tracking all day? Must you ask why listening is down and TSL is becoming an endangered species?

That’s why so many in radio have that feeling of vague but imminent doom. It’s real. Embracing that old school way of doing radio is terminal.

To those not in the know, managing a radio station has now joined King Crab fishing, coal mining, rattlesnake wrestling, and being a personal assistant to Mark Mays as the world’s most deadly professions.

The Celtics can tell you more about programming a successful radio station than the Cavs can.
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29 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are right about WBCN. This station is an empty shell. College radio is the only salvation in Boston.

Anonymous said...

It is even worse now that most Clear Channel stations voice track after morning drive and at some stations even that time in syndicated or voice tracked. I think most listeners react negatively to those big name mornings, best music all day slogans.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention that now some chains strapped for cash are replacing their leading morning person and having one of the lower priced sidekicks take over. You are punished for your success. I read a lot of praise lately for Dan Mason. Was not he the one who pushed his stations to do that very 'Howard Stern mornings best rock all day' slogan at all the CBS stations. They learned the hard way. When Stern left it was equal to hitting a brick wall head on. Had they developed their entire stations they would have other reasons to tune in after 10 a.m.

Anonymous said...

I was raised on the radio in both cities as well. The BCN with Charles and the Big Mattress was followed by a solid mid day and Mark in afternoon drive and an evening show host that couldn't have made it in any other daypart. It was kind of like the MMS of Jeff and Flash (pre-zoo), solid mid-day, Leo in afternoon drive and Denny who didn't really work in any other daypart.

But as fond as my memories are of those days, I may be misremembering visiting COZ and HDH in the days that their morning shows combined for a quarter of the morning market while in Cleveland the two elevator music stations were pulling in some solid numbers.

Daniel

Anonymous said...

"How many stations have morning shows followed by generic voice-tracking all day? Must you ask why listening is down and TSL is becoming an endangered species?"

That's an interesting question, coming from you.

Your old radio station, WMMS, tried having 4 morning shows. They had live & local, highly produced shows all day long, and it didn't work.

Why? Because people want something different in each day part. They actually like generic voice-tracking in mid-days. It's less distracting when they "Listen while they work."

The fact is that the numbers are huge in the morning because that's when most people listen. That sentence may seem overly obvious, but you can't take a successful morning show, move it to another day part, and expect to get morning-size audience.

Anonymous said...

"I think most listeners react negatively to those big name mornings, best music all day slogans."

Huh? Listeners don't respond or react to slogans. They react to what's on the air.

If you think people actually listen to slogans, you must be a consultant.

Anonymous said...

My favorite programming(sarcasm) is WMJI now after Lanigan and Malone they have a Country DJ voicetracking and then from 2pm-12am they have another VT. Personality radio died when 107.9 the end went off the air. Face it now you have all these same people VT 4 different radio stations and robotic announcers on Mix 106.5.

Cubz said...

Look at radio in Chicago. Some very dumb moves there. Mancow off Q101 & that promptly killed that station whose format was already lost. They claimed the format could carry the station. Unfortunately they had already ruined the format. The Loop once the pride of Chicago. Another joke. I don't know why they just don't give up and remove their artificial breathing tube. They are beyond saving. Killing oldies for Jack. Shuffling around what is left of air personalities in this city only adds to the confusion. Once WXRT was the "diamond" of Chicago radio now it is a piece of coal. We will give you another couple of short tracks after this long commercial break. Radio's current owners and operators killed the product.

Mike Walker said...

"That’s why so many in radio have that feeling of vague but imminent doom. It’s real. Embracing that old school way of doing radio is terminal."

Oh, but I thought that HD Radio, with the same empty, mindless playlists is going to save terrestrial radio - all iBiquity/HD Alliance has to do is run 1,500,000 HD commercials, then sit back and wait for the mad-rush on HD radios. Just think, if Steve Jobs tried to sell iPods with an empty iTunes store. HD/IBOC doesn't even work, so Struble better get the Hell out of Dodge, after he takes iNiquity IPO, if he can find any suckers to buy into this complete shit technology.

Anonymous said...

re: WYSP. Rallying cry 'lets stir things up'. They did. Now look at them. This under Dan Mason's watch too for those keeping score. Wild morning show, rock rest of the day. The morning show went out of control and the music was exactly what you would excpect from a cbs rock station. Nice work guys. Jacobs 1 Mason 0

Anonymous said...

college radio is the only salvation anywhere these days. Public radio, too.

Anonymous said...

"college radio is the only salvation anywhere these days."

It may be salvation, but it has very little audience and no money.

In the context of this topic, it's neither a Celtic nor a Cav. It's the amateur hour.

Anonymous said...

John, Radio stopped developing talent right around the same time that Telecommunications Bill got signed into law. All radio cares about is Q1 to Q2 to Q3 to Q4 over and over. Anything over three months is too much future for them to handle. All radio cares about is a morning show and cheaply coasting the rest of the day. As they treat their listeners their listeners will treat radio and that is why most people are listening to radio less if at all. You are right about radio being a 24 hour service. I used to listen to radio at all hours of the day and night and my introduction to radio was listening at night. The radio chains are caught up in trying to bamboozle Wall Street and could not care less about the product. They are paying for that now and if CC, CBS, Citadel, Cumulus, Greater Media, Entercom, Radio One and other think they are having problems now just wait until tomorrow when the talent pool runs dry. What young talent would want to be in radio today?

Bob Harper said...

John...

(you wrote) The Boston Celtics have the three-headed beast: Allen, Garnett, and Pierce. True, LeBron is in a class by himself - but he can’t carry the Cavs by himself.

So true.

Pay attention the next three or four times a new record is set in any sport. Almost always the TEAM loses while the PLAYER gets the trophy.

So, Mr. & Mrs. Radio: Do you want to win or put some more tin on the shelf?

O'B said...

How about WBCN v WMMS? Which was the better station?

Anonymous said...

I'm lovin' my Sirius satellite. I had been holding out until now, and to show you how out of touch I am I only recently heard a demo at Best Buy. I bought one and I'm hooked. It's great!

Why do I bring this up? It's because as a regular radio listener who had gotten fed up with just what John writes about here, I thought it was time for a change. I recommend it to anyone.

Anonymous said...

How about a station live and local all day regardless of what the format is. How about adding some good jocks and a creative production and image director or two. Think of the possibilities.

Of course, voice tracking is so much cheaper even if you lose an audience by doing so.

Anonymous said...

"All radio cares about is Q1 to Q2 to Q3 to Q4 over and over."

What about all the companies like Greater Media that aren't publicly traded? That's right: Greater Media isn't publicly traded. They don't care about Wall Street.

"What young talent would want to be in radio today?"

That's an interesting question. Drop by any college or university and you'll find out that tens of thousands of kids would kill to just become an intern. They'd take minimum wage to do traffic and news reports. Which, by the way, is why salaries are so low. Supply & demand, and right now the supply way exceeds the demand.

Anonymous said...

"I'm lovin' my Sirius satellite."

Wait til the merger comes through. We'll see how much you love it then.

Anonymous said...

"How about a station live and local all day regardless of what the format is."

What if I told you that about 70% of all radio stations ARE live and local all day?

Clearly, being live & local is not the issue.

Tony Mazur said...

John, you are right by comparing good radio stations to the Celtics. The stations that are successful have a blend of youthful, exuberant personalities and the experienced veterans (and I'm a Cavs fan).

Looking at Arbitron for middays, with the exception of Rush, soft rock tops the charts. I always believe soft rock is for people who do not like music. It's just background noise.

Rock radio continues to fall into the toilet. They've tried "90s at Noon". They've tried to revive 80s hair metal. The problem is, listeners feel betrayed. There is no such thing as requests. Everything is programmed in advance. God only knows where the personality (if that's what you still want to call it nowadays) is broadcasting from.

Here's a question for all to answer.

With voice tracking, unpaid interns, and consolidation, where is all the excess cash going? It's obviously not going to the individual stations. Is it going straight to HD Radio?

Anonymous said...

WMJI is a shell of what it once was. Once Lanigan retires its all over for them. The station is starting to play 80s music now. Once they lose the 60s they cease to be a true oldies station. Losing the 50s already killed part of the station.

Anonymous said...

If you told me 70 percent of radio is live and local I would have to disagree with you - unless you are counting college radio. Even most public stations are running network at the time. I live in a top 30 market and only three of the commercial stations have live and local programming in middays and only five in afternoon drive and almost none in the evening.
You can't count "live" syndication like Rush. No, I would have to disagree. Perhaps you live in a top ten market where you are more likely to have more stations live because there are more stations to rate. For chains that claim they are strapped for cash and have to do voice tracking let me ask you a question: WHY DID YOU OVERPAY WHEN YOU BOUGHT THOSE STATIONS IN THE FIRST PLACE? You bought it, you broke it.

Dee-custed in Detriot said...

Greater Media's problem is not that they are private. Their problem stems from their relationship with Fred Jacobs who they clearly don't need. Fred blew it even in his hometown/flagship Edge station in Detroit. His classic rock stations should hire John Hagar from WGRF inBuffalo as their consultant not Jacobs because he steals all his ideas from him and pretends they are his own. He copies CIDR across the bridge in Windsor and feeds those playlists to the Globe in Washington. If you want to know why all the turmoil is occuring at WRIF look no further than Jacobs and his advisor Tom Bender who wanted to oust Arthur P. and tried to set in motion plans to split Drew and Mike. They should leave the station to Doug Podell to run. Podell deserves credit for WRIF not Jacobs. Ask any radio or label person in Detroit. They will tell you. The labels are also getting sick of kissing Jacobs's ring too.

Anonymous said...

"I live in a top 30 market and only three of the commercial stations have live and local programming in middays and only five in afternoon drive and almost none in the evening."

I'd want to see specifics before I comment.

I know in my Top 50 market, all but two commercial stations are live & local 24/7. Very little AM syndication.

The issue shouldn't be whether or not it's live & local. The issue is whether or not what they air gets results. Because I know a lot of live & local shows that are at the bottom of the ratings. Simply no point in doing that.

"WHY DID YOU OVERPAY WHEN YOU BOUGHT THOSE STATIONS IN THE FIRST PLACE?"

No one overpaid for radio stations. The going rate was 10 times cash flow in the 90s. Most stations were bought at multiples below that.

What's changed is that cash flow has dropped because of increased competition.

No one expected the ad market to collapse the way it has in the last 5 years. You just have to deal with circumstances as they happen. I think everyone understands that, and is dealing with the new marketplace.

Anonymous said...

"It's obviously not going to the individual stations. Is it going straight to HD Radio?"

Huh? That makes no sense at all. Other than capital expense, there is no money going to HD radio.

What most companies are doing with excess money is investing in the internet.

Anonymous said...

The Internet is really the digital future for radio.

Anonymous said...

"What's changed is that cash flow has dropped because of increased competition.

No one expected the ad market to collapse the way it has in the last 5 years. You just have to deal with circumstances as they happen."


The fact that the cash flow dropped is just another way of saying they were overpriced to begin with. And certainly SOME people realized this was a possible fate if they indeed were willing to sell them at only 9 times cash flow. But, I am not recalling the situation the same as you, however, as I recall some stations selling for over 20 times cash flow.

Anonymous said...

"The fact that the cash flow dropped is just another way of saying they were overpriced to begin with."

Nope.

I know a lot of people who thought Google was overpriced when it hit $100 a share. They don't think that any more.

"I recall some stations selling for over 20 times cash flow."

Nope.

All of this was documented in Broadcasting Magazine at the time. Lots of articles about it.