Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Radio: Beware of Con artists


First, the good news.

The radio industry recognizes that its stations need a presence on the Internet.

Now, the bad news. It doesn’t understand the presence its radio stations need.

Lately, we’ve been reading some bass-ackwards commentary from supposed radio “experts” comparing the web pages of newspapers to radio stations.

What they fail to comprehend is that most users aren’t won over by the jargon, imagery, photo ops, and streams from most radio web sites.

Comparing newspaper and radio sites is just plain stupid. Newspaper sites generate revenue by attracting and holding viewers. And it's done by assigning compelling content to a second medium.
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There’s that word again. Content. C-O-N-T-E-N-T.

It’s something that too many in this industry undervalue.

Garbage in, garbage out.

Stream a lackluster voice-tracked station whose playlist is chosen by two buttons – one, schedule and two, print - on line and it’ll sound just as dreadful as it does on terrestrial radio.

Radio used to be the “last great illusion” until the Internet became an essential part of our culture.

Radio, as a medium, still has an edge, since it can provide a soundtrack, information, and, done correctly, play upon one’s imagination with creative narrative and production. It can be active, passive, or both.

Even the TV networks know that they can’t depend on traditional viewers. They’ve realized the need to attract people with a number of different platforms, and the need to survey and rate those viewers.

Eventually, all TV shows will be hybrids and dependent on a web presence that digs deeper into a plot and provide opportunities for audience involvement – even in determining the direction of a show’s storyline.

But it starts with the show. If the show on television doesn’t have the goods – viewers aren’t going to go on-line for more.

Some of you will be in Minneapolis for the Conclave this weekend. Have fun. It’s one of my favorite cities.

Judging from the mood of those attending last year’s Conclave, being in radio station management has joined ice road truckers, crab fishing in the Bering Sea, and personal assistant to Naomi Campbell as the world's deadliest professions.

I’m passing on the Con this year. With budgets being what they are most of the industry people I know are passing on it, too.

You are correct, sir, in your hypothesis that you’ll hear many an “expert.” spend too much time being officious about building a successful radio web presence. You know the drill: a little cut-and-paste text here, a few photos of the jocks and station promotions there, a jock blog or two, a stream or two…. Need I continue?

Their repertoire is a bad as a Jack station’s playlist.

After they scratch out all the logical solutions to radio’s problems they go after the illogical.

You wonder why radio managers fall for these con artists until you realize that Caesar considered Brutus a good friend and loyal advisor.

What these self-proclaimed specialists won’t tell you is that net surfers view thousands of sites daily and have learned to tune most of them out.
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Even if your site is the web equivalent of a Lexus – if your stream is the equivalent of a Pinto, do you think anyone’s going to spend at-work or at-home time on it?
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Surely, another hot topic at the Con will be about getting radio streams on mobile devices. The same rule applies. Crap is crap no matter what mode of delivery you choose to use.

The irony of these radio “experts’” squalid descent into obscurity is that it’s usually during dark economic times that con artists thrive.

In reality, it’s Occam’s Razor: The simplest explanation that covers the facts is probably the right one.

Profitable sites deliver – not promise. Most radio web sites promise – but can’t deliver. It’s not what a radio station says it is that determines whether it’s successful. It’s what it does that counts.

I hate to keep bringing his name up – but look at Steve Jobs and Apple. He created a brand that went from a cult to mass appeal. Apple has evolved from a handful of graphic artists that proudly announced that their creations were “Made on a Mac” to mass millions that proudly boaster their iMacs, iPods and iPhones.

Here’s what you won’t hear from those chicken you-know-whats at the Con.

Radio is failing because of the poor relationship it fashioned with younger demos.

The rise of hyperconnectivity and interactivity must be recognized by radio. To endure, it will have to deliver a standout quality product to create excitement to translate into time spent listening.

Programming functionality is the only component that can bring listeners back to radio. But the longer it takes for terrestrial radio to improve, the less likely consumers will return and trust the medium.
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Spare me the “things have changed” line about radio listening allegiance. Tell that to the millions that pay to hear radio by subscribing to XM or Sirius.

Because of proliferating social networks, chat rooms, and blogs, it’s easy for radio listeners find alternatives. Illegally downloading music along with Internet and satellite radio listening is supplanting terrestrial radio as a source for new music.

Radio doesn’t need re-branding. The product needs re-inventing. Start there.

And don’t get conned at the Con.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Radio, as a medium, still has an edge, since it can provide a soundtrack, information, and, done correctly, play upon one’s imagination"

That sounds very quaint in the horse and buggy sense. I'm sure a few people will like to use their imaginations. But to most people, it's too much like work.

Have you been to YouTube lately? Just spend some time linking through all that's there. Not much left to the imagination.

People can see and do anything. Immediately. Tim McGraw gets in a fight and it's immediately on YouTube. Even TV news isn't that quick.

Sure you can still use mechanical typewriters. Heck you can still write with a pen! Remember when calculators became available? No one did actual addition any more.

If radio wants to define itself as theater of the mind, it's guaranteeing that it will be in the museum before the end of the decade.

that wonderful town said...

the coot is a fool. he makes outrageous claims for radio to improve its creativity yet his formats and direction stifled it. look at how he killed alternative with his edge franchise. his stations in chicago are a disaster. he killed both heritage loop and alternative q101. the guy is a loser, he must have photos of smuylan in compromising positions. he would be fired anywhere else.

Keenan Willits said...

>> I'm sure a few people will like to use their imaginations. But to most people, it's too much like work. <<

That may be true about imaginations, but using my ipod I've found is also a lot of work. I have to find, download, and setup constantly. It is a lot easier to get in my car and just hit a button on my Sirius knowing about what kind of music I'm in the mood for (usually I'm tired after work) and getting it. I've also found a disconnect between knowing about the newest music and my using the ipod. There's no connectivity to sports, news, talk, the NOW.

Speaking of work!

Anonymous said...

Everyone talks and talks and talks about how radio and the internet have to find common ground. No one talks about the product that is being streamed. Thank you for addressing that issue. You said it best with a Pinto engine in a Lexus and garbage in garbage out. The problem with radio is its actual product and it suffers from an avoidance issue in addressing that fact.

PocketRadio said...

Well, radio got suckered by that con-artist Struble, and his gang at iBiquity.

Anonymous said...

The Conclave may be a non-profit org but a lot of consultants and speakers make tons of dough and get free T&E for participating. It is another license to print money and have fun at the expense of an already troubled industry. Never mind the scam artists speaking and doing presentations at the event. The real scam artists are those behind the convention. Do you think any of those speakers, consultants and other participants are showing up for the benefit of the industry? They are getting paid huge sums of money to appear. They are just raking more money out of radio and the labels. You should have addressed that instead of the snake oil salesmen trying manipulate internet goals.

Cut Budgets Severely said...

True story

GM to PD re: midday numbers on 'classic hits': TSL is way down, why?

PD: We added vt middays, Jacked the playlist.

GM: Did I authorize that?

PD: Yes.

GM: No I didn't.

Following day: (name withheld) has resigned as PD of (5 stations). We wish him well on his future endeavors.

Anonymous said...

I haven't gone to the Conclave for a few years now. I don't miss it. If radio ever recovers from its fall into the pit maybe I'll go again. Right now I see no reason.

Anonymous said...

I haven't gone to the Conclave for a few years now. I don't miss it. If radio ever recovers from its fall into the pit maybe I'll go again. Right now I see no reason.

Anonymous said...

Radio management today is like who's on first. No one knows and now that apathy has set in, no one cares. They got us into the mess and they want us to get them out of it minus the tools we need to do so. We did an unofficial on our streams. No one listens (we have our HD stations on line too.) Ask us if we care.

Anonymous said...

"Ask us if we care."

If that's the attitude, why even show up? Why collect the pay check? Just quit. You're doing no one any favors, including yourself.

Anonymous said...

Why would radio management listen to anyone who has been consulting or advising radio over the past ten, eleven, twelve years anyway? Only a fool would follow the phony pied pipers. They did not have a clue about how to run radio under deregulation and they do not know anything about how radio and the internet should interface. I have read on line many of the suggestions these "experts" have made about radio and the internet. They know nothing. This proves it. I am not going to the Conclave either. The last one I went to had the outdoor Smashing Pumpkins concert and everyone was walking around in a daze caused by the early stages of deregulation dementia. I had enough of it then.

Anonymous said...

Stock market plummets. What does this do to radio valuation?

masterman said...

Thank you for spelling content. Maybe some of these experts will look that word up in the dictionary.

Thank you for not being a Conclave clone or a NAB clone or a RAB clone.

If this industry doesn't wake up it should be put to sleep.

Anonymous said...

I think radio is going to have to try real hard to lure any listeners back and the under thirty year olds are as good as gone. I doubt they will ever use radio.

Your anonymous truth telling Conclave spy said...

I'm @ the Conclave. Got a free ticket, got a free flight. Need I say more. It's the same old denial. Radio is right everyone else is wrong. Today it kicks off with your buddy Fumbles speaking. He is a good speaker and was trained to be. Whoever writes his material should be sent to Guantanamo. He is going to do two shows. A point counter point with some people from the RIAA. They will eat him alive if he has to ad lib. The duck is cute some radio people think. The usual idiots are fawning over Lee Abrams. Here is a guy who is the epitome of lucky not good and the radio dumb flock around him like he is some Jesus of Media. Denial is everywhere.

John Sebastian Pollack said...

I second the truth telling Conclave spy. Fumbles is an idiot and why is he wasting his time at the Conclave? Lee Abrams the Jesus of Cool Radio? He ruined AOR, ruined Z-Rock (he didn't create Z-Rock. He took it over, misunderstood the metal heads and added Bon Jovi, Cinderella and Poison) and takes credit (at least his buddy DelColliano gives it to him) for Bob Dylan's XM show.

PocketRadio said...

Anonymous said...

"Radio, as a medium, still has an edge, since it can provide a soundtrack, information, and, done correctly, play upon one’s imagination"

Oh, really? Take a look at this Compete graph and see how Pandora, the "personalized" music service has trumped Clear Channel's online streaming:

http://siteanalytics.compete.com/hdradio.com+clearchannelmusic.com+pandora.com/?metric=uv

Last.fm is also taking off, while Live365, a populat site for Internet Radio has stalled:

http://siteanalytics.compete.com/hdradio.com+live365.com+last.fm/?metric=uv

PocketRadio said...

Try these instead:

http://tinyurl.com/56cqbw

http://tinyurl.com/637zz8

Anonymous said...

It's interesting how excited everyone is with pandora and last.

Take a look at their numbers and it translates to a .3 share. Can you imagine running a commercial radio station in a market with a .3? Stations are screaming now because they get a 2.

And the founder of pandora told an interviewer his business model is broken. They're losing money because 3/4 of their revenue goes to music royalties.

Enjoy it while you can. It'll be going away soon.

Anonymous said...

Say whatever you want about Conclave. If you'd been in the room and heard Rehr speak, you'd understand why the folks at the NAB hired him. He's a very good speaker, good motivator, and good representative for the industry. And he's more passionate about radio than a lot of people who post here.

Anonymous said...

I have heard Rehr speak many times and yes I agree that he is a good speaker. He is also a good actor and can do a fairly convincing delivery. Passion? No. He is a hired gun. Nothing more.

Anonymous said...

"He is a hired gun."

When you're in a gun fight with a bunch of other industries hell bent on your destruction, you need a hired gun. All the other folks have them too.

26mhz.us said...

Reinvention: Vocalo.org 89.5 FM gets it.

Anonymous said...

Those Kool-aid Conclaves aren't to solve problems. I think they're just to keep the money rolling in for the hosts and their buddies who put on seminars and group sessions. They never solve problems, although they'll even advertise that's what it's for. They just put more sugar in the kool aid. All in attendance is guarenteed a good time, however.

Then they party like it's 1929.

Anonymous said...

"I think they're just to keep the money rolling in..."

Really funny. The truth is it barely breaks even. No one is getting rich from Conclave. No one.

The big broadcasters aren't sending their folks any more. Registrations are drying up.

The purpose of Conclave is simple: Networking. It's not about money, but meeting. Face to face instead of through the the blogosphere. Wow...what an amazing concept. Speaking with people in person. It doesn't happen much any more.

Mister Real said...

BULL! The Conclave is all about the money. It was formed by an independent record promoter who worked with a number of consutlants. That is how it grew. You can get anyone to speak at any event. Just pay them. This is a money maker for those involved. Sure they say they are a non-profit. I would love to look at the books to see how much Tom Kay pays himself and how many consultants like the Coot and McVay's boys he has on his payroll/advisory committee. Drink the Kool Aid. They will make more. Ask them what they do with their data bank while you are at it.

Anonymous said...

Deja Vu. SOS/DD. CONclave in a nutshell. Abrams a joke. Fumbles is who you say he is. A talking head. Denial was the topic of the event. Tom Kay's thumbs were sore from counting his take.

Anonymous said...

"BULL! The Conclave is all about the money."

Believe what you want to believe, but it's not. The big radio owners are killing things like this because they don't pay to send their staff any more. And the people on the front lines can't afford to pay their own way.

At one time, it may have been a bonanza for the organizers, but not lately.

If you guys want to go to conventions where they spend all their time attacking radio and plotting for its demise, there are lots of them out there. Look at Adelstein's schedule, and you'll find them, because he speaks at them all the time.

Anonymous said...

Way to call it like it is - you nailed it.

The clave of the CON.

What a terrible waste of time and money.

Abrams was complaining about how bad radio is and Jerry was telling everybody they had to launch 1000 podcasts.

100% crap.

One three day infomercial for CONsultants and other CONs. Will never make that mistake again. Why didn't you warn us BEFORE the stupid event.

Anonymous said...

"Lee Abrams the Jesus of Cool Radio? He ruined AOR, ruined Z-Rock (he didn't create Z-Rock. He took it over, misunderstood the metal heads and added Bon Jovi, Cinderella and Poison) and takes credit (at least his buddy DelColliano gives it to him) for Bob Dylan's XM show."

Hey John Sebastian Pollack, you forgot he also tried to ruin The Wave by filling it with Moody Blues, King Crimson and other weird classic rock stuff for a while (ca. 1991 or so).

Anonymous said...

Abrams consulted Windham Hill while adding all their product on the Wave.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who actually thinks the Conclave pays consultants to speak is a complete idiot. Not only that, consultants pay their own way.
The venom in this column is unbelievable at times. It's all about how everything is wrong with no substantive solutions or solutions that are so impossible as to be laughable.
No doubt the industry is in trouble. Name one that's been around more than 20 years that isn't.
You morons seem to think consultants ruin the world and/or are hacks hired by others. You have no clue what you're talking about which just adds to the ongoing laugh track that should be part of this ridiculous blog.
You know, you COULD try to do something about all these problems as opposed to sitting on the periphery spouting personal hatred when you simply do not seem to understand (or care) how it works. Guys like the unnamed consultant are among the hardest working visionary people in the biz. Is it a consultants fault that a station fails? Please. That's like blaming a car designer for Ford going bankrupt. EVERYTHING has to work right and that's obviously not going to be the case. And you know what? Some stations CAN'T win. Perhaps some of you unemployed losers should attempt to be constructive versus spouting out and out personal attacks on people who really are trying to save this business. And the next time anyone of you spouts off about how it's about money you should be shot -- EVERYTHING is about money, dumbasses, but that does not mean, at all, that there aren't hard working people with great ideas trying to help/save/resurrect/build radio into something special.
For you employed people -- do the best you can with what you have. Radio is far from dead and a few million idiots paying for satellite haven't dented a thing. For you unemployed people, get off your ass, get a job in this industry or some other, and shut the F up about how others have F'ed things up. Grrrrrr

Anonymous said...

"Anyone who actually thinks the Conclave pays consultants to speak is a complete idiot. Not only that, consultants pay their own way."

WHAT? Show me a consultant or a speaker who PAYS the Conclave to speak or work. They are paid to speak and paid to perform. Right. Abrams spoke for free.


"You morons seem to think consultants ruin the world and/or are hacks hired by others. You have no clue what you're talking about which just adds to the ongoing laugh track that should be part of this ridiculous blog."

The guy who writes this blog is a consultant!!!! The guy who writes this blog also does speaking engagements and I'm sure he gets paid to do them, too. So what if he takes issue with a couple of phonies?

"Guys like the unnamed consultant are among the hardest working visionary people in the biz."

That is a laugh. First of all I don't think he is unnamed. There is a direct link to his web site/blog. Visonary? Why does he blog how bad things are at rock radio? He is responsible for what went wrong. He led stations down the wrong path.

" Is it a consultants fault that a station fails? Please. That's like blaming a car designer for Ford going bankrupt. "

If a station listens to a consultant and follows his direction yes it is his fault if the station fails. Consultants are okay. You can listen to them or you don't have to listen to them. You can agree or disagree. They are advisors. The problem with most stations is that they turn everything over to the consultant and when something goes wrong he suggests firing the PD.

I could go on but why bother? I think most people on this comment page care about radio and care about its future. They are the ones who haven't tasted the Kool Aid. By the way, what is your favorite flavor?

Anonymous said...

No way around it. Conclave sucks. The entire thing is run by an indie with the help of his consultant friends. Radio pros are voting with their wallets and their feet. The meeting that once gathered many has fallen on bad, bad times and all of its own doing.