Let’s rest the perception argument for a moment and look at radio’s problem another way.
Radio lost trust.
It has gone from being a soundtrack of popular culture to something that gets in the way of it.
Talk radio is self-serving. Rock radio is hopelessly lost. Traffic reports are more often wrong than right. Most presuppose that a talk station’s newscast has a schema.
You cannot put the words radio and fulfillment in the same sentence any more.
As a replacement for providing listeners what they want and need, they are given what a small few self-proclaimed experts believe they can get by with.
Listeners, they feel, will submit to and benefit from whatever programming is presented to them. They are treated as employees of the radio station – not customers.
Don’t like it? Leave. And they did. Radio’s favorite acronym – TSL – isn’t what it used to be.
Remember how that Janus Funds rep pimped their investment in Clear Channel seven, eight years ago? “They have to listen to the radio. They don’t have a choice.”
And, truth be told, nearly everyone in the radio business started believing that one. Some still do.
Most radio chains are in denial of the transparent world we now live in.
As open source became commonplace, radio became a closed source.
Not only are there alternatives to listening to the radio, there are places on line where the disgruntled can vent about a multitude of products they feel fall short of serving their needs.
If radio wants to be around for the next decade it will have to create a culture of trust with its listeners.
That’s another reason why the major radio chains have to pare down – in some cases drastically pare down its radio properties to a pragmatic operational size.
Understand that there is nothing to hide. There are no secrets.
Remember when AMFM rolled out the Jammin’ Oldies format on a number of their stations? The format wasn’t even an hour old and the stations were running a number of pre-recorded announcements, allegedly from listeners who loved the station and made the switch.
Do you think anyone believed that hype?
Did it enable trust between the radio station and its listeners?
And it’s only gotten worse, much worse, since then.
Here’s a fact. Radio is not dead. Even now, there are listeners in search of formats.
Their obstacle is that terrestrial radio doesn’t know how to reach them.
There are certain laws and rules that never change. The law of physics and the rules of running a successful radio station are two that come to my mind.
No matter what the mode of transmission, provide compelling content and your potential audience will find you – even if it’s not easy to.
Let's pay a visit to WNYZ/New York – known by its growing loyal listener fan base as Pulse 87.
It’s essentially a low power analog TV station licensed to New York on Channel Six but is promoted and marketed as a terrestrial radio station. It carries an inimitable hit music dance format on its audio subcarrier – 87.7, which some – but not all FM tuners can receive. Pulse 87 is also accessible in streaming audio.
With exception to some spotty areas, Pulse 87’s terrestrial signal can be heard in New York’s five boroughs, much of Long Island, Westchester, Rockland, and areas within Northeastern New Jersey.
Its format features familiar rhythmic hits mixed with the new music and the most-requested dance club tracks.
In reality, it’s what you could call the natural progression of the original Hot 103 (which became Hot 97 following a frequency change) dance hit format.
So it should be no surprise to learn that person behind the programming of Pulse 87 is Joel Salkowitz – the architect behind the original Hot 103- Hot 97 when that format dominated New York in the late eighties and early nineties.
At a time when a station I knew well - Z-100 was battling WPLJ – Joel took Hot 103 – with a directional signal, no less (that changed with the frequency switch), and filled a huge hole for a format playing dance music mixes of the music from Z-100 and PLJ’s playlists.
This past March, Mega Media Group, the company that is leasing the audio signal from licensee Island Broadcasting, cut a deal with Arbitron to have Pulse 87 rated on its PPM surveys. It’s not counted in Arbitron radio surveys since WNYZ is not licensed as a radio station by the FCC.
But a customized Arbitron research report showed WNYZ with 540,000 person radio cume in the New York metro – a surprisingly strong showing for a station not heard on a standard frequency position.
Put another way – those 540,000 had to seek out Pulse 87. They had to find it. It did not find them.
Pulse 87 is promoting in all the right places and know where their potential audience resides. And even its fans are spreading the word. Even on YouTube.
And how about that? Here's a radio station that found trust!