Monday, October 5, 2009

Radio: The NAB Radio No Shows

Do I have to come right out and say it?

When something doesn’t sell, you stop manufacturing it. When something doesn’t draw, you cancel it.

By now you’ve heard the attendance figures for the NAB Radio Show in Philadelphia a couple of weeks back.

2,507 showed. Give or take, plus or minus 700 paid the full registration fee. That means an estimated 1,807 attendees were provided either a discounted rate or were comp’d.

The final tally was written in red ink. The slogan for the convention should’ve been: “We feel your pain.”

Question 1 - If the NAB is imprudent enough to risk another NAB Radio Show next year?

No answer.

Question 2 - Has anyone bothered to speculate on how many radio chains will be in receivership by this time a year from now?

No answer.

Question 3 – Okay, let’s ask an easy one. So what was learned at this year’s NAB Radio Show?

Answer - Denial remains the single most common cause of the radio industry’s demise.

Hey, that answers the first two questions, too!

The NAB Radio Show 2009 was a top tier affair. By day one, everyone knew that if you weren’t a designer brand radio CEO, you were a caste away.

You rarely spotted Mark Mays or Lew Dickey walking amongst the common folk.

No, they were perfectly content to remain isolated in the safe harbor of their luxury mink prison suites.

Most attending the NAB Radio Show never even saw them.

Except for a rare appearance at the Dickstein Shapiro wingding, they were invisible.

What they don’t realize is that being invisible is not the same as being invincible, which they are not.

Did anyone not notice that the only time the Radio Show felt claustrophobic was when their egos inflated that room well beyond capacity?

And how about their communal deafness affliction? They could only hear themselves speak.

Their blinding intellect lit up the room like a ten-watt bulb.

Most attending the Dickstein Shapiro raced to the showers afterward to wash off the conceit, contemptuousness, and hubris they were sprayed with from this group.

My favorite story was about a certain radio CEO who pulled a “Do you know who I am?” routine to a trade paper editor who’d asked him a point-blank question in Four Seasons lobby. The editor’s replied, “Yes, but what’s your problem? Alzheimer’s?”

How about the radio industry realizing that the majority of those in it are the prime demo for A Touch of Gray?

Just think it only took the industry thirteen short years to figure out that it’s alienated generations from the medium.

Thirteen years of no mentoring. Thirteen years of not giving young people the opportunity to be creative and innovative.

You don’t buy a dog and bark for it.

Friends, like new media, became enemies and enemies, like the old guard that dragged you into this mess – namely those who have dominated the trades for the past decade, became your closest friends and advisors.

Smug is not a workable business plan. Neither is buy ‘em now and figure out what to do with them later.

Here’s an industry that, for the most part, employed a top-down management where national programmers delivered hard drives to market managers saying, “This is your format, these are your call letters, and cut budgets by 50 percent."

Now they’re doing a 180. They funneled profits from the communities they were supposed to serve and used the locals only as slave wage board ops. Now, they’ve lost time spent listening, younger demos, and have been forced to lower revenue, lower payroll, have fewer do more for less, and are now stuck in a downward spiral they can’t get out of.

They got what they preyed for.

No, they’re not admitting to their reckless and ruinous mistakes. They’re doing a 180 only because nothing else has worked. Believe me, they don’t know where they’ve been or where they’re going.

It can be turned around – but don’t expect to see those hogging the spotlight this year to be among them.

The only successful people in the radio business are those that know that the definitive competitive advantage is passion.


The Agora, April 1980


Anonymous said...

I don't know why radio needs the NAB. Let the NAB concentrate on TV. We used to have the NRBA. Get back to that. Have our own lobbyists, our own reps. Maybe we can get something done. Gordon Smith will do nothing for us.

Anonymous said...

Get the NAB glossy newsletter if you really want to see the double standard of the broadcast industry. We need to train more people. We need to have PDs run more stations. Where is the connect? We have a PD in this market who is responsible for three separate market clusters. There is no way he can keep up with it. All of the stations have things falling through the cracks. Lew Dickey is no genius believe you me.

Anonymous said...

They live in their world, we live in ours. We know what the audience wants, they only know what they want.I would be happy to say that Mays, Suleman, Hogan, Mason, and Harvard Boy can have the world they live in except that they make us pay for it and that is wrong. Let us please get some qualified, intelligent (sorry Lewie) owners and soon.

Anonymous said...

Poor NAB. Imagine if they didn't offer the discount and comps. They would have 700 tops. What does that say about the radio industry? The NAB is absolutely crazy if they ever do another radio show again.

Radio needs its own representation.

Anonymous said...

Those who led organizations with fairness through difficult economic times never had to hide out in their suites, afraid of the masses wrath. A visible leader who inspires creativity and morale never fears.

To read that the major CEO's of this industry could not even attempt to be a part of the industry's biggest convention if it was not a controlled situation is a damning admission that they KNOW what they have done is rotten. It's a far cry from the days I walked the floor of those shows with the owner of my radio station, enjoying presentations and material to help us get better in our neck of the woods.

Rats. Misers. Trust fund babies. Heartless. Merciless. Destroyers.

Add to the list: Cowards.

Anonymous said...

I am glad you differentiated between radio CEOS and designer brand CEOS like Mays, Mason, Dickey, and Suleman. They play unapproachable. I am surprised they are not surrounded by bodyguards. After all they are soooo important. Just look what they have done to the industry.

Anonymous said...

The real "little people" were those pontificating at the full of fiction D-S meet at the Radio Show. Denial is their entire life. It pisses me off to no end that I paid full price for the Radio Show and I'm in the minority?
The NAB is useless. I will not attend another Radio Show and if the NAB has any smarts they will cancel the next one. The NAB couldn't even make money on their own convention? It speaks volumes about their board.

Anonymous said...

Young people enter the work force in radio all the time and are told "this is the way we do it, this is the way we have done it and this is the way we always will do it". That is how it was put to me as I watched my CBS radio management ruin every station they own in this market. I also learned not to ask questions. Radio today is bad because of the people managing it. They don't know what they are doing and feel threatened by anyone that could help them.

Anonymous said...

John, You got it right.

It is not a young-old problem.

What has to be addressed is that there is no mentoring going on at most radio outlets and no opportunities for young people to take management positions with some independent authority.

I deal with someone who has never been in this market telling me what it needs.

When I bring up specifics he references research from one of their major markets claiming if it works there it will work here.

Until the radio business insists on mentoring and training younger people for management roles other than sales I do not give the radio business more than a couple of more years.

After that other media will have eaten radio's lunch just like the internet did to newspapers.

Anonymous said...

i applaude you. it is not an age problem. it is a training and guidance problem. what you did not mention is how few there are to mentor the next generation. i would not want a generation mentored by the likes of lou dickey, mark mays, dan mason, fared suleman or any of those other "designer radio ceos." what we need to do is bring the real broadcasters as you have called them back into the fold to regain control of this free falling industry & have them teach the next generation about passion, compassion and that radio is a 24/7 business. only then will radio have a chance to survive.

Anonymous said...

We were told today that your blog is not approved reading matter and that anyone found reading it on a company computer will be immediately discharged for "insubordination." We were also told that any information leaked to your blog regarding this company will be considered "espionage." That was the word used on the memo. Obviously I am not writing this from work. My company is one of the C's with only one C in its name. You must have hit a nerve with your comments about "designer radio CEOs" and their enlarged egos. Awww poor baby.

Anonymous said...

"We were told today that your blog is not approved reading matter and that anyone found reading it on a company computer will be immediately discharged for "insubordination." We were also told that any information leaked to your blog regarding this company will be considered "espionage." That was the word used on the memo. Obviously I am not writing this from work. My company is one of the C's with only one C in its name. You must have hit a nerve with your comments about "designer radio CEOs" and their enlarged egos. Awww poor baby."

Add another big "C": Communism!!!

Anonymous said...

I work for a locally owned, locally operated radio station and would not want to have it any other way.

I love the people I work with and have nothing but the highest respect for our owner and GM.

I have friends who worked here and joined "chain" stations who tell me horror stories of how poorly managed these companies are and how even the local management is forced to follow corporate orders even when they are dead wrong.

Our company believes in hiring all ages and encourages teamwork and mentoring.

Your blog was printed out and is hanging up on our bulletin board for everyone including our visitors and clients to read.

Anonymous said...

Hey John, the only young person I know who has been getting attention in radio circles was "discovered" by a well known chickenhawk. I don't know if you know who I mean but you and your readers will figure it out.

We do need young people in the radio business though not recruited to be plucked for "other" reasons.

Anonymous said...

John, this may be the wrong place for this...but in following up your blog on Don Imus he finally made his debut on Fox Business Channel. This is the first write-up I have read on it since it is such a non-news story:

Imus at FBN: Day One. 'Congratulations and Condolences'
By Chris Ariens on Oct 05, 2009 10:43 AM

Don Imus' debut on Fox Business was appropriately subdued: "I thought we were on last week," Imus said at 6:05, after business and news headlines. "Trial run," said news sidekick Charles McCord.

Guests on the three hour radio/TV program included Sen. John McCain and Glenn Beck. And while we may not see NBC News talent on the air, the son of one was on today. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, son of Mike, was on to talk about his reporting on the Wall Street crisis.

McCain, by phone, said, "Congratulations and condolences... Condolences to the American people that are now going to be exposed to your rants."

After the jump, the interview with Beck, where both men recount how they gave up the bottle, and talk about Beck's appearance on Fox & Friends in July. Imus: "When you were on the Fox morning show and you made the remark about the president, they didn't get blamed for it. If you were to say that here, I would've gotten it."

Coincidentally, here in Boston, WTTK the Imus station here cut his show back the same day from 5 am to 7 am and only the last hour is live.

Regarding your comments on the NAB convention. I did not attend last year or this year and it was my choice not to. The last one I went to (2007) it had become a fantasyland where reality and radio refused to mix. I think youre right about the NAB and radio. Radio is better off with its own organization. The NAB radio board is housed with jerks who just echo the demands of major radio groups and little else.

Anonymous said...

When Kevin "Pig Vomit" Metheney did programming for Clear Channel in Cleveland he banned all communication with John Gorman. Anyone caught talking to him would be dismissed. We were not allowed to access his blog either. He and John Gorman had a falling out when he wrote a piece for a newspaper about news-talk AM running a John McCain interview on the morning show as if it were their own. The morning guy Bill Wills inserted his questions as if he had McCain on the air but someone did not edit properly and left the original interviewer on the end of the interview. Gorman picked up on it and wrote about it calling WTAM "Zelig" after the Woody Allen movie. Metheney was livid and banned Gorman from Clear Channel in Cleveland (though he managed to get on WMMS, WMJI, WGAR, WMVX and even WTAM to promote his book before the ban went back into effect). Metheney also turned Mike Trivossono, the afternoon drive shock talk jock on Gorman to bad mouth him. Now Metheney is gone but Gorman is not allowed as a guest on WTAM now by order of Ray Davis who is their program director.

Anonymous said...

"We were told today that your blog is not approved reading matter and that anyone found reading it on a company computer will be immediately discharged for insubordination. We were also told that any information leaked to your blog regarding this company will be considered espionage. That was the word used on the memo. Obviously I am not writing this from work. My company is one of the C's with only one C in its name. You must have hit a nerve with your comments about designer radio CEOs and their enlarged egos. Awww poor baby."

Well, that's totally laughable! What, so they think their memo won't draw more attention to John's blog, and that employees won't read it at home?

Anonymous said...

Did you notice that the NAB has posted nothing about any of the meetings on its web site? The NAB also stopped a couple of people from videotaping or recording the meeting except that "someone" managed to secure audio from all of the meetings and if you know where to look you can find Bit Torrents of the entire NAB Radio Show meetings. I don't want to post them here and I don't want to alert the NAB on where they are. Ask your kids or a young intern to do a search on them. Give them the info and I guarantee they will locate the Bit Torrents for you. You will be able to download them to an iPod. They confirm what Gorman says here. Denial, denial, denial.

Pepper Pike Pete said...

To Anonymous 11:13 - I think I know who you are talking about. If it is who I think it is that 'relationship' started 10 years ago when he was underage. He was proclaimed as a 'boy wonder' by the c.h. in the trades. I think a couple of stations dropped him when it was found out how 'wonderful' he was. That relationship has continued over the years and is consensual. Of course every industry has chicken hawks and radio is no exception. The PD in Florida, the station owner in Boston and the dj from XM in Washington. Just as many guys get into radio to meet underage girls too. Fast foods, too.

Anonymous said...

I vote NO for future NAB Radio Shows. They are over, done with. We need a fresh approach and a new organization that deals with radio today. My suggestion is NOT to form a new organization until the radio industry itself is reorganized post Chapter 11s et al. Until then it is an industry in flux and one dominated by the "designer CEOS" (I love that phrase).

Anonymous said...

I also approached one of the "designer CEOS" to introduce myself. I ran into two of them together in a hotel lobby. Both looked at me like I was intruding upon their private stash of oxygen. Both gave me dead fish handshakes without eye contact. One did roll his eyes when he thought I was not looking. A far cry from the old NABS and R&RS when everyone had courtesy and manners.Maybe they don't teach silver spoons L. Baldridge.

Anonymous said...

John, where do you find your photos? That limp tower was perfect.

Anonymous said...

Here is the problem as I see it. The NAB or some other version of a “radio only” trade organization wouldn't work either. The new organization couldn’t support two diametrically opposed operating methods. Namely, the “Corporate” ownership groups that ultimately pay the bills of the Trade organization and the interests of the small, local owner that operate one or two sticks in the boonies.
If an issue arose like, HD Radio, the “Corporate” run groups would lobby the Trade organization to support this technology because they would benefit from a “new technology”, receive discounts for volume buying of the equipment and possibly government rebates on equipment purchased and marketing of the “new technology”. “Mom and Pops” on the other hand have no financial incentive to adopt HD, no lobbying power to fight or oppose any mandate (if one ever came) and couldn’t afford the new technology if mandated.
And this is the same industry! The larger group would always have the trade group support for fear of losing them as a member while the smaller operator has nobody fighting for their rights as broadcasters. It’s all a sham….

Anonymous said...

The shame of it all is that radio is the biggest enemy of radio. Nearly all the damage was self inflicted and continuous and there is still no sign of letting up.

I really hope the lending institutions see the lost cause in this and learn that there are qualified buyers waiting who can turn the industry around. Of course we have to get reasonable with price. These stations aren't worth the multiples originally paid for them - even then.

As long as the Dickeys, the Mays, the Sulemans are running radio it will be run only into the ground.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone caught on to the fact that CBS radio has come full circle. Remember when they changed all their FMs to CHR in the eighties? Eventually they changed them to oldies formats. It looks like they are doing that all over again. My guess is that WYSP will be the next station that gets AMP-ed. Could anyone have come up with a more unhip shitty name than AMP? Dan Mason, what a genius.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me like small market stations should band together. Maybe there should be a group for independently owned and operated stations. You may not be able to compete against the NAB or whatever it de-volves into lobby but with press releases, social networks and other tools of the next generation trade the voices of these stations could be heard by the masses. I believe people will support and back real localized radio.

Anonymous said...

Love it. Man, Gorman. The comments you get are almost as good as your blogs.

Gary Shaffer said...

These people need to adapt before the "Do-you-know-who-I-am" moments quickly become "Don't-you-know-who-I-was" moments.

Gary Shaffer said...

These people need to adapt before the "Do-you-know-who-I-am" moments quickly become "Don't-you-know-who-I-was" moments.