I now know people are worried about the future of talk radio. The two blogs I wrote (Ratings Disaster) (Why Nothing Changes) about the format’s dismal June PPM Nielsen ratings went viral and I was contacted “off line” by numerous industry leaders. One station group owner told me his stations can no longer sell the format to advertisers, due to a shrinking, old and extremist audience and the hosts that cater to this group. His candor is something rarely heard. A quick search of message boards, my emails and personal texts show people are concerned and see a bleak future if nothing changes. Corporate radio isn’t going to change it. It’s obvious they don’t see a product worth reinventing and they have too much invested in the current genre of “conservative talk radio” to make a change. Innovation rarely comes from those comfortable with maintaining the status quo.
What I said previously on this blog wasn’t an epiphany. It was simply observant. Others are thinking it and that’s why it resonated. That may be the teaching moment for talk hosts and programmers on the importance of content focused on the wants and needs important to listeners at any given point in time, not content a host or programmer decides is important. No one dared say what I said, certainly not the radio industry press dependent on the latest and irrelevant “RIGHT this, RIGHT that” play-on-words display ads for conservative talk hosts. I don’t fault them. We all have to make money to pay the bills and that will normally muzzle people.
Even format mouthpiece Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers Magazine and Talkers.com, has started to chime in.
The authority on all things radio — Talkers magazine publisher Michael Harrison — said the future of Boston talk radio “troubles” him and he hopes it can be revived by Internet radio clicking with listeners.
He hopes Boston talk radio can be revived through Internet radio. Granted he was speaking with an Internet radio station at the time, but since two terrestrial talk stations raised the white flag in Bean-town because of bad business in the previous few years, he’s searching for change to come from anywhere. He knows it won’t come from the consolidated radio companies.
“The future could be bright if people tap into the potential of the audience,” he said.
Potential audience. This means a larger, broader and younger audience. Is there a place for right wing conservative talk radio? Sure, but only as one menu item in a larger selection of the spoken word format.
That said, Harrison said the future of talk radio is bright if the people who run the “big-time radio stations are able to really create diverse and important programming that people need” because “it’s become a very noisy world” in the Internet age.
“Create diverse and important programming that people (important word here) “NEED!” Focusing on the needs of the audience isn’t revolutionary thought, but it is something so many self important talk hosts and programmers forget. Speak about the consumer’s daily concerns, their lives and advocate for them. We must speak to more than just one group of conspiratorial, angry, 65 plus white guys. That narrative, over and over, is old, boring, lacks engagement, is irrelevant and worst of all, is no longer believable in the real world.
A very well known industry executive contacted me and told me my thoughts were dead on. My response was, “So what are we going to do about it?”
I didn’t carve out a career in radio programming by being able to identify the problem and not fix it. Change is inevitable, as is increasing competition and new technologies, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the radio industry crumble around me because of radio’s collective inaction and “What Me Worry” attitude without putting up a fight. I have way too many years invested in this.
Let’s fix this. So who’s in?
Don’t be afraid of the future. There’s a 100% chance of failure if we do nothing. The odds are much better if we dare to imagine and take a chance.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Confidentially of course. firstname.lastname@example.org
Coming soon. The game plan to fix talk radio.
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