I am one of the last believers in AM radio. I love the AM medium. I truly believe as long as the signal is good, great content will overcome the band’s technical limitations.
Outside of just a few years, I spent the majority of my career on AM. There was some career failure, but mostly career success. It pains me to say this, but…
many AM radio stations maybe in their final days.
Another FM talk station has been taken away. This time in Cedar Rapids, Iowa as the usual cast of conserva-talk characters are being exiled to the content wasteland the AM band has become. WMT-AM is a 5,000 watt station in Nielsen market #205 suffering from poor ratings and an audience heading to Walgreen’s to pick up another week’s supply of Dentu-Cream and Depends.
Disney is calling it quits with its owned and operated Radio Disney stations, knowing that few moms and kids are listening on terrestrial radio and since most of these stations are poor signaled AM facilities, it’s time to cash out while the real estate and equipment are still worth a few dollars. It’s going to be interesting to see who bids on these stations since many brokers won’t even list AM stations for sale.
As researcher Mark Ramsey recently stated in his blog, Disney knows they’re in the content business and knows it’s about the consumer and their interests. How the content gets to the consumer is irrelevant and as Mark stated, “the last time an AM radio station was particularly relevant to a juvenile audience it was the summer of 1975.”
You don’t need the brainpower and research knowledge of Mark to realize what’s going on with the terrestrial radio business. Bluntly said, it’s no longer first choice for the listener…AM or FM.
Think about it. Is there anything easier to operate than a radio? It sits there, powered by AC, DC…hell there are radios that have a crank to power it. You turn it on and you hear sound. There’s music, talk, news and sports play-by-play…all free to the consumer. It may be the easiest appliance you have to operate. The problem is so much of the content is repetitive and so much of the content is hopelessly detached from the consumer’s needs, the needs many programmers falsely believe they’re satisfying.
What a mess.
About 6 years ago my wife and I took a trip to Chicago with another couple. All the way up I-65 our friend, who’s my age…mid 50’s…struggled with her early generation smartphone, a tiny FM transmitter attached to it and a pure play app. While her husband drove, every few miles she had to rescan to find a vacant FM channel. I sat in the back seat and gave my wife the “uh-oh” look. Terrestrial radio wasn’t even a choice for her. She’d rather struggle with (at the time) an inferior technology than listen to a terrestrial radio station through a device conveniently located in her vehicle’s dashboard.
The same thing happened again this past week. A gathering of people in their early to mid 50’s wanting to hear music.
“Hey turn on Pandora. Let’s hear some music,” was the very first comment.
“Do you have Sirius? I love SiriusXM. I missed it when I didn’t have it,” said another.
“You have a smart TV. Pandora is on that. Find the Kenny Rogers’ channel.”
The TV was turned on. The app updated and “The Coward of the County” found. All in all this process took about 10-15 minutes before there were tunes.
First, in the interest of disclosure, I wasn’t the person wanting to hear Kenny Rogers and I rolled my eyes when I heard the “request.” My point is NO one suggested turning on the radio and one was sitting right there. Not one of the 15 or so people in the room. Not one!
It wasn’t all that long ago when someone would say, “Let’s hear some music! Turn on WXXX.”
Jesus. How did we as an industry become this detached from the consumer? How did we allow radio that, just a few years ago, was top of the mind to listeners to become second, third, fourth or no choice.
Our radio generation was entrusted with its future. How did we become the generation to wound it, possibly mortally?
It’s an old twist on a phrase, but it was “radio that killed the radio star.”
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