I looked. Then I looked again. I rubbed my eyes. And looked a third time. Is this a parody from The Onion? Am I really reading this correctly?
No. This isn’t from Talkers, the industry trade publication’s archives in 1965. This is from Talkers, the industry trade publication in August 2014!
To quote the boxed world traveler Casey Kasem, “Good Golly Miss Molly.”
August 2014 just happens to be the same month BMW said no more AM radio in two of its electric models, GM said no more HD Radio, radio’s botched attempt at digital audio, in a few of its models and Disney declared, “No Mas,” and that it was selling all but one of its Radio Disney stations, the vast majority AM.
Are the radio industry and the trade publications covering it this delusional?
Talkers, of course, will hide behind its “guest” columnist, Susan Nilon. She penned this fantasy piece of wishful thinking.
I don’t know Susan and I’m sure she’s a wonderful woman. I believe as owner, GM and afternoon personality at WSRQ in Sarasota, she loves her AM station they way I loved the stations I’ve programmed. Stations like WIRL, WKRC, WGR, WTVN and 700WLW to name a few. I’m sure she’s as passionate as I am when it comes to gathering and advocating for an audience. This blog is not meant to demean or belittle her, but to hopefully encourage her to act and start to save AM radio.
But, to quote boxed and room temperature Casey Kasem, “Ponderous.”
In just a few short days, the radio industry will gather in Indianapolis for the National Association of Broadcasters’ Radio Show convention, an annual gathering of the “What Me Worry” crowd as they fiddle, faddle, pat each other on the back and drink too much, collectively waiting for radio, by some miracle, to “adapt” to the changing consumer, the marketplace and technology. I mean, radio always survives. It always has, right?
I’m sure there will be the annual discussion of moving the talk format to the FM band, the difference being at the 2014 convention…it didn’t work. There will be some discussion on the “great” technology that is HD Radio, that really isn’t Hi-Def, but I digress. And let’s not forget the annual ideas that will save AM radio, the latest giving AM stations a very low power “FM” translator. I mean, come on. We all know that AM radio will be saved by encouraging people to listen to an FM signal, right? How could this not get people to tune in the AM band? Brilliant!
Just lots of talk, poorly thought out strategies and worst of all, denial. Dangerous denial because this time is different for radio, as its content is hopelessly disconnected from the consumer and the consumer is finding new ways, through technology, to get the information and entertainment they desire.
While much of her Talkers article is misguided, there are a few points where I agree with Susan.
“You can travel 50 miles in one direction on the highway and pick up numerous stations that repeat the same rotation day after day. If we have lost the listener, it is not because of technology, it’s because we have become stale. It is because we have worked so hard to become efficient with our industry that we have taken the listener out of the equation. We challenge the listener to seek alternatives and then evidence the collected data as a fait accompli.”
I have always believed the delivery mechanism, as long as it’s dependable, doesn’t matter and Susan’s correct. We are blaming AM’s failures on technology and what’s really to blame is crappy content and little variety.
What needs to be discussed at this year’s Radio Show is “radio” not being in the distribution business, but “radio” being in the content business. To Susan’s point, we need to start rebuilding AM radio with the innovative content a consumer wants and needs. We cannot keep broadcasting the “same rotation day after day,” as Susan put it.
So Susan you in? Ready to make and start the change that will save AM radio?
You own WSRQ 1220AM in Sarasota and it obvious, through your writings, you love AM radio and love being the local voice of your community. In fact, I found this mission statement on your website.
I have a few questions.
- If you’re concerned about the same “rotation day after day” duplicated on station after station, why does WSRQ broadcast the same syndicated shows as the numerous other stations you mention? Here’s your weekday line-up. Let’s change it and focus it on Sarasota. You in? I’ll help.
- You love AM radio, but why are the frequencies of your two low power FM translators listed above the WSRQ-AM frequency in your logo? Let’s change it and highlight the AM stick. You in? I’ll help.
You’re a station owner. You can begin the change needed to save AM radio, Susan. Writing for Talkers is one thing. Doing what needs to be done is another.
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It was never about becoming more efficient, as Susan claims in her Talkers article; it was about making as much money as possible with homogeneous, easily duplicated BORING programming that drove listeners away.
More proof toxic talk radio outlived any utility it had, commencing on March 20, 2003.
Hannity, Rush ,Michael Savage and countless others slowly killed talk radio but trashing any caller who dared to have a different point of view on a subject.Neil Boortz was one of the few who would actually debate callers who disagreed with him. In fact he would state a caller was more likely to get on air if he did disagree with him as he thought a show of nothing but people calling in to agree with him was boring.
In the city where I live there’s a budding Desi radio war going on between a couple of brokered AM stations. While both formats are South Asian, the programming is bi-lingual, even switching back and forth in the same sentence, because that’s how the listeners talk amongst themselves. I first heard them while getting lunch in some Indian restaurants.
And that’s where I see AM radio going. It’s hyper-local down to a few neighborhoods, but there are businesses with money to spend and people who want to find people who speak the same way they do and talk about what’s important to them.
If you punch into either station, you won’t find any syndicated programming. You’ll hear lots of ads, some decent clients among them. Sure, the rates are low, but there’s no pay per inquiry spots either.
If I had to choose which did a better job of serving the community, I’d have to give the nod to the guys paying to lease time to put on Hum Tum City (you and I) and Radio Sanjeet over the AM running a full load of syndicated talk with 2 local hours a day just because they sound more plugged in to their town. I’m not saying that the solution for Sarasota is to go brokered Ethnic, but stations need to be talking about their neighborhoods more than 2 hours a day.
I used to drive a truck and while I had XM I would often turn it and scan the radio dial. I found that usually the most interesting programming was local. Syndicated programs tended to sound alike and local programs were more interesting in that they often had a exchange of ideas, (unlike most national syndicated shows) and give me the information I need at the time.( Traffic, weather) . If AM is going to survive they are going to have be to more local.
Man, I wish you would have told me you were going to do a piece focused on my column. Especially, since your analysis is based solely on my article and what you gleamed off of my website. If you want to have real answers to your questions, you should actually talk to me. There is a lot more the to story that what you think you know. But I do thank you for using my article to keep the conversation going.