Content and Branding -- Pleeease!

I have to laugh when I see how the traditional media business is responding to the awesome attack of interactive media on their space.

When they are not doing next to nothing to respond, they are busy creating content and brand managers to take them into the new age. Now the thought is a a good one -- make your comprehensive content and marketing come together under one person. But in my view they are doing this in name only.

We already have such a person in terrestrial broadcasting. That's the program director. It's cool and everything to elevate programming to "branding" but the nomenclature is not the solution. It misses the point. Putting the resources behind radio's program directors and doing remedial education to get them back on their feet after consolidation is the right approach.

After all, these PDs have had their mouths duct taped shut during consolidation -- especially if they wanted to keep their jobs. You see where this move has gotten radio -- in the desolate world of sameness. One PD running two or more stations is not the answer to content innovation. Being conservative to avoid risk is not going to grow anything. Cutting budget doesn't enrich the content. Putting the fear of God in program directors who want to add new music because they might attract increased payola scrutiny of the feds is a loser idea.

It's not just broadcasting, it's everywhere. The new age answer is create so-called "brand managers" and "content managers".

Here's what radio needs:
  • Take the duct tape off your program directors' mouths. Let them at their markets and stations without the burden consolidators have placed on them. That burden? To create new formats without spending money (don't anger Wall Street), without taking chances and without committing to an Internet and mobile strategy to go along with the new format.
  • For God's sake give them electronic ratings! That way they can cut back on the annoying pounding of call letter mentions into the brains of their listeners and maybe get on to entertainment. The meter will pick up the listening.
  • Adopt the "Rule of One" -- Make one terrestrial format a top category achiever in ratings and revenue before you try to put another format on an HD sub-channel. Or, how about not putting another HD sub-channel up until you have one HD listener. Common' -- admit it -- HD is a turkey and you're spending valuable time and money on it. It's a scheme to access more channels and grow the platform except few can hear the channels.
  • Encourage and finance your PD's efforts to utilize the Internet and mobile space in conjunction with everything you do on the air. Help them, help you. No realistic mobile or Internet strategy? Shame, shame, shame. What have you been thinking about all these years -- quarterly results?
  • Adopt the "Rule of One More" -- no PD programs more than one station. We used to call that program director a genius. One genius per station, please, instead of one PD stretched to his or her limits.
So, call it "branding" if you must, content managing if you have to, but a better idea is don't call it anything if you're not prepared to open your wallets and start spending on your product and people.

And that's what I'd label -- "effective management".

It's time the consolidators who fell in love with their investors start supporting the only people who can help them win back the listeners -- their program directors without whose content they would be selling vacuum cleaners.

Some of the smaller radio groups know exactly what I'm talking about because they're doing it.