The Radio Station of the Future

I have seen the future.

It's happening now and the changes that are taking place in real time will proliferate during the year ahead.

And, as always, our consolidated leader, Clear Channel is leading the way once again. One of my readers confirmed the further degradation of America's radio stations and I thought I'd share it with you. (For those of you who know all too well what I'm going to say, I'll understand if you hold your nose while reading).

Here's the radio station of the future:

1. One program director who must by necessity juggle many balls while having none himself (or herself). A PD without the authority to run the station. The executioner (and I chose that word carefully) for present and future fiscal cutbacks. Notice I didn't say, caretaker of the public trust or trendsetter for the target audience. Good people -- all -- but neutered by corporate.

2. One syndicated morning show. No need to spend money on local talent when the company has these tremendous assets (I'm being sarcastic) who can do the same thing in lots of cities at a time -- what economies of scale! Isn't this what consolidation was all about. Since radio works best when it is local, let's save money and make it national. Makes sense to the bean counters who run the big groups.

3. Voice tracked programming middays -- even if it is New York! Why spend the money on local talent when we can find one very vanilla sounding voice to eliminate a line item across the board in as many markets as possible.

4. The PD does PM drive. Why not? He or she has no real other duties under consolidation. If they throw a jock meeting, no one will come. For those radio people who have crossed over to the dark side, you're probably salivating right now at the genius of hiring a PD without balls, who also does afternoon drive. (Hey, look, PDs working an airshift is nothing new -- now you're going to see it in markets you never imagined. For any of us who have ever held both jobs, tell me how great it is to be on the air and doing the PDs job between songs. Bet the audience will love it).

5. Syndicated shows at night. Hell, we're consolidators. We own lots of programs. Now America's radio stations are increasingly going to have no option but to air packaged goods in the evenings (nobody listens then anyway, right?). It all makes sense -- especially to the consolidators.

6. Liberal use of syndication and/or voice tracking overnight and on weekends.


You have a radio station only a consolidator can love.

Clear Channel isn't the only fat cat that will implement this strategy system-wide. The other lemmings will follow them. As Gerry Blum, the onetime general manager of WQXI in Atlanta used to remind me, "the speed of the leader determines the speed of the pack".

This leader -- Clear Channel -- is hell bent to suck the humanity out of radio (as it has done to its talented and dedicated employees). It's all about money (and by the way, they're so good at being a public company that their stock price yesterday was $33.80 -- significantly lower than their buyout price).

Radio can't be saved from its masters -- the consolidators who set the trends and force the other weaklings into following suit.

Open your eyes and you'll see that public broadcasters showed a 3% increase in the Spring survey, and now reach 27,963,300 persons in an average week -- their biggest 12+ cume ever. According to Inside Radio, "public radio accounted for a 5% share of listening nationally in the Spring, just a fraction below the Spring 2003 share peak. The Radio Research Consortium says AQH also grew 3% since Spring 2006, after three straight years of decline".

Open your eyes and you'll see the next generation -- Generation Y is going to be larger than the baby boomers in numbers and radio has already lost them.

Look at missed opportunities: iPod fatigue is setting in. Listeners -- even young ones are becoming more available to listen to great content elsewhere.

The consolidators' formula above is not about great content. It's about great savings.

So don't choke on a turkey bone -- have a great Thanksgiving. While I am not optimistic about the future of terrestrial radio I am thrilled with the potential audience that is coming of age in the next generation. In the year ahead I am going to share more information with you on why I find this market so attractive. I'm getting back in -- I don't want to miss out.

And, please keep this in mind:

We need to be more like Steve Jobs.

He's in his 50's and yet he understands Gen Y better than they do.

It can be done.

Steve Jobs wouldn't run a business that ignores the largest potential population since the post World War II baby boom.

Steve Jobs wouldn't cut costs and make his product ugly. He'd make it sleek and cool (with great packaging).

Steve Jobs wouldn't drive his stock down by devaluing his core business.

My friends, if you're with me, get ready to start your engines!

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