It's 3 am. Who Do You Want Programming the Radio?

Radio doesn't want 6-11 year olds. The Advisory Board has asked Arbitron to stop measuring listening for these children and "redistribute" the People Meters to the 12+ sample.

There must be a shortage of People Meters.

Or a shortage of foresight.

It's as if the radio industry believes that the more People Meters you put out there, the more 12+ radio listening they will record. Of course, the People Meter does a better job of correcting the under-reported ratings delivered by the antiquated diary system.

Kids are the new 12+ if you believe these people -- for all the wrong reasons.

It's typical of radio to compromise its future for right now. Why in the world would anyone care about children listening to radio?

If this logic doesn't sound familiar it should, because you've heard it all before.

Right after consolidation, the ego-inflated executives who would eventually run radio into the ground took their focus off the next generation.

They built their clusters, cut expenses, showed Wall Street how attractive a free cash flow business like radio could be with bean counters at the helm. But they forgot about the future.

While they were preening themselves, the next generation grew up without a meaningful relationship with radio. Instead, they easily turned to the Internet for entertainment. Hearing the same 30 or fewer songs over and over again on radio while being told they were getting more variety and fewer commercials, didn't work. These "kids" had other options. Like Napster. Like iPods. Like the Internet.

Now the radio industry is going to make the same mistake twice.

Because they don't care about programming to future listeners, why not kick children out of the People Meter ratings? In fact, one of the brilliant things Arbitron did was to include 6-11 year olds in the first place.

You may ask -- what idiot is going to program to sub-prime demographics?

Well --

The "idiots" at Disney must be enjoying a good laugh right now. Let me count the ways:

1. They unloaded one of the best radio groups ever -- the ABC stations -- to a bean counter who not only ran them into the ground, he's continuing to run them into the ground. They saw the future and the future was young. Radio doesn't do young. But Disney does.

2. Disney resisted buying significant big radio properties to build the ABC Radio group during consolidation. How stupid, most people thought. Then-CEO Michael Eisner focused on purchasing crappy little AM signals nationwide instead (and doing long-term affiliations) to carry Radio Disney childrens programming. What a fool.

3. They did arguably the most creative radio on radio, but no one knew -- except the kids. Today I have some of those grown up kids in my classes at USC and I can tell you they speak of Radio Disney with great reverence -- a lot more than they have for radio-as-usual. Few really noticed that this generation would actually grow up someday except Disney.

4. Disney knew best that radio, cable, theme parks, merchandising, movies, music and outstanding promotion would eventually lead to "Hannah Montana" and "High School Musical". The radio business may be dead and the television business may be worried about YouTube but who wouldn't want the revenue these programs bring to Disney. Guess that's what radio gets for being shortsighted.

5. Disney youth-oriented artists outsell the major record labels when it comes to CDs. Young listeners don't know that CDs suck because Miley Cyrus is on them. The product trumps the technology. All of a sudden digital and analog don't matter. See what happens when you make investments in the next generation?

So, here we go again.

Radio is hell bent to halt the measuring of 6 to 11 year olds when they ought to be doing the opposite. Measure them. Research them. Study them. Program to them and try to establish an early relationship with radio. I'm not saying go all kids radio all the time, but offering nothing?

I wonder what radio executives must be thinking these days when they advocate misguided positions that actually insure that they will become more irrelevant in the future.

See if you scratch your head when you read this stroke of brilliance as reported in Inside Radio:

"Lincoln Financial Media is moving its sports "Fan" format from AM 950 to 104.3 FM starting April 1. Market manager Bob Call says 'While I know our Smooth Jazz listeners are disappointed, they can still listen to it free on the web or if they own an HD radio.' Ranked 13th in the Fall survey, KJCD had been smooth jazz for eight years".

Oh, that must be why we don't have programming for the next generation on radio -- we need to drop smooth jazz. We need another FM sports station for listeners who are not getting any younger. And how reassuring to know that loyal listeners can still access Smooth Jazz (minus the expenses incurred to the station) on an HD radio? You're kidding, right. Tell me you don't actually believe that one. Please.

It only goes to prove that Clear Channel isn't the only operator making short-term mistakes.

Let's not forget Citadel -- speaking of mistakes.

Farid Suleman is hell bent to ram Don Imus down the throats of as many stations as he can to save the money he is losing from making bad short-term decisions. Don Imus -- great yesterday -- but a has-been today. Why not Imus for everybody?

So it doesn't surprise me that radio people are looking to the money demos -- 25-54 -- to the exclusion of growing the next batch of 25-54's.

Somebody ought to remind them that listeners 6 to 24 all-too-soon grow up and become the next money demo.

Something radio will not be around to profit from because, well -- their leaders continue to think short term to please Wall Street.

Maybe this short term trend will catch on with those poor souls who invest in radio. Maybe they ought to think short-term and not buy radio stocks.

And the many investors who already got burned ought to lead a movement to kick these guys out because there is no future for an industry that doesn't have leaders who can see the future.

It's getting late.

Who do you want programming the radio?

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