The Radio Voice Tracking Conspiracy

I was just blown away when I saw the front page of Inside Radio Friday in which they described the results of their special survey on voice tracking.

Now, you know I love Inside Radio.

But the results are from another planet. I know they are telling it like it is so I have to assume that the participants in the study are not really being honest.

Let's break down the findings:

• No explosion of voice tracking.

This is contrary to anecdotal evidence that we see almost every day that stations everywhere (large and small markets) are going to voice tracking to -- well, -- save money. Some respondents said they use voice tracking to cover vacations.

• 54% say their station isn't doing any more voice tracking than a year ago.

Some 45% think they have seen some increase in the practice. Don't you love the word "think"? Only in radio can a manager not know for sure whether there has been an increase in voice tracking on his or her station.

• 47% say it was a local decision to save money.

Let's see -- no one from corporate would be breathing down their backs to cut costs, would they? Just asking.

• 21% say it was a local move to improve the station's sound quality?

They must be kidding. Voice tracking may save money and it may feature a nice voice but it isn't real local entertainment. No sane listener ever calls a station and requests more voice tracking. They do respond to morning personalities and jocks who are allowed to entertain. Geez, 21% say it was a local move to improve the station's sound quality? Unbelievable! Think an iPod's sound quality is great in a compressed MP3 format? Maybe it's not the sound quality that attracts listeners -- maybe it's -- oh, never mind. You know.

• There is a split on whether stations have too much voice tracking (47%) and just the right amount (48%).

There's no such thing as just the right amount of voice tracking. See, here's the problem. Voice tracking is never better than a live personality -- unless you're an accountant working for a radio station. Don't take my word for it. Ask a listener. If the radio industry can actually -- even for one minute -- think that they don't have enough voice tracked programming, then you can certainly understand why ratings are declining and the industry is in trouble.

• 5% say their station does too little voice tracking.

I'm not making this up. Too little?

• Six in ten respondents still think their station still sounds local thanks to customization.

And another 29% think it's "not bad" since people from sister stations voice the liners. By now you know that no one is in touch with realty. Reality is that voice tracking is a compromise that may please the bottom line but doesn't please listeners. Evenings, middays and all-nights are supposed to be the most popular voice tracking time periods and 21% say they do it to cover summer vacations (maybe your listeners will take a vacation from your station when you do).

The dictionary definition of conspiracy is a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.

I rest my case.

Oh, one more thing.

Just 11% of those surveyed in the Inside Radio study said they weren't happy with voice tracking thinking its either too "canned" sounding or too little local information.

Hunt this 11% down.

And hire them.

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