Better Radio at No Additional Cost

The other day I mentioned Dick Carr in a piece called "Great Radio".

Dick was the architect of WIP in Philadelphia during its glory years at the top of ratings and revenues.

Dick emailed me shortly after he read it and reminded me of something worth passing along.

This is one of the reasons I always say we all benefit when we bring the wisdom of experience, along with the hard work of the present generation and the innovations and possibilities seen by the next generation.

Right now radio is stuck in a time warp created by a handful of CEOs who have tried almost everything but using their heads.

When Dick prevailed at WIP he had one operating principle that always served him well.

It cost no extra money -- it was a way to look for the additional benefits that make listeners appreciate you over and over again.

He called it "Another Reason to Listen".

Over the past 20 years radio has relied on the music aspect of their formats to the point of making it hard to distinguish one station from another. And lately, what's worse, is that when the music industry catches a cold, the radio business gets the flu. (That reminds me, I'm going to prove the point when I write about Guns N' Roses' new album).

I'm not saying music is not important -- of course, it is. But there's more to it than that and I think we've forgotten what it is.

Everything that is done on the air should be designed to give the audience another reason to tune in and stay with the station. As Dick Carr puts it, "Work to create a listener expectation wherein once they heard "a shoe drop", they would instinctively turn to your station".

Today, anything that costs money stations are cutting back.

On-air, production and support talent.

Sales staffs.

Sports and special programming.

Contests and promotions.

You could go on and on.

For WIP, every personality, every piece of music, every newscast, every promotion and even Philadelphia Eagles football on Sundays was designed to give the audience another reason to tune in and stay with the station.

I recognize that football does cost money and lots of stations are letting their contracts with pro teams run out.

But look further.

Every newscast?

Who does news? If they do, a barter service is doing it. Nothing remarkable, just noise.

Every promotion?

Who does promotions? They cost money. A few ticket giveaways here and there and other fluff that has little value to your listeners. But promotions don't have to be cost prohibitive. Creativity can trump the size of the prize. Unfortunately, stations are not in the mood to be creative.

As I said the other day, WIP was the "Cash Call Station".

WIP was also "Great Radio" -- their term.

And "Eagles Radio".

With the most popular personalities in the city.

And the acknowledged best local news operation in the city -- even keeping in mind that Westinghouse was trying to build its KYW all news franchise across the street. They did it on ten people. Ten more than owners want today.

Carr also wanted to make sure the music was great and well presented -- not just records tossed at the listener.

With all due respect to computerized music programming, it sucks. No, it's not the computer that's the problem. It's the lack of showmanship for presenting the musical categories. Garbage in, garbage out. The computer is an aide to programmers not a replacement for creativity. Can you imagine radio without computerized music?


When was the last time your station made a commitment to find new listeners?

I'm waiting.

When was the last time you invited them to join the family (as it was called then) or the social network (as we call it today)?

Have you ever uttered these words or even thought of them (from Dick Carr's mouth to yours):

"Extend ourselves and care for them by doing all we could so they would stay longer and come back more often."

So if you've lost your way or if the radio CEOs of today are headed in the wrong direction, it isn't so hard to get back on track for little or no money.

I write this not for Lew Dickey or Farid Suleman or David Field.

This is for you -- the radio pro who still cares to do a better job even though your resources are being depleted by the minute and your ability to compete has been compromised.

You can't go out and sign a football team to build your Sunday around it -- I realize that.

But you can try to do the other things Dick Carr did then that will work like a charm even now.

Attract them.

Give them another reason to listen.

Don't just throw music at them -- rethink the presentation.

Great promotions -- money doesn't make them great (every PD knows that). Creativity and longevity does.

News and info even if you can't field your own news team. Now you have Internet resources for free. You can get local for not a helluva a lot of money.

Then -- and this is the part I love to say over and over again -- care for them.

When have we used that term. I know most radio people who have survived their owners really care -- no doubt about that. But this is about the audience -- not us.

Care for your listeners so they visit longer and come back more often.

The decline of radio has caused some good people who became CEOs to lose their minds and their hearts -- and some, their ethics.

For the hardworking radio programmers, managers, talent and sales executives, even without budgets, you can do more to take care of your listeners.

It doesn't cost much and the clusterf#@ks who you usually have to run everything past, don't even have to be consulted.

They'll never know this kind of customer care. Many would recognize it anyway.

This is between you and the listener.

For those of you who would prefer to get Jerry's daily posts by email for free, please click here. IMPORTANT: First you must check your mail or spam filter to verify your subscription immediately after signing up before daily service can begin.
Thanks for forwarding my pieces to your friends and linking to your websites and boards.