Radio's Toilet Bowl XIII

Clear Channel President John Hogan says radio as we know it is in the toilet.

Quoted in Inside Radio, Hogan is conceding failure for today's radio industry.

“The business as we knew it is not coming back,” says Hogan who insisted they had to fire the latest 1,850 employees last week to pave the way for re-engineering the company.

Hogan's assessment is that after years of declining revenue and the current recession, they were left with no other choice.

Radio is in the toilet, no doubt.

Who helped put it there is beyond question -- Clear Channel, the largest broadcast group.

On the eve of Sunday's Super Bowl XLIII in which Pittsburgh will play Arizona, it appears radio is now getting ready for Toilet Bowl XIII -- thirteen years after the ill-fated attempt at monopoly -- I mean, consolidation.

Hogan coming out and saying the radio business is not coming back is like either the Cardinals or Steelers coaches saying, we can't win Sunday -- unless we change the game.

Here's Coach Hogan: “While I think there has been a tendency to hope things improve and get better, it’s just a fundamental belief we have that radio as we knew it is gone.”

Game over.

If I said that, I'd be called an idiot

If you said it, you might be thought of as disloyal to radio.

But when Hogan says it, he thinks he's Vince Lombardi.

Forget the competition which would have to be CBS Radio, the much smaller but next largest radio group.

I don't see CBS Coach Dan Mason doing the patented Clear Channel Repeater Radio game even in hard times and a bad economy. Coach Mason has lots of problems but many of them come from ownership where Sumner Redstone is in financial peril. This affects radio as much as it would if Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had to cut the money spigot for "America's Team".

Over on the other side of the field, Coach Hogan is skipping the pep talk this year and explaining why he doesn't need to field a full team of players anymore.

Screw the game.

Hogan is making up his own rules from now on.

Coach Hogan claims “We can’t afford to have mediocre talent on any station at any time of the day.” Boy, if this doesn't sound like a set-up for Repeater Radio syndication, I don't know what is.

So Clear Channel's team is playing with a shorter deck -- I mean -- bench and before he plays in the "game of his life", coach is attacking his own players.

That's like Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin and Cardinals Coach Ken Whisenhunt cutting the maximum allowed player personnel on field to save money and then calling them less than the best talent on the way to the locker room.

Coach Hogan thinks it's "delusional" to believe that things are going to get better. Delusional is a great word to describe him.

So much for aspiring to Vince Lombardi.

In football, players are judged by their talent and their ability to come through in the clutch.

But Coach Hogan has redefined what talent is needed to win the game. In fact, he's even torn down the goalposts and rearranged the field to suit his company's shortcomings.

For example, in sales Hogan told Inside Radio "Bain and Clear Channel crafted a sophisticated algorithm that rates all its account executives on metrics such as billing, rates, amount of new business and online billings. AEs with the highest scores were kept".


Whatever happened to scoring points -- I mean, sales figures?

(Can you imagine the fees involved when the private equity company that buys you becomes your consultant and you pay them for "research"? That's right, more fees!)

Clear Channel also redefined how to play the programming game when it used a "sophisticated mathematical formula" similar to the one they used to judge salespeople for measuring on-air personalities.

Let the coach tell you.

“We are in a position now to objectively, consistently and in a highly quantifiable way be able to gauge performance.” The secret formula heavily weighs ratings but also compares a personality against other stations.

Get that?

In other words, if you score the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl but don't compare to another player from another team, you're cut nonetheless.

Makes sense to me -- especially since Clear Channel has now gone public with the demise of radio as we know it.

We knew they were killing the radio business all along. Now they're admitting it and taking "credit" for it. You've got to wonder if Hogan would have trash talked radio if Clear Channel was still a public company.

What's more ridiculous is that Clear Channel came up with these secret formulas and algorithms as a "gotcha" to justify its 1,850 firings last week. Otherwise, you usually give the rules of the game to the players before the game starts.

Not at Clear Channel, apparently, where sales and programming benchmarks were installed after the fact.

And I think I've gotten into Coach Hogan's head about the foolishness of "Less Is More". So now he has come up with a new slogan (see how he got his nickname?) "Better Is More". I'm not making this up. "Better is More" makes absolutely no sense. But least he's consistent.

"Better Is More" is where Ryan Seacrest and a handful of other syndicated personalities get to make more money by allowing Clear Channel to spend less on local radio talent. After all, you heard the coach -- we can’t afford to have mediocre talent on any station at any time of the day.

Again, the football analogy is that Rothlisberger gets to play on both teams because it saves money and he is considered the better quarterback (substitute Kurt Warner if you're a Card's fan -- just being politically correct).

Short of ethnic cleansing, it's talent cleansing.

Use the secret formula.

Fire the personality.

Pay one person to play several positions.

Hey, I thought Eagles linebacker "Concrete Charlie" Chuck Bednarik was the last of the two-way players on both offense and defense.

Coach Hogan wants his "talent" playing in every situation, every game, every station in the format.

“We shouldn't focus on where programming originates. What we should be focused on is how do we create the most compelling, resonant, interesting programming as possible and get it to as many consumers as we can in as many ways as we can find to do it.”

That's about the most idiotic statement I've heard from him and Hogan has made a lot of them.

Of course we should care about where the programming originates. Radio is local if it is anything.

So, as we anticipate Super Bowl XLIII it's hard to forget radio's Toilet Bowl XIII in which the biggest and richest team has declared the radio game dead and announced their unilateral intention to reinvent it.

Meanwhile poor Coach Mason of CBS is playing under a tight salary cap. He can't field the more expensive talent any longer, but he's still playing all positions (except managerial where he's often doubling up).

This would be a riot if it weren't so pathetic.

And while Coach Hogan is trying to change the rules of the game, there are others on the sidelines hoping to be playing in radio's Toilet Bowl next year.

I see Fagreed Suleman sitting over there in the luxury boxes and dreaming of a chance to play his star, Don Imus. Imus may be Citadel's team of one with few clones to support him and he may even need oxygen every once in a while -- but he's the face of Citadel.

There's always Paul Harvey. He's only 90.

Oh, never mind.

And there's Lew Dickey for Team Cumulus who just flew in on a private jet being approached by his board of directors to please take an $8 million signing bonus to coach the team for the next few years. I wonder what he will say? (Same thing happened in real life when Dickey was somehow convinced to sign a new contract for the bonus of $8 million large).

Saga's Ed Christian always wanted to play in radio's Toilet Bowl but it may be up to Daniel Tisch now who is buying up Saga stock like it actually has a future -- at $1.05 a share. Will Tisch take over the team or rebuild?

And right there in the Super Box is David Field who thinks he can make it to next year's radio Toilet Bowl by freezing player personnel salaries. That's a real motivator.

I'm an Eagles fan and as we Philly fans have painfully come to know there's always tomorrow.

But I'm also a radio fan.

And Coach John Slogan Hogan is now telling us there is no tomorrow.

He ought to know because his Clear Channel doomsday playbook has failed to adequately compete and it threatens to take all the others down with him.

No wonder Clear Channel is changing the rules.

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