Games Radio Consolidators Play

No matter how bad it gets, radio consolidators are going to continue to "fix it" their way.



Less local programming.

No Internet or mobile strategy.

The usual.

It's way past trying to operate the stations.

Now, owners just want to cut their losses.

That can be the only explanation for an industry where all the major consolidators -- led by, but not limited to Clear Channel, Citadel and Cumulus -- have given up on doing the right thing and opted for doing the cheap thing.

As these "leaders" lose control of their fate, they seem to be closing the grip of death on the very people who are trying to help them through this financial mess of their own making.

Consider some of the recent insanity in the radio industry:

1. Installing spy cameras to "manage" your sales employees from faraway headquarters.

One Cumulus worker claims that not only are cameras installed in the conference room at the station they work for but in the adjoining sales area -- pointed at the individual sales cubicles.

Another Cumulus employee claimed that the area also had live sound so Atlanta could listen in to make sure everything is to their liking.

2. Recruiting managers by being -- shall we say, less than forthright.

Cumulus actually had the nerve to recruit a General Sales Manager for its Macon, GA eight station cluster by claiming to seek "a dynamic leader to train, inspire and motivate our team of sellers".

Remember, that's from the same company that installs spy cameras, flat screens and Skype lines to ride herd on their salespeople. Where inspiration and motivation seems to be one way -- emanating from the corporate office in Atlanta.

But, it gets worse.

And I quote from their corporate memo: "This person must have a proven track record, a creative mind and tireless work ethic".

Work for nothing, have low self-esteem, hold that creative mind and work like a dog, they did not add.

They even flat out lie.

"If you have these skills and want to live in one of the finest cities in the south and work for the best run company in radio, we want to talk to you".

The finest city part is fine.

The best run company in radio -- are you kidding? I mean even a PR person couldn't write that line with a straight face.

So, let's do a rewrite (courtesy of one of my readers):

"We're Cumulus Radio and we need to replace our GSM in lovely Macon, GA. The last guy wouldn't toe the line so we're looking for someone who will. If you find yourself answering yes to the following questions we need to talk.

1. Have you always wanted to work in the exciting and growing radio industry?

2. Do you spend a minimum of 4 hours a day using Skype?

3. Do you like being told what to do rather than having your own plan?

4. Do you find filling out online sales reports fulfilling and useful?

5. Are you excited when corporate demands interrupt your local plan?

6. Did you play on your college (preferably private university) golf team?

7. Do you know what side your bread is buttered on?

You're just a Skype call away from your next dream job.

Skype me today, y'all. 1-404 POUND-SAND

PS. If you don't want to move to Macon, that's cool, we still need to enhance our position in Pensacola, Mobile, Abilene, Grand Junction, Eugene, Columbus/Starkville, Bismark, Topeka, Faribault/Owatonna, Wichita Falls, Blacksburg, Melbourne, Poughkeepsie, Danbury, and Bangor.

Hey, that guy is funny. He should get his own blog!

3. Making employees pay for their supplies.

Of course, we know that the Dickey boys are hard put financially -- that's what they tell us. So, imagine how employees feel when they have to bring their own pencils from home.

That's what some of my readers say:

"In addition to being watched and listened to...we (sales people) must provide our own supplies. Pads of paper, paperclips, stapler, highlighters, files, file labels...etc".

God, times must really be tough.

But don't feel slighted.

The Dickey boys probably bring their own business supplies from home, too. And to put a positive spin on it, you have five furlough days to beat it to Staples so you can pick up your work supplies, put it on your credit card and hit the "Easy" button through the checkout line.

4. Making local sales appointments through corporate.

That's right.

Another reader wrote:

"I just got off the phone with one of the Cumulus reps I used to work with. They found out today they are getting the webcam. She was telling me they now have to set their appointments a week in advance and send them in to corp and there's no flexibility. They're losing customers because of it."

5. Cutting back on engineering and risk a station going off-the-air.

It appears a Cumulus station went silent during the chief engineer's mandatory furlough week.

The staff couldn't call him -- after all, when the Dickey's say you're furloughed, they mean it.

The problem arose when the furloughed engineer was not answering his phone, page or whatever means of communication he had. The station was reportedly off-the-air for a long period of time -- station people standing by in horror -- helpless.

The idea that real, live, breathing employees are expendable whether for furloughs or just your ordinary firing is proving to be shortsighted. It's one thing to try and cut expenses, but it shouldn't take a Harvard grad (Lew) to understand that being off-the-air is -- well, an emergency.

Lew Dickey isn't the only misguided radio CEO -- that's for sure.

Radio One and Done followed Cumulus in short order by closing for ten half days and increasing the use of voice tracking.

These guys must all be drinking the same Kool-Aid. Maybe they swap ideas.

Radio One and Done dictates that no part-timers can be used to fill in for full-timers who are being forced to take half-day vacations. Thus, voice tracking or automation will be the surprise that loyal listeners will have because their favorite station's owner can't pay their debt.

So, if you want to see another genius move -- one that will surely build morale -- look what Radio One and Done is implementing.

Employees who are postponing vacations to help their owners operate stations on a skeleton staff will now have to either take their time off or risk losing it. They get no slack for playing nice. It's coming done to "use it or lose it".

See, I told you Lew Dickey isn't the only smart guy who is doing dumb things.

And our market leader, Clear Channel is spewing local this, local that out of every news release and meanwhile this account from Dayton reported recently that even with tornado warnings on The Weather Channel, there were blue skies smiling on seven Clear Channel radio stations there.

No mention of the dangerous weather even in a market where -- as memories serve local listeners -- many deaths occurred when a twister hit nearby Xenia, Ohio.

Just Dick Bartley playing the greatest hits of all time and other non-local fare.


Forget it.

This tornado season has been rough on radio because numerous stations have been caught with their foul weather gear down during dangerous weather. Keep in mind that the radio used to be the first place to turn in such emergencies but consolidators value voice tracking and repeater radio over local music and news.

So, there it is -- the recent crop of indignities served to listeners and foisted upon radio talent.

• No local news or weather to cover the cities of license.

• Increasingly fewer local personalities.

• Sales forces that are handcuffed into running their local sales past national big brothers in the name of efficiency.

• Spy cameras in meeting rooms and sales pits -- an obvious demeaning insult to competent adults that were lured to companies like Cumulus with misleading recruitment ads like the one I referenced earlier.

• Hardly any music discovery and virtually no local artists.

• Cutting off their noses to spite their faces -- radio consolidators are forcing employees to take time off to save money even when they shortchange their audiences and force voice tracking and syndication into their ears. They punish those who postponed vacations to help the cause by threatening to take it away if it isn't used.

• Not giving employees the tools they need to do their jobs -- hell, I'm not even talking about the lack of sales training. How about making them buy their own pencils and office supplies.

These are the games consolidators now play.

Never mind that they jeopardize the very assets that they are desperately trying to save.

No business school -- not even Lew Dickey's Harvard -- would condone these laughable tactics to run a large media company.

When radio consolidators start treating their employees with respect, giving them the tools to succeed and the freedom to do their jobs without interference, then maybe the radio industry has one more bite at a future.

But keep this petty, mean-spirited and misguided stuff up and radio owners will get exactly what they deserve.


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