When Hiring Local Costs Radio Jobs

CBS Radio President Dan Mason had to spend some money to hire TV personality and former radio dj Carson Daly to do morning drive at KAMP “Amp” in Los Angeles.

Amp – a newer version of Clear Channel’s CHR market leader KIIS “Kiss” will now pit Daly against Kiss’ Ryan Seacrest the first week in January.

It’s good. It’s local.

But wait.

If it stays good and stays local than CBS did a great job reading its local Los Angeles market. After all, Carson Daly is LA and in my opinion not Buffalo or Nashville or Philadelphia.

There are other people for those markets or as I like to say, the days of syndication are over because radio will be unremarkable if it does no more than repeat a local show designed for one market and try to make it fit all.

Over at Clear Channel Ryan Seacrest exists so that Clear Channel can fire personalities in its group to save money and send networked Repeater Radio to places it should never go. And if CBS eventually does the same thing then I take back everything I said that is good about this move.

There is going to be a big explosion next year and in spite of the fact that the three major groups will be grappling to stay afloat, that’s not the explosion I'm referring to.

Apple is expected to reveal its tablet device – larger than the Touch and smaller than the smallest laptop but this thing will be a game changer.

My friend Barry O’Brien told me recently he and his lovely wife Nancy had to live without a DVR for a week and came to realize that even media savvy people may be underestimating how things have changed. He hated watching television in real-time.

We don’t watch television – one third of America’s households record content and then time delay what we want to watch on our schedules.

We don’t read printed newspapers – that’s why they are dying off. Most people get the news all day through "reporters" called friends and Facebook and Twitter buddies who can tell us when something has happened that we might like to know. That was the job of the newspaper reporter, but newspaper reporters will have to change because their audiences have changed.

We don’t turn the radio on in an emergency even if it is free – we look to our cell phones, smart phones, iPhones or Blackberry devices. We have become the news editor. Meanwhile, radio stations have let us take their jobs because they have been firing critical employees who used to help us in a crisis.

We don’t listen to radio for school closings during snow storms – you guessed it, there is a new age workaround and it's on a cell phone.

We don’t listen to radio for music discovery. Young people listen to streaming sites, share files legally and illegally and listen to Pandora. And more ways to sample music are in the works.

And as the year ahead unfolds, the new Apple tablet will likely be a Kindle killer, PDF reader, iTunes player, video screen, movie theater, link to the Internet, a place to play with Apple apps and whatever else Steve Jobs decides to cram into it.

Radio – the original, free and mobile medium of all – is being relegated to also-ran status because radio owners have ceded their greatest advantage to mobile competition.

That advantage – the ability to employ local personalities who play local music lists and feature news, information, promotions and commerce close to home.

Even the World Wide Web isn’t really a world wide network.

Oh sure, it allows you to reach across the globe in real-time but most people find it invaluable in helping us with social networking – connection, commerce, information and entertainment on demand.

So I wonder how the heads of radio’s most powerful groups cannot see the damage they are doing by firing their successful local personalities in the name of economy.

The people who could best do content were working for radio stations and now most of them are unemployed, underemployed or serving from day-to-day at the will of CEOs who have driven their companies into bankruptcy.

CBS picked a local guy to do a local show and if it doesn’t eventually turn out to be some other market’s Ryan Seacrest, then it appears to be a shrewd move.

But let me throw out a few other ideas:

1. Every station should have 100 podcasts distributed daily – and by that I don’t mean podcasts of air content. They should be developing an under culture of personalities somewhat like what happened on FM as it was coming of age.

2. Someone please start a Boise News, Dallas Now, Philly First type mobile content that is local to the zip code. Radio companies need to create news and local content for mobile uses and applications.

3. Clear Channel brags about iHeartRadio as being radio on a phone but while it did the laziest and perhaps least it could do to cooperate with the inevitable future, it should own 10,000 separate applications using content driven by their local stations.

4. Then, monetize the 10,000 with rates higher than $5.

The power of radio is not the tower or transmitter.

It’s not the fact that it is free.

Or that it is available in just about every automobile.

The real power of radio going forward is in its ability to create mobile content separate and apart from simply broadcasting. Yes, it should continue broadcasting but not cheap, compromised national syndication and voice tracking pawned off as local radio.

Hire back the wasted talent that has been fired and put them to work on new media, podcasting, webcasting and social networking businesses that can provide a new stream of free cash flow.

Or, I will train these fine folks at my Media Solutions Lab in January and don’t be surprised if they kick your butt attracting new media advertisers going forward.

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