Commodity Radio Kills Off Joey Reynolds

WOR in New York finally succumbed to change they can count on – like literally, count the savings.

They fired Joey Reynolds, the Hall of Fame broadcaster who actually entertains listeners. His show was available to other stations nationwide on the WOR syndicate. Now it’s all over as of April 2.

Over the years I have found owner Rick Buckley is a good guy.

I worked for him in Philadelphia. He’s a remnant of the old mom and pop radio days.

Buckley inherited the company when his father died and has in a lot of ways kept it a family operation. Joe Bilotta, a guy who goes back to my days working for Buckley in Philly, is still with Rick. That says a lot.

But the sun, the moon, the planets and repeater radio were all in alignment for Buckley to make the decision to let Joey Reynolds go from his all-nite perch. Reynolds has many fans and was skillful in ways a lot of personalities are not. More on that in a moment.

So, when Citadel’s WABC cut George Noory’s Coast to Coast loose recently in favor of its own repeater radio brand Red Eye Radio with Doug McIntyre, Premiere’s “Coast to Coast” lost its number one market affiliate.

You can only imagine the fast talking Clear Channel (owner of Premiere) did to make this deal with Buckley. Not to mention no production costs, salaries, benefits.

Plug and play radio.

WOR is saying all the right things like, “We love Joey and wish him nothing but the best for the future,” at the same time they were ending his future.

After all, in the era of commodity radio, who needs live personalities when you can rent-a-radio station from one of the big program producers?

Then cut costs.

Monetize it at cheap rates.

And there you have it, commodity radio.

It’s happening everywhere. But when it happens in New York, the largest market in the country and in the world, you know the radio industry is in for a troublesome change ahead.

Joey Reynolds didn’t do on-air phone listener calls.

That was the so refreshing.

Radio phone calls are 99.9% boring.

The same people.

The same issues.

Long-winded and well, just plain boring. Reynolds was the entertainer and that’s as it should be. Howard Stern is perhaps one of the best interviewers in radio and when it is done in person, Stern’s interviews are the best.

Same with Reynolds.

In-studio guests, no phone, no satellite hookups.

Hey, who talks on the phone anymore anyway (at least in your demographic target)? That’s why we have Facebook, Twitter, texting and on and on.

When WOR was the powerhouse of New York in the 50’s and most of the 60’s, they didn’t do phone calls. In fact, WOR was a very personal radio station. From their lips to your ears.

That changed in the decades that followed.

All the promos were added with the accompanying hype and soon WOR sounded like any other station in town. WOR still has a local personality stable of talent, but they also feel the pressure of having to cut costs.

And let’s not forget this.

When radio was king, the number one station in every market rarely if ever maintained or advanced ad rates so that the rest of the market could support growth for radio industry rates.

As a result, the industry ate itself to death and now big buyers walk in with orders that are written at rates they want to pay, not the rates that it takes to buy commercials.

So here were are – personalities are being fired left and right whether the genre is music, news or talk. Owners are feeling the financial heat of trying to turn around stations that are increasingly unremarkable.

Commodity radio is unremarkable, cheap programming that allows owners to run their transmitters on a shoestring and accept ad money from big national advertisers at rates of their choosing.

Local advertisers are smarter.

They are abandoning ship already because the local radio account exec that they like either can’t get out of the station’s cold calling pool to service them or there isn’t any account exec at all.

I’m sick to death to have to say this industry has no future. But I can guarantee you that the reason things are so insane is because broadcasters (which equity owners are not) know how to do radio that will attract audiences.

The equity owners have a different idea.

They want to keep the stations warm – keep money coming in at whatever rates they can get – with the fewest live bodies as possible.

Then, they will wait until the suckers line up to buy their stations – the same well meaning people like you and me who think we know how to appeal to listeners again – take the money, generate fees and make a cottage industry out of selling the very stations they’ve run down.

Say it ain’t so.

But it is.

And we got another reminder of it when commodity radio struck again in the nation’s top radio market with the firing of a personality that could have made a difference.

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