The Legacy of Radio’s Less is More

Clear Channel President John Hogan’s claim to fame is the slogan “Less is More” which back in the early part of the decade was supposed to mean fewer commercials, shorter commercials – hell, anything Clear Channel wanted it to mean.

It was a big flop as even they know now. (If they don’t, they should ask their sales execs and market managers).

But we can’t just blame Clear Channel for less is more.

Most other consolidated radio operators operate under the same assumption and the reason for that is that less costs less and that’s what radio is all about now.

My Sunday New York Times got wet before I could retrieve it this past week. You’d think the Times would be happy that I pay for a printed paper I don’t read (I read it online like most of you do). But I am romantically attached to the Sunday Times so I keep buying the print version.

Now the Times sends me a letter wrapped in one of the weekday issues like a dead fish telling me that from now on if a paper isn’t delivered for whatever reason or it gets wet and I need another, they won’t be replacing it.

I can get a credit by calling in, but no paper.

What’s telling is that they remind me that I can read that day’s New York Times online. How stupid. I’m doing that AND paying them for a paper I don’t really need and when I get my iPad I really won’t need it. Don’t tempt me.

You see, less is more.

That idiot running Ryanair in Europe is actually thinking of charging passengers to use the bathroom (swipe a credit card and go). The airlines are leaders in less is more. That’s why they charge for basic services and comforts like pillows and checked bags instead of a real price for flying on an airplane.

Southwest doesn’t do that.

Southwest is all about less but they don’t tell customers they are going to get more. They tell you you’re going to get less by paying less.

There is a new study out by Nielsen that says 79% of users would no longer access a website that charges them -- that’s making the assumption that they could get the same info for free.

Who don’t know that!

Free or paid?

I’d take free, how about you?

However, when I can’t get what I want for free and I really want it, then I’ll have to consider paying.

This brings me to my passion that is the transition from traditional to new media.

You know all those many local radio personalities out there who have a following but no radio station at which to work?

They may be able to charge micropayments for podcasts, blogs and websites. That is assuming the personalities are unique enough that the audience does not want to live without them.

I have a hard time convincing people this early on that this is exactly what is going to happen.

Howard Stern will be resigned by Sirius XM -- both parties need each other and the money is still better than Howard can get elsewhere. John Hogan doesn’t really want him. He just wants to drive up the price Mel Karmazin is going to pay by saying Clear Channel would love to have Stern.

Stern is a personality who could make money charging reasonable micropayments and if he didn’t overdo it, he could also have promotional money coming in not in the form of commercials but tie-ins.

So, you ask – how can a radio personality make radio-type money charging micropayments? It’s all in the numbers and how addicted their fans are.

But there is also a free model (I knew you’d like this one better).

A former radio personality does a 30-minute daily podcast for free, rebuilds the lost audience but does few or no commercials – after all, digital listeners are funny about putting up with commercials. Remember, they want what they want when they want it and don’t want commercials.

Then, this same personality does a once a year concert, event, convention, gathering where fans pay, sponsors pay and money flows in.

In the past, radio was a simple and effective model.

You listen to programming content and put up with commercials. The commercials pay for the personalities and content (and debt service).

But now, there is a new model developing.

Use new media to assemble your audience, grow it virally through social networking (and I’m not talking about simply using Twitter and Facebook).

Deliver the content on devices that your fans prefer – consider charging micropayments as one alternative or doing an annual paid event that assembles your fans and sponsors and allows you to go commercial-free the rest of the year.

Oprah can do it.

Dr. Drew Pinsky can do it.

But local personalities can also do it.

The future of what used to be broadcasting is a totally new revenue model and a changing delivery system.

What doesn’t ever change is the talent, but fortunately you’ve got that already because talent knows no boundaries such as transmitters and towers.

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