New Stupid (and Smart) Radio Tricks

There are so many smart radio people in this business who know what they are doing and who even help their misguided employers do the best they can.

That’s why every once in a while I have to share with you some things that are real life actions by radio CEOs that show you the gulf between the people who work for them and their bosses.

So thanks to my “repeater reporters” who expose the folly of repeater radio, feast your eyes on this:

Charging clients who help radio stations

As amazing as it seems, one of my readers told this story:

“Maybe you have written about this, but do you know what stations are charging someone who is giving them a free rock cruise? It's called a vendor fee. They want $750. Is this now a common thing?”

So now radio is like US Airways. Pay the freight for a station promotion and then you get to pay for your bags a second time -- if you know what I mean. The radio version is you pay the freight on the rock cruise and then you kickback a fee to the station you’re helping.

• No owner liked to take a radio station dark – until now

You’ve no doubt heard that Cumulus signed off an AM/FM in Louisville unceremoniously because it was an economic burden. That’s funny. Others were able to run them successfully. Good luck selling them. If the buyer doesn’t ask the question why is Cumulus getting out and trying to overcharge for these properties then they deserve to be saddled in debt of purchasing them?

Today, if a consolidator considers a radio station (or two) an economic drain, they sell them. But they can’t even wait to sell them intact. Must pull the plug and let everyone go. Is that necessary?

As one of my bitter Cumulus employees explained, “you can’t screw up a station that’s turned off”.

• The Miami Heat imitates radio

Lebron James sells seats so the Miami Heat NBA franchise fired 30 people in their sales department as they sold out that quickly. As one of my readers in the market pointed out, “Shortsighted as ad sales and sponsor sales get neglected and Miami fans are fickle.....”.

In radio, consolidators have been thinning the ranks of their sales departments for years now. Then taking away accounts and giving them to managers who get lower commissions. And did I mention sending local accounts to national headquarters to save money?

Mel Karmazin had it right: hire more salespeople to increase sales. But today, consolidators think radio will sell itself. Citadel wizard Farid Suleman wanted to thin his ranks a few years back because he argued that a lot of radio accounts renew automatically and shouldn’t require a commission be paid to the originating salesperson.

• Clear Channel upgrades station security

You may remember that Tucson police were called to keep the peace at the Inauguration Day Massacre at the Clear Channel cluster.

Now, it seems Clear Channel has gone overboard trying to make the facility stronger than Ft. Knox.

Listen for yourself:

“The ‘security upgrades’ were put into place in early to mid-2009. They started with a bulltproof glass enclosure for the receptionist's area, then kevlar around the main entry door from the lobby into the building.

Key card only entry points were added at multiple entrances, doorways and even closets throughout the building, and finally... a 16 camera CCTV system was installed with 2 of the cameras watching the parking lot, 1 watching the lobby, and the rest watching the employees.

Large flat screen TV's are now mounted in the front office and the Chief Engineer's office which display the multi-camera feeds 24/7. You can also log on to the intranet and watch the camera feeds as well.

Talk about overkill for a group of stations that run in automation most of the day. That, and the fact that very few people are even left to work there - roughly half the number that were there just 3 years ago. Empty cubicles abound.

Newer station facilities come with a similar security setup already in place, Tucson was 'catching up' with the others as a preventive measure. I know of other markets in older facilities though that have not gone to these lengths”.

There may be no job security at Clear Channel, but bulletproof glass – they've got plenty of that security.

• Ford has a better HD idea

This fall when the Edge is driven off car dealer lots, it will have HD radio in it as well as iTunes tagging. Apparently Ford is more sold on HD radio than radio CEOs who continue to program their HD channels like they are cable channels at 3 am – with unremarkable garbage.

It’s scary to think that a major radio advertiser is allowed to walk the plank with HD radio when you and I (and almost everyone else including every radio CEO) can save them the embarrassment.

HD is 20 years too late. Will not work. Will never be an asset and I’d be very concerned that a good radio advertiser is about to have a bad experience with radio. In fact, Ford is planning to advertise on HD Alliance stations which are really stations from hell with no audience.

Don’t do this to a major radio advertiser.

Let's end on a "smart" note and (surprise!) it comes from a local broadcaster -- C.J. Jones, Managing Partner of Low Country Radio:

"In February of this year my two partners and I closed on our purchase of WWJN-FM (now WLHH-FM) Ridgeland, South Carolina which covers the Hilton Head Island (market). Arbitron shows the market as #213. The facility also covers much of the Savannah metro but our mission is to super serve the Hilton Head market.

"Our programming is local, no satellite and we program the Greatest Hits of the 60's, 70's and 80's plus local news, a meteorologist and local traffic reports. As the other Hilton Head licensed stations became "corporate" they migrated to cover Savannah and basically abandoned the local market.

In our 6th month we turned a profit, in August we increased revenue by better than 30% over July and we are going into September with more revenue pre-sold than we entered August with".

And you probably won't be surprised to hear that they are currently getting more involved with the Internet and other forms of digital distribution -- must be one of my readers!

See, who says Lew Dickey has all the brains?

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