What's happened to radio?
That question consumed the radio suits- the CEO's, the consultants, the media media- gathering in Philadelphia this week.
They were (slightly) less self-congratulatory than usual. As they should be, with their industry in revenue free-fall with no bottom in sight.
There was the navel gazing, the handwringing, etc: GAP Broadcasting's George Laughlin admitted, “We looked at the 50-60% margins, and we stuck it in our pockets. We didn’t try to keep up with the other media.” Charles Warfield of ICBC said “We did not invest in our on-air talent.” Regent’s Bill Stakelin says “We’ve been out-shouted by other media, we’ve been out-promoted by other media. We’ve pulled back on marketing, pulled back on research.”
(The personal meters have helped reveal programming mismanagement, and neglect, but unfortunately, it wasn't until after the business fallen off the cliff).
“The PPM has really exposed our poor talent management over the years.” Clear Channel’s Gene Romano told the assembled radio broadcasters, “A lot of what we thought was great, we know now, really isn’t working for the listeners. And that might mean some of the talent we had been using. Now (with electronic measurement) we can see what does work, and expand on that.”
Good idea. “Talent brings people to us,” Warfield said. "It seems some people forgot that in recent
BlatherWatch has often noted that in Seattle, there's no bench for talent. nor seemingly much interest in spending the dough to develop one. Weekends and evenings are low-revenue-generating but also the place where hosts once got on-air mileage and and the chance develop as talent. Those hours with few exceptions, are all syndicated, brokered, or info-mercialed for no-risk, quick-cash
A minor exception is KIROFM who has more live and local than anyone, but who recently replaced a unique, non-political live & local evening show (TBTL) with a cheaper, old-style conservative one- Frank Shiers (m-f, 7-11p whom we hear they're paying with TBTL t-shirts and Sounders tickets).
Bonneville also replaced the moderate syndicated Phil Hendrie in the KIROFM late night slot with the irritating, unlistenable, conservative Christian-talker Alan Hunt. (This is as a move away from the longtime mixed lib/con format of KIRO to all-conservative. That's but a lateral grab for a bigger slice of a smaller pie. Seattle now has three conservative talkers- four if you count KKOL (which we don't). None are doing well).
Bonneville’s D.C. based Jim Farley said, “PPM has exposed us to a true reality of what people actually listen to.”
Introspection finished, the be-suited radio poo-pahs sopped the cocktails, sat down to the rubber chicken and awarded crotchety paste-eater Willy Cunningham (KVI Sundays, 7-10p) the Marconi Award as Large Market Personality of the Year. He made his chops in radio by always referring to the president by his middle name, Hussein, and mentioning his late mother in every show.
(Photo: Willy Cunningham given radio's highest honor)