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July 02, 2009


Bob Walker

Hang in there buddy. Once you turn 25, you'll be relevant for the next 30 years :)

Joe Benson

The eternal optimist, Eric is ...

No one said a thing about "living in the past" when it comes to "today's" radio.

The fact is this: A 24 year old who never lived with "great" radio of the past cannot learn and develop a skill-set without knowledge of the very formats (classic hits, oldies, classic rock, A/C, talk, news) that have evolved out of the "what was" from the past and can develop that into the community serving, audience knowing, technology aware facilities that we need for tomorrow just because of the "thought" of "we need more indie rock stations," "more AAA stations", more "modern rock" stations, etc. and think that will, out of "freshness," bring about a renewed life for what radio "used" to be.

Eric, as a successful past owner and programmer during those days, you know yourself that those were the days when radio was "a companion medium" -- a time people "needed" radio and wanted it, badly. Whether it was full-service MOR (which is no more, because 24 year olds don't program to 45+ audiences,) or classic country, or, well, you name it, it's not happening today because we lost touch with who we are "one-to-one" with ... and speak their language as a mass medium.

There are, first, too many stations, in my opinion. A breakdown of so many niches, the pie is split into lots of fragments than ever before and with the business of radio affected by the business of selling computers, mp3 players, satellite radio, PDA's and cellphones and texting devices, we've lost touch with target "communities" in trying to be all things to all people.

We also are surprised when the latest and greatest thing that's "new" doesn't gain the traction we need (ne: the original CBS "FM Talk" formula which flopped,) because "what's new doesn't always translate to what's wanted or needed." Not with young demos finding "their" music by downloads faster than radio stations can get them programmed ... and then we turn around and say they are "commercial free."

Gee, a lot of sense THAT makes. "Let's not telegraph the spots, but let's make them "unwelcome" in our format." Yeah, that's a business model for success.

We've forgotten, because we never trained today's breed of programmers, that there is a core from the past that "brought us to the dance," today ... and we've lost that companionship, that dynamic appeal, that knowledge and that passion ... while we still play "My Girl" by the Temptations, "Billy Jean", or any other 30 year old hit that is older than what most of our core audience is! But we don't "get it" ... that being "brand new" is not necessarily what they want, either.

We never taught that the same sweepers aren't going to make your station better than your competitor. We just "assumed" that they would make us better. They don't. Nor does 7 minute stopsets, just because a consultant said "It will make a difference."

We've gotten out of touch with our audience and we take chances in trying to chase the same target demo and lumping them in with what we "think" ad buyers ... and young ones at that ... want.

We have no clue, at times.

At the same time, there are successes in radio, still ... just, as Julian Breene, a great programmer once said, "but just not enough of them," when noting that one of his Philadelphia stations, "had its fans ... just not enough of them."

Radio has gotten terribly lazy in many ways ... from small market to big. Yes, it is about the bottom line, but just listen to a lot of stations and tell me there's an "investment" in its success there. Often, you'll agree, there isn't.

That's what we need do first, invest in our properties, in our people AFTER we train them properly (even Drake jocks did two weeks of training before they ever went on an RKO station with LOTS of experience under their belts,) and we have to moderate that investment with careful monitoring, planning, designing and implementation of doing the job well ... and right in EVERY market and EVERY station.

And by not taking "chances."

A lot of lessons we "forgot," and we wonder why listeners
forgot us.

Spin all we can about how radio will rise again ... but until we learn from the past, we'll never advance with success to the future.

Not at these overblown sales multiples, at least.

Joe Benson


I don't want to give the impression I am not aware of the business issues we as an industry face, nor do I ever want to suggest some kid off the streets can come in and know how to make a station successful. As a former station owner and programmer I am keenly aware that there are important nuances, skills, and talents which are critical to success.

No doubt this is not a playground to entertain radio wannabees, clearly this is about generating revenues. That said, so is the movie business, which is much like our own industry. There are money making formulas but the box office smashes are rooted in the Spielbergs whose passion as a kid taught him how to do great movies. Would a Spielberg be able to break into the movies today? Perhaps, though my hollywood friends tell me stories where business-only studios are driving opportunity from Hollywood, which will have a long term impact.

Radio is a business, but its the entertainment business and many of our stations have lost the ability to entertain. At least the movies advertise their own movies, we don't locally advertise our radio stations (yet we ask advertisers to do so).

This industry could thrive, not by living in the past, but understanding that there are some core principals, which can indeed increase interest in our programming, which ultimately increases our business.

One cannot effectively program without serving its community. The highest rated stations in history, the most successful billing stations in history, are rooted in the core basics of community involvement, talent,and great entertainment.

I hear from hundreds of readers and the mantra seems to be fear, boredom, lack of enthusiasm. In pre-consolidation days there was no fear, little boredom, and lots of radio employees who wanted to win, wanted to be on the air or on the streets, because they were a major part of the make up of their community and they were offering compelling content.

I don't live in the past, I don't even want to bring the past back... this is a different time, with new opportunity, and some conditions are better for radio. I do believe though that radio will be better if it focuses on what is expected of it by listeners. (Yes, thankfully there are some who still do it successfully). The side benefit is that I believe it will be wildly successful financially. (Those doing it now seem to be having strong success even in this economy).

Joe Benson

You can't teach a 24 year old to "like" 60s hits.

They like what they like, and rightfully so.

Does the "new age" of youth demos that apply to the same old "25-54" legacy as the "sterling standard" of sales success still matter? In my opinion, no. I still don't know of many 25 ear olds who think like 54 year olds and vice versa.

It's about targetting more than ever. And doing away with the traditional ... not merely doing away with "what worked in the past." Some of it still works. A car, after all, still rolls on 4 wheels. But radio has, in fact, lost its grip. It has also gotten lazy. And it lost its own branding. Just as Photoshop allowed homebased artists to become as big as any business in the quick print industry, so has the iPod, internet radio, social networking, satellite radio, mp3s, Hulu, on demand programming access, Slacker, Last.FM, Pandora and a growing list of technology improvements from Microsoft, Apple, San Disk and so much more.

We, as business people, not just radio people, let our own customers and clients ... along with our listeners ... get away with needing "the new" more than "us" because we weren't watching closely enough.

Now, the cow is out of the barn.

And we still don't have a "farm team" established to be "radio's next great thinkers." They are not just board ops or part timers on weekend all nights. They are those we want to teach the business of RADIO. Either that, or your next rich board op will be buying your radio station and not have the knowledge to run it.

He or she may be a 24 year old programming whiz now to his or her demo, but can they make any money? It's more than "formatics."

Again, we need to train about "business" ... not just artistry.

You can't take a 24 year old and make them America's next great AAA programmer by putting a stack of charts in front of them and making it work. It doesn't work that way.

And sheer passion, alone, is not what makes a good programmer, either.

It's feeling for the community, the station, its staff and it's presentation one-on-one with and to the core target and knowing its lifestyle, how it responds, how it reacts, how it feels and being a part of all they do.

That simple.

And ... it's a business, not a jukebox. If so, radio wouldn't have lost its "transitional branding" by giving up control to iPods, internet radio, satellite, CD's or even cassettes. We lost the control and now are struggling to get it back.

Out programming ourselves is not the way to do it. Serving the community is ...


Joe Benson
San Luis Obispo / Paso Robles, CA

[email protected]

Mike McCoy

I have been doing radio for 30 yrs and am still excited about what I do. My station is #1 12+ and with our target audience. I am always looking to break new programs, and get people talking about us. Does it always work no, but I keep trying, because eventually something does. I put DM Live, an all talk call-in show for young adults on the air years ago. We were the 1st commercial station in the country to put it on. It was risky on music station. But I saw the need as there are alot of people with problems and few know where to turn. But they turned to the radio as the show became #1 in almost every demo quickly. Last Fall when budgets got slashed across the board within my company. I grabbed our listener data-base, called and qualified again, then put together a listener panel of about 12 core listeners. I asked about their perceptions and how to make us better, the usual stuff. I gave them a little station trade for dinner out. I moderated myself and got some useful info, but more importantly, I acted on it. Too many times we sit on stuff we should be doing. Sometimes we just overthink this stuff. Just give people what they want! It doesn't take much to figure that out, try asking your kids, gf, Mom/Dad, and employees. Afterall we are in the communication business!

Donny Hughes

When all you hear about in our indusrty these days is doom and gloom it's refreshing to read a stimulating piece like this - without repeating what has already been said, new blood is vital to the great business of radio - without those of us left in the business who still care passionately about it actively encouraging new people and new ideas,(and reinvigorating colleagues) it will surely die. I'm certainly not prepared to let that happen - are you??

David Bannerman

It's absolutely astounding how many Radio suits are lost in 20-30 year old thinking. I would say probably 60-70% of todays programmers are so deep in simply keeping their bosses happy that they stopped programming long long ago. As one who works with new talent each and every day...it is clearly the greatest opportunity for this industry that is being totally overlooked and unfortunately our transmission is literally idling in neutral.

This new generation of talent that wants IN needs some Radio visionaries to cut them loose and invite them to the table.

Look at how many top level managers aren't even sending PD's or even themselves to programming conferences and workshops anymore... and when was the last time that you even sat in the same room with your competition and talked about our future as a medium. The TIME is NOW for a paradigm shift in what we do and how we do it. If you'd have told me even 3 years ago that in 2009, that I'd be reading my local newspaper online now every day and that I rarely if ever hold newsprint in my hand...well you get the picture. For me.. I take pride in the fact that after 30 years in the business that I clearly see it all happening right in front of me.

Great article Eric.

John O'Day

There are so many fronts where I can begin to take this one. I started in radio and the ripe old age of 17, right after high school. I like he had worked my way around the station to eventually my own show at midnight to becoming a member of the news staff. Eventually moving out of state to become news director of a station at the age of 21. Ah the good old days. That was in 1971. That opportunity though somewhat rare was not unheard of. Today, I run an internet station and teach a broadcast class at a local community center. When asked by students where to from here? I have no idea. But you are at least prepared. Most of the staff for the internet stations come from my class.

I was talking to a friend of mine who programs a former station I worked at who said that one of the syndicated programs they run is also one of their most lucrative. I with mouth opened, wonder how we let that happen?

Not to mention just how many DJ's have been replaced, (someone should do a study on that).

Needless to say corporate greed?, the chase for the almighty dollar?, versus the good will of the community we serve.

Most stations news departments are a joke, public service programming now down to a few lines on a psa card. The industry has in many ways shot itself in the foot and bleeding from the hips, versus shooting from the hips as it used to be.

I was every bit excited about radio when I was younger too, I don't see that passion anymore even from the kids I work with.

There are opportunities in this business yes, but who is going to make it accessible to those young people, and keep the people who don't know a thing about broadcasting to become the owners? (another can of worms).

But let me stop there, the time is for us to get back to doing "RADIO" and stop being dictated by the record companies to play their artists, and a few others, and start looking at treating indie artists with the same respect. Believe me we have so many indie artists out there that are just as good if not better in my opinion as what I used to get across my desk when I was programming. My ear is not dead yet.

And instead of fighting off new industries, we should try to embrace it to see how we can work together. The fight that internet radio had, is now at the front door of commercial radio, what an effective ally we could have made if we worked together.

Bob Goodman

Here's an essay I wrote that appeared in Don Barretts LA Radio.com on May 13th, 2009

HD Training Ground for Radio Beginners
By Bob Goodman, KSBR FM Mission Viejo, CA

(May 13, 2009) We live in interesting times and I believe there are always solutions if we can forget what once was. Let’s face it, the broadcast industry is just a microcosm of society and closely resembles The Big Three’s plight within the global auto industry.

When these corporate geniuses finally acknowledged they had competition for their audiences [Satellite Radio, iPods, YouTube, web radio, etc.], it was too late. Granted, Sirius / XM has also made their share of blunders like $500 million to Howard Stern, expensive licensing deals for MLB, NFL, NASCAR, Oprah, Martha Stewart etc.

But let’s face it, if you queried subscribers to Sirius / XM as to why they made an investment in hardware and subscription fees, I’m sure the answer would be pretty consistent, the musical content not Oprah or NASCAR but music.

At the dawn of the Internet, someone remarked ‘Content is King.’ That has never changed and is the sole reason why HD Radio has failed to gain traction after so many years. Content, as with food, will always win over subjective presentation quality. A poor meal or poor selection of music will still be poor, even in so called ‘High Definition.’ Do you remember the failed attempt to sell AM Stereo in the late 1980’s just when more and more stations were moving to Talk and News formats where sound quality didn’t matter? Simply put, Blue Ray will not make either Ishtar or Gigli an Oscar contender.

My solution: 500 Million Dollars can pay livable salaries to thousands of talented on air people for quite a few years and I’m certain, of those thousands, more than a few will become popular enough to sell some spots that many businesses can actually afford. Of course there will be a Superstar or two that will emerge and justify a little more in his or her paycheck, and that’s what makes this country great. But we will have gotten back to the basics and it is what this country needs to do in every industry, especially sports.

Let’s start creating tomorrow’s Superstars today by turning those two extra HD channels into training grounds for talent and new formats so we can compete with the ‘New Media.’

Scott Gilbert


Can't imagine it being said any better.

Jim Ryan

Radio should be included as a great case study in every university marketing and business program for the next 15 years. They missed the biggest "threat" within their current, dysfunctional business model (SWOT).

Radio broadcasters miscalculated the consequences of re-positioned the radio brand. They were too hellbent on out positioning their local and finite competitive set.

With the exception of news/talk, and some syndicated personalities (shows),Pandora, Slacker and certainly one's own IPod are just several examples of winning the product positioning battle. They have grabbed the very same coveted positions sought by radio broadcasters of "More Music, Less Talk", "fewer commercials", "hits from the 70's 80's and 90's", commercial free music sweeps and so on. So from this perspective, radio got "out radioed" whether your 24 or 54.

Joe Benson

One very very important thing is missing in this blog today:

It's not just about generational and transitional media.

It's about BUSINESS.

It's not about PROGRAMMING. A radio station cannot survive on the eclectic artistry of dedicated, youthful or veteran programmers ... alone.

It's today, in this economy, right here and ow about what works to ring cash registers and to make them ring often.

If it was about "artistry" ... then, every AAA station in America would be #1. Every "Modern Rock" would be so high cuming, they'd be off the charts and there would be no economic sinking in both the consumer or corporate realms.

We aren't selling and we're not selling to our clients and to our communities. It's not about "just" programming or the next "cool" idea.

Want cool? Get an iPod. Let your friends be their own PD's. You build radio station BUSINESSES or else, you will fail.

That simple.

How to do that? Call me. I can show you and anyone who says Internet radio can't make money.

It does, and it can. All you have to do is know BUSINESS and how to not sell "spots" but sell BUSINESS.

And radio stations that don't "get it" now will lose both on air and in their efforts to remain the same as they have since the 60s and 70s.

Not that those elements aren't important ... they ARE ... but not as jukeboxes. But for specific businesses and targets. For stations already on air and those who want more audience through other sources.

And it's not just about 24 year old frustrated "young people." It's about not ignoring adults. It's about not passing by the Frank Sinatra fans. Not about laughing at those who love Smooth Jazz ... a format that can't "make any money."

Wanna bet?

I'll show you how. For free? NO.

Why? It's a business ... that's why. And it works. I'll work with you every step of the way.

But you have to work -- and hard.

Would love to help you.


Joe Benson
San Luis Obispo / Paso Robles, CA
[email protected]


I hope your current boss doesn't read this - with roughly 10% of the workforce out of work, it's hard to hear disgruntled people with a paycheck.

Dave Bourne

I program a small station near 24 and frustrated, and i know exactly what he is talking about. My career started out about the same. Keep your dream. It's not always about the money, but about doing what you love! I program my station for the listening area, with local sports, local talk shows and contests. My ratings may not exist against the big boys, but we service the listeners, and they appreciate it!

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