'Tis the season to be downsized falalalala....
So what else is new?
In most cases revenues continue to stay flat or decline, listener attrition rolls on, and radio companies continue to appropriately trim staffs to stay profitable. Yes, I said appropriately. That is how business is done. Lower revenues means reducing costs and in radio that means fewer people since you can't turn off the transmitter to save money. At the same time all this downsizing is going on we need to be tackling our most immediate problem--what is the next big exciting programming advancement we can make to spark increased interest in the radio industry? We need to be at the pinnacle of creativity right now; figuring out how we are going to remain a great entertainment medium in the years ahead. As fewer and fewer people have a radio station to go to every day, those still employed have less time to veer away from the tasks at hand and try something new. Some will suggest there is creativity out there and I would agree, but it's hard to argue that it is enough to change our course. Most times these days, creative time is short and turns out kinda dull.
Our industry is in its most precarious spot since the death of the live orchestra and soap operas in the radio studio. Back in those days, as the history books recount it, radio got lucky and discovered it could play records with a disk-jockey in between announcing the records. It's been the model ever since. Sure--it has changed, morphed, niched, etc since that time but it's still a song then a voice (many times "that big voice guy") and some commercials. This time, it probably won't be as easy.
We have focused the chatter so we never give a listener a reason to think we talk too much. In some instances we have allowed the PC police to neuter controversial content for fear someone might notice. We have trimmed the entertainment value of our radio stations right along with the head count.
Let's look at the recipe:
1 part less people
1 part less cutting edge entertainment
1 part less risk taking
1 part old thinking
1 part fear of what's next
Bring ingredients to a boil and let simmer. Serve with a side of New Media.
What is the solution? That's a tricky brew. A lot of what has transpired in the radio industry is not of its own making (on demand, I want it when it want it, thank you) and some of it is (on-demand--not doing enough of it soon enough). The voices of creativity must be let back in the room. Listening to what they have to say in not enough. An action plan must be created, it must be appropriately funded, and it must be given enough time to be successful. A dream world? Maybe.
When do the declines stop? Nobody really knows for sure or if they ever will. What I do know is that there are a lot of smart people in the business and if given the chance will get creative and come up with news ways to capture an audiences attention.
Later today or tomorrow people are not going to stop listening to the radio. The end is still a good ways off in the distance. But, time has a way of catching all of us. One day we are innocent kids in the first grade and before you know it you are sending your own kid to the first grade. Let's figure it out, sell it through, and get it on the air and on-line...maybe even on-demand.