What's It Going To Take...?

General Radio News and Comments, Satellite & Internet Radio and LPFM

Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:22 am

Creative: A Radio Fantasy

When fans of radio occasionally find themselves passing through Bison Groin, Montana, just south of Sweet Grass, on Highway 15, they make it a point to pull in to the National Radio Museum for a trot down the no-exit Memory Side Road. Besides the old RCA ribbon microphones, the 150-lb mic stands and the 16-inch turntables, one simple display generates the most excitement.

Their guide takes them into a room with four desks and four matching IBM Selectric III typewriters. “This area”, she respectfully intones, “was known as ‘The Creative Department’!” Radio fans stand quietly – totally in awe and sporting the slack-jawed countenances of the (sometimes) incredulous.

“Those were the days, my friend”, sang Mary Hopkins on The Beatles’ Apple record label. “We thought they’d never end.” But, they did end. I submit – and this is one beast of an irony – they never really got cranked up! Not in local radio, anyway. Even though it wasn’t uncommon for local, large market stations to have 5 copywriters “typin’ the hype” for a couple of producers and a dozen or more jocks, the level of “creativity” was not only suspect, but was so lacking in quality and quantity as to be resented by the writers who were kept shackled to their Selectrics.

Writing copy was more of a M.A.S.H. regimen than it was specialized surgery. The occasions when one of our writers had an advertiser that was, first of all, even willing to “try the ‘creative’ route”, were extremely limited. Completion of the writing, voicing, production and green lighting from the client were occasions for a major celebration. Everybody involved in the process got lit up pretty good, considering the rarity of such events.

Another raging irony is that some of the most creative folks I have known in the business were, in fact, copywriters. The irony lies in that their creativity didn’t show up in the copy. They were charged with cranking out endless reams of pure slog – with all the attendant and well-known clichés that continue to wreck radio commercials today.

Creative was just beyond the grasp of the “Creative Department”, as it is now. Occasionally, an extremely creative and emotionally appealing set of spots were provided to an advertiser as spec productions. And there they would, almost always, die on the vine – filed away as fine examples of the art for a future opportunity that never arose.

Meanwhile, some serious radio pundits insist the state of modern radio requires that it is the Account Executives that must be the copywriters – bypassing any optics of a station having an actual creative department. The rationale is about AE’s having more direct relationships with clients - inefficient justifications for the status quo. “Effective copy? Don’ need no stinking effective copy,” say the AE’s. This, given most sales folks wouldn’t know from effective, creative copy, even when provided by experts.

And now, a disturbingly accurate Reality Check:

The chances of radio transforming to a medium of outstanding, creative, commercial productions I put at zilch. It just ain’t gonna happen. To use another stretched-to-the-limit cliché, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in Hades that radio will make an about face and start insisting on creative Creative for the advertisers. The conversation is also unlikely to include the results generated by more positive audience reactions – as listeners and buyers - to more appealing and influential spots.

Besides, there is a step before that. This step, I believe, is necessary for radio to make any significant gains in both audiences and the more eager and aggressive participation of advertisers. There are, available right now, many strategies and methods for powerfully influencing and pleasing audiences through the written-for-radio commercial content.

It would be a fool’s fantasy to decry the amount of price/product, total content advertising that has been, not only the bane of, but the bread & butter fare delivered by radio. Product/price, another product/price, preceded by milquetoast claims of credibility and wrapped up with demands for audiences to buy, buy, buy! Polite term: “Call to action”.

Transforming basic copy is the priority. Emotional creativity would be a bonus. More powerful methods of radio have been available for decades. On-air presentations are included. They all are being ignored.

Ronald T. Robinson
Advanced Member
Posts: 1461
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 11:22 am

Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Sun Dec 09, 2018 11:35 am

Asking The Audience: Big Mistake
The argument about corporate owner/operators running so many stations in one market has been going on since consolidation started dropping poopie-bombs on the local or regional radio audiences and advertisers. When consolidation was first being championed by professional lobbyists, it was TV that was the designated, Satan-inspired culprit. The more modern vile, foul-smelling, brimstone-laden denizens are: all things digital. Same author: The Dude of Darkness.

Today, Big Radio wants even more consolidation – more market glutting. Although they don’t say so, what they really want is less competition from the players that would remain. Since lying has become a viable and, so far, sustainable strategy in the culture, they can state anything they want if it serves the agenda. Or they can say nothing at all.

Meanwhile, a few pundits argue for more “live & local” programming as the elixir that would solve many problems. “Live & local” has been touted as the poultice of which even Grandma would approve. I invite anybody to consider what the advantages could possibly be if what is already being foisted off as entertainment, information and advertising content were to be replicated on all day parts. I shudder at the wreckage that would ensue.

I am also satisfied that all levels of radio management, both corporate and local, recoil in horror in the privacy of their offices when they, ever-so-slightly, consider the ramifications of cranking up the overhead by providing even more of the drivel that is already being pumped out.

Corporate radio is operating on the promise – more like fantasy - of greater profits by disemboweling (alive) the staffs that provide the services necessary for radio to continue – “personality” programming for audiences and more effective, local commercial production for the advertisers.

So much of the meat and taters-menu has been eliminated or cut away that radio becomes weaker and more anemic. Leased crutches are required for radio just to stay ambulatory. “Have pity and provide easy-access parking”, they whine. “We are so terribly disabled and worthy of those special privileges we like to call ‘rights’!”

So distorted has the general management group become, they are grasping at any possible ledge, root or embedded rock that will stop them from plunging into the abyss. They are the first to use non-existing mind-reading techniques to gauge the needs and desires of whole chunks of their audiences and advertisers. “Audiences want this and audiences want that,” they will burble. As if.

Such extraordinary assertions are based on a couple of wild assumptions:
• Management has the exceptional capacity to know what it is that audiences want.
• Anytime any polling or research is undertaken, management is willing to accept that audience members actually know what they want and are able to articulate those wants and desires.

It was just such questionably flawed “research” that gave ownership the best excuse and justification to proceed with massive cost cutting. Audiences responded to the research with, essentially, “We want More Rock and Less Jocks!” “Wow!” said radio, ever alert, “We can do that!” Given that the Music Of The Day continues to be extremely limited and ubiquitous, the only real means of being distinct in any meaningful way – the Personalities - were taken for a ride down “Murderers Row”. The bodies are buried under adjacent parking lots.

Many in the ownership groups have been panicked to the degree where some continue in asking audiences for what they want! This only supplies an opportunity for defaulting to a position of plausible deniability of responsibility.

Radio is utterly, at any level that might come up, unwilling or unable to face, accept or execute its responsibilities, those being: The responsibility to massively expand and improve its “live” on-air presentations, and its responsibility to significantly improve its ability to generate much more effective commercial content.

Audiences are unlikely to make those requests and advertisers are also unlikely to do the same for their locally produced commercial content. Neither group is unlikely to even consider that such requests or demands might be useful or possible.

Listeners and potential advertisers do not experience night-sweats by thinking about how radio might better impact on their own circumstances. Why, then, should radio, except for its own prosperity?

Ronald T. Robinson
Advanced Member
Posts: 1461
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 11:22 am

Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Wed Dec 26, 2018 11:31 am

Same Ol’ Resolution
Mine has been a long and only occasionally arduous, radio journey. For the 16 years before my unexpected Really Big Epiphany, I had been talkin’ dirty an’ playin’ the hits with an acceptably loose set of performance guidelines. The following 30 years started with a crossing the Rubicon-experience that generated a new set of personal intentions re: Radio. These were threefold: Identify the internal aspects of radio that have continuously been sabotaging the medium, Provide the alternatives that provide greater effectiveness with audiences, and to introduce more effective methodologies to enhance the results for advertisers by providing more influential commercial copy.

For decades, I had held out the hope that radio’s leaders would consider the materials, apply some critical thinking, and proceed to make the necessary adjustments. There has always been the possibility that a few leaders would do a little independent research and begin applying some of the principles.

Based on my ongoing education and my direct radio experience in on-air and copywriting activities, I was compelled to come to so many conclusions that were absolutely contrary to so many of the traditional aspects of communicating to a radio audience. The linguistic distinctions I have been making along the way have all been tested on the air and in copy, and are also reinforced by scientific researchers including neurology and other, related fields. Any forms of “Woo-woo” have been rejected.

I admit to having continuously been stymied and aghast at the wholesale reluctance of radio’s leadership to even consider the alternative approaches that have been laid out for them – for so long. I did realize, at some point early on, that I had chosen an amazingly strenuous task in the attempt to hoe this row. I thought I was bringing these new methodologies into lush and fertile valleys featuring rich meadows of adoring acceptance. However, I was chagrined by gradually coming to understand, I had entered the valley only to find an abandoned gravel pit. Yet, I chose to scrape into barren rock anyway. (Besides, it’s what all the smart people would do.)

So, throwing myself a meager, self-serving, "pity party" with flat Cokes, mouldy pizza and stale chips becomes a worthless gesture. I could, however, drag out the ol’ Stomach Steinway and play The Woe Is Me Polka. But, I won’t. This is because there is no utility for doing so, and because it involves an accursed accordion! Thanks, Italy, for all you’ve done. (Actually, the accordion was invented in Berlin. But, people do know how lies and myths get propagated.)

Meanwhile, assuming that confession is, if not good for the soul, then an aid to digestion, I am obliging myself to being aware of my continuous and harsh criticisms of the communicative, or rather, the lack of useful communicative aspects that have been pervasive in commercial radio for decades.

My criticisms, to be more precise, have been targeted at those who have been – even if unknowingly - participating in the perpetuation of tragically limiting ideologies and attendant dogmas that are still being driven into radio’s leadership and rank and file employees. So ubiquitous have these commandments-from-the-radio-ether become, almost no one within the industry even bothers to offer up a question, never mind a challenge.

Further, a number of radio professionals – people who have credibility with me – have suggested that my comments, but mostly my approach, have been “wayyy too negative”. As a courtesy to them and with the possibility they may actually be supplying wise counsel, I have paused to consider their contentions.

Now, if I hadn’t been providing alternative strategies and methodologies to move the communicative aspects of the industry forward, I am satisfied I would be compelled to reconsider my approach.

A Chief Petty Officer barges past bridge security and hollers, “Torpedo off the port bow!” Does the officer of the deck, instead of lunging to take immediate, evasive action, pause to write the Chief up on defaulters for “insubordination”?

Therefore, my resolution for the New Year – assuming continued management and editor-tolerance, is: To continue chirping at radio’s leadership in the hope that one of them, with their capacity for objective, critical thinking intact, will consider the alternatives. Vague attempts at satire will also continue.

Ronald T. Robinson
Advanced Member
Posts: 1461
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 11:22 am

Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Tue Jan 08, 2019 6:37 am

Will More Data And Tech Help Radio?
Recently, another audience measuring system has been introduced, and with some fanfare. Well, let the bells ring out, let the trumpets blare, let the banners fly – and let the whoopee-cushions be strategically placed. The system does one thing: It measures radio listening only in late model vehicles. No in-home returns. No at-work measuring. No demographic distinctions. (Note the signs: “Snap out of it. Retreat through these doors!”)

The only necessary measurement required by individual stations in every market can be described as follows: Instead of suspiciously questionable or faulty audience measurement, a station’s sales representatives could go to the street and accurately and convincingly demonstrate superior Returns on Investment for its advertisers. All that is required is for the on-air staff to become more effective and appealing communicators, and for a copywriting staff to acquire the skills to produce more effect commercials. This is not Jungle Voodoo or Witch Doctoridge. Nor does it fall into the category of Rocket Surgery.

Accepting this (above) premise, however, does have this niggly downside: It puts the boots to, not only the validity, but the longer term utility of what, more recently, has been provided as “valuable data”. This would also include that (strongly alleged) “93 % reach” thingy.

To his great credit and as impressive to me, radio’s most excellent friend, Bob McCurdy, of the Beasley organization, has been providing stellar data about radio’s demonstrated efficacies. Were the info to be taken to the street and found to be advertiser-acceptable, improvements could, indeed, result in some significant improvements in revenue.

Further, and on a semi-regular basis, stories are being put forward where this or that advertiser is experiencing impressive returns on investing in radio. (Pick a percentage point.) Some readers may have also noted how these reports come with disclosures that the key elements always included “creative” that goes beyond the sloppy, pablumesque, banal, annoying and generally inefficient copy.

The following, meanwhile, may be such a personally experienced fantasy as to, perhaps, invoke those acid flashbacks about which we were warned in the ‘60’s.

My fantasy, essentially, my mantra and my ongoing message, is about what would happen if radio rejected the decades-long abdication of its responsibilities and its own best interests through applying a wholesale slaughter of its own, now, no-longer-available but incredibly effective resources.

Plus, and there’s always something else – radio’s ownership and management seem to be salivating, if not outright drooling over another fantasy of their own, that being: Emerging technologies, particularly of the cheapy, plug & play variety, will be arriving just in the nick o’ time to save their bacon, pull their chestnuts out of the fire and to make the next payment on the boat. (“5G is God.”)

What they forget and/or ignore is that radio, while also being a neurologically twisting, electronic medium, is also most effective as a medium when delivered and received by actual biological, carbon-based units – what we like to call “people”.

Those who are foisting the “live & local” concept are also aware of the expenses involved in taking that tack, they are also realizing how so few individuals can slip into those positions with any useful knowledge, skills or experience. “Farm teams”? That’s just another vaguely remembered, weird concept.

On-air personnel and crafters of the “creative” are going to have to be thoroughly retrained and introduced to audiences and advertisers. That is to suggest that standard returns on investment really aren’t that useful – not to get anybody’s attention. What are needed are spectacular returns on investment! (Accept no substitutes.)

While the standard-issue and generally accepted whine is that: “The internet killed radio.” The truth is closer to: Radio saw a beast in the distance, lay down, cowering, grew hungry and thirsty – and fearful of getting wiped out.

To be sure, radio is a medium that is utterly dependent on communications that are written and delivered by humans. The whippings in the public square have decimated the ranks and have provided sufficient examples of “pour encourager les autres” (to encourage the others).

I am reminded of Tom Petty’s 2002 release of “The Last DJ”. The culling of radio’s talent had begun more than a decade before. So, whaddya gonna do now?

Ronald T. Robinson
Advanced Member
Posts: 1461
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 11:22 am


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