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

Postby pave » Sat Jan 19, 2019 10:22 am

Radio’s Crippling Reluctance
I wonder who else remembers when adding a quarter ton of reverb into the microphone audio chain was considered a groovy and powerfully influential move. Speeding up the tunes 2 or 3 percent was, for the time it takes to grow a field of beans, considered an equally powerful and manipulative strategy to excite the minds of listeners.

The fix we did celebrate, however, was how a combination of “compression” and “gating” was used to construct “duckers” – a tool that allowed the jocks to talk over song intros and extros without having to overwhelm the microphone VU’s. We could whisper or holler without dumping the pots on the tunes. Wonderful. What a mix! (This was before radio deferred to audiences objecting to the practice, complaining that the jock’s voice interrupted or interfered with their recording of the music – an illegal practice, anyway.)

It should also be pointed out that (maybe) half of the creativity being demonstrated by the on-air performers occurred during the playing of the intro's and extro’s. Hitting multiple “posts” became an integral part of the art. Not that the Big Heads in the industry made the distinction, but this practice is what integrated the jocks and the tunes, and made the radio station sound wonderfully seamless.

Meanwhile, valiant and valid attempts are continuing to be made to increase the proficiencies of radio sales departments. Inquiries continue in the area of gathering more credible ratings. Further, efforts to collate valuable data that supports the efficacies and efficiencies of radio as a worthy advertising medium also continue. All of these efforts are more than laudable. They are necessary!

Indeed, the (above) efforts are consistent with any organization that needs to improve revenues. Even though the strategies are made up of a patchwork of this or that effort and may keep the industry limping along, there is still that matter of radio’s gaping, sucking chest wound – the one that may, ultimately, overwhelm much of the medium.

How many PD’s, I wonder, are educated and experienced to the degree where they can take their severely limited number of charges into a room and declare: “Here they are, folks – brand new methods for us to clean up our on-air delivery practices and totally new and more effective strategies for not only communicating to our audience, but for making our commercials more appealing and more effective!”

Any PD unable to make that announcement confirms the notion: A massive amount of work is yet to be done.

It’s as if the industry is paying more attention to rearranging deck chairs, patching up worn and tattered sailcloth and buffing up the bright work than it is in addressing generations of barnacles on the hull and, most importantly, the huge, expanding gouge below the waterline. While the pumps are being run full time, they could also burn out at the least convenient moment.

Whatever time, resources and efforts that are being put forward are primarily for the sales group while some attention is being paid to platforms other than radio, and whatever techno-gizmos are being foisted in the market place.

Radio, for the most part, abdicated its opportunities and obligations to improve the spoken word elements of communicating some decades ago. Yet, this is the only clearly identified element over which stations and or organizations have complete control!

What has become a solid and sordid behaviour of radio has been, even greater than its failure to address the communicative aspects of the business, but its intransigence to even consider the alternatives. Radio is not only unwilling to discuss these matters, it is haughtily and assertively militant in rejecting them as unworthy of any consideration at all.

I urge anyone concerned to consider (there are others) the following:
• Is radio a Direct - “one-to-one” – or an Indirect medium?
• Do speakers on the air – live, voice tracked or in commercials – have any actual authority to make demands for behaviours?
• Do the purposed use of adjectives and adverbs influence an audience?
• Are sensory-based words of any solid benefit?
• Are different verb tenses having any influence on audience members?

If the responses are, “I dunno,” and/or, “Who cares?” - the hole in the hull is being ignored.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 11:22 am

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

Postby pave » Mon Jan 28, 2019 4:01 am

Which Is More Effective – Content Or Process?
As memory serves and to my addled-by-radio mind, the following has never been the subject of a conversation, a serious discussion, or a knock down, drag ‘em out argument in the parking lot. It wasn’t until I got schpucked by that truck, the results of which gave me supernatural powers and an intellectual headache that lasts to this day, did I begin paying attention to the particulars of how, specifically, we were communicating to our audience.

Now, before anyone gets a little antsy while expecting a test and a requirement to make a decision, please appreciate that both of the elements are necessary. Only one usually gets left at the side of a lonely road with its thumb out.

Years ago, and I mean many years ago, radio’s position on advertising was spelled out to me. Of course, based on my months of experience, I accepted it fully and for the years that followed, I held it close to my bosom. This, more or less, was it: “We (radio) produce commercials that list products, services, benefits and prices. After that, it is up to consumers to decide on which businesses they want to support.” Nifty, huh?

I submit that very premise continues to this day – usually unarticulated, but still ingrained in the radio culture. If only that’s all there was to it.

In the meantime, other, far more sophisticated producers of advertising had figured out decades ago that, to be effective, they had to produce advertising that contained much more than “content”. They had to provide advertising that was influential! And that required paying attention to “process” – those elements of communication that go far beyond generating a list of products/services/benefits and pricing.

Astute readers will have, by now, noticed that sophisticated producers of advertising spend a minimal amount of time and/or space on the advertiser’s content elements. And yes, clients do tend to go ape-snake crazy when their widgets just barely show up or are mentioned in so many ads.

“Where’s the product list?” hollers the frustrated advertiser. “I want the price points hammered!” they blurt. The more aggressive auto dealers demand, “I want them (customers) to know if they don’t buy – they die!” They sometimes add, “I pay for yelling and selling!”

Stations’ sales reps serving local markets are in vulnerable circumstances and, by and large, are forced to defer to the whims and demands of local advertisers. Most of the reps take this to be standard operating procedure, and really, don’t mind at all. This is because most station reps are completely unaware of any alternatives. Besides, who needs the hassle?

The Process is about generating influential advertising, and the process is multi-faceted. Learning, understanding and applying Process is no instant undertaking. Nor is it a plug & play gizmo that can be downloaded.

It only makes sense to begin appreciating how a combination of Content and Process is required to take radio advertising to the next, necessary level. I emphasize “necessary” because to do otherwise will only serve to keep radio in the position it currently occupies – last in advertiser desirability and, for too many advertisers, a nuisance buy.

I acknowledge the many professionals in radio, particularly those in sales management, who recognize and bemoan the astonishing lack of dynamic and more effective spots available to them at the local levels.

The first and, granted, simplistic approach to more effective radio can be shown as:
• Gain audience attention.
• Generate and maintain an emotional response.
• Introduce product or service.
• Influence an audience to make the purchase.
The Process, therefore, is about how to, specifically, construct the communications elements that will deliver on those four (above) elements.

Content and Process work in concert. The more accurate and useful representation would be:

Content + PROCESS = Influence. (Accept no substitutes.)

Given that radio, almost pervasively, is missing one of those elements, it should come as no shock that radio, generally, is also missing out on the opportunities to generate even greater influence. And revenues.

Further, it might be reasonable to consider how the ROI’s radio does enjoy from time to time are, simply, not enough to generate greater prosperity! We’ve gotta be mo’ better.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 11:22 am

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

Postby pave » Sat Feb 02, 2019 8:44 am

What Does “Live & Local” Really Entail?

The challenges confronting any station considering taking the “live & local” route are many, and they are significant. Having a “live” presenter occasionally making local geographical references or promoting local events is no panacea for the indifference demonstrated by so much of a local population. Rather, I believe such an approach would be an embarrassingly weak form of pandering. Large portions of potentially loyal audiences tend to respond poorly when they are being treated like bumpkins.

Cold spaghetti, church socials get better coverage on Facebook. “Maude’s Bake Sale For The Rehabilitation Of Scrawny Cats” has a better chance of making it on the air as a worthy programming element - only because of the entertainment value.

For the most part, existing “live and local” presenters have already had their personalities – if they ever had one – bludgeoned out of them or rendered anemic because of massive music sweeps and intolerable phusterclucks of poorly-produced and annoying local spots. So, when, exactly, do they get to practice their craft?

Now, I do realize I am writing this in an age where reason, logic and rational, critical thinking have become less-than-desirable elements. If it is not expedient or satisfying to apply these options, they get shuffled closer to the dumpster.

Further, since the “live & local” thingy has been kicked around for a number of years, astute readers will note how there has not been a head long lurch into applying the concept. (The fear of the results of such arbitrary decisions, including all the accompanying expenses, can do that.)

As a number of operators have already concluded, “live & local” sounds great over a liquid lunch. Keener considerations, however, are much less appealing. The claim can be made that: “live & local” is no plug & play application. Indeed, the “live & local” concept, to be effective, requires a set of companion pieces. Before “live”, uneducated talent is unleashed, here is what should happen:

• Long form music sweeps will have to be eliminated. This must be understood. With a very few possible exceptions, the majority of local stations are not the only go-to sources for groovy tunes. Further, I would inquire of any local station owner that has a hold on a given music format, “What is the confidence level of being able to hold on to that position?”

• The colossally brainless commercial Phustercluck Phormat will have to be broken up; the strategy trashed and burned to ashes. Shamanic chants and rituals must be performed to ensure it stays dead - forever. What this means is: Local performers will be on-the-air for longer periods – and more often. (Anybody freaking out, yet? That would be a reasonable response. But, wait! There’s more!)

For the benefit of the few readers that haven’t already peeled off, here is what else has to happen if “live & local” is to be a successful enterprise:

• Those already-employed presenters, new recruits and anyone involved in the writing of local commercials will – equally - have to be dragged off to a relatively short boot camp and trained in the science and art of communicating effectively to a broadcast audience.

• Although impossible, that really should happen before anybody cracks a microphone or scribbles a piece of copy. Exposing more uneducated and unskilled “live” performers loose on the air constitutes a cruel punishment – on audiences! On-the-job training is necessary, but still dangerous. So long as the principles are being introduced, it will be a clumsy exercise. But, only for a while. Improvements are assured.

Generally, commercial, music-radio is such an obscenely underutilised and crippled medium that passers-by avert their gaze, what with the open wounds and the tattered and soiled bandages. That is, unless they are with a competing medium. In that case, they are delighted to kick out a few crutches. Radio desperately needs to be taken through a “concussion protocol” because it is staggering around and can no longer identify a Tuesday.

Radio, I suspect, will continue surviving in some form or other. Almost all of the managers who are reading this piece are likely to reject the premises out of hand and without consideration. I only lament that radio’s fortunes will be getting even worse before any corrective actions are taken. More deregulation? Serving audiences and advertisers? Puh-lease.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 11:22 am

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

Postby pave » Sat Feb 09, 2019 10:13 pm

What Other Media Finds Unacceptable Is ‘Normal’ For Radio

My continuous wail that: “Commercial music-radio doth, truly, sucketh large.” is likely as welcome as a recurring toothache – one that originates and travels up from the buttinski regions. I accept that many readers would aggressively disagree with the premise. Thing is, though: I have yet to find anyone in ownership or management who is willing or able to articulate a cogent, contradictory argument.

A short while ago, I commented: “When a couple of the bankrupted biggies demonstrate some success at gaming the system, other, even astute observers are still getting down with their version of ‘The Yahoo-Wowie Boogie’. Huh?”

“Dodging a bullet is cause for celebration, certainly, but the hoopla of the party tends to take the considerations of what comes next right off the agenda. Radio, I suspect, is still more concerned (understandably) with its own survival and the continuation of executive compensation.”

“At no time, has anybody with authority and credibility been able to articulate how radio’s basic services will be improved – certainly not to the degree where it can crawl out of the basement position it currently holds because of the ongoing deliverance of shoddy on-air and local, creative services. Radio’s ownership groups can be castigated for also having positions of: ‘Let ’em eat cake’.”

To the contrary, a number of commentators with credibility are digging in and insisting, essentially, that: “The way it was is the way it is because that’s how it needs to be.” The sincerity of such assertions is staggering. Even some cults are a bit less strenuous.

In a world where fewer and fewer held-positions on so many assorted matters make less sense at all to us regular folks, radio has been able to stay as it has been – sticking itself with programming and spot-making strategies that have been demonstrated to be significantly less than effective. That’s an oldie – hardly a goodie.

Further, those of us involved in radio are surrounded by a multiple of other media and platforms. Since their inceptions, most have been continuously making improvements in their products and services. Some, gawd forbid, are even applying the “E” word. That’s right, experimentation! And who saw that one coming?

Radio, however, is like a duck sitting on a mud mound – guarding whatever turf it can still maintain while pecking away at whatever grains get blown through within the proximity of its bill. Radio’s apologists, meanwhile, continue to incessantly quack out all the attributes of its super-duper medium – of which, by the way, there aren’t that many. Those there are might include: A still semi-decent reach and an occasionally satisfying ROI for some advertiser or other.

What with the bones of cruelly dispatched copywriters lying bleached out in the desert, having been picked clean by carrion crows eons ago, larger chain owners continue to ruthlessly decimate whatever of the “live” presenters are still cowering in the hallways – casually plinking them off as the varmints and so easy targets-of-opportunity they are.

The writing for radio has been on the wall for an extremely prolonged period. Unfortunately, it seems to be written in Swahili, ‘cause, as The Bard of Stratford once proclaimed “Forsooth! Ain’t nobody gettin’ the message.”

It could be argued that getting radio’s leadership to begin acquiring the pertinent knowledge and to start applying the information to the improvement of radio’s products and services would be more difficult than getting “Mitch” to bring a reasonable bill to the Senate floor. There might be some equivalencies, anyway.

Meanwhile, as podcasts are becoming more popular for certain segments of the audience, I wonder if radio’s leadership has realized that their audience is much more inclined to a more casual listening experience - one that doesn’t require full, dedicated attention over longer periods. Radio, at one time, always flourished best when it was fluctuating from just above or just below the conscious awareness of any given listener.

Radio has been the only medium where people can be doing other things while they were enjoying the broadcasts. Try that with any other medium and accidents and charges are likely to ensue. Still, the premise that whatever radio finds to be “normal” is utterly rejected by the management of all other media – stands. Indeed, Baba Ron has spoken.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Mon Feb 18, 2019 9:40 am

The New Rule Of ‘You’
The importance of how, specifically, we communicate to our audiences - both on-air and through commercial copy – cannot be overstated. It can, however, be underrated – as it is. Recently, a number of pundits have joined the conversation. I suppose that could be refreshing, except they are engaging to reinforce the accepted traditions that have become Radio Dogma.

In his defense of “YOU” as the most effective element, one of the apologists trotted out a number of well-known examples of where the “You” was applied. This is hardly impressive as, through time, there have been no known, understood or broadly applied alternatives!

There has been, and continues to be, only one Rule for You: “Use it as often as possible – to the exclusion of all others!”

Some of us go back far enough to remember Brylcream’s “A little dab ‘ll do ya (you).” (I was cooler - a Wildroot man.)
“Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun.” – Doublemint Gum
Mickey D’s “You deserve a break today.”
“Nationwide Is on Your Side.” – Nationwide Insurance

Now, I absolutely cherry-picked those four examples to make an important, complex and separate neurological distinction: All of those lines, and many others, were not spoken. They were sung! Listeners are far more likely to process those as indirect references and not necessarily targeted at any particular listener! With that distinction in mind, the “You” is indeed, appropriate and maybe even effective.

Notably, in many TV and other visual presentations, a character being displayed in the video already represents the you. If there is a “vicarious association” on the part of the viewer – all the better. Assurances, however, are not provided.

Print ads, again, because of their unique, neurological impact are open to exemptions from The New Rule of You – but only if the targeted “You” is accepted by the reader. I am also reminded of Uncle Sam’s recruiting posters: “I want YOU!” The emotionalism of the times was already deeply seated.

The danger, meanwhile, of radio’s far-flung and ubiquitous use of YOU is the result of a of: A failure to consider the matter at all, thereby risking audience rejection on a grand scale.

Beasley-biggie, Bob McCurdy, quotes ARF’s CEO Scott McDonald.
“We’ve taken targeting too far in terms of effectiveness and ethics,” said McDonald. “At a time when technology is enabling marketers to inch ever closer to one-to-one marketing, one of the industry’s most highly respected institutions suggests that this “Holy Grail” may not be all it’s cracked up to be. The Advertising Research Foundation warns marketers that excessive targeting can lead to lower-than-expected ROIs, a poor customer experience, and potential damage to a brand’s reputation.” And that’s from guys who are swimming in deep pools of credibility.

Creators of You-based radio advertising fail to appreciate they are, practically, assaulting members of their target audiences. The ads, by targeting their audiences – personally – are guilty of the following:

• They assume a personal connection between a speaker and a single audience member.
• They tell them what that individual is thinking.
• They tell them what they want.
• They tell them what they need. And if those weren’t enough of an onslaught,
• They tell them what to do. They actually demand behaviors! All of these shabby examples of non-influential, radio communications are being facilitated with the application of Second Person Singular – the horribly toxic and tainted “YOU”.

Plus, and here is an irony: It’s all so unnecessary! Here is an extremely distorted mind exercise to demonstrate the point, and I urge readers to participate with full attention. I might say:
“Even a box of breakfast cereal can remember a time when it was close to a body of water, noticing any colors and movement, while becoming more fully aware of the ambient temperature and any sounds in the environment. It can also recall the feelings that were part of the experience.”

Anyone who read that carefully had no choice but to go through the process of recalling an experience that related only to them – personally. That process (Transderivational Search) has to happen if an individual is to understand the meaning of the provided sentences. I repeat: No choice.

So. The New Rule of YOU is:
Don’need no stinking “YOU”.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Wed Feb 27, 2019 6:18 pm

The Bobby Bones Advantage

First off, my apologies to Bobby for using his good name as “click bait”. But, his circumstance is still consistent with my linguistic propositions as they apply to those personalities that have the benefit of working in an ensemble environment. Bobby’s “bones” are, of course, made.

Before introducing our subject, we young students in Miss Tesky’s Speech Class always made it a point to molest the first dangling preposition to which we were confronted. We would say something like: “The topic I have chosen to speak on is: ‘Vicarious Association’.”

Public Speaking, by the way, for almost all the kids, including myself, was a prime, projectile-vomiting opportunity of which many of us took full advantage. (I used to suffer terribly from that very phobia, but that’s a separate, exciting and revealing story, especially for a Radio/TV guy.)

As to the subtly identified “Bobby Bones Advantage”:

During his radio show, Bobby enjoys the company of a wrangy bunch of talented ne’er-do-wells every time he hits the air. Those marvelous personalities are bantering back & forth with each other on a continuous basis. Regular listeners know who these folks are and are ready for whatever comes out next.

Now, here is a kicker: Very seldom do the personalities direct their comments to anybody in the audience. They are mostly speaking to each other! As the premise applies to the audience, we can, pretty much, forget about assuming any “one-to-one” communications with an unknown member of that audience are taking place.

As any regular readers can confirm: I have been ranting about how radio works best as an indirect medium. When Bobby and the folks are communicating with each other, the audience is picking everything up by processing what they are hearing – indirectly - with nobody in the audience being reached directly. This process is called “Vicarious Association”.

Every other morning show with multiple performers bouncing off or falling all over each other also enjoys the vicarious association phenomenon – knowingly or not. It is still unlikely they exploit the situation with the many linguistic distinctions that are available to them – for the benefit of audiences, for the benefit of each other and for the overall benefit of the show.

Yet, I am still required to acknowledge that a massive dose of multiple radio talents on the same show does tend to overwhelm any needs to address the annoying, linguistic distinctions I have been promoting here. But then, Big Shows still cost big bucks.

The breakdown of the indirect and the flaws of the direct approach approach become much more critical when a single performer is on the air – voice tracked or “live” in other day parts. Those are the poor devils that are hung out to dry while bearing the burdens of the vaunted and required “one-to-one” mandate. Applying the traditional direct process on the air cripples the single communicator and assaults every member of an audience. It is a seditious piece of business that infects everything about a performer’s communications. And it is pervasive.

Radio’s alert pal, Bob McCurdy, a grand fromage with Beasley’s sales department, is continuously providing reams of material to assist other sales executives with their marketing and positioning endeavors. Programmers, talent and copywriters, on the other hand, are left in the lurch either to fend for themselves or, more abjectly, do what they are told. Anybody chewing at the edges of taking on any form of “live & local” is urged to reconsider.

Most senior on-air staff and all new hires have yet to be equipped to, not only handle the greater responsibilities of being on the air more often and for longer periods, they are also missing the skills to be more effective.

Bobby, and his boys ‘n’ girls have been provided with what every radio show needs – big bundles of shared talent and acquired skills. Those radio outfits engaging at this level are to be commended. The rest, for whatever reasons, can’t or won’t replicate the strategy. This is not as a result of a lack of imagination or character, but rather a result of having some grasp on fiscal realities and the potential of risks that have yet to be fully calculated.

Besides, the guy is a hoofer. He can dance! Advantage: Bobby!

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:32 am

Radio’s ‘Buggy Whip’ Approach

Radio communication is considered, I believe, by a huge majority of broadcasters to be a nebulous and “iffy” Art, and a closed Science. Radio people will assert that everything that needs to be known about radio advertising/communication is already known, and those pesky, creative weenies need only be pandered to, patronized and shuffled off to a dank and poorly lit cubicle somewhere in the back.

I am reminded of a time when the field of Optics was considered a closed Science – everything that needed to be known about making lenses was already known. That’s when a guy came along and said, “This is called a ‘laser’. I wonder what we can do with this!” And that’s when optics exploded into whole new realities and possibilities.

Recently, a commentator suggested – with strong support from peers – that what radio copywriters needed to do was: Become familiar with the work of mid-20th century ad writing wizard, John Caples. His work was that of a Print ad copywriter. The commentator encourages modern copywriters to learn the methods of Caples and to overlay them onto radio!

Hence, now we are forced to be dealing with a “C’mon, man!” moment. Given all the modern neurological research and that of the last decades, the assertion to model ancient print approaches is akin to representing old-time, tent revival rantings as functional communications! This is absurd! But, the base still seems to hang on. Whether out of desperation or not, I don’t know. But, I have deep suspicions.

Accepting a model of print communications and applying it to radio delivers extraordinarily inept copy that is produced and foisted off to advertisers, and at the expense and annoyance of audiences on an every day basis. This, I submit, is the case at local and corporate stations everywhere.

I repeat: This strategy speaks to the rules that were developed before WWII, and became dogma in the days of pervasive print, posters, bill boards, newspapers, magazines etc – essentially, an electronic-free advertising environment. The distinctions that many observers and participants fail to make, yet still maintain as gospel are the ones between the different brain accessing properties of print and electronic media.

Each medium has a different neurological impact and, as such, the “rules” need to be addressed and updated for electronic media. All messaging and advertising do not qualify as worthwhile and effective in the same ways or across all media or platforms. This is no trifling matter, and an appreciation of that distinction is a good place to start before differences, exceptions and subtle but powerful nuances can be appreciated and applied.

Meanwhile, I read recently where a radio pundit essentially declared that: The issue is more about what you say than how you say it. When I read that, I had to check for a pulse – mine! Print (and radio) ads are, often, no more than info-dumps – the what. A well-photographed vegetable comes with copy that reads: “Broccoli. 3 for a dollar.” The delivered flyers are rife with that. And for good reason: That’s all that is required. If the produce looks good in the ad, and if the price is right, vegetables will be sold.

What, I wonder, would be the result of a well-crafted radio ad.

“With supper time approaching, there is time for families to enjoy the taste, nourishment and freshness of….here it comes: Broccoli! Now at Friendly Fred’s Food Mart.
Some folks love their broccoli with a little butter and some salt and pepper. Others take it further – with a fantastic melted cheese sauce. There’s a rumour going around that even some kids can be tricked into enjoying broccoli – when it’s prepared with a flourish. Today at Fred’s, broccoli is just 3 for a dollar! And that’s no rumor.”

Now, another radio ad could have been written that was made up of an unending list of sale priced products from Fred’s, crammed into a 30-second spot, with a big finish along the lines of “Shop at Fred’s today!” Such an ad would be about the what. This ad is based on an approach designed exclusively for print. For radio, however - a buggy whip approach. The former is a “radio massage”. This situation is still alarming. C’mon, man!

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Wed Mar 20, 2019 5:12 pm

Mediocre Yet Serious Assaults
Crazed, snarling terriers chasing passing hubcaps have a better chance of coming away from the exercise without serious injuries than do too many of radio’s yapping apologists. According to some stout defenders of music radio’s status quo: Radio’s position is one of being, essentially, fine & dandy and righteously rosy. It isn’t - even as money is being made.

Now, I am willing to speculate how many commercial music stations, because they are extremely healthy in their marketplaces, are still close to the philosophical, programming precipice as are many more of the underperforming outfits. But, that’s hardly sayin’ something. I do suggest, however, even they are risking grievous injury while they are out there frolicking in highway traffic. As we all know, highway traffic doesn’t play favorites.

Before getting into related matters, my general rant has been about how radio has been severely underutilized. Further, satisfying explanations are not been provided. Even as reasonable justifications are unavailable, my so-called “hatred of radio” has been dumped out as compelling evidence of an undeniable rationale.

Advisory (1.0)
Much of the materials upon which I have been basing my premises, strategies and methodologies for radio have been available beginning around 1976. They were provided as information to enhance the efficiency, productivity and ease of application to those primarily in the counseling professions – the shrinks, psychologists and coaches of the day. So extraordinarily effective were the methods that a major psychiatric association sued the authors of the original material to keep the information out of the public domain.

Advisory (2.0)
It is my intention to keep on professing the critical need for radio’s on-air and copywriting communicators to radically increase their communication (linguistic) skills to the degree where they will become more influential and, perhaps, as importantly, to where they become even more listenableto any station’s audience. This is doable and is not a pie residing in some yonder sky.

With that in mind, Welcome to The Lazy U Ranch. (And by “U”, I mean: “YOU”.) I have always allowed that the “You” is an effective word in getting a listener’s attention. But the impact lasts for about a nano-second – tops. After that, the consequences are toxic, dangerous and extremely off-putting.

Applying the “You” has been, and continues to be the go-to, default and most often applied approach in broadcasting. The alternatives (and there are many) have been considered with a barely fleeting indifference as well as outright derision, particularly when challenges are being provided. Further, applying the “You” is an incredibly lazy approach. Hence, The Lazy U Ranch.

To be clear: The promotion of the body of alternative, more effective linguistic works is a horse I am willing to kick until it rises from the track with a jock [sic] on its back – scorching down the stretch - just in time to win The Music Radio Derby. I have, indeed, been putting the boots to this ornery nag.

Consistently applying the “You”, I submit, generates a number of negative responses in a member of a radio audience:
• It acts as another unwelcome jolt to the listener’s current, subjective experience.
• It forces them to decide if the “You” is actually they.
• When the included content assures them that it doesn’t – and it seldom ever does – the listener is compelled to generate another response. Those of us that toil in the mind molding trade like to call this new experience for the listener as: A state of “Pizzdoughedness”. This is hardly a desirable state to which an audience member should be triggered into arriving. No good for the communicator. No good for the advertiser, and no good for the station.

Having already jerked a listener around with such a blunt and invasive targeting tool ("You)", we then ratchet up the assaults and/or insults by continuously telling this unknown, unspecified individual what to do! We make demands for behaviours! Instead of massaging, influencing, cajoling and yes, sometimes tricking a listener, we grab the linguistic equivalent of brass knuckles – beating on their minds with our crazy, lazy, brutish talking.

Our communications, arguably, are already mediocre enough, but we also, out of habit and tradition, are, nevertheless, doing a fantastic job of mentally and emotionally mugging our audiences.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Sun Mar 31, 2019 7:41 am

Perched On The Radio Wire
As a (somewhat) worthwhile generalization, radio’s overall situation could be represented as follows:
Two extremely thirsty buzzards lurch-hop into a bar located just off a highway running through a bone-dry desert. It’s the late afternoon after a day of clinging to a telegraph wire, baking under a blazing sun. The bartender spits into a used shot glass, wipes it out, looks up and says, “You guys kill anything today?” One of the buzzards, thoroughly insulted, replies, “That’s not how we operate, barkeep. We wait for things to die, and we’re good at it!”

Recently, radio pundits and apologists have been doing very little to restrain their delight at the diminishing audience penetration of both network and cable television services. The implication has been that television’s loss will, somehow, be transformed into radio’s gain.

Only voodoo thinking supports this position. Considering their part in the overall ecology, buzzards are perfectly suited as the cleanup crew on aisle three, while keeping the prospects of desert diseases well in check.

Radio enjoys no such a useful and honorable position. So the analogy could be a tad weak. Buzzards are genetically predisposed to maintain a “hurry up and wait” stance. Buzzards don’t hunt! Radio, however, does enjoy the potential to provide a share of a honey pot of prosperity with its advertisers. Radio still has the capacity to plan, re-design its approaches, improve its services, and to do so without waiting for wounded or gullible advertisers to stagger into a station’s foyer – desperate for relief.

With the exception of the participation of some very astute national agencies, radio has been stuck with the leftovers for some decades. When smaller local advertisers go to the marketplace for ads, they get saddled with the weakest and least influential forms of available commercial creative. Guilty parties include local television, local digital, local print and local radio. Unless supplied by outside sources – and often, not even then – do local advertisers have much of a shot at actually being satisfactorily influential.

An old buddy of mine from one of the station sales departments where we both toiled was an otherwise congenial guy. But, when he hit the street, he took the position that the advertisers/clients were the enemy – determined to deny his family food on their table. On his way out the door, he would announce to anybody in the room: “Remember, people. You can only eat what you kill!”

Meanwhile, a number of radio’s apologists have been rising from their multi-decade hibernations to realize that many of their old traditions are being challenged as “dogma” – materials that are presented with limited, practical evidence of viability, but are nevertheless accepted by the rank & file as “truth”.

One of our esteemed colleagues who enjoys some significant credibly recently dragged out radio’s first commercial - a 15-minute infomercial that ran in 1922. What I take issue with is that he used the approaches in the spot as a model for modern strategies for radio. I don’t get it – a one hundred year-old spot that applies none of the contemporary research and scientific evidence from the disciplines of Psycholinguistics, Neurology, Neuro Linguistics, Transformational Grammar and other fields that point in a completely opposite direction! As non-sequiturs go, this comparison is Number 1 – with a bullet.

I do, indeed, make the claim with the advantage of a personal, studied expertise, personal experiences and the benefits of a body of scientific evidence that supports completely other conclusions in this matter. I am obliged to accept that the principles as demonstrated by a one hundred year-old radio spot are (essentially) the same as those being accepted and used by contemporary spot scribblers, especially at the local level.

It is unlikely that modern copywriters are explicitly aware of these materials-of-the-ancients. They may even be surprised how the art and craft of communicating to a radio audience is still based on a stridently held, tersely defended, but still nebulous set of outmoded principles. I also suggest these principles are actually injurious to writers, advertisers, audiences and radio stations. But, I guess sincerity counts.

Buzzards evolved to wait for something to die. Radio did not. Yet, to a large part, radio still relies on finding road kill.

Ronald T. Robinson
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby Tom Jeffries » Sun Mar 31, 2019 3:06 pm

I really enjoy your articles. Thank you for todays.

When I started in Radio - in 1967 - Radio was a fairly strong medium. I watched it crumble, in front of my eyes and I was sad to say goodbye, about 7 years ago.

No one I know listens to the radio, other than for weather and traffic.

I haven't listened to the radio for years.....and when I worked on the air, I would only listen to a few people, whom I admired - but only a bit, so you didn't wind up copying anyone....but still steal some good stuff..... :-)
Tom Jeffries
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Re: What's It Going To Take...?

Postby pave » Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:58 pm

Thanks for your response, Tom. And yes, I share your lament.
That's one of the reasons the title of this series of blogs is "What's It Going To Take...?" While I have been providing alternate strategies and methodologies over the years, the question - as it applies to ownership and management - is still out in the open.

Meanwhile, I remind readers that the piece above Tom's comment is a fresh one. :)
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