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Ron Robinson

Cant Do Radio Lets Go Online

by Ronald T. Robinson

Although nasty and oh, so politically incorrect to say so, relative to other mass media, Radio has, nevertheless, been tagged by audiences and advertisers as the weak, stupid and ugly sister.  While arguably unfair and even a little cruel, such a label has not been totally unearned. Plus, that princess, Ms. Dubya- Dubya-Dubya, has moved in and become the apple of the eye of the public and the business community. Radio with, perhaps, tinges of spite, desire and  wanton envy - screams out, I want to be more like her! And if I cant, I want to own one just like her, tart her up and pimp her out!

There is little question that Radio, enamored as it is with the newer, digital world, will continue including the internet in their business models. Fortunately, the  same people who have been wrecking Radio all these years wont be able to wreck the entire Web, though it is likely they will be approaching their online enterprises in much the same ways as they have been executing their core businesses.

By that, I mean: Corporate, Music-Radio, more specifically, has been reducing the services it used to provide to audiences and advertisers to the extent where it is practically impossible to offer Radio as anything more than a possible, optional platform for mounting some advertising. And even that gets buried in the mix.

That advertisers would also be better served were they to have the messages created anywhere but the local, radio outlet could be described as a legitimate  indictment as well as downright embarrassing to our business.

Now, someone who has been in Radio for no more than the last twenty years could be forgiven were they to presume I might be building to a standard bleating of  Things were so much better back in the day. Indeed, things were better then, but only marginally not enough, though, to try to build a federal case on the  premise. Yes, there were greater numbers of talented and semi-talented people on the air and the commercials were somewhat better, but only sometimes and  again only marginally.

It may seem strange that I a proud and fully paid-up member of the On-Air Blatherers and Hype-Typers Guild might not be perceived as one who is in  support of the ownership and management long-term strategy of gutting Radio of personnel. I am not completely supportive of any such strategy. But I do have  an appreciation how that all came about.

The fact is: Even then and with all those people on staff, Radio was still under-performing and was still generating less revenue than all the other mass media.  (Number 4 with no bullets in either Cashbox or Billboard.)

I mentioned somewhere else how there is enough blame available to seed a horizon-less field and feed all the birds. Most of this blame is heaped on ownership  and management. While it is true they are splattered with the DNA of those who have had their careers killed and their lives derailed, this was not a conspiracy  concocted by vicious capitalists bent only on their own immediate survival, but imminent self-destruction.

Generally speaking, before and during these decades of downsizing, Talent, specifically On-Air and Creative, was and continues to be completely disengaged  from the concept of: Improvement as a Personal Responsibility.

Granted, R&D expenses, as they apply to on-air and creative staff training, are relatively non-existent in radio station budgets. Of equal and ironic interest,  though, self-directed efforts by staff are also about as common as a flock of Dodo birds. (see: extinct.) Maybe it has something to do with a pervasive attitude of Talent that could be described by one who says, Im talented. All I have to do is show up and be Me.

We are all aware, though, of people in so many other fields who are constantly developing, learning and practicing. When they stop doing any of those bad  things happen. Beyond reinforcing the droll, sphincter-tightening and useless light, tight & bright and talk naturally traditions, Radio has been, pretty much, a  No Learning Zone for decades.

Were we to ask a Radio-person, however, about which courses they were taking, what books they were studying or what research they were conducting that  would enhance their on-air and/or commercial, writing skills, specifically, the chances are strong we would get the insulted, then the accusatory, indignant stares  as a response. The result of such non-participation in personal and professional development had and continues to have similar results the inability of Talent to  gain or hold an audience or influence people on behalf of our ownership and clients. Would it come as a surprise, then, that management has been noticing this

and going with John Tesh? At least Tesh an otherwise terrific piano player - arrives on time with a decent attitude, provides a lot of content and wont be found wandering the halls whining to anyone within earshot.

(At one time, six of us from the same station (AM/FM Radio/TV) were playing at a very competitive level in an industrial league as members of The Media All Stars Hockey Club. So indifferent to a priority of on-air skill-sets were we that when there was an opening at the radio station, we six would crowd the PDs office and lobby him for a strong, defensive, playmaking left winger who could also pull Mid-days! That didnt work out, but he did get us a decent backup goalie who owned his own equipment and would come to practice with a bag of pucks.)

Meanwhile, there is something much more important than a distribution or sharing of the blame. I also believe it is critical for us to acknowledge and declare what, to aliens from another time/space continuum, is obvious. As a result of attitudes, strategies and the resultant circumstances generated proportionally by Management and Talent Corporate, Music-Radio has been crippling its Potential.

Radio, for those who may have forgotten, is a unique medium. It is not less than TV or more than Print or less that the internet. It is gloriously unique!

No other medium can have an impact and be enjoyed while people are otherwise engaged a humongous distinction!
No other medium can take a listeners imagination anywhere we want so easily and at so little cost.
No other medium can deliver information and a full, sensory, emotional experience the way Radio, alone, can.

However, as we hardly ever exploit or deliver much of any of that, I am relegated to speaking only to the potential.

Bringing those missing components and potentials fully into the Radio-mix is going to take the combined efforts of an enlightened Management and a talented and more highly educated and skilled On-Air and Creative staff.

Until or unless these issues are satisfactorily addressed, I wonder if extensions into the web may be a premature misdirection of already-limited resources to a high maintenance, internet starlet. Those resources may be of more use by investing in the core business -  riyat cheer over to the radio station?

Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian Radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach and has trained and certified as a personal counsellor. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to Talent and Creative, have yet to be addressed. Check out his website

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