Current Issue:

Current Issue

On The Cover:
Cumulus Chairman Jeff Marcus

Click here to subscribe to Radio Ink.

Radio Ink Writers

(TALENT) What Radio Needs


We have all read that what radio needs is solid, verifiable, quantifiable, and immediately available research that demonstrates ROI for advertisers, many of whom refuse to do business with us without it. Flash! This just in! That hungered-for data is not forthcoming. No point in lamenting that. My Divisional Petty Officer would, instead, invite me to tell it to the chaplain.

Not surprisingly, all of this not-available data for which radio is pining will have to be from organizations other than radio itself. In other words: Outsourced. No surprise there either, as every improvement made by radio has always been technical and has always been outsourced. In the last number of decades, we have generated Bo squat-diddley for ourselves. To the contrary, given every opportunity to innovate and improve, we have found ways to sabotage our own business.

There are those who have few alternatives readily available other than the one stridently put forward by Clear Channels, Bob Pitman -- more, better, harder sales pitches. As the (arguably) anointed leader of an entire industry, it wouldnt hurt Bob were he to consider a little more specific-to-radio schoolin. That is, if he really does have a genuine interest in the radio portion of his planetary domination communications and entertainment empire. But then, who is going to take on the education of Mr. Pitman -- the old guard? Hardly. To be fair, this really is not a knock against Bob as he also inherited some desperate expectations from the industry when he accepted the gig. Plus, he had nothing to do with the making of this business -- a crime scene.

Meanwhile, I am reminded of the story of a king whose priority was to always have his grain bins bulging. Upon realizing that his cattle were eating a significant portion, he instructed his top hands to open the gates and to drive the cattle onto the prairies and into the high country where they would do the best they could in fending for themselves. After a while, though, the king was aware of a rumbling in his stomach and an intuitive need for protein. He commanded, Bring me a big ol steak! One of his terrified, protective angels (yes, he had angels) went to the king and whined, But, Your Majesty, we have no beef! I do, however, have this most excellent pine tree. Shall I stick it in hot water and make tea? (And that, by the way, is how the angel got impaled on the top of the Christmas tree.)

Radio has no more beef! The prize heads we do keep around are reluctantly tolerated, in some cases, resented and kept on more meager diets. Theirs is not a particularly happy state either as they know the king could get hungry or decide he wants a bigger pile of grain -- at any time. The behaviors of the majority of radio ownership and top management suggest a desire -- almost a need -- for an industry that doesnt require any people at all. (What I want, said the thoroughly disengaged G.M., is to turn the broadcasting computer on and take orders for spots off the Web. I dont want to actually talk to anybody.)

And so, the most important, pressing element for radio does not lie in the realms of technology, sales, or data-acquisition. It lies in programming! If we are to have a business at all in the future -- terra and/or online -- we have got to address this issue. We must train on and acquire the skills of actual broadcast communicators. This would be in order to produce more entertaining, or interesting, but certainly more influential, commercial content, and much better personality presentations. We have to attract and hold the attention of ever-greater audiences with our on-air personalities. That is to say: We must make our music radio stations more a medium of foreground listening rather than as chunks of mostly inaudible white noise that still might be picked up by a wandering PPM.

There is an underlying dynamic to all of this. It has to do with the model of radio to which everybody has become accustomed. Some owners and management may not be able to recognize the distinctions to which I have often spoken. There are still some poisonous, core beliefs we have taken on. This model is practiced by those who are accepting as truth that: 1. Audiences and advertisers can be tricked forever; and, 2. Expenses, particularly those having to do with talent in programming and creative, must be purged. Reason: The spot rates can no longer support those expenses. The offered justifications for this model have been debt and/or fiduciary duties. Its not in the budget has become the knee-jerk, default response. Indeed, self-fulfilling prophecies can beget bewildering weirdness. Another core belief that makes up the accepted model is about radio people believing that no improvements in our communication skills are required because they dont know what those could be and, therefore, they dont exist!

Somehow, we have gone into the woods, hacked off a branch of fine hickory and whittled it down to a switch for our own backsides. The result has been that now, there is no budget for hiring new talent or training what talent we have kept.

Further, and as painful as this might be to acknowledge, people -- out here -- are having dandy lives without radio. Some own businesses that do not advertise on the radio because they have no compelling reason to do so. We are so off their radar screens its as if we are in stealth mode. What radio needsis them. More specifically, we need the means and strategies to attract and serve them.

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

(1/28/2013 4:44:51 PM)
Radio is becoming a byproduct of "tripping over dollars to save dimes" and "one size fits all." Listeners are force-fed stale recipes by bullied low-wage staff who work in fear-based, morale-void environments (trickled down from top to bottom management). Result: Stunted, stifled programming--sanitized of on-air feeling, thinking and creativity. Congratulations to the "thinkers" who successfully created a formula which kills local fun & spontaneity...and discourages active listening.

- Jess DeVaney
(1/16/2013 6:32:23 PM)
Radio guys aren't allowed to have actual lives. We certainly aren't allowed to comment on them. Fortunately, unlike some other commentators, I'm not a one-issue scribe or a one-trick pony.

- Ronald T. Robinson
(1/16/2013 12:37:22 PM)
So, this is the guy, without a life, that makes constant comments on Radio Ink!

- LMFAO!!!

Add a Comment | View All Comments


Send This Story To A Friend