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L&L -- The Non-Option


Not everybody in radio has lost their minds. Still, there is enough mushy viscera hanging off walls and lampshades to attest that heads are, indeed, exploding. Everywhere, the insidious live & local bug is burrowing into managers skulls -- into their brains. The critters rapidly expand to 40 times their original size. Owees, pops, and splats ensue.
L&L is the newer brand of Kool-Aid being proffered as an analgesic beverage/strategy. Instead of alleviating pain, applying the strategy will be causing even greater discomfort . But, since talk is cheap, we can talk about it, especially if talking delays implementation -- a good thing.
Given the habits and assumptions the industry has established and been demonstrating for over 20 years, it is safe to assume the L&L protocol will be considered as no more difficult to inject into the programming mix as it would be to gag down an antacid tablet before scarfing the whole pizza.
Owners and management, including those in small and medium markets, who have never met a talent-expense they didnt despise, may consider implementing a live and local strategy as no more challenging than throwing out a few more unshelled peanuts for the local squirrels. A memo should do it. A number of programmers take the local portion to mean: reporting on a little more involvement in their communities and more references to local, geographical locations, and mentioning more activities close to home. I can also guess how listeners are just pining for more of that kind of content. Very soon they will be planning their weekends around the remotes at the quilting bees and cow pie-hurling contests. (with free organic balloons for the kiddies.)
Quite a few proprietors of small- and medium-market stations have been a little snotty in their insistence on how well they have been delivering L&L all along. I am willing to go up and down the line and challenge these folks -- not as much on the local references or coverage, but on the live portions.
A pulse and an ability to throw a mic a few times an hour hardly constitutes a live radio program. It certainly wont be demonstrating an appealing , effective, and influential form of broadcasting -- the kind that is becoming more necessary with each passing, missed opportunity to improve. By itself, L&L is a recipe for alienating, patronizing, and insulting audiences even more than we do now.
Meanwhile, a little historical context. Some years ago, every station was sporting a full stable of on-air presenters. Even the 250-watters had a minimum of six full-time jocks and a couple of swing guys. Medium-market stations, about eight full-timers. By the time I hit the majors, I was one of a dozen guys. There were no music sweeps. We played a tune and then we talked. We aired up to two minutes of spots and we talked some more into, and yes, sometimes over another tune. The point being: We were never more than a couple minutes away from making audience contact. Alert: That is the takeaway of all this -- more live, skilled presenters on-the-air, much more often. (Scary, or what?)
Now, it wasnt as if we always had a great deal to say or a clever, witty, or interesting way to say it. But, we were obliged to make the attempt! Some of the guys had no business being on the air, while others luxuriated in the opportunity to perform, and maybe even prosper. Some of us did all that.
None of us, meanwhile, had been formally trained for these gigs. But we did have our innate talents and direct or indirect access to colleagues whom we could attempt to emulate. And we were all aware of the traditions that governed much of our on-air behaviors. Plus, we were operating as a relative monopoly with only the other stations providing any relative competition.
With rare exceptions, however, todays radio is an anemic parody of what radio was then. Its just as well, too! If that exact model of radio were to be smuggled through customs and thrown on the air today, stations would be driven out of business, if only because of the exorbitant costs of delivering what would be generating limited returns.
There is hardly a small or medium market that doesnt have its share of on-air presenters who were pulled from the same mold as so many other hokey performers. Luke Puken here, friends an neighbors, playin yer favorite country music an takin yer calls. The Lite-A/C equivalent of that would be: . with Melanie Maudlin -- so glad you could spend part of your day with us, and I love to take your requests, right here on SPEW-92.  (Any readers concluding those two examples as being quite acceptable only confirms that all my work is, indeed, still ahead of me.) And yes, I understand that some stations will continue getting along with that approach so long as a cab stand with some stronger personalities doesnt sign on.
Music radio is in a bind and hung out -- clinging to branches jutting out of sheer 300-foot cliffs. Tough enough if it werent for those snarling, drooling saber-toothed tigers guarding the ledge. Radio is not yet in a position to increase the live portion of L&L. It would be an expensive, unproductive play. Most of the necessary, newly hired talent will be disappointingly ineffective, particularly if they are also compelled to dredge through all that added, arbitrary local filler.
To be appealing and effective -- the necessary attributes -- talent will have to be trained or re-trained. There are no other desirable or applicable options beyond maintaining a death grip on branches sticking out from the cliff. The cavalier attitude offered by the criminal sentenced to a stretch of 2-5 of I can do that standing on my head wont be helpful. But, wait! There is one other alternative: Get lucky.

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

(10/22/2013 4:07:30 PM)
Note to BC:
Unarguably, radio is not nearly as entertaining (I would say "appealing") as a.) other media and, b.) as it needs to be.

However, the great roadblock is in that broadcasters have chosen CONTENT as the element that needs to be increased. Although that is true, it is only the smaller part of a necessary strategy that needs to be addressed.

What we have to concentrate on first, foremost and primarily is the PROCESS of delivering whatever content may/will be supplied.

This is going to be an extremely tough nut to crack and, because of that, broadcasters are going to continue to suffer - even after making content adjustments.

- Ronald T. Robinson
(10/21/2013 6:12:44 PM)
I agree with Bob.
The main thing keeping terra-radio on its feet is the innate "majic" of the medium - its ability to influence because of it's bizarre brain-access.

In an (unknowing)spite of this, Radio-people have been doing everything they can to counteract this phenomena. Many continue to succeed at failing in what can still be an extremely influential and much more popular medium.

Yes, Bob, the irony of stations expecting advertisers to continue investing longer-term and the refusal of radio to invest even short-term is quite staggering.

- Ronald T. Robinson
(10/21/2013 2:34:03 PM)
The funny thing about radio is that it refuses to spend money to make money.
You get what you pay for. This is an industry that tells clients that they must advertise in order to do well, but refuses to do so itself. This is an industry that runs 10 minute long stop sets in an attention deficit disorder society. Its greatest ability might be that it can actually get people to buy spots in those long stop sets.

- Bob
(10/18/2013 5:17:09 PM)
Quite so, BC.
Radio, however, has already retreated too far back. It just seems like the swamp behind them might be a route for a quick escape - even as it is loaded with rats, vermin, snakes an' 'gators.

Even as they crow about 90% penetration, they know this is a meaningless stat that even advertisers find less than compelling.

No, no. The bell is tolling ever-louder and more often for these organizations. Riders are approaching.

- Ronald T. Robinson
(10/18/2013 11:10:00 AM)
The problem with radio is not that it is not local enough. The problem with radio is that it all too often is not entertaining enough to make it more appealing than other ways I could spend my time.

In my opinion, all of the L&L talk will come to naught because in the end, the economics of the industry require low expenses (read: low wages), and very few creative talented young people seem to have much desire to work for low wages in the radio business these days.

- BC

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