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Ron Robinson

Gawk n Awe


Anybody who has ever witnessed the eight-hitch team of massive Clydesdale horses proudly, effortlessly pulling the heavy beer-wagon knows what it is to be thrilled and amazed. For extra effect, the Dalmatian mascot brings some cute to the scenario. More importantly, onlookers accept that, contained within, resides a quality product. (That Buds for me, pal!)

When a commercial music-radio station enters the same parade, it does so with a single, underfed, old nag sporting open welts on withers and rump where the GM has been beating it in an attempt to have it pull more faster. The horse clatters along on tin shoes, sweating profusely and foaming at the mouth. It drags a two-wheel ox-cart from which a scantily clad cheerleader is self-consciously tossing entry forms for people to name the horse and win a valuable prize: Dinner at Morts Diner and Vinyl Siding Emporium.

Chamber of Commerce honchos had brow-beat the station into participating in the parade. The poo-bahs may not have been so impressed that, behind the wagon, the stations on-air and creative staff were tied to the axle and chained in series to each other. This, allegedly, to keep them from bolting for freedom.

Some station staff would not be terribly embarrassed by this display as a few of them were already used to the abuse they receive when they are pan-handling for change on one of the towns off-ramps. Still, they shuffle along with drooping heads and eyes turned away from those of joyous parade-watchers.

The time for music-radio owners and managers to scurry to the confessional is well past nigh. There, they will be urged to come clean and [I]admit they have been investing the least possible amount of resources to deliver the least amount of quality services and products to audiences and advertisers.[/I] No surprise, either, as any time I bring these issues forward, there has [I]never[/I] been a cogent argument from any reader ever that contradicts the propositions.

Since this particular confessional is of a secular kind, there will be no admonitions or encouragements to pray to either the gods of technology or the gods of lucky happenstance. The gods of programming have either left the building or they are maintaining their positions masquerading as cheap posers-in-robes. Decades of application of the philosophies of what some might call the brightest programming minds in America has only generated an industry that is slipping in credibility, affect, and appeal fast. This continuing practice qualifies as another raging example of organizations finding out what doesnt work and doing it harder.

What is particularly astonishing is the fact that radio companies huge corporate conglomerates, smaller ownership groups, and stand-alone outfits - cannot copy each other fast enough. I would have thought that, by now, somebody would have noticed these activities [I]consistently[/I] result in stampedes towards irrelevance and squandered income opportunities. Its as if a herd of lemmings was given individual sandwich boards to wear just before they all throw themselves over the cliff. The signs read: Danger! Steep, Lethal Drop Ahead! Every lemming reads the signs. None of them screams, Stop!! Hold on there for just a cotton pickin minute!!

I say copy because only a copycat would go with programming interminable phustercluks of spots and call it a great strategy. Of course, there was the original, addled misfit who came up with the concept in the first place. And Im willing to bet it was a fearful, corporate hack with no background in radio programming or advertising. Yet, everybody jumped on board like it was a raft of floating furniture in a shark-infested sea.

Meanwhile, back in the confessional

Radio continuously demonstrates it has no grasp whatsoever of broadcast communications. Not even kinda-sorta generally, and certainly not in any of the nuanced or subtle approaches. This overall fact must be brought into awareness and confessed. If both are not experienced there will be no forgiveness offered or more effective methodologies provided. Thats just how it works.

The competition for the Ears and Minds of America is very real, and it increases in intensity and in the variety of platforms of access. Music-radio has already been out-muscled in terms of providing music a little situation that was accomplished a decade and more ago. Music-radio is compelled to generate and air commercials hardly a factor for other providers of music. That radio has taken no steps and made no investment to improve the quality of its commercials would be a criminal matter were it not for the sanctity of the confessional.

Music-radio has rejected [I]all[/I] its chances to attract audience by providing on-air content that is unique and appealing. Harsher critics could argue that music-radio has rejected its [I]responsibility[/I] to offer more and better content. Further, most music-radio outlets have made the business of being an on-air performer a position unworthy of attracting grownups. This would include massive cutbacks in any learning opportunities, intellectual and emotional challenges, and rewards for performing with an income that would not require the talent to subject themselves to degradation from competing pan-handlers.

Of greater import than the lack of live presenters is the quality of the presentations that are available day-to-day. Owners refuse to provide further education and training to the very people who could make the difference in audience retention. I submit that managers approach such a circumstance from a position of having [I]already[/I] come to a combination of four conclusions: 1. They refuse to believe that such education even exists; 2. They havent figured out where they might get it; 3. They refuse to believe the results of educating and training their on-air and creative staff would be beneficial; 4. They fear the practice might include a necessity for even more staff to be hired and trained.

If audiences and advertisers are to [I]gawk in awe[/I] at any radio station in future, these steps must be taken.