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(TALENT) Wanted: Radio Therapy (Part 2)


The Roman Empire provided an extremely efficient and destructive strategy when it, as radio is demonstrating today, stopped paying attention to their defining principles, stopped providing essential services, looted their own treasury, pleaded for a supernatural rescue, and stampeded itself right into The Dark Ages. The Justinian Plague only put an undignified period to theuhhh period.

It is time for an immediate intervention! Radio leadership has been deluding each other and us for too long. They are so quick to blame anything and everything in the environment rather than taking some personal responsibility. Some critics could be thinking along the lines of the TV show Bar Rescue. Engaged readers who have seen the program will appreciate how it is the management that needs the most immediate and most drastic attention. Staffs are usually eager to be engaged and assist in any way they can.

Meanwhile, there is another cloud of locusts on the horizon in the form of radio (possibly) being forced to pay performance fees on the music they play. When they scramble for precedents of jurisdictions that do not pay these fees, they come up with North Korea. This may be a good thing. The added expenses may be the instigation to cull the herds to the degree that actual broadcasters those who understand we are in show business and the advertising business will be required to husband this industry back to a prominent place in the media landscape. The exploiters could then be invited to skulk back into the hills to plot the ruination of some other industry likely again on borrowed money.

As an aside: The psychology industry may have already published its fifth update to the list of maladies and issues that people experience and which might qualify for billable hours of therapy and/or the administering of psychotropic drugs. It is called The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V). I dont know if the aberrant behaviors consistent with participating in modern radio management is on the revised list. But, it could be. Some who have suffered under these regimes might claim, Absolutely! Therapize them! Medicate them! The more sincere critics those whose careers have been destroyed by these exploiters might go so far as to demand that they get the needle! Personally, when I am wearing my H/R hat, I prefer a model that includes: awareness, understanding, and the implementation of more efficient strategies through training and installation.

Those of radios leadership, meanwhile, who are willing to get serious and who realize their days are numbered unless immediate, significant, and appropriate actions are taken, can be hopeful about, if not secure in, the knowledge that help is available. Those with an interest can come see me after the show or call my office for an appointment.

Meanwhile, here is what is more important than making more of those harder, faster, meaner sale calls or, as what the weasel-worders like to call: Solution-providing service meetings. Here, then, is what is more important than finding, generating, buying, or "prestidigitizing" high-quality numbers that demonstrate ROI for advertisers. Here is what is more important than more rock and fewer jocks. Here is what is more important than telling the audience how really great the station is all in the hope that such a statement will go unchallenged and that management escapes the building before a demonstration is organized. Here is what is more important than all the time, money, and human resources that are being poured into online presentations and social media.

Radio, music radio especially, is so horrible, so incompetent at, and so unaware of the consequences of its model of communication, that all the other factors mentioned above have taken over in some hierarchy of values. In on-air presentation and spot generation, we absolutely stink. Those who still dont know what I am talking about can take that position as evidence that there really is something about radio they dont know.

Good for me that Im not an in-car screamer. Nor am I a steering wheel pounder. Otherwise, Id be hoarse and casted in plaster. When Im driving around and hearing so-called professional broadcasters addressing their audiences in such maudlin, superficial, patronizing, and still authoritarian terms, I will allow myself to mutter viciously under my breath. For me, its a mental health release. And it doesnt always work, either.

Even when the day comes that radio can provide some useful corroborating evidence that the medium can work, the results will still be nebulous unless we correct our own modes of communication first. Plus, I dont know anybody in radio who is holding their breath until that desired data arrives.

If there was a therapeutic 911-emergency button on radios dialer, now would be the time to push it. Immediate therapy is required. The drugs we are taking are not working other than to mask the symptoms. Plus, the well-known side effects of the medications include experiencing delusions of invincibility, grandeur, and authority. And those are as degrading and embarrassing as any slobbering drunk at the party. Togas optional.

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

(3/18/2013 11:31:27 PM)
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- NY
(1/4/2013 12:43:25 PM)
Very entertainingly written, both large and small words included. If one listens to and accepts what passes for a "radio show" from many operators, I guess asking someone to learn a little something new everyday would simply be asking too much.
I have a hunch that there may yet be a future for broadcasters, once the monopoly has been broken. Now though, it is all for the greedy bastards who are just trying to be the "one who dies with the most toys", believing that will leave a mark somewhere.
Kids don't listen to the radio anyway so you might as well fire all the actual radio personalities. I'd rather be engaging one person at a time, over the telephone in a higher paying sales job than to just be a voice in the clutter of piss-poorly produced propaganda that populates, no that is pollutes, the airwaves...

- Mark 3:26
(1/4/2013 10:37:43 AM)
Thank you for those well thought-out and articulate comments, BC.
I'm going to disagree with your prognosis, however, and for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is that accepting your position means packing up and quitting the entire enterprise. Fortunately, we are not at war, and many will live on to maintain the struggle. :)

Corporate radio may crumble under its own weight and it might not. But the industry will have a chance - not only at survival, but at a transformation.
Unless the services (commercials) and products (talent presentations) are massively upgraded, we will still be in a loser's position of weakness and a lack of adaptability.

The other point I'd like to make here is that the principles, techniques and strategies I have either offered explicitly and the ones to which I have only alluded to or implied have all been tested - thoroughly and over years - with spectacular results. Unorthodox approach? Only when perceived by radio-folk for whom the information is new and non-traditional.

This is my personal reason, BC, for keepin' on keepin' on.

- Ronald T. Robinson
(1/4/2013 7:52:50 AM)
I've been reading your comments about what's needed in the radio industry for quite some time. I enjoy them. Like you, I cut my teeth in radio in an earlier era, and I cringe when I listen to a lot of what comes out of my speakers today.

But I think the renaissance that you're calling for will not come; it is precluded by ongoing changes in the way people use media, and by the economic structure of the advertising industry.

I believe that radio is going through a change as wrenching as that which ended the so-called "golden age" of the 1920s-1940s. TV forced radio to completely reinvent itself. The pioneers of the 1950s understood that if radio was to survive, it had to start doing different things, because playing "The Lone Ranger" and the "Jack Benny Show", etc. were no longer options.

A return to robust profitability hinge on three things, IMHO. 1. The development of new, unorthodox ways and means of engaging with audience and business that are predicated on the current economic realities; 2. A more agile leadership and management structure; and 3. The abandonment of multiple shibboleths from the 1950s-1990s. All of these are going to be very difficult, and there is no guarantee of success. It will be hardest for two sets of people: the current leadership (especially of the big consolidators) because many are not really grounded in either entertainment or advertising, and old-timers like you and I who "know" what radio is "supposed" to be like and believe passionately that a return to "common sense" and "the basics" is absolutely necessary. Letting go of these hard-won and formerly successful rules of thumb is the hardest thing of all.

Forgive me if I appropriate some advice from warfare, something that a lot of people who do not know what they are talking about do too much of. (I do not think that this observation applies to me. Although I've spent most of my career in radio, my education is in war; I hold an MA in military leadership, and post masters certificates in asymmetrical warfare).

2500 years ago, the author(s) of the book we know as Sun Tzu's "Art of War" offered two key insights:

1. The most important key to victory is knowledge: knowledge of self, knowledge of the enemy, and knowledge of the terrain. I suspect that we do not know enough of any of the three domains. Somewhat paradoxically, for a business as old as this one, we know very little about ourselves, and we will not face facts about enemy and terrain (which I interpret as being the needs/wants of consumers and businesses. Radio stopped researching its customers and listeners. It needs to go back to work on that key business (and in ways we've never thought of before).

2. The second most important key to victory is the understanding of the difference between what Sun Tzu called the "cheng" and what he called the "chi". "Cheng" is orthodox, conventional force. "Chi" is the unorthodox. "Chi" is the key to battlefield success. We don't know what our "chi" is today. For us, repackaging songs recorded 30 years ago in different ways is considered revolutionary. That's "cheng." "Chi" would be the modern equivalent of what Gordon McLendon and Todd Storz did...finding a new way to successfully operate the medium.


- BC
(1/4/2013 6:32:14 AM)
Advice for the New Year;
Be leery of those who use big words when small ones will do nicely.

- observer

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