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Ron Robinson

Candor From Canada

Candor From Canada

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 www.voicetalentguy.com


Live And Yokel

Its years later, and the discussion still sputters along. Ownership and management continue contemplating the notion that if newer technologies arent going to save their bacon, then the application of a live and local strategy might. There is still confusion on what local really means. Does it mean local references or local talent? Both? It wont matter, anyway. Live and local will be a bust painfully expensive, too.


Talk Radios Slight Advantage

The criticisms and the alternatives I have suggested over time have mainly been addressed to the purveyors of music-radio. This is not because the practitioners of talk are purposely doing things any differently or that they might be better prepared or smarter than their music-driven counterparts. Staffs from either genre may be impressively well prepared. Mostly, though, the talkies are just luckier!


Radios Stalled Development

Way, waaay back in the day, when the sun was still revolving around the earth, sailors were a tad reluctant to venture out past where the eye could see and for good reason. Nobody was willing to plunge off the edge of the earth into a black abyss because it might be a really swell adventure. And nobody wanted to be ripped and devoured alive by slimed-up, soulless monsters. Everyone knew the facts of what lay beyond the horizon: There be dragons!


The Radio Brain -- Part II

The significance of the information provided in my blog last week, The Radio Brain Part I, cannot be overemphasized. Unless radio starts educating itself and exploiting the innate elements of electronic media, we are surely doomed to providing the same less-than-appealing programming and the same less-than-effective advertising messages.


The Radio Brain

At a recent radio conference, Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman suggested the industry needed to be more "in the face" of marketers and not rely so heavily on agencies and buyers alone. He admits that many marketers dont understand this platform and its up to the leaders in radio to make them understand. Laudable. Unfortunately, thats unlikely as radios leadership still fails to understand its own medium!


The Sellers Spots Dodge

Chris Lytle recently provided a piece dealing with the obnoxious clichs that are still rampant in radio spots and that show no signs of being discontinued. I wont have to repeat them all as they would come as a surprise to no one. What did catch my attention, again, was his inclusion of salespeople writing their own spots!


Only On The Inside

My just-turned-13 memories include the smells of cotton candy, old fries, rotting canvas, stale beer, well-seasoned sweat, and fresh vomit. Sounds: strange noises from even stranger people quartered in the back lot behind wildly decorated trailers, momentarily mixed with bells, whistles, engine exhausts, and clanking gears. Blaring doo-wop and rock records competed with the distorted calls of carneys luring in a rube, or Larry.


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.


Radios Beverage

Radios Beverage

Recycling old ideas that dont work might be an indication there are no new ideas. While that doesnt seem like an original quote, the point still holds up when radios punditry class are challenged to respond to the implications. That the consultants and other heavies have failed utterly in taking radio out of its five-percent-of-available-revenues doldrums is more than obvious. It speaks volumes. Yet, this grave situation gets a free pass.


Radios Last Chance?

There are few challenges screaming back at anyone in this industry who puts forward the proposition that consolidated, corporately owned radio has made of our business our vocation a shambles and a charade. Whats worse is that, for many, the very idea that things could be so much better and rewarding doesnt even occur. Grim.


Indifference At The Choke Point

Through the years of slaving over a hot microphone or toiling at typing the hype, most of the intelligent, clever, thoughtful, and outrageously funny people I have met have been in radio. Many of those were in management! (ba-dup-bum!) So, what is it that stops these folks from clearly recognizing the state of our business -- and stepping up to bust down walls and fix it?


Radio Reality

There is a single, disturbing phenomenon to which I am exposed at all times, everyday, everywhere, in all formats, on major market stations and on single-stickers. Strother Martin, who played the prison farm "captain" in the movie Cool Hand Luke put it aptly when he viciously beat Luke down and declared, What weve got heyah isfailure.. t communicate!


Rational Radio

(By Ron Robinson) The title of this piece is a roaring oxymoron -- on many levels. I ask readers to consider but one of these, that being the assumption that radio is an ideal medium to present pure information and rational argument to influence audiences. Those who do accept the premise as accurate have entered the race. Just prior to the heat, they have borrowed the starters gun and shot themselves in the foot.


A Radio Swing Doctor

There are a number of analogies radio station managers have presented to their new hires. Two in particular made my skin crawl. The first of these was introduced with a claim about operating as a team. The more fatuous assertion was: We think of ourselves as a family here at Bluster Broadcasting. Following the latter, I enquired: Who gets to be Dad?


Radio Pow-Pow-Power?

(By Ron Robinson) While suppressing one of those sighs Charlie Brown issues after another of his failed attempts at anything, I respond here to a recent article in Radio Ink. Once again, that aged, bitter chestnut was dragged out the one about radio not being able to tell its own story. The headline to which I am referring is the following: Top 40 Power Quote: Consumers Do Not Know About the Power of Radio.


A Case For Boomer Radio

Music radio managers have been so locked in to their own traditions and dogma they continuously make programming decisions based on nothing more than already-accepted assumptions. That, and what those "other guys" are doing.


Faith-Based Radio

For more than 30 years, music radio has steadfastly refused to upgrade its talent base in both the on-air and creative departments. No concern. No remorse. I am befuddled. One could speculate that a penguin-style, group psychology may be in play here. Given all the suspiciously dogmatic limitations imposed on itmusic radio might be a cult!


Another Lousy Rumor

There are at least two ugly and vicious, but unconnected, rumors going around. One of these is that a video exists of Torontos mayor, Rob Ford, smoking crack with Somalian drug lords. The other is the contention -- from senior radio leadership -- that management has no responsibility to develop on-air or creative talent.


Wanted: Emergency Confessions

Innovations naturally and instantly garner their share of critics. Sharp stones are strewn along the roads of that territory, especially where disconcerting concepts are being introduced. What surprises, though, is how the detractors retaliate with toxic, but extremely vague, assertions while supplying no evidence.


Assumptions, Arts & Crafts

Over the years, radio has been making three main assumptions. The first of these I have covered and am sure I will be doing so again and again. That being the assumption that radio is a one-to-one medium. Nonsense. Never was. Isnt now. Wont ever be. Ill remind again: Its about being personable, not personal.


Talent Can Em Or Keep Em

There can be but little remorse left in this business. Anybody who has been in radio management over the last 20 years has been squashing talent at a dizzying rate. Thicker skins have evolved and the (normally) human trait of empathy has been severely suppressed. It is now a habit, typing up the following: and we wish them well in their future endeavors.


Talent -- The Friend Beside Us

There has been an element in vocal deliveries in both radio and television that has been secure for at least the last 10 years. Today, as often as not, on-air and commercial content is being delivered by those in the talent corps who have much higher and lighter voices than has been traditionally heard. The decisions to use these voices have been made, however, only for compensatory reasons.


As The Clutter Sputters

The most important thing that radio, especially corporate radio, has not become over the last 20 years is: better. Were public safety and air travel services to be directed by corporate radio, few of us particularly the knowing group of radios own ownership and management would ever fly again!


Spots Clutter On The Rubble

Spots  Clutter On The Rubble

Pro sales guy, regular blogger, and good friend of Radio Ink, Sean Luce, recently made some compelling arguments for having radio generate superior creative. This would be a noble and worthwhile effort, he contends, to produce advertising with better recall for the ad and the advertiser. My dad had a line that covered this circumstance: Nice dodge if you can pull it off!


Radio Budgies

I was mistaken. It may be worse than I thought. Over the last few weeks I have had discussions with a diverse group of individuals including radio sales managers, creative agency heads, talent representation, talent, and programmers. While I have long been aware of the positions on radio held by these folks in their respective specialties, I was still staggered. To a man and a woman they still have it dead wrong!


Making The Case

I ask my radio colleagues even when they arent bothering anybody: What do the aerodynamic principles of sailing have in common with radio? After some consideration, the quizzed often request an easier category or a different show.


So It Is Written

A significant majority of radio commercials are as welcome as being interrupted by the mall cop who has found the upside of coming to work with a pint of gin. Both (spots and mall cops) are annoyances that can be quickly disregarded. But, we are still obliged to go through a process of deciding whether to tolerate them. People tend to resent that exercise, especially when they already know the outcome.


Radios Other Dirty Word

Unless one is willing to accept the tripe propagandized by radios elite, larger chargers, there have been few if any satisfactory or convincing arguments put forward for the continuing of the first of the dirty words -- that being consolidation. I accept the position that, as a result of consolidation, the following groups have suffered: audiences, advertisers, programmers, middle managers, on-air and creative staffs, along with office support people.


Spots What A Load

Radio commercials are, practically, the only elements that allow for every station to have an income. That is why the creation of these ads gets a greater amount of energy, time, and budget than any other aspect of the business. (Pause.) I excuse myself here to go outside for a few minutes. Every year at this time, massive flocks of squealing piggies are overhead, winging their way to their Canadian summer nesting areas.


Its The Law

Because everybody in music radio already knows how the Second Law of Thermodynamics can stand as a fairly decent metaphor for our current situation, we might consider some of the consequences. The more significant and applicable element of this law can be put in laymans terms. This is a relief, since I am one.


Muuusic Power Gone

During a recent drive to one of my out-of-town gigs, I had another opportunity to spin the dial and listen for what was going on in a number of small and medium markets outside Toronto. As, over time, I have learned to expect very little, I wasnt terribly disappointed. Modern, music radio everywhere continues to be as contemporary as a cassette and as appealing as the no-name brand of Cardboard-In-A-Can.


The Next Necessary Step

Although not unique to radio, but pervasive anyway, many managers will read the following and declare it is arrogant. However, I also offer the following observation: If I were a master mechanic, a dentist, a carpenter, or maybe a plumber who declared I could fix their leaks, these same managers might respond with, Okay. How much?


Radio Changes

There are few things that offer as fair a warning that bull****-on-a-log is on its way down from upstream than a shambled, raggedy clich.


The Blame Game (continued)

Radio Ink publisher, Eric Rhoads, recently suggested that it was time for radio to take responsibility for its own situation. I would state in stronger terms that radio sits on the cusp of demise. If thats too harsh for tender eyes, then, most certainly, stagnation. None of this, I contend, is necessary or inevitable for many reasons.


Creative Departments Part XXVI

Much has been offered by so many expert sources on the creation, care, and feeding of radio commercials that anything I might add could easily be referred to as Part XXVI. But, since the Romans had such a strange way of writing numbers, I want to avoid having even astute readers go back to using fingers (and toes).


Radio Creative -- An Oxymoron

This is neither the time nor the environment for radio folk to be blowing smoke up each others anything. Locally-produced radio commercials have about a 90 percent chance of sucking.


Stuck In The Glue

In a response to my last blog post, Bill described the ongoing reality of a medium market station and used afternoon drive as the prime example. The station is pulling a 1-share and is selling at around 20 dollars-a-holler based on market cpp pricing. Afternoon drive is V/Td at a cost of a hundred bucks a week while the shift pulls in just under 300K a year.


Nothing Left To Learn

Its an amazing thing to talk to radio executives and senior talent who profess to already know everything there is to know about radio. I feel this is the pervasive attitude, and part of my evidence is that radio has made no improvements that are not technologically based in the last 30 years.


The Radio Trance

Any time I make the case that radio is an indirect medium that is, something other than a one-to-one communicative platform, I get notices that people are becoming thoroughly annoyed. I find this ironically spectacular, as there is no evidence whatsoever to support the one-to-one premise.


My Position: The Programming Priority?

In a recent Radio Ink audio-interview, Mike Sheehan, CEO of Hill Holiday, one of the top ad agencies in the country, offered up some advice on how radio can compete for more of his budget. He urged stations to be fearless and improve their content. Well damn! Maybe thats the answer after all!


Programming And Other Four-Letter Words

When I was being trained to do HR-work and personal coaching, I was introduced to a premise that, upon consideration, held true in an alarming number of circumstances. And in no way have radio-folks been inoculated against this particular scourge. The premise was: "People, and the organizations they develop, have a tendency to find out what doesnt work and do it harder!"


Rustic Reflections On The Powerful People

Maybe it was the 10-day stretch up in northern Ontario in a spot that has no Internet, no cell service, no phones, no pools, and no pets. I made it a point, though, to carry my [I]hard copy[/I] edition of Radio Ink's Top 40 Most Powerful People. I read it multiple times. My conclusion, although not a new one, is: This business has issues big, hairy ones.


Radio's "One Thing"

I remember well when Jack Palance as Curly in the movie "City Slickers" admonished Billy Crystal's character about the Secret of Life the critical importance of knowing "just one thing." When Mitch asked what that one thing is, Curly responded with, "That's what you got to figure out."


Re-Learning The Game

New Rule: Anybody who talks up "Theatre of the Mind" to a potential advertising client had better be able to provide locally produced examples of great commercials. Otherwise, better for all concerned if they breathe through their noses on this one and stick to the ol Reach and Frequency-dodge.


McRadio Not Even

During all dayparts, corporate music radio has multiple opportunities to dish out the equivalent of a full and yummy smorgasbord. A tantalizing and stunningly attractive buffet. But, we won't do that. Instead, we are offering up the music radio equivalent of cracked bowls of dry cornflakes.


Talent It Don't Come Easy

Only recently have I been sensing a quivering in the music radio zeitgeist. Sporadic considerations are emanating from a number of smart, senior executives that there might be something worthwhile to bringing talent back into the fold. The rationale suggests some positive impacts on ratings and revenues by dropping in more relevant "local" content by local "live" personalities qualifying as more appealing broadcasting. They are dangerously mistaken.


Over The Cliff

There are some who respond to my comments on the potentials of what I believe are the necessary developments of Music Radio as if I didnt have a grasp on reality. Those who know me can attest, while I may rant, I do not roar. Nor, as a hockey player, did I spear, slash, cross check or go into the corners with any guy named Moose or Rabies. In fact, my lifetime in radio has been more the blood-sport.


Road Rage

Theres nothing like a road trip to clear the mind, calm the senses, and allow for a period of uninterrupted time to muse on the possibilities. My most recent road trip, however, had none of those attractive qualities. If there is a Radio Hell prepared for guys like me, I believe I spent a few moments on the lip of just such a broiling, flaming pit.


Talent - The Only Option

That Music Radio remains solidly perched on the bottom rung of the professional media ladder is no secret. How we got here is no mystery, either. This was no accident. It came about as the result of ownership drastically diminishing their product - their services - to the point where most all of them became indistinguishable from each other and the product less effective and less desirable.


Radio Cant Go Back

In another conversation, a number of former On Air-guys were revelling about being the Boss Jocks of their day and were trading war stories about hitting posts, kissing vocals, talkin dirty and, generally, Rammin the Hits. The chat got eerie, though, when many of them were not only pining for those experiences, but also insisting that if brought back fortunes would be re-made again. That is: re-introducing the same approach to a 50-plus audience that was foisted on those tender ears when they were in their teens.


Research Is For Rubes

While acknowledging emailed charges to the contrary, I insist I am not writing Music Radio off entirely, as there are still some exceptions and examples of my own listening experiences that are, at least partially satisfying. Yes, I still get to listen to some great Talent out in the hinterlands and online!


Radio The Prime Directive

It was a dark and stormy disposition and I was sorely startled to realize: It was my own! As a defense, I plead it as a position to which I had come by honestly. Although I was able to avoid being captured by stations that held their Holy Formats in the highest of esteems and demonstrated as much by rotating the same 500 tunes, and by turning their Talent into mere, mechanical Robo-Jocks, I was still a witness to the lobotomization of Music Radio.


Radio Secrets

For many years decades actually, there has been a widely held understanding that: There are no secrets in Radio. The standard explanation for the premise has been that since whatever it is that comes out of the (Radio) box is all so obvious, that is the full and complete representation of everything there is to know about any particular station.


Music Radio Has Become A Flock

This was a clear, quiet, warm and sunny day in November a welcome and calm Toronto, Sunday morning to step out on the stoop for a smoke and a coffee while the rest of the family continued their zonk-fest. I had already turned on the radio to hear the locals doing their part in V/Ting their audience into a drowsy, low-volume, background state of indifference.


A New Years Definite, Maybe

(by Ron Robinson) For the last 20 years or so, music radio owners and management, along with and thanks to dangerously toxic doses of research and equally unhealthy contributions from Consultants have rendered that portion of the mediums programming choices irrelevant.


Consult, Train or Neither

(by Ronald T. Robinson) Blistering criticisms that fall on deaf ears had better supply some benefits to the one offering the abuse. Otherwise, only when alternatives are being put forward is there any point at all to tabling the critiques. The wail of Radio sucks and its because those guys have gutted it! does little more than adjust the heart-rate and blood pressure gauges in an upward direction.


The Trap of The Client Survey

(by Ronald T. Robinson) In my most recent, I asserted that conscious recall was not necessary for a Radio-ad campaign to be effective. Lucky for us, too, as hardly anyone remembers anything about the content of those ads. Only if the ad is sensational does a listener remember anything about the spots at all. Yet, Radio can work wonders. So, in my model-of-the-world thats just weird.


Radio: A Trance Medium

(by Ron Robinson) A neuroscientist and a hypnotist walked into a bar. Instead of a live, in-the-flesh bartender, there was a guy in a studio transmitting through a video screen taking orders and making conversation. He took the requests. A steady, robotic arm delivered the beverages. After a couple of rounds the video-barkeep asked, Will there be anything else, gentlemen? To which the neuroscientist replied, Check, please. The hypnotist looked at the bartender on the screen and said, I, like you, am forgetting it. Only the neuroscientist got a bill.


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.


The Codependent Listener

(by Ron Robinson) As a newly-minted Vice President In Charge of Everything, I require all hunkered-down on-air personality or flogged and scarred, hype-typist who insists on continuing to broadcast exclusively to this alleged Uber One to provide verifiable evidence of this Personal Listeners existence.


If Only I Knew Who

(Ronald T. Robinson) The Arab Potentate, proud, confident and leaning comfortably on his sturdy, opulent and stylishly-decorated tent, was purveying an expanse of desert his desert that stretched beyond the cut and rolling dunes and on into interminable beyond-the-horizon, scorching stretches that allowed only the adventurous, well prepared and sometimes desperate to cross, turned to the squinting, sweating and exasperated salesman and said, Right. What I really need is more sand.


Are You Still Dropping The "Y" Bomb?

(Ronald T. Robinson) Over the years, I have found that my dropping of the Y-Bomb results in one of two, basic responses. Broadcasters either immediately panic and scurry away while covering their ears and muttering Na-na-na-na-na. Or, they panic; muster up some righteous indignation; pick up their torches and pitchforks and look around to make sure there are others willing to head up the mountain.


Who Are You Really Talking To Out There?

(by Ronald Robinson) First, a couple of (rhetorical) questions: 1.) When did Radio become a One-to-One medium? And, 2.) Why was I not informed? That the delivery of Radio has always been accepted as a One-to-One exercise has never, ever, never been challenged! This, because, like other areas of life, the premise was presented with the authority of, uhhh Authority, and forthwith became: Dogma. As such, Dogma cannot be challenged. Heretics and infidels do pay dearly.


Are You Performing Every Day?

(by Ron Robinson) As Dear John letters go, perhaps my most recent was about as comforting and welcome as hearing a psyche-destroying, hard-time sentence being boomed from the Bench. Youre goin away, Billy - and for a very long time. Doesnt matter that the man needed killin. Nevertheless, it is that very letter that needs to be read to every Radio-person who cracks open a mic or who scribbles the drivel.


I Can't Listen To You Anymore!

(by Ron Robinson) Dear Talent: We have never met and I would appreciate your keeping that in mind as you consider this letter. Even though your first impulse on reading the following might be to take offense, it would be a mistake, as I dont know you well enough for you to be offended or, for that matter, for you to care. There is still an opportunity to consider this as no more than "information". Nevertheless, I cannot listen to you anymore. And, I will list my reasons.


The Radio Refusal

A pack of incorrigible whiners those radio station owners and management who are yelping like ferrets hung up in a bear-trap. Revenues are down! Bodies must be sacrificed! they bellow. Of course revenues arent skyrocketing. Other media are cleaning our clocks and eating our lunches. We can all cheer up, though, as there is a reason: We are categorically incompetent at so much of what we do.


 
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