Wednesday, March 30, 2016

We'll Be Right Back After These Messages

This piece in the Huffington Post was written a few months ago, but I just stumbled upon it this morning. According to the article, commercial breaks now run from 8 to 13 minutes a stop-set. Yowza.

Even the powers that be in radio are starting to realize that may be a little too long.

Of course, radio is only worried about it now because advertisers are complaining that their messages are being lost in the clutter. Believe me, they aren't worried about you, the listener.

I'm just one guy who isn't even in the business anymore, but I've long advocated that everything would change for the better if radio started caring about the listeners again.

I recognize that this is a radical position in the radio business.

But here's some tough love, radio. Nobody will sit through a long commercial break anymore. Ever.

The fact that this is only now dawning on you is shocking.

We all tune out. All of us. I'm not just talking about those young folks you complain about with their short attention spans. It's all of us. I'm 52, and I've loved radio my whole life. I also have to listen because I write a monthly column about radio. But even I am listening less and less.

I understand the pressures radio faces. Most stations are in deep debt. They are struggling to stay afloat financially--so all of their energy goes into bringing in money. It takes twice as much effort to make half as much money these days. But I'd love to see what would happen if a little more time was spent working on the listening experience, and what effect that would have on bringing in money.

I wrote a novel called "$everance" a decade ago. It was a satire about the business, and it was kind of ridiculous at the time...on purpose. In the book (once again--a satire) the CEOs took what I was already seeing in the business to the logical extreme. At that time they thought of their employees as "money makers" or "money takers", so I had a character suggest that all "money takers" be taken out of the equation completely. I was kidding. It was supposed to be ridiculous.

Now it's virtually true. Money takers have slowly but surely been marginalized further and further. The air personalities, program directors, music directors, producers, production directors, and promotion departments have become mere after-thoughts.

Unfortunately for you, radio station owners, it turns out those people weren't just there to spend your money. They were there to attract your audience, and to keep them there. They are the reason we listened in the first place. They are your product. When you don't care about your listeners, AND you don't care about your product, what do you think is going to happen?

I keep reading these industry newsletters that mention numbers proving that radio is not losing listeners, and that the medium is as relevant as it ever was. Okey doke. But I live in a non-radio world now, and you know who talks to me about radio in that world?


I'm sorry to be so blunt about it, but as Cher said in Moonstruck...