01/05

“Pop” goes another Morning Show

Here's local TV's take on the loss of multiple big-ticket morning shows in San Diego during the past year:

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/video.

That's Chris Cantore, formerly host of 91X's morning show speaking about the loss of San Diego's Dave, Shelly, and Chainsaw and Jeff & Jer.

I think Chris is exactly right.

I would add, however, that it's rare for super-premium morning shows to be kicked to the curb.  Much more common is for those shows to turn up their nose at a reduced offer and kick themselves to the curb.

It seems to me that the kind of cross-media pioneering that Chris is describing is (or should be) every bit as easy as the employee of a broadcasting company as it is when you're left with no job and only the four walls of your garage.  I see precious few talents taking full advantage of these tools, however.

Interestingly I just wrapped a conversation with Seth Godin to air here late this month, and Seth said very much the same thing.

Our futures are in our own hands.  No broadcaster wants to lose Jeff & Jer or Dave, Shelly, and Chainsaw. But when the advertising marketing is tanking, a high-priced morning show is, by definition, worth less.

Does radio need talent of this caliber?  You bet it does.  But – for better or worse – that talent will be worth exactly what radio is willing to pay for it and not a penny more.  

And that's true whether your name is Chainsaw or Rush.

The best radio talent of the future will likely not be on the radio.

Think about – and plan for – that.

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  • http://profile.typepad.com/francispruett Francis Pruett

    I may have some experience with this, so bear with me. As a long-time journalist and a publisher, I am a student of radio and of all media. As a member of Generation X and an early adopter of technology, I have been awaiting the old media’s change since 1995. Unfortunately, it seems the old media has settled on collapse instead.
    The truth is that the talent is doing what it can, but the problem is not solely with talent. The older, less wired, less wireless and less adaptable manager’s suite has allowed the revenue model to stagnate. Most talent is ready to move to a community-building, highly social and multifaceted mode of interactive operation. Chris is one of those.
    The transition from listener to user is creeping up the demographic. Along with this trend comes savvy that demands more of content. Cookie-cutter websites with email links to talent contact forms that likely cross the station managers’ desks first seems the norm. No web user likes to be herded before they are “heard.”
    Ad campaigns do not harmonize across the online and on-air and are likely under-monetized. Sales staff treat the online as some kind of spiff, not the driver of business they should. The station manager’s mantra? “Slash talent, change formats, slash staff, turn sales staff over and preserve my job until the station dies.”
    And they do die, don’t they? There is no change, only hunkering down and bunkering up by a stale generation of nonleaders constantly droning on about their vast experience. Their experience seems to tell them to kill evolution at all costs, and they are listening. Unfortunately, the new media user is not, and their advertisers know it.
    The culprit? Management and corporate mistrust of the Internet and all things public which cannot be corruptly dominated and stolen from the public at the FCC. The medium in which no special privilege or permission is needed to produce public information is the nemesis of the old guard. That radio, having always been “free,” is being killed by its own rigidity, its reliance on format and airwave monopolies, is not only just but inevitable.
    There is much at stake for the current station owners, to be sure. But when it comes down to their station managers, the big question for the old guard is control.
    The manager wants station loyalty, and personality loyalty in a cost-cutting age is being treated as secondary. But the truth is, personalities command loyalty. Brands and stations are just where the audience find them.
    The managers let people go without warning to quell listener outcry or shorten it. Sure, there was Chris at 91x. There is the DSC and Jeff and Jer. There have been many. Anyone remember Russ T Nailz barricading himself in at The Flash 92.5? Good times! Anyone for a petition? How about a boycott with its own broadcast/media reach via the internet?
    The desire of the audience and its size is no Artbitron myth, but a number tracked in real-time. The advertiser can see it, as can the user. The personalities can interact, not through email or some call-in line, but directly in real time. The advertiser can do so, as well.
    There is an amazing amount of money to be made in convergence. Talent will likely function more as a manager of community and its voice and face. Management must become a facilitator and monetizer of the social networks created by that transformation.
    But this change and its associated money will not be made until the words community, social content and interactivity are no longer a threat to management’s rigid adherence to access control, medium domination and format manipulation.
    Good talent will become stronger in the new paradigm, because a community will only form around what it likes, and their imprimatur will be indelible. Management will likely transform into a seeker of communities. Lineups will be made of not just talents, but their most active social peers.
    In the coming new dawn of radio, a few hundred minds interacting and producing ideas will be filtered and interacted with. The product sent out across the airwaves will invite more to chip in and be a part of it, and not apart from it.
    From this, management will have real metrics to show their advertisers. To show them anything good, new media management in the radio world will find out that they have to do something different: they now have to listen to us.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mramsey1 Mark Ramsey

    Wait until you hear my chat with Seth….
    As he said, “things aren’t going ‘back to normal.’ This is the New Normal.”

  • MattMan

    Cantore Spewing Nonsense Again
    The guy is absolutely and completely off track regarding the state of terrestrial radio. He essentially says, “Radio DIDN’T keep up.” Radio didn’t keep up? Uh, last time I checked there’s a radio in every single car on the road.
    Did he mean radio fell behind the technology curve? Well, let’s see. Every significant radio show has a web presence, with Listen Live and Podcast options. These shows are also heavily involved in YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and every other web-based networking platform that pops up each month. What else should they do, Chris?
    It’s interesting how Cantore’s description of Radio in the 21st century fits so perfectly with his attempt at broadcasting without a real on-air gig. The guy starts an internet radio show cluster fuck operation and now THAT particular business model is “the future”. Dude, you lost your on-air gig because you weren’t popular. Now you are less popular and you have a diminutive revenue stream coming from that shrinking audience. You’re screwed, unless you can convert your “daisy chain” of nonsensical Tweets into money.
    WHAT HAPPENED TO RADIO? THE HUGE CORPORATIONS BOUGHT UP ALL THE LOCAL RADIO STATIONS, PIPED IN PRE-PACKAGED PROGRAMS AND SERIOUSLY WEAKENED THE MEDIUM. NOW THEY’RE TAKING IT OUT ON THE TALENT. END OF STORY.
    Chris says he’s happy doing his cyber masturbation to make a living. i say he would take a $30,000/year AM morning shift on any radio station in San Diego . . . if it was offered to him. I’d bet my Chris Cantore autographed 91X bumper sticker on it.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mramsey1 Mark Ramsey

    It’s unfortunate that your note is so intensely personal, considering that this post is not about Cantore. He is simply the messenger, and everything he’s saying rings true.
    Your assessment of what’s wrong with radio ignores technology trends and advertising trends and consumer trends. You are blaming the industry for its current demise, and that, I submit, is off-base.
    Sure, the leaders of radio deserve tons of responsibility for bad decision-making, but they are not the ones who created the Internet.
    Assess the argument without shooting the messenger.

  • Michael Berger

    Mattman…SCORE!!! It’s also DEBT LOAD. Look at CC, FCB and any number of other groups that went after the golden ring and bought stations at mind numbing prices. Like the housing market, it was unsustainable! Now that the advertising business as a whole has taken a hit, they’re punked. (And deregulation is the culprit…another topic). If they didn’t owe so much, maybe some of this ill advised personnel slashing wouldn’t be necessary. And it didn’t just start recently, there’s just no place else left to cut. So the thing that brings listeners to radio, talent and creative personnel, get wacked. What happened to all the folks who lost jobs to voice tracking? Where is the pool of players who will push radio, innovate and create compelling programming? Instead we get cookie cutter solutions that the audience is indifferent about. So radio as a collective medium loses audience share and advertising revenue. Create a compelling listening experience and they will come…BTW there should be a workable solution with these high priced shows…Ya think Junior Seau still gets the big bucks to play in the NFL?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mramsey1 Mark Ramsey

    I agree with all of this, Michael.
    It is a downward spiral with no bottom low enough.
    And yes, there should be a workable solution for the high priced shows – and having those shows paid according to the value they create – even if it’s less than it used to be – is surely one such solution.
    You can bet that such an offer was on the table for both shows, and it was rebuffed.

  • john gehron

    I see to much talent being shedded across the country, with much of it being attributed to poor PPM numbers. A radio station’s brand is made up of many factors. A previously successful show in diaries isn’t suddenly a stiff. The show may differentiate the station from others, be good ambassadors in public,and get results for advertisers. The PPM doesn’t measure any of these attributes, and they matter. PPM is just one tool to measure success but as in any measurement system it has its biases. That’s why we have people to interprete the numbers and then make decisions incorporating various factors.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mramsey1 Mark Ramsey

    And that, my friends, is the voice of a man who has been one of radio’s leaders and knows what he’s talking about.

  • http://www.347steps.com VIP doug

    I think it’s a shame that the big shows have been victimized by the economy. Most of America took a pay cut last year or lost their job and us civilians have a better shot at getting another gig than the DJ’s do. What do they do next? Why not take the pay cut? It’s a sad day when a broadcast superhero is reduced to my medium http://www.347steps.com podcast.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mramsey1 Mark Ramsey

    I guess the easiest answer to your question “why not take a pay cut” is because these shows don’t need the money at all.
    Lord knows plenty – plenty – of air talents nationwide have settled for cuts, rightly or wrongly.

  • George

    Everyone got used to the regular paycheck with benefits. That may be the next thing to die. The future for talent will be revenue shares. That’s a win-win for everyone. The station doesn’t go broke paying a salary while revenues decline, and the talent can invest in themselves. That puts content people on the same side with sales people, all working towards improving revenues. A station is less likely to fire a talent who is directly involved in bringing in cash. And a talent is more likely to participate in new revenue streams if he’s getting a piece.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mramsey1 Mark Ramsey

    This sounds absolutely correct to me, George.