Bring back the Power of Radio

As Radio’s environment gets more competitive, it’s good to keep in mind that we have the upper hand in the long battle – as long as we understand what to do with that upper hand.

A short history lesson…

In October of 1938 Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy had a 34.7 share (in all forms of entertainment, audiences love dummies).

Over on CBS, the illustrious and usually high-browed Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre on the Air earned a measly 3.6.

It was during a musical interlude on the Bergen show that 12% of the audience switched to CBS only to hear a live news report of Martians invading New Jersey. Welles, of course, was keenly aware of when Bergen broke for music and he made sure there was something worth hearing on CBS when the restless Charlie McCarthy audience scanned the dial. The resulting panic is, of course, notorious.

The power of Radio to provoke was firmly established.

It’s interesting to note that, once upon a time, music was the stuff between content, not the content itself. Music was what sent listeners spinning the Radio dial in search of more content.

Yesterday I participated in a panel discussion at the Radio & Records convention. The audience asked if the JACK format’s relative absence of DJ’s had implications for other formats. My response was this: DJ’s and Talent are not the same thing. Listeners don’t like DJ’s, but listeners love Talent.

As you evaluate your options in the face of Satellite and broadband and streaming and the like, remember the power of Radio comes not from music, it comes from people. It comes from talent.

Content and talent are one and the same.

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