Is the 8-second talk break the future?

This is an email allegedly from a Clear Channel Regional VP to his staff. Although much of this rings true, I can’t vouch for its authenticity or whether or not it has been “amended” (I trimmed out certain portions that looked like commentary).

I publish it here because it reflects thinking that is bound to be much more universal in the radio industry with the dawn of electronic measurement.

What seems to have finally made its way to our market has been in place for some time in other large/major markets. I’ve streamed & heard the changes so far in LA, NY, CHICAGO, PORTLAND, PHOENIX, DALLAS & PHILLY. 8 sec talk breaks inside a sweep (no beds ever), 20 maximum into breaks. ALL breaks MUST have content that is MUSICALLY related. Also, it is no longer necessary to BEGIN and/or END a break with call letters. All the ‘bragging’ monikers i.e. #1 hit music station….GONE. We don’t brag anymore. Phoners must also be musically related…NO witty, edgy personality bits. This comes parellel with a complete stripdown of flashy imaging; All re-entry kickoffs and sweepers are basically produced. Also included in the new programming is the resurrection of DEAD SEGUES…one song ends, another begins…no imaging. In some markets I’ve heard of jocks only being allowed to say their name ONCE per HOUR. What about LOCAL content? i.e. your market’s baseball team sweeping the rivals,…horrible traffic on the highway, or the local cop that got shot last week? NO. NO. NO. Concentrate on MUSIC. MUSIC. MUSIC. ONE thought per break. (Yes, we’ve heard this forever ago….no we REALLY meant it now. If you’re going into a break….selling the major station promotion and frontselling the songs out of the break. That was TWO thoughts…dumbass.) Absolutely NO HYPE what so ever. No appointment times, ever…anymore. If you have tickets, you just give them away with NO previous mention at all. Also, periodically there will be NO GIVEAWAYS outside of AM Drive on the entire station to let it ‘breathe’. Absolutely no jock TOPICS or ? of the day crap. Of course, this is station sensitive and Programmers are expected to tailor and customize new implementations for each station and format. EVERYTHING THERE IS A FACT. Now here’s my opinion. After soaking it up for awhile, these stations DO sound cleaner and clutter free. The crosstown is playing hype promos that are :48 in length…we’re 40% through our stopset already. Quicker imaging (when used, if not a dry, dead segue) transitioning to the next creates a non hype environment for the listener. This programming is designed to majorly scale back the role of air talent…salaries maybe to follow. Any jock that seriously thinks its about them, and station second will be gone within a week…If your an old dog and can’t learn these new tricks, you SERIOUSLY better start looking. But what about PERSONALITY you ask? A.) Your AM Drive show IS your station’s personality. B.) Your jock page on the website, do your personality there. Don’t know web design? Get with it. That’s where radio is headed. The major purpose of this new programming is to cater to the desires of the normal, non P1 listener. Request line callers, friends & family that pat you on the back, contest participants, interactive bit groupies…are only 8% of our TOTAL audience. Apparantely, the other 92% could care less and want ONE and ONLY ONE thing from the station. MUSIC. If I can remember correctly, this perceptual study was done over a period of 2 years, demo 18-34P, with a sample size of 10,000 people. The number complaint among the study? “The DJ guy never says the name of the song when its over.” Hence, BACKSELLING now outranks frontselling. Yes, RULE #1 that we were taught as jocks for YEARS is now thrown out the window. Some markets have it worse than other depending on how corporate they are.

This describes one kind of radio station, of course, a station that is primarily a music-box. If your station is strictly about music, then this advice may not be wrong. De-cluttering stations is a major thrust nowadays for very good reasons (and that de-cluttering includes the clutter of advertising, I might add).

My gut tells me this advice is related to feedback from PPM markets where listeners tend to want stations to be more of what they promise to be and less of anything else, but that’s a guess on my part.

How does this square with my frequent advice that the stuff between the records is where radio’s great advantage is? It doesn’t, strictly speaking. But my advice is not about how to compete against your radio competitors in a PPM world, it’s about how to compete against ALL your competitors in a world of many audio entertainment options.

If what you read above were true in a global sense and for the long term, if it’s really all about the songs and only the songs, then why not simulate satellite radio? Who needs “local” at all?

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