A few people have asked me why my take on our industry is “so dark”? “So what should we do?” they ask. “What’s your answer, smart-ass?”
Here’s my answer, and you’re not going to like it:
Nobody cares about quality more than a critic. And quality means content.
When you have universal distribution you have almost everything you need for permanent success: You have access, habit, comfort, brand power. You have almost everything. As long as you also have strong and unique content.
You are vulnerable only when you take what you have for granted. As if your castle walls are impregnable.
You are vulnerable when you cut expenses well past the bone. You are vulnerable when you sacrifice what’s great in exchange for what’s cheap. You are vulnerable when you lean heavily on your music mix – the very part of you which can be easily copied by competitors from inside and outside our industry. You are vulnerable when you have a world class morning show syndicated across the country and you don’t replace him with a star of even greater stature, even if you have to import him or her from music, TV, or the movies. You are vulnerable when risks become unacceptable rather than unavoidable.
Radio is in the entertainment business, not the uninterrupted music business. This is a fundamental realization we have trained ourselves to forget.
And entertainment lives atop the bubble of risk. Hits require stiffs. And both require taking chances and spending money.
Most of you have probably not heard of a man named Ira Glass. Most of you probably have never heard his wonderful Public Radio show, This American Life. “That’s a niche show,” you might say. And maybe you’re right. But wait….Not only does TAL sell all their programs online and at bookstores nationwide, they recently signed with the Showtime cable network to produce a pilot for a TV series. That’s in addition to their “first look” deal with Warner Bros.
Do you see where I’m going? The value of that little “niche show” is not simply what it generates in advertising revenue (which it doesn’t have). It’s value must be gauged across numerous entertainment windows. When you factor in the retail sales and movie and cable deals, that little “niche show” is worth a helluva lot more than any one weekly hour on your radio station.
The future of Radio is assured – if we realize that our future is in talent. On and off the air. The very best, from inside OR OUTSIDE our industry. Hollywood is choking on talent. And virtually none of it is working in Radio.
And it’s because you don’t ask.