Radio: Discuss amongst yourselves

One of the main roles of this blog and of our approach to the challenges of radio is to look at every issue from every side.

I find that there’s precious little of that going on in the radio industry in general. Cheerleading is encouraged, the chorus is rewarded, and open discussion is twisted into “negativity” – as if nodding in agreement has ever been the way to squarely debate an important issue (many readers of this blog don’t post comments because of legitimate fear of reprisal).

When a survey is released with some provocative or surprising results, do you quote those results verbatim? Do you accept them as true? Or do you ask questions about the makeup of the survey, its sponsor, its goals and motivations, and the context of the questions and the answers? Do you ask whether the right questions – or ALL the questions – were asked?

When the HD Radio folks tell you it’s all about price and variety and quality and availability, is that true? Or do we assume that people will accept what’s cheap, diverse, hi-fi, and accessible? Do we ask simple-minded questions and accept the answers at face value? Is this, in other words, the best (or even a good) way to make HD Radio successful – or are there other ways we’re overlooking? Do we want HD Radio to work – or do we want to be “right” as we try?

A discussion of the type I’m describing rarely occurs in the radio industry trades because it’s really their job to announce, not to discuss. They’re more “all news,” than “news/talk.” But discussion without multiple sides is simply a point of view. Not the “truth.”

Here’s the thing.

I think you are smarter than the industry and you’re smarter than the trades. You can ask “what’s behind this?” when our trade media and your bosses cannot. You can read between the lines of industry announcements and consider the “rest of the story.” You can evaluate long-held assumptions and question them.

Doing the right thing – the best thing for the future of the industry and all its players – will depend on an open discussion of best practices. It will depend on doing what’s smart, whether or not it appeals to Wall Street this quarter.

And if what’s smart today yields performance tomorrow (as it should), we will once again be in Wall Street’s loving and ever-fickle embrace.

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