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The end of “Talk Radio”?

Words create meaning. And they also trap us in boxes with no room to grow.

Any rational view of radio’s future – and I’m talking 5+ years out here – will conclude that Talk Radio will be a more important piece of the pie than Music Radio. That’s because of the infinitely expanding choices for passive audio entertainment which are just over the horizon mixed with the growing demand from listeners to experience music audio with customization and control.

But Talk is a different story. Because Talk is about talent and talent is – now and forever – scarce and expensive.

But there’s just one thing wrong with this picture: “Talk” is the wrong word.

And it limits our actions and our options. (And don’t get me started on “spoken word” which is the only kind of word you’ll ever hear on the radio and thus is utterly meaningless.)

When I refer to the trend towards Talk Radio and away from Music Radio, I’m really referring to the trend towards NON-MUSIC radio.

That goes well beyond the parameters of what we typically refer to today as Talk Radio.

Wandering amidst the posters at NAB promoting radio’s prime Talk properties, it’s hard not to be struck by the fact that these talents are overwhelmingly Male, late-middle-aged, conservative, politically-charged white guys in suits. Sure, there are the exceptions, but for every Dave Ramsey there are a dozen Michael Savages.

There is, in other words, a stunning lack of variety in our offerings. Sure we do a good job of giving listeners the Talk Radio they want. But we do a crappy job of giving them the NON-MUSIC Radio they might want.

And, to be sure, the average age of the Talk Radio listener suggests that younger folks want something decidedly different. Besides music and morning shows and sports play-by-play, we have yet to crack that code.

And it’s because we’re not looking in the right place.

Sure, I’ve got ideas (which I’ll save for paying customers). You can’t flip through the cable TV menu without instantly imagining a dozen shows and formats that would be great on radio and have nothing to do with music But who does this? Yet do we really think non-music radio is limited to the notion of a talking head who takes calls and dispenses advice and political rants? Come on! Talk Radio gets what it asks for – and only that.

What are the types of programs or formats which could leverage radio’s inherent strengths and provide a true alternative for the throngs of listeners not inclined to politics and too young to be taken in by a headache solution which is applied directly to the forehead?

How many times has a major broadcaster asked me to evaluate these types of concepts as potential new shows or formats?

How about ZERO.

We are so deep in our Music and Talk Radio boxes that we can’t see the miles of uncontested blue ocean between them

Innovation is the key to our future. And I mean innovation on the programming front.

And I especially mean innovation on the NON-MUSIC programming front.

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