The Wizard of Ads on Radio’s Future

…and the opinions will strike you as very familiar, because Roy Williams and I are evidently on the same wavelength:

I predict that half of America’s morning drive jocks will soon be replaced by 10 or 12 syndicated morning shows beamed in from somewhere else. This will happen in other dayparts as well. Frankly, I’m in favor of it. Wait! I hear the voices of broadcasters clamoring, “But radio is local. Our listeners want local. Syndication is anti-radio.” I respond, “Listen to the people of your town. Are they saying, ‘We don’t want Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, American Idol, and Lost! We want the local TV shows?’” “Are they saying, ‘We don’t want Spiderman, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Lord of the Rings in our theaters! We want the local movies?’” “Are they saying, ‘We don’t want Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern, we want a local political pundit and a local shock jock?’” Ten years ago, radio’s consolidators cut costs by cutting the fat. Then, when pressured for more profits, they did the only thing they knew to do; they cut deeper, but this time into muscle. Radio was crippled. Occasionally they cut arteries and radio stations began dying. Wall Street prices dropped cold and hard, icy hail on a barren landscape. There were plenty of heroic efforts in the emergency room. Not all radio group heads were selfish. Not all were shortsighted and stupid. I’ve watched from the sidelines as good men and women did the best they could under impossible circumstances. Now radio is going private again. Deconsolidation has begun. The age of syndication is upon us. Don’t be afraid of it.

This is not a new argument, of course, but it reflects a major theme in my book Fresh Air, a theme often mentioned here in this blog and elsewhere. And you will be hearing it more and more over the next year or two.

Goodbye local talent (unless it really is “talent”), hello syndicated talent (which will really have to be “talent”).

Broadcasters will increasingly distinguish between providing local service and having a jock in the local studio, which are certainly not the same thing.

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