The Future of Commercial Radio?

Monday, December 5, 9am

My old friend Hawkeye Joe, whom I did radio with for many years at KFJC, now works in a very underused, and I’m sure, underaprreciated way at SF radio station KBLX: “The Quiet Storm”. For years his monday morning radio show at KFJC, “The Breakfast Club” was considered one of the best shows at KFJC and in the Bay Area. He has attempted to make it in the commercial realm, but like me, has realized it would compromise his integrity way too much. He runs the board at KBLX.

Yesterday I recieved an email from him that appeared to be from an in-house KBLX memo, sent to all air personalities and staffer at KBLX, stating what they believe their on-air personalities need to do to maintain their employment. There are some amazing comments in here, leading me to believe that the future of radio is one of more consolidation, more syndication, and less diversity.

The memo is as follows:

“To: All Announcers

The following is a synopsis of the discussion at a full-time announcers meeting which we had two weeks ago. There is information you should know and if you have any questions, please call me.

Announcer’s Meeting

November 15, 2005

** This meeting is to discuss the changes in the industry in general, and focus on what will make us continue being a viable commodity.

Ratings come out this Thursday. It is a trend, but ratings information is crucial because of the intensity of competition we are experiencing. Technology and market pressures have changed the industry in a very short time and we can expect these changes to directly affect decisions we will make.

**As an announcer you are well aware of the tenuous nature of being an announcer. Your career is based on ratings and you know that public opinion can change within one ratings period. Every announcer has been let go from a position at one time or another.

This is not to scare anyone, but this is the nature of the business. What determines the viability of keeping on-air talent is a numbers game which means ratings and revenue potential will be scrutinized. Radio is now controlled by the accountants who scrutinize all day parts.

**The Bottom Line is now the Bottom Line. In other words, the focus has become “does your day part generate income”. Programming, music, and community service are no longer a part of the equation. Your day part must perform in order for you as an announcer to stay viable. If you are underperforming, they will begin to look elsewhere for viable, cost efficient solutions.

**An example of a growing trend is WDAS in Philly. Their morning show is syndicated and it’s the fourth show in their market. The issue here becomes, is it cheaper and easier for a station to broadcast syndicated programming from a fourth place rated show or should they keep a morning show where they have to pay talent salary and benefits.

**The industry will be watching how this plays out, but WDAS is one of several shows syndicated and is a sign of what is to come.

**Voice Tracking, we are all familiar with this mode of operation. One of our colleagues at a competing station voice tracks 8 or 9 stations for about $40,000 a year. This is not unique to our market. Any stations’ management constantly looks for cost-cutting and will implement what they believe to be cost-efficient use of talent.

**Another big change that is coming to our industry is the “People Meter” which will track every radio station a participant encounters. That means it doesn’t matter if you are in your car, in your office wherever there is a radio signal broadcasting, the meter will record it and credit will be given to your station.

Obviously, it will change the entire buying landscape and ratings system. Unfortunately, that means if a listener is stuck in the office where the office dictates his/her listening choice, it will register in the meter. The flipside is that the technology can actually track listening patterns and supposedly give us a more accurate accounting of listenership, but this remains to be seen. There is already discussion of how this affects Urban leaning stations and why this will still not give a completely accurate picture. They are still fine tuning the technology but by 2007 this type of measuring will be in place.

**Announcers like we have today will not exist in a few years. Right now we broadcast over the airwaves, but we also stream audio on the internet and we also have a digital channel 982 on Comcast Cable.

**This is a reality of the business that people want choices and can tune elsewhere to get them if we do not provide avenues for them to reach us.

**With the advent of automation, voice tracking, and the choices people have, from ipods, to satellite radio, to internet radio, Broadcast radio is in a state of flux and the industry must make major shifts to survive and be competitive.

**Even with the challenges we are facing, we can still help shape our own destiny and you have the ability and talent to keep the wolves at Bay.

**As an announcer you have to bring your “A” game every time you walk into the studio. You have to do everything in your power to keep people interested and listening. That is your job in a nutshell. It is important for you as an announcer to know that the more you are involved and get to know the audience you are serving, the better response you will receive and the results will be self-evident.

**“Content is King”, and this is a continuing theme at our station. You need to invest time in your show prep and keep yourself well-informed.

**Every time you crack the mic it has to be relevant. You have to have a beginning, middle and end. If you refer back to an old announcer tip sheet Kevin sent out. The Bits you do have to have a Billboard, Details, and the Kicker. The end of your bit must have that impact and must either make the listener laugh, or make them think.

You need to make the bit relevant to the music, to what the station is doing and you have to be concise. There is a plethora of information at your fingertips with the internet available in the studio. There are sites that can provide you with daily facts, music and artist facts and news. Use this tool to your advantage. Do the surfing for the listener who is at work and can’t spend time looking up information on his/her favorite artist.

This will encourage listeners to want to come back for more because you are the one providing that information.

**While this is certainly an opportunity for your personality to shine, it is just as important to be concise with your bits. Edit yourself, think about what you are going to say and edit it as many times as you can without losing the impact. The more you prepare the better your bits will be. Write down what you are going to say and edit again. Once you are in the habit of doing this it will come naturally.

**If you read the PD Advantage handouts, where listener comments can be reviewed, there are two themes that are prevalent when asked what it is about KBLX that keeps people coming back and one factor is definitely the music but another important factor that the listeners noted were “DJ comments.” Please keep that in mind when you are searching for material.

**Liners will be changing, and again this is another area where you can let your personality work to your advantage. The liners are guidelines with pertinent elements that you should use, but you most certainly can put your own style into your delivery.

**A few ways to keep your day part viable is by keeping yourself accessible to listeners, and station appearances are a great way to involve yourself with the community. Product endorsements are also a way to relate to the audience by sharing your experience and how a product can be useful to the listeners day to day activities.

**You have eight station appearance that are pro-bono to fulfill. As for paid appearances, it is your call if you decide to appear at an event. Keep in mind that your decision to appear or not appear is an important one that can have an effect on other departments as well as your day part.

When you are out at an event you not only represent the station but you also represent yourself. Relating to people will get them to tune into the station to listen to you. Again it is to your advantage if you put your best foot forward, with listeners and with our clients.

**One of our major events is the Oakland Holiday Parade and all Full-time announcers will be on the float this year. Look for emails/memos for updates.

**Changes are coming and we must take the challenges we face seriously and thoughtfully and we can continue to be successful if we keep to our game plan of being relevant, concise and relatable to our listeners in a positive manner.

**If you have anything you would like to discuss please see Kevin.”

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