Radio: “It’s Not What You’re Going To Talk About”

And we can change that right now!


I subscribe to Ad Age, and to my surprise they ran a sort of positive story about Radio last week. You can read it HERE.

It’s full of back-handed compliments like this:

Radio is like vanilla ice cream. It’s consistent. It’s there. You know it’s reliable, that you will eventually like it, but it might not be your first pick.”

And this:

Radio loves to talk about reach. I’ll give them that—it generates massive, massive reach. Nothing reaches like radio.”

But then splashes cold water on us by following it with quotes like this:

But we live in a world now where you get paid for engagement, not reach,” says Larry Miller, a professor at New York University Steinhardt School of Music.

And Miller is correct. We do live in a world that pays for engagement.

Which makes what I hear on virtually every radio station in America even more puzzling.

How do you engage with a liner?

How do you engage with 45-minute blocks of non-stop music?

How do you engage with 7 or 8 minutes of terribly written, horribly voiced commercials, aired back-to-back in a completely unlistenable barrage?

Humans engage with stories.

Stories of love and loss. Stories of hope and redemption. Stories of personal success and stories of personal failure.

We engage with other people who relate to our lives, not people who demand we relate to theirs.

It’s not about the station. It’s about the listener. Always has been.

Great talent uses their voice, their pacing, their energy, their empathy and compassion, their intuitive connection to the listeners to get our attention.

And then they hold it by offering content — stories — that no one else is telling them right now.

They hold our attention by making us laugh, by sometimes making us cry, but always by making us feel strongly.

That’s real engagement.

It always involves emotional connection. Always!

And if Radio believes in it, if Radio wants it, we’d better start finding (or re-hiring) great talent, paying them for their extraordinary gift, and giving them the air time, and the support internally, to do what they do best.

If you need some names, I know some talent, some great talent…

but you’re going to have to persuade them to come back to an industry that shackled their ability, that disparaged their talent by replacing it with inane and meaningless liners, and that refused to pay them while continuing to increase compensation and bonuses for the people who publicly humiliated them inside their industry.

When you’re ready for some real listener engagement, let me know. I’ll do everything I can to help.