Stuck In Neutral

A guest post from one of the best ever…


After many years avoiding radio, because I would uncomfortably focus on the imaging, commercials (I do Voiceovers), music selection and rotation, I’ve come back, mostly to a translator, because there are few music interruptions…when I can pick it up. When I can’t, it’s overridden by an AC out of San Antonio.

Here’s what I don’t get: If you talk more than eight seconds – ? – you lose people/ PPM listening, they say, but then those stations run lots of commercials back to back.

Isn’t that dishonest to listeners and advertisers?

Radio seems to have become a device mostly to run meaningless liners, tease websites and ticket giveaways. Other than that, there’s very little content, and by that I mean little is added by the on-air “personality.” To be fair, I don’t listen to morning shows.

It’s like every station is stuck in neutral.

Isn’t there some place where they have decided to step out of the crowd? Vanilla is the favorite ice cream flavor, but it’s not the ONLY popular flavor.

I hate BOB stations, as I programmed the first one (which was Country, not Oldies/Classics) and I hear the syndication as a poor attitudinal copy of what we did in Minneapolis. I can’t stand their liners or the guy who reads them. But that’s me. The station is usually number one here.

I feel like they stole my child. I grieve. They thrive.

Not to be negative completely, here’s what I suggest.

  1. For crying out loud, write and record new liners that are outwardly focused.

    Liners are not personality, nor are ticket hypes or website promos. Personality offers human connection. You probably don’t remember the “high tech /high touch” concept, but was there ever more tech than now?

  2. Break the eight second rule. But if done correctly, each instance must have a beginning, middle and end.

    What are you trying to say? Why should your listener care?

  3. When doing bits in the morning show: tell your audience how to
    participate (in their mind) as you set up a bit.

    i.e.: “be glad this wasn’t you…”
    Or : “this story will resonate with moms and daughters “
    Or: “here’s one to warm your heart…”
    Or: “you won’t believe this…”

    The idea is to direct the reaction which might be effective at bringing listeners deeper into a more mental participation.

    However, know that EMOTIONAL participation is stronger and the true goal. You must do prep to find these gems. Unless you are unusually perceptive and self aware, “living your life”is not prep.

  4. Once you get to the end of the story, stop. Sidekicks: shut up. You can’t top a topper. And if your bit wasn’t one, you shouldn’t do it.
  5. Be honest with your audience. Let them into your life when something interesting happens but not the everyday litany of your life…
  6. Remember that the TV late night shows have many writers and you have…none? So rethink what works. If there’s no hook for listeners there isn’t a good reason to do it.
  7. For PDs – and believe me, I’ve lived this one repeatedly (sorry, talent coaches) – if after a reasonable while, your morning show has stabilized with low numbers, and the people involved don’t have chemistry, find new ones. Status quo rarely boosts numbers unless a competitor goes away. Chemistry isn’t automatic.

    You might think you have loyalty, but consider Chicago, where perennially huge WUSN has a new challenger and it has helped pull WUSN numbers down. The shiny new thing can steal your audience. And that’s as WUSN’s morning cohost Lisa Dent was just inducted into the Country hall of fame.

  8. Corporate: pick one station/format out of your giant portfolio which has the brightest PD and tell her/him there are no rules for that station and let it serve as an idea and stationality incubator.

    It seems as if music radio suffers from a lack of imagination.

  9. Here’s a tip for the rare instance when you get to hire someone for on-air: Ask them their favorite movie or book. Ask them to describe the story in one minute. Then condense to 30 seconds. If they can’t tell a story of something which has involved them – WELL and interestingly – pass.

My first rule of radio: GET NOTICED
MY second rule: BE REMEMBERED.

Thanks, Doug, for the opportunity to vent.

Bob Wood

Bob is heard around the country on various voiceover projects, and can be reached at 512.470.1802, or at www.BobWoodVoiceovers. He was a multi-format PD for 30 years.


If you’ve never actually spoken to Bob, call him. He can absolutely help your station in so many different ways. And he’s generous and affirming and original. Do it. Don’t think about doing it. Just do it. You can thank me (and Bob) later.

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