The 5 Biggest Lies in Radio

Counting ’em down to #1…

5. We’re all equally creative. Uhhh…no, we’re not. We’re not all geniuses. We’re not all funny. We’re not all good looking. We’re not all athletic. And very few of us are really creative.

As consolidated companies have cut expenses, they’ve tried to tell us great ideas can come from any of us, from all of us, but, the truth is, in almost every industry — not just radio — the best ideas keep coming from the same few people, and radio got rid of most of those people a decade ago, which is why we haven’t had many great ideas in a while.

4. Research is the answer. Not really. Research cannot predict what people will like. It can only tell us what they don’t like after they experience it. It increasingly narrows the funnel to the point of overwhelming blandness.

Sure, you can remove many negatives, but research won’t often help you replace those with remarkable positives. That requires instinct and courage, which research tends to dull because it’s often used as a hammer.

We usually use research to confirm what we want to believe and to justify decisions we’ve already made.

3. Radio doesn’t need marketing, because it’s self-cuming. Really? I don’t think even the guys running radio companies believe this one.

It’s always amazed me that an industry that makes billions from selling advertising has never embraced marketing its own product. Even before consolidation the spots radio stations bought were cheap and boring and predictable, and very few companies budgeted enough money for their ‘marketing’ to have real impact.

2. Talent talks too much and listeners hate that. Like all clever lies, this one has a bit of truth in it. Listeners hate irrelevant talk. Listeners hate the stupid, consultant-written liners we’ve forced down their throats for the past 25 years, and if that’s all your “talent” is going to be allowed to say, then shut ’em down.

But in every city in this country, and every other country I’ve ever worked, the top-rated talent talks a lot. The key is, they say stuff listeners want to hear. They don’t generally talk about themselves that much. They are topical, witty, controversial, engaging, infuriating, compelling, consistent without being predictable. They are impossible to ignore.

Let your talent do what they know how to do, and if they don’t know how to do it, there is plenty of talent that does know how to do it. If you don’t know how to let them do what they know how to do, there are people who can help you learn.

Talent that engages listeners between the songs is the magic that will make your ratings explode, but you have to trust them. And if you work for one of the consolidated companies that won’t let you do that, all I can say is, I understand.

1. Bigger is better. Central control is more efficient. One guy making decisions for 500 stations is better than 500 local guys making decisions for each local station. One guy trying to run 12 stations in 3 markets is better than 12 guys running each of 12 local stations.

I realize this train has left the station, and won’t go back, but that doesn’t change the facts. We’ve got 20 years of evidence. Revenue is down. Ratings are down. Morale is down. Employment is down.

The only thing not down is compensation for the one-half of one percent at the very top of these huge consolidated companies.

And everyone knows it.

So, no matter what anyone says about the “positive pressure” you feel when you have $20 billion in debt, we all know that’s bull crap.

The truth is: Radio can still be vital and compelling and fun and involved in the local community it serves, and smaller companies are proving this every day. We just need to hear their stories more often and stop shining our spotlights on those we know are lying.