Time To Change Your Title

This is way overdue…

Radio job titles used to describe the responsibilities they encompassed.

A Program Director used to hire a talented staff, assign their work shifts, program their music, explain any contests and/or promotions, connecting strategy and tactics, and give consistent, daily coaching feedback on what was working and what needed to change.

Now, most PDs are also required to do an air shift, and many run more than one station.

Plus, s/he also now usually oversees web site content and updates and attends several meetings daily to help Sales and Promotion find ideas they can take to clients to create enough value-added crapola that their station gets in on the buy, because in Radio, ratings don’t matter.

BTW, Radio is the only medium that apologizes for its ratings success.

No client pays extra to be on during the hugely inflated listening which playing Christmas music creates for AC stations in every market in America. Arbitron calls it a “Holiday” month and most agencies just don’t buy it.

And we not only allow that, we pay Arbitron embarrassingly large sums of money to do this to us!! We fund it!

I don’t think CBS lowered rates for those advertisers we saw in Sunday’s Super Bowl, even though it will likely be their highest-rated TV show of the year. (In 1967, a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl cost $37,500. This year, that same spot would cost $3.8 million! That’s the power of amassing a huge audience.)

CBS doesn’t apiologize for this anomaly. They charge extra for it. Advertisers have to book time months in advance, at huge costs above normal Sunday rates, and still have their spots “approved” before they’re assured of air time.

I just spewed hot tea out of my nose as I read that out loud.

Radio doesn’t even ask advertisers to pay a premium to be sponsors of Christmas music, and if a client has a spot that features a grizzly bear farting underwater, and they’ll pay top rate, it’s on the air, every hour. Tell me I’m wrong.

Sorry. The apologizing for ratings thing always makes me nuts. Anyway, back to job titles…

PDs in most of the largest consolidated groups don’t really direct programs these days. They don’t have time. Many don’t have the authority. In most stations, air talent gets no coaching whatsoever. Thinking? Planning? Strategizing? Creating? Hah! Surely you jest!

NPR has tried to align reality with titles by creating Chief Content Officers. These employees are responsible for running all departments that create content, for the radio and the web site. But NPR is still actually producing content besides music, and you can’t say that about very many commercial music stations today.

At most of the large consolidated radio companies, you have very little say in what your web site looks like and features; you have no say in which shows are local, voice-tracked, or promoted, and obviously no ability to coach or direct the talent on those shows. You probably don’t control what contest you air, or the prize, or even the promos. You don’t pick the music, hire the air staff, or have any veto power over promotions. You are told how many spots you will run each hour, and it can change daily when your station is behind it’s dictated revenue goals.

Yet you are held responsible if ratings decline.

So, maybe “PD” should be something like “ID,” Implementation Drone. Isn’t that more reflective of the actual job?

I am not denigrating the talent or work ethic of the people who have this job today. Many of them could produce a far better station if left to their own instincts and experience. But it’s absurd to say they’re in charge of programming when we — and they — know they are not. That title is only used to justify dismissal by some higher-up when convenient.

It’s time to go back to the drawing board for “GMs” too. Most are told what their revenues will be, regardless of market conditions, dictating how large their staff can be, and who they can afford to hire. Their main responsibility is to answer that daily phone call verifying the random number selected as their measuring stick of success. Miss it often and they are gone. Talk about over-worked and under-appreciated!

So one of these might be more accurate: CABS: Chief Annual Budget Slasher ; VPRD: Vice President of Reality Distortion; or, GCT: General Corporate Toady.

Maybe if those at the very top of the compensation food chain let local managers and programmers actually have the authority that should go with the responsibility — with the title — Radio’s piece of the advertising pie would grow faster?

This top-down thing sure isn’t fun for those who do the actual work.