Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The State of Radio Today (for my radio friends)

On the Stlmedia.net website, this entry was put up for discussion:
Last week I had lunch with a radio friend who was passing through town. He brought up this blog and a comment another radio person made to him about it: Why does John Gorman hate radio so much? He doesn't hate radio. He loves it. What he doesn't like is what has happened to it. If you don't know who Gorman is, he programmed one of the five most important rock stations in the US back when rock radio mattered.In fact, WMMS and Alan Freed are the two main reasons the R&R HOF is in Cleveland. And if you're in radio and don't know who Alan Freed is, you should be working at Burger King.

My response is delivered thusly:

John Gorman built a dynasty in Cleveland. With an airstaff of guys like Kid Leo, etc., WMMS had the entire package. The music was constantly fresh, the jocks talked with you not at you. There was a live person answering the phone 24/7. What has changed? Radio then was run by broadcasters who understood their audience and super served them. There were very few consultants who could know Cleveland better than Gorman. He was a guy who went to just about every event, concert and function to observe the audience. They were promotionally proactive and spent the money required on jocks, marketing and promotion to make the station head and shoulders above anything else in that city ratings wise. Then they had great sales people to sell those numbers. That was then. Today, radio is run by the people who answer to the shareholder and there is only one statistic that matters...the bottom line. Cut, cut and cut some more until we have produced a stale, cookie cutter industry that now has cannibalized it's youth. Where will the next JC, Guy Phillips or Frank OPinion come from? There are no minor leagues anymore and with the spread of the syndicated morning show (Bob and Tom are on over a hundred stations, over a hundred stations that will not cultivate NEW morning shows), the prospect looks very bleak. The radio business keeps wringing it's hands over the lack of talent, but one of the first things that the chairman of Citadel talked about after hiring Imus back was the thought of syndicating him. That'll fix the problem for sure. Think about this, you can count the number of music stations in St. Louis on one hand that have live people on the air after 6pm. Even less overnight. We took our audience for granted and they are now showing their approval by rejecting radio in favor of new technology. At the exact moment radio should have been fighting for it's survival with more money to fight the internet, Ipods, mp3's etc, we cut the budget and ran. One example, I was listening to a Saturday night program a few months ago where the person who was voice tracking left a pot open somewhere and his voice sounded like it was in an echo chamber. Unlistenable. Three hours later, when I tuned in again, it was still like that. We don't care about the product as long as the budget is made. Why should the audience care, either? I didn't mean to be this long winded but it makes me sad to see what has happened to the business that I truly love. Visionaries like John Gorman wouldn't get past the HR person today.

And I stick by those comments


Cosmo said...

Amen, brother. I'm relatively new to the profession... only about 8 years in... and even though I never got to experience radio "as it was," I too recognize that there is a serious problem. Someday I hope to be in a position to be part of the solution.

Dave Morris said...

Randy, I agree. We've taken steps in the exact opposite direction of need. I love and miss the business, but I wouldn't make it today. I'm happy just to be involved secondarily. There are still good PDs and personalities out there, but they are getting really hard to find.

Rockclassics said...

Agree with your response on this 100%. Very sad state indeed. I am one that jumped ship several years ago and went with CDs and an iPod. The only two things I ever listen to on radio today is the KSHE Klassics and Beaker Street. And I absolutely refuse to pay for satellite radio. What I have heard of it has not impressed me - poor sound quality and playlists almost as tight as regular radio.

John Gorman said...


Thank you for the kind words. I must share the success of WMMS with our incredible staff - both on the air and behind the scenes and, most importantly, our listeners.


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