There’s a very dysfunctional argument I can make about consolidation and the biggest radio companies bringing real peril to radio.  I’m not going there. The real key is to ask, “What is the right thing to do?”

My claim there are some real key basics that have been forgotten, lost or in some cases never learned by radio folks.

Just like Ockham’s Razor simple answers are often correct.

Let me posit that often the simplest and most basic examination would be instructive.


Q1: What is the most important lesson or fact that would be helpful to dust off for radio folks?

A1:  First and foremost it’s a business.  Yes it’s an informational and entertainment medium that is used by the general public, but the most important thing we seem to have forgotten is that radio is a business.

Q2: What business is radio in?

A2: The core business of radio stations is to successfully market and help sell products and services.  The bottom line is radio is a method of advertising.

Q3: What are the keys to being a successful advertising medium for radios clients?

A3: The real answer is to make sure that the spot advertising is well crafted and correctly scheduled to reach a sufficient number of folks for the advertisers to get a return on their investment.

Q4: What part of that process is radio falling down on?

A4: All of them.  (The spots are poorly written and produced, the schedules are poor, and in many cases they do not reach enough folks enough times to work)

Q5: What do we need to do to make it better?

A5: Holy Defecation Batman, I’m glad you asked, but the answer is long and many a winding road.  May I pontificate?


I’ve been in radio stations where the sales department have meetings that talk about the radio stations goals, the incomes they want to produce, now get out there and kick the door in and take their wallets!

We need to dust off the simple reality that we exist to solve retailers and service provider’s problems.  We have to go into their businesses and uncover their pain.  Do they have images that need to be developed?   Do they have an awareness problem?

They know their businesses well.  Often they are family businesses developed via sweat, tears and dreams.  Some businesses began on a napkin in a coffee shop and after a year of dreaming the in-laws loaned money to get them started.  There is a long story.  Do we know it?  Or do we just want to show up with a package to be a named sponsor in the “Trip A Day In The Month of May Giveaway on Country 109?”

We must first figure out what exactly when broadcast will move the needle for them.

Once we have the problem and solutions in mind then and only then can we craft a radio spot campaign.  Too often the brainstorming, thinking, creativity is compressed into a few minutes because its “production” that needs to get done. We’ve all heard Addy award winning spots.  They are funny, they are memorable, they pull on us emotionally, they motivate folks to buy.

“there will never be a better time that right now”

“4 convenient locations with free parking and friendly helpful salespeople”

“call 453-8971, that’s 453-8971, that number again is 453-8971”

“for all your widget needs”


Then we sell and schedule the spots by… wait for it… price.

Imagine building a house that needs $1000 worth of nails and saying, “I only have $750 to spend on nails!”  We approach radio schedules like traveling just 80 miles of the 100-mile journey is a thoughtful plan!

And because the product is best marketed on our #1 rated country station but they can’t afford the rates we put together a plan that includes spots on 4 of our 5 station cluster like a patchwork quilt will serve us just like a Tuxedo for a wedding.  It’s a damn jacket shut up and put it on!

Yes, we in radio need to do all we can to build our cumes and get our time spent listening and average time spent exposed as high as possible.

The way the advertising schedules and campaigns should be crafted is by knowing the reach and frequency necessary to get the results that the client will need to be at least reasonably satisfied. I think of radio is an exceptionally great reach and frequency medium.  We reach folks who are employed, have money and want services and products that make their lives better.  They also want to know about good deals.  They also want to know about new things, cool things, and fun things.

We can certainly charge more for our spots especially when we return the value to our clients.  When they get $2 in return for every $1 of investment we can hold our head high when we go see them again.  When the returns go to 3 to 1, 5 to 1, 10 to 1 we begin to create demand for our radio services.  We actually get those folks “addicted to our advertising.”

Our Mistakes Have Included:

We dispatch sales folks to sell them advertising damn it!  We put our sales folks hands in vices and turn them tighter and tighter to sell more, faster, and now!

In some radio companies the sales meetings are like this:

We write poor spots quickly.

We don’t put enough brainpower into creating spot campaigns that will be memorable and work.

We take advertisers money for schedules that is a size 7 shoe when they need size 11EE.

I see the best processes in smaller and medium markets.  I see better processes where the owner of the radio station is a retailer too.  They own food stores, restaurants, car dealerships, and the radio station.  The owner lives in the marketplace and is on the board of the hospital and bank. Has taken his or her turn as President of cities merchants association.  He or she is on the School Board and Treasurer of The Susan G. Komen activities in the market.

I spend a lot of time worrying about Music scheduling, morning shows, promotions, air checking and ratings analysis. Everybody who works in the station(s) needs to realize this is a business.  We need our processes to serve our clients.

Lowry Mays who founded Clear Channel many years ago did so with his old pal Red McCombs.  Red owned car dealerships and knew how radio worked to help sell cars.  Lowry one time when asked, “What business are you in?”  answered was “I sell tacos.”

You might be offended by that answer but may I suggest Lowry had a better understanding than many of the operators of radio stations today.  At the end of the day the spots have to work for the client advertisers. Otherwise we will become a dead rabbit roadside.

That’s a picture I won’t post.

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