A (Tough) Love Letter To Radio

Show of hands, who’s excited about radio? Anyone under 30? 

Every station rep will boast that 92% of Americans listen to radio each week.

But that’s not true.

People may hear radio, like you see a billboard. But do they actually listen? Without that passionate, emotional connection, radio’s become a utility. Like a toaster. 

Live & Local? Hardly. It’s more like Dare To Be Mediocre.

Most stations are flavorless, pre-recorded replicas. All creativity has been surgically removed. So, it’s no surprise that ratings are down. But here’s the real problem…

Radio is losing its relevance.

Here’s my take. It’s time for radio execs to pull up their big-boy pants and re-imagine the business. The long view. Starting with:

* Too many commercials. Stations are choked with clutter. Every inch is sold, sponsored and bartered. Meanwhile, the streaming giants are virtually ad-free. Look, we’ll tolerate short spots clusters if they’re well-written and brilliantly produced. But, dump the looong commercial blocks that artificially inflate ratings, but drive listeners away. Don’t wait until advertisers learn how few people really hear their spots.

Make this a priority.

* Showcase personalities. They’re radio’s only hope. Replace announcers with clever, authentic jocks who share our love for music. Let them inject a fun attitude that makes us feel part of the tribe. 

We haven’t had that spirit here since 1989.

* Deliver what streaming services don’t. Have personalities host music programs. Rather than repeating the same songs, package them into cool features.

Shifting from videos to shows is what saved MTV.

* Ax the countdown shows, Two-For-Tuesday and contests at 6, 3, 11, 4, 9 and noon. And while you’re at it, drop the hollow slogans. I love how Z94 plays the best mix with more variety. Said nobody, ever.

Fix the product and the rest will take care of itself.

Beau Phillips is President of Rainmaker Media. 
He’s a creative marketing consultant, strategist and speaker.
Reach him at 203-256-9347   

2 thoughts on “A (Tough) Love Letter To Radio”

  1. Couldn’t agree more.
    Yes, Less commercials, maybe try live reads injecting personality (brought to you live in the Toyota Celica studios haha).
    Yes, authenticity doesn’t include the “snappy slogan”. I would recommend not saying anything that you wouldn’t say in a discussion with your (socially distant, mask wearing) friends…using a snappy slogan wouldn’t get you new friends, or new listeners!
    Yes, RADIO JUST BLEW A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY TO BECOME MORE RELEVANT during the pandemic lockdown. Perfect time to try new things, break format, discover new talent potential. Even TV became an out of studio presentation. Of course radio is audio, so at home radio was no more exciting, entertaining or compelling than in-studio.
    Instead of featuring more creative content, radio fired the very people who could deliver it and coined the new snappy slogan “you’ve been furloughed” not fired.

  2. Great content here Beau, made me think about another metaphor: the popularity of Twitter, FB and TikTok is not derived from their platform. It’s the personalities who aggregate widely shared clicks and views, through old fashioned funny, clever, surprise, archetype, etc. These platforms support long engagement times per session. Some successful air personalities monitor these trending threads and incorporate them. But a bigger lesson could be that radio just isn’t designed to compete in the mobile world of short, dopamine feedback loops. The opportunity lies in a more primitive, organic communication that plays off the senses. The radio platform presaged social media by developing personalities who were very SM-like: quick, funny, energizing, etc. But is this where the opportunity still lies for an analog platform?

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