Radio gets blasted for losing its way, and rightly so. But rather than pile on, I’ll try to offer a path forward.
Broadcasters boast that 90% of Americans hear the radio each week. But, how many actually listen? How many feel a passion for their station?
Experts agree that radio just needs to be ‘live and local’. But the truth is, people don’t care where their entertainment comes from as long as it’s compelling. We’re loyal to what resonates, whether it’s Howard Stern in New York, Joe Rogan in Austin or Spotify in the Netherlands. In fact, most radio DJs are not local. They’re often pre-recorded and beamed in from faraway places. They fake sounding local and hope listeners can’t tell.
So, the live & local ship has sailed.
Here’s my take. I recently drove from Arizona to Michigan and heard two thousand miles of bland sameness. This is the problem. And if radio has any hope, they need to blow-up their tired formula.
Tear radio back to the studs and reimagine everything. Start by dumping the dated jingles, hollow slogans, countdown shows and text-to-win clutter. Spare us ‘the best mix of today’s hits and yesterday’s favorites with Bozo and Nutjob in the morning.’ Cut the crushing spot load and offer an online stream that’s commercial-free.
Then, be everything that Spotify is not.
Personalities are radio’s strongest weapon against robotic streaming services. Replace flavorless announcers with clever people who sound topical and authentic. Fire jocks who regurgitate slogans and hire humans who make an emotional connection. Maybe host a nationwide talent search ala American Idol to find crazy-talented folks. Encourage them to be the megaphone for what’s on everyone’s minds.
Bonus points if they love the music. Speaking of, why not a channel called Two-Minute Tunes? A sampler platter of shortened songs, for those with ADD.
Of course, none of this will happen. Radio groups will continue to bleed every last drop, while their stations are unlistenable.