If I Owned a Radio Station Right Now

| June 17, 2014

By Jerry Del Colliano
Inside Music Media
Publisher

delcollianoSCOTTSDALE, AZ — This is a question I get all the time especially because I have devoted my career to generational media.

When 95 million millennials are rejecting radio, music, network television and disrupting everything they can, operating a radio station for profit seems like a bad business.

One thing I can tell you upfront.

I wouldn’t run my station the way the biggest majors run theirs.

Nor would I go brain dead not knowing whether to go or grow.

I sure wouldn’t be wasting my time streaming the station’s signal or hollering for an FM chip in a cellphone that would never ever become today’s version of a Walkman anyway.

Or doing deals with record labels.

Give me a break.  This is my station, remember.

You might ask yourself, what would you do if you had to run a station today and wanted to make money?

Would I cut the commercial load like I always advise others to do?

And how would I handle competing in a digital world where advertisers are already making their move toward digital.

Here goes.

  1. Triple the sales staff.  Mel Karmazin said this when he spoke at one of my conferences.  Hire more people to sell.  Not fire them.  You can’t increase sales by cutting salespeople no matter what you’re smoking.
  2. Give generous commissions.  As sellers make me more money, they should make more money.  The owner still makes the majority of the income and everyone is happy.
  3. But I must have something unique, compelling and addictive to sell.  So I’ll start with a morning team but I wouldn’t do the usual morning show loaded with crap like traffic and weather when there isn’t any traffic and weather other than to allow a station to run spots. Mornings should return 50-60% of the revenue to your bottom line.
  4. I’d stop and start as much as possible.  No big music sweeps.  Today’s attention deficit audiences like the disruption not the smooth flow of non-stop music sweeps.
  5. No record would be played all the way through – that’s right, watch me stick to this one.  If you look at audiences under 35, they never listen to songs on their iPods, music streams or anything all the way through.  You’d hear variable length versions of songs in a mix-type environment including lots of short snippets of new music that is not heard on my competitors.  Don’t tell my competitor because they don’t have the guts to do this and I want to do it while they tremble in fear.
  6. Live jocks who are having fun so I guess I couldn’t threatened to fire them all the time or take away their health care benefits.
  7. Contests all over the place but not the dorky contests radio wound up doing before they stopped entirely.  This is a generation of gamers and I think I can offer some fun that would engage audiences in ways radio stations used to engage them in earlier generations without being so retro.
  8. No voice tracking.  This one is easy.  No one likes voice tracking except greedy owners looking to save a few pennies more.
  9. News.  You heard me.  News!  If radio was made for anything, it is news.  But here is the key.  I won’t make the mistake of doing news the audience already knows and believe me, they’re connected.  Hell, a Twitter feed does a better job of keeping you informed than any radio station.  Just as with what I do in my Inside Music Media column every day, it would be things that are unique, compelling and addictive that you can’t get anywhere else.
  10. Thought I was going to sidestep the issue of eight-minute stop sets?    Not I.  You wouldn’t hear them.  Eight spots max per hour and they will not be run in one eight-minute stop set.  I don’t care what the length.  It doesn’t matter.  Wake up!  Listeners are not running a stop watch.  They know when it is too much and it is too much when you run more than two.
  11. I like to disrupt so I would set a standard for local commercials.  I’d hire someone damn good to run write and produce them and I’d test the commercials before they ran.
  12. I would double the rates on day one.  Radio is too inexpensive.  Price it like you expect success not like you expect another recession.
  13. Find a great manager and let her come up with great ideas.
  14. Oh, bet you thought I was going to forget digital.  Well I am in a way. Forget how radio does digital today because it is a joke.  No streaming. No podcasting.  No stealing the content of others.
  15. Watch how I would run a separate digital business based on short form video involving paid subscriptions and advertising models.  And don’t be surprised if my music station has nothing to do with what my video business looks like.  All the revenue comes to me after expenses and that means it does to my wife.
  16. Then I’d sell to Lew Dickey.
  17. Just kidding.  I wouldn’t do that.  That’s no fun.  Radio is a fun business unless you’re having your balls cut off by present corporate conditions.  Jerry Lee is rolling in dough and all he has ever done is run one radio station for over 60 years.  If I had any problems, I’d call Jerry Lee before I’d call the consolidators.

So there.

Radio is dying not just because 95 million Millennials have changed but because radio is a cottage industry for a bunch of venture capitalists who don’t care about it.

One more thing.

I love NPR but I’m getting the feeling they are becoming an imitation of themselves.  I’d be careful.

Hope this helps and you found it worthwhile because – I really mean every word.

Adopt one of these strategies and you are ahead of your competitors.

tbugk

Jerry Del Colliano is publisher of Inside Music Media.  He can be phoned at 480-998-9898 or emailed at jerry@insidemusicmedia.com.  Meet Jerry Del Colliano at Talkers New York 2014 on Friday, June 20.

 

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