BRADENTON, Fla. — Topic A in all conversations I have with broadcasters is about radio’s pending doom. The woe-is-me and the finger pointing invariably aims at our new-tech world where anybody can be a talk show host if they possess one of the many available space-age devices… and anybody can listen to an infinite number of unlicensed shows and networks on a variety of readily available “devices” that are not AM/FM “radios.” I hesitate to name these devices because by the time I finish this sentence there will be a new one.
This is the easiest way to cast blame without looking into our own house. I listen to a lot of radio and have a whole bunch of radios around my home and office from big, boxy ones to a couple real tiny ones that’ll fit into my pocket as I do my exercise hike around the neighborhood.
Let me heave the first brick. Just a few moments ago I heard a commercial for a retail appliance store offering special discounts only on the fourth of July. It is now the middle of July. What are they talking about? 2015? Isn’t anyone at the station paying attention? Clearly not even the advertiser is listening. If he were, he’d be screaming his brains out and asking for his money back.
Earlier this morning on the same station they aired yesterday’s weather forecast. Obviously the forecasts are pre-recorded, and there was no one there to update the information. So I did what most folks now do…went to my computer and clicked on the bookmarked key for the local forecast.
These are not random goofs but part of the ongoing challenges today’s talk radio faces. There are long silent pauses, words cut-off in mid-sentence, overlapping segments, etc..
The regular programming I hear is mostly pretty darn good done by quality pros who emanate from national networks and syndicators. Funny, informative, topical, engaging professionals. Earlier I heard a commercial done by Laura Ingraham for a local overhead door company. Laura did it with conviction and sincerity as if she knew all about mechanical garage doors.
Awhile ago I was invited by a friend who manages a cluster of area stations to visit his facility. Nice building, big parking lot, no people. There was a receptionist at the front desk, my friend and one other who appeared to be the production person. When I asked to see the talk station he took me to a large, dark closet where there was an old-fashioned, knob-controlled board; its lighted VU meter swinging away. That was it. Is it any wonder there are numerous screw-ups that will drive away listeners?
Now for a bouquet, and I will name names – WFLA, 970 in the Tampa, Florida listening area. Yes, they use syndicated shows for most of the day – Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck and so on, but their morning show from 5:00 am to 9:00 am is a local jewel. It’s hosted by a trio: two market veterans – Tedd Webb and Jack Harris and a fairly recent addition, Corey Dylan. Tedd comes across as a lovable curmudgeon, Corey, the female of the group, is light-hearted but will not back down in an disagreement, and Jack sort of holds it all together. They take on both national and local issues with skill and knowledge. And all of them actively participate in outside community events.
But that’s not the whole of it. They have guest interviews, again both national and local, but hold them to about five minutes at most. There are special short features and commentaries. And the show is loaded with service – newscasts, headlines, traffic reports, weathercasts, sports, business news by a variety of different voices . How they effectively jam all of this into the show is a wonder.
Maybe you have one like WFLA in your market. If anything is going to salvage talk radio, it will be this.
Al Herskovitz is president of H&H Communications and a TALKERS marketing consultant. He can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org.