As broadcast companies continue to face challenges from satellite radio, podcasts, online video, and an endless list of disruptive media options, it should be clear that there’s really only one way to put your station on a path to sustainable success. And that’s with great personalities that can attract and lead a community of passionate fans.
This article from Fred Jacobs underscores the point. Fred says:
Music has become commoditized and ubiquitous, available on umpteen streaming services, as well as on satellite radio, your cable or dish system, and your Bluetooth speaker system. It seems like in recent years, seemingly everyone has become a music radio programmer.
But it’s personalities that have become highly proprietary. They are the difference-makers for so many radio stations. And they’re the reason why more and more companies seek strong, habit-forming personalities, shows, and hosts in dayparts outside of morning drive. It’s also why syndicated talent has become so important in recent years. Anybody can duplicate your music, but its the people behind the mic that are your “secret sauce.
But what about the music? And the format? And promotions? What about our commitment to being local? Each is important to some extent. Every station needs a solid foundation but none of these things will put you on a path to sustainable success.
The Path To Sustainable Success
- PUR (the number of persons using radio) has declined and continues to shrink. If you don’t believe it, conduct a survey of random folks under the age of 35 and ask how often they listen to the radio.
- TSL (Time Spent Listening) is plummeting. Not long ago, the average occasion of listening was well over 9 minutes. It’s now 7. Many “strong” stations average as little as 3 quarter-hours (45 minutes) of listening per week, a fraction of a few years ago.
- It’s no longer possible to be the source for news/information (that’s online), music (personalized streaming services), and promotion or stunts (YouTube, Tik Tok, and a bunch of online services).
There’s only one path to fix it, and that’s to create content nobody else can provide through entertaining, provocative personalities. Jacob’s research shows why smart broadcasters are investing in talent.
Among the top 8 responses, only two have substance. Personalities (61%) and (music (55%). The other reasons (convenience, cost, habits) are not sustainable.
But wait, there’s more. Here’s how this has been trending in Jacob’s Technology Surveys since 2014.
Isn’t it amazing how quickly personality has replaced music as the most important reason to listen? That trend is not going to reverse, folks.
Listeners seeking music are leaving for playlists without commercials (and talk). As programming legend Lee Abrams puts it:
As long as there are commercial ads, FM can’t compete with all-music streaming services…But the current function or the air personality is dated…The morning show has become a parody of itself. Other dayparts are often on autopilot…We are in an historic period of change, and the soun and voice of FM must adapt or decline.
I know you’re not going to cut the commercial load. But you can get talent that can actually hold an audience.
Here’s what smart broadcasters are doing now:
- Invest In Personalities. The format alone will not win. Invest now in shows that can command an audience. Start with the morning show, but don’t ignore other time slots. Why wouldn’t you want to create compelling, unique reasons to listen 24 hours a day?
- Train Talent. If there are talented folks on the staff, train them. Coach them to become proficient in the art of personality radio. If they’re not talented enough to be a difference-maker, get rid of them. The audience will not miss them. Hire interesting people who are capable of attracting listeners.
- Break The Rules. Nobody becomes great by staying in a comfort zone. Don’t be reckless, but take some chances. That’s going to require taking off the on-air training wheels. Revolutionary new ideas may fail, but rewards go to the creatively bold.
- Hire A Coach. Yeah, it’s self-serving, but you really should hire us to develop a plan, work with talent, and help your management team get the most out of personalities.
A veteran program director recently told me his company wants a competitive morning show on their station that tries to compete with a signal that reaches about half of the metro. However:
- They will not hire a cohost. Just the one (aging, dated) personality that won’t listen to the PD’s advice.
- There’s no budget for a producer.
- Marketing is a no-go. No money.
- They have no money to hire a talent coach.
This is a company that wants to succeed but is unwilling to do what it takes to be successful. It’s sad. And it’s common.
I’ve been writing about this for many years. The trends are obvious.
The best time to invest in personalities was 10 years ago. The second best time is to do it now.