We Proudly Own No Cookie Cutter
Grand Rapids - (616) 633-3770 Indianapolis - (317) 769-0583

The Midweek Motivator – 2020 Radio Realities

What’s it going to be? Forge ahead with intrepid confidence or settle for “good enough?” If you choose the higher road what will it take to leave behind defeatism and the biggest sucker play of them all: We don’t really need to focus on programming, Digital is our salvation. 

And what about the roles in our buildings-the positions that once fueled competitive programming, defined by advanced music management propelled by emphasis on talent. Oh; what’s “talent emphasis”? For winning companies past and present, Saga, Susquehanna, Citadel, Cox, Zimmer, Midwest, and more, talent has not only mattered, it’s meant the difference between a format and a franchise. 

George Johns, under-credited as one of radio’s most insightful programmers, recently sent me a note wherein he quipped: “Fear is the PD at a lot of radio stations today.” I hope he’s wrong, but worth contemplation. What about those in the programming office? What are their expectations? Where do they fit as relates to company culture and why are those roles still the difference between success and failure? (Though in 2020, fewer people will likely acknowledge it). 

Operations Managers: in many companies this title is but an honorific; a lot of responsibility with almost no leadership reinforcement. “Ops Manager” became a convenient slot, dead-center between true “line-authority” and someone to blame if the Cowboys game didn’t get on the air, or, if a part-timer overslept their shift. Instead of a wasted title on a company roster, an Ops Manager’s position should be elevated to Chief Traffic Controller, integrating with PD’s, talent, strategy, and tactics. Ironically, recently a radio group asked us to design a curriculum for the Ops Position (it remains unread). What do OM’s most need? How about advanced programming skill combined with actual substance behind their title, conjoined in tighter alliance with program directors and department heads? The need is urgent and acute. 

Program Directors: should this title be redefined or exchanged for a 2020 definition with teeth? Exactly what does a program director, “direct”? Too many PD’s were tossed a bone with a title on their door, then expected to create miracle ratings for those companies where ratings still matter. It’s shocking to find how little empirical training PD’s actually get; from advanced music-management (categories, turnover-plotting, platooning, style/texture title-coding, and more) much less, advancing their ratings’ analytic competency. Who’s going to engage PD’s in your building? Most want to learn; through many interactions over time, we’ve found most PD’s willing, and appreciative. Many are quite capable of moving to the graduate-level. 

Talent: the most neglected, discounted, and forgotten potential in your building. Someone talking over ramps is not talent. Consider the irony: in early ’19 one of the world’s foremost intelligence companies (Pew Research) told us 82% of Americans attach to a personality, over 60% would follow their favorite to another station. Yet minimal talent coaching occurs; talent is sometimes “critiqued” though seldom coached and forever cast as a “jock.” 

With 273 million-plus weekly listeners and consistently positive data underscoring radio’s universality, some among us act as if we’re “bored” with it…after all, Digital is the new Valhalla. Digital is an important added emphasis yet radio’s reality remains: we don’t and can’t own Digital. Instead, from our side of the battlefield treating your programming staff a little better including consistent coaching and mentoring, will put a lot more in an American listener’s day than an IOS push opt-in rate.