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Fred Jacobs is President of Jacobs Media, a media research and consulting firm. Jacobs Media clients have included CBS Radio, Premiere Radio Networks, Citadel, Greater Media, MTV Networks, Playboy, Amazon, Electronic Arts, NPR, Sylvan Learning Centers, and Taubman Malls. Learn more about the company here.


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August 2011

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Dick Hungate

Today's blog ties-in with Friday's...making each day
sound more spontaneous, distinctive and topical.
Let me resonate with your point about station voice
guys and an incredible management reluctance to change them occasionally. For years I was with Richmond's WKLR 96.5 "The Planet"...great folks who ultimately opted to have their new PD voice-track my midday show (for budget reasons) but who awarded me generous severance. The entire time I was there, Norfolk's classic rocker (and another client of yours) "The Fox" had a very strong, overlapping signal in Richmond. What always seemed odd to me...with probably a good 100 or so top-flight voice guys aggressively marketing their services nationally...is that both stations insisted on using Jim Cutler. It caused no small amount of listener confusion...what with both Jacobs affiliates doing the "workforce", calling themselves "Richmond's ONLY classic rock station" (or "Norfolk's only"). No disrespect meant toward Cutler! He does a great job and most importantly, I suspect, his long-running status as the imaging voice for ESPN endears him to male-targeted stations hoping for a hipness dividend. But let's face it--the guy's voice has been SO overused for so many years by so many classic rockers...WHY feel utterly COMPELLED to stick with him? If only for the sake of, as you recommend, aural and stylistic "housecleaning" and freshening...why not give some NEW, hungry guy a turn at station imaging? I pick this one facet of the myriad examples you cite above as supporting evidence that stations are frozen with fear and just afraid to upset their apple carts. Here's another (you know me...always getting down to the nitty-gritty specifics...sorry, but it's liberating being honest): Most anyone you talk with privately (never articulating it publicly of course...too dangerous to their carefully-cultivated radio careers) will agree that John Boy and Billy go for entire months during which they essentially "phone in" their morning shows. PD's and GM's aren't stupid...and they KNOW because they have ears what the ratio of freshly-written bits to old, recycled bits is. Elbow grease is elbow grease! The number of affiliates remains essentially stagnant for years for a REASON. Few phenomenons of that magnitude occur by chance or a lack of proper marketing. If you do a better job of maintaining daily freshness and relevance, your affiliate network will grow just by word-of-mouth. Again...I use these two extremely nice fellows just as examples to illustrate a point. I've met them, they're great guys and this is nothing personal. But would you rather pre-record each Friday's morning show to have an extra-long weekend at your beach house? Or would you rather invest that additional 20% of time and energy in a real-time Friday show? (HINT: both George Harrison and John Entwistle died on Thursday evenings...with not one word mentioned on the next days' morning shows because JB&B had already pre-recorded those programs and literally were not on the premises). So the over-arching question...again, with no personal axe to grind, just staying philosophical: WHY are so many stations hesitant to switch to another syndicated morning show? Is it simply that another station in the market will pick them up? Is it just inertia?
Not wanting to invest in the several years worth of
time it will take for their listeners to adapt to and
emotionally bond with "Bob and Tom" or whomever?
Fred, these two very honest examples are merely ways of affirming and high-fiving your great point that
today's radio stations mostly are coasting or at most in third gear. They remain afraid of killing their golden geese that have laid so many dozens of golden eggs over the last several "Camelot-like" decades. The ominous, looming question: what happens when those geese finally die? Will it then, with the advent of rapidly-emerging alternative entertainment options, be too late to re-invent the stations? Better to invest in some young, vigorous, future "golden geese" TODAY...THIS FISCAL YEAR !!...before stations find themselves too far behind the creativity curve.
For what my measly two cents are worth, BREAK IT and re-build it better the way Toyota did with its smallest
vehicles...resulting in a forthcoming, super affordable, gas-miserly "category killer" commuter car
that advance reports suggest will turn the industry
upside down. And this is the almighty TOYOTA acting
so hungry..NOT desperate, beleaguered FORD! Therein lies
a huge object lesson in never resting on your laurels and staying ahead of the creative/developmental curve.

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