As the NBA Playoffs get underway, one of the truisms of the sport is that coaches tend to play fewer guys when the games really count. That's not good news for the guys near the end of the bench, but the reality is that you go with the guys you know who can play when the games really count.
As the Wall Street Journal pointed out last week, radio's bench is awfully short. We made this same point in our Imus blog recently. Whether you agree or disagree on any aspect of the Imus controversy - that he got screwed, that he should have been fired, etc. - the truth we're left with is that radio has lost another star.
And in the wake of the Stern exodus in 2006, radio's ability to replace all-star talent is certainly suspect. Blame it on voicetracking, syndicated morning shows in small and medium markets, or the fact we the industry simply doesn't appeal to many teens looking to make a name for themselves. Whatever the root causes, the talent pool has become a puddle. And most stations just don't have a Plan B or farm team if their main show goes down.
Whether the Imus mess will have the same chililng effect on talent that Janet's Jackson's "breastgate" had remains to be seen. But radio is operating with a finite number of great morning shows, and they're not getting younger. Where's the "new guard" going to come from? Can terrestrial radio really grow talent in 2007?
But there may be some good news. If we actually played our HD cards well, and used those HD2 stations as the sandboxes they really are, we might just be able to grow some talent. And in the process, replace the Stern's, Bubba's, and Imus's with fresh voices and ideas that could energize our business. I'm watching that happen in the petri dish known as riff2 here in Detroit.