While the body count numbers continue to roll in, and AllAccess does the tallying (amazing their server hasn't melted down), the much-rumored Clear Channel cutbacks, layoffs, and axings have finally been announced. Mark Mays reports it will amount to a 9% reduction in the company's workforce. The fact they chose to hide behind Inauguration Day is no accident, if not ironic.
Nonetheless, everyone in radio is taking notice, and wondering about the implications. So, here is some instant analysis, and like all good blogs, these observations are open for your comments (just click below).
But maybe it would be wise to step back and consider that this is the same company that instituted Less Is More, "collective contesting," and other innovations that haven't worked. Nor have they made radio more attractive to consumers or profitable to Wall Street.
The "Clear Channelization" of radio has been the ugly brush that has fostered increasingly negative perceptions of the "radio brand." When you think about why regular folks chastise radio for a myriad of sins - both real and imagined - consider the source of their opinions. I'm sure that the news media - from The New York Times to The Wall Street Journal to CNBC - are all reporting on these "reductions" this morning. So the negative PR will indeed continue, hastening radio's diminishment in the media world.
So, if Clear Channel's slashing gives other companies the rationale to make similar cuts to their workforces, perhaps some alternatives ought to be considered.
If you compete against a Clear Channel cluster, there will be likely many fewer salespeople to compete against. Their weakest stations will become even weaker, and a savvy, professional staff - with decent morale - ought to be able to compete effectively against them.
And if you're on the programming end, you know that your competition is likely to become more nationalized, and thus, less tuned into what's happening in your town. This is the time for your station to make a difference locally, to become a more significant part of your community, and to put the "local" back in "local radio." In a Pandora-ized world, that's not a bad position to pursue anyway, and Clear Channel may have just made it even easier for you.
You also will have some talented, dedicated radio people from which to choose. While no one is apparently hiring at the moment, the fact is that some very sharp professionals are on the street. Good stations have the opportunity to become great.
So, if Clear Channel is doing it, maybe that should tell you something.
Following the leader was never a worse idea than it is today.
Here is the text of Mays' letter to Clear Channel employees: