Fear and (Self) Loathing in Radio

Posted on August 22, 2011

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Recently, as I was riding the blue line train on my way to O’Hare for a flight, I saw a billboard for WJMK which is part of the CBS cluster in Chicago.

The billboard was all black with two lines of copy: “104.3 K-Hits” and “the greatest hits of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.” It was as basic and plain as a billboard could possibly be which, unfortunately, matches the station’s product.

Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t sound bad, it just isn’t exciting radio. The station plays a steady stream of hits interspersed with short bits of jock banter. No real brand depth. Nothing incredibly innovative happening.

It’s exactly the kind of station radio people complain about.

Right after I saw the billboard, the All Access headlines email popped up on my phone. As I scrolled through the stories I noticed a link to an article where Merlin Media COO Walter Sabo was supposed to be defending the new format the company launched on stations in New York and Chicago.

If you aren’t familiar with the new stations, Merlin is attempting a variation of the all-news format that is supposed to be focused on a younger demographic with more lifestyle information and less emphasis on hard news.

All Access had picked up on an interview Sabo did with New York Daily News media critic David Hinckley. According to the piece, just days after its launch, posts on several New York radio message boards were critical of the new format. One described it as, “a mistake-riddled disaster that has no idea what its ‘news’ should be.”

Apparently, it’s exactly the kind of station radio people complain about.

Wait. What?

Here’s a thought: maybe if people in radio stopped being so critical of our own industry it would cut down on the negative perceptions the rest of the world seems to have of broadcast radio.

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