Before evolving into a marketing executive, R F Timberlake & Company's president began his award-winning media career as a broadcast and print journalist helping the news industry to gravitate towards more in-depth and investigative reporting. Frank Timberlake taught broadcast and advertising, managed numerous political campaigns and operated media outlets with Linda, his wife and business partner. He has never been shy about speaking his mind. Having limited Frank to the subject of marketing, we hope you will enjoy Frankly Speaking, a marcom blog.
RADIO NEEDS TO BECOME BEST FRIEND...AGAIN!
Ok, I took a business trip and vacation and both were successful! Now I'm back and we have some super good topics coming your way. We're going to continue for one more post about the changes in radio. The gentleman who introduced Linda, my wife, and I was at the time the Associated Press Regional Affiliates Manager. Ben Avery is his name. His pedigree with wire services with particular emphasis on the broadcast side spans longer than he wants me to relay to you. But Mr. Avery actually worked in radio and on radio networks before sparkling career jaunts with the AP, Mutual Broadcasting, United Press International, and Westwood One/Metro Networks. Last year, he slowed down by one gear and spends his professional time helping to nurture everything from relationships to deals on the broadcast and network side of the business. When I was but a pup in the news gathering and presenting business, Ben came into the station and with his gentle but firm smile said, "Never let your AP copy pile up like this and never let your AP teletype give out of paper!" Well, Frankly Speaking, traveling got to me and I almost, I say almost, let the paper give out of the machine. This issue of Frankly Speaking comes from a great communications professional and friend, Ben Avery of the Avery Company.
Tom Birch's blog post here on radio and the future raised some serious questions for me. I was astounded to learn that even music-formatted stations have been reduced to just two or three visits a day even by their prime listeners! I suspected that might be true of talk stations because as a serious talk show listener, I too only get two or three hits a day outside the office. But in the office the radio is on all the time except for incoming phone calls. Silly me, I thought music listeners were so into their preferred music and stayed with it so much that we just had to do 59 minutes of music every hour and no talking by DJ's!
As a newswire sales exec for almost 40 years, I heard that incessantly. Well, apparently those "much more music" gurus have led us to the point where many people hear much less reason to listen. Station people heard it from me over and over: All news is local. In my opinion so is the best radio - it's local too!
Considering all the other opportunities to get virtually any kind of music, radio may need to return to the time and place where people didn't just listen to the music but to the radio and what it was saying! Saying things that affect me, my health, my heart, my pocket book - things that hit me where I live. Is the spoken word a lost art in radio? Maybe it is judging from the listening habits Tom Birch described. If so, we might better think about how we re-discover it!
To do that I'm betting radio owners and operators will have to reestablish themselves as the prime determiners of what's really important to be on their air. That means they will have to reassert themselves as the experts on programming to their listeners - those people they meet on the streets every day. Clearly it cannot happen too quickly!
While we are at it, let's get rid of some absolutely awful, mostly national radio commercials that cannot be anything but a turn off if not a tune out. I must hear 14 pitches a day to get me out of debt or to restore my testosterone, get rid of even my bell-fat, and make me the ageless male. And what about national public service announcements? If we must run those - instead of LOCAL PSA's -- then seriously let's rotate them because literally I have heard the very same 30-second PSA voiced by fashion guru Tommy Hilfiger talking about autism at least 30 times in the last ten days! Yes, reach and frequency, I get - but do it for LOCAL advertisers who are paying the freight not for PSA's that seem to pop up more often than our best local advertiser's own messages!
Finally, I'm told that Rush Limbaugh has polarized advertisers both national and local to the point that they won't buy in or around the show. Maybe that's true and maybe that isn't. Either way doesn't that open up the opportunity to sell packages of Limbaugh avails to local advertisers who love Rush and whose customers love him, too? If Rush truly does turn off half the audience, great - sell to the other half!
Frankly Speaking, radio does not have to be its own worst enemy, it could change and in the process become the listener's best friend again! We all know what a best friend does - he or she listens to us and comes to visit frequently and stays for a nice long while!
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