Comment

Independent Operators Do It Better

Denny Crane from the former television series Boston Legal summed it up best when he said: “What is down is up and what is up is down.” Of course, he wasn’t talking about corporate radio programming but applying his theory to what is going on just about everywhere on your radio dial works just fine.

The big corporations are programming their radio stations upside down.

The day corporate radio programmers can give me something that I can’t easily do myself on my iPhone will be the first day of radio’s big come back.

Here’s the thing. Corporate radio is all about sales. We all know that the radio and television groups are all bottom line driven. If the numbers are down in any particular quarter, savings can be made by cutting content. Big smiles all around!

The problem is, after years of corporate ownership, the established pattern has gutted radio and television content to the point were we now hear songs playing away, one after another, followed by some commercials followed by more songs followed by more commercials with no host announcer, no creativity, no local news, no news of any kind, no time checks, pre-recorded weather bits that are far too often outdated, yesterday’s ski report and road/traffic reports recorded out-of-market and dropped into the computer automation in the hope that they play on time, if at all.

My goodness … listening to this pointless programming makes you conclude the announcer went outside for a smoke and was either hit by a car or locked himself out of the building!

Enough!

I applaud locally owned and operated Bayshore Broadcasting for making an effort to customize programming on each of its radio stations to meet the needs of the local market the particular station is licenced to serve.

Example:

97.7 The Beach has an excellent morning show with local Wasaga Beach/Collingwood/Clearview Township news and information, human interest interviews, a weather specialist detailing a forecast for south Georgian Bay, in-studio local road reports and very talented, experienced announcers who clearly are driving their own bus and providing content that is of great interest to listeners in Wasaga Beach and Collingwood.

The morning show host talks about riding his bicycle to work in the dark, swerving to miss the odd skunk, coyote or at this time of year, snow squall, or hiking along Sunset Point’s trail system with his three year old daughter, or working out in a Wasaga Beach gym at 4:00 in the morning. We hear about the Stayner Siskins unbeaten streak with scores from around the local Junior C league. We hear about high school football and basketball. We hear about minor hockey. Live newscasts provide us with voice clips from a news reporter, Collingwood and Wasaga Beach councillors, business people and local residents. Real stuff, interesting content.

This company gets it. The Bayshore Broadcasting News Centre is the only fully staffed local radio newsroom in our region. Real reporters actually go to council meetings, community events and dig for news stories. Newscasts continue throughout the day.

95.1 The Peak is owned by corporate giant Corus Entertainment. The station’s morning show is hosted by two very talented, experienced announcers who do a good job of providing local information. Where 97.7 The Beach wins big over 95.1 The Peak is in local news and sports coverage. The Peak doesn’t have a newsroom (Corus Entertainment closed its Barrie newsroom that served 3 stations last year) to draw on for local news stories. Therefore, we don’t get first-hand council news or any other breaking news development on The Peak first. We do get local morning show interviews on “Talk of the Town” and this serves to provide the listener with good, current information. The problem is, after the morning show concludes for the day, so does the news content.

On weekends, 97.7 The Beach provides the only local news, sports and information radio service in our market. Sunday morning’s “Wise Guys” program (yes, it’s actually “live” and local, with two commentators, a host and a producer … real people!) provides intelligent commentary on local issues that matter. It costs Bayshore Broadcasting a bit more to program a station this way but those costs are no doubt recovered by an expanding advertiser base and a growing listening audience. 95.1 The Peak is automated, without live newscasts all weekend.

Therein lies the problem with corporate radio. How can you build a following (audience) if nobody is at the controls? How can you build credibility if you close your newsroom?

You can’t and you don’t.

And corporate radio, I ask this of you: Stop having your announcers (live or pre-recorded) talk about some meaningless wire story that we have already seen on Facebook or a web site only to say: “…and I’ll tell you what happened in 15 minutes!” I actually heard an announcer say “we have a weather warning in effect, and I’ll tell you all about it in 15 minutes.”

Talk about insulting the intelligence of the listener not to mention deliberately holding back critical information with the false hope of keeping that person on the line for another 15 minutes to improve ratings.

Radio wins when it is IMMEDIATE. If the programming meets the listener’s needs the listener will stay.

I was a programmer at a very successful and profitable Barrie radio station taken over by corporate ownership. I was set free, staff was wiped out and on-air content was obliterated. At one point the station had a staff of two (down from 25), with the on-air programming piped in from a station in Burlington (now that’s local!). A few days before I was booted out the front door, the new sales manager said: “I don’t care what anything sounds like as long as I make more money.” That was the day my music died! The station’s ratings certainly did.

Someday the corporate deep thinkers will conclude that they shouldn’t be in the broadcasting business. Then, radio will be returned to the entrepreneurial risk takers who will create more good paying jobs, hire the best talent, invest in local programming that matters and in doing so, compete for both audience and your advertising business.

The independent broadcasting companies do it better! Here are the Fall 2017 Radio Ratings, just released:

BARRIE CENTRAL Fall 2017 – Share %

1: 14.7% Share – 107.5 KOOL FM
2: 14.4% Share – ROCK 95
3: 10.3% Share – CICX COUNTRY 106
4: 6.6% Share – 93.1 FRESH RADIO
5: 4.3% Share – 104.1 THE DOCK
6: 4.0% Share – 101.1 BIG FM
7: 2.1% Share – LIFE FM

BARRIE CENTRAL Fall 2017 – Reach

1: 43,500 – 107.5 KOOL FM
2: 38,100 – ROCK 95
3: 27,600 – CICX COUNTRY 106
4: 25,800 – 93.1 FRESH RADIO
5: 25,200 – 104.1 THE DOCK
6: 20,100 – 101.1 BIG FM
7: 8,600 – LIFE FM

Source: Numeris
Survey Period: Radio Diary Survey September 4, 2017 – October 29, 2017
Demographic: A12+
Area: 5239 (Barrie Ctrl)
Daypart: Monday-Sunday 5am-1am

Interesting to note that 107.5 KOOL FM and ROCK 95 continue to lead the way. They are both independently owned and operated by Doug Bingley (Central Ontario Broadcasting).

So my message to corporate programmers … get local!

If the content is meaningful, people will listen.

In the meantime … well … I’ll tell you all about it in 15 minutes!

Arrrrrrrrrrrrg!

–Paul Richards



Paul Richards is a retired radio programmer. We’d like to hear from you. Contact us!

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