Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Personalities? It's the commercial clusters!!

I have read several articles, even more than usual, over the past couple of weeks with understandably negative comments about the drastic reduction in truly local programming in seemingly every radio market. And I understand that.

People like the local touch that radio used to bring. Heck, I remember hearing "lost dog" announcements on smaller and even medium market stations even into the late 70's. Before there were search engines, people would sometimes call a local radio station for community information. The music stations would talk about appearances by the station's personalities, many of which were within a few miles of home. You would sometimes be able to think "I know where that is! Let me see if I can get over there.....". And, yes, that is missing and non-existent in some markets.

But I don't see that as being the most pressing problem with radio. Personally, I'm not listening because the local touch has been lost. That is further down on the list of reasons.

I will tell you what is first. Sure, there needs to be commercials. I have always understood that somebody has to pay the bills. But over the past few days, I have been hit hard with the realization of how much more commercial time is sold on almost every station. Therein lies the problem. The number one problem, in my opinion.

Part of my job is to review and help produce the radio airchecks from the 60's, 70's, and 80's, which are available from via . In listening to many of them, I was overwhelmed at the number of times I would listen through commercial breaks and think "that was quick!" when the music started up again. It finally hit me. Back in the day, it wasn't "quick". A commercial break very rarerly went more than 2 minutes. And I could easily live with that. But no more.

Hearing Tom Jones on KSTP Minneapolis in the early 70's saying "and this hour you will hear 56 minutes of music!!" constantly summed it up. He would have 3 or 4 stops for commercials that hour, and get right back into the music. The format flowed. Now, each stop for commercials goes at least 3 or 4 minutes, and that is way more than once per hour. That is the real killer for the listeners.

Frankly, it doesn't matter if the program comes from across the street or 2,000 miles away. If the commercial breaks are going to be 5 minutes long twice an hour, and the same 500 songs keep playing over and over and over again, it could be anybody.

I stopped wondering why advertisers are reducing if not dropping radio time. If yours isn't the first or second spot, it doesn't matter anymore. People aren't sticking around to hear it.

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