Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Death and Life of Radio

Last week it was announced that Rush Limbaugh had signed a nearly $400 million contract to go through the year 2016.

Now I am no big Rush fan, but for those of you outside of the crazy world of radio I am going to let you in on the "inside" of this stuff and how it has and does affect those of us IN the business.

Back in 1988 when Rush first went Nationwide, AM radio was dying a very quick death. FM was firmly established and with CD players still fairly new, listening to crystal clear stereo music was what the people wanted. Who wants to hear mono, crackly music on AM?

Radio station owners were desperately seeking a way out of this mess. "What to program?"

Along came Rush. Now there were talk shows before, but nothing like this. It was new, refreshing, in your face and utterly Conservative.

Rush Limbaugh Saved AM Radio. With he and then the "clones" that followed him, AM now had something to sell and to market to the public and it worked.

Those who worked in AM radio though, found it to be a double edged sword.

If you owned an AM station, why would you pay, say Bill Post, to do a morning show, when you can have El Rushbo for the price of just playing his National Commercials at certain times of the day, and it came right off of your satellite receiver?

Boom, out go all the "deejays" and local hosts. The salespeople still have jobs, the traffic person (the one who schedules the commercials to play) and the engineer still have jobs, but not the air talent.

Now, in 2008, FM faces a similar dilemma. Nearly all of the radio you may listen to is canned. Meaning it comes from somewhere outside of the station via satellite or it is "pre-recorded" what we call "voicetracking".

No more "deejays".

AM is still doing alright, but FM is now hurting. With IPods, Satellite radio and other ways to receive music, FM is trying to figure out what to do.

So, now you know why a person like me hangs onto whatever little shred of "radio" they can hang onto.

Rush saved AM radio but in the process, he killed our talent pool. I was thinking, along with several other very talented "former" radio people, just how many jobs could have been provided for $400 million! Some of us are actually more entertaining then Rush. It is sad that America has allowed itself to be taken to a place where they can only listen to A GUY rather than the days when we all looked to radio as a place for information and entertainment

Hope he enjoys the money.

End of whine sessions. The Cheese section begins shortly.


mick b: lonely golf guy said...

I don't listen to talk radio unless I'm driving to and from work (not all during the summer). I get a little tired of the 2-3 hour show format. Most of the shows that I listen to on 750, 1190 and 1430, I can't listen to for more than a half an hour, at best. I get tired of the barrage of finger-pointing, whining and name-calling. I think it breeds a level of paranoia in it's listeners. If I had to listen to Michael Savage all day, I'd end up driving cab in New York, stalking Julia Roberts and eating tapioca pudding out of steel canisters. I appreciate brevity.

Bill's Waste of Air said...

Oh I am with you on the brevity part.
In the business we have two different kinds of listeners and two names for measuring them.
TSL - Time spent listening
AQH - average quarter hour

In ratings, usually the AQH is what stations quote when they say "we are #1".
Talk radio is a different kind of a duck in that the TSL and AQH are both high.
Meaning, people listen not just over a quarter hour, but for hours themselves.
Very helpful when selling advertising.
So, though you and I may not like long winded talk hosts, they sell easier.

Now as for golf, call me, I want to go Thursday Evening when it's cooler.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that Rush gets so much money. He is probably one of the most dangerous voices in America as far as I can tell--he is not exactly a fact monger! Plus, by his own admission should be locked up forever because he is a drug addict(his words back in the '90's). I am glad radio is dying because there is so little good that comes of it. When people like Rush are given that kind of money to spew hate and lies, it makes me sad to be a Republican...

Anonymous said...

So it must be ok to pay Howard Stern $250 million to spew out dirty words.
What's offensive to one is not offensive to another.
I find Howard to be the most hateful vile person on earth. He treats women way worse than any racist, he treats the people around him as if they are garbage and he hates all of the stupid people who listen to him.
I can't stand him, and glad he is off the radio.

Anonymous said...

You're right about the dirty words, but Stern represents a demographic that I don't feel a part of. Rush claims to be a conservative and a Republican and he clearly is not. For the record, I don't like Stern either--I just choose not to listen. But, when someone calls themselves a political commentator and claims to be looking out for his listeners but clearly does not, I find it disgusting. Rush has made the comments for years about his distaste for the elites and thinks all drug users should be locked up for life. So, I hate to break the news, but he is both of those things and he distorts the truth and claims to be the guy "looking out for you". The problem is that people don't know that Rush is entertainment as well and think he is right--I've seen the bumper sticker. He is as bad or worse than Howard Stern because of the lack of honesty in his work and personal life...