Radio and the perpetual suicide machine

First, read the following article:

I sent off a note to Art Vuolo in response:

Hi Art,

Long-time reader of your writings on radio in Michiguide. I had a brief stint in college radio, and a life-long passion for the broadasting medium, and I can honestly say it's a brave fight you wage against those who keep radio alive for their own selfish purposes. Unfortunately as the local personalities leave the airwaves, we're only left with animatronic talking heads trying to convince us they were once alive. Unfortunately Radio is all but dead, and the only course left is for the FCC to evict the residents of radio-land and make way for the bandwidth needs of the information superhighway. The push to add FM receivers to smart-phones is akin to buggy-whip manufacturers mandating the government make car manufacturers add a special compartment to house a mandatory buggy whip. There is already an emergency notification system in place for phones, and no reason whatsoever for an FM receiver in a phone unless it's for receiving a low powered transmitter at the gym to watch television. Unfortunately it's radio's ratings that are to blame. Stations are alienating their audience while at the same time pursuing the proverbial younger, better looking, and more affluent audience. It's what killed WQRS in the 1990s in what could only be called the most repugnant format switch in the history of Detroit radio: a long-time classical station became yet-another-trendy-rock-station. And what happened? The inevitable format change when they decided to try to go against WNIC.

I run a music podcast for Creative Commons metal music ( I have the best audience in the world; an audience of dedicated listeners who care about the music. Radio stations would kill for this audience, but they don't know how to find this audience any more. This audience listens to me whenever they feel like it (at work, in the car, at home). Sometimes they'll listen to episodes over and over. I don't have advertisers because what I do is a labor of love. Radio used to be a labor of love too. You don't get personalities like Purtan, J.P. McCarthy, or even the banal Jim Harper without a passion for radio. The fame came to them because they wanted to put out good radio. Personalities like Deminski and Doyle and Drew and Mike aren't the product of bottom-line thinking; they're the product of folks who want to be the best they can be.

The only way radio can possibly avoid perishing is by concentrating on making a superior product. Pay for talent to produce shows that are so high quality that people will feel jealous for not hearing it live. Have programming that people will want to stream from across the globe, and make it available via podcast. And drag the ratings folks into the 21st century by allowing streams and downloads to count as listeners. Own up to radio listeners not all being within the reach of the transmitter any more. And for God's sake stop treating the whole ratings crap as the end-all-be-all of a station's worth. Stop comparing Classical with sports talk, AOR, and Country stations. Just be the best and the listeners will follow.

Newspapers are learning the hard truth that it's not enough to just be an AP news / Reuters repeater with an op-ed section. Radio needs to step out of the late 20th century mentality of operations if it is to survive.

(Funny enough Drew of Drew and Mike along with their producers are starting up a podcast: