AM Radio, Back to Basics

Is it strictly the economy and new technology that has so many local-market stations on the ropes? I wonder.
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Paul, great series on AM radio. I happen to be a believer in the medium. But I was thinking: Is it strictly the economy and new technology that has so many local-market stations on the ropes? I wonder.

I was thinking back to when I started in small-market radio in the Midwest. In 1971, look who was doing what at good old KCOG in Centerville Iowa:

The news director also sold. The midday guy did, too. So did the president, the GM, the sales manager, our one actual full-time salesperson and the receptionist, who worked a list over the phone.

That’s seven hot bodies selling every day on the street and over the phone. Competition? A daily local newspaper, a big regional daily, a TV station and three or four other radio properties.

We also had an honest-to-God copywriter, who was part-time but worked a ton of hours because those folks sold so much advertising in our county seat town of 6,000 (market area maybe 40,000). I know because that copywriter was my mom. The only people at that 500 watts day/250 night AM who didn’t sell were the morning guy, the bookkeeper and the part-time high school kid who rocked at night (me).

I do wonder if local stations aren’t relying so heavily on automation, satellites and running lean that they overlook the possibilities of hiring announcers who also sell and of using a personable office person (like our receptionist) to do some quality phone work.

Yeah, I know: Nobody asked me. Might be the kind of back-to-basics thing that would save some small stations, though.

Great series and a much-needed airing of many voices!

Doug McLeod
Scottsdale, Ariz.

The writer is an occasional contributor to Radio World. Opinions are his own.


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