Editorial: If You Serve Them, They Will Listen - Radio World

Editorial: If You Serve Them, They Will Listen

And Keep on Listening
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The economic and financial meltdown is forcing businesses of all kinds to reevaluate most everything about how they do business.

Radio is no exception; for instance Clear Channel's John Hogan recently announced that his company is "re-engineering" its overall product and business model.

Consolidation during the 1990s allowed Wall Street to redefine the priorities for our industry. More stations became public companies, with owners and managers more concerned about stock price and EBITDA than programming and serving the audience. Most people we know who are not radio corporate CEOs would agree that the shift has changed radio for the worse.

Stations and groups in all markets are downsizing and cutting costs in waves that haven't been seen since the Great Depression. Balance sheets have never been under so much pressure in our memory. Unless income can cover costs and deliver some measure of profit, a business cannot sustain or grow. The number of stations going silent has increased.

Balancing the imperative to make money and pay the bills with creating and delivering the product has always been the challenge. But like few other businesses, broadcasters are charged with responsible stewardship of a public resource. Serving the public is a basic requirement of every licensee. How many times can we write it? Perhaps too many stations have forgotten that much of what constitutes compelling programming that boosts ratings and revenue can also be valuable public service.

With lower budgets, staff reductions and even salary cuts for those who remain, we are forced to take more careful stock of what's really important to keep stations viable and valued members of our communities — what's worth keeping and making better vs. what needs to be jettisoned and left behind. The priority question driving those decisions must be: What compels listeners to choose my station and keep them listening?

The list of possible answers can be long and is unique for any given station and market. But the ones that matter the most identify attributes and program offerings that make listeners feel more personally connected to their communities, their friends and family, their careers and avocations and to their lives in general, living in an ever-changing and inter-dependent world. Radio stations that have done the best job serving up that connection have remained successful over many years and will continue to succeed.

Programmers and decision makers should take careful note of how Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are changing the way people inter-relate and communicate on the Internet. Social networking is rewriting the rulebook of how folks stay connected with the most important people in their lives. Radio needs to figure out a way to develop and deploy its own adaptation of this innovation.

In the Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come. In radio, building it is just the beginning. To get them to come and keep coming back, you need to serve them that personalized connection, one that allows them to become part of something larger, something more significant and something more fulfilling. If you serve them, they will listen. And if you serve them well, day after day, they will keep listening.

— Radio World

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