Monday, August 03, 2009

Less Talk - Less Interest

I've mentioned my dislike of the single syllable male name radio format before. Whether it's called "Sam" or "Tom" or "Dave" or "Jack," the concept's the same. Take tracks that market-test the best across several near-related genres, mix them together in a "crazy" format, and add minimal voice tracks that do nothing but make short, snarky comments about... nothing.

Personally, if the DJ isn't going to say anything interesting or helpful, then I'd rather have no voice at all. And if I'm just listening to music with no DJ, well, I'd rather listen to my own crazy mix on my iPod than some else's generic blandness.

It turns out there's I'm not alone. Mark Ramsey, in his Hear 2.0 blog asks the question "Where's Radio's Humanity?" As he says, "people respond to people."
"voices" and the passions of those "voices" and the brands born of those "voices" will become more important to radio, not less. I don't care what lessons PPM gives us in that regard, because PPM is essentially mapping a path for music-intensive stations to be easily substituted by music-intensive alternatives. What makes one station different from another - one digital solution different from another - is its voice. Its humanity.
Now the sardonic wiseacre voice of Sam (et al) is certainly identifiable, so it qualifies as a brand. But is it a voice you can respond to? I can't, because there's nothing there to relate to. The voice is provided as part of the syndicated service that is Sam, and is generic enough to fit in any market, large or small.

And that's perhaps the problem. I'm sure it's cheaper to boradcast Sam then to staff a station. But it's also less engaging. Which means listener loyalty is low. Which means ads aren't very effective. Which means smart businesses go elsewhere to get their message out.

So how much money does that save in the long run?
People respond to people. Makes sense to me.

- Ralph

Day 114 of the WJMA Podwatch.

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